According to “they,” children between ages one and five are supposed to sleep about twelve hours a day, give or take. “They,” however, have not had a chance to discuss this with Girl and Boy yet. I wish they would. Boy slept away his early months, rarely cracking an eyelid or giving us a glance before nursing and going back (or, really, continuing) to sleep, sleeping something like twenty-two hours a day. Girl gave up napping at two and a half and hasn’t napped in months, not even when she has been sick.

Even given their approaches to sleep, today was a whole different thing. Yes, Girl had a fever last night, said, “I’m too tired to eat!”, and fell asleep on the bed at 6 in her clothes. Yes, Boy wouldn’t go down for his nap, so he was asleep at 6:45. An early night, given that they’ve been falling asleep at 8:30 or 9:00 lately (and sleeping until 8, too, I should add). A moment of calm. Their daddy had been out of  town for a few days, and when he arrived home a little after seven, the quiet house was a shock.

It didn’t last long enough. Girl coughed and cried some, rousing herself from sleep, and then was happy to see her daddy, holding onto his hand with a strength that belied the effects of her fever, even as she lay with her head on my chest, coughing more. A little after two in the morning, she was coughing even more, and I took her to the shower, hoping the steamy air would soothe what ailed her so she could sleep.

Instead, it seemed to rouse her a bit. To backpedal, I tried to sing her back to sleep, scratch her back – whatever I could do while not waking her brother. Like my first bike, however, backpedaling brought the brakes on, and any sleeping she’d thought of doing came to a pink-Schwinned halt. She’d already had eight hours of sleep. When she saw her daddy again, it really was all over. She wanted to sleep next to him. She wanted to put her head on his shoulder. Sure, she’d go to sleep, she said..

“Daddy!” Boy shouted, springing to his feet in the three o’clock hour and throwing his arms around his daddy. Ah, now no one was sleeping. (Well, maybe the cats still were…)

And just to fast forward: there was no more sleeping. Their daddy went back to bed because work requires some semblance of together-ness, but for the rest of us, there was much frustration (that was mostly me: how hard could it be for them to just go back to sleep – and let me sleep, too?). By four-something, I conceded, and we watched Word World (I still love it!) followed by Classical Baby: The Dance Show. Twice. She ate an apple, he ate grapes.

He napped from almost 8 until 9:45. He wouldn’t nap in the afternoon. (To be fair, he may have, had it not been for the less-than-helpful kissiness, leaning-over-my-shoulderness, and general distracting nature of Girl. How is it that such things, which, under other circumstances, would be so endearing, can be so distracting?) She did not nap at all, though not for lack of my effort.

He went to sleep around 5:30, maybe 5:45 tonight. He was toast (the “oops, I sure left that in the toaster too long!” kind).

And Girl? She was asleep at 7:00. Just to make this clear: she was awake from 2:15 in the morning until 7:00 at night! Nearly seventeen hours. How is that possible? The fever seemed to fade away to nothing, and all that was left was a mad desire to stay awake, logic and sleepiness be darned.

Sleep is good. At some point, we realize that, often when we’re least able to get it. Sleep was in front of them, served up on a platter, steaming and fragrant. Mmmm, sleep. I could almost taste it. Was it not appetizing to them? Did I inadvertently try to serve Girl a steaming pile of mashed potato-esque sleep? (And what IS the deal with her cough? How much do I need to worry?)

I’m hoping for a better night tonight.

Once I get more sleep, I’m looking for “they”;  I hope “they” can set my children straight on this sleep thing. If you’ve seen them, would you send them my way? While you’re at it, would you throw in a few extra hours of sleep? Rest assured, I’ll put them to good use.

This is what nighttime should look like.

This is what nighttime should look like.

Dan Yaccarino’s Five Little Pumpkins isn’t my favorite work of his – the drawings don’t match the charm of Every Friday, and the rhyme, new to me, doesn’t bring up any feelings of nostalgia. Girl doesn’t know it, either, so our first reading was her first exposure to it, too.

