Category Archives: FrannyTalk

The origin of the dingle pepper. 

The other night, as I was prepping for dinner, Frances offered to help, as she often does these days. I asked her to get me some onions and garlic, which she did. We then had a lengthy and very deep conversation about why garlic skin was white and onion skin brown. I was essentially making things up for which I had no answer, or like my friend Bridget claims about her own mother, faking my way through parenting.

Following that, I took a red bell pepper from the fridge. I asked Frances if she knew what kind of vegetable it was.

“A pepper!” she exclaimed proudly. (This from a kid, who when I asked her last week what her favorite vegetable was, replied—chocolate cake.)

I then asked her if she knew what kind of pepper it was. Her triumphant smile faded into a look of true puzzlement. 

“Dingle?” she replied, not nearly as certain as before.

“Huh?” I said, trying to conceal the laughter that was threatening to erupt (our girls are very sensitive to any kind of perceived mockery).

“A dingle pepper?” she repeated again, sounding slightly more confident.

It should be noted here that dingle is a word I have used, and Liam has adopted simply because of my overuse of it, to describe one of the kids doing or saying something foolish. Kind of like the way in which one would use the word doofus

As in: “That shoe is on the wrong foot, ya dingle.” 

Yes, I know. It sounds dangerously short for dingleberry. And I admit, that might have been my intention in using the moniker in the first place. However, at no time has that word ever been used to refer to a species of pepper we use to cook with weekly.

“Hmmm. I’ve never heard of that kind of pepper before,” I said, still dying inside, waiting for any adult to come through the door so I could relay the then-present conversation taking place.

“You know,” she continued, trying to substantiate her claim. “The kind we grew in the garden this summer. The dingle peppers?” she said.

What was this girl talking about?! 

“Ummm, no. We grew jalapeño peppers in the garden, but no dingle peppers that I can recall. This one is called a bell pepper,” I said.

“Oh, yeah. Now I remember,” Frances said, with a bashful little chuckle.

For the life of me, I cannot make the connection to explain her misunderstanding. And I’m usually pretty good at following those little kiddo lines of thought. Maybe bell pepper—which she couldn’t quite recall—made her think of Jingle Bells, and jingle rhymes with dingle?  That’s all I got.

In any case, it’s definitely sticking. Dingle pepper it is, from now on, folks. We just might even try to grow some in the garden this coming season.

Heard Around the House

Nora: (runs upstairs) “Mommy? Can we have a cookie?”

Me: “No.”

Nora: “How about some apples?”

Me: “Sure.”

Nora: (runs back downstairs, shouting as she does) “We were right, Daddy. She said no we can’t have any cookies. But yes, we can have apples.”

I love that I’m so predictable.


While out hiking on a trail in the woods.

Frances: “Mommy? Look at my walking stick. It has a tail. I’m petting it. See?”

Me: (chuckles; notices the bunch of green pine needles to which she’s referring) “Yep. I see.”

Frances: (leans in close to whisper) “For real life Mommy, it’s just a branch, not a tail.”

No one will ever say my kids lack imagination.


Getting ready for bed.

Nora: (in tearful hysterics) “I want footie pajamas, Mommy!”

Me: “Well I’m sorry, but they’re in the washing machine.”

Nora: “I’m as mad as mad can be at you! As mad as can be! And it’s not fair!”

Me: “Well, life is not fair.”

Nora: “I want footie pajamas!”

Me: “I understand you’re disappointed. And tired. What else would you like to wear instead?”

Nora: (throws herself on bed) “I’m not disappointed! And I’m not tired! And I don’t want to wear anything else!”

Me: (runs downstairs to retrieve clean, but wet pajamas from the laundry machine to add insult to injury) “Fine. Here. Wear them then.” (hands over pajamas)

Nora: (suddenly stops fitful rage, inspects garment, proceeds to put on) “Hmmmm. They’re not as bad as I thought they’d be.”

Me: (shocked she’s actually going through with it) “That’s because they’re made of fleece.”

Nora: (pauses, realizes she’s a tad bit uncomfortable) “Well, maybe they’ll be dry tomorrow and tonight I’ll just wear something else.”

Me: Finally. The voice of reason.

She ended up insisting on wearing socks, and tucking them into her pants, as well as tucking her shirt into her pants so that she could mimic as best she could the appearance and feeling of being in a one-piece.

Drama, drama, footie pajama. Bedtime now for this mama!

Heard around the house.

This evening Liam came home late, so I was by myself with the kids for a bit. I fed Rowan early and then brought him upstairs to have his bath while the girls were just beginning to sit down to eat. After awhile, I heard them abandon their meal and begin playing something fun, as their conspiratory squeals of delight could be heard from below.

