Wabbit hunting

I’ve been trying to think of songs to sing with the Girl Scouts. Honestly I don’t like being a song leader, but I know the kids like it, so it’s a sacrifice I must make, I suppose. Anyway, last night I remembered this song:

Little cabin in the woods
Little man by the window stood
Little rabbit hopping by
Knocking at his door
“Help me! Help me! Help me!” cried
“Before the hunters shoot me dead.”
“Little rabbit, come inside,
Safely to abide.”

You do hand motions for each line, and then repeat it, dropping a line each time so that with the last repetition you ONLY do hand motions, not signing at all. I remember thinking this was great fun.

But – can you sing a song like this with children today? With the hunters and the shooting? In my time it didn’t matter; we’d all watched Elmer Fudd tracking Bugs Bunny with his gun (and we were none the worse for it, I think). Kids these days, though – they see Dora the Explorer “vanquishing” her enemy by repeating “Swiper no swiping!” three times. Maybe my Scouts’ parents wouldn’t want their kids singing about rabbits in danger.

Back in college, I babysat for the kids of one of my professors. The little boy’s favorite animal was the moose, so for his birthday I bought him Dr Seuss’s Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose, a story I loved when I was a kid. But I started reading it to him and his sister, and when we got to the part about the hunters, Emily said very firmly: “We’re not allowed to talk about guns in this house,” and I had to skip some pages and make up a nonsensical ending. When I came back the next day the book was nowhere to be found. I toyed with the idea of apologizing to his parents for my gaffe, but never did. For Christmas, I got him If You Give a Moose a Muffin, which is cute and all, but has nothing on Thidwick.

And that was (almost) 20 years ago. How much more sensitive are parents today?

Still, it seems a shame to jettison the song completely. I’ve tried to come up with some alternate lyrics. Instead of “Before the hunters shoot me dead,” we could sing, “I can’t find a nice warm bed!” or “Before I freeze my little head!” or…well, that’s all I can come up with.

Any ideas?

(I did find a version online that changed the last line to read: “Little rabbit, come inside/Rabbit stew tonight.” Ha! Funny, but equally unusable.)


The Plan, Part II

So, since May 1st I’ve lost 22 pounds. Yay!

However, about 18 pounds of that was between May 1st and July 15th. And in August I gained two pounds back. Boo!

Lots of reasons for this, I think. I got bored, mostly. I essentially ate the same thing for breakfast and lunch – whole wheat toast with peanut butter, salad, an apple – for three months. It’s been too hot to exercise. I was also – and this is no small thing, really – pleased enough to be 20 pounds lighter. I look better! I feel better! So my motivation more or less dwindled.

I’m ready to get back on track, though. Twenty pounds is good; thirty or forty would be even better. So I’m starting again. I’m getting some new recipes and a semi-new plan. I figured out that if I lose about two pounds a week – giving and taking here and there for plateaus and pizza and Halloween candy and apple pie – I’ll be thirty pounds lighter by Christmas.

Here’s the wacky part of my plan. I’m signing up for the Gobblers’ Run 5k race held in my town on Thanksgiving Day. Yes, me. Run. 5K. Race. I’m following a “Couch to 5K’ plan and I should be able to run 30 minutes without stopping by the first week of November. I have no interest in the “race” part of the race – I know I won’t win, and I don’t care. But finishing a 5k run -- much like losing a lot of weight – is not anything I ever thought I’d be capable of doing. And I’d like to prove myself wrong.


M is for making me laugh

Mallory seems to be enjoying third grade. She made me cringe by saying this: “We had to fill out a graph of how many books we read this summer. Luckily, ‘one’ was an option.” (I considered telling her that sometimes, it’s okay to lie, but decided not to go there.) Then she said, “For quiet reading time I picked out Little House on the Prairie. But I decided it was boring so I switched it for Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew.” On the other hand, she’s reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid at home (for her required 20 minutes a day – although I don’t think she ever hits 20) and keeps saying how good it is, so maybe there’s hope.

She has a new BFF and they’ve decided to be “locker pen pals,” which means that she has to make a craft or picture or something and put it in BFF’s locker before school every day.

She put a note in Phoebe’s lunch box the other day: “Phoebe, I hope you have a good day in school! Love, your sister Mallory.” The “your sister” part kills me. It seems not to have occurred to her that Phoebe can’t read yet.

She wants to be a giraffe for Halloween. So if you know how to make a giraffe costume, drop me a line.

