What you do when it snows

You are scornful that a mere six inches of snow can shut down the metropolitan area, but when a friend calls and suggests meeting up, your first reaction is “Are you crazy? We can't go out in this!”

You wonder what good a snow day is when it falls on a Saturday.

You rejoice that your children are finally old enough to go out and play in the snow without you.

You grow weary of putting the boots on the children and taking the boots off the children, and finding the mittens, and drying the socks, and zipping the coats.

You are unsurprised when the cheapo boots you bought for your oldest daughter turn her socks a vile shade of brown (and leave tracks of dye all over the snow, so that she comes to the door and cries: “There's blood in the snow!”).

You admire your daughter's very first snowman. Who is a little...flat...but cute nonetheless.

You re-read Wicked and are so engrossed in it that you resent having to put it down to feed your children. You are amazed that you didn't like it when you read it 12 years ago. You wonder what was wrong with you when you were 25. You finish it and immediately download the sequel, Son of a Witch, onto your e-reader. You are pleased that having an e-reader enables you to get a new book even though you're snowed in, even though you worry that e-readers will contribute to the demise of the bookstore.

You have a bowl of really good taco soup.

You play around with your fancy-shmancy new camera.

You realize that even the fancy new camera will not prevent your youngest from closing her eyes right before almost every shot.

You agree to make cinnamon rolls for your mother-in-law's friend's brunch (you are known for your homemade cinnamon rolls). You make a batch, intending to put them in the freezer until they're needed. Then you decide they look too good to give away and allow your family to eat them. You realize that you will have to make another batch next weekend. You will probably not be happy about that.

You giggle a little when your younger daughter says, “That old cough of mine is coming back!” but you are not laughing when the sound of that cough keeps you (not her) up all night.

You make cupcakes to celebrate your younger daughter's four-and-a-half birthday, at the request of your older daughter, even though the celebrant actually turned four-and-a-half some weeks ago and anyway that's never something you've celebrated in the past.

You go for a Moonlight Snow Walk with your family, which you all agree should become a family tradition.

You smile when you notice that your younger daughter is just light enough to walk on the crust of the snow without breaking it. And when she says, upon discovering a yard of pristine snow, “Look! It's like a beautiful winter wonderland!” And when your other daughter says, “I like the snow...because bees can't sting you when it's snowing.”

You love your family.

You are glad you were snowed in together.

You aren't in too much of a hurry for the thaw.


Punctuation marks that never caught on

In order:
the acclamation point; the doubt point; the irony mark; the certitude point; the indignation point; the love point; the interrobang; the authority point; the indignation point again. Because that one's my favorite.

No, I did not make these up.


File under: stupid problems to have

I'm going to see Wicked (the musical) in May with my sister- and mother-in-law. I'm excited; I like musicals. In anticipation, I downloaded the soundtrack a few days ago and have been listening to it continually on my ipod ever since.

I read Wicked (the book) back when it first came out, but didn't remember much of the plot. So in order to understand what happens in the gaps between the songs in the musical, I turned to wikipedia for a plot summary. Then I clicked over to the synposis of the book to see how it differed from the musical. Reading about the book made me realize that I had pretty much forgotten all of the book. In fact, to be honest, what I remember about the book was that I found it a bit dull. A bit long. A bit too much about the politics of an imaginary country. A bit too full of unsympathetic characters. And then, I remember, I read the author's next book (a retelling of the Cinderella story) and didn't like it much at all. So I never even considered reading the two sequels to Wicked.

But now, well, I really like the music. And I like the characters in the musical. And I kind of want to revisit how they were presented in the book. So now I have this burning desire to reread Wicked and read the two sequels. Even though I don't think I'll like them all that much, and even though I am currently reading an absolutely gorgeous book that I don't want to rush through (Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout -- it's so very good) -- all I can think about (other than the chorus to the song "Popular," from the musical, of course), is reading those books.

Sometimes it's really exhausting being me.


Come Again?

Phoebe's brain has, lately, been working far faster than her mouth. She'll start to talk and the words will tumble out so fast that it's impossible to understand what she's saying. If you tell her to start over, though, she'll repeat herself just as fast but softer, making it even more difficult to get her point across.

The other night she was telling me something of great importance, and her words got all tangled up and I must have been looking at her with complete incomprehension, because she stopped and said: "Mommy, can you just pretend that I've already said what I was trying to pretend to say?"


Letter to the Editor

I visited the online site of my hometown newspaper on Monday, something I rarely do, and I read something there that made my jaw drop and filled me with righteous indignation. I fired off a letter to the editor and was just about to hit the "send" button when I came to my senses. But I have to get this off my chest, so I'm posting the letter here.