And therein lies what made our first reading interesting, what makes me love Five Little Pumpkins so much more than I expected to love it:

She read it to me.

She. Read. It. To. Me.

She read it to me!

She needed help with a few words, like “there” and “are” – we talked about the silent “e” at the end of words, and how that makes the vowel long (as in “five”), so she figured out “late” and “gate,” but “there” didn’t work that way – although she knew to make the “th” sound. “Night” proved difficult, too – no ghost of a “g” sound slips in there. She patiently sounded out what she could, trying out sounds until the word settled into place, like finally getting a chord right when sight-reading difficult sheet music. The ear knows.. “G-ah-t-uh…g-ah-t…g-a-t-uh…g-a-t…gate!”

For this four-and-a-half (plus one week!) year old, the gate is open. She’s known words like “the” and “and” for a year, at least, thanks to her daddy’s patient work, and now, she knows more. What she doesn’t know, she can often figure out – and that’s reading. Reading!

And maybe I love Five Little Pumpkins more than it deserves to be loved, but really, isn’t that what love is all about?

(9/19/14) Eleven. He has exactly eleven teeth: the eight in front (minus the bit sacrificed to the rock in the front yard) plus three molars, the top right one deciding it would wait just a bit longer to put in an appearance. It’s not a full party without it.

No canine teeth yet, although he does love to see dogs.

It shouldn’t surprise me that things happen differently with him than with his sister, but sometimes it does. She ate solid food more readily than he does. I feel like she had more teeth sooner. You could pat her to sleep, even if it took a long time; he’s not so willing to lie down and be still. She was – and is – a passionate girl, but she’s found her rival. She could be loud, then she could be louder. With Boy, though – well, let’s just say he goes to eleven, just like his teeth.

Only, now that it’s 10/10/14, his half-birthday, he – weighing in at 28 1/2 pounds – has more teeth (that’s what happen when you start blog posts but Boy wakes up). No more eleven for him! As of last week, or maybe the week before that, he had four more teeth (those canines were barking!), with a fifth new tooth pressing through his gums. The tightness is not unlike a pregnant belly, skin taut, covering the motion and growth it covers, the start of something new.

Tonight, as he was winding down for sleep, Boy roused himself, saying, “Dada. Dada. I luhv-oo. Hug. Down.” He climbed off the bed, said, “Hand,” and held my hand as we walked into his sister’s room, where Dada was, in fact, reading to Girl. Boy hugged them and told them he loved them, just as he’d said he would do.

I went along with it. Really, it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

But I also knew that resistance was futile. If I’d stopped him, he’d have gone to eleven - one louder - and who needs anything more than a ten?

Photo from yesterday, after fountain splashing

Photo from yesterday, after fountain splashing



Maybe something funny, like, “I’m moving out!” or “Ready for vacation?” But in this case, no. Just exactly, exactly what you’d hope for, if you were a mama, or at least this mama.

“I love you!” he proclaimed yesterday for the first time. Maybe he really proclaimed something like “I luhv-oo!” – but either way, it was enough to make a mama’s/daddy’s/big sister’s heart warm and swell and become sappy like a maple in the spring. While we’d been working toward bedtime (reading a new favorite, baby loves by William Lach, which pairs simple text with the art of Mary Cassatt – he will “read” lots of it to us!), he wanted to tell “Nannie” (his nickname for his sister) good-night and headed toward the edge of the bed so he could go to her room and see her. I told him “I love you,” and he told me, then Nannie, then Daddy with such inflection that – well, a maple in spring, I was.

His sister had a big day, too – from playing with her friend, a seven-year-old neighbor, she learned to flip over on the swing. She’d already mastered the “put-your-legs-above-your-head” move, so flipping over added a new (but very exciting) step to the process. Gravity? Head pointing away from the center of the earth? Those rules don’t apply to her – at least, not all the time. A new kind of freedom – and lots of cheering from her fan club.

