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Showing posts from 2011

Wrapping it up

No, not like that:

I am way behind here. I don't think I ever posted about Mallory's birthday, and I had some thoughts about Christmas decorations which I guess I'll save until next year, and I should tell you about the fab time I had with my family last week, but instead I'll just sum up 2011.

Best Books Read:
There But For The by Ali Smith
Chime by Franny Billingsley
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Worst Books Read:
Obedience by Will Lavender
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Sister by Rosamund Lupton
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Best Movie:

Fave TV show:
Modern Family; also Prime Suspect but I think they're taking it off the air

Proud of myself for:
Teaching myself how to crochet
Losing 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas (now need new pants)

Best new experience:
Riding a Segway with Aimee through downtown Charlotte

New places traveled to:
Chicago (prefer Chicag…

The Have Nots

A few weeks ago I sorted through the girls' books and set aside some to donate. I put them in a Bruegger's Bagels bag because it was big and sturdy and had big sturdy handles. Naturally, the bag has been sitting in our hallway ever since.

Phoebe noticed it last Saturday. "Mommy, why is there a Wubbzy book in this bag?" she asked.

"Because those are books I'm going to donate," I said.

"To the poor?" she asked.


"I don't think that's a good idea," she said.

I was about to launch into a lecture about how she had too much and other children had too little and she hadn't read any of those books for ages and --

But then she added, "Because if the poor children see this bagel bag, it's just going to make them hungry."


Twenty-five people were laid off from my office yesterday. Luckily I was not one of them, although there were a few tense moments when I thought I might be. I fe…

If you're not in the spirit yet...

you will be after watching this.

My only regret is that this version does not have Beeker singing the nine ladies dancing part. That cracks me and Phoebe right up.


Last night Mallory asked me to carry her. "Carry you?" I said. "I haven't been able to carry you for many years."

"But you said you always would, no matter what," she said.

"When did I say that?"

"On your blog," she said.

I guess she read this. Which, in spite of its schmaltziness, is one of my favorite posts. I can't believe that was 5 years ago. I can't believe that Phoebe is older now that Mallory was then. I can't believe that I thought five was old. I can't believe I didn't factor 4th grade social studies into the equation.

She's ten, my beautiful, goofy, kind-hearted, generous, bright and funny little girl. If I'm a bit sad today that she's growing up so fast, I'm consoled by the fact that I'm the one who gets to be there with her while she does.

Happy Birthday!

Notes for when I take over

Went to the grocery store today; glanced at my receipt on the way out and saw that, through my store's Loyalty Card scheme, I have saved $436 on groceries this year. And it occurred to me to wish that they gave you an option -- you could either save this money on your purchases throughout the year, OR, you can pay full price for your groceries, but then get a rebate check for the amount you WOULD have saved at the end of the year. Would that be awesome or what? Paying $10 extra per grocery trip wouldn't be that bad if I could get a $500 check around Christmastime.

Teachers should be disallowed from giving two major tests in one week, especially when one of the students is so excited about her upcoming birthday that she can barely breathe. (Studying for a 4th grade science test is just as exciting at age 39 as it was at age 9 (in other words, not). Mallory always manages to lighten things up though. She gave this example of a food chain: " shark!&…

What I'm thankful for:

A mother who taught me the importance of a homemade pie crust, and a father who perfected the art of applying vanilla ice cream to a piece of pie. Streusel topping for when the top crust just doesn't come together. A daughter who loves to bake, who's almost old enough to bake things by herself, but who still asks questions like, "This says I need three-slash-four cups of much is three-slash-four?" Another daughter who is finally old enough to play games that require reading, but who is still young enough to say "cimmanon" and "bekfrast." A job to go to, even when I have to go there the day before Thanksgiving. A house to live in, no matter how messy. The internet, so I don't have to go shopping for reals tomorrow. In-laws who have always welcomed me with open arms, and who gave me the job of making desserts, rather than vegetables, for Thanksgiving dinner. Two sisters and a brother who feel close even when we're far apa…

5th member of Kemple family

We got a blue beta fish last night at petco. Did you know that NONE of the fish were dead? We prayed on the way over there for all of the fish to be healthy and God preformed a miracle! Mallory came up with the name Blue Berry Kemple. She is reading him a story now. She is very happy.Happy Birthday Mallory! [This post was written by Mallory]

Recipe for Disaster

So I've been hunting around on online recipe websites for some Thanksgiving inspiration. I love being able to search for recipes online and am thinking about doing away with cookbooks altogether. I really like the reviews that most sites have - it's useful when someone comments that, for example, the recipe called for 1 TBSP of salt when it should be 1 TSP, or that someone else substituted chicken thighs for chicken breasts and the recipe still turned out delicious.