This morning Phoebe complained to me that Mallory was tattle-taling. Mallory said: “But Mommy, I’m not tattle-taling – Phoebe doesn’t even know what that means! I’m actually lying.”

Saturday morning she woke up early, speared a bunch of mini-marshmallows on toothpicks, and arranged them around a bunch of pretzel sticks stuck together with peanut butter. “Look what I made!” she said. “It’s called a yummy campfire.”

"My name in Spanish class is Flor," she said. "That means 'flower.'" I asked why Flor, and she said, "It's based on whatever your middle name is." I pointed out that her middle name is Claire. She said, "I know, but I told my teacher that my middle name is Daisy." (See above re: lying.)

She’s already made her Christmas list – an ipod touch and a flute. “Plus, you know how Santa always seems to bring me some things that I don’t really ask for? I want some of those things too.” I guess I oughta start saving my pennies.

She had to make a list of her favorite things for every letter of the alphabet. For “M,” she wrote “Mallory.” That happens to be my favorite M thing, too.


Spoke too soon (that's never happened before)

This morning Phoebe woke up and announced, "I don't feel like going to school. I'm stuffy and my legs hurt." This escalated to a full-blown tantrum ("But I don't feeeeel like going to schoooool!"). I confess to being bad at tantrums. My best strategy is to ignore, ignore ("I'm sorry that you're upset that you can't have ice cream before dinner, but I'm not discussing it anymore, so go over there if you're going to cry") -- but you can't ignore a child who's crying about not wanting to go to school when you actually have to get her to school. Comfort ("You'll feel better once you get there, and you'll see your friends!") and reason ("You have to go to school because I have to to work, and you can't stay home all by yourself.") also failed.

To make things even better, she locked her arms at her side every time I tried to get her dressed, so we wound up driving to school with her still in her nightgown. Wailing. I pulled into the parking lot, opened the back door, and said, "If you don't let me get you dressed right now, you're not watching TV for the rest of the week." She let me get her dressed, weeping piteously. I dragged her to the sidewalk. The crossing guard said, "Aw, Phoebe, what's the matter?" A little old lady on her way to church said, "The poor thing, she makes me want to cry!" Oh, and did I mention it was pouring rain?

I pulled Phoebe into the main building to try to get her calmed down. No luck. Her preschool teacher from last year walked by and tried to give her a hug. This didn't work either (I think Phoebe was embarrassed). I went to the school office to ask the secretary's permission to walk Phoebe in to her classroom (the elementary classrooms are in a separate locked building -- it's complicated). She took one look at Phoebe and said, "I'll call Mrs S and have her meet you at the door." We went over to the elementary building -- Phoebe still sobbing. "What's wrong with Phoebe?" a kid from Mallory's class asked. "Rough morning," I said grimly. Her teacher opened the door and said, "Phoebe, do you have the rainy day blues?" Phoebe sobbed. I gave her a hug and a kiss and gave her hand to Mrs S. She had to forcibly drag Phoebe inside.

As I was walking back to my car, I passed the principal, who had another wailing kindergartener by the hand. So at least Phoebe isn't the only one.


Phoebe goes to Kindergarten

I suppose I ought to say something about the fact that Phoebe has started Kindergarten. I think I’ve been putting it off because I’m still not quite ready for it.

The first morning was rough – actually, I’m going to say that the two weeks leading up to school starting were rough, with an increase of tantrums and tears on her part, which I’m chalking up to school anxiety. When the big day arrived, she woke up crying through breakfast and getting dressed (especially because she had to wear her PE uniform, which is just not pretty), and continued to cry until we got to the parking lot. We were early (I had to drop off some coffee cups for a teachers’ breakfast), so we had time for some first-day pictures outside of school.

Yeah, she didn’t look too happy, did she?

But, once we got in the classroom, she brightened up. She overheard her teacher say that she had just returned from visiting family in Mississippi. “I drove over the Mississippi River last Christmas,” Phoebe said. “And also, I’ve been to Myrtle Beach.” Then she sat down to play with blocks. She was smiling when I left.

She’s had full reports at the end of each day. “Gabi got a haircut,” she told me, referring to a preschool friend who used to have very long hair. “And I played with a new girl at recess. She’s lucky because she had a Lunchable. We looked for pretty stones on the playground. I forgot her name, but she has white hair.” Also, “There’s a boy in my class who is very bad. He doesn’t listen to the rules at all. He doesn’t raise his hand, and he didn’t genuflect in the sanctuary!”

