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 inventive:

“I need to count me money,” Mr Krabs…squibbered? (whispered)

“I don’t believe you!” Squidward circled (cried)

“You mean the princess isn’t coming?” Spongebob squivered (shrieked)

And my favorite: “Very own trumpets!” (Everyone turned)

It was very amusing. I don’t mind this kind of homework at all.


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 ordinary spider."

"Oh, no," said Zuckerman. "It's the pig that's unusual. It says so, right there in the middle of the web."

The description of nature, of the changing of the seasons, of the rhythm of life on the farm, are just beautiful (and are, alas, probably why my kids thought the book was boring). But how can you not appreciate this line, about the coming of fall: "A little maple tree in the swamp heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety."

I took issue, however, with Fern. Not at first; of course at first Fern is wonderful, crying injustice to save Wilbur's life, and pushing him around in her baby buggy, and spending her days on the milkstool by the pigpen. But then Mrs Arable talks to the doctor about this odd daughter of hers, and how she claims that the animals talk to her, and although the doctor wisely notes that perhaps children can hear animals talk because they pay better attention, he also makes a prediction that comes true far too soon: that sooner or later Fern will forget about talking animals and turn to something else -- boys, for example. And that's exactly what Fern does, without skipping a beat -- she rides with Henry Fussy on the Ferris Wheel and from then on, she doesn't care one bit about Wilbur. Even when Wilbur's future looks bleak, when the big pig Uncle wins the blue ribbon, Fern just asks for money to ride the Ferris Wheel with Henry again. And when Wilbur whens the special prize at the Fair (twenty-five whole dollars!!) -- instead of rejoicing in her pig's moment of triumph, instead of celebrating that his life is saved, Fern just runs off to be with Henry. And I know that Fern has to grow up, and I know that her growing up has to be part of the story too -- but she's eight. I'm not sure why this eight-year-old girl had to grow up so callously fast, and why Henry Fussy had to be part of the equation at all.

Maybe I just object so strongly because my oldest little girl is about Fern's age, and I'm not ready for her to turn her attention to her own Henry Fussy.

Still and all -- an excellent book. I could make you cry (unless you too are soulless) by quoting the last paragraph, but instead I'll quote the one right before the end, which I think is even better:

Life in the barn was very good -- night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicous cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.


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


Crafty Update

I've made a whopping total of two things this summer. A puppy for Phoebe's birthday:

And a cell phone case for me:

The case needs a bit of tweaking; I'm not happy with the strap. But it was way easier than making a stuffed animal, I'll tell you that much.

The girls were on etsy with me last night looking at crochet patterns. Now I have a list of requests a mile long. I'm not sure when I'll have time to get to these new projects, but I'll keep you posted. Because I know you care.


The Rest of the Story

We had planned a grand tour of downtown Chicago, a kind of Ferris-Bueller's-Day-Off extravaganza. Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Gino's Pizza, Rock n Roll McDonald's, Navy Pier, John Hancock Observatory -- the works, plus some. As it turns out, we were overly ambitious -- and we had underestimated how much time it would take to get from Aunt Kathy's farm into the city, hindered by, among other things, railroad crossings and toll plazas and our inability to get up and at 'em at the crack of dawn as planned.

So we didn't manage to see everything we would've liked to see, but we saw enough. Sunday morning we started at the American Girl place on Michigan Avenue, where my children were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff available to purchase:

In the end, they each selected a "Look-Alike Doll" (a more difficult task than you would imagine):

Money spent, we went down the street to the famous Gino's East for some deep-dish goodness:

The fun thing about Gino's is that you're allowed to write on the walls and other available surfaces. The girls made their mark:

I liked this sign:

Full of pizza, we departed for Shedd Aquarium. Did I mention yet that it was incredibly hot and humid in Chicago that day? It was pretty awful, actually. The girls found shelter in this sculpture thingy:

The Aquarium itself was very impressive, and featured my favorite animal:

After we'd seen the penguins and fish and dolphins and otters, we called it a day. The next morning we headed back to the city to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. This is one of the nation's oldest zoos, and one of the few remaining free ones. It's gorgeous, too, with lovely landscaping and flora and fauna and whatnot. We stopped in at the Lincoln Park Conservatory on the way:

This fellow was probably the most comfortable creature at the zoo on that very hot day:

We saw bears and more penguins and tigers and rhinos, and then the kids wanted to ride on the carousel. The Endangered Species carousel, no less, which turned out to be absolutely beautiful. I loved the top panels:

It was at this point that my camera battery died, so I had to use my camera phone for these:

From the zoo, we sweltered over to Navy Pier. I would've liked to have gone on a riverboat cruise, but we were all pretty much out of pep (and money). So instead we boarded the Ferris Wheel:

Then we had some Chicago-style treats -- hot dogs and Garrett's popcorn -- and decided that we were done with tourism. We left the city and went back to the farm, where, for the next day and a half, the kids played with their cousins and the adults drank wine. Then we got in the car for the long, long drive back home.

It was a fun trip -- it was good to finally see all the places Chris has talked about all these years, good for the girls to see where their family comes from. The heat was atrocious, but the city was beautiful, and I hope someday to go back (in the spring, perhaps) and see all the things we missed this time around.