Fifteen minutes in the life

I realized that I haven't taken many pictures of the kids lately; so today when they asked to have a picnic in the backyard, I packed the camera along with the pb&j's and potato chips. I thought I'd try to get a few frameable shots that captured both of my daughters' elegant beauty.

Well. Instead I got these:

Goofy and giggly and precisely what these two are like, most of the time. I think they're keepers (the pictures and the girls).


2:37 a.m.

You are not as sympathetic as you could be, no doubt, when you hear your bedroom door creak open and a little voice say, “Mommy, I threw up.” You roll over and look at the clock and groan, “Really? You did?” and then hesitate a moment, thinking of the thoroughly unpleasant task ahead of you.

You get up, turn on the hall light, look at your daughter, and say, “You should change your pajamas.” You walk into her bedroom and immediately realize that you should’ve obtained more information from the child before stumbling into her bedroom in the dark, in bare feet. You turn on the light and assess the damage – great, lots of ketchup with dinner last night – and then dither around for a few minutes wondering what to do. Do you need a washcloth? A towel? Maybe you should just move out?

“Do I have to go to school tomorrow?” your child asks, still in her yucky pajamas. “That is not the most important thing at this moment!” you snap. You reflect, as you look for the Oxyclean, that you have no bedside manner whatsoever. Your child will never have memories of you lovingly applying cold compresses and bringing glasses of ginger ale.

You saturate the carpet with Oxyclean and cover it with a beach towel, not knowing or caring really if this is the best approach to the problem. Your younger child sits up in bed and says: “Is it still night? Why does it smell bad?” and then goes back to sleep. You spread another beach towel over your sick child’s (thankfully still clean) sheets and hand her a Tupperware bowl. “Aim here next time,” you say. “Do you still feel sick?”

“Yes,” she says. “And my throat hurts from throwing up. What are you going to do about that?”

“There’s nothing I can do about that,” you say, and then you have a flashback to two years ago, when this child went through a five-month bout of something called Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, which means pretty much what it sounds like, and which was, if you recall correctly, triggered by a virus much like the flu she just got over last week. You kind of want to cry.

Instead you give her a kiss and say good night and go back to your bed, knowing that you won’t sleep well the rest of the night, that you’ll lie awake listening for noises down the hall, for the next knock on the door, for the little voice asking for help once more.



Mallory’s illness has been hard on Phoebe.

It’s not that Phoebe is consumed with sympathy for her big sister. Nor does she wish that Mallory would get up off the couch and play with her. No, the problem is that Mallory’s being sick has visited upon Phoebe a series of perceived injustices, which are the worst things ever for a 5-year-old.

First, Mallory was, as I said, supposed to go to a sleepover on Saturday night. Phoebe had determined in advance that she would sleep with me that night. (Neither girl likes to sleep alone; both regard sleeping with me as a big treat. Don’t ask why.) Since Mallory did not go to her sleepover, however, I told Phoebe she had to sleep in her own bed. Well. You would have thought I’d killed a kitten. Phoebe cried for hours about this. (Mallory, it must be said, cried only about 2 minutes when I told her she couldn’t go to her party, even though she’d been looking forward to it for weeks and had packed her bag days in advance.) “It’s so unfair!” Phoebe wept. When tears got her nowhere, she resorted to written communication. I found two notes that said “I am sad” – one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom. She wrote “I am sad” on the Magnadoodle. When Mallory mustered the energy to get up and do a craft with dried macaroni, Phoebe sat beside her and glued popcorn to a piece of construction paper. “That’s a nice project,” I said. She glowered at me and said: “The popcorn spells ‘I am sad.’”

Sunday night I told Phoebe in no uncertain terms that she would be going to school the next day, even though her sister was not. Nevertheless, Monday morning began with a storm of tears and tantrums about how unfair it was that she, who did not have the flu, had to go to school. “It’s either you don’t make me go to school or I keep crying,” she warned me, and was further enraged when I told her she could cry all she wanted, I wasn’t changing my mind. Finally, crying around her waffle, she grabbed a piece of paper and wrote the following:

“I think what you want for that last word is M-E-A-N,” I said.