Her teacher is new-t0-the-school, so we had a Meet and Greet a few days before school started. She emphasized several times that she thinks kindergarten should be fun, which is exactly what I think too. And sure enough, Phoebe came home Friday and said that her whole class went on a hunt for Corduroy’s Buttons (you know, Corduroy the Bear). That struck me as very charming – not least because Phoebe found more buttons than anyone else in her class.

So I think she’s going to have a good year.

And here’s why, despite the fact that I still am still kind of taken aback to hear my five-year-old talking about genuflecting – here’s why I love their school. On the second day, Phoebe didn’t want me to walk her into her classroom – she wanted to be dropped off in the carpool line, just like the big kids. So that’s what we did. She clambered out of the car after Mallory, and shrugged on her backpack, and headed off down the sidewalk in her slighty-too-big plaid jumper. I watched her until the car ahead of me pulled forward, and then I had to drive on. As I did, the parent volunteer in the carpool line gave me a big thumbs up. Meaning – she was watching my little kindergartener too, and she wanted me to know that she was heading in the right direction. That meant the world to me.

And so does she:


Dog Days

Mouse the dog is living with us this week while my inlaws are out of town. She's been good, mostly. The funny thing is, I keep slipping and almost calling her "Finn" -- but only when I'm about to reprimand her. "No jumping, Finn...Mouse!" And so on.

I remember doing the same thing when Phoebe was first born. The only time I called my new baby "Mallory" was when I was at the end of my rope. "Please go to sleep, Mal...Phoebe." And so on.

I'm not sure what that means, really. I will say that I miss Finn, and when I see the girls walking off into the school building together I miss my babies. But I'm also very glad to live most of the time in a dogless, babyless house.


Third Grade

"Say, 'Third grade rules!'" I said to Mallory, trying to get her to smile for the camera.

"But I don't know if that's true yet," she said. My child, the eight-and-a-half-year-old literalist.

I loved third grade, myself. I loved my teacher, Mrs Neill. She could be loud and kind of scary when we were acting up, but she was funny, too. Certain things she said still stick in my mind. We did the state capitols in third grade, and I can't see or hear "Idaho" without remembering how she said, "I'd a hoe iffen it doesn't rain," when we learned "Boise." If I hear the line, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo," I remember Mrs Neill saying in a squeaky voice, "I'm down here, Juliet!" (When, I learned that "wherefore" actually means "why," I was immediately filled with concern that perhaps Mrs Neill didn't realize that.)

One day we were learning irregular verb endings. "See...saw..." she said, and we furnished Seen! "Eat...ate..." she said, and we chorused: Eaten! "Drive...drove," she said, and, in some kind of weird groupthink, we all shouted: "Droove!" And she laughed so hard she cried.

Third grade was awesome because we were finally allowed to check out books from the Chapter Book section of the library. I read Ramona, Sheila the Great, Harriet the Spy, the One-of-a-Kind Family, Amy and Laura. I loved Children's Biography series -- bound in orange, with purply illustrations on the covers -- and read all the ones about girls: Jane Addams (subtitle: Little Lame Girl; that was my favorite); Eleanor Roosevelt; Helen Keller, Emily Dickinson.

Two very important things happened in third grade. First, I met Kelley, who would be my best friend all the way through school and beyond. Kelley and I acted out elaborate scenes on the playground. We decided that, in the event we became able to fly, we would travel together to Disneyland, eating at every McDonald's along the way. We saved crumbs from our lunches to feed a particular anthill on the playground, and were devastated one day to find the anthill had been destroyed. We wrote letters to one another in the guise of our future selves, inventing husbands and children and jobs and perilous situations. As the kids would say today, we were total BFFs.

The second important thing that happened in third grade was, I decided to become a writer when I grew up. I don't know exactly why this occurred, although I'd be willing to attribute it to Harriet the Spy. In third grade I penned my first story, "Kathy the Kat and the Case of the Missing Jewels." I still remember the first lines: "Kathy the Kat got up and yawned and stretched. She could tell it was going to be a good day." I don't know why I wrote about a cat; I didn't much like cats (or kats, either). As for the missing jewels, I will tell you that the butler did it. (Did I know, as a third grader, the cliche about the butler doing it? How could I have known something like that? But if I didn't know that, then why did I pin it on the butler?) At any rate, third grade is when I started carrying around an extra spiral notebook everywhere I went, to record my stories. I'm not sure if that momentous third-grade decision did me much good in the long run. Maybe it would have been better if I'd decided in the third grade to become a nuclear physicist. But I didn't, and here I am.