A bit of background -- my hometown is in Texas; Texas is having a primary for the gubernatorial election in March; one of the candidates is a Palestinian-American named Farouk Shami. Whom I'd never heard of before Monday, and about which I know nothing at all.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the paper's "Town Talk" section:

The US has over 300 million folks but a mere 545 of them control your lives. . . . They were elected to represent the folks but often the Power of DC makes them forget.

It is often said, “pray for our leaders.” I don’t think they deserve praying for. There are a bunch of people on the planet that need prayers more than the politicians. I think they ought to be praying to keep their jobs and for forgiveness.


Local elections on the ballot in the March 2 primary. Elections are always more interesting when several are running. Regardless of win or lose let’s say thanks to all those who make the decision to give it a go. Go for it and may the best candidates win. (Sorry, cannot bring myself to vote for someone named Farouk).

It was the last sentence there that so outraged me, but I incorporated the first part into my scathing rebuttal, so I wanted to post the whole thing.

Here's my response:

I was appalled to see, in the January 14 Town Talk column, that a reminder to vote in the March 2 primary was followed by the comment: "Sorry, cannot bring myself to vote for someone named Farouk."

It's been twenty years since I left Hometown for college; I don't even live in Texas anymore. Until this morning I didn't know who Farouk Shami was. However, if I were eligible to vote in the primary election, I would base my decision on whether or not to vote for Mr. Shami on his leadership abilities, his political ideology, his vision for Texas, and the content of his character -- not on something as superficial and irrelevant as his last name. I hope that the citizens of Texas have enough respect for the democratic process and for all of the candidates to do the same.

Since leaving Hometown, my political views have become more liberal than those of most of the people of Hometown. I am neither surprised nor bothered to see conservative political opinions voiced in the Hometown Paper.

Your comment, however, was not a political opinion; it was an expression of bigotry. It reflects poorly not only on you, but on all of Hometown, and that is deeply disappointing for this former resident.

It is ironic that the comment was printed in the issue that preceded the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is also ironic that, just a few lines above, you wrote that our elected leaders should pray for forgiveness and to keep their own jobs. I suggest that you follow that advice yourself. You may want to throw in a plea for tolerance and understanding while you're at it.

Laid it on a bit thick, didn't I? I mean every word. But I know that little would be accomplished by sending this in; I doubt the author would care much about what I think. But I think it anyway. So there!


When I'm 38

I read a New Yorker profile of Paul McCartney not along ago, and was struck by something he said:

There were four people in the Beatles, and I was one of them. There were two people in the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team, and I was one of them. I mean, right there, that’s enough for anyone’s life. And there was one guy who wrote ‘Yesterday,’ and I was him….All those things would be enough for anyone’s life. So to be involved in all of them is pretty surprising.

What a humble way of thinking about his life, I thought. As though being in the Beatles was just something that happened to him, just a magnificent stroke of luck, instead of something that required a great deal of talent and hard work.

Last week Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank’s family from the Nazis, died at the age of 100. An NPR profile of her life included this quote from a 1997 interview:

I don't want to be considered a hero. Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.

I think her humility is even more impressive. And inspiring.

My mom taught my Sunday School class when I was in junior high and high school. One Sunday we were discussing gifts and talents, and Mom made the comment that you didn’t have to be rich and famous to make an impact on the world. Her talent was music, she said, and she used it when she played the organ in church and directed the choir. Oh, big whoop, I thought, because I was 13 and because I was convinced that someday I would be a famous author.

But now I know she’s right. (To my credit, I did not just figure this out, like, today.) The world does not require grand gestures of everyone. Not everyone can be in the Beatles. Small gestures are usually enough, if they are done in the right spirit (and not in the hopes that the person you help will wind up being a celebrity diarist).

I turn 38 today. I don’t know if I’ve made the most of my life so far. I’d like to make more gestures, even small ones, as I head towards 40.


Despite the questions, it's a nice break from Hannah Montana

Earlier this week, in the car:

"Who sings this song?" Phoebe asked.

"It's the Beatles," I said.

"Dude. I know that. I mean, is it John or Paul?"


Later, out of the blue:

"Why are there quarters in the train station?" Mallory asked.


"You know, there in the station: Lack of queen quarters with some kind of ties."

I think. Then: "Oh! Plasticine porters with looking glass ties. A porter is someone who helps you with your luggage in a train station."

"Were John and Paul teenagers when they sang 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'?" Phoebe asked.