But. It drives me nuts when someone gives a recipe a bad rating and then says:

This recipe was terrible! It was so bland! I left out the garlic and onion because I don't like those, and it had no flavor at all. Plus I left out the cheese and sour cream to save on fat but cooked it as directed and it got really dried out!
Well, guess what, you didn't really make this recipe. You changed the recipe, and it turned out terrible, but that's not the recipe's fault.

This kind of thing is even worse:

This was…


I don't pretend to know anything about how government works, but this is what I'm picturing in my head about the supercommittee meetings:

Democrats: We need to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Republicans: No.

Democrats: But [list reasons, some of them valid, why this is a good idea].

Republicans: No.

[Break for lunch]

Republicans: We need to cut entitlements.

Democrats: No.

Republicans: But [list reasons, some of them valid, why this is a good idea].

Democrats: No.

[Break for the day. Tell members of the press that the gridlock is the other side's fault.]

The end.


When she was about 18 months old, Phoebe somehow chipped her front tooth. We had it capped at the dentist -- a procedure that involved me holding her body on my lap while a dental hygienist held her head and the dentist worked (very slowly) and Phoebe writhed and screamed like we were killing her -- but two days later, she bit into a bagel and the cap came off. Of course.

So we decided to let it be. After all, it was a baby tooth, it was going to fall out eventually. I remember thinking, though, that five or six years was going to be a long time, looking at that awful chipped tooth every day.

It wasn't a long time at all. And it stopped being awful:

And now it's gone:

Mrs. Neill

I found out today that my third grade teacher, Mrs. Neill, has died.

She was one of the best. She's what every teacher should be.

I hate to even mention this story in the same post as Mrs. Neill, but still -- I would bet that Mrs. Neill wouldn't have run away and called her dad and asked what she should do about an unsettling thing she saw in the locker room. I would bet that Mrs. Neill would've hauled back and given that person a solid punch in the jaw. Without having to think twice about it.

I like to think that, having been taught by her, I would do the same thing.

The dollhouse dilemma

For her second Christmas, Mallory got a very nice wooden dollhouse from Santa. Her grandparents and aunts chipped in to get all the associated furnishings and dolls.

She played with it fairly regularly for a while, but then when Phoebe came along, we had to rearrange some things in her room and it kind of got pushed back to an inaccessible corner. Later, we moved it into our attic playroom, but by that point, they were both more interested in Polly Pockets and Barbies, and the dollhouse got very little use. I estimate they play with it once or twice a year.

I would like to get rid of this dollhouse. I think it's a wonderful toy, it's high-quality, it's a great thing -- but my kids don't play with it and it's taking up quite a bit of space and gathering dust. I've considered saving it for my grandchildren, but that assumes that I'll have grandchildren that will be interested in a dollhouse, which really is a tall assumption, and we don't really have th…

Can you believe we had even MORE fall fun?

Really, I just can't stop with the weekend activities. My kids have been enriched to death the past month or so.

This weekend, we went downtown Raleigh for a double-header. First up: the North Carolina History Festival, which I hoped would get Mallory excited about the enormous NC Social Studies project she's working on. That night: Tickets to the ballet, a few blocks away from the festival. In between: About an hour and a half of down time (poor planning).

The festival was fine. We saw sculptures and a real dugout canoe and a replica Cherokee longhouse and the girls made bonnets and paper cardinals.

Much more exciting than history, however, was riding bus between venues:

Then, to kill time, we had an ice cream cone and wandered back to the garage where we'd parked the car. In the elevator, to be whimsical, I pushed 6 even though we were only on 3. The sixth floor level turned out to be empty of cars and the girls thought this was the best thing ever. A photo shoot ensue…

That'll cheer you up

As a break from my list of depressing reads, I turned to Anne Frank.

Yeah, I know. It's like continuing to eat spicy food while complaining that your mouth's on fire.

