Parenting Makeover

We're preparing for a slumber party for Miss L's birthday on Tuesday.  This year she wants a makeover party.  With makeup.  And a flatiron for her hair.  Last year we did a desert scavenger hunt;  how can all these girls have changed so much in 12 months? And it's more than just makeup.  Since she is turning 11, which her mother tells us is the age that all the women of her family got their periods, we stopped at the drugstore and bought supplies to keep on hand.  Just in case.

I used to think 11 was crazy-young for all this stuff, but then I adjusted for the millennium maturity curve.  I think an 11-year old in 2009 is the equivalent of a 14-year-old in 1989.  At least that's how I'm trying to rationalize it to myself.  Right now it's kinda fun, talking about wings vs. no wings.  On the other hand, no one's actually using the pantiliners yet... only hiding them in the bathroom cabinet.  Waaay in the back.  We might all feel differently when it's not a giggling novelty trip to the drugstore, and instead our once-little girls are hollering "We're outta tampons!" down the hall.

Dan remains remarkably calm about the whole thing.  And I'm more excited than traumatized... I guess.  Mostly I'm excited to get back into an age where I enjoy parenting again.  I reveled in my child from age birth through about 6.  There's been a definite decline in my commitment level over the past few years, which my sister and I have dubbed The Age of Yick.  This spans the ages of having to tell them to shower because they actually smell rank, the ages of noticing greasy, nasty-looking hair and having the kids insist they "just" washed it.  Clothes are worn for god knows how many days in a row without washing, teeth are brushed for approximately 3 and a half seconds (only when prompted) and fingernails are constantly dirty, ragged, and too long.  All this, when they are old enough to know better and practice reasonable personal hygiene... but choose not to.  Yick.  

But now I'm heading into an age where I'm less grossed out and getting enthusiastic again.  The kids are being more proactive about their physical appearances, FINally.  They're getting old enough so I can share anecdotes and give advice, instead of dishing out lectures and rules.  Er-- well, in addition to the lectures and rules.  I can totally gossip about boys and give lessons on applying makeup. I'd much rather be meeting new boyfriends than helping collect snakes for the terrarium.  (I know, I know... be careful what you wish for...)  I'm ready.  Bring on the makeover.


The Honeymoon

The Honeymoon:
A Play by Miss G and Miss L

Narrator/Cop:  Miss L
Robber: Miss G
Dan:  Dan
Wife:  Mz M

We now join a newly married couple in their honeymoon sweet, when a robber barges in.

All right gimme the mony and no one will get hurt!
(Start putting the money in a bag.)

Wwwow llets take aa minet to calm down.

Shutup!  Put your hands up were I can see um!

Oh look honey it's a robber!  I'll go get the granades.  OH by the way I did you a big favore and locked the windows and doors from the outside and replaced the glass with rubber.

Oh ok...WHAT?!!!

Would you like to use the phone to call the police before we do?

No thanks I'll just... oof, hey watch where you're-- oh! sorry officer! I was just...

Yes?  Oh, thats right you don't have an excuse do you!
(Cop binds robber with rope)

Your going to jail Bub

(happily ever after)

Reproduced with permission.  All rights reserved.


"Spring" Cleaning

Every spring and every fall, I feel really inspired to clean out closets and drawers, unload and re-prioritize.  But I rarely get around to actually doing any of that in spring or in fall.  Instead, the Great Purge lands right around Christmas time.

I think it's the by-product of holiday exasperation.  I'm looking around the house at the piles of unused stuff lying around, looking at the kids' rooms and the total disregard they have for their belongings, and contemplating purchasing yet more crap that will end up in one of those two categories-- useless or abandoned-- and it makes me just snap.  Everything useless or cluttered or old or unworn or irritating has to go.  Immediately.  Today.

You know that magazine, Real Simple?  Everything in it is so clean and zen, so calming and peaceful.  I love the idea of being that crisp, clean lines with everything in its place. Although I am just not that person, and I don't think I could live somewhere that sterile, there is a world of middle ground in between Real Simple and my disaster area of a house.  I know I could be doing better. 

I can only blame the constant remodeling for a small portion of my disaster.  I categorize the rest of it under mental columns like "poor priorities" or "working too many hours" or sometimes "just screw it."  I dream about the day that I will get everything organized and then just be able to maintain.  That's possible... right?


