Click below to see what I did instead of watching the American Idol results show:
Then, pass it on, please please please!
Conversation on the Sofa, this Morning
(Mostly Whispered, Thanks to the Strep Bug That Will Not Go Lightly)
Frankie: Whatcha writin' ?
Me: My to-do list. I have a busy day. I don't want to forget anything.
Frankie: That's a lot of stuff!
Frankie: Don't forget to write down, "Play with your kids!"
I know! Just plop that kid into any Disney movie, and she'd fit right into any family-issues storyline of the past 30 years or so.
I, too, cringe a bit over sappy sentimentality (even when I indulge in it myself on occasion). I, too, am suspicious of uncomplicated, often preachy, Readers-Digest-style life lessons (even though I grew up on Reader's Digest, and I think I turned out just fine).
But, sometimes, life just is what it is.
(Writing this down was not on my to-do list today.)
Yikes! Now I have strep.
I think, maybe, I have it all over my entire body. Given how I am currently feeling and all.
Last night and the night before were spent in a feverish, hallucinatory haze. It's funny how a fever will bring out the truly weird in you. Like, every time I woke up (at least once every hour), I would see floating above me a kind of rolodex with addresses of people I didn't even know had actual addresses. Nancy Drew, for example.
Now I'm off to sleep some more (I've only spent 22 of the past 24 hours in bed, so I've got some catching up to do--namely those wild 2 hours I spent at the doctor's office and pharmacy).
Ha! You thought I was kidding about this!
The most important thing to remember about Valentine's Day if you're fat and grumpy is that there is no need to leave the comfort of your own home. If you're fat and grumpy like me, then your sofa probably has a slipcover on it because you're too fat and grumpy to bother getting new furniture no matter who threw up where, and which diapers leak so much you might as well have left that baby bare-assed and saved a few bucks (probably enough to buy new furniture, but nevermind).
And you know what a slipcovered sofa means, right? Romantic dinner in the living room! I recommend popcorn and Cheez-its, combined with my new favorite guilty pleasure: the Target Wine Cube Red Table Wine (That's right, no grape varietal listed. Just RED. One of the reviews of this wine which I am too embarrassed to link to compared Target Red Table Wine to that last shameless hour of a frat party when only the strong and stupid are left standing, only to be so overcome with tastelessness as to empty the last dregs of all their various wine bottles into one unholy brew, which works OK because their taste buds are all numb from near alcohol-poisoning, anyway. Having never attended a frat party myself, I'll have to take their word on it, although I have to say that this particular reviewer's idea of frat parties makes me suspect that he never attended one, either, because his description sounds way classier than the stories I heard all those many years ago.)
If you're going to have a romantic dinner on the slipcovered sofa in the living room then you need to remember the mood lighting. Yes, nothing says "love" more than the soft glow of a television.
Our television is rather large, but it is also rather old. Which means it takes up approximately one-quarter of our living room space. Back when we bought it, the purchase felt extravagant and indulgent. I agreed to buy this TV back in the last days of my pregnancy with Annika, when I would have said "Yes" to just about anything, if only to avoid any conversations about anything besides when I would finally get my belly back (Note from Present Moreena to Past Moreena: the correct answer is "never".)
Of course, nowadays you can get TVs just like ours by mailing in 6 box tops and a proof-of-purchase seal from the back of a 2-liter Coke bottle.
Jörg and the sales guy just managed to get the TV in its box into the back of our car through some clever use of levers and twine. But once we pulled into the driveway, we realized that we were in trouble. Jörg couldn't get it inside the house by himself, and I was about 13 months pregnant, and thus had an arm-reach capacity slightly less than a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I caught Jörg eyeing me speculatively, as if wondering if he could somehow strap the TV to my back and then lift me by my feet while I walked my arms along the ground like a Pregnant Woman Hand Truck. *
So I ran lickety-split (more accurately, waddledy-dawdle) over to one of our new neighbors to ask for help, before Jörg decided to try out any of his engineering fantasies. I chose the most athletic family on the block, since I didn't want anyone risking their back for the sake of a TV which was looking a whole embarrassingly lot bigger in our car than it had in the showroom, where it was surrounded by those mini-theatre projection TVs.