Their mouths and bodies learn to contort themselves, to wrap themselves around new phrases, ideas, and motions, and we cheer, we applaud, we hug, and we revel in all the new things they’ve done, all the new that’s yet to come.

“Huhmp,” he says, holding his arms up and asking for help scaling the ladder-like side of the couch or chair or the bathroom cabinet. “Huhmp,” he says with an accompanying nod, a statement of what you will freely offer, not a question about what you are willing to give. We hold his hands and he leads us where he wants to go, walking vertically or horizontally as his whim dictates, his tucked head and body toboggan-like as he races up a ladder of wicker.

Perhaps we, his trainers, are too slow. He leaves our assistance behind to complete the circuit himself.

Hold the arm of the chair; step up; lean forward; mash your head into the seat of the chair, catapult-like, to launch the rest of your body forward. Rise from the chair and climb across the other arm and onto the table. Stand. Perhaps climb to the top of the record player atop the table and stand, back pressed against the bookcase, and smile in triumph, surveying your world from a great height. Descend to the table top. Stand at the edge, looking like someone about to plunge into a swimming hole on a hot day. Listen to the admonishment to sit and, for a moment, obey something beyond your ambition and personal drive. Sit or squat at the table’s edge. Scoot or slide to the floor, face-forward or on your belly. Save the plunge for later.

Smile in triumph again.

Do not rest on your laurels.

Back to the beginning, and begin again.

It’s like flying.

Without going very far.

The earth disappears below you, and you rise skyward, your vision filled with cerulean and white and scalloped edges so bold and bright in front of you that it’s difficult to tell whether the blue frames the white or the white frames the blue.

Into that blue, birds fly head first, but our feet lead, no longer the leaden earth-bound weights they usually are.

We swing up, up – then back in the prescribed arc so that we can fly forward again. We are both free and bound.

“Push me!” plea the small children, with eyes or words.

“Push me!” pled my daughter last week, as I stepped away from her to push her brother’s swing.

I stopped and looked at her. Her brother slowed but she swung as high as before, then higher still. Her legs propelled her forward then back.

We realized at the same time.

“I’m pumping!”

“I don’t need to push you!”

I cheered her and she flew, as happily as if she had wings, as if the chains themselves were made of cloud.


A cheery fire in the fireplace on a day heavy with snow.

Blackberry cobbler, straight out of the oven.

Mushrooms, meaty and juicy, coming off of a hot grill.

Water from the kettle when you’re brewing tea.

Texas in the summertime.

The plastic slide on a swingset on a late May day.


An order of forty pizzas would involve a lot of pepperoni and could feed a soccer team or two. A bouquet of forty flowers would rival a small garden in beauty and splendor, with dahlias and tulips and lilies all vying for attention. Forty pairs of shoes would take up a healthy chunk of closet real estate (but nothing like Imelda Marcos’ 1200 – or was it nearly 3000? – pairs!). Forty kids would be more than even the Duggars have. Forty cats would totally make you the crazy cat lady. For the record, I am not one of those. Yet.

Forty years…would land me here, in this town, with this family, with this life. I can’t believe the number’s getting so big, but I can’t believe how lucky I feel to be living this life, either, or how I suddenly feel the need to ration my time, to be more cautious and yet more free, to use it as I see fit and not just in a way that makes the days pass.

Forty may be getting on, but, to paraphrase a song from the musical which was my musical debut (and swan song) in high school: there’s still a lot of living to do.

Besides, forty pennies wouldn’t get you far, so forty can’t really be that many, can it?

40+1 day

40+1 day



You never quite know what will stick, what comments made in passing will be repeated (coming back either to elate or to haunt you), what thoughts or lessons shared will root themselves deeply. You throw lots of darts at the board, but if you’re like my sister and me when we were kids, the wall and the floor each suffered unduly.