The most lovable freight train in the world

We spent Thanksgiving visiting Dan's grandparents in Fresno. All weekend, they kept raving about Miss G. How great her manners are! How cute her short hair is, how it suits her! How they've never seen a child so... well, enthusiastic!

Grandma's sister: "She has such a little personality!"
Grandma: "Oh, my, yes!"

Little, nuthin'.

Miss G's greatest quality-- her cheerful, unsinkable nature-- is also her most exasperating. She has trouble keeping friends, because her enthusiasm reads as bossiness. (Okay, sometimes it is actually just bossiness.) No one can keep up with her, particularly not her mama. She is always at least five steps ahead, and nothing is ever fast enough for her. She expects perfection from anyone she looks up to, and since she is a trusting soul, that is almost everyone. I'm always nervous about bringing her into restrained environments-- say, Miss L's piano lesson-- because Miss G is just plain larger than life, and that is not for everyone.

At the same time, she is so open and sweet and good-hearted. She picked flowers from the grandparents' yard and handed them out as she said goodbye. She dished out unreserved hugs all around to these people she has met a total of I think three times. She loves giving presents and spends half her allowance on goodies she can share with other people.

I always feel like I'm too hard on her... the constant reminders to chew with mouth closed, to remember please and thank you, to use her inside voice. And since Miss G is the human equivalent to a small tornado, I am constantly, constantly hauling back on the reins, trying (often with total futility) to slow down even a little her exhausting joie de vivre. I don't ever want to quench her bright little spirit, but I just plain can't keep up with her.

So, I'm encouraged by compliments from Grandpas and Grandmas (and their sisters), by comments scribbled on report cards ("A delight to have in class!" is very popular), by my sister regularly asking for recent stories about her. I figure all this means I'm doing a good job. Although I think Miss G is an amazing kid not because of my parenting, but rather in spite of it.

Miss G, you have done it again. Even though you have interrupted me about 86 times while I've been typing this, and my resulting impatience has made it extremely challenging to continue praising you to the hilt, I am just plum crazy about you, kid. Don't ever change.




... for good health. Whatever other stresses may be going on in our lives right now, at least none of us is spending Thanksgiving in a hospital-- either as a patient or a visitor. I will never forget the Thanksgiving I spent as a very very sick cookie; every year this is my biggest thanks.

... for my amazing daughter. She has brought so much to my life, I don't know what I'd do or where I'd be without her. She is my guiding light. I want to be like her when I grow up: fierce and generous, loving and loyal and tough, smart and quick with boundless energy, a great sense of style, and a good sense of humor about everything. And thanks that she is healthy and cheerful and appreciative, that having a hard life has not made her bitter. Thanks that she is enjoying her life and doesn't dread school any more, and doesn't have to go to daycare anymore either.

... for my new husband. I am so blessed to live my life next to this man who is steady and true, who wakes up cheerful every day, who is furry and optimistic and makes me laugh, who loves my daughter, is utterly accepting of both of us, who is an amazing father, who always takes out the garbage and does the dishes every night, who never skimps on the foreplay and knows how to fix my car. Thanks for my new marriage. Although the first six months of said marriage have tested us severely with unemployment struggles and custody battles, we both figure it can only get better from here.

... that my relationship with Miss L has evolved so thoroughly from where it was at this time last year. We have managed to forge a positive foundation for ourselves and learned to navigate our lives within and around each other in a harmonious way--for the most part. And this in spite of multiple undermining attempts by external forces, making me even more appreciative of our new connection.

... for the rest of my immediate family. We're really only mildly dysfunctional, and we have a pretty good time together, all things considered. Thanks that my parents are blessed with good health and happy hearts. Thanks for the renewed closeness with my sister, and thanks for her baby daughter, who has softened her, opened her, and brought joy to her life and all our lives. Thanks that my brother is not living in China anymore and might decide to rejoin our family, and thanks for his fiancee who is largely responsible for this much-welcome shift.

... that I am working, even if it's just for the moment. Thanks that Dan is at the top of the out-of-work list at his Union, and will get the next job call that comes in.

... that, although we're eating an awful lot of hamburger and mac n cheese these days, we are not going hungry. Thanks that we have a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs.

