I remember all the talk, ten years ago, about how the official start of the new century was 2001, not 2000. By this logic, the start of our next date should be 2011, not 2010; yet no one seems to be complaining about all the "Best of the Decade" lists and reviews being published and discussed.

I also remember an article in Newsweek, ten years ago, discussing how to refer to our present decade. The ohs? The zeroes? The aughts? I was a bit concerned about that myself; I realize now, upon reflection, that I never once in ten years needed to refer to this decade by name anyway. I guess maybe that's something you only do once the decade is over, really. Maybe in twenty years, my girls will reminisce about being "Children of the Aughts," (Hannah Montana and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! and jumpstart.com), in the same way that I remember being a Child of the Seventies (Donny and Marie and Happy Days and the Speak n Spell).

For me, the Aughts were my decade of Having Small Children. The past ten years were spent planning to get pregnant, getting pregnant, having my first baby, being completely overwhelmed, having another baby, being even more overwhelmed, and finally, getting to the point where I can sleep through the night without being interrupted by some small person needing something from me. In this decade I have experienced more about frustration (tantrums, toilet training) and exhaustion (nighttime feedings) and fear (losing child at mall; illnesses) and stress (childcare arrangements) and tedium (Noggin) than I would have ever thought possible, ten years ago -- but also, naturally, more joy and love and contentment and pride.

And it's almost over, these days of Small Children. Next year Phoebe will start kindergarten. Soon both of my kids will be able to read, to brush their own teeth, to add and subtract, to cut with scissors without supervision. After almost eight years of co-sleeping, I now can give good-night kisses, turn off the light, and walk out of their bedroom at nine o'clock. Amazing! Sometimes lately I catch myself, at noon on a Saturday, or early in the evening on a Wednesday, and realize that the kids have been entertaining themselves for hours, and I've been able to finish cleaning the kitchen or making dinner or making a grocery list without being interrupted to dress a Polly Pocket doll or find a lost princess wand or help someone in the bathroom -- and I just stand there at a loss, wondering what I'm supposed to do with myself. I have time, now. I suppose I should try to find a good way of spending it.

I don't think I'm quite ready to move on. They weren't small quite long enough. Nothing goes by as fast as babyhood. Marriages last for decades (if you're lucky), school lasts at least a dozen years; even retirement, now, can last twenty years or more. But kids are just little -- really little, little enough to need you completely -- for what, three years? Four? And you can never go back. In 1993, I went to Westminster Abbey, and it was wonderful, one of the greatest moments of my life. Even greater than that is that someday I could return to Westminster Abbey. Maybe in 2014, I can go see it again, and notice things I didn't notice before, and see things that I overlooked the last time. But I can never go back to Mallory's first birthday, when she held up one cake-smeared finger to show how old she was, or to Phoebe's preschool Christmas pageant where she sang "Silent Night" louder than any other child, even though she was the shyest one in the class. It's done.

Well. That all came out a little bit more vehemently than I meant it to. This wasn't supposed to be such a downer of a post. And how original of me, too. Kids grow up fast! I'm the first person to ever notice that! For my next trick, I will demonstrate how a watched pot never boils.

My consolation (every parent's consolation) is that the compensation for your kids growing up is...that your kids grow up. I am so lucky to have had my decade filled with these two girls, and that luck just compounds every day. So I'm mostly looking forward to the Tens (the Teens? why must this be so complicated?). After all, it won't be until 2017 that Mallory will get her driver's license...so that means over half a decade of good nights' sleep coming my way.

Happy New Year, everyone!


I found this on another blog...some of the questions are more interesting than others. I suppose the same goes for my answers!

1.What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Drove halfway across the country and back again with my children.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I kept one – not using my credit cards unless absolutely necessary. The rest, um, we’ll keep trying.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Chris’s grandmother died January 1, 2009.

5. What countries did you visit? None.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? A good pair of sandals.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? The kids’ birthdays. The first and last days of school.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Reducing debt.

9. What was your biggest failure? Healthy eating and exercise (rather, the lack thereof).

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Kindle books!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? The writer of one of my favorite blogs holds a fundraiser for “Donors Choose” every year; this year her readers (myself included!) raised over $300,000 for education.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Certain “friends” on facebook whose world views and beliefs – and their ways of expressing those things – are diametrically opposed to my own.

14. Where did most of your money go? Bills. And Target.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Our vacations (three this year, which is unprecedented), seeing my family.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus (or, as Phoebe used to call it, “The Cookie Song”)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer? About the same in all three.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Relaxing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Cleaning. Even though I didn't do too much of that!

20. How did you spend Christmas? In Texas, then at home.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? I fall in love every day. With the same person. To whom I am married.

22. What was your favorite TV program? I don’t watch much TV, but about five years after the rest of the world, I discovered that The Office is really funny.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No. I’m not much of a hater.

24. What was the best book you read? Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I am so out of touch with music; it’s a bit embarrassing. Through Pandora radio, I did realize that I like someone named Rilo Kiley (or Riley Kilo?) but I don’t even know if she is of this era. Oh, and the Magnificat Canon.

26. What did you want and get? A computer desk.

27. What did you want and not get? An SLR digital camera. And photography classes.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? I’m going to say Sherlock Holmes because it was the most recent film I saw, and I can’t think of any others.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I recall something about a meatball sub. And having to go to work. A memorable day, obviously. I was 37.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Not having to make dinner. Ever.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? It includes khaki pants, v-neck tees, and Dansko shoes.