Mallory asked me about Hitler the other day. How do you explain Hitler to a 9-year-old? Her main concern seemed to be whether such a thing could ever happen again. She didn't seem comforted by my answer ("I hope not") but what else can you say?

Anyway, in an attempt to bring things down to her level, I told her about Anne Frank. Then I ordered a book for her -- "Who Was Anne Frank?" -- one of a series of biographies for children. (I think I've mentioned before how much I loved the biographical series in my elementary school's library. They were all bound in hideous orange. My favorite was Jane Addams: Little Lame Girl.) I thought this summation of Anne Frank's life would be easier for Mallory -- who does not like to read -- to digest than the actual diary.

I read The Diary of …

Almost two digits

Mallory is busily creating her birthday party invitation. It was difficult to rein her in, to say, no, you can't invite your friends to a movie AND go swimming AND go for ice cream and no, as an alternative you can't invite every girl in your class (except the one you don't like) to the Tumble Gym.

It's even more difficult to wrap my head around the fact that she's going to be ten.


So I've just read a string of really depressing books, y'all. (I don't know why I just called you y'all.) In the past month or so, I've read:

We Need to Talk about Kevin -- A mother writes about the lead-up to, and aftermath of, a school massacre perpetrated by her son, Kevin. I simultaneously hated this book and couldn't put it down. All the characters behaved in a completely unrealistic fashion. (Hi, I've suspected my son is a psychopath since the day he was born, but I'll let him babysit my daughter anyway.) It obviously doesn't end well and left me feeling ooky for days.

The Night Circus -- Depressing because I thought I would like it more than I did

The Grief of Others -- stillborn baby, enough said

Please Look After Mom -- An elderly Korean woman disappears in a subway station; her daughter, son, and husband ruminate about how little they appreciated her and how badly they treated her. Nice.

Nightwoods -- Children witness brutal murder of their mo…

The day after

My kids' school doesn't "do" Halloween, but as a "fun" alternative, they allow require students to dress up as saints for All Saints Day (November 1). How does one dress a child up as a saint, you may ask? Answer: I don't know, but apparently wrapping them up in veils and shawls does the trick well enough:

Don't they look happy to be saints? Phoebe is St Catherine of Siena (which is the name of their school, but it was chosen because Phoebe's middle name is Catherine) and Mallory is St Maria Goretti, who was murdered at the age of 12 and beatified because she forgave her murderer on her deathbed. Which is a nice story, right?

Still, they're getting a good education. Phoebe had to write sentences with selected "sight words" last night; the sentences had to be at least 5 words long. One of her words was "does." "I can't think of a does sentence!" she said. Then she said, "Oh wait -- how about, 'Does p…


What you don't want to happen on Halloween night is, you don't want it to rain. Rain ruins everything. Rain means that either your kids' costumes (that you spent hours making or dollars buying) get ruined, or that your kids wear a raincoat that covers up their costumes (that you spent hours making or dollars buying). Rain gets their candy buckets damp. Rain makes their face paint run. Rain deters other children from trick or treating, which means that you only manage to unload one of the five bags of candy that you bought. Rain means that you, too, have to slog around the neighborhood, wrangling umbrellas, bumping into other parents carrying umbrellas, resenting parents who opt to drive their precious snowflakes from house to house, feeling your socks get increasingly soggy. "Being a parent sucks sometimes," I texted my sister from under my umbrella.

But honestly -- I wouldn't have it any other way.

Confederation, confederation, confederation

Mallory has a big Social Studies test today. She’s not doing well in Social Studies, this year. When I asked her why her grades were so low, she said, “I don’t like Social Studies. Besides, no one can be good at everything.” I thought this was a fair point, but let her know that it was not acceptable for her to do quite so poorly, whether she liked it or not.

We studied for hours for this test. We read the chapter twice, summarized main points, went over vocabulary words, filled in blanks and did true/false quizzes. There were moments when I despaired – as when I asked, “The villages of the Cherokee people came together to form a...” and she said, “Um...bison?” But I think she knows the material pretty well; honestly I’m not even sure what else we could have done to get her prepared. I told her we would like for her to get at least a B.

I know she’s nervous. I’m nervous for her. I slept poorly all night.