... that we live in a free, non-war-torn country, that our children have the right to an education and not be conscripted into a militia against their will. Thanks that we live in a country where they can live whatever life they can dream up for themselves.



This weekend has been an oasis; I got to spend it with with my 1-year-old niece. Besides enjoying her for herself (and she is a thoroughly delightful little baby), I love the flood that comes in of till-now-forgotten memories from when Miss G was that age. I got drunk on that sweet baby-head smell, the tiny finger-pointing with exclamations of "Da! Da!" for everything she sees, the angry scream insisting, "I am NOT tired! I do NOT need this nap! I mean it!" I wallowed in every squirmy minute.

I am a baby junkie, always have been. I'm good with them; I get them and they get me. Older kids, not so much. Not even my own. I was great from Miss G's birth through age 6 or so, and then I suffered a sharp, inexplicable decline in patience and energy. Some parents say "Oh, it's so much easier as they get older" but I just don't see it. My parenting life has gotten harder over the past 5 years. I mean, sure, there are obviously some easier things. Less on-duty time. More independence, both for the kids and for me. I don't have to change diapers or clean puke off the favorite stuffed pig. And yes, babies are a lot of work. But it was my life; I stayed home full-time and raised her for the first year, and absolutely loved it. It doesn't feel like work if you're reveling in it.

It's also disconcerting seeing my own daughter so big next to this little peep of a baby; I so clearly remember her being that age herself. It could not possibly have been a full 10 years ago. Not when I am getting vertigo from the photo-perfect images of Baby G transposing themselves onto Peep as I watch her splashing in the bathtub. There's just no way that much time has passed. Surely Miss G can't be more than… 4? Okay, 6... at the outside.

Everyone warned me how fast this would go. It's not that I didn't believe them, but I just didn't know it would go this fast. Milk-spilling fast, falling-off-a-bike fast, roller-coaster fast.

The era when Miss G was little was the last time my life was clear to me. These days, I am juggling so many balls at once, and I don't feel I'm focused fully on even one of them. I am a mom, wife, and step mom. I work full-time, I manage our household finances, cook dinner, and pack lunches. As for parenting, the lessons I try to teach the girls are so much more complicated at this age. It's all about ethics and heartbreak and trying to explain why lipgloss is acceptable on an 11-year -old but lipstick is not. I'm trying to teach them to be self-confident enough to be honest with themselves and those around them, and self-assured enough to walk into rooms of strangers with heads held high. This is way harder than potty training (and I say this as a mother whose daughter dragged that process for an insanely long and stubborn time).

I have now become one of those titans of understatement who says, "Oh, enjoy these times! They go so fast!" To all you parents out there with little kids: Cherish this. You cannot imagine how quickly you will move from hating midnight feedings to wistfully missing those still, sacred nights with your child nestled against you.


Siblings. Sorta.

The girls are total opposites. Miss G is quick and impulsive and bossy. Miss L is quiet and reserved and daydreamy. The one personality trait they share is pigheaded stubbornness. Now add to that the fact that they were both only children for the first 10 years of their lives.

I'm not complaining; I’m impressed. Even if they'd been born to the same parents and grown up together their entire lives, I expect there'd be a fair amount of friction. I think they get along amazingly well, considering. But I realized this week, these girls have to be taught to compromise. This is something I never thought about before, and have just taken for granted, growing up as the middle of three kids. Give and take is a way of life when there's more than one kid in the house. Problem is, these kids still haven't learned that.

Miss G decided she wanted to put on a play. In classic Miss G form, she wanted to write, direct, produce, and star in this play all within the very last 10 minutes just before bedtime. She was so excited at the idea, I didn't have the heart to give her a flat no. Instead, I told her it would have to be a quick play, performed within the next 15 minutes. She tore out of the room to go whip out a plot as quickly as possible. Minutes later, she was back.

"Miss L says she doesn't want to do the play!"

I am consoling Miss G, saying we'll do it without Miss L, I'll read the lines with you, it'll be okay. Dan says, confused, "Huh. Miss L told me she really wants do the play."

So we call Miss L in also. By this time, both girls are in tears.

Miss L says that yes, she really does want to do the play. Only, she's not done with her script, she wants to work on it more. She wants real costumes. She wants to set up a stage. I say those are all really good ideas, but we need to get to bed, it's a school night.