32. What kept you sane? Books. Laughter. Bedtime.

33. What political issue stirred you the most? Health care reform

34. Who did you miss? My parents and siblings

35. Who was the best new person you met? The girls in my brownie troop are all very sweet. And I met one mom at a PTO meeting who was really funny and cool and who I think I could be good friends with, but we both work full-time and her husband travels a lot and our kids are not friends, so the only time we see each other is at PTO meetings.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. At some point, you have to suck it up and start paying more than $13 for a haircut.


My picks

Here are the best books I read in 2009. After I compiled the list it struck me that the books fall almost entirely into two categories – historical fiction and memoirs of motherhood. I don’t think I would ever have listed those as my two favorite genres, but there it is.

The best historical fiction, in my mind, is that which compels you to go out and read more about the period in question. I followed up my reading of most of these novels with at least one non-fiction book about their subjects (none of which were as good as the novels, of course):

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard – about the “lost” son of Marie Antoinette. Bayard is fantastic; I also loved his Mr Timothy (about a grown-up Tiny Tim) and The Pale Blue Eye (about Edgar Allen Poe).

The Terror by Dan Simmons – about the doomed Franklin Expedition, which I wrote about earlier this year. His fictional account of the disaster does a better job of tying together the evidence into a coherent whole than any non-fiction account I’ve read.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin – about a woman physician in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the subsequent books in Franklin’s series weren’t nearly as good.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I’m actually still reading this one, but I’m in no hurry for it to end. It’s about Thomas Cromwell and the years Henry VIII spent trying to divorce his first wife.

The motherhood memoirs, all of which I discovered through motherhood blogs:

This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman -- about extreme prematurity

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken – about stillbirth

What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen – about an unexpected, and complicated, pregnancy

The others:

The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn – which I wrote about here.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris – it's a "workplace" novel, but it's much more than that. This is the only book on this list that I felt compelled to read twice.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – a ghost story set in post-WW II England

And here the books I liked the least in 2009, all of which took really good premises but then ruined them with bad writing or bad pacing or thoroughly unlikable characters.

Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf



That's the number of miles we drove, there and back again. The trip was long. The girls were surprisingly un-whiny. The portable DVD player helped. The interstate is a boring, boring road to travel. The interstate on-and-off ramps in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are surprisingly complicated. The convenience store bathrooms in these states feature condom vending machines with really very explicit descriptions of their wares, which make you wish that your 8-year-old did not know how to read.

I drove the whole way; Chris was ill and kept going into coughing paroxysms which would have made him dangerous behind the wheel. I only allowed myself to look at the GPS mileage countdown and the clock at the end of a song. Songs generally last about three miles; that's 817 songs.

It was a long way.

The Great Wolf Lodge was lots of fun with plenty of activities to keep the children occupied and to keep the grownups chasing after the children instead of sitting and talking with one another. Mallory would have stayed in the water park the entire 72 hours we were there (although she now says that her favorite part was winning a game of bingo in the Kids' Club). Phoebe and my niece Isabel became inseparable best friends; they never left one another's side and also never argued. (I felt bad for Mallory, who was left out of this lovefest; therefore I spent a lot of time swimming with Mallory when I could have been lounging pool-side instead.)

The girls could not walk by this bear statue, outside the ice cream shop, without climbing on it:

There was a creepy robotic sing-a-long in the lobby:

Here are all the children together:

Then we came home and Christmas happened. I was too tired to enjoy it that much, but the girls were happy with their bounty on Christmas morning. I don't have those pictures on hand, however. Maybe tomorrow.


Ho Ho Ho

Mallory and Phoebe went to Auntie Mimi's office yesterday to visit Santa.

Here is Phoebe doing her I'm-shy-head-tilt:

Here is Santa looking befuddled at what Mallory said she wanted for Christmas: Autographs from Rudolph, Vixen, and Dasher:

Here is Phoebe telling Santa that she wants an ephelant Webkinz (note to Santa -- she already has one):

Here they are all, looking jolly:

Thanks, Mimi!


Supply, demand

When I realized, ten days before our scheduled departure to spend a few days at an indoor waterpark, that my children have no bathing suits, I wasn't particularly surprised to discover that bathing suits are difficult items to procure in the middle of December. Frustrated, but not surprised.

When I was told by my daughter that her PE teacher told her that she needed a heavier winter coat, I was -- well, I was embarrassed, and also I was wondering who this PE teacher thinks she is. But, I wasn't expecting to have as difficult a time procuring winter coats in December as I had procuring bathing suits. The stores I've checked all seem to have one lonely child's coat on the rack, usually in size x-small.

So, my children will be swimming in their underwear, apparently, and otherwise wearing a lot of layers under their inadequate winter coats. I do feel like a good mother, right now.


The Big Surprise

This is Mouse, a 6-month-old English Cocker Spaniel. She was born with a cleft palate and Amy helped hand-feed her til she was old enough for corrective surgery. Last night she came to live at my in-law's house. She will be visiting us occasionally on the weekends.

Mallory burst into tears when Amy came in with Mouse and said, "This is the big surprise!" We asked her why she was crying and she said, "I'm just so happy!"


(But Aimee -- you were right too -- I think we are going to Disney World this summer, but Mallory already knew that so it wasn't The Big Surprise.)

(I kinda wish it was the chocolate pie.)



Dear Mallory,

You and your sister have recently invented a new saying for when you're really impressed with something. For example:

"Mommy, you buy the best best best a million times so big a number I can't even say it ice cream in the whole wide world."

Which, really, doesn't make any sense at all.

But that's exactly how I feel about you, birthday girl.