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Parent-Teacher conference on Nov 3 was amazing. Apparently our girl no longer take no guff from nobody in the classroom. There were certainly signs of that last year, and Cindy and Patrick had stories to back it up this time. Gaelin wanted to cover the poster on the Hopi with muskets, and Natalie said unequivocally that that was not going to happen. The 6th grade mentor, Coen, acted very sagey-judgey, put his hands behind his head, and called for a vote. Natalie won. Only a couple of musket drawings ended up on the poster. And one time very recently when Natalie was doing math on a white board, Skyler came up and began talking to her. Natalie put up her hand and made it clear she was not to be disturbed while doing the math.

And then there’s her activism on creating a Peace Corner on the playground. After her letter to the Head of School last year resulted in a polite refusal, Natalie recently wrote a new one and, on my advice, got some signatures – from several classmates AND her teachers – and got a more positive response, asking for some specifics. And the next day, Natalie said her petition has been displayed on the Head of School’s office door.

Natalie helped me vote tonight. I told her about the terrible hanging chads and the terrible GWB and his VP who had too much power, and all the people who died. We passed a street named “Hilton” and Natalie said it reminded her of Hillary Clilton or however it’s said. We talked about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and how I believe most, but not all, of what Bernie believes. She says we should have an atheist president who can change our coins. We either need to remove “In God We Trust” or, since some people believe in more than one god, change it to “In God parenthesy-thing S parenthesy-thing We Trust.”

Mom: “Ready, Freddie?”
Natalie: “Ready, Georgia’s Brother.”
Mom: “It’s the same hoodie, it’s just heather gray.”
Natalie: “I thought Heather’s name was Heather White.”

Natalie says her teachers liked how her purple pants with blue sequin stripes made blingy reflections on things. I show her that they even do that on a cardboard box she’s standing next to in the kitchen. “Oh yeah!” She giggles. “Even cardboard’s fashionable now.”

We’re dancing in the kitchen while I intermittently stick egg salad in the girl’s mouth. “This is the kind of thing I like doing on nights. Playing around, and dinner.”

We’re reviewing a word list to practice for this year’s Spelling Bee, where we’re hoping she makes it past the second round. I ask her to spell MIGRAINE. “Which is the word, my, or grain? No, really.”

Natalie to Elena Kaplan at the premier of The Peanuts Movie: “It’s beautiful, yet it’s animated, yet it’s funny.”

Natalie wants my help because she’s ready to get out of the tub. I ask why she would need me for that. “For drying-off purposes.” What?! “I need help powdering. I always use too much.”

Natalie accepts coconut oil in the armpits today as a deodorant, but doesn’t want it on her lips. “It smells, too much…(waves her hand in front of her nose) natural.”

Mary-Louise Parker is on NPR talking about the value of real letter-writing. “Unless it’s like a business letter thing,” says Natalie. “Business letters are useless.”

Natalie says her teachers liked how her purple pants with blue sequin stripes made blingy reflections on things. I show her that they even do that on a cardboard box she’s standing next to in the kitchen. “Oh yeah!” She giggles. “Even cardboard’s fashionable now.”

We’re dancing in the kitchen while I intermittently stick egg salad in the girl’s mouth. “This is the kind of thing I like doing on nights. Playing around, and dinner.”

We’re reviewing a word list to practice for this year’s Spelling Bee, where we’re hoping she makes it past the second round. I ask her to spell MIGRAINE. “Which is the word, my, or grain? No, really.”

“Lately, for the past two years, I’ve been getting good, non-cheesy fortunes, and I’m taping them together. One day, when I go back to kindergarten, or if I teach kindergarten, every day, every kid’ll get a fortune cookie, and we’ll be making fortune chains.”

I define hodgepodge, a bunch of things thrown together that are not necessarily related. “Like the bible?”

I give the girl some sweet, gentle good morning kisses. Daddy gave up his spot for her and slept on the couch. She smells like him. “Did I miss anything while I was asleep?” No. No. “Are you sure?” Yes. “Okay.”

“I’m getting my own style. Tuck-in, skirt…The skirt is mostly to cover up any lumps.”

Dad: “It now appears to stand at 126.”
Mom: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Dad: “Paris. ISIS is claiming responsibility.”
Natalie: “Ugh. First politics, now ISIS.”

Natalie shows me a story she cut out of TIME For Kids, a girl selling lemonade to end child slavery.
Mom: “There’s a lot of good kids out there.”
Natalie: “And some of them are in slavery. Although they’re very nice.”

Natalie’s not up for going to Capital Thai with Skyler during their sleepover tonight. “People have bracelets or tablets, but people don’t go around town with an ice pack on their neck. Never heard of that.”

Natalie agrees I could have been a lwayer, as people told me when I was growing up. “You’d be all the way to the Supreme Court before you took the school.”

Dad: “Jindal dropped out of the race.”
Natalie: “Wh-Jingles? Like Jingles the Clown?”

The Sharper Image catalog is great, but “Ugh. Why is it just for men? Women can have wallets too! THAT IS ZERO FAIR!”

We pass through the dining room to get to the bathroom. “Cookie, you don’t have to sit in the nowhereness.”

“Dad’s a good dad. You’re a good mom. Together we’re a good family.”

“Mom, I’ve already asked Dad this question. Are we hoarders?”

To Cookie: “Oh no you don’t! Alpha. ALPHAAA.”

“I love photobombing. It calms me.”

On Cookie’s life before rescue: “She was traumafied. She was drama-traumafied.”

A song for Cookie: “…You like to play/And scramble around/With no dismay.”

Q: What do you use to design pairs of socks?
A: Your imatchination.

The kids at school were talking about their Thanksgiving plans: mostly having family over, or going somewhere to be with family. Natalie said we’re having family over for the first time in a long time, and that we’re having tiny dishes. She couldn’t remember the name for that. A boy named Will said “Hors d’oeuvres?” She said yes, that was it! He told her how to remember: You order hors d’oeuvres. She liked that. She tells us that she’s still not into romancy stuff at all, but if she had to, if someone forced her, if they were going to kill her if she didn’t, then she’d pick Will. The protests about not being into romance went on for several sentences before the admission. It was very sweet.

Natalie hates the haircut I gave her this week. At least it’ll grow back quickly like the recent at the mall, I said. But she hates it. It makes her look like a child. “It looks like the eighties.” No, more like the seventies. “Blehh! Worse, worse! Worse alert!”

“With a name like Smuckers, you can’t go wrong.”

Skyler was bugging Natalie today. Did you tell her to cut it out? “Yes. Except with out the words ‘cut’ and ‘it’ and ‘out’.”

Open a can of Tom Ka Gai and realize that not only is it the eye-crossingly sour variety of hot-n-sour (and I really dislike sour soup)…but I see disgusting dull green wilted leaves and stems that are known to exude a powerful and repulsive toxin. So it’s come to this: Josh wants me to die of cilantro poisoning. I announce loudly my discovery. “Ouww,” says Natalie. “That’s the worst thing that ever happened to anybody.” She’s right. (On the other hand, Josh also brought me a roll of giant Parma Violets. What are you trying to tell me, man??)

Day before Thanksgiving. “Can I stay up late tonight?” asks the girl who regularly gets to sleep after midnight.

Mom: “This kid is saying the refugees can come to his house and play Minecraft. He’s telling people he’s not a hater.”
Natalie: “Neither am I. They can come to my house and play with my crafting supplies. And make me tacos. And eat me tacos.”

Natalie asks what she’s going to do tomorrow. With the boys talking about crosswords and the iPhone 6, and the women talking about what my coworker emailed me, she’s out of luck!

“They’re in luck that they’re coming to this ye house.” YE HOUSE? “Yes. I’ve turned into a cowgirly boy.”

Time for guitar practice…at 10:15 p.m.
Mom: “Do you want the light on?”
Natalie: “Yes, but not really. Do you know that sorts of feeling?”

Mom: “You’re over-excited because people are coming tomorrow. That’s why you’re so hopped up.”
Natalie: “Not just ‘over’. Extravada-over.”

“Start this off. but first, with the starter-offer.” She twists the grogger.

Poor Cookie. “It’s slow dragging time. It’s super fun if you’re me, super boring if you’re you.” She’s on her back on the floor, moving and holding the dog. You’ve gone batshit insane. “Look. I’m not quite as insane as Rose, who’s really insane.”

Natalie and Elly, a few months ago:
N: “I bet, a long time ago, it was ten dollars.”
E: “Ten dollars was worth a lot back then.”

Me: “Hello, Cartoonist.”
Her: “Hello…uh…”
Me: “Mother of Cartoonist?”
Her: “Hello, Photographer.”
Me: “Aw. Right!”
Her: “Hello, Too Much Photographer.”

On the phone with me while I’m at work: “I can’t hear you. Dad is crashing things together.”

“Two little birdies that I won’t mention ruined my day.”

Natalie loves the new rock tumbler Daddy got for her tenth birthday. We’re looking at rocks that have completed tumbling and still need to go through the polishing cycle. “Is that real gold? Or just pyrite? Oh my god. It looks like a fossil. I don’t know why the company decided to give it up.”

Organizing doll clothes, I hold up a little shirt. Is this baby or girl? I ask. “I think girl,” says Natalie. “I’ve seen Lizzy wear it.”

Lizzy’s glasses have no lenses. I ask if they had had glass in them before. “Yes. But I just went back to them one day and they didn’t.”

She leaves to get something for the surprise party the other dolls are planning for Lizzy. “Make sure she doesn’t awake.”

An old porcelain doll of mine was uncovered in the cleaning effort, and she’s missing an eye. Natalie is creeped out although I’m trying to make it about not rejecting people for disabilities. Or something. “She looks like she’s looking into my life. And trying to find out secrets about me.” I advise telling the doll a secret so she’ll already know something. Natalie says she has no secrets. Right.

I also bring out my handmade beaded bridal choker and earrings. Some of the beads have yellowed and it’s still quite beautiful. Natalie is entranced. “Can I wear this if I ever get married?” Of course, I say. “Will you come to my wedding if I ever get married?” WHAT??! How would I not attend my own daughter’s wedding– “If you have plans or something.”

On the way to West Stockbridge, I note how it’s a beautiful day. “What I call a Fall day.” I point out gorgeous trees. “That’s amazing. It reminds me of Fall. Ahhhh.”

“But I can see unfine.”

Mom: “I don’t hate it.”
Natalie: “It’s just not a muesli to remember.”

“It looks realistic. In an unrealistic way.”

“It’s fine, little guy. I know how you feel. Lazy. Loved. It’s fine, little baby. It’s fine, little baby.”

Daddy: “It’s time to go brush.”
Natalie: “But I love you.”

It’s picture day at school.
“Are you quite sure it’s not Wednesday morning?” Yes. “Where did you get this information?”
It’s only pictures and it doesn’t really matter. “I know. The only person I know who doesn’t care are some boys who I won’t name, who keep forgetting and wear their normal clothes, and I’m really annoyed with them.”

Natalie likes it when I blow my nose. “To me, it’s kind of reassurance, in a way. To know that you’re in the house, I guess.”

I’m wearing my new Putin shirt. “Didn’t I hear you have a meeting today? Because if so, I recommend not wearing that shirt.”

Mom: “I’m not worried about her reading enough books this year.”
Natalie: “Pleh! I’ve already readed about twenty-five books.”

Natalie: “When I’m a grandma, do you think I’ll be an extra-wrinkly, a normal-wrinkly, or a barely-wrinkly grandma?”
Mom: “It depends on how old you are when you become a grandma.”
Natalie: “About eighty. … Tell me! Tell me!”

Natalie has dry cereal and apple slices for breakfast.
Mom: “How’s your fruit?”
Natalie: “Good.”
Mom: “Have you had any?”
Natalie: “No, but I can tell it’s good.”

I khacked up some gunk.
N: “Jeesh. Poor you.”
Me: “I’m a mucus factory.”
N: “Ya think?”
Wow. It’s like listening to a younger, cuter me.

Listening to “When Velma Takes The Stand” from Chicago.
“I’m sure that music is very inappropriate for my age.” I report this to Daddy. “I said that.” Yes. “It’s either that it’s inappropriate for my age, or I’m just not enjoying it. I’m not getting any jokes. Can we switch it?”

Natalie is astounded that I brought her such a beautiful cherry blossom scroll from the Give Box at work. She immediately wants to take just about everything off her bedroom door and replace it with the scroll. Meanwhile, my recent organizing and purging the upstairs had turned up a Rugged Bear bib we must have been given as a gift for Natalie but never used. Natalie asks if I’m going to put it in the Give Box. Maybe, but I might give it to someone with a baby, I say. Natalie suggests that I give it to Cora’s baby. “I’ve only seen the baby once, but it looks like it would match it. It has big brown eyes. So cute.”

I’m suffering from some disgusting sinus issues. Natalie is being very reassuring. “Don’t worry, your nose doesn’t look any bit more lumpy than usual.”

Natalie asked what to wear today for the first day of Helen’s visit, the tan dress with the roses and white tights, or the top with all that cupcakes and navy shorts and tights that aren’t white. “I like to associate styles with days and clothing…I like to be very specific. Thank you for not laughing when I said one is sophisticated…”

I ask if Natalie wants me to post her artwork to see if any of my friends can answer the question and concept she was trying to express (What’s the point of evolving from Caveman to having all this technology?) “Yes, but they don’t have to use swear words every day. Whoever invented swear words, whoever invented them, I don’t like them.”

We discuss the fact that our house is neither the best nor the worst when it comes to messiness. Natalie says Grandma and Grandpa have the cleanest house. I tell her I agree and I think it takes way too much effort. She concurs: “Yeah. A bit of way too much effort.”

Natalie loves the carpet sweeper. “Whoever invented this, because whoever invented it made sweeping a lot more fun. I have decided that from now on, I HAVE CHORES. And that chore is sweeping. Because all you have to do is push it around. …And it won’t be like ‘DO YOUR CHORES.’ It’ll be like, ‘I’m gonna do my chores.'”

Natalie says you should tell someone to clean their room. “If they decide, they will want to clean their room. That’s just a tip thing.”

“I still have to add some sparkles here and theres.”

“Mind if I change out of this? ‘Cuz, for normal, everyday use, I won’t want to.”

Mom asks Dad: “Did she charm the pants offa Sharon?” He says he thinks so.
Natalie: “Uh, she did go to the bathroom, but–I don’t think so.”

“What’s a million and a half?” What? Uhh…it’s a million and a half. “Which is??” WHAT? It’s a million and a half. “What’s the half?” Half a million! “Which IS??” WHAT DO YOU MEAN??! “The number!” A half a million is five hundred thousand. “Thank you.”

Tried to tell the girl that pi doesn’t mean infinity; it just has infinite digits. But it’s less than 3.2. The digits are after the decimal point… “Okay. Don’t get me started on high school math. I’m still in grade school. No high school.”

“A couple of hours ago, I was lying around thinking. As you know, I sometimes do that.” Earlier it was something about lying, thinking around, lying about thinking around…I can’t keep up.

Dad, looking around the kitchen: “Do you have bowls in your room?”
Mom: “I think all the world’s bowls are in her room.”
Natalie: “Uh, dihh, I’ve never been to China…I would not be a good waitress. I would never be able to bring the bowls back, so I would not be a good waitress.”

To Cindy: “You got my art wet! No advantage of taking my hair for three weeks!”

On the new dog, who came to us with the rescue name “Tay” and whom we named Cookie:
“Aw, Tay’s gonna be a liking.”
“Now I can finally say I have five pets.”

“Are you laughing at my ideas because I’m, stupidy dead?

Natalie told a winding story about Nature’s Classroom and finally ended with: “It’s probably too much than you wanted to know.” I told her of course I wanted to hear it all. “Really? Yay!”

Q: Where does a ghost live?
A: In a terrortory.

Bath water: “It almost makes super mini tidal waves.”

“I hope I don’t get it. I’ve never been real fans of ooniebrows.”

Mom: “You don’t feel like you’re going to vomit again?”
Natalie: “No. But I feel like I shouldn’t do much–activeness, yet.”

We’re going to get rid of most of Natalie’s unused crafting supplies and she doesn’t want to do it today. “It’s called cleaning. And you know it’s one of my worst favorites. And I know you know what that means.”

“How do you like my outfit for tomorrow? I thought I’d do the calmness of pink and blue, plus the craziness of a rainbow necklace with a flower.”

On her assistant teacher, Patrick (I think I talked about the new fourth graders coming in and called them fresh meat):
“He probably doesn’t taste good, except for the meat. And I don’t think about the meat much.”

Natalie hears a tune on the car radio. “Oh, I first heard that on Aquascapes. Surprising, yet truthful.”

At Benson’s we looked at cat toys to give Kayla for her 10th birthday. She has three cats. Natalie asked: “Do cats see in color?” I don’t know, I said. Natalie chose a sparkly lavender mouse. “Do they see in sparkle?” Then Natalie asked if a gift card with a picture of a cat means her friend has to get a cat.

Natalie’s sort of glad Alison may not be coming back to our school this year. “She can be judgeful.”

Natalie decided to crawl backwards from the dining room into the kitchen. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I made breakfast backwards? That means moon-down-down-chicken. Instead of sunny-side up egg.”

Natalie: “What is this?”
Me: “Raw broccoli raab.”
Natalie: “…What kind of vegetable steals?”
Me: (Nodding)
Natalie: (Nodding)
She’s one of us

I tell Josh about my nap dream, that I was away at a hotel, finishing up school but probably going to fail or get an incomplete for one where I skipped some classes and the final. And our marriage was in tatters and I wanted to save it. Natalie understands: “I get you. I felt that with friendship.”

Two little doggies sitting on a porch
First comes growl
Then comes bark
Then comes the puppy, as happy as a lark.

“What’s something you like…that’s age-appropriate, not like popping pimples?”

I’m washing a tie-dye shirt from camp, in the bathroom sink. The water is a gorgeous deep pink.
Me: “It’s the prettiest color…”
Natalie: “…in THY whole world.”
Me: “Thy means your.”
Natalie: “I know. I’m trying to not make sense in Shakespearean times.”