Then we had to discuss the idea of compromise. I could swear we've gone over the concept multiple times, but it's just not sinking in. I give examples. We could do Miss G's finished skit tonight, which would make her happy. And Miss L could work more on her play, and we could perform it later, which would make her happy too. We'll do two plays. Perhaps in the future, one girl could write, the other could direct or do costumes or sets. If each girl has her own sphere of influence, they won't be butting heads. I explained to Miss G that there are benefits to investing your time, that a more deliberate initial effort makes for a better end result. I explained to Miss L that when someone is really excited about something, it's hard for them to concentrate on the details, like having costumes. I said if they were going to work together, that Miss G would have to slow down a little, and Miss L would have to speed up a little. Dan encouraged them to actually communicate. He suggested that perhaps Miss L could have explained her reasons for not wanting to do the play, instead of just saying she didn't want to. Perhaps Miss G could have asked her about her reasons instead of getting immediately exasperated, or she could have explained to Miss L how much it would mean to her to do the play right away, perfect or not.

I keep expecting them work this stuff out on their own, which is such an oversight on my part. In my family, if more than one kid turned up in tears at a time, my dad's answer would have been something like "If everyone's crying, then it's time to move on to something else. Everybody go play in their own rooms for a while." Smart guy. Dad's from the no-nonsense school of parenting, the same school I also ascribe to. Thanks to Dad, we learned early to work stuff out ourselves.

I have to keep reminding myself, our girls have not grown up with this. It seems second nature to me, but is utterly alien to them. We have to train them. And next time keep a better eye on how much Halloween candy is getting eaten all at once. Sugared-up kids are not good with compromise.


Weekend Eggs

I have to be at work at 6 am (5 am if I'm out on site somewhere), so I don't get to make breakfast during the week. To assuage my guilt about this, on the weekends I do something which I'd probably never do under other circumstances: I cook eggs by individual request.

Dan likes his eggs over-easy, which require a clean pan for proper flipping, so I start with him. The eggs should be cooked sunny-side up until the white is almost all the way cooked, then flipped, cooked for as long as it takes me to type this sentence, then slid onto a plate. As I do for anything I cook for Dan, I add twice the salt and 3x the normal human tolerance for black pepper. To this, he will also add Tabasco.

Miss L is next. She prefers her eggs scrambled, slightly undercooked and still mushy. The eggs should be cooked with salt and garlic powder, but no pepper. After cooking, a little shredded cheese should be sprinkled on top. Ideally, Colby Jack, but cheddar is also acceptable. Don't make the mistake of mixing the cheese in with the eggs and cooking it all together. This is not at all the same. As with most other food items, eggs must be eaten with ketchup.

Miss G likes her eggs scrambled also, but with sausage mixed in. The sausage links (already cooked) should be cut up into little pieces, mixed in with the eggs, then all cooked together in a big ol' sloppy mess. Salt or pepper or both or neither makes no difference whatsoever. She will also eat her eggs hard-boiled, but only the white parts; the yolks get fed to the dogs. Eggs eaten like this require salt and pepper on every bite. She will also eat sausage-less scrambled eggs without complaint.

In all cases, eggs should be eaten with sausage links and toast. Toast should be slathered with frosting-thick jam: apricot for Dan, strawberry for Miss L, and blackberry for Miss G. Everyone eats two sausage links, except Miss G, who will eat as many as are left unattended in the pan in addition to what's already mixed in with her eggs.

This is all ridiculously impractical, and has quadrupled the time I spend in the kitchen on Saturday and Sunday mornings. On the other hand, it's my only really indulgent parenting concession. As a rule, I don't believe in coddling kids; my number one parenting goal is to raise these kids to be adaptable and self-sufficient. I think mealtimes are one of the best places to teach these things. Don't like dinner? That's fine; I won't make anyone eat against their will. Instead, I encourage them to find their own solution. That may be to make their own dinner. Or, they may decide that mushrooms aren't so bad after all and eat what's in front of them. Or, they may choose to do nothing and instead sit there hungry and sulking. Whatever the result, it is one of their own making. They learn this way that are not powerless, that they have the ability to improve their circumstances by their own actions. At least, I hope that's what they're learning.

Miss G, raised like this from birth, goes with Option 2 most of the time. She eats what's in front of her, she loves vegetables, and rarely complains about anything, food least of all. She's a good sport about pretty much everything, never holds a grudge, and is always open to new adventures. My stepdaughter Miss L, on the other hand, is product of a more pampered childhood. She is resistant to meeting new people and trying new things. She orders grilled cheese at every restaurant and eats ketchup at every meal; when faced with a dinner she doesn't like, she tends toward Option 3.

It's hard to start teaching the idea of personal accountability mid-childhood and convince anyone it's a good idea. To Miss L, it just seems like lots of rules: take your own plates to the sink… fold your own laundry… take responsibility for your own belongings as well as your own actions. But Miss G has learned that accepting more responsibility results in being trusted with more freedoms, something Miss L has not yet grasped, even after 4 years together. It's the hardest part of step-parenting, being vilified for just… parenting. I just keep raising Miss L the way I raise Miss G and hope someday she'll be able to put me in context.

However. For weekend eggs, the complications of our relationships can be set aside, and the greater philosophical aspects of breakfast rules are suspended. The weekday restrictions-- with all the rules brought about by school and homework and swim team and piano practice and bedtimes-- are limiting enough. Weekends are for fun, for sleeping in and playing outside, and for eggs cooked however you want.


Remembering how to fly

We discovered this weekend that Dan and Miss L had never seen the movie "Hook." This was a situation that had to be rectified immediately.

If you don't know the movie, the plot is that Peter Pan has left Never Land and grown up. Cap'n Hook has kidnapped Peter's kids and brought them back to Never Land to force Peter into a duel. Only, Peter doesn't remember that he's Peter Pan. He thinks he's Peter Panning, attorney at law. It's up to Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys to remind Peter who he really is, so he can rescue his kids from Hook.

It's one of my faves. Robin Williams as Peter, Dusin Hoffman as Hook, what's not to like? Miss G and I have watched it about a million times. But last night, it hit me particularly hard, because I've been feeling way too grown-up lately.

My favorite line in the movie is delivered by Phil Collins, in a brilliant little cameo. He plays the inspector who comes to the house when it's discovered that the children are missing. As he's talking to Peter and his wife, they are interrupted by Toodles, one of the original Lost Boys (now an old man who has lost his marbles). While the inspector has been talking, Toodles has been staring at him suspiciously, then bursts out, "You've forgotten how to fly!"

Phil Collins answers gravely: "Yes, well. One does."

We all forget to fly. We forget to not push our kids aside to answer the phone. We forget what it feels like to be the pushed-aside kid. We forget to play Monopoly more and nag less. We make sure kids stay up late to finish homework, but not to read bedtime stories. In between the teeth being brushed and bike helmets being worn and school lunches being packed, there are not enough forts being built, fashion shows put on, or cookies being made together.

This week's homework: find happy thoughts.


How to Train Your Parents

It's important to begin retraining your parents in their public behavior toward you when you're 11. I'll give a rundown on the effective techniques Miss G displayed at her open house last week. Hopefully this will help other kids properly manage their own parents.

So, imagine you're arriving at some kind of public function. During the walk from the car, be sure you stay at least 5 feet in front of them. Pretend not to know who the two adults behind you are, particularly if you pass any friends. Under no circumstances should you introduce them to anyone. Also, do not acknowledge the parents of your friends (most likely the two adults walking 5 feet behind them). This will just embarrass everyone involved.

Even though you begged your parents to come to the open house, be sure you rush them through meeting your teachers as quickly as possible. This will give them less chance to embarrass you. Remember, even the most harmless remarks such as "Oh, Miss G is a great kid" from your teachers can humiliate you beyond redemption.

Do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances allow your parents to touch you in any way while you are in public. Long ago (perhaps even at the school meet-n-greet a mere 6 weeks ago), you may have held hands with your mother or allowed her to ruffle your hair, but this ends now. Be very clear on this, and don't relax your guard for an instant; it's dangerous to set a precedent. Your actions now set the stage for the more publicly critical teenage years. The only acceptable physical contact would be a light shoulder pat, and then only on the return trip to the car. It should be fully dark by then, so no one will accidentally see your lapse back to childhood. Immediately jerk away from all other physical contact. They'll get the hint.