This makes it all the more surprising when you hit the bullseye.

We’ve been signing – inconsistently – with Boy. I’d used the sign for “sad” with him maybe twice, choosing the version in which you trace a tear down your cheek with one finger. Once he was ready for bed tonight he wanted to be picked up;  I lifted him up, and he rewarded me by slapping me in the face. “Hurt,” I signed. “That makes me sad,” I said. He looked at me, then traced a finger down his cheek.

Not quite so sad as I had been before. That one had hit its mark!

Bedtime, however, was long, and I did feel a little sad. As Girl was finally winding down after worrying about hearing thunder (“That was just the sound of the wheels of Daddy’s truck on the gravel,” I assured her), her mind roamed as it so often does.

“What did Daddy have before his truck?” she asked.

He’s had his truck since 2007, I think, so any “before” is also pre-Girl. What makes her wonder such things?

“He had a green car, and he had a red car before that, and another car…but I don’t know what color that was.”


“We can ask him.”

She was silent for a little while, and then she made her final comment of the night before rolling over on her side to go to sleep: “I hope we all die together.”

For someone who has never thrown darts, her aim is impeccable – and darts are piercing. I gave her a kiss, but really, if I’d learned anything from my own lessons, it was time to trace my finger down my own cheek.


“Is there going to be a tornado tonight?”

This question as part of our bedtime routine for nearly two weeks.  Two weeks ago today, there were serious storms here. A tornado touched down in the valley below us. The Weather Channel said a tornado was headed our way. The four of us spent time in our windowless hallway, but then we headed to campus and went to the basement of a stone building. This, of course, was around bedtime, and there’s really no way to wholly cover your fears when faced with the possibility of a tornado. (Why are we hurrying out the door into the green-skyed night and carrying a bagful of things with us to campus when we should be putting you calmly and quietly to bed? Well, hmmm….) When we entered the basement hallway of a building on campus, we found that we were not the only ones with that idea. After tracking the weather online for a while, we deemed it safe to go home – and headed out into a major downpour. Well, it was better than a tornado.

The next day looked dicey, too, but nothing came close, and if there was rain, there wasn’t even too terribly much of that.

But every night until the 9th, last Friday, our girl would ask, as we were putting her to bed, “Is there going to be a tornado tonight?” She asked this in the same way that she asks, “What do I have tomorrow?” or “Can I watch Diego?”, like it was an everyday question, like it was something that might be on the horizon at any moment. When would we be rushing out the door next, trying to avoid the whims of the weather, its violent vicissitudes? How prepared did she need to be? How prepared DO we need to be? It’s a different matter, looking out for yourselves, just adults, during a storm. It’s another thing entirely to know that your decisions could – and do, and will – affect these small people who are under our care, who make our world seem fuller and brighter and sharper. Scarier, too, sometimes, when we look through their eyes.

Since then, we’ve watched a little about tornadoes and talked about how they don’t happen all the time. We talked about their color. “Tornadoes are red,” she said definitively, “in Chewandswallow.” She pulled out Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and sure enough, she was right! (It might have had to do with tomato sauce. I don’t think most tornadoes involve kitchen staples, however.) Tornadoes are not red in real life, I had to tell her. She talked about a tornado picking up Farmer Ben in her big book with the Berenstein Bears, and she’s right on that count, too – The Berenstein Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature DOES include tornadoes in its section on wind. And it picks up Farmer Ben! “That’s when the big wind lifts poor Farmer Ben. It lifts him, cow and all, and then…It whirls him round and round again” (35). How does she remember these details from books, books we may not have read in months?

The bedtime question has dropped away. Now I’ve been wondering, though, what other storms we should watch for, what tempests of nature’s or our own making? I hope that we will always have a basement at the ready, the comfort of cement block walls surrounding us, of stone rising above.

Berenstein, Stan and Jan. The Berenstein Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature. New York: Random House, 1997.


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