After I got the baby to bed, the girls came up for their turn in the bath.

Me: “Frances? Did you finish your dinner, honey? Or is there still food in your bowl?”

Frances: “Me and Nora spilled some water all over the place, but then we cleaned it up with some towels. So don’t worry.”

Okaaaay. Love the confession and brutal honesty at this age. When I asked her again if she finished her dinner, she replied that she hadn’t. Which is why now—at 8:47 tonight—she is downstairs with her father eating a banana with peanut butter instead of lying in bed with me.


Nora: “Mama. When I grow up I don’t want to be the driver of a garbage truck. I want to be the guy on the back. But not a garbage truck. I want to be a recycler. You know, so I don’t…stink.”

Makes perfect sense to me.


Nora: “Mommy? When is Grandma’s birthday?”

Me: “December 23rd. Two days before Christmas. She’s a Christmas baby.”

Nora: “Just like Jesus! But Jesus’ birthday is on Christmas. Not two days before. Mom? When is Mary’s birthday? Not our old babysitter Maire. But, you know, Jesus’ mom?”

Me: “Yes, I know which Mary you meant. But I’m not sure. You should ask your dad.”

Nora: “But how does dad know our old babysitter’s birthday?”

Me: “I thought we were talking about Jesus’ mom.”

Nora: “Oh yeah.” Giggle giggle.

Me: “Because your father went to church school. If anyone knows Mary’s birthday, it should be him.”

Nora: “Oh. Okay.”

Love putting the hubs on the spot!

Heard around the house.

Keeping it brief tonight because this mama is TIRED! And in denial about having to go back to work tomorrow. 😔

While Liam was making dinner earlier tonight, the girls had been playing in the living room. All of a sudden, Frances started screaming at Nora to stop whatever it was she was doing—I couldn’t see—and then Nora burst into tears and came running into the kitchen, where I was putting away some groceries.

Nora: (crying loudly and being overly dramatic) “Mommy! Frances pinched me! And she did it really hard and on purpose.”

Frances: (pouting pathetically) “But Nora took my car and she wouldn’t give it back!”

Me: “Nora. You need to LISTEN when your sister asks you to stop. And Frances. We. Don’t. Pinch.”

Frances: (without missing a beat, and with the slightest sly smile developing) “But Mom. I was just pretending to be a crab.”

Me: Did she really just say that? Yes. Yes she did. Now, turn your head so no one can see you busting a gut.

My child is hilarious. 

Frances and her books.

The main intention of this blog was and is to create a space for me to have a consistent writing practice. Although the past year has seen its ups and downs in terms of writing for me, I’ll admit I’m pleased with the overall effort given my prior attempts at journaling.

A secondary purpose of the blog is a means to record moments as memories, to be read over and over again as the months and years speed on by.

I remember reading the following quote in graduate school years ago by the Cuban American author Anaïs Nin, and I always, always come back to it when someone asks me why I write.

It goes like this:

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospect.”

“Yes!” I thought when I read it. This is why I write. 

Tonight’s memory will be one I share with Frances as she gets older and can appreciate my mockery.

When she was a baby, I couldn’t get Frances to sit still and listen to a book. Not for anything. Unlike her older sister, Nora, who was practically reading right out of the womb, Frances crawled immediately away once settled in my lap in front of a book, or else delighted in swatting away the pages and covers with all her infant might.

Although I was concerned she’d grow up to be a simpleton, I continued the practice of diligently reading aloud to Nora in the hopes that Frances might soak up some of it through her periphery. 

After she turned a year old, I had a little success engaging Frances with books that had texture and other sensory materials. Lift-the-flap books like Where’s Spot? were a big hit. Still, I found myself just accepting Frances was going to be a jock or a comedian instead of a Harvard grad when she hightailed it outta my lap anytime an ordinary board book or picture book came her way. (I jest you know—there’s nothing wrong with being a jock. Both Liam and I were three-sport athletes and humor is one of my more redeeming qualities. I only label and judge my children to get a laugh. Besides, just today my Harvard grad, Nora, told me she wanted to be a recycling man—yes, man—when she grows up, so she can ride on the side of the truck. I will love them however and whatever my children turn out to be.)

Anyway, back to Frances. Around eighteen months, or maybe a little thereafter, she finally, FINALLY, started to show an interest in listening to stories read aloud. She began to sit still and delight in looking at pictures and hearing the written word.

Several months later, a little before she turned two, Frances’s vocabulary just exploded. Again, prior to this happening, I was concerned that my girl of few words might have to rely on looks alone, not brains, in order to get ahead in this world. (KIDDING!)