Now. Because it's the most embarrassing that could possibly happen, you're bound to run into the boy you like at the open house. The previous rules still apply. Do not introduce him to your parents, or vice versa. Instead, greet the young man in question with barest civility. Try not to smile. Definitely don't distinguish him from your other classmates in any way. On the way back to the car, casually mention that "the tall kid in front of us in line talking to Ms Lawson" is the boy who's going to the Halloween Dance with you. By the time you tell them, any chance of them having an actual conversation with him will be safely past. Good work!

Keep the whole evening to 20 minutes or less. If you've met all the guidelines above, congratulations! You are well on your way to successfully trained parents.


We love Dan

Our bathtub has getting more and more clogged. We've tried every unclogging device and chemical known to man, and still no luck. We started using the kids' shower, only to discover theirs was clogged too; god knows how long it's been like that. Why on earth would they bother telling their parents about such a thing?

Dan had to go under the house to fix the drains, they're too far gone. So, yesterday and today we've been toilet-less; they've been removed and are sitting out in the yard. Luckily, we live only a few houses down from my in-laws, and they've kindly offered to let us use their facilities. They too are familiar with Dan's extended home repair projects.

Whenever Dan has a project, I like to triple his budget estimate and quadruple his time estimate to get a more accurate idea of what we're getting into. The estimate tripling is directly connected to Dan deciding to also do triple the amount of work he initially talks about. He does this every time. The rest of the problem is that we live in an old house, and repairing anything is risky; repairs can compound in seconds, like pulling a thread on a sweater. We start out wanting to bump a wall out 3 feet, no biggie, right? Except then it turns out that behind the drywall all the 2x4's are leaning crookedly and covered in cockroach poo, and the wiring is shot, and the ceiling above the wall isn't real ceiling but instead is just weird pressboard stuff that has old water damage and needs to be entirely replaced at some point so why not do it now instead of ripping the room apart again down the road?

Poor Miss G was out of her room for a month till it was all done. But damn, it's a well-built room now.

Some people hate house projects, but I really love all this. And I love having a house with Dan. I love that the dog keeps going under the house to check on him (and possibly help). I love that Miss G volunteered to bail all the standing water out of the bathtubs. I love that two of Dan's buddies showed up to bring tools over and holler under the house about how he should be doing things instead. I love that he graciously accepted the tools while good-naturedly ignoring their advice, and kept right on plogging away in his coveralls, all cheerful and covered in muck. And I love most of all that about an hour into shoveling dirt and removing pipes, he came back out, took off his coveralls, and went to his folks' house to shower so he could drive his car to his daughter's carwash fundraiser a half-hour away. Then he drove all the way back, got back in the coveralls, and went back under the house.

Dan's ridiculously likable: goofy, furry, optimistic, and the gentlest person I've ever met. He tells terrible jokes, and never raises his voice. He's incapable of being on time to anything, and has a sweet tooth that'd put me into an insulin coma. He gives the girls piggyback rides to bed every single night, and has more patience than any 3 normal people put together. Dan's single crowning trait-- which is subtle, and not appreciated by the world at large, I think-- is simply this: Dan is a good man. There are not many genuinely good people in the world (certainly not here in stupid Las Vegas), but he is one. Dan does not lie, he believes the best in everyone and is embarrassed to find that anyone would think he is a higher-caliber human than most. But he is.

I figured I was biased, so I was relieved to find everyone else in my family is just as nuts about this guy as I am. My cousin has a friend at a silkscreen place and got a bunch of "We love Dan" t-shirts made as a surprise over the summer. She sent me about a dozen; they were all handed out within minutes to many squeals of delight from friends and family. I wear mine all the time. I'm wearing it today, to support his gross under-the-house efforts to make us a good home. I'm wearing it again on Wednesday, when I'll be sitting in the courthouse parking lot waiting to hear the outcome of his custody hearing.

We love Dan.


The Divine Miss G

No one tells you that for parenting to work, you have to keep falling in love with your kids over and over and over again. I have had a serious crush on my daughter this week, and a renewed appreciation for her bright spirit and cheerful attitude.

She really is the most amazing person. Not just kid, but person. Everyone who knows her will tell you. She is so good-hearted, but ferocious at the same time. She doesn't always reveal what's going on in her head, but when she does, she sums up with a cutting combination of incredible insight and minimal words. She's hardcore and bossy, but at the same time is always cheerful and optimistic.