The family across the street is certainly athletic: Dad, Mom, and their three kids all are so fit that I doubt they even own a TV. Or, if they do, they only use it as background noise while they run laps around the living room, or do jumping jacks in the kitchen. So I went to their door and knocked.
The Dad agreed to come help right away, because those are the kind of friendly people who live in our neighborhood.
Once Jörg and our neighbor got the TV inside the door, I realized we didn't have any place to put it, since my sensible, non-pregnant self had vetoed the idea of a television in the living room. So I swept the stuff off of a large side table in the living room with my ridiculous T-Rex arm-reach. The guys put the large box onto the table with manly oompfs, and we all stood back to survey the symbol of our arrival to the middle-class.
"That's one big TV!" observed our neighbor.
Since I sometimes fancy myself a dry wit, I didn't crack a smile when I responded, "Well, yeah, but this kid is due any day now, and we figured it was about time to buy ourselves a babysitter."
You know, there is a reason that the dry-wit-type does not usually get invited to the neighborhood parties. And since, while I fancy myself a dry wit, I also know unequivocally that I have no talent for smoothing social gaffes, I could do nothing but stare at the hulking TV box morosely as our neighbor quickly backed toward the front door, casting one last concerned glance at my swollen belly before exiting.
Of course, true dry wit is always rooted in truth, but a Fat and Grumpy Guide to Good Lovin' should not go into childrearing matters, even if said Good Lovin' is what brought up the childrearing matters in the first place. So back to the romantic, TV-lit dinner on the slipcovered sofa.
Since you're going for a high-class, sophisticated Fat and Grumpy Valentine's evening, you should probably rent a movie rather than just relying on your basic cable service. If you want to do something really special and sentimental, you should rent the first movie that you and your love ever saw together.
For Jörg and me, this would mean renting Striking Distance, featuring the romantic stylings of Bruce Willis. I'm afraid I can't recommend this one, unless bad dialogue and a pre-Carrie Sarah Jessica Parker playing the role of Swimsuit Boob Girl sound like a tantalizing combination to you. However, the tagline to that movie has become a sort of sweet inside joke for us, its awkward phrasing and bad punchline reminiscent of those first bumbly-fumbly days of love: "They shouldn't have put him in the water..." (all together now) "if they didn't want him to make waves!"
Before Jörg and I met, we both had our favorite romantic movies. For him this was When Harry Met Sally, which is undeniably a great Valentine's Day movie choice. However, it was clear that his fondness for this movie was tied to a memory of the girl with whom he shared that fondness. Although, confusingly, she was evidently never his girlfriend? Maybe an unrequited crush? 14 years later, and I'm still not sure of that story. Whatever. I like her, too. (Hi, Kati, if you ever read this!)
Mine was Truly, Madly, Deeply. I was a shy loner as an undergraduate, so I don't remember sharing that movie with anyone in particular. Except for Alan Rickman. In my head.
The first actually romantic movie we saw together was Four Weddings and a Funeral. We walked together out of the theater, holding hands, Jörg with a happy, dreamy look on his face. But while any normal woman would have been overjoyed ("He's cute and sensitive!"), I was busy complaining about the movie. "What!? A romantic comedy in which the romantic story at the center doesn't even make sense? I have no idea why Hugh Grant was supposed to be sooooo in love with Andie Macdowell. They spent like 5 minutes together! Am I supposed to think it's OK that the ideal of romantic love is supposed to hinge on 'Ooooo, she's purdy!'? And what about the fact that the only truly moving love story isn't even revealed until one of the characters dies? And what kind of 'close friends' don't even realize that two of them are actually involved in a deep and meaningful relationship? And what does it say about that friendship that those two characters didn't trust their friends enough to reveal it, anyway? And, hold it, why is it that my impression that this was a deep relationship is based solely on the fact that the one guy recites that amazing Auden poem at the funeral? It was a beautiful moment, but I can't help but feel that the beauty was all borrowed from Auden, you know?"
Jörg looked at me, aghast, and I think that was the moment he realized that, despite my charmingly bad fashion sense, which might lead one to believe I was bouncing through life like the warm and quirky Scarlett character, I was actually closer to the angular and chilly Fiona, a character so difficult to imagine in a loving relationship that the writers couldn't even come up with an unironic match for her during the film's closing credits (She's paired with Prince Charles! Tee-hee for Photoshop!).
Still, Four Weddings and a Funeral is a film that holds up to repeated viewings, with some very funny lines and that spectacular funeral speech. Even if Jörg does glance at me warily during this movie, as if still a little terrified at the memory of our first viewing.
As is the case with most of my posts lately, all these paragraphs are all just leading up to the one thing I really wanted to say. In this case, the one thing is: You should rent In July. Romance, comedy, and a suspenseful story line, all wrapped up in a gorgeously shot film. Jörg and I both loved this movie (maybe I did a teensy bit more than he did, but still). **
Which also means that there is a happy ending to this post: if you stay married long enough, your taste in movies will eventually converge. One day you will wake up and realize that it's been ages since your husband asked you to watch a James Bond film with him, and you no longer feel the desire to track down obscure black-and-white films with violent cuts and suitably artsy non sequiturs sprinkled throughout.
Ahhhh, marital bliss!
As for us, I can't say what Jörg will be doing, but I'll be spending tonight at my long evening class. On the other hand, I didn't have time to shower this morning, so maybe that's for the best.
* I made that up. Jörg was so solicitous at that point in my pregnancy that he would have carried me on his back if I had asked.
I had a post waiting patiently in line all last week for its "draft" status to be upgraded to "publish now," tentatively titled "Sick Sick Sick." As you might guess, it was mostly about Annika's strep infection, and how it refused to be vanquished by the usual course of amoxicillin.
I sent her back to school, assuming that after completing the entire cycle of antibiotics she should be clear. But I got called away from work to pick her up from the nurse's office at school. By the time I got there 35 minutes later she was clammy and shivering and just a pitiful sight in her jaunty winter coat with her dragon-embroidered stocking cap pulled crookedly onto her head. There she sat on the tiny cot in the nurse's office, and she smiled excitedly when she saw me rush in, all apologetic about how long it had taken me to arrive.
Through chattering teeth she explained cheerfully about how "Wow! She was really sick!"
I took her straight to our pediatrician's office, where a quick swab confirmed that little strep bugs were still making a happy home in her poor sore throat. Armed with a prescription for a stronger antibiotic, we headed home, where she spent the next 3 days in bed, mainly indulging her new obsession with the Winx Club.
My drafted post was meant, I vaguely remember, to wind up by discussing the fascinating issue of resistant bacteria, and then somehow come up with an entertaining way to throw out some observations on hand soap. But rather than trying to figure out how to work this stuff in cleverly, let me just throw it out there gracelessly:
1. Here's a good article discussing resistant bacteria and antibacterial handsoaps and antimicrobial agents in household cleaners, including a quick discussion of the allergy link to this issue. In particular, I like that this article explains the difference between soaps with added antimicrobial agents like triclosan and alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which do not lead to the resistant bug problem. Too often the two alternatives are simply lumped together, which obscures some points.