“Just to my liking.”

“I don’t want cooking oil in my hair. The smoke alarm will go off.”

“I’m not one for poses. I’d rather keep memories of it by standing there. Memories are more special than photos.”

“Alzheimer’s Dimension, what?? …They should really change the name.”

“I don’t know why, but I like the smell of Target. Do you?” Yes.”Finally, someone who agrees with me that Target smells nice. Finally, I know that I’m not alone in liking the smell of Target.”

Mom: “Gray and white go with so much.”
Natalie: “White goes with lots of so much.”

Natalie wants to know why Daddy would take issue with me posting a pic of Cookie snuggled next to him as he dozes on the couch. I don’t know, I say. Maybe he thinks it’s not manly to nap? “I think it’s VERY manly to nap,” she wisely opines.

“To me, Indian Ladder Farms is kind of famous for cider donuts.”

“I only use my knife in emergencies.” Oh yeah? “Yeah. I only use my fork and fork onlyyy.”

“If you’re gonna talk and argue about science, why don’t you just enter Science College.”

I showed her a video of a raccoon carefully taking food from a human hand. “Is it like, Raccoon Day, National Raccoon Day?” No. “Uh, International?”

To Cindy as she fiddled with her own hair:
“What’re ya doin’ with your hair? Wishing it was curly?”

Natalie: “We have to teach Cookie to like peanut butter.”
Mom: “No, we don’t actually have to–”
Natalie: “No, we have to. Dogs heart peanut butter. It’s the rule.”

A guy at the Chinese buffet tonight was disgusting. He tried food at the trays and licked his fingers. I said I thought of telling him off, but you never know if someone has a gun or something. You never know if they’ll get dangerous, if you piss them off. “I can get pissed at you if I want,” said Natalie. “You only become dangerous at bedtime.”

PILONCY: Having a license to fly a plane.

I saw what I’d done and announced: “That is a remarkable poo.”
I heard Natalie’s door closing tighter.

“Helium goes up. That’s a fact. Not a statement.”

The baby has another stomach thing. It started yesterday afternoon at school; Daddy had to pick her up. This morning she sat up in bed suddenly to lean over the bowl, and apologized to me: “Sorry there was no notice.” … “I’m truly sorry about today. You could be at a meeting having fun, but right now you have to make a bathtub.”

Mom: “Actually, no coffee.”
Natalie: “At a time like this? I never knew that you could say that.”

I poured about an inch of “Orange” Gatorade for the baby. “Isn’t that a bit much for one sip for a sick girl?”

Mom, softly encouraging the upchucking: “Go ahead…bring it up.”
Natalie: “It won’t work. You’re putting it into the thinking part of my head. Not the doing part of my head.”

“Just getting mucus out of my nose. I accidentally said ‘me’. Didn’t mean to be one of those oldie types. One of those old Western types.”A lso she wishes she was back in fourth grade when she didn’t have to learn olde-style words for the Upper El Shakespeare production. She hopes they do Macbeth because it doesn’t have so many of those words.

I trimmed the hell out of Perry’s right ear to keep the longass tendrils from making his surgical wound worse than it already is. And Natalie says: “Wow. I can actually see Perry’s ear without hair interruption. I like it.”

Cherry Pedialyte, then water: “Ew. Together they taste like moldy grass.”

Natalie can carry an unwilling Cookie to the back door to go out, because she’s light. “Light colored, light in weight, and light in heart. ‘Cause there’s a fire glowing from love.”

I saw stuff on the bathroom counter that should have been put into a drawer. “Oh, fuck me,” I muttered, and called out for my kid. “You don’t fuck,” she answered. I didn’t follow up to find out what she thinks she was saying, and, thankfully, she let it go.

Me: “…Sometimes we fight.”
Her: “Which is why I try to keep you guys against it.”

“Are you the one who told her about my math games? ‘Cause I surely didn’t.”

Daddy: She looked kind of glum when I picked her up, so I asked her how her day was. And she said, “Well, it wasn’t a week to remember, but it wasn’t a week to forget.”
NATALIE: It was kinda like a ‘So I had a week’.
(And it’s only Tuesday.)

“Did someone just mutter ‘psoriasis’?…What is psoriasis?”

Natalie joins me in the bathroom.
Natalie: “Are your hands clean? Because there aren’t any cups in here.”
Mom: “Why can’t you drink out of your own hand?”
Natalie: “Because your hand is bigger, and nicer, and soothinger.”

We just got the Evite for the Upper El Picnic next Monday evening. “Can I go choose my outfit? If it’s a week later, that’s totally okay than a month, right? Right?”

“UUUHHHHNNNNH. …That was quite random. I was like, UUUHNNHNH. I was being like Gretchen. Have you ever heard her?”

Dad: “Don’t scowl at me. You should have cleaned it right the first time.”
Natalie: “It’s not just you. IT’S WHOEVER INVENTED CLEANING.”…”This is the kind of thing I was hoping NOT to do while I’m still in my depression.”

“No. I’m making a presentation today, and ponytails don’t bring anything out in my personality.”

“I wanted to evolve so I didn’t have to breathe all the time. It’s boring, just  boring!”

We saw two planes pass each other overhead. Natalie thought they would crash. They didn’t, but I said they went too close. “Lose your piloncy! They should lose their piloncy for going too close. Shouldn’t they?”

We talked about becoming better people. “I’m better than I was in first grade. Way better handwriting, I think.”

I tell Natalie she’s in a kind of in-between age where emotions can be unpredictable. “In betweens. I knew turning ten would have its downs.”

The girls are eating Confetti Bites at Natalie’s party and the convo turns to awwul things like Lyme disease and bird poo and using hot needles to remove ticks…”Okay, let’s only talk about good things now. It’s making me not appetized.”

Me, after the birthday party where Liesl, Ana, Skyler, Elena, and Natalie made 10,000 shredded paper bits go everywhere and it took a group effort of 45 minutes to get things under control: “You have some cleaning to do.”
Natalie: “Okay. I’m tolerating that. I’m tolerating that.”

Daddy tells Natalie how much Grandpa loves gadgets and how he once paid $500 for an early Heathkit calculator that did basic arithmetic. “Then he would really like these days.”

Natalie’s not vomiting any more, and Daddy said there are sighs of relief up and down the Eastern Seaboard. “Easter in Seaboard? What’s that?”

Natalie’s not vomiting any more, but she’s slow and a bit weak. She wants to know if it’s okay to walk slow. “Good. I can not go fast. It’s a disability.”

I reassure Natalie that a stupid running-across-the-gym test in January should not ruin the next three months. I make her breathe and then blow out the worry into my palm. Then I throw it in the trash.
Me: “It’s going to be a great year!”
Natalie: “Full of hope–fully neatness? My goal is to be neat this year.”

Natalie needs more time in the tub before we do hair. “I was right in the middle of the ceremony of the game.”

Me”…Sometimes we fight.”
Her: “Which is why I try to keep you guys against it.”

Natalie hates that her class has gym on Thursdays and Fridays because it ruins the end of her week. When kids talk on their way back to class, they’re called up to the front of the line so the teacher can keep a closer eye on them. Usually it’s the boys. And since Natalie likes being at the front of the line, the boys end up in grave proximity. And they’re sweaty and they smell really bad. Especially Tristan…”He’s the most athletic boy and the most smelly boy.”

We’re comparing hands. “I want to make sure I still have a child hand.”

“I only want to read, and I’m worried that it’s affecting my personality.”

“It’s just that every time you put a piece of banana in my mouth, it increases the chances that I’m going to blarg.” Because they have a texture that makes her want to barf.

10/3/15: Words on the way out while Daddy stroked her back, no Benadryl needed:
“Yes?…Mmm. …Sorry. Gross. …Who threw all that? …Yep.”

In the middle of a 100-piece Jurassic Park puzzle: “LET MY MASTER WORK…do stuff.”

Mom has a LOT of dental work and expenses. A very expensive mouth. “I think you’re mouth is priceless, not just expensive.”

We’re working on reducing the heinous uptalking. “Is it something contagious? Is it like a sickness?”

Mom: “I advocate for being gentle with kids.”
Natalie: “I don’t know about that.”

“If you’re gonna talk and argue about science, why don’t you just enter science college?”

They’ll study early American History this year. “At first I was thinking I could study Alexander the Great, but then I decided to study the Declaration of Independence, because I could print out the Declaration of Independences that don’t have anything on them, and they could fill them out.”

“You know what would be a good name for a candy shop? Hudson Candy Spree. It just sounds correct to me.”

“I know. It’s beautiful, on my opinion.”

“Who else? ‘Cuz there are lots of camp usuals who come almost all the time.”

“Two little birdies that I won’t mention ruined my day.”

Organizing doll clothes, I hold up a little shirt. Is this baby or girl? I ask. “I think girl,” says Natalie. “I’ve seen Lizzy wear it.”

Lizzy’s glasses have no lenses. I ask if they had had glass in them before. “Yes. But I just went back to them one day and they didn’t.”

She leaves to get something for the surprise party the other dolls are planning for Lizzy. “Make sure she doesn’t awake.”

An old porcelain doll of mine was uncovered in the cleaning effort, and she’s missing an eye. Natalie is creeped out although I’m trying to make it about not rejecting people for disabilities. Or something. “She looks like she’s looking into my life. And trying to find out secrets about me.” I advise telling the doll a secret so she’ll already know something. Natalie says she has no secrets. Right.

I also bring out my handmade beaded bridal choker and earrings. Some of the beads have yellowed and it’s still quite beautiful. Natalie is entranced. “Can I wear this if I ever get married?” Of course, I say. “Will you come to my wedding if I ever get married?” WHAT??! How would I not attend my own daughter’s wedding– “If you have plans or something.”

Mom: “Didn’t you ask her to do something?”
Dad: “Yes, I did.”
Natalie: “Unh. Can I at least get settled?”
Dad: “Go do what I asked you to do.”
Natalie: “In a seckeeb.”

Natalie and her cousin Eliza are talking about meditating. Eliza’s working at that skill. Natalie is too: “I’m not quite perfect at that yet, but sometimes my mind can be quite blank.”

I showed Natalie how to tickle Dad using one finger on the sole of his foot. He tried to hide the agony, but “I felt his stomach tensening up.”

Dad asked for confirmation that I don’t eat duck. Right, I said, for a couple of reasons. There’s not much meat and a lot of fat, the taste isn’t worth the effort, and I kind of like ducks. But I realized as I said it that I like chickens, and I sometimes eat chicken. So, hm… “Yeah,” interjects Natalie. “Everyone likes chickens unless they don’t like chickens.”

Me: “Sperm have tails to help them swim.”
Natalie: “Man. Geez. Is that why people are good at swimming?”

August 3 at 7:44 pm: “Why do I feel like it’s 8:37?” Later she said I should come into her room at 10:14, or something. She’s often very specific.

“I’m not intrigued. Playing Wizard of Oz Slots without me…not good.”

Dad: “There are no words that rhyme with orange.”
Natalie: “I know. But just in case, Google’s smart…”

We need to decide how we’re going to use those SPAC lawn tickets. “SPAC? Saragota thing?”

I show Natalie how to spear a bagel with a fork to get it out of the toaster. “Oh, thank you. Thank god. Thank you. I know there’s no god, but thank god.” And THAT’S how you know you’ve overcoddled the kid.

“So you shall be pervolked!”

I have to tell a story while pills are going down. “It’ll help me not make a fuss about it.”

“I love you. I’ve always loved you.”

Natalie told me something was her opposite favorite.

Me: “My love for you grows every day.”
Natalie: “An inch?”
Me: “A mile.”
Natalie smiles and makes a quick calculation: “Well, my love for you, every single second, it timeses itself.”

Q: What did the calf say to the mother cow in the morning?
A: You need some calf-eine.

Q: What did the calf and the cow do in the evening?
A: They went to the calfe and the moovies.

“Perry, you are affectionately irresistible.”

“But this time I finally got my revenge back.”

Natalie wants me to lie down with her. But–“Just one suggestion if you’re gonna lie down with me. Mayyybe pants.” If I don’t shave, I’m hairy. If I shave all the way up the leg, I’m stubbly. Can’t Win

“Will someone make up a conversation that I can get in?”

Natalie: “What’s a semicock?”
Mom: “Whuh–can you give me some context? Because I don’t know that word.”
Natalie: “Neither do I. Because it isn’t a word. I just made it up!”

We scoff at your simple goodnight wishes. “Dream that you’re a chocolate man, and suck on yourself and never stop sucking.”

“No, I’ll get up, but my vision is still forming up… …It’s tough to explain.”

Natalie’s looking at expensive real estate in The Week, one of our favorite magazines. “That is the most I have ever seen, in my life, a house be, with money.”

I make Natalie come out to see an amazing pink glowing sunset. “We live on a good planet.”

Dad: “I was up briefly at 6:30. You should have seen the fog.”
Mom: “The whole neighborhood was hard to see.”
Natalie: “I wish I was awake at that time. I love fog. …I’m technically saying I love low clouds.”

Natalie: “You know why I think they give kids summer vacation?”
Mom: “Well, I know why, but you tell me.”
Natalie: “No, you tell me first.”
Mom: “Kids used to have to work on the farm in the summer. People didn’t have babies to go to school and become thinkers. They had them so they could help with the family. The older kids took care of the younger kids, the girls cooked with the mom, and the boys and girls both helped with the crops.”
Natalie: “I feel like they’re trying to torture kids these days with a non-tight schedule.”

Natalie didn’t get her allowance on Friday so she went to Daddy’s wallet for it.
Natalie: “Dad, do you have any three-dollar bills?”
Mom: “No. I’ve told you, there’s no such thing as three-dollar bills.”
Natalie: “There isn’t? You never told me that.”

Natalie doesn’t say things like normal people do. Here are some examples in just a minute.
“Would you seriously want to part me from friends?”
“Mom, can I show you something I’ve been working on, if I can succeed?”
“It makes the good joy come up in my heart.”

“If people were looking at me they’d be laughing. Laughing with hysterickility.”

On exercise: “Good Mom…Do your deeds.”

We have some great products from Rad, and Natalie really enjoyed her first spa night a few days ago with the exfoliating stuff and a good allover body lotioning. Tonight I tried to get Natalie to reciprocate by putting lotion on my newly shaved calves, and I told her it’s what daughters do. It’s what daughters are FOR. “I thought it was to keep race going,” she said. That started a whole conversation about how we evolved to love our children only to keep the human race going, and of the pointlessness of existence. All I wanted was some fucking lotion.

Natalie turns on the light and I tell her to turn it off. I don’t need it for my exercises. “You need to see.” What do I need to see? “Yourself! You don’t want to kick your nose, do you? I bet you don’t.” I get up to type this latest while Natalie begins to yap about her latest misguided theory. She’s now disappointed that I’m not intensely excited by her notion that lollipops must be Australian. “I just like to be, tolerated, you know, with my ideas.” I’m tolerating you, I say. I’m just not that interested in what you were saying. “I wish people were always interested in everything.” (What? I wasn’t listening.)

Natalie: “Why do you like to say curse words?”
Me: “It’s fun.”
Natalie: “Oh. okay.”

Natalie: “I think you should buy red pants.”
Me: “Maybe.”
Natalie: “For any humongous reddish holidays. Like Radish Day.”

We usually do hair at the table while Natalie eats breakfast. She often says “One sec” to ask me to pause so she can drink water without spilling it. Recently I actually honored the request. “Thank you for finally respecting my one secs.” Say it out loud.

“Looks like he speaks English. So do we. It’s no fun.”

“Mom. Today we played a little orphan game of Annie. Do you think this looks orphan enough for the game?”

Me: “…first cousin once removed…”
N: “Heyy! I don’t want to be removed!”

Play date with Aurora:
“Wait. Butts aren’t legally edible.”
Aurora: “What’s your life name? You must have a name for your life.”
Natalie: “I haven’t named my life.”
Aurora: “…Because I’m homeschooled. And my Mom hasn’t teached me everything about French yet.”
“Does anyone here have any questions about me? ‘Cause I could totally answer.”

“Dad is liking his new name: ‘Yes Sire.'”

Me: “What do you mean, ‘Which Boston?'”
Natalie: “Yeah, there are two Bostons. One in New York City. One in New York City and one far away. Very very far away. I remember you told me.”

Natalie: “Mom, what’s two times a hundred?”
Me: “What do you think it is?”
… …crickets… …
Me: “Two times a hundred is two hundreds. What does two hundreds make?”
Natalie: “Seems like five hundred.”
Me: “Five hundred??”
Natalie: “Uhh, I meant four hundred, sorry.”

Downtown Albany, SUNY administration building.
Natalie: “Is that a real castle?”
Mom: “It’s a government building.”
Natalie: “Geez! Government is fancy!”

“Exploderneration. It means the art of exploding.”

Natalie says she doesn’t like science, but she has enjoyed this last camp session’s work on Rocks and Minerals. She explains: “By ‘science’ I mean like bubbly experiments and measuring the difference between two thousand billion times square three. I don’t like that kind of science.”

Natalie is typing up a thing about which president she’d most like to meet. She won’t say why yet. Her choice is Ronald Reagan because he liked jelly beans and he was in theater and it sounds like he was a funny guy. Stick a fork in me. I’m not dying inside; we are way past that. In lieu of flowers, please give to an ultra-progressive charity in my name.

A woman on The People’s Court just said she felt lied to and taken advantage of. “Just like Cindy with my hair!”

Q: What is the most fuzzy animal in the world?
A: A hare.

“Why are you smiling? Why do you have a twinkle in your adorable eye?”

“How long ago have you been married?”

Natalie makes me guess what colors she’s painting on my toenails. “Hm, good guesses. Very good. Very good. I tolerate those.”

“Your toes are adorable, Mommy. You might even craze over them.”

“Perry’s more of a relaxiver.”

“Next time I say that sentence, I would rather you didn’t interrupt. Okay.”

We adopted a new dog. “I think that Cookie just wants to get lots of acquaintance with the bird, but I don’t know if she should.”