She is nothing like me, which makes her all the more intriguing. She is like her dad in a few traits, but her overall personality is nothing like his either. She is her own thing.

I had Miss G when I was 22 and unmarried. Her dad moved out before she was 2. The two of us have had incredibly difficult times and outrageous fun in the nine years since then. I got married this past spring to Dan, who came in a package deal with a new stepdaughter, Miss L. Miss G and Miss L are pretty tight, but Miss G still wants a "real" little sister.

I say "Listen, kid. Why should I even bother having another baby, when I just nailed it perfect the first time? There is no way I could have another baby that would come even close to being as cool as you."
"Mama, listen. Here's what you do. All you have to do is move around a lot, and then put her in a crappy daycare that she hates, live in an apartment instead of a house with no yard to play in so she can't have a dog, and watch movies with her, and sing a lot in the car. And then you'll do everything with her that you and me do, and then she'll be like me."
Her delivery is very matter-of-fact, simply listing the elements as she sees them that have combined to create her persona.
"Honey, I am so sorry you went through that stuff. And so sorry it took me so long to get you a house with a yard."
"Mama. Don't cry. It's okay. That's what I'm saying, is all that stuff was good because it made me how I am and you like how I am and I like how I am. You're a good mom."
"Thanks, kiddo."
"Anyways Mama. Even if we did all that stuff for my little sister, she still wouldn't be like me, cause she'd have Dan as a dad instead of my dad, and he's a really good dad."

This does not make me feel any better.

When she was first born, everyone told me how fast it would go. And it has, as predicted, gone way too fast. She's wearing eyeshadow to school, and in my mind she's still only around 4. But I'm loving this, love watching her evolve into a self-assured and self-aware... well, I can't say "woman" yet, but maybe I could use the hated phrase "young lady." She handles herself with such grace and confidence.

More than loving my kid, I just really like her. I like that she calls me Mama still at age 11, even though she's acted like she's 32 since birth. I like the puckish glint in her eyes, that she's spirited enough to be her own person but reasonably obedient. I like that I can't tell her no about anything without a full explanation. It's exasperating sometimes, but at least I know she'll never meekly back down without a fight.

And I can't take credit, I really can't. She's been like this since birth, I swear. I had to install a lock on the outside of her bedroom door when she was 2. People look at me like I'm a monster when I say that, but it was for her own safety. I woke up in the middle of the night one night and heard something downstairs. I went down, and there's my toddler sitting and watching TV at 3 am. She's eating a bag of chips, which she opened using a butcher knife that is sitting next to her on the couch. She hadn't wanted to wake me, see, so she just took care of everything herself.
That's Miss G. Independent, but considerate. The lock got installed the next day, and the knife drawer was relocated up into the cabinets. She is so headstrong that the best I can do is give her medium-level guidance and give her advice on a regular basis. Sometimes she listens, sometimes not. I'm surprised and thankful she's as well-behaved as she is, given how strong her personality is.

I've been watching Miss G from a distance this weekend, and her beauty captures me. Every word out of her mouth amazes me, these glimpses of the woman she'll grow into are hiding behind her and I am so excited by what I see. It's like a trailer for the best movie in the world, but the movie never ends and the plot keeps getting better.



There's a change in the air that isn't just Fall itself. This year, something smells different. I keep thinking of a dog when it finds a scent: dead still, tail perfectly straight, nose forward, ears up. Motionless. Waiting. It smells like… revolution. Like waking up.

It's not mystical or anything. My life feels upside down because it is indeed upside down. Factors include my impending job loss, and Husband's return to family court to address custody issues with ExWife. I glimpse possibilities lurking behind this season's uncertainty, and it makes me too wired to sleep well anymore. I'm edgy with hope. I'm surprised to find I'm looking at these as "opening a door to a new career" and "clearing the fumes will lead to better air" (respectively) rather than "the end of my life as I know it." This is good. Maybe Husband's wonderful, relentless optimism is finally infecting me.

My body at rest definitely likes to stay at rest, right up until it's smacked by something undeniable enough that it can overcome my grumbling reluctance and get me off my ass.

These things needed to change. Dead weight needs to be removed to allow new growth.

Let the smacking commence.