But, I also know more than I really wanted to know about the early peoples of …

Even more fall fun! Man, I'm tired

Yesterday the girls and I went to a pumpkin farm -- it was "Scout Day" so the girls got in free. (I paid $12) (The pumpkin was not included) This was, in fact, more than just a pumpkin farm -- it used to be a tobacco plantation, but ten or so years ago its owners decided to diversify into organic produce and "agritourism." So they grow strawberries and blueberries, and cabbages and carrots, and they sell their produce at farmer's markets and through CSAs. And they do school tours and scout events and they turned the back 40 acres of their farm into a huge playground.

I love this place. Every time I visit I think how fun it would be to run such a place myself. (I know. Please. I grew up on a farm and I know it's really not that fun at all.) But it's all so wholesome and pretty and nice. And I learn something new every time I go. For example, did you know that asparagus in the field looks like this:

It's that weedy-looking stuff in the foreground. Huh…

Fall Fun

Whoooo wanted to buy my items at the craft show last weekend?

Nobody, apparently. Which is okay, I wasn't counting on sales to pay the bills.

Mallory also made a craft:

...and got her hair sprayed pink:

...and ate lots of cotton candy:

Phoebe, ditto:

Then we spent a loooong time in line to get their faces painted, but they were very pleased with the results:

It was a lovely day, in spite of being not-profitable.

What now?

Not to sound like a commercial, but we switched to Vonage for our phone service. We considered dropping our land line completely but that just seemed too daring. Anyway, you can set up your voicemail to automatically forward transcripts of any messages to your email account. With hilarious results! For example, yesterday we got this message from the town council, which makes all kinds of robocalls to announce exciting town happenings:

This message is from the town of Xville and it's not an emergency. We are calling to let you know about our babies and microchip pet clinic on Saturday At Main Street, Park the park which is at 200 South Main Street.
A babies clinic! Ha! When it's really a rabies clinic!

So I'm getting entertained on top of saving on my phone bill. What a deal.

Speaking of money, I'm going to be (attempting to) sell my crocheted wares at a craft show this weekend. I have no idea what to charge for my products; I have even less of an idea if anyone will be…

What's making me happy today

Seeing these pictures on the October page of my 2011 Shutterfly calendar:

The other other meat

I read an article this week about entomophagy -- eating bugs. Apparently, 80% of the world's peoples eat insects, Western Europe and North America being the main holdouts. Bugs are nutritious -- full of protein and other essential nutrients. Bugs are versatile -- you can fry them in butter, you can grind them into flour, you can dip them in chocolate, you can make them into a BeeLT sandwich (really). Bugs are, according to sources in this article, delicious, reportedly tasting like shrimp (which are also bugs, only from the sea), chicken, bacon, or scrambled eggs. Bugs are, importantly, sustainable -- farming bugs results in a very small carbon footprint; they're already numerous; there are no worries about humane treatment because bugs like crowded conditions and filth.

Ironically, many countries where eating bugs has been the norm for centuries are now planting "Western" crops such as corn and wheat, which are arguably less nutritious and digestible than insects, …

On knot giving up

Yesterday I was working on a new crochet project (will show off when finished), but the skein of yarn I was using was a snarly mess. Every other stitch I was having to yank and pull and curse to get another couple of inches of yarn. I finally decided to unravel the skein from the other end and unknot it going backwards.

Hours later, I was still working on the stupid yarn. I ignored my children’s pleas of hunger and even forgot to get Mallory started on part of her Enormous School Project of Doom (due in April, luckily, not today). I was determined to unknot that yarn.

As I fought with it, I recalled another time in my life when I committed to a similarly Sisyphean task. When I was maybe eight or nine years old, I found a golf ball with a nicked cover in our yard. Before, it had never occurred to me to wonder what was under the outer cover of a golf ball, but seeing this damaged one made me curious. I picked at the opening – less than the size of a dime, probably – to try to peel it o…

Even nicer than sugar and spice

The other night I was walking behind Phoebe as she rode her bike around the block. She learned the trick of standing up on the pedals to go faster. She shouted: "Mommy, I'm on fire!" And then clarified: "I'm on girl fire! Do you know what's in girl fire, Mommy?"

"No, what?" I asked.

"Sequins! And peace signs! And hearts! And flowers and lots and lots of PINK!"

It's Me!