"I'm not sure. They weren't old, but I don't know if they were teenagers."

"Are they old now?"

"Paul is old, but John died," Mallory said.

"Oh," Phoebe said.


Later, also out of the blue:

"What's an English cotter?" Mallory asked.

"I...don't know," I said.

"Well, what's an eggman?"

"Someone who delivers eggs, I guess...oh! It's an English garden. Sitting in an English garden," I say.

"I like that eggman song," Mallory said.

"What's your favorite Beatles song, Mommy?" Phoebe asked.

"'Eleanor Rigby,'" I say.

"I like 'Baby You Can Drive My Car,'" Phoebe said.

"My favorite is 'Eggman,'" Mallory said.

"It's called 'I am the Walrus,'" I explained.

"But they say 'eggman' more often than 'walrus,'" she argued.



In the car:

John and Paul sing: "You say you want a revolution/Well you know/We'd all want to change the world."

"This is a good song," Mallory said.

A pause. Then Phoebe said, contemplatively, "Yes. It's very nice."


What is your favorite Beatles song?



How's this for a weird homework assignment:

"Examine your conscience."

(Mallory's learning about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.)

This morning Phoebe's preschool class went to Mass, the first time together as a class. (Can you imagine taking 18 4-year-olds to church?) At breakfast Phoebe said, "Mommy, I think I forgot how to genuflat!"

And before I could even say, "Um, what?" Mallory said, "Don't worry, I'll show you how," and proceeded to genuflect before the kitchen table. She added, "And listen, if the priest tries to give you the wafer -- don't take it! You're not old enough yet!"

I told her that at the church I grew up in, there wasn't a wafer -- we used a loaf of bread for Communion. And we had little individual glasses of grape juice instead of a communal cup of wine. And sometimes there were cookies for the kids.

She thought that was weird, too.


Why it's best to walk in front of her

This is Phoebe walking down the hall:

Phoebe takes three normal steps.

Phoebe stops abruptly to adjust her underwear.

Phoebe takes three tiny steps.

Phoebe stops abruptly to demonstrate how she can balance on one foot.

Phoebe takes two backward steps.

Phoebe stops abruptly to examine something on the floor.

Phoebe runs for five steps.

Phoebe stops abruptly to ask what is ten plus one.

Phoebe takes two normal steps.

Phoebe stops abruptly to adjust her right sock.

Phoebe takes one step.

Phoebe turns and embraces your knees.

Phoebe takes four steps.

Phoebe announces that she's hungry and must have some Club crackers immediately.

I say that maybe she can have some crackers if we ever arrive in the kitchen. Which at this point seems doubtful.

Phoebe runs runs runs, on her tippy-toes, with her arms hanging straight down except for a slight upward tilt of the wrists. Her hair bounces. The old line about the distant drummer -- Phoebe hears that drum loud and clear, and she follows its beat. Even if that means she's constantly getting stepped on.


Do not be alarmed

If you have nothing better to do this Friday night and happen to stumble upon this -- please be aware that I realize that this isn't quite right.

And no, it wasn't smart to start this twenty minutes before leaving work on a Friday night. Even less smart was not saving the necessary files in a place I could access them from home. So this will not be fixed until Monday. Come back then!


To the Rescue, Indeed

My dilemma -- Phoebe loves bedtime stories, which is wonderful, but I am desperately weary of all of our pictures books, which I've been reading over and over and over again for eight years now. (I did decide, recently, that it was well within my rights to refuse to read certain books, such as Richard Scarry's Busy Day [nothing wrong with Richard Scarry, of course, but I prefer a book with a plot] and anything with "Seek and Find" in the title.) Phoebe, however, hasn't been receptive to reading chapter books yet. And Mallory, who should be reading chapter books herself, is similarly uninterested in them, but has taken to calling most of our picture books "babyish" (which sometimes makes Phoebe cry, which is not what you want at storytime).

But in the bookstore this weekend, I found a solution -- Mercy Watson. She's a pig -- well, not just a pig, but a porcine wonder -- who gets into wacky adventures and who loves hot buttered toast. The books are fully -- and beautifully -- illustrated, which pleases Phoebe, and also hilarious, with fairly advanced vocabulary (see: porcine wonder), which appeals to Mallory. We read the first Mercy book over the past two nights, and the girls have begged me to buy the rest of the series as soon as possible. The books are the perfect bridge between picture books and chapter books. Thank you, Mercy Watson! Now I just need to find a few more series just like this...and then maybe we can move on to Ramona the Pest.