It is true that perhaps both triclosan and alcohol-based gels would lead to the hypothesized allergy problem (in which kids immune systems aren't exposed to enough regular bugs to know how to mount a reasonable response, instead of going all overreactive). However, having been the kind of mom who follows her kid around with hand sanitizer out in public, much as I imagine kiddie pageant moms do with the fake tanning spray, I believe I can state with reasonable confidence that the average kid is still getting exposure to plenty of germs thank-you-very-much (shopping carts! sand boxes! children's museums!). Even with what might be labeled obsessive (unhealthy! awkward!
because-OUCH-she-has-a-finger-cut!) hand sanitizer use.
I mean, come on! Kids are just disgusting, and there's no getting around that one. I don't really think the allergy explosion can be blamed on hand gel.
2. The problem with recognizing the problem with antibacterial soaps? Most liquid hand soaps you'll find in regular stores contain these agents (although I just looked at SoftSoap's website, and it looks like they've come out with new varieties with no triclosan). Guides such as this one often end up pointing consumers to soaps that are just too expensive for many families. $18 for a bottle of liquid hand soap? Maybe it really is worth it, but, geez, that's a lot of money for soap.
Mainly, this paragraph in my unfinished post was just an excuse to go on about how much I love Hollyberry-scented Method liquid hand soap, which I found originally at Target. No triclosan. Smells like Christmas, only cleaner and with less stress. Still enjoyable in February, and not at all like leaving your Christmas lights up until the fourth of July.
Also, I was vaguely wondering if anyone had every made their own liquid hand soap, and if this was just a giant pain in the keister, or perhaps the best DIY thing, ever.
3. Also, I meant to point out that we tried SquidSoap, which sounded like an awesome idea for teaching kids how to wash. When you push on the pump, a little bit of vegetable dye is inked onto your hand - you have to keep scrubbing until it comes off. In theory, that's supposed to take 15-20 seconds, which is how long you're supposed to scrub with soap before rinsing it off. In practice, my kids had that stamp off their hands in about 3 seconds. OK, so maybe they're just like Hand Washing Prodigies or Superheroes of Sanitation (Superpower? Germs slide right off the surface of their skin in under 3 seconds!). But I was disappointed.
Also, the stuff smells like Tang, or like Fred from my memories of Chewable Flintstones Multivitamins. In contrast, when I let Frankie pick out her own hand soap for the bathroom (we stood in the aisle of the store and I unscrewed caps one by one, letting her sniff the contents as I fanned the aroma up to her nose by waving my fingertips about), she chose a rosemary-mint concoction.
Nevertheless, I'm still thinking about picking up a bottle for Anni's kindergarten class to use. After all, just because my kids are precociously hygienic doesn't mean all those regular, dirty-handed kids out there couldn't use the visual cue. Also, Frankie lately is having trouble managing to simultaneously scrub her soapy hands, sing the alphabet song (the usual timer given for kids to know how long before they should rinse), and also watch herself in the mirror with enough earnest self-approval to do Stuart Smalley proud.
So I'm not giving up on the great SquidSoap idea just yet.
4. By now, if you're still slogging through, you may be wishing I had listened to my inner voice of good judgment which hesitated to publish that entry,
What I really wanted to write an entry about was this:
Have I mentioned one of Annika's most endearing habits? The one where she tells me what she wants for dinner, and I say "OK" and go make exactly what she asked for, and then she sits at the table with her eyes scrunched shut, muttering "I wish for grilled cheese! I wish for grilled cheese! I wish for grilled cheese!" over and over until I place the plate with the grilled cheese (or peanut butter crackers or soup or whatever) in front of her?
Then I'm supposed to say with great flourish (and heaven help me if my voice lacks the proper magical tone), "Open your eyes!" And then she opens her eyes, and (I swear) she acts as if she's just been given a miracle - exactly what she wished for for dinner! Really, "acts" is the wrong word. She knows it's not actual magic, but her delight is completely unfeigned. After all, it really is a case of a wish coming true. Even if it is a wish that had to be negotiated beforehand, with the agreed-upon requisite amount of vegetables thrown in (despite their conspicuous absence in most fairy tale wishes).