I haven’t written in so long that I don’t know where to begin. That implies that a lot has happened since the last time I wrote, which isn’t true; in fact, very little has happened, which is partly why I haven’t written. It’s more that once you stop writing, it’s hard to get back in the habit.

So, today, a random collection of thoughts.

Girl Scouts has begun! After two meetings for each troop, I’ve come to the not-so-surprising conclusion that first graders are far more easily entertained than third and fourth graders.

Cold front coming Friday! It’s not even going to hit 65. This raises the clothing problem. I have summer clothes (which I am so sick of; if I have to wear one particular pair of black capri pants ever again I will scream) and I have sweaters; I have nothing in between.

Least favorite parts of the day: Loading and unloading the car. The backpacks! With their water bottles that always fall out! The lunchboxes! The bag of clothes to wear after school, the books for piano …


Early Tuesday morning I found Mallory on her bathroom floor, soaked with sweat. “?” I said, and she said, “I don’t feel good, and it’s just easier not to go back to bed.”

She did not go to school on Tuesday, but this morning she looked less peaked so I told her that she needed to go today. She said she still felt bad. I said I thought she’d be fine. “You don’t know everything, you know,” she said. “You’re not God.”

“No, but I’m your mother, so I know more than you,” I retorted.

Before lunch, the school secretary called and said that Mallory had a fever. Apparently strep throat has stricken the fourth grade. I feel kind of bad about sending her to school this morning. But then again – I think I would rather her teacher think that I’m a mom who errs on the side of sending the kid to school than a mom who keeps the kid home just in case.

This would be a good strategy, if I’d only known as much as God does.

My brother has suggested that I repent

Yesterday, an earthquake. This weekend, a hurricane.

Yesterday, Mallory told me that her math homework was fun. Today, Phoebe woke up, said she was stuffy and had a bad cough, but did not request to stay home from school.

Yesterday, my boss told me that the promotion which has been in the works for me for almost two years is on the cusp of being approved.

It just may be the apocalypse, y'all.

First Day of Shool!*


A first grader, a fourth grader. Another summer gone, another year ahead. When questioned, Phoebe said her first day was "Good," and Mallory said hers was "Bad, because I hate school." So there you are.

Phoebe is supposed to read aloud for 15 minutes each night. Last night she chose her favorite book, which is, alas, Spongebob and the Princess. I’m not above laughing at Spongebob the TV show every now and then, but the whimsy doesn’t translate well into books.

I also thought the book might be too hard for Phoebe, but I was mostly wrong. She read words like “gloomily” and “understand” and “delivery” with no problem. And when she got to a word she didn’t know…well, for the first few pages, she would just kind of make a confused noise: “Spongebob walked through the door and …bishbesh?” And I would say: “busily,” and she would continue. As we went on, though (and as she gained additional audience members, namely Chris and Mallory), she became more inventiv…

Charlotte was both

Mallory was required to read Charlotte's Web over the summer; what ended up happening was me reading it aloud to her. We finished tonight, with one day to spare before school starts, and my children proved themselves soulless by not only failing to cry when Charlotte dies, but by giggling at me when I cried.

Although I saw the original Charlotte's Web movie many times as a child, and can still hear the voices of Templeton and Wilbur in my head, I don't think I've ever read the book until now. (I did read and re-read The Trumpet of the Swan several times.) It will seem silly to point this out, but it's a very good book, isn't it? I love the exchange between Mr and Mrs Zuckerman after the first word appears in the web. He says: "A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig."

"Well," said Mrs Zuckerman, "it seems to me you're a little off. It seems to me we have no ordina…

I laughed when she said it in spite of myself

"When did you and Daddy move into your first house together?" Mallory asked.

"The year 2000...we bought a house in Durham."

"Was I born yet?" she asked.

"No, not yet."

"Were you pregnant with me?"

"No, not yet," I said.

"Were you..." she paused for a minute. "Were you maybe trying the thing that would make you pregnant with me?"

"That's a personal question," I said.

"Well, I'm sorry if you were," Phoebe chimed in. "That's not pleasant for the woman."


Next to impossible: Getting all four kids to look good in one shot

Seems impossible: That these kids (plus two others!) used to look like this:

Completely impossible: Two girls getting along better than these two did for four days

Possible: That I have the best family ever

Also possible: That I'm sad that it'll be several more months before we're together again