I hope her third grade year is equally memorable.


Y Not?

Every time we drive by a particular intersection on our way to swim at the Y, Phoebe says:

"I promise, the last time we drove by here, there was a bunny on the corner right there, and he was wearing a suit and glasses. I wonder where he went?"

And I have yet to think of a good response.



Thursday morning, the talk around the office was the Big Storm that had rolled in just after midnight. Booming thunder, scary lightning, flash flooding, power outages all over Raleigh. “I guess it didn’t get out over my direction,” I told people. “I didn’t hear a thing.”

After talking to Chris later, I realized that we DID get the storm after all. I not only slept through it, I slept through the fact that it woke both my children up, and they STAYED up for almost two hours, unable to go back to sleep because they were scared – both by the storm, and by memories of the Wallace and Gromit movie we’d watched the night before. (Yes, my children are frightened by Wallace and Gromit.)

All I have to say about that is – thanks, kids, for picking Daddy that night instead of me.

Mallory has started a prayer campaign for a baby sibling. (You can bet that I have started a counter.) She thinks this campaign will work because it did for a school friend of hers. This poor family – the husband has four grown children from a first marriage; together they have a 6th grader, a 4th grader, and a 1st grader. Then the wife got pregnant. “We’re like one of those reality TV families!” the mom said to me, not quite in jest. Anyway, Mallory’s friend was about to start praying again, when she found out the new baby was going to be a boy, but her parents strictly forbade any more prayers of that nature.

My point – there are many reasons I don’t want another baby, and yes, practical considerations – not enough bedrooms, not enough time, not enough money for college tuition – rank high. But I think the number one reason is I can’t endure the sleep deprivation again.

The first two months of Mallory’s existence, I just wanted someone to shoot me. We lived in a tiny house back then, and her crib was right next to my head. Every time she made the slightest sound, I was jerked awake, and then I lay there, frozen in dread, waiting for her to start to cry in earnest. When she did, I’d heave myself up, pick her up, navigate over the sleeping dogs into the living room, and curl up on the couch while she nursed. Most of the time I’d fall asleep, and then wake up not knowing how much she’d eaten or how long we’d been there. I’d get up as stealthily as possible and sneak back to the bedroom, lay her down inch by inch, keeping my hands on her for a few extra moments to ease the transition. (At this point one of the dogs would invariably sigh or snort or roll over and the baby would twitch and I’d add another 60 seconds to the count.) Then I’d ease into bed – and lay there wide awake. I was too tired and too demoralized to sleep – I knew she’d wake up again within an hour anyway. Sometimes I’d say some kind of incoherent prayer to what I came to call “the god of sleeping children,” a deity which I eventually realized obviously didn’t exist.

When Phoebe was born, I skipped the crib entirely. We co-slept from day one, and even though she woke up a lot every night, and continued to do so for about 18 months – it was so much better, not having to get out of bed to tend to her. Some people take the breastfeeding/co-sleeping route for reasons of bonding or safety or nutrition or whatever. I did it because I am lazy to the bone.

Now, on the rare occasions that I get woken up at night (Phoebe in particular has to let me know if she has to go to the bathroom at 3 a.m., despite my assurances that I just don’t care) – I wonder how I managed it, with both kids, this awful sensation of being roused out of a pleasant sleep, over and over again. Of going to bed every night knowing that your sleep was going to be interrupted, over and over again. I mean, I know that, like every other parent in the world, I managed because I had to manage. But I’m just so glad now that we’re over that phase. And I never want to repeat it.



Summer Fotos

What, you had enough pictures from my endless DisneyWorld recaps? Too bad.

It's SuperMallory! (Costume courtesy of her father, who is the best father in the world to have if you're required to dress up as a superhero).

Phoebe had a birthday:

My mom came to visit, and brought Mallory a homemade quilt:

My sister and her boys were also there. (Look! Noah's smiling!)

They had a splashing good time:

Aimee took this picture. I love it. (I seem to have gotten no pictures of Aimee, though. Sorry Aimee! Guess you'll have to come back.)

It's been a good summer.

School starts in 13 days. Not that anyone around here is counting.