Every time she goes through this little ritual (and it's not every night), I'm glad once again that I decided to have children. There's just something so...wonderful about her honest joy, about her amazement that she can ask for a grilled cheese sandwich and be given a grilled cheese sandwich.
It makes me feel some nebulous urge to be a better person.
When I was going over this story in my head, I kept wanting to turn it into something broader, with a deeper meaning. Something like the Serenity Prayer (God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...), only cheesier, with a perfectly crisp crust.
But every time I tried to expand on this anecdote, the moral always ended up being some variation on "Keep your dreams small, little pumpkin, because that's about the limit of your mama's time, patience, and culinary talent."
Last week I was sick again, too. Probably because I was working way too many hours between my new job, my volunteer work, and my classes. The house was (is) a mess: pieces of chewed up yogurt container and empty toilet paper rolls were strewn about the floor (Cleo likes to get into the recycling when we're not home), and stray dirty socks kept showing up in unexpected places (one never knows when the irresistible urge to remove one's socks will hit, or so the girls keep telling me).
We all woke up on Saturday morning, recovered from the illness but still overwhelmed from the long week that had gone before. Jörg suggested that we forget about staying home and cleaning, or catching up on missed work. We could all go to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield instead, as we hadn't had a family outing together since October.
Long and personal and not-fit-for-the-blog story short, Jörg and I had a big fight (over the kind of small nothing that should be an easy compromise, but ends up looking insurmountable when you're mad/hurt/tired), and I took the girls to Springfield by myself.
The girls and I had a good time. But then we got home to a Jörg who was hurt that we had gone without him.
Jörg and I talked for hours after the girls had gone to bed. At first angry, then sad, then frustrated, then hopeless, then tentative, then matter-of-fact, then cordial. At the end of the night, I told him, "We could go again tomorrow, you know. They're kids. They'll do the same thing 327 times with the same sense of adventure as the very first time."
So we did. We drove to Springfield again the very next day, all together. Admittedly, I snuck off to a quiet corner of the museum a few times and tried to plow my way through this week's reading for my class (a bit of a snooze so far this week). But we managed an actual family outing together.
Every marriage is different. I don't talk much about ours, because Jörg doesn't particularly like me to, and also I have only half the story anyway. We've been married almost 12 years now. We've never done anything for Valentine's day, even as youngsters. We don't give each other presents for birthdays or Christmas, and I have no right to complain about that, since it is surely more due to me than to Jörg, who (truth be told) is probably more of a sweet romantic than I am. But I've never entertained the notion of Jörg and I breaking up for longer than it takes us to talk through whatever misunderstanding brought about the crisis.
Marriage is weird. Everyone tells you that keeping a marriage together is a lot of work, but they never tell you what kind of work it is, exactly. The more I've thought about it, the more I've decided that it's the kind of work that makes you appreciate Annika's elaborate, yet completely sincere, scheme to make a grilled cheese sandwich into A Dream Come True.
I look at Jörg, and I see that I've gotten exactly what I wished for: a smart, organized, responsible, and caring man. Noting that he can be too organized (seriously, waaaaay organized) just means that I'm not doing this the way I'm supposed to do it: I'm not scrunching my eyes all the way closed, and letting the magic of safe wishes carry me into the reassuring land of fulfillment.
I wonder sometimes about what happens when Jörg scrunches his eyes shut. Does he mutter, "Smart and kind! Smart and kind!", and then open his eyes to a great, big steaming plate of Fat and Grumpy?
On that note, let me invite you to stop by here on Thursday for my list of Valentine's Day movie recommendations! I'm calling it, "The Fat and Grumpy Guide to Good Lovin'!"
Jörg almost never makes suggestions about what I should write about, or what I should link to, or anything else about this blog. In fact, in the 6 years I've been writing about our family and such in various internet places, he's made exactly one comment. Not that he doesn't read, but mainly he figures this is My Thing. But yesterday he emailed me a link to this video, with a short little note. Then, when I hadn't seen his message an hour later (busy day), he brought his laptop over to the table where the girls and I were eating lunch.
"You really should see this," he said, bringing up the page. "It made me a little teary-eyed."
As a new citizen, this is Jörg's first chance to vote in this country. He's passionately supporting Barack Obama. It's been a little harder for me, since I also think Hillary Clinton would make a great president. But I remember when we watched Obama's speech at the opening of the Democratic National Convention in 2004, and we both thought he overshadowed, easily, everyone else.
This video doesn't tell you anything about Obama's platform or policies, but it is an amazing work of inspiration. And inspiration is a very good thing.
Go here for a transcript of the speech excerpts.
Frankie responds: "OK, that doesn't even make sense."
Our total boringness of late has combined with my well-known tendency to take on more than I can handle in the name of "that sounds like a good idea!" to leave this space languishing. I actually had this fun idea for a new blog with daily content, which would be completely independent of our lives' interestingness, or even the functioning of my brain to string together a few words. I even put the layout together with new banner and everything (I did this all during finals week when I needed to be writing my final papers, natch). But then I realized that a blog conceived of as existing independently of any interesting content might just be a total waste of bandwidth. And time (yours and mine). Not that that's ever been an obstacle for me here, though. But at least I do leave off posting every day when all I can think of is to write is a report on the latest mind-blowing thing Annika has said.
Which, of course, is exactly what I'm about to do, even if I know this is going to be less than fascinating if you don't happen to be her mother. I may not carry photos of my kids with me everywhere, but I do always have a long-winded kid anecdote at the ready. I'm guessing that most people would prefer the photos, actually.
So this is what she told me one sunny morning:
"There are actually four Annikas in the world."
She paused to get her hand in the most dramatic position for theatrical counting, which is up at approximately eye-level and way too close to my face for me to focus on her fingers without crossing my eyes uncomfortably.
"One! There is me, the REAL Annika."
I nodded, and she flicked up the second finger, nearly knocking my glasses off my nose in the process.
"Two! The second Annika in the world is Princess Annika from The Magic of Pegasus."
I nodded again, but somewhat uncertainly, as I debated whether or not to remind her of the fiction versus non-fiction distinction. But then I decided that having to take a position on the existence of mental constructs and what, exactly, constitutes "the world" was more than I was up to at the moment. And, oh yes, she, or, even more likely, Frankie, who was attending to Anni's every word with disturbingly intense concentration, would have taken it there.
Up went the next finger, with a smart, soldierly snap.
"Three! There is the Annika from the song, 'My name is Anika, you can call me any time, any time you want!" (this song:
from this album)
By then I was beginning to wonder what Anni meant by declaring herself "The REAL Annika" Isn't the whole egocentric phase of childhood supposed to end around age 5 or so? But Anni charged on, without giving me enough time to really work myself up, obsessing over my obvious failures as a parent.
"Four! The fourth Annika in the world is me in the future. The Future Annika."
She gives one short nod of clear finality, and goes back to spooning yogurt into her mouth.
At that point, I was thinking that it was probably very important for me to explain to her that, actually, lots of REAL people in the world are named Annika. But, leaving aside that boring observation, I was stumped silent by her Future Annika declaration. What in the world does this say about the way kids view the world? And time? And the whole space-time continuum thingamabob? I remember reading one time about how babies seem to exhibit some sort of understanding about basic laws of physics (or at least some modified version thereof). Maybe grade-schoolers have some sort of understanding about more advanced physics, and I need to start the girl on a steady diet of science fiction now, while she can still say stuff like this in a completely matter-of-fact way, rather than having her mind blown like that of her poor, less imaginative mama.
One of the best things about the girls getting older is seeing the ways they are starting to distinguish themselves, growing out of that similar lovable squishiness that characterizes all babies and the mostly-the-same adorableness of the waddling toddler. Clearly, Annika is my temperamental poet girl, the one whose imagination doesn't hesitate to wander off into the nonsensical. Frankie, on the other hand, is wonderfully logical, like a giggly Spock with a mischievous streak. Witness Annika's declared future career aspiration at age 4: a zookeeper cheerleader (or cheerleader zookeeper). And Frankie's right now, at the same age? A vet. Not a ballerina vet, or a vet firefighter, just A Vet, which is eminently sensible given her matter-of-fact acceptance of the more gruesome facets of nature (giving her the necessary stomach for some of the, shall we say, less glamorous aspects of the veterinary life) taken together with her love and fascination for All Creatures Great and Small.
Which is not to say that Frankie is sensible = Frankie is boring. No way. Reading stories with Frankie almost always results in me being surprised at how easily I accept the authority of the given storyline, while Frankie seems to respond to every story as if it were some sort of puzzle to figure out (all the wrong deductions, the missed opportunities, the unspoken conclusions). For example, Frankie's objection to the boy who gives up too easily in I Wish that I Had Duck Feet:
"Why doesn't he just turn his head like this?" (Demonstrates by turning her head to the side and walking forward, just to prove such a simultaneous maneuver is possible.) "He could get on the bus like that!"
And then there was Frankie listening carefully to the entry on spiders in The Big Bug Book, which explained that spiders trap insects in the sticky silk of their webs. Frankie pounced: "Well, if spiders trap insects in their webs, then why don't they trap themselves?"
Answering that spiders are arachnids not insects, was not appreciated. Don't ever try getting pedantic with that girl. Having raised her ire with my avoidance tactic, all I can say is, "Thank you, internet" (although the phrase "surface chemistry" is less than enlightening, Stim Wilcox).
Anyway, these conversations are slowly convincing me that parenthood is actually much more intellectually stimulating than it is usually given credit for (Which, I realize makes me sound like a creepy Skinner-type parent, although I confess I kind of like Skinner in that old LHJ article. Who doesn't want a parenting partner who spends large chunks of time extending "labor-saving invention and design to the problems of the nursery"?)
However, it is still true that parenting is not necessarily good for the ole self-esteem.
Frankie: I'm really growing up! I'm really getting big! Pretty soon I will be a teenager.
Frankie (thoughtful and serious): Pretty soon I will be a teenager. Then I can have a baby.
Me (choking a little on my cereal, while also wondering if anyone has done research into whether or not the roots of social conservatism are traced directly to conversations with kids in those early parenting years): Uh...
Annika (shaking her head at her younger sister's shocking naïveté): No, Frankie. That's not how it goes.
Me (OMG YES IT IS breathe breathe breathe): Uh...
Annika (patiently): Frankie. Frankie, first you are a baby. Then you are a little kid. Then you grow up into a big kid. Then you get to be a teenager. Then you grow all the way up. You turn into a grown-up like Mama, and then you can have a baby.
Me (Preach it, Sister Annika): You have a lot of years of growing up still to do before you have any babies, Frankie.
Annika: Yes, Frankie. Right now you are a little kid. But you will grow up just like Mama. Then you can have babies, when you grow up like Mama.
Annika (clearly warming to the topic): You will be grown up when you look like Mama. You will look just like Mama! You will be tall like Mama!
Annika (pausing at this point to cast an appraising look my way, as I sat there at the breakfast table in sweats, a pillow-crease still clear on my cheek, and my morning hair standing straight up from my head like the white woman version of Don King)
Annika: Except maybe with different hair.
Frankie (looking at me, slightly panicked, as if she were seeing me for the very first time): I don't want any babies!
She lay on her back
for a few seconds,
at the textured ceiling
with the mysterious
spaghetti sauce stain.
flapping her arms and legs
there on the floor, as if to swish
the imaginary snow
into a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.