I needn’t have worried. These days, the girl has more words than she knows what to do with. And watch out, because when she gets talking about something she’s excited about, there’s no stopping her.

Back then, though, I suddenly found myself pleasantly surprised when  Frances—not Nora—was finishing sentences aloud when I intentionally left a word or two hanging off the end. Unbeknownst to me, she HAD been soaking things up through osmosis! She had memorized parts of the books we’d been reading. It was all very exciting for me. Maybe, just maybe, she’d be Harvard-bound after all! (BTW, I’m not even a big fan of Harvard, although it’s campus is very beautiful.)

These days Frances is never far from a book. She likes to ask me or her dad to read her a book, and then—once we finish—she’ll ask for another story, but will insist on taking back the first book so she can hold it and flip through the pages as she listens to the second story. She alternates between flipping and looking at one book and listening to the other. It’s very funny. Almost OCD in the way she does it EVERY time we sit down to read.

Frances is also fond of taking books to bed with her so she can look at their pages before she falls asleep. I’ve found many-a-book under the covers where she sleeps when making the bed in the morning.

Her latest thing is to walk around the house with a chapter book, and then sit somewhere and pretend to read. Today I noticed her carrying both Trumpet of the Swan and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Only, she was pretend reading something about a mama and a baby bear and how they had to clean up the house before dinnertime.

I’ve so enjoyed watching Frances’s love affair with books blossom the way it has. I have high hopes now for Rowan, child number three, who just turned one, and who might’ve just been introduced to a book by his mother a couple of weeks ago. 

Come on! Cut me some slack. Child number three, I said. Not to worry. If he’s anything like Frances, he’ll be toting around James Joyce novels before too long and babbling on about ocean characters who meet monsters at a picnic he “reads” in their pages.

Weaning Frances

After nearly three years—1,074 days, to be exact—my middle gal is no longer nursing. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. There were times I wondered if she’d be going into kindergarten in two years still nursing and wearing diapers. At least now I only have to concern myself with potty training—a feat I’m not looking forward to on account of the fact that girlfriend in TERRIFIED of sitting on the toilet. Always has been.

Anyway, two weeks ago I had to drive back to Pennsylvania for my sister’s last-minute wedding. Since we had just been back for Easter weekend, I didn’t really want to make a second quick trip with ALL of the kids in tow. I thought I’d just take Rowan with me and have Liam stay behind with the girls. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to wean.

Up until that point, Frances had only been nursing one time before bed each evening. It was something she VERY much looked forward to. Often, she tried to tell me she was ready for bed at 7:30, even though she’d napped and likely wouldn’t be ready to fall asleep before 9. Most times I indulged her, because the look about her was pure joy—bright smile, wide eyes, excited limbs.

We’d go upstairs to nurse in bed, she’d do her thing, and then she’d proclaim in the most awake voice, “I’m not ready for bed, mama. I wanna go back downstairs.”  Uh-huh. Just as I suspected. A fake-out just to get her nursing on.

When I contemplated weaning, I wavered back and forth about whether or not it was time. She’s only doing it once a day. That’s not so bad. I mean, I could keep going. She loves it so much. And it’s still such an important connecting time for us given she’s such an attached and emotionally needy child, not to mention the continued health benefits.

But then, there’d be an evening when she wouldn’t fall asleep nursing. And I’d have to unlatch and disconnect her because I was done nursing. Then she would whine and yell and have her little tantrum, and I’d be all: OK. We need to be done. Like, yesterday.

The decision was made. I needed to be resolute. I talked to Frances the entire week before I left for PA. I explained what was going to happen when I went away and then after. She definitely understood. Some days she seemed to share in my excitement about her becoming a ‘big girl’; other days she went into Cranky Franky mode and exclaimed she was still a baby, and was NOT going to give up nursing, ever again.

I was a little emotional the night before my trip—the last night Frances nursed. She and I had been connected in this relationship for so long. However, any sadness I felt was NOTHING compared to the grief I felt when I nursed Nora for the last time at 20 months of age—a sure sign I wasn’t truly ready. However, I’d been four-and-a-half months pregnant with Frances and nursing was painful. I also hadn’t had the benefit of watching a fellow mama nurse throughout her pregnancy and then tandem breastfeed both her infant and toddler like I did when I was expecting Frances and had Candace (our old babysitter) in our lives. Had I an opportunity to do it all over again, I would have suffered through the pain to get to the other side.