Natalie’s pissed. “Why do people litter? It’s a ‘no reason’ thing.”

Me: “I went to Hillcrest High School.”
Natalie: “Did you learn about crescents? Or hills?”
Me: “No.”
Natalie: “What about elementary?”
Me: “I went to P.S. 150. Public School 150.”
Natalie: “Gee, I hate that name.”

“What’s something you like…that’s age-appropriate, not like popping pimples?”

“I don’t see how flies are helpful. Except to spiders. And I don’t see how spiders are helpful.”

Mom: “We were admiring the sky out front…”
Natalie: “I wasn’t.”

I was trying to mimic someone’s English accent. “It’s culture, Mom. Leave the British alone.”

Trying to keep the dining room table clear of Stuff. I direct Natalie to remove three items from among her growing clutter pile and remind her that she was the one who had wisely noticed the regrowth this time a couple of days ago. Then I decide the rest of the pile has to go. “Mom, can I tell you something?” I coincidentally start choking and coughing on some coffee. “I’ll take that as a yes, um…I don’t tolerate this at all. First you said three, now you say all. It’s not fair.”

“Daddy,” she says, stroking, “your head is so vast.”

“Can I just pick my outfit out first? I express myself with clothing a lot of the time.”

“I didn’t raise my daughter to be afraid of zombie pigmen.”
Pretty high on the list of utterances I never thought I’d hear in my house.
It’s a Minecraft thing.

July 4: “Do they even do radio stations on holidays?”

Q: From whom did we fight for our independence?
A: Um, the Russians, I’m pretty sure? Or Germans. Something like that.

“Wasn’t today the day the we made the flag, or something?” The Declaration of Independence? “Declaration! I thought it was a flag, for some reason. Well, it does look like a flag. Scrolls look like flags, for some reason.”

Cindy’s semi-thawed frozen green figs were too cold for the delicate flower’s mouth. And they were TOO sugary. They needed to be cut smaller. They’re still not small enough.
Mom: “You don’t care about the baby.”
Cindy: “I don’t think she’s having any more.”
Natalie: “Cindy…”
Cindy: “Yeah?”
Natalie: “You speak the truth.”

Natalie just told Cindy where it’s at on the Perry issue: “You know, he doesn’t need all that pity.”

Sarabella Pizza: Closed.
Sweet Willy’s Pizza: Closed.
Fine, I said. No pizza, we’ll go to Plan B.
Kurver Kreme: Closed.
Frank’s: OPEN!
Nothing like ice cream for 4th of July dinner.

“I’m going to bring rollerblades out. Because that’s my nature. It’s my nature to rollerblade. And rollerskate.”

We’re headed out to the new ramen place at the former Miss Albany Diner.
Natalie: “What do raymens, or rahmens, usually wear?”
Dad: “They’re not people, they’re noodles.”
Natalie: “I thought a ramen was a kind of person.”

I enjoyed this little convo after Natalie practiced “Duet in A Minor” on a very slightly out-of-tune guitar.
Mom: “Nice.”
Natalie: “Thanks.”
Mom: “Yeah, except for–”
Dad: “Right.”
Natalie: “True.”

Natalie has Drama Kids/Kidz Art this week, and she’s thrilled that little Tessa will be there for their Anti-Bullying Club. “Who else? ‘Cuz there are a lot of camp usuals who come almost all the time.” Gregory won’t be there, unfortunately. Kids made fun of him for liking Natalie’s fashion design book. But, happily, Emily (the bully indirectly responsible for the club creation) is not on the attendee list! “All I know is that she likes to destroy my happy feelings.” She sings the chicken song right in Natalie’s face. Literally in her face.

I invite my daughter to do mutual foot spas.
Me: “We should do this much more often. Once a week, at least. When people’s feet are relaxed, they are relaxed!”
Her: “Really? Science has figured out?”

“Sometimes I wish we had one of those humongous bathrooms. Not as cooped in.”

We’re playing Mama Angela’s Picnic and Natalie is quite frustrated. My rule is “Things That Start With The Letter S” and she’s not getting it. “Oh my god,” she says in annoyance, “is it things with three particles?!”

Me: “If you’re still hungry when you’re done, there’s more tortellini.”
Natalie: “Tortawhatwhat?”

It’s bedtime. Kid’s in the bathroom.
Me: “Finish up soon, my dear.”
Natalie: “Oh don’t worry. I did finish up.”

We’re iron-straightening the curls for the drama camp recording today. The theme is Twisted Fairy Tale. “Bangs, bangs, bangs! Bangs are the tough part of life.”…”I’m grateful you have makeup drawer. I would never have sparkle on my face. …So much sparkle!!”

“Is lice a symptom, or a chance? Chance or symptom?”

Natalie interrupts while Daddy is on the phone with his old comedy partner.
Dad: “I’m talking to my best friend.”
Mom: “I thought I was your best friend.”
Natalie: “You’re married. You’re not best friends.”

“That’s not comforting. I don’t like being faced to a naked mom. I don’t like it.”

“YOU’RE CREEPY! You look terrible. I don’t like you any more!” She says that each time she sees me in the yearbook Arista group photo.

“I love the smell of your hair. It’s so boingy. Wait. What? I love the smell of your hair, it’s so boingy? You have to write that down. You better write that down. I love the smell of your hair. It’s so boingy.”

“Why does this family have to be so gross?”

I rag on my kid for her terrible spelling and math and tween attitude, but it’s time for a little brag. At the end of the Drama Kids/Kidz Art camp this week, an art teacher told us Natalie is the best kid in the world, a peacemaker who radiates Calm. Another teacher said Natalie should have her own room. (I don’t really know what that means, but the teacher was glowing and smiling as she spoke.) And a camper – who drove Natalie nuts by always asking her opinion and talking nonstop about her own sparkly sequin costume – said: “Is that your parents? Hi. I’m Anne Marie, Natalie’s best friend.” I said: “Hi, I’m Natalie’s best Mom, and this is her best Dad.” Natalie hates this story. Anyway’m just so grateful that my kid leaves any awfulness at home and is such a pleasure to nearly everyone in any other setting.

Mom: “I want to hire someone to bring wild rescued animals to a small party. Like maybe sloths and monkeys. If it was a fun party for me, it’d be huge snakes and iguanas.”
Natalie: “Would you make me hold one?”
Mom: “Yes. Haha…no.”

“Mom! How do you like my new necklace? I bought it on Amazon. Prime.” It’s the Boppy, the nursing pillow I used which she insists on keeping.

In the morning, Daddy suggested that maybe Natalie and Skyler would be allowed to use the 3Doodler during their play date. “No way,” she said. “Skyler is lot more adventurous than I am. I wouldn’t be comfortable using the 3Doodler without your superguidance.”

“Can you lift my hair out of the towel please? Or take the honor to do it?”

Girl is out of the tub. I sniff her. “Do I smell okay?” Yes, I tell her. You smell clean. “Good. That’s the thing I’m going for.”

The touch, the feel of baby powder. “Ahh. Now I feel smooth. And ready for a new day. …Which is tomorrow.”

“Yeah. I only believe it unless it’s proof.” I love that sentence.

“Why do parents have to be so into law!! It’s…it’s annoying for the kids.” Into what now? “Law, and government and things like that. It’s so annoying for kids to be hearing Obama’s speeches every day!”

“They fluffed up the binglebuppers.”

“I wouldn’t be able to rest until I knew you were okay. Like, I normally can’t fall asleep until after 12, and if you weren’t okay, I wouldn’t fall asleep until 7. Literally rest.”

We were picking up my father at the bus station. I came out to the car and Natalie stood outside with her forehead on the side window. She said it was locked. I reminded her that I’d already I told her it would be locked. And she said: “Well, it’s been a long time since that. And I’ve lived a million seconds. My mind is going.”

“I’m gonna tape it to my door. Mom, isn’t this D amazing? That’s my best uppercase D in all my life.” (Susan K sez: Ahahaha. Nats is the best. She just is.)

Q: Where was golf invented?
A: I have no idea, but it was in a FORE in country.

To Grandpa Micky: “I know what you’re thinking: ‘Granddaughter, what ARE you doing?'”

Dad made cookies for me to take to my orthodontist.
Natalie: “Ooh. Can I try one?”
Mom: “No. They’re for–”
Natalie: “You’re gonna have one.”
Mom: “No. I’m not eating those right now.”
Natalie: “You’ll be tempted.”
Mom: “No I…probably.”
Natalie: “Half?”
Mom: “Nn–I’ll think about it. And if you ask again, it’s definitely No.”
Natalie: “Can I NOT have one?”
Mom: “Clever.”

Natalie taught Sara a new word today when she let Sara win at a game, because it’s much worse if they lose. “And I gave her a little speech about what ‘admit’ means.”

OMG. Finally, finally I think I can log a definitive check mark in the Win column. I just overheard Natalie singing “The Hammer” from Matilda, very much like evil Trunchbull would sing it. All she needs is to learn the rest of the lyrics. kvell, kvell, kvell

“What color is your real hair, anyway?”

I turned off the dining room light because Natalie agreed to join me on the back porch to eat dinner. “Well, I’m still in here. And I’m just gonna wait a few minutes and get used to my meal.”

Quote of the Week came after Natalie asked “What’s a gop?” It’s the G-O-P, I said. I explained what it stands for and that it’s another term for Republicans. We don’t much like the Democrats, I said, and the Republicans are even worse. Blech. Natalie agreed: she doesn’t like politics either. I reminded Natalie that Republicans are usually the ones who care about whether women have a baby in the tummy, and whether gay people can marry, and other stuff that’s non of their business. And then she asked me: “But what if you met someone in the Republic you actually liked? Would you call them gross?”

I overheard Natalie singing to herself: “…lovers dismayed…” She claims to have made it up. And she said she has no idea what it means.

Natalie says maybe she’ll be interested in the news when she’s 73. “I’m only being truthful.”

Sitting here, astounded that my nefarious clean-up scheme is working on an almost 10-year-old. All tasks must be performed using a specific coupled behavior, like: “Take these two things to your room, hopping on one foot all the way.” and “Pick up anything in this area that is garbage, while randomly saying BLAP. BLAP.” It’s freaking WORKING. Working, I tell you.

Natalie: “It’s the worst ever, isn’t it.”
Mom: “Well, allergies are annoying, but there’s definitely worse.”
Natalie: “I know. It’s a figure-of-speech kind of worst.”

I’ve been singing “Ben” to Natalie since she was an infant. She knows the song. She sang it tonight as a clean-up tactic. And now wants to know what a ben is. What’s a ben friend? Um, it’s a name. You didn’t know that? All this time? “No. All this time I didn’t know what was going on. With the friend name.”

We’re being jokey and lovey, and then I told Natalie she’d have to clean her room after camp today. Her face fell. “You made me lose hope in the day.”

Q: What does a bird use to heat up its food?
A: A mi-CROW-wave.
Mom: “Ugh. All right. I’ll publish it.”
Natalie: “Heeheeheehee”

Natalie got Thinking Putty stuck in her hair. This was our conversation as I worked on it.
Natalie: “Do you mind if I say a curse word?”
Me: “No. Go right ahead.”
Natalie: “Shit.”
Me: “There’s nothing wrong with saying that. The only thing that would be wrong is saying those words somewhere you shouldn’t, like at school, or using them against someone.”
Natalie: “Am I allowed to think curse words at school?”
Me: “Yes, of course. Doesn’t it feel good? You can say it again if you like.”
Natalie: “Shit shit shit shit shit. …Poppy poopy bitch. I guess it is a little calming. I’ll agree with you.”

Big day: Natalie swam underwater with eyes open behind goggles. Why did she finally decide to do it? Because she saw a seven-year-old girl doing it. Ah, the power of (younger) peer pressure: bringing healthy shame to a child near you, and accomplishing what no adult tactics ever could.

Natalie sees me eating fiber gummy supplements. “To get extra fiber, why don’t you eat some paper?” It’s as good an idea as any.

We finally have a pain and swelling diagnosis: Grandma Dotty’s got a fracture somewhere in her ankle region. “Can we give her some sympathy?”

Natalie gave me a wonderful hug on my return home from work, and she topped it off with some delicious icing: “Did you lose weight last night? …Wow. I can really put my arms with extra around you.”

Our friends visited last night with three of their four boys. They come through here every year on their way to Canada and spend a few hours playing upstairs and catching up. Their youngest is Natalie’s age. This morning I asked Natalie if she had a good time with Jonny. My brilliant girl’s response: “Which was Jonny?”

Natalie says it feels like a Mommy-Daughter day. Dad suggests Flight Trampoline, or the pool at Ciccotti Center. Natalie wants to go to “Painting Pottery” (The Pottery Place). We have many useless items from there. Dad said it’s expensive. “But it’s nice. And I’ve been asking all week.” BAHAHAHAHAHAHA, thanks for the loff.

Natalie saw Donald Trump on Daddy’s computer. I don’t know what pic she saw, but I heard her saying “Ew! Gross!”

“I miss school.” I got it on record.
“I don’t like summer vacation.”
“No. I hate summer. For some reason.”

I hear the sounds from the bathroom. The buzzing toothbrush…the little girl’s voice telling the ants to leave the bathroom and go back home…

“You know what would be amazing? A black woman being president. Because, you know, women haven’t had much right with the president stuff, and, you know, black haven’t had much right. So that would be amazing.”

“I’m sorry if I come in at 4 o’clock in the morning.” You’re sorry in advance? “I don’t wanna be sorry in the morning. I’m sorry right now in case.”

The camera in the bathroom: “It was a present from Cindy. When I was less then zero years old. When I was probably, um, negative 15 years old.”

Mom: “You are like ice cream to me.”
Natalie: “What if it’s an expired flavor?”

Natalie just swallowed (cut) Benadryl tablets for the first time a couple of nights ago. Lots of drama before, during, and after, but they went down with no physical trouble. “By the first one, I knew, it was my pet peeve.”

Daddy’s making a pot of coffee. I note that I was going to do that. He said he did it. I said it’s not going to make itself. (This is how conversations go here.) “Good old man,” added Natalie. “Works like a charm. Works like a Charm Inc.” That’s not where I expected it to go.

“What is Papa New Geewah, a Spanish-speaking country?”

“Ooh, you called me Natalie, not Cindy!” I do call her Cindy by accident. A lot.

We might go to Adirondack Animal Land this weekend. “Woo hoo! I better pack up my money.”

Natalie won’t get off Daddy’s lap, and she wants a pony ride.
“Well, I’m stuck here for the rest of my life. So that’s a treat.”

On Skyler: “She always understands me, but what’s the long word for that? Understanding! She’s very understanding of me.”

“Well, it enjoys me to talk about Minecraft sometimes.”

Natalie: “Why are there no books on taking care of children?”
Kiera: “The same reason there are no gun owners in America.”

Mom: “The variety in nature is amazing.”
Natalie: “I know. I’m kind of surprised. I think everyone else is too.”

Dad made a joke.
Mom: “Yeah, that’s funny.”
Natalie: “-ish.”

Girl is reading trivia in Nat Geo Kids. The brain structure changes every time you learn something. “Your brain is probably huge!” she says. “Gettin’ outta college, people’s brains must be 25 miles long!” Um–college doesn’t really make most people smart like that. “It doesn’t? Wow.”

Q: If dairy was alive, where would it live?
A: In a cottage cheese.

Who will be Natalie’s roommate at Nature’s Classroom this week? “They haven’t said yet, but it’s quite sure that I’ll be with Skyler, because it’s known that Cindy pairs girls with their friends and boys with their enemies.”

“Red jacket. I need red jacket. It’s working best these days.” Where did Spring go?

June 1 – Natalie’s leaving tomorrow morning for Nature’s Classroom, and she won’t be back until Thursday. There has been a flurry of packing and repacking and repacking. She prepared a backpack weeks ago, but the wheeled luggage is now in service. And she has instructions for me: “Don’t redo my room while I’m gone. Unless you were planning to.” She thinks she’ll have eggs and toast for breakfast, maybe some fries… “…Maybe have some fruit salad, and then the normal, typical dinner!”

Dad’s being feather-dusted with a fake flower. “I want you in tip-top shape.” Christ. “His head picks up a lot of dirt because he has a sweaty, sticky head.”

“I’m going to get ready for bed. So if anyone wants to read, I’m open. Reading, anybody? I’ll get a book.”

When the van came, she hugged me and said she’d miss me. “I’ll be hours away, but I’ll always remember.”

OMG, she won’t be back until Thursday afternoon! Before she left, I said this was a major thing for me to accept, because I wouldn’t be there for all the photo ops. Natalie’s grateful: “You’d ask the group to go ahead and have me lean against a tree.” She also clarified that they don’t serve french fries for breakfast: “They do homefries, which is different. They’re not as fry-ey.” I confirmed – no swimsuits? There’s no swimming? “No one wants to drown in Lake George.” She wants to know how deep the lake is at its deepest. Daddy guesses 23 feet. “Hm. I’d sink and die.” We’re totally freaked out. Daddy: “She doesn’t care that she’s killing us.” Kiera said she’s waiting for me to go into withdrawal and start posting pictures of Daddy leaning against trees. On the second day without her, Daddy said: “11:12…What time do you think it is in Lake George?”

She came back!! Natalie says the breakfast food at Nature’s Classroom was amazing. I asked if she tried bacon. She shook her head. “Mm-mm. Bacon is taking over the world and I don’t like it.”

Natalie wonders which company is the most popular kid book reviewer. “My guess is Kirkus Reviews.”

Natalie now knows Gordon Ramsay’s middle name: James. “Yeah! I’m the smartest person ever.” Alternating fist pumps. We mentions that he was born in 1966. “Mom! You should go out on a date with him. You guys both say swear words.” She’s too busy to keep putting bok choy and tofu in her face. “I’m talking about chef-ing.” And: “He’s nasty, yet a teeny bit handsome.”

Daddy: “Are you going to get into pajamas?”
Natalie: “Maybe. Depending on the person.”
Aaand nothing has changed.

Natalie’s favorite counselor at Nature’s Classroom was Melissa, aka Yogi. “She was nice and pretty and understanding and question-answering. I asked the most questions out of anybody. I probably asked a question every two to three minutes.”

“I touched Lake George and it lit up my life.” Daddy was touched by this, but Natalie clarified that it didn’t light up her whole life. Just for a week.

I drew some info out of the girl about the Nature’s Classroom experience.

I learned about how the kids shared the ILAC (I am Loving and Caring) beads on Natalie’s new little hempy-looking bracelet.

I learned about ORT, which refers to garbage. Someone would scrape all the food waste off the plates after every meal, and weigh it. At the end of the camp, 200 students had only generated 8 pounds of ORT from their meals. The kids didn’t clap for themselves – they waved their hands in the air. That’s what you do at Nature’s Classroom.

I learned that Natalie took a class called Freaks of Nature, but she wishes she’d taken Dung, because those kids got brownies. (Ew!) I pointed out that she gets plenty of brownies and many more homemade treats than most kids because of who her dad is. And she said, dreamily: “And he’s handsome.” Yes he is.

(Sigh) I wish I was Charles Schulz. But without the–colon cancer. I wish I was Charles Schulz. I’d just make two changes. No colon cancer, and a girl. So maybe I’d be Charlie Schulz. But I’d still want to be in the family.”

“Yay, Peanuts Band-Aids! Luckily, I need a Band-Aid right now!”

June 6: Took the girl to NYC to meet her second cousin from Arizona. Natalie saw her first Broadway show, Matilda. It was pretty awesome. Tim Minchin’s lyrics are super-clever. It’s scary to think of how many things could go wrong with so much happening technically and so many short underage proto-humans dancing and singing; and so few things did. It was so much fun, in fact, that I’m disinclined to focus on the young star’s weird take on a British accent. My one criticism is that the Shubert Theatre must have some kind of HVAC problem, some inability to manage errant dust particles, because at the end of the show I experienced some ocular moisture which I can only attribute to some foreign body. Weird. After the show, we ate at Sardi’s right across the street. Daddy has a very old Sardi’s cookbook, and back home he showed Natalie how a crabmeat cocktail would cost $1.75 and milk cost 40 cents. Natalie was impressed. “I wish it was more like it these days. It would be easier living for the poor.” Sardi’s Appetizers For All!

Best Prophylactic Pancake-Covering Excuse:
“I’m mostly putting maple syrup on to cool it off.”

Natalie is schooling Daddy in how to play the recorder. “This is what it would sound like with a professional.”
“You’re on your way to professionistaling.”

Natalie, hovering hear the bird cage: “Where’s Riley?”
Mom: “On the porch.”
Natalie: “Okay then. Now I can pass with ease.”

On Perry’s dinner: “Maybe if he eats more of these, he’ll be even more entranced to eat.”
“When you have too much fear, you’re stupid. That’s literally a fact.” Uh…no, and no.
Anomotis phlosiforeis: A disease of Natalie’s guitar so that it can never be tuned again.
It’s later than the usual bedtime. Natalie goes into her room instead of nighttime reading with Dad.
Mom: “You’re not going to read with Daddy?”
Daddy: “I want her to get more sleep than she did last night.”
Natalie: “I wish I could, but Dad’s the man of the house.”
“I bet she likes being carried. That way he doesn’t need to climb.”
Natalie intends to make Sam (Cindy’s nephew with autism) something special with shiny hubcap designs. And she says if she ever becomes rich as a kid, and still knows Sam or keeps hearing about him, she’ll buy him a ticket to see a hubcap factory. And she hopes they’ll give him a paper hubcap or even a sample test hubcap, because it’ll make him happy. And then she asked what he learns in school – like is it spray-painting hubcaps? Natalie asked Daddy a couple of days ago how much it cost to make one of those home-designed calendars (like the ones Cindy makes each year). He told her he didn’t think it was very expensive, and asked her if she wanted to make one. “Yes, I want to make one that’s JUST pictures of hubcaps for Cindy’s nephew, every month is a new hubcap and we can just take the pictures when we’re going by a car store or something.”
Natalie doesn’t want cheese in her lunch. It gets sweaty if it sits out. “I’m more of a home smoked gouda person.”
Daddy sez: “Why can’t you be more disease-positive?”
I removed a young robin from our porch this morning. Its parents were beside themselves, screaming and calling out, and there was plenty of noise out there even after they got her back. “Chirping and saying congrats on your homecoming.”
Daddy: “I thought you said you weren’t hungry.”
Natalie: “Well, Parmesan always gets me hooked.”
Last day of fourth grade. Natalie is shaping up to be a creative, compassionate, charismatic human. The other day at school, an administrator overheard Natalie saying she wished she could get her music teacher a new guitar, and remarked to Josh on how sweet Natalie is. Another staffer heard this and came over to say that Natalie is one of the sweetest students in the whole school. I’ll take that.
Natalie’s putting on some nude socks of mine. “Ooh, they’re fuzzy inside. And that is a truthful story.”
June 12: I took a Daddy-Daughter pic on this last morning of fourth grade. “Scientists have figured out, somehow, they have a special relationship. And sons to moms do.”
Rain and wind and lightning and thunder!
“Mom, Dad. I need help putting on this dress.” Why?
“So if the house explodes, I still have this dress.”
She quickly changed into another getup. It involved a tutu.
“And then, can someone help me make my ice, and particularly a man.”
We saw some Jesus people at the Pride Parade, and I think I heard a marcher shout: “Gay Jesus loves you!” The voice came from close by. I think it was mine.
At the Wolf Road Diner – closing forever in a week – Daddy and Natalie saw about a dozen men in their seventies, wearing VFW shirts with their rank and insignia. Natalie immediately recognized the decor. “I bet they were part of the Gay Pride Parade.”
Natalie just taught me how to say “family tree” in sign language. “Just in case you meet someone who can’t talk, but wants to ask what your family tree is, you’ll know what they’re saying.” Finally I won’t be mortified in those situations.
“Mom, can you look up something after you type? Is there anything such thing as the super-silent keyboard?” I’m a keyboard banger, it’s true.
Natalie’s done getting hugs from her father: “Dad, I can I read? It’s my joy to life. Not as much enjoyment as being with you, but it’s my joy to life.”
“Also, Mom? Figs: Nowhere to be in sight.”
Non-sequitur of the Day:
“Speaking of fish, Daddy, can I please have some oyster crackers?”
“What an interesting aquadadence.”
“If only everyone speaked English.” Sans irony.
Natalie alerted me to her belief that highway exit signs such as “I-90” and “Route 85” are known as POLITICAL STATIONS, because that’s just what they seem like.
Natalie doesn’t see a need to learn math, despite my assertion that fashion designers need to be able to measure things. She said she’s not going to design that kind of complicated clothing. “I’ve already told you, Mom! I’m going to design shirts, shorts, pants. Normal Target-buyable stuff.”
Mom: “Who has a better wink? Daddy? He does have a better wink, doesn’t he.”
Natalie: “Yeah. Sorry. But yours is very good for commercials.”

“If it’s called poster board, why is it all flopsy-wopsy?”

“Games can be pretty detailed nowadays.”

“Cartooning is the secret to my life.”

On helping the homeless: “Yeah. Giving people food in case they start to starve.”

On Billy Fucillo: “Well, I’m never going to buy a car from him, because he’s the most annoying person ever – other than Dad when he’s upset and Mom when you’re angry.”

On a lit billboard: “Why is it blankish green?”

To Perry: “You’re so cute. You’re like a little baby unicorn, on my opinion.”

Daddy just got out of the shower and I thought I’d suggest the same activity to Natalie. “Yes, please. Promise there’s no Daddy sweat in it?”

Grandma Dotty called to congratulate the star whose name appeared several times in the newspaper.
Mom: “What did Grandma say?”
Natalie: “Well, um…a lot.”

Mom: “Time for guitar.”
Natalie: “I already did guitar.”
Mom: “Well, will you play something for me? Because I need some beauty.”
Natalie: “You’re already beautiful.”
Ooh. Well played.

We went to a matinee of Inside Out and noted that when we were young, we didn’t have to sit through commercials, only previews. Natalie was shocked. “They had theaters when you were young??”

“I’m just glad I’m finally getting a positive note.”

Why does Natalie love Estonia so much? Just because of the medieval fair? Lots of cities have medieval fairs. “So much medievalness.”

Q: What’s a skeleton’s favorite element in the Periodic Table?
A: Skullphur. (I just report them, people.)

WHMS day camp: “A new girl, named Devorah. It’s either Devorah, or Denise.”

On my dental crowns: “So many gold! You struck rich.”

“You know, waving. It’s like a sign of good luck, but without the luck.”

Mom: “How, Natalie. How!”
Natalie: “How do I what? Draw so well? Color?”
Mom: “How do you stay so sweet?”
Natalie: “I dunno. Genes? Literally. I’m gonna wear jeans tomorrow probably.”

And, in the Misguided Princess Department…
Mom: “We shouldn’t be getting comfortable. We should be getting up.”
Natalie: “We’re supposed to be comfortable in our lives at all times. Now please scooch over.”

Daddy says the bird, Riley, was very bitey yesterday. She’s on my cycle, I note. Ha! So funny. Natalie hears that and wonders if Riley will have a baby. I tell her Riley needs a male bird to make babies with her — Cells split and make copies of themselves, but most species need both sexes for that. They don’t split. “Unless someone chops them up with a sword. …It’s a joke, Mom!” Time for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice again.

Mom: “Kathy has been out of the office a lot lately, managing Bill’s diagnosis.”
Natalie: “What’s a diagnosis? And what’s managing bills?”
Mom: “Diagnosis is finding out what’s wrong. They don’t have a problem paying the bills; X’s husband Bill has cancer and they’re dealing with his appointments and testing and figuring out what to do and how he’ll get treatment.”
Natalie: “You’re scaring me for later life.”
Mom: “Life does come with uncertainties, but in our family, we are very healthy…”
Natalie: “And quite safe?
Mom: “And quite safe.”

Natalie is beside herself with her new in-line skates. “They’re here they’re here they’re here! …What’s this for? It’s just…randomy.”

Daddy, joking about The Peanuts movie and our Peanuts uberfan: “Oh. I didn’t know you’re planning to see that movie.”
Mom: “You mean, planning on seeing it every week.”
Natalie: “Yeah. Yeah, I’m planning on seeing it every week. We’re gonna have to, to keep me happy.”

Also, the latest installment of the complete comic collection just arrived – they only publish two each year – and between that and the new roller blades, the girl is in heaven.

GAY MARRIAGE IS LEGAL!!! “Today should be known as a holiday. Agreed?”

Daddy’s Baked Alaska’s meringue is too rich for Natalie. Too foamy. “Which makes me don’t feel as good.”

“You messed your fate.”

We’re re-watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson hosting Cosmos. “It would have been funny if, while they were shoting it, someone came up to him and said, I want your autograph!” And: “I’m glad I didn’t live then, but sometimes I’m not glad I didn’t live then. So many medievaly things.” Natalie says if you really think hard about it, there’s no such thing as time. I told her to explore that, write about it. She doesn’t seem interested. She just likes making profound pronouncements. And then: “Mom, I have a question. How can scientists know about billions and billions and billions of years into the past, but we don’t even know a thing about a week into the future?”

I explained that at an atomic level, nothing is the same. All the particles are doing their own thing and not in the same comparable place at the same time. “How is nothing the same? Nothing on Earth is the same. How is that? How is that possible?”

Rainier cherries! You want this last one? “You take the honor.”

Q: What did the Mom fleck of dust say to the baby speck of dust?
A: You’re perfleck!

Natalie wants to know why I don’t also go to take down the bad flag, like Bree Newsome did.
Mom: “I don’t need to go to South Carolina. We all help the country in our own way. I have work to do here.”
Natalie: “How do I help the country?”
Mom: “By becoming a good person who will do great things for the world.”
Natalie: “And how will I do that?”
Mom: “By making art and sharing love.”
Natalie: “Mm. And putting Charles Schulz back in his spot.”
Mom: “And what is his spot?”
Natalie: “Of fame. I’m getting him back his spot of fame.”

Natalie entered full-bore Tweenhood on June 28. She was reading in our bed with Daddy one morning and when I got out of the shower, she still hadn’t put her glasses on. I told her to do so. She said she’d do it in five minutes. I said no, it had been about an hour and she must wear her glasses like the eye doctor told her the week prior, so she needed to put them on, now. She said: “I said–I’ll do it–in FIVE MINUTES.” Oh, it’s on, I said. Bring it. There will be consequences. “What consequences?” Well, no Minecraft all day, for starters, I said. “I wasn’t planning to play Minecraft today anyway,” she lied. She still hadn’t gotten her glasses after several angrier-each-time prompts. Natalie received another consequence. She can’t use her new rollerblades
Natalie: “Do you mean no Rollerama, or no getting in rollerblades all day?”
Mom: “No getting in rollerblades all day.”
Natalie: “Am I allowed to accidentally touch them?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Natalie: “Okay…what if I accidentally touch the inside with my feet?…and unintentionally roll down the driveway?”
I am SO glad she couldn’t see my face during this exchange.

“Mom, my birthday has been fully decided. It will not change.” Every year presents an opportunity for several venue and theme changes. “I’m having a paper-making party.” Ah. “Yes. I’ve been inspired by my teacher, Mary.”

Me: “I think it’ll be a full moon tomorrow.”
Natalie: “I like full moonerings.”

“I’m thinking that if I have to get married, I’ll marry either a man with a beard – most men with beards are kind – or a beautiful woman who is nice.”

Natalie wouldn’t mind chopping off my belly – what’s left of it – to use as a blanket. “That’d be a very nice feeling for me. But bad for you. You’d be dead.” (You think it’s disturbing to YOU? Try being the lady I told at work in the hall, who has no context and has never heard a Natalieism. I’m pretty sure she went right to Lizzie Borden.)

“I think Perry has been possessed with cuteness.”

We’re watching an old episode of Gravity Falls. Natalie remarks on how weird it is to think about time travel. She thinks it’s harder to imagine the possibility of going back in time, versus the future.
Mom: “But get this. Some Big Thinkers have said that we do travel back in time, all the time. In our memories.”
Natalie: “True. Very true. …Instead of an artist, I want to be a Big Thinker when I grow up.”
Mom: “Okay.”
Natalie: “Wait–do people get paid to be Big Thinkers?”
Mom: “Uh–well–”
Natalie: “Oh darn.”

“I wish I believed in a god, but I don’t want to believe in a god. You know why? I wish I could pray for the bus to not play radio stations.” Her new van driver plays the hits about romance and breakups.

“I don’t like how people are taking over the planet. I want dogs to be the one. Or two or three or four or five or six. I don’t like how people are trying to be the captains of the solar system.”

“Take a picture of me. I want to be memoried.”

Natalie took a pic of me and I got it ready to use on Facebook. “I took that picture. And you’re editing it. That means you love it!!!”

Dad: “Leave Mommy alone. She’s got a new camera!”
Natalie: “And what does that mean to my life?”

“Hmm. Interestings.”

Natalie spent a night at Kayla’s. The next, Liesl was here for a sleepover and I took them to meet Cindy at Favorite Diner.
Me: “We’ll leave in a few minutes.”
Natalie: “We’re actually making something right now, so leave us, I don’t know, at LEAST seven minutes.”

I wish I’d been recording the convo in the car between Natalie and Liesl. Natalie hates commercials and proceeded to tell Liesl one of her most hated ones is the Geico commercial. They tell you that in 15 minutes you could save 15% on your car insurance, and they try to tell funny jokes, but they’re really boring adult jokes. And she hates the screaming car ads, and all but one of them screams. She put her hands over her ears to imitate Billy Fucillo: “HYOOOOO-juh!!!

Liesl wants a Prius but she needs a big car because she’s having four or five kids. Natalie wants an old-fashioned Ford because they don’t scream, but she’s going to ask them to do things to it to make it futurey. And she says she knows it will cost a lot, but she’s going to be a fashion designer and she’ll make lots of money doing that.

And she’ll make money modeling. Natalie’s going to be a model (if that agent ever gets back to us), and Natalie says she’ll get a hundred dollars each time she models. Liesl wonders if she would be accepted as a model. Natalie assures Liesl that she would. “You’re beautiful, you’re kind, and very fashionable.”


More from the play date…something about My Fair Lady since she’s playing it on the guitar…”Right? Mostly ladies are fair. Except for the bully ladies.”

On Perry: “He’s ungrateful. I’m just gonna say it. He’s an ungrateful jerk. They say rescues are grateful. They’re not.” She got all that from me.

“I don’t know why, but I’m just making you an ‘I Heart Octopi’ poster.” Liesl helped her spell Octopi, and she still got it wrong. I didn’t hear Liesl point it out. Good for her. “This is going to be a very special poster, because I’m going to use my exact handwriting, and my exact handwriting can be very special. That’s my exact handwriting. My true signature.”

Liesl’s making something for Natalie that says music touches my soul soul. “I get it. That’s adorable.”

“I have only one allergy. Well, one or two allergies. Literally and technically two allergies. My motto is literally and technically. Or literally slash technically. Sometimes I say literally hashtag technically.”

Liesl: “Cindy’s nice.”
Natalie: “She is. She’s cautionary. She’s really cautionary.”

Cindy sez: “That’s Natalie talk for Cindy’s the best, what would I do without her?”

A snippet…
Natalie: “It’s so…”
Liesl: “Irritating.”
Natalie: “Yes. That’s the word. Irritating.”

Mom: “I wouldn’t wear white socks with white shoes and that white dress. I recommend bare feet.”
Natalie: “They’re *clean* white socks.”
Mom: “You do what you want if you don’t care about fashion, and that’s fine. But I’m just saying that white socks with fancy white shoes and a fancy dress is going to be a big lift as a fashion designer. And it isn’t going to get you into fashion design school.”
Natalie: “I’m not going to wear it there.”
Mom: “I mean as a design, in your portfolio to try to get in to a school.”
Natalie: “I’m not going to design those kind of styles. I’m just going to design some of those relaxive, I’m Gonna Relax On the Couch kind of styles.”

Always aim high, honey. Target, not K-Mart. Well, it didn’t work out as I’d planned. (Does it ever?) The white dress came off, a very classy black-white-gray blocks sheath dress went on, with dark silver sequin boots. All fine until I realized that covering the legs were some well-loved jeggings with an obvious rrrip over one knee.

We educated the child on the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. My parents live in a rent-controlled place near Queens Boulevard, in fact. “I think people should pay only a hundred dollars for rent. Every apartment I’ve been to was grubby and ucky and I don’t want to live there.”

Mom: “God it’s hot in this car.”
Dad: “Mom’s wearing a long-sleeve shirt.”
Natalie: “Mom, I’m wearing a barely-sleeve shirt.”

“I’m going to tell a joke. It’s a word pun, so beware. Most of my jokes are word puns. How do the elements in the periodic table go places? CARbon.” Many groans. “Dad, now it’s your turn to come up with a pun. They usually just come up in my mind. It might be tougher for you.”

“Grapes are good with anything, except the things that aren’t good.”

Natalie tells Aunt Ellen that her favorite subject is Geometry. The shapes calm her down. “We used to have this thing called Geometry Fridays. And we’re still sort of doing it, but our teacher’s been getting off-track about it.” Trish sez: “Ask her to circle back around”

Natalie: “Mommy, aren’t you cute?”
Mom: “Uh, yes?”
Natalie: “You are. Very good trivia. Saying you are is technically trivia. It is technically trivia. Technically trivia. Technically trivia. Technically trivia.”

Word definitions: Courageous, Hero. “I think you’re a hero for making me. I like myself. I just hope other people do too.”

Natalie: “I’m going to have something from over here. I’m not in the mood exactly for ice cream.”
Mom: “I don’t understand.”
Natalie: “Well I don’t either.”

We’re going out for new sneakers.
Mom: “I’m not quite ready. I’m going to go to the bathroom first.”
Natalie: “I’m almost ready.” She looks up. “And wear your pants, and maybe a better shirt.”

Natalie saw a horrible pic on my Facebook page, of a doll’s head attached to multiple arms and legs, like a centipede.
Natalie: “Mom, do you mind if I say it?”
Mom: “Nope.”
Natalie: “Fu-u-uck.”
Mom: “I’m glad you said that while Daddy’s in the kitchen making noise. Let’s keep saying that between you and me.”
Natalie: “But seriously, that’s terrible.”

Natalie knows how to push Daddy’s buttons when he’s obliged to fondle the besotted bird: “Let’s see this little makeout.”

Natalie: “Mom, what’s your favorite flag?”
Mom: “Surrender.”
Natalie: “I’d think it’d be Libya. All green. But my new favorite one is Papa New Gheenya.”

“Mom, what was 1842 like? Was it like, old-fashiony kind of thing, like Shakespeare’s time, or was it like ours?”

To our amazement, Natalie loves the sunny-side up egg on toast Daddy made her. Daddy’s food is so good, I say. “Especially when it’s good.”

“Oh, I thank you for calling me hunny-bunny. I’ll clean my room.”

“You know, you’re my true mother, and it’s so nice to have you as it.”

“Mom. Why do people say of-ten, when the same thing is with listen, but they don’t say lis-ten? Why? Why?”

May 7: We heard amazing anecdotes about our girl from her teacher today. Natalie, the baby who spoke almost exclusively with her hands; Natalie, the toddler who made not one sound in all her time at My Gym; Natalie, the nursery schooler who barely said a word to anyone; Natalie, the quiet Pre-K student who did not speak up for herself; Natalie, the Kindergartener who began to chatter, to the point where sometimes the lights were flipped on and off for quiet because of kids like Natalie getting too loud (making her teacher secretly proud); Natalie, who spent grades 1-3 in one classroom, continuing to come out of her shell but still having a hard time making her needs known, and saying NO…Natalie, who began fourth grade in a new room with new teachers and new classmates, Natalie who had a rough transition and reverted back to her old, quiet, sensitive ways as she adjusted, with frequent tears…Our girl, we’re told, has found her voice. One day Natalie informed her best class friend – with whom she almost always shares lunch and gabs like old ladies at a table for two, we’re told – that she needed her space, to think. And that, in general, nobody messes with our girl, nobody gives her a hard time, because she’s Natalie Mandel. We are not exactly sure what this is, but we are ecstatic.

Mom: “You know…you were naked when you came out of me.”
Natalie: “Not really. I had a layer of goo on me. …Was it more sticky, or slimy?”

Daddy had his second epidural for a herniated cervical disk yesterday and his pain meds were increased too. He’s having a good morning – pain is down to a 3 out of 10. But he’s dawdling on his usual duty, making my coffee. I’m feeling charitable though.
Me: “Should I make I my own coffee?”
Dad: “No, I’ll do it.”
Me: “You don’t have to, I don’t want to abuse your…”
Natalie: “Feeling goodness?”
Me: “Exactly.”

That’s a new vacuum cleaner. “Wheee! Roly vacuum cleaners are fun.”

Mom: “I need tampons.”
Dad: “What do you want? Ultra, Super Ultra, Maximum Ultra, Less Ultra…”

Natalie: “Feel this. Isn’t he just like a fairy tale?”
Mom: “No, you have to touch HERE to be a fairy TAIL.”
Natalie: “Ohhhh. Fairy TAIL. You are silly. In a odd way.”

Natalie: “Can I have breakfast in bed?”
Josh: “I don’t know, can you?”

Natalie’s recorder playing makes Perry howl.
“He’s so cute, doing his little howling technique.”

“Dad, while I’m eating Ruby’s card, may I have something to draw?”

Natalie is ready to go to Ruby’s party: she’s got her balloon apron on. I tell her we don’t know if Ruby will want the attention on Natalie and her balloons, and she needs to make sure it’s okay with Ruby. There’s a chance she won’t like it. Natalie’s confident about her chances. “But it’s a big chance. A big percent chance. Whatever a big percent is.”

Natalie: “Gracias.”
Mom: “De nada.”
Natalie: “Lately, in Spanish class, we’re learning how to talk things when we’re saying hello. Like, my name is…, and where do you live.” (Uh huh. And what about English class?)

Mom: “Ack! I ripped this five dollar bill.”
Natalie: “At least you didn’t rip it all the way in half, that’d just be half the amount.”
Mom: “No it wouldn’t.”
Natalie: “Hooray!”

“Perry, I want to be with you for my entire life. But I know that you’ll be in agony when I’m 99. Because you won’t be alive. So you’ll be in agony.”

We’re having trouble with our email account. Josh is working on it.
Mom: “I think I’m still not getting emails. Well, except for a couple of online stores.”
Natalie: “Mom. Mom! Maybe you switched it to “Store Mode” instead of actually getting real emails.”

On school mornings, we’ve taken to keeping the dry cereal farther from the child until some fresh fruit has gone down the gullet. Otherwise the fruit gets abandoned. Of kohss, girl takes issue: “I don’t like the concept of me not getting my cereal because I don’t finish it.” Concept. Dry cereal withholding concept. She continues to slay me.

Natalie: “Sorry, but can you maybe not burp and fart for once?”
Mom: “No.”
Natalie: “Darn. I was hoping you’d say yes.”
Mom: “No such luck.”
Natalie: “Darn.”

Dad: “…And in the meantime I’ll continue to try to be as much fun as I have been.”
Mom, sensing an opportunity for snark: “I’m trying to decide whether to end our marriage with a joke.”
Natalie: “Well, don’t end your marriage. I have no other person to live with.”

We browsed Ten Thousand Villages, and Natalie was enchanted. “This place has so many cool bits and bobs and snips and snails and…” “I’m just reliving it! I love it! …I love so many things.” “Aw. You’re such a cutie-pie.”

But finally we needed to leave because Natalie had found things for Ruby’s birthday gift next door at Ta-Da. She beckoned me. I shall come, I said. But I didn’t move fast enough. “Then why aren’t you shall coming?”

Bus is here!! You’re out of time. “Don’t blame me. Blame time. There’s not enough time.” Then you should get up when we wake you. “I want you to wake me up earlier. Six-thirty. I want to see the sunrise.” Bahahahahaha

I advise a friend that she might benefit from abdominal muscle tightening surgery. Natalie chimes in: “Unless you’re allergic to surgery.”

On Robyn and Jorge’s son Felix: “He’s going to be a mad scientist when he grows up. My opinion.”

I’m trying to describe the amniotic sac and how I’d seen an amazing pic of a baby born in caul. I compare it to the membrane you sometimes have to pull off a hard-boiled chicken egg. “Kind of like non-toxic vinyl?”

I don’t know. It must have fell. Or fallen. Or whatever it is. Or whatever it’s called.”

Daddy brought Natalie to Huck Finn, ostensibly to see the Playland in construction – and by the way, we don’t see how it could be ready by Memorial Day – but really to make a frivolous and fun brick purchase with an homage to the princess (of kohss, duh). So they went inside and Natalie sat in an easy chair, sighed deeply and told him: “Go live your life.”

Mom, joking, after keeping Cindy waiting: “Why aren’t you ready?”
Natalie: “Mom, don’t be so like, THAT.”

Natalie’s nervous about her lines in the upcoming Upper El presentation of Shakespeare Rocks. “There’s just no way I can do a play without getting anxietous.”

Mom: “I haven’t been on the treadmill in three or four days, and I’m still losing weight. Do you think I have a disease, Josh?”
Dad: “No.”
Mom: “Me neither.”
Natalie: “Well, you might. For – terrible farts.”

“Oh Perry. Such shiny eyes. Such shiny eyes. Let’s go back the other way. Back the way we came. You’re the dog of fame. ‘Cause I–love–youuu.”

Mom: “What is love?”
Natalie: “Love is admire-ation for part of your family and friends.”

Today’s nonsense came as Natalie handed a deck of cards back: “Okay Dad, these are thus yours.”

He’s my little fuzzy ball of brainness and fur.” She meant brainless.

Tubby. “Mom, how did the water get blue? ish-green?”

“Old McMommy had a Toot
And on their Toot there was a Cute
With a Toot-Cute-Cute
And a Cute-Toot-Toot
Here a Toot
There a Cute
Everywhere a Cute Toot
Old McMommy had a Toot
Mom: “That is just stinkin’ adorable. Get it?”
Natalie: “Literally!”

“She looks like a boy right now with her feathers all fluffed up. It looks like an afro.”

On the ride to Kiera’s birthday out in East Buttfuck this weekend, we got some decent quotes out of the girl:
We tried to come up with alphabetical pie names. Natalie had “P” and the best she could do was “Perplexuous Pie”.
Daddy: “I’m almost 60 years old.” (He’ll be 57 this year.)
Natalie: “And the cutest 60-year-old…”
“You are doing the best job. You’re making me the happiest yet saddest girl in the world.”
In discussing how I can help her with a friendship problem by having the two moms mediate a serious, honest talk: “I thought it was broCHURE, not broKER.”

“It’s a philosopher question, but maybe a scienty question.” She thinks maybe she’s a baby who’s just dreaming all this.

“Should we think about dinner?”

Dad sends a Maple helicopter flying. Natalie approves. “Extratene beautiful.”

Natalie drew on my back. I guessed it was Perry. “No. It’s a house. Wait. Not a house. It’s a sophisticated thing that the apes could have lived in if they knew a better architect.”

“Perry, how would you like the privilege of howling…like you mean it? Here’s a howling like you mean it song.” It’s Amazing Grace on the recorder, and he does howl, if you can call it howling. “What a good howlers. You’re such a good howlers!”

Look, adorable little bunny poos! “Eww! Are those like, yucky Easter eggs or something?”

Natalie is desperate to get me outside to play some game. I finally get a description: “We use the pine needle things and we throw them.”

Natalie wants me to hang out in the bathroom for her bath. “I like company. Even if I’m, you know. Pure naked.”

Mom: “That’s insanity.”
Natalie: “Insane-anity.”

“Now is the minute of suspense!” But I’d guessed wrong. It was the monogrammed gingerbread pajamas, not the Hello Kitty pajamas.

Natalie’s styling my hair. “Oh, you look like a model. … …That’s a good compliment.”

Daddy gives Natalie a computer tablet. “Thank you very much. I feel very congratualatable.”

Mom: “I’m getting off the treadmill.”
Dad: “Why?”
Mom: “I’m sweaty and I’ve done 216 calories.”
Natalie: “You’re a ma’am now.”
Mom: “A MA’AM?”
Natalie: “Yeah.”
Mom: “She called me a ma’am.”
Dad: “She called me a ma’am earlier today.”
Mom: “What does that mean?”
Natalie: “I dunno.”

Natalie: “We’re going to need to get more fish food soon.”
Mom: “Okay.”
Natalie: “Just so you know, I mean.”
Mom: “…Yeah. I get that.”
Natalie: “Great.”

“Of course, Sir. Of course Sir Daddy!”

Natalie’s left eye has an inflamed follicle. “Photo-op it out!!”

The neighbors are blasting their classic rock, as usual. “Is it an old classic?” I don’t know. Natalie comes to a realization. “Every one is an old classic unless it’s a new classic.”

Visible from the car, a sign for the Northway.
Natalie: “We’re going North Way now. I’m getting cold.”
Mom: “…”
Natalie: “Are we going North?”
Mom: “No. East.”
Natalie: “Wow. I’m getting hot now. We’re going East.”

Pic of fiddlehead ferns: “Wow. Those are freakin me out.”

After explaining how Daddy and I feel about calling all soldiers heroes, I said that lots of people can be heroes. Not every nurse or teacher is a hero; not every soldier is a hero; not every parent is a hero. But some are. Natalie assures me loudly that I am. I say that she is too, like when she’s really brave. She wants an example. I remember that she and Tessa created a new anti-bullying club at Drama Camp and talked to a whole audience of parents about it – with their bully sitting a few feet away from them! That was rather heroic.

Natalie says she only became friendly with little Tessa because Liz asked her to come over when Tessa was new. I ask why she thinks Liz asked her in particular. She claims to have no idea why. I keep prompting, but she can’t come up with a single positive attribute that people have used to describe her. I can’t tell if she’s fishing for a compliment or really can’t think of anything.

So I try, unsuccessfully, with nasty behaviors she obviously doesn’t engage in.

Mom: “Did Liz ask you because you’re a bully?”
Natalie: “No.”
Mom: “Did she ask you because you won’t say a word and are just mean?”
Natalie: “No.”
Mom: “Do you stomp on other people’s feet?”
Natalie: “I try not to, unless it’s my parents and I want to.”

Isn’t that special.

She goes on to say something about climbing over us at night and that’s how the stomping happens…uh huh.

I give Natalie a task. She is to draw a flower with five petals. She is to come up with five nice things people have said about her. Each petal will contain one compliment and any color that seems to match it.

This takes a long time because she really can’t think of much on her own. But she is intrigued by her own work: “My god. I’m getting so used to curved t’s. I feel like it’s my new handwriting.” Later she asks if that’s okay, to have a fancy ‘t’ in her handwriting.

We make some good headway. Natalie tells me I really should become a Worry Doctor. She says we need to put all these ideas of mine into a special folder.

Finally the writing and outlines are all done, including the heart people randomly placed on the paper, and it’s ready for coloring.

“Will you PLEASE change your job to be a therapist? Because you’re really good at it. You have ideas for everyone.”

“I think I just insulted Perry in Dog language. I went ‘Grrr…Bark’ and he went…” (hangs head)

“It’s so convenient to be a dog! You get everything for you! …When you do.”

Gasp. “Daddy’s earrings! And they’re all so adorable.”

“Oh! This artifact over here is very movable. I must dust it before it falls over.” I am then dusted with a tissue-paper flower on a wire. “You don’t want anything to be dusty while we’re gone, DO YOU? That’s why I’m dusting everything. So it stays in perfect perfection!”

Natalie says that saying “Cindy” (her current teacher) takes longer than saying “Kristi” (previous). It doesn’t matter that Kristi has more letters or that they both have two syllables. “Well, one is longer than the other. So it changes the whole timing of the whole class, for asking anything.”

We discuss glucose. And before I can even get to explaining fructose and HFCS, Natalie hears glucose and asks: “What’s a fruco?” Meh. You had to be there.

Outside the Grandma’s parking lot, we see Bryant and Stratton. “Should I go it?”
…”I want to go to Fashion Institute of…whatever it is. Instatology. …Institutology?”

So we’re eating dinner out, and Natalie notices that the restaurant, Grandma’s, has the same mini leg lamp that I keep at work, from A Christmas Story. She playfully says someone stole it from me. I say, well, that’s okay as long as they did some of my work while they were there taking my stuff. “But they wouldn’t know what to write. You might get a bad grade.” … … …”You DON’T??”

A minor miracle: Natalie tries gravy and likes it, and tries mashed potatoes with the gravy and likes it, and even tries a tiny bite of turkey after I ascertain that it’s not to try pleasing anyone else but because she wants to try it. Says Natalie: “It’s mostly to accompany the mashed potatoes.” Sue, our hapless and harried waitress who has watched Natalie grow up for about five years (and who can’t believe how tall the girl has grown, but owing to Natalie’s baby face, Sue estimates to be about seven years old), notes that Natalie has always eaten healthily. That’s funny since she mostly gets a huge waffle and whipped cream there, but I let it slide. Natalie attributes her gustatory success to external forces: “It’s not me. You’re the ones raising me up nice.”

I see a small, battery-powered CPAP that fits on the nostrils. Holy crap, I say.
Natalie, from the other room: “Or carp.”

“He’s liable to come in here.”

I award nine points for a fart.
N: “Nine and a half?”
Me: “Yup…nine.”
N: “Nine and a half?”
Me: “Nine.”
N: “Nine and three quarters?”
Me: “Um–that’s going in the wrong direction–”
N: “What about ten, for the surpriseness?”

Natalie wants to be friends with a boy in her class, but one of her girlfriends upset her by telling another girl that Natalie has romantic feelings for him. “I just wanna be like normal friends with him. Because he seems like a nice guy. He’s not like physical hurty.”

“It’s a Ye Olde Junk Shoppy.”

“What’s so great about greatness?”

Me: “I just figured, well, Josh has been weird lately.”
Natalie: “No, Mom. He’s always weird lately.”

Dad got seaweed salad at Fresh Market. “Pretty fandsome.” What?? “Fairy tale handsome. Like, ‘He went there?'” I don’t get it.

“Reading’s, like, the best thing in the whole world, except for you guys.”

Natalie’s setting up rules for us to earn points in our ongoing battle to demonstrate who loves her more. “No being mean behind my backs.” That’s plural since she’s referring to both of us.

Mom: “What would be the point of having a kid if you don’t want to help them with their feelings?”
Natalie: “That’s no use of a kid.”

Pretend Moon Sand ice cream…”It actually tastes quite expired. Yucky, too.”

“I HAVE socks, I’m just not wearing them. It’s only technical.”

Did you brush teeth? “I did. No, wait, I didn’t. I was thinking of last night.”

“Perry’s whole entire body smells corn chippy.”

On the phone to Grandma: “Well, Mom insisted that we spend the whole nine o’clock time cleaning. Not just cleaning. I don’t like hamper stuff.”…”Which grown up would you like to talk to? Okay, here’s your son.”

Natalie might throw up. She’s in our bed for now.
Natalie: “Where am I sleeping tonight?”
Mom: “Anywhere you want.”
Natalie: “This room. I don’t want to mess up my bed if anything happens.”
Mom: “Oh, how nice.”
Natalie: “Just kidding.”

Indian Temple incense sticks:
“They’re very calming and peaceful and Indian. Temple-y.”

I organized Natalie’s Buddhas-and-such while she was with a friend, and I bought her an old clay amulet from somewhere in Asia that had a bas relief mother and daughter. Her room is peaceful, and she’s grateful but says it makes her feel guilty. I told her don’t get guilty, get inspired! She likes that. I want you to have peace, I said. “And I want you to always be part of the family.” Uh…okay. She hugged me too hard. OY! “That’s a sign of my love.”

We spent a good portion of the morning talking about the origins of Easter since they’re learning world religions in school. Natalie’s grappling with the Jesus character rising from the dead. “I mean, this world has been around so long, it’s a big possibility.” We talk about the historical need for wakes due to people seeming dead and being buried alive. I mentioned what a cult is, and Natalie said: “It’s also a breed of horse.”

Finally she’s had enough of death and Jesus and we move on to other topics, like how producing goods in volume brings down the cost. It’s hard for her to understand. Then she has to go brush her teeth. “You keep talking. Not about Jesus though.”

She comes back from the bathroom, noting that I hadn’t kept talking. I try to give a better explanation. I talk about the poncho Linda is making for her, and how one person making one handmade poncho takes a long time, whereas hundreds of ponchos could be made by machines in that time, and even factoring in the cost of the machines and the workers to operate them, it’s still cheaper, and they could charge only $20.

“I’d be okay with buying a 40- or 50-dollar poncho,” says Natalie, “Because,” she lightly pounds her heart – “It’s specialer. … …Is that a word?” No, I say, but I like it.

I always have my morning coffee in a Pyrex. The size is right and the handle is perfect. It’s so well loved that all the measurements have long since worn off. Today, Natalie finds fault with this: “Wouldn’t you rather drink out of something a little more for drinking out of?”

Natalie is adorably confused about a planned sleepover at Pam’s house. “No no no, it’s just a sleepover. There’s no particular brunch.”

I’m reading wonderful poems from Natalie’s “My Poetry Book” which was scarily missing at school for a while. I come to a poem on the color blue. I ask if everyone followed the same format, like “(favorite color) smells like”… and “(favorite color) sounds like…” She says they did. And “It helps to have synesthesia or anesthesia or whatever…”

Overheard snippet:
“…Cuz Crispy Hexagons taste good to me. Right? Agreeable?”

Natalie feels like a machine who is expected to solve her friends’ problems in less than a day.

Sometimes it seems like parenting is mostly just one minor miss after another, with some major failures and a notable win here and there.

Tonight, though, a win. The kid is overwhelmed with the problems of her peers, and I was suddenly inspired to do a very worklike thing. I made a chart. She dictated each specific stressor, things like “X is jealous of my boots” and “Y wishes people would treat her like they treat me.” I fancied it up by using Natalie’s own font, “Quizzy,” and assigning each friend a pastel color for her rows. And the column headers are:
Nothing I can do about it | Solution #1 | Solution #2 | Results
And by the end of going through the whole thing and how it’ll work, the kid had a breakthrough. Solution #1 to “Z avoids me now, but we used to be good friends” is that an invitation has already been prepared, to dinner at Capital Thai on the date of Z’s choice.

Natalie: “No. No. No. …No. No. … …No. No. No. No. No. …NO.”
Dad: “What are you doing?”
Natalie: “Listen. I’m reading Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus. What do you expect?”
Dad: “Ah.”
Natalie: “NO. No…No…”

I’ve been thinking about this article and I suspect there’s a lot of truth in it. I tell Josh I might not want to lose as much weight as before…maybe only another ten pounds. I don’t want to get to a point that’s unsustainable without a real sense of deprivation and misery over time. Natalie’s opinion: “Well, don’t become fat again, but try to stay cushy.”

“Why don’t you wear cherry underwear?” Huh? Why?? “It’ll make your vulva smell nice. Cherry-flavored. It’s a joke.” You CANNOT make this stuff up.

Natalie got wonderful things at Heather’s house under the Easter Tree, including a fashion design sketch portfolio. “I’m proud of the Easter Bunny. For getting me something I’ve always wanted, to teach me fashion designing. That’ll actually teach me color contrasts, and things that match, and glitter ideas. It’ll actually help me.”

Natalie’s playing glowstick ring toss and just got her hundredth successful throw. “One hundred in one day! This is breaking record history! …You have to watch, it’s the moments of suspense!”

“Chicken salad à la mode.”

For about five years I’ve been after Natalie to say “Yes Mom” to most requests instead of whining or giving lip. I do it in a very tiresome way, just saying “Yes Mom” loudly when she should have but didn’t, and have not veered from this approach. This week, something clicked and Natalie started saying it without snark at very appropriate times. She even drew my attention to it and said she thought it would be a good idea, or some such thing. It’s been going on for several days. Maybe I wore her out, maybe she’s angling for something, maybe she gets how it smooths life. I don’t know. It may not last. But I like it.

“I’m glad there’s no Minecraft camp. I’d be very ughed-out.” (A few months later, she fell into the addiction just like every other kid.)

AG doll Lizzy’s handwriting is improving! “It’s more like, WOO!, you know? Fast, kinda thing.”

Riley sang little quiet notes while Natalie played a particular tune on her recorder, so she kept playing. “I’ve been playing it for her. Bit by bit, little by little, love by love.” It’s not necessary to understand this child in order to love her.

“I’ve been to Tanglewood, and I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it.” #Thug Life

The Way To Make The Kid Get Out Of Bed After Several Unsuccessful Attempts:
Mom, loudly: “What the–No way. I can’t believe what you made for her breakfast. It’s not like it’s a special occasion or anything. She’s not going to want all that.”
Dad: “Yes. It was irresponsible of me.”
Natalie: “Let me just get pants on!”

We watched The Duck Song.
Mom: “That duck is a jerk.”
Natalie: “He’s not a jerk. He’s not a jerk, he might just have, mm, mental health problems.”
(Cindy sez: Maybe he’s an ass.)

“They were singing like 15 miles an hour loud.”

Mom: “Why are you stressed?”
Natalie: “I’m stressed – it’s just the problem incubator’s coming back on.”

April 8: Natalie said she’s glad she has more room on the bed now, but I’m less cushy for cuddling. I checked in on it again today — by asking “Is it really unpleasant to lie down with me now?” And she said: “A little. But it’s the love that’s not unpleasant.” For the record, I’m still overweight.

Mom: “There’s no Ebola in the country now.”
Natalie: “Then why was it a hit then?”

April 11: I can tell that my weight loss has reached “significant” because Natalie’s anxiety alarms have been fully activated.

Dad points out that, with Riley on my head, I’ve got lots of something in my hair. Feathers? Poop? I go to the bathroom. Lots of feathers, I call out, including a beautiful yellow one! “Wait,” says Natalie. “Let me see. Give me all the details. Except the poop.”

Kayla: “What’s that?”
Natalie: “That’s a remote control for our toilet.”

“Why aren’t my hands puffy and amazing like yours?”

Passing the highway “Welcome to NYS” sign from Massachusetts:
“Technically, we just crossed countries.”

“Some friends, if you turn down a sleepover with them, they’ll cut your neck off and cry for life.”

Mom: “I peed three times at work today. And I didn’t have anything much to drink.”
Natalie: “Uhh. Sometimes Mom tells things she doesn’t need to tell.”

Mom: “What was your favorite and least favorite part of Hamlet?”
Natalie: “My least favorite part was when, um, all the people were screaming. And my favorite part was when it finally ended.”

Mom: “Ready to do hair?”
Natalie: “NEVERRR.”
Mom: “Never?”
Natalie: “It means two minutes. Can we do it in two minutes? Two to five minutes.”

Natalie has a big Philosopher question that’s been freaking her out and which she is finally ready to ask. “Are we really ourselves, or are we just puppets with invisible strings, controlled by other planets?”

Dad: “Do you know what digging your own grave is?”
Mom: “It’s making it worse…”
Natalie: “I don’t even have braveness, so how I could I be digging my own brave?”

“I can tell it’s gonna be a rainy, drowsy day.”

“Perry, it’s either howl, or surrender – of your cuteness.”

Something was really getting on Natalie’s nerves. “Literally. It’s been in my head so long, it’s traveling down to my nerves.”

Natalie’s watching Frozen for the first time in a while. Kristoff just lost his sled and mourned its loss aloud.
Mom: “‘Just paid it off’ means he finally finished paying for it.”
Natalie: “I know. I’ve watched this movie quite a few times, and you’ve told me the definition every time.”

Anna and Olaf slide down a snowbank. “That looks like fun. If I didn’t have a frozen heart, that would be the most fun activity ever. Except for the cruise and loving you guys. …And farting you guys.”

Mom: “I packed your apple slices last night. They’re a little brown, but that just means it’s sweeter and it’s still good. It was in the fridge all night.”
Natalie: “What if you put it in the freezer?”
Mom: “That’s an interesting idea.”
Natalie: “Maybe it’ll keep it from getting brown.”
Mom: “Maybe. I don’t know.”
Natalie: “I didn’t have the bravery to tell Dad, but I could tell you.”
Mom: “You didn’t have the bravery?”
Natalie: “No I didn’t. He’s not very explorey about that kind of thing.”

…Regarding Her Unfortunate Daddy in the ER:
Mom: “They’re taking pictures of his neck so they can see what’s wrong.”
Natalie: “Pictures? Aah. I don’t think he’s going to smile for them.”

…Regarding Her Unfortunate Daddy on the inpatient unit:
Natalie: “Are you sure Dad’s even alive?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Natalie: “Are you sure?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Natalie: “Would they call us if he died?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Natalie thought about this and said she wouldn’t want to answer the phone, because it’s better not to know he was dead when it was happening.

Natalie is very disappointed that she didn’t get the role of Juliet in Shakespeare Rocks. I told her, okay, someone else got the part, but they don’t have your dad home from the hospital, your dad who makes popcorn and cotton candy and twists balloons. “And has the best furry chest ever.” Yes. Let us all be grateful.

“The first one who gets in my ahksint has to be smudgeled in my gloves. My fuzzy gloves.”

After a looooong trampoline session…”I’m gonna go inside. I’ve exercised for thirty minutes. And thirty minutes, in my world, is a long time.”


Tonight, a lesson in our common African ancestry and why humans look different. I mention the shared DNA we all have, except for little bits that make us different; that scientists believe we all descended from one woman in Africa; that our ancestors left Africa at different times and developed differently around the world; and that we are all really brothers and sisters.

And, with that, I was hoisted by my own petard (to use an apt semi-quote, what with the Shakespeare Rocks play rehearsals and all).

Natalie: “So, technically, you’re my sister.”
Mom: “Well…yes. But I’m your older sister. So you still have to do what I say.”


Natalie says she, alone in the world, doesn’t like the smell of her own farts. “I like the noise, but not the smell. Like the opening scene. I like the opening scene noise, but not the smell.”

Natalie fell off a chair and hurt her right foot and left knee. She cried loud enough for me to give her a cuddle. The gauge of how minor an injury is may be if the kid has the wherewithal to say – through the still-noisy tears – “I like your pajamas.” The pajamas, by the way, are covered in fish and whales. I bought them because they fit and I’m coming down from XL to L…but is Whale a good pattern for clothes that come in such sizes? IJSIA


“Laura and the Terrible, Horrible, No Effort, Very Sad Little Dinner”

With Josh taking it easy, waiting for his first epidural tomorrow morning to start really treating the pain (yay), I had no idea what to do about the kid’s dinner.

I opened the fridge and saw leftover unflavored canned chickpeas and a small saran-covered bowl with a small pile of (days-old?) cut-up raw spinach. I dumped some chickpeas on the wilty leaves. I found some chopped pecans in the freezer and threw them on too, what the hell. Then I daintily sprinkled some ground flax over all – making sure to spill plenty on the floor due to haphazard fridge organization – and mixed it up. Natalie saw what I’d done, thought the flax was salt, wanted salt, I added Mixed-Up Salt. She proceeded to eat everything, no complaints.

Laura: “I love you so much.”
Natalie: “I love you so much too. You’re the best Mom in the world. …I’d be saying that even if you weren’t. But you are.”

I’m not. But the takeaway here is that it’s wrong to waste any effort cooking for some people.


Mom: “You are a creature of light and love.”
Natalie: “You are a creature of photos and love. …And Facebook. Did you invent Facebook?!”
Mom: “No.”
Natalie: “Boo. Then I’d understand you being on it so much. But I don’t. WHY are you on Facebook so much?”

The girl lets the bath water run and adjusts it until she’s happy; only then does she pull up the drain flipper to fill the tub. Calling on my awesome powers of Science and Logic, I tell her that it’s not necessary to let the water run; she can start filling the tub and adjust the hot and cold faucets as she assesses the situation. No, she says; she doesn’t want one side to be hot, and the other cold. I pull out my brilliance again: That’s what arms are for, I say, making a motion of swishing and mixing up the entire tubful to homogenize it. But she’s still not buying what I’m selling: “Arms are for writing,” – and here she holds her arms out like at the end of a tap dance – “and being amazing!”

Yes, Natalie fed Flippy. “I want him to be alive until his time has come.”

Dad is already feeling slightly better and he made Natalie an extravagant breakfast.
Mom: “Daddy’s pain is a little better today. Go hug your Daddy.”
Natalie: “Is he warm?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Natalie: “May I hug you?”
Dad: “Absolutely.”
Natalie: “I’m hugging you because you’re warm.”
Dad: “Oh.”
Natalie: “The last reason I’m hugging you is you’re warm. But the first reason, the first reason is I love you.”

Split your halves
Count by twos
All you got
Are loves and blues

Daddy showed Natalie his high school yearbook.
“I don’t recognize you. I only recognize the nose.”

Natalie’s talking nonsense again. ‘Acorn leaves,’ I say–I’m going to remember that. Natalie says: “Write it down. You’re a forgetter. That’s fo sho, yo.”

Natalie finally did what I asked and made some art for Grandpa Loring’s upcoming 87th birthday. The basic outlines are done and she’s ready to color. It includes a cartoon of him. The fidelity is not high, but it’s adorable.
Mom: “Oh my god. He’s gonna flip.”
Natalie: “I don’t think he can without breaking his back and killing himself.”

Dad: “You know, Natalie, the President before Barack Obama–”
Natalie: “George Washington?”

Zulily shipment!

I kept it suspenseful as a brought out each fabulous, sparkly item. “Pull it out, Mom! No moment of suspenses!!”

Natalie: “I love it! I love koo-koo crazy outfits.”
Mom: “Of course. I know how to shop for you.”
Natalie: “Of course you do. I like outfits that, if there was a god, blind it. …Or goddess. God or goddess, it would still blind it.”

April 26: Natalie is now a fan of Minecraft, thanks to her friend Kayla, but she’s only played one mode and she noticed that once you set up your house, there’s nothing to do except hang out in a room or your patio. I said, isn’t there mining or something? Aren’t there those monsters to deal with? Natalie knew my guess was ridiculous so she came up with her own. “I don’t know. Maybe you use your mind to craft things.” An online friend, Ursula, told me that there is in fact mining, and I told Natalie. “Mm. Well, that might be in something called a ‘mod’, in Minecraft.” It’s a mode.

We are using whole basil leaves for Natalie’s naan pizza tonight.
Mom: “Oh look, it’s still on its little vine!”
Natalie: “That means it’s grown.”
Mom: “Of course it’s grown. They’re all grown.”
Natalie: “…In a good safe society.”
Of kohss.

We’re out on the cold porch eating our dinner. Mine is cottage cheese with pineapple, which I love and haven’t had in a long time. I make Natalie try it even though she’s not interested. She makes a face – it’s not awful, but too tangy. I lauded her for trying it. A couple of minutes later… …”I guess, just for cottage cheese sake, I’ll have a little more.” Hah!!

On the whole grain naan: “Thanks for buying this, Mom. This is good for the future.” And she didn’t want any more cottage cheese, but when I offered to put some in an endive boat, she gladly accepted. I’m feeling very win-y tonight.


Untitled, by Daddy
(To the tune of Ode to Joy)

Natalie, you are my sweetie,
You’re the girl that I adore.
When you came out of your Mommy
I said I don’t need no more.
You’re my cutie, and you’re a beauty,
You are my only Natalie.
Sorry you’re an only child,
But you mean the world to me.

Mom: “God, I love this girl.”
Natalie: “Well…a goddess I love this mom.”

After seeing the pic of a friend’s kid: “Wipe that smirk off your face boy. You know I’m coming. Watch out boy. You know I’m comin’, or hell’s gotcha.” (Our friend Troels sez: I like how that cute little curly bundle of smiles somehow sees herself as a harbinger of doom and despair.)

“Perfecto! Bingo! Whatever you call it! Hooray!” (Because she had correctly deduced that, taking 80 seconds to paint her nails with the final clear coat after giving myself 90, I had ten remaining.)

I found a Natalieism I’d scribbled and smushed into my purse at some point in the past months or years:
“Okay, but when you don’t go swimming, I can’t talk to you easilyer.”
I can’t remember what the hell that means. I ask her. She shakes her head. “I never said anything like that.”

I put so many unicorn tears into a tiny container – that had held saffron threads – that it was overflowing. I handed it to Natalie just after filling it up. The tears were french fry-themed. She opened it right away. “I need a lot of them right now. From the puberty talk thing.” Ah yes. The puberty talk thing at school, for which they were supposed to give us fair warning…but we didn’t get the email.

Natalie does try to make this fart-loving mom happy.
“I farted tremendously.”

Mom: “Remember my favorite words right now? Alacrity and approbation.”
Natalie: “I like dottle and adderomable.” (dawdle and admirable)

Mom: “Natalie. It’s TIME to get UP.”
Natalie: “Mom. I’m sorry. But I’m enjoying.”
Mom: “What are you enjoying?”
Natalie: “I’m just enjoying. I’m thinking.”

Q: What do nuts use to pay their taxes?
A: CASHews!

“Mom, please help me. I tried putting on pants as a jacket, and IT DID NOT WORK.”

“That’s called blowing gas up my ass. And you know what it is. You taught it to me. ‘Oh, oh, I love you, I love you, take a shower.”

To Perry: “You’re such a cute boy, but when you’re old, all that cuteness will be a bit rubbish.”

“Perry’s so fuzzy. I can write about him and publish. Not a paperback. He’s not that less expensive. He’s more expensive. It’ll actually be a furry cover. I’ll cover it in fur, publish it and turn it into a hardcover.”

Natalie: “How’d it go last night?”
Mom: “Not great.”
Natalie: “Anything he moaned about other than pain?”
Mom: “No.”
Natalie: “Good. That means he’s getting better.”

“May you hug me? Or may we hug…I don’t know how to say it.”

“Can I dedicate something?” Dictate.

Natalie is far behind is getting things done tonight because on top of all the normal stuff, she has to pack for a right-after-school sleepover tomorrow, and she spent at least 20 minutes talking to a friend who’s been out sick. I made them hang up.

Me: “So, you need to pick up the rest of the clothes on your floor…” Natalie: “But I already have the busiest agenda for tonight.” I swear I don’t make these things up. Someone please tell me their kid talks like this.

Natalie: “I was just about to run the water.”
Mom: “Take a quick shower, because you’ve got a lot to do.”
Natalie: “Mom, I’m on SUCH a busy schedule, I told you that a million times now!”

And “I’m sorry, mother-loving. I do love you! And I love you that way.”

Oh, and also, yesterday she agreed to stay home alone for a few minutes for the very first time, while Daddy went to the bank. She earned ice cream before dinner for that level of bravery.

Bath is done.
Me: “Okay. Pick up the floor.”
Natalie: “I did. It was surprisingly easy.”

Natalie’s creating her avatar on a Peanuts game. So far it’s a curly blonde wearing a kimono. The avatar can hold one of many items: spear, sword, broom, shovel, etc. “Wait. Do Chinese hold around a pick thingy?” It’s a trident. She kills me.

“Perry, don’t shnork me or I’ll kill you in five seconds. Well, it might take five minutes to get the scissors.”

Driving Ana and Natalie home from Nora’s party, the girls were talking about WHMS skating later at Rollarama. Natalie said it makes her feel bad when Ana skates by, saying: “Hi Natalie. Bye Natalie.” Ana said she wouldn’t. Natalie said she doesn’t like to skate fast. “About half as fast as my Mom is going at the moment.” I was going 65 MPH. Natalie went on to say that at that speed, she can think 60 thoughts, but going too fast, she can’t think.

“My nails are painted, party-wise.”

Polish drying time is over; time to wash the nails. “And don’t worry, I haven’t been playing with toys. But I have been playing in my mind. I just looked at a bunch of toys, and I left them in my mind, and then I played with them. It’s fun.”

Daddy replaced the dish scrubby, and Natalie noticed. “You fixed it?!”

New guitar is tuned… “Thanks. Now I will finish practice. Without a jiff.”

“Night. I’m gonna get ice cube in a washcloth. ‘Cause it’s my nature to do so. You try, you like, you do.”

“Dad described mine, but I wanna get your describation of mine. Mom, can you discriminate my eyes?” (Mine are pretty, blue, questioning, adventurous…I forget them all.)

Morning. Natalie is wearing the garage sale springy blue flower dress Cindy found: “Is this non-flammal?”

Wrong version of “I Feel Pretty”…”Be glad it’s one at all.”

Q: What did the pimple say to the pimple when he didn’t know what time it was?
A: What time’zit?

Q: The noun had a pet adjective. The noun said to his pet adjective: “I cut my finger on making your meal.” What did his pet adjective say?
A: I proverbly shouldn’t ask for dessert.

Q: When the minute hand and the hour hand were playing a game, what did the minute hand shout out to the hour hand?
A: Come out, come out, whenever you are!

I tune the guitar. “Thanks. Now I will finish practice. Without a jiff.”

“Night. I’m gonna get ice cube in a washcloth. ‘Cause it’s my nature to do so. You try, you like, you do.”

“Dad described mine, but I wanna get your describation of mine. Mom, can you discriminate my eyes?”

Natalie wore the springy blue flower dress Cindy got her at a garage sale: “Is this non-flammal?”

Dad replaced the dish scrubby, and Natalie noticed. “You fixed it?!”

Natalie has typed the beginning paragraph for her biography on Charles Schulz. The best part is that we found a Peanuts font. She remains concerned about what her teacher will think…”I know it’s not very long and might not impress Cindy very much with the longness.”

Natalie finished singing You Are My Sunshine to the poor dog, who really doesn’t need the kisses or the chitchat. He just wants stroking. But she kept asking so I gave her the go-ahead. And she hit some of the notes and most of the words, so there’s that. But then she went and put her trademark L. Borden spin on things…

“…Don’t take…my sunshine…awayyy. …And if you do or else I will kill you…Good boy, you lived through the song.”

On Perry: “I dare kiss him in a lovey-dovey time. Yes I do dare…kiss him…in a lovey-dovey time.”

Overheard pretend play:
“Max Mean Sore Cat. You will get Hansel to take care of you. Hansel? But he’s a meanie! Hush! Or your lips will get tight.”
“Slap. Now you’re on the naughty list.”
“What are you, like, some weirdo gob?”
“Who is Santa? He’s this mythical creature, who if you hurt, he kills you.”
“I like these kinds of restaurant. Just stand up, keep your mouth open, and they drop nice foods into it.” “Wet bird mix…I love that kind.”
“Look, I’m going on a diet. You can’t give me…really?”
“That’s kind of…kind of stupid. I can’t believe it.”
“We’re singin’, we’re songin’, we’re talking up the (something)
“…a hoarder of skulls…”
(singing) “Love me true…I may not love you, but if you love me true…(something)
“Please…Give a poor girl like me…a dearest of niceness, like me…as sweet as can be…’cuz we’re bundling up in wrapping paper…and present laugh stuffs (?)…Pleeeeease…hellllllp”
“I want to go to a hospital…if you don’t help…twenty four hours later,…”

Natalie says she’ll run a camp in our front yard this summer. She asked for theme suggestions. Mine was “Siesta.”

“Sorry. I was reading comics. Charles Schulz is finally getting creative with the types of comics he’s making.”

We’re playing a rhyming game I just made up. We each say a short phrase and everyone else needs to follow up with lines that rhyme. Everything is rhyming with “old” right now. Josh said: “It’s just as I foretold.” We explained that for Natalie, and she asked: “What if I said it, during the rhyming? Would he be superiorly happy?”

“I know I’ve asked you this question before, and I still want an answer. If a live is worth living, is it worth watching?” Um, I need more of an explanation. “If a life is worth living, would it be worth watching on a TV show or something?” Every moment? Probably not. Watching all the moments would be boring. “Then why are you my Mom?! Aren’t I boring to be around? Aren’t you bored watching me? I must be. …I’ve told all my jokes, I’ve shared every story that’s appropriate with my family…”

Natalie: “When I grow up, I either want to be an artist or a miner. Wait, here’s a joke. What is a young digger called?”
Daddy: A minor miner.
Natalie: “Yes!”

Mom, look. How do you like me with Accessory Lady?”

Natalie is brushing my hair. “Mom, you look very old-fashioned in a good way. …Your hair is short yet long. Your hair is growing! I like it. Keep it going, Mom. Keep it going and growing.”

Natalie knows what she wants on her license plate someday. “Duck Soon.” At least that’s what it sounds like. I make her repeat it as we’re driving and she gets impatient with me: “Never mind.” No, mind, I say. I want to know. She spells it: “D-U-X-L-E. It means special.” Deluxe, I tell her. Deluxe. Yeah, she says, because she’s special and fancy.

“Isn’t he so nauselous?”

Q: What did the Earth say when it started to get polluted?
A: This is terra-ble.

Natalie stroking Perry: “Oooh…he’s so lifelike.”
Mom: “Well–he is ALIVE.”
Natalie: “But he’s so life. Like.”

Natalie’s playing with some new balloon gun Daddy made. It looks like a Super Soaker or something out of Men in Black. I tell her it’s time to practice guitar. “Wait. I’m cutting up you an orange.”

Quotes From a Mall:
1. Flower Shoppe: “Ooh, it’s a Flower Shoppy!”
2. Natalie wonders what it would be like if the students had a field trip to a mall, or a cool place like Target. I say it sounds like fun. “But what if they were tricking us into being cash register people?”
3. Natalie wouldn’t finish her veggie stromboli at the food court. She went on a break. I noted that she wasn’t on a break when she took some of my stromboli crust. “It was perfectly cooked. What can I say?”
4. On the dangerous comfy bean bag at Yogibo: “A very good thing about this is it’s very therapedic.”
5. “It’s like my philosophy is ‘Literally and Technically’ right now.”

“This is one of those stay in bed days. Till we have to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s. I mean, this one is well needed.”

Q: Which kind of boat had the most stars?
A: A pi-RATE boat!

“Mom, wanna know what would be a good but probably illegal website? One for only atheists.”

Natalie to Perry: “Okay, I’ll just go down there. Start loving you up for next time.”

Natalie compromised and allowed me to read just the prologue of Tuck Everlasting, but she’s sticking to her guns. “I’m not into reading that stuff. Like, ‘Oh, this is soo wisdomous’.”

Nine-year-old child came out of her room, scared because she’d turned off her reading light and didn’t wait until her eyes adjusted to the dark to come down the ladder for water because she was so parched. Halfway down, she saw that the lower half of the room was completely black and looked like “the depths of nothingness”. The depths of nothingness. I found some Gravity Falls fan fiction with the phrase, but nothing official. Where’d she come up with that?

Daddy made waffles this morning for Natalie’s half-birthday.
Mom: “Oh man. He’s special.”
Natalie: “Yes he is. You have to admit.”

“Let me laugh too long so I don’t laugh during the day. Ahaha. Ahaha. Ahaha. Ahaha. Okay, I’m done.”

Natalie is lucky to know the author and to have a signed copy of both Molly Lou Melon books! But she hadn’t remembered the second book was signed until last night when we read it again. The book’s social engineering worked, because today after school Natalie showed me a Yoplait yogurt container made into a figure with pipe cleaner arms and a paper face. And she said: “When Patty Lovell signed the book and said, ‘Make your own fun!!’, I decided, why not?” Why not indeed. “Her name is Yopla.”

Natalie: “What are you having?”
Daddy: “Chicken salad sandwich.”
Natalie: “Ooo, la la, moy moy.”

Natalie is VERY excited to learn that modeling PAYS. But she doesn’t want to miss school. Natalie wouldn’t mind missing school during Shakespeare though. “It’s Hamplet. Which everyone died. Everyone died in it, one by one.”

We’re arguing over the biography essay project. My opinion is that Charles Schulz’ exact birth date need not be listed twice, in the first and then the second paragraph. But Natalie is vehement: “That’s what Cindy said to do. I’m a follow directions girl, not a delete follow directions girl.”

“I don’t understand anything. All I understand is art, and I barely understand that. I only understand Charles Schulz. And my parents.”

Perfect Montessori story: Natalie explains that the perimeter calculation worksheet is filled with her drawings of shapes and their measurements because the shapes were put up all around the room, and the students go to each one to copy and work on it. I ask her: “Isn’t it nice to be able to get up and move around to do the work?” And she looks at me like I’m kind of pathetic: “We’re always able to move around the room.”

Mom: “I spent my afternoon preparing slides for a presentation tomorrow I didn’t know I’d be making until today. It’s a bigger deal than when I had to present to the Division for like five minutes, a couple of weeks ago.”
Natalie lets out a horrified, choked gasp: “YOU HAVE TO DO DIVISION????”

Right now Natalie has three Peanuts-themed toothbrushes to correspond with her red, green, and blue Crayola toothpastes with disgusting fruity flavors.
Mom: “Your toothbrush is ready. Go brush.”
Natalie: “What color?”
Mom: “Blue.”
Natalie: “So, blue toothpaste?”
Mom: “Of course.”
Natalie: “Good.”
Mom: “What do you take me for?”
Natalie: “Not following the rules? And being embarrassing?”

“So, am I going to be able to see Hamphlet on Friday?”  I honestly thought she was saying pamphlet.

“Why is a murder mystery always in a manor? Why is it always the butler who stole or murdered someone? Why is is always in a manor or mansion? Can’t someone change it up??”

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wrench like me

A song and a tag line:

Fashionista went to town
Riding on a pony
Stuck a skirt on her hip
And called it micro-mini.

…I know so much about fashion that I feel kind of guilty about it.

Natalie’s watching Paddington for the first time, about a week after seeing the Simpsons episode where Lisa gets braces. She realizes he is going to London and makes a cynical calculation: “He’s going to get bad teeth.”

Cindy is always requesting Ode to Joy. Natalie hates it. “I hate that topic at all.”

Should Mom explain Pi Day some more? “No! Sometimes she gets a little overactive with explaining.”

“Night-night carbon height.”

Natalie says if Gordon Ramsay married Judge Judy, there would be a lot of swearing. She and I are very amused by that. “Imagine it!” I do. “I wonder what Gordon Ramsey’s doing right now. Probably using swear words. Hopefully not in front of his daughter. I bet she has to live with it.”

Mom: “A lot of people are geeking out at this very second.”
Natalie: “Why are they freaking out?”
Mom: “No, they’re GEEKING out.”
Natalie: “What’s that?”
Mom: “Getting their geek on. Having fun because math is matching reality. It’s like playing with math and real life – it’s fun when they match up.”
Natalie: “No, it’s not fun. No math is fun.”

“Grandma and Grandpa have a tettarium.” No, and they don’t have a terrarium, either.

Natalie: “Do you think I’ll be a good musician when I grow up?”
Dad: “Yes.”
Mom: “If you keep practicing.”
Natalie: “Do you think I’ll keep practicing?”

Moon Sand
Mom: “I don’t think using newspaper makes a difference. I think using the bare kitchen table is fine, but she needs to try to keep that sand on the table.”
Natalie: “I tried to.”
Mom: “Well, not hard enough, because there was sand on both benches and on the floor.”
Natalie: “Hm. Well, just pretend our house is a beach and you’ll feel better.”

There’s moon sand on the kitchen floor…again. “Don’t blame me for being me. Blame you and Dad, for making me. No, blame the Big Bang.”

My father is 76 and still teaches high school science. What’s left of his head hair is still mostly black. On the ride to the bus station to pick him up for a visit, I asked Natalie if she could believe he was that old. I said he didn’t seem that old. No, she said; he seems more like he’s 32. Let’s not forget that she’s fully aware of my age: 45.

We talked about the cafe trip being what my dad called “an unexpected surprise” which he immediately recognized as redundant; however, Natalie pointed out that you can have a surprise you’re expecting. You just may not know exactly what’s in store.

My dad is a longtime collector of all things street, alley, gutter, would-be incinerator fodder. He told Natalie that he found a sculpture of a dog he’ll be giving my sister for her birthday. He said it’s not fuzzy like Natalie’s toy doggies from Kari. He said it’s not fuzzy. I asked if it was ceramic. And he said: “No, it’s a bulldog.” As my friend Kiera said: “I now understand Natalie completely.”

So last night I faked an orgasm sound for Cindy and Josh, and Natalie, from her room, called out: “Are you having a baby?”

Mom: “It’s good to be able to see your body parts. Lots of people have never seen their vulva.”
Natalie: “Or their longer vulva.”
Mom: “Their longer vulva?
Natalie: “The penis. It’s just a long vulva. …Why do they different? Wait. Why DO they different? Why DO they different?? Hahaha…”

“I’m not into boys, but I like this one.” Perry!!

Natalie: “Why do raspberries have hair?”
Mom: “Maybe it’s part of how they protect themselves.”
Natalie: “So that means I’m touching a criminal?”

Natalie always gets shortbread cookies in fun shapes and covered in pretty glazes from a local bakery when we visit Daddy’s parents. This weekend I was explaining how families can exponentially grow. I said that if two people have six kids, and they each grow up to have three themselves, that’s already 18 grandchildren. Natalie is impressed – “Wow. A lot of cookies to give.”

We pass Nipper downtown. Natalie has always loved Nipper. “If you ever need a coat, ask me. Aaaask meeee.”

For her Eco Fair presentation, Natalie’s researching how paper is recycled. She’s reading this from Fact Monster: “The paper is transported to a pupiling felicity.”

I’m involving Natalie in tonight’s dinner, angel hair with fake meatballs.
“I have the fire extinguisher right here. In case we need it. Which I bet we might.”
“If you get soaking wet during a fire, don’t blame me, blame the fire you put on.”
“It’s 4:59. I’ll just be your…lifesaverguard.”
Mom: “I’m exposing you to my lack of fear. You need to slowly feel less fear.”
Natalie: “It’ll be slower than a snail. …Maybe I should get some ice.”
“Oh goody, the stove is off. Now I’m overjoyed.”

I think maybe my father called Perry splendid, but I’m not sure. “Cindy, Grandpa is just that kind of person. He says extravagant words like that.”

Moon Sand cakes with Cindy, and Cindy won: “Yours has a touch of elegant niceness, but mine has a touch of simpleness.”

“Mom, do I smell skunk?” No. “Then why do I smell skunk?”

“Dad, you wanna know something? You’re kind of cute.”

I nearly slip on something on the floor. “Ack! I almost broke my neck.” Natalie starts rubbing my neck. I thank her and tell her my neck isn’t actually hurt, that it’s just a way of saying you nearly got hurt or killed yourself tripping on something. “Saying you killed yourself is also an abbreviation,” she says, still rubbing my neck. (Kiera sez: Fish is onomatopoeia. I’m learning to speak Natalease.)

Natalie designs a wrecking ball but calls it a bulldozer. Go figure. “I’m thinking of asking the government to make the bulldozer balloon a copyright.”

On fathers and daughters: “Scientists have figured out, somehow, they have a special relationship.”

March 16: I’m blasting Rush, and Natalie is spontaneously dancing her heart out. I think I might burst. 2112 starts with spacey sounds. “I’m waiting for the rock to get on.” We move on to Yes, and she’s strumming randomly with Roundabout. Life is good here.

“Perry, you’re a positive form, of happiness. Calming, just lying here, isn’t it. Got a full stomach, how much could you ask for? I’m going to devote my life – just like Charlie Brown – to making you happy.”

I got a new color on my braces: deep, bright blue. Natalie: “Next time it’s vermilion.” She changes her mind quickly. “Chartreuse. Bright green, chartreuse.”

“Retroactive? What does that mean, olden times sports?”

Mom: “You remember the names of the quarks, don’t you?”
Natalie thinks for a moment. “Sparkle, high, low…?”

Mom: “They said you were born at 2:11 pm, but I looked at the wall and I thought it was 2:12.”
Natalie: “Maybe you were having weird things ’cause you were getting me birthed.”

On Perry: “He’s so calmular.”

Mom: “You’re like your Aunt Bonnie. She died when you were a baby. She said very poetry-flowery-universey things.”
Natalie: “Like, ‘The world is a complex of the worst of means’.”
Mom: “Did you just make that up?”
Natalie: “Yeah.”
Mom: “Yeah. Like that.”

Natalie’s showing us some gorgeous dancing and, again, I offer to get her some lyrical dance lessons. But she doesn’t want to be told what to do, step by step. “I like to dance earthy. I want to train myself to dance modernly and free. I want to dance like you’re waiting to see what I do next.” (Kiera: So she wants to dance like she talks?)

Against her better judgment, Natalie is going to see Hamlet with her class tomorrow. Her teacher, Cindy, could not let her stay back without at least trying to convince her that it would be okay. Cindy assured Natalie that it wouldn’t be too scary; the actors who “die” come back to talk to the kids; and the two of them could wear black and sit together so they could cuddle up during any scary parts. (Teacher of the Year going on right here.)

Since she usually dresses for the next day, Natalie is already all in black and has asked for Shakespearey hair tomorrow when she sees Hamlet, which I said would probably be some kind of pinned-up braid. She uses a lint brush on her black velour dress, complaining that it’s not working. Then she begins wiping the glass of the patio door with it. “I want this door to be clean for Shakespeare.” Don’t we all.

After almost two years of classical guitar lessons leading to Natalie’s growing skill at picking, she’s learning a couple of chords. She HATES this. Chords brutally hurt her fingers until they bleed. Or at least, that’s what the histrionics contend. So I ask which of the two chords is worse. And she says: “They’re tied for Horrible.” Matt is KILLING the delicate flower. (Keep it up, Matt). Matt sez: We’re going to turn this delicate flower into a beautiful flower with thorns that grows on cliff edges.

Natalie has offered to do a commissioned drawing for me, anything I want, as long as it doesn’t involve pastels. I order three versions of Natalie’s face.
Natalie: “I just want to make you happy.”
Mom: “I like kids who make their parents happy.”
Natalie: “Well, good. You’re in luck, I think.”
We’ll see. If I don’t enjoy the result, it’s the dungeon.

The braces have graciously allowed me to drop over 15 pounds and I need new pants. I’m headed to the glamorous Casual Pants Table at BJ’s. “Well, if you’re going, try buying some blank pants, so I can decorate them.”

The girls did some horrific face-painting. Liesl said I look like some kind of Native American tribe from some movie, she doesn’t know which, mixed with Clown. Natalie added: Mixed with Outer Space. And Toxic Waste. They’re working on Dad now. “We have so much more room on him, because he’s bald.”

Natalie and Liesl WERE dancing in the garage to the disco ball, but they just walked back in, with Natalie saying: “I think it’s called colostrophobia. I’m very sorry.” I asked what was going on. It had nothing to do with the garage. They’re headed back.

Again with the procrastination over the evil chords. I suggest playing the worse one first. Which one is worse? “They’re the same worseness, but both horrible.”

Our Family Presents: Light Conversation For a Monday Morning
Mom: “Kim Jong-Un has people killed for speaking against him. He even had his uncle killed.”
Natalie: “How old is he, one years old?”
Mom: “Haha. He sure acts like it, doesn’t he.”
Natalie: “That’s what I mean. He acts like he’s the death god, one years old.”

Dad is telling a story about an experience doing stand-up in Dayton, Ohio. “Ohio! Did you go to the banks?”

Natalie: “I have a question, a philosopher kind of question. How come you can see your own body with your eyes, if they’re part of your body?”
Mom: “You can’t see your own eyes, or anything nearby that’s too close. You can only see parts of your body that are far enough away.”
Natalie: “I know, but, it’s kinda questiony, how you can see yourself, if you’re looking at yourself, as your own body.” Deep. (Trish sez: I hope the world doesn’t break your child by trying to make her average.)

“It’s more peacefuler without the light on.”

Flippy the Betta Fish
Mom: “I think I need to add some water.”
Natalie: “I think so too. He’s been breathing it all up.”

I came home tonight and Natalie didn’t see me until I had taken off my pants, which were wet at the ankles. She walked over to the kitchen, put two and two together, and came up with ludicrous. “YOU WENT WITHOUT YOUR PANTS?”

Natalie’s early birthday gift, an adult-size balloon apron, from Grandma Dotty and Grandpa Loring has arrived. She’s been gasping and cooing. She’s not ready to call Grandma, though. “Later. Twenty minutes. I want to, you know, have some quality time with it.” Natalie says she is in love with the apron and is going to wear it to restaurants and use it, you betcha. “I don’t care who stops me from it, but I’m in love with it.” Natalie’s talking about how giving people joy with balloons gives her joy. I remind her that joy is one of a very few things that’s like this: The more you give, the more you have. “Yup,” she says. “Love, Joy, and Balloons.”
“And giving joy is a great thing. But I wish more people knew that.”
“It’s really heavy. In a good way. It shows that I’m really a masterpiece with this. I feel like a masterpiece attached to this.”
Natalie to Daddy: “You know, I like how you love balloons. You have a good attitude on them.” He has a–good attitude on them? “Yeah. He likes balloons, and I like him that way.”

“Finally good to be back home.”

Took the girl to the mall for my work pants search. I heard things like:
“Very meetingy.”
“Very laid-back.”
Then she asked me if I thought she could work advising people on styles at this restaurant.

Natalie: “My nose feels red.”
Mom: “It’s not. It’s all inside. You just caught the cold and your nose had to start fighting the germs.”
Natalie: “Fighting. Now I know how the army feels.”

I stood on a chair this morning to get Riley down. “What? Oh. I thought you had grown easily.”

“But you could fall and land on your heart and it would get misshapen.”
Those American Heart Association prizes for donation amounts look like they’re made with the kind of toxic plastic that I disapprove of because it smells bad. “Spray it with anti-plastic spray,” says Natalie. Everything is so easy when you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
Sean Fagan’s Circus Theatricks site still has the 2014 camp dates up and I can’t find dates for this summer. Natalie has a theory. “Maybe for the circus, it’s one year for us and two years for them. So it’s 2014 for them.”
Mom and Dad try to explain how being funny is both natural and learned, that is takes a lot of practice. “You can’t hold funniness, Dad,” disagrees the Knowledgeable One. “Unless it’s the word ‘FUNNINESS’ made in block letters, you can hold.”
Natalie is her school’s second Recorder Black Belt and the first girl to get there. Matt said she’s the Recorder Queen.
Natalie: “I’m happier than a soup paper that just got fired.”
Natalie: “Oh. I got two letters mixed up. I’m happier than a poop scraper that just got fired. A poop scraper at a zoo. I hope I’m not bragging.”

Natalie tells Perry: “Soak up the niceness that I’m giving you.” Right. The niceness. The kind that usually makes him growl.

“Daddy’s working on the slot machine. And I’m scared. I’m worried that he’ll get a shot.”

The Ruffs win the Puppy Bowl! Natalie wants to know why the fans in the stands are fake. I tell her it’s because they want it to appear like there are thousands of fans. “I’m a thousand of a fan.” And I’m stumped.

Natalie wants Daddy, Mommy and Cindy to join her in the upstairs play room. “Don’t you see? I’m being lazy in action!”

I cock my head to the side to show the hilarious pose Riley just did, but Natalie is not impressed. “Mm. That’s just what birds do. Understand it or don’t.”

I took a pic of Natalie’s newly-created label for Passion Fruit Fashion.
Mom: “I’ve got your picture, Honey, and it’s beautiful.”
Natalie: “Thank you.”
Mom: “Want to see it?”
Natalie: “Not at this single moment.”

“I can see your coin hole.” Slot. Coin slot.

“I do NOT want my hair cut! It’s fine the way it is! And it’s almost like wasting the hair that you grow! And that’s the way it is! And that was not supposed to be funny!”

Natalie’s thawed frozen mango is hard and tart. I explain that sometimes it’s less ripe, but it’s still fine to eat and she should eat it. “It’s not ‘less’,” she says. “This is down to where it just became a bud. Super-hard.”

“I’m taking my glasses off and re-putting them on.”

If everyone had to choose their own last name, Natalie would choose Pool. “Just sounds kinda…relaxful. Mandel just doesn’t sound relaxful.”

Natalie: “You’re a lady of a kind.”
Mommy: “Aw, thanks! …What does that mean?”
Natalie: “It means I love you.”
Mommy: “I love you more than I love coffee.”
Natalie: “Wow. Really? That’s a lot of love.”
Mommy: “Of course.”
Natalie: “I love you more than I love Peanuts comics. And that’s a lot of love.”
Mommy: “I know.”
Natalie: “I love Peanuts comics, but I lurve you. I’m 99 up on loving Peanuts comics. If I got up to 100, it would be lurve.”
Mommy: “You can lurve Peanuts. It’s okay.”
Natalie: “REALLY?? I CAN?!? Then I lurve Peanuts comics and I double-lurve you!” She rolls down the window. “I LURVE PEANUTS COMICS!!!” The window is rolled up, then back down. “AND I LOVE MY MOMMY!!!”

“My blubby chubby. Boobs. Belong to my Mommy. Of my life.”

At school, they’re doing a random lunch exchange for Valentine’s Day. Each person writes their favorite lunch (sans PB though) and Natalie picked her teacher! She’s worried that Cindy will not be thoroughly satisfied with the food Natalie brings in for her. “She will probably reject to something.”

Natalie LOVES Central Avenue. It’s in the middle of everything and it’s always busy. “Even on a cloudy day like this, it brights everything up.” She loves downtown Albany around Lark Street, because when not a lot of people are around, you feel like you have the city to yourself. However, she acknowledges one risk related to traffic: “You could get seriously hit.”

Natalie likes toddlers, but not babies. Babies throw up all the time for no reason. “They throw up for no reason whatsoever.” She said she’s not going to allow her baby to do that.

We ate at wonderful Ramona’s Cafe today. We smelled bacon and sausage. They smelled great to both of us, although we don’t eat such things. “What did the pig ever do to be eaten?” Nothing. “Well,” she continued, “I don’t like the way they shake mud onto you. But other than that, I like them.” I asked when a pig ever shook mud onto her. “Never. But it can…”

Being on Lark Street makes Natalie nostalgic about the Pride Parade. “When’s the next Gay Fair?”

I’m telling Daddy about an unpleasant conversation Natalie and I had in the car about her invention submission at school. “Please don’t try to replicate my whiny voice.”

Daddy’s going shopping. I put in a vote: “Bananas.” Natalie immediately exercises a useless veto: “Forget the banana.” Daddy wants to know why, since Natalie recently wanted banana – for a change – after watching Master Chef Junior. “What’s the point of eating banana,” she says, if you’re just going to poop it out?”

Daddy comes back with groceries before our expected snowstorm. He brought me a rare treat: crunchy Cheetos. Natalie immediately turns to me: “I’m wondering if I could have some. Would you be generous enough…to…”

Mom: “This is a lovely song called Harvest Moon, and it has notes I hope you’ll learn to play on the guitar someday, called harmonics.”
Natalie: “I am NOT gonna learn harmonica notes.”

“There’s love spare for both of you in my heart.”

“If anyone sees me eating snow, it’s normal.”

We’re trying to clear some of the more heinous clutter for Kim’s visit with her almost-five-year-old, Jocelyn. “But,” says Natalie, “We shouldn’t clean so much when that’s just giving the wrong impression of ourselves.”

When it was time for them to leave, Natalie told Jocelyn: “She’s just trying to hitnitize you. Don’t let her.”

We just watched Into The Woods. Natalie wasn’t too crazy about it. I said it was probably for an older audience. “And too many songs. Like every two sentences there was a song.”

“This is the shortest weekend of my life.”

On fashion models: “They don’t have to be that skinny. They’re being hypocrites.”

“Regal Albany 7 Criminals?…Well I don’t know how to read ‘Cenemas’!”

Sometimes a brutally bad song gets stuck in my head, and lately it’s been Daddy’s fault, because he has introduced the Worst Musical In History into our home: Young Abe Lincoln. He even uploaded it to YouTube, in five parts, to share the horror with the world. The songs are unpleasantly amateurish and corny, and VERY EAR-WORMY. So this morning I start mumbling about how much I hate Daddy, and Natalie chides me that my timing sucks: “You shouldn’t hate him right next to Valentine’s Day.”

Last I looked, Daddy was still out there, shoveling, before running an errand. Natalie wants me to get out there and finish the job. I ask Natalie to see if he’s still out there. “I wouldn’t think so, and I wouldn’t depend on it.” When he got back, Daddy couldn’t tell I had done anything out there! Natalie vouched for me though. “She was shovelin’…she looked pretty hard-goin’.”

Natalie’s annoying us by doing rabbit ears behind Daddy when I’m trying to take a professional balloon pic. And she actually lectures him: “This is what having a kid is.”

Natalie is talking to her old friend Emily in California and she’s on some topic about a school project where they’re supposed to write in some kind of fancy handwriting. “Not as precise and fancy, it should be fancy…but it should be what I would call, bright and energetic. …Neon-y…”

Th sweater comes off the heater and goes onto the girl. “Whoaaa. That’s the Daddy I’ve heard of. One day you’ll be famous for warming up the coats for the poor people.”

We do 50+30+20, then 70+30. “How do people come up with this stuff. I wish there was no such thing as math. Yet.”

School bus! “Okay. Let’s not do the ‘good day’ and everything. He’s already here. I’d love to, but I can’t.”

“Good night, Fluffenstuck. Fluffenstuck?! I’m getting old.”

Natalie! It’s time to get up. I don’t want to keep calling you. “I’m sorry. I’m thinking, and you really have to stay in your thought.” Okay, how about now? “I’m still in my thought. I guess I can finish it on the bus.” It turns out she was trying to continue a rare good dream in which I allowed her to finish an Oreo.

“I hate cursive. I only do it for other people to enjoy it. It’s hateable. I can’t even do a ‘b’, and that’s the easiest. I can only do a’s and r’s and c’s.”

“USDA? United States D’of America?”

Daddy is going to rid us of some icicle dangers. “Be as careful as you can, Dad. But of course knock it down like you mean it.”

Natalie’s teachers are down for the count. Cindy has the flu, and Patrick’s father died so he went to the funeral. “I just hope Patrick’s funeral doesn’t show up too soon.”

“I don’t want to take dance lessons. I’m already so good at free dance.”

Overheard with the porcelain kitty salt and pepper shakers and other knickknacks:
“I thought everything would be free. Except the souvenirs. And you would pay for that. I have lint in my pocket. All right. Give it to me. …You may go to the bathroom….Listen. We’re on a boat. This life is a boat life. You have to respect that. …Aren’t you afraid you’ll fall? We’re two inches above land. Okay? …We’re at land. …Thank you. …I’m back. Urgh. Smell. Yeah. I know what will help the smell. What are you doing? Filling this up with my beautiful smell.”
Now she’s talking about sewing camp. They’re sewing shirts and pants. “Remember, people, we’re competing.”

We’re still reading The Cartoon History of the Universe and just finished the stories of Gautama (Buddhism) and Mahavira (Jainism). Natalie is a big Buddha fan; she has a growing collection of Buddhas and she likes to meditate. I ask what part of Buddha’s story she liked best. “The part where he got fat.” Yeah, that was good. He overdosed on pork at age 80. (So much for moderation in all things.) I mention how the fat version of the Buddha seems to be the one embraced by the Chinese, and the skinny one by Indians. I ask Natalie how she thinks the Chinese might have learned about Buddhism. “Maybe they heard about it in the newspaper? Or…the…shredded rock? The news rock. It’s the news rock.” She’s only a few thousand years and miles off.

I’m going to take a detour to brag now, about how my child is actually paying attention to The Cartoon History of The Universe. Today Andrew was teaching the kids about our ancient ape ancestors and what evