Summer in Oregon. Click on any picture to bring up the full gallery.
Me: Frances, let’s count! One, two, buckle my….
Oliver (emerging from his room naked): “Oh, hi Mom. I’m just going to your bathroom to use the scale. I’d like to see if I have an atomic weight that is more than copper.”
Stella (on being asked how the beginning of her softball game went, as I missed the start): “How would I know?”
Frances (on being asked to count for me): “Wun, Tooooo, Thwee, Fiyev, Red, Bwooo, Cake.”
So the other night at dinner, we decided to play the “question game.” I went around the table and asked Oliver the capital of some obscure African country (he got it), Stella to count by 100s to 1000 (she did so) and Frances what the letter “p” says, (“mmmm” responded the third, neglected child).
Then I asked both Oliver and Stella harder questions, and they both got them wrong, and were annoyed. Stella, indignant, declared that she was going to ask ME questions, and I told her to give it her best shot:
Stella: Okay, Mom, first question. What is the capital of South America?
Me: There isn’t a capital of South America.
Me: Seriously, Stella, there is no…
Stella: yes there is! Right, Oliver??
Oliver (dazed from stuffing as much dinner in his mouth as possible): Huh??
Stella (taking this as affirmation): See! You are wrong. In fact you are two-times wrong because you didn’t even know the question was right AND you didn’t get the answer. Okay, next question: Name a really tall tree.
Me: A redwood!
Stella: Wrong! The answer is an OAK. Remember that, mom. OAK. Besides, wood is not red. Trees are brown. Okay. Third question: Name an animal that starts with a “p”.
Me: A penguin!
Stella: Nope! The answer is a platypus.
Me: But penguin starts with a “p” too.
Stella: No it doesn’t, MOM. The “p” says …
Oliver: Duh, Frances
Stella: Duh, Frances
Frances: DUH, MOMMY!!!
Me: Stella, the “p” says . . .
Oliver: Duh, Frances
Frances: DUH, OHBER!!!
Stella: Can we quit playing this game?
[Don't look at the file names! It was part of some batch process I can't undo. Suffice it to say, these weren't taken at Christmas, but this past week, in Hilton Head, SC]
We were a little worried when we had Frances, that the whole gene-dilution theory might land us with a dumb child. We needn’t have been concerned. Frances is real smart.
Frances, at 18 months, can say lots of words. She can say “eat.” She says this very deliberately, pronouncing every consonant. She says it repeatedly as she throws every bit of her dinner on the floor–chicken, carrots, parsnips, stuffing, cheese, fruit, everything. “Eat.” “Eat.” “Eat.”
Frances can say “socks.” She also says this perfectly. She says it as she pulls her socks off, 1,000 times a day, and throws them over her shoulder. “Socks.” “Socks.” “Socks.”
Frances can say “poo-poo.” She says poo-poo as she hides in the corner and makes use of her diaper. I’m not quite sure what the hiding is about, because she announces “poo-poo” in a voice so loud, there is no disguising what she is doing. “Poo-poo.” “poo-poo.” “poo-poo.”
Frances can say “Dada!” She shouts “Dada!” at the top of her lungs, whenever Mama is doing something she’s not thrilled about–changing her diaper, making her eat dinner, stopping Mickey Mouse Club, putting on her socks.
Frances can say “Mama!” She shouts “Mama!” at the top of her lungs, whenever Dada is doing something she’s not thrilled about–changing her diaper, making her eat dinner, stopping Mickey Mouse Club, putting on her socks.
Frances has learned that when you creep up on your five-year-old sister, and smile at her, and then smack her across the face as hard as you can–you get noticed. She has learned that the way to make her eight-year-old brother focus on her is to walk up to him, smile, and cram his baseball card into her mouth, or kick his Matchbox car across the floor, or stomp on his Monopoly set. Frances has learned that when she does all this, she goes from no attention to being the center of attention. Pronto.
Frances has excellent large-motor skills. She can climb very tall chairs, and almost not fall off. She has wondrous small-motor skills. She can pick up crayons, hold them like a big kid, and write on the window. She also has the ability to perfectly direct a knife into a plug socket. And to almost unlatch the gate at the top of the stairs. And to turn off the switch on the surge protector, disabling all the phones and the TV.
Frances has a sense of humor. She giggles when she sticks her finger up your nostril. When her sister is desperate to play with her, she yells “Oh-ber” (Oliver) at full volume, and then laughs at Stella’s distress. She sees the humor in playing in the toilet, pulling all the books off her shelves, and putting raisins in her ears. She’s very, very funny.
Frances’s mother is not going to survive the first few years. Frances’s mother now realizes that this is some divine punishment for the arrogance of thinking she could handle three children. Frances is retribution for something–a misspent youth, an inflated sense of self, something.
Frances’s mother is tired.