Frances did great the weekend I was away. She didn’t ask to nurse once. (I’m assuming it’s because she knew there was no supply available from her father, despite the fact that he’s jokingly offered to nurse her many times in my place over the years. She never once took him up on his offer. Wise girl, that Frances). Liam did mention, however, that she was very clingy and wanted to be held the whole weekend. Likewise, I did fine in Pennsylvania. I had no residual sadness. Only fond memories. And relief, I might add, to just be nursing one child instead of two.

Since I’ve been back—almost two weeks now—Frances still has not asked to nurse or mentioned one time anything about our past experiences breastfeeding. She is very clingy and whiny though. More so than usual. And a little extra cranky, especially around bedtime. Now that we don’t have that special nighttime routine, she has small fits with me when I’m the one to put her to bed. She insists on lying on top of me in order to fall asleep. When Liam does bedtime, things go better for him. I imagine it will take some time for Frances to settle emotionally, even though she’s not vocalizing what she’s working through. I’m trying to be patient and extra sensitive—giving lots of hugs and cuddle time. I know this is what she needs, and not a neck-wringing like I’d sometimes like to do when the whining and tantrumming push me to a breaking point.

Our middle gal will be three in eight days. The last birthday of our birthday season. She may not be ready for little girl undies any time soon, but she reached her weaning milestone no problem. Go, you big brave girl, go!



Kids playing at trickery. And failing hilariously.

Liam has been trying to teach the girls some jokes lately. I think Nora kind of gets the humor, but not really. She has a good memory, though, so she’s able to retell them flawlessly. Frances, on the other hand, has just about no clue, but realizes I will laugh at whatever she says regardless, so she just throws it all on the table. 

From earlier today…

Nora: “Mom. Wanna hear a joke?”

Me: “Sure do!”

Nora: “Where did the pencil go on vacation?”

Me: “I don’t know. Where?”

Nora: “Pencil-vania!”

Me: “Hahahaha! That’s a good one!”

Frances: (not to be outdone-ever) “I’ve got a joke.”

Me: “OK. Let’s hear it.”

Frances: (looks at ground for inspiration and—apparently—finds it) “Where did the dirt go on vacation?”

Me: (looks at Nora and winks because recognizes this is going nowhere fast) “I don’t know. Where?”

Frances: “To Pennsylvania! And Mr. Dirt was driving!”

Me: (erupts into genuine laughter)

The fact that she felt the need to add that last bit about Mr. Dirt driving is hysterical. Just brilliant.

Then later, trying on the knock-knock joke for size.

Frances: “Mama—knock-knock.”

Me: “Who’s there?”

Frances: “Don’t worry. Papa Bear is here to give you a hug.”

Me: Okaaaay. “Hahahaha!”

Frances: (smiles proudly)

I wasn’t worried. But perhaps I should be!


We’ve gotten into a routine of doing a nightly talent show after dinner, thanks to my sister-in-law, Clare. She had the kids and their cousins performing in the living room a few weeks ago and it just stuck.

Usually, the kids choose to dance or sing. Liam, however, has been performing rusty magic tricks for the kids (think marble behind the ear type stuff). 

Tonight Nora decided to perform a trick. She vanished into the playroom for a time and then reappeared wearing a red Melissa and Doug dress up fire hat. Also, she had a metal play kitchen ladle that was doubling as a wand.

She told us she was going to make some magic things come out of her hat. Only—the second she removed the red plastic hat from her head, everything she planned on making magically appear fell out onto the carpet. 

The next few seconds were priceless. She was embarrassed and humiliated—at least asuch as any near five-year-old might be. She wasn’t sure how to proceed, or even if she could still perform, having given away her trick. Liam and I were dying trying to control our hysterics. Dying.

Luckily Liam jumped right in saying, “We didn’t see anything. Quick! Start over! Start over!”

Gratefully, Nora settled her shaking lip, took the bait to save face, and shoved everything back inside the hat. Meanwhile, we were still trying so hard to keep a straight face.

Then she said: “For my first trick, I am going to pull a robe out of my hat. Abracadabra!”

We oohed and ahhed for effect.

However, as she was struggling to apparently separate the clothing she’d shoved inside the hat, Nora pulled out the wrong item. “Oops!” she muttered aloud, looking up to see if we’d noticed. We played it off like we hadn’t. Again—dying!

She recovered nicely and pulled out the robe. We erupted into applause and oohed and ahhed some more. She then proceeded to pull out all the correct clothing—thanks be—and ended with a bow.

When she left to return her ‘props ‘ to the playroom, Liam and I finally allowed ourselves the freedom to crack up. What a moment. A talent show performance for the ages, really. I only wish we had thought to get it on video.

These kids playing at being older than they actually are—it’s just so dang FUNNY.

Talent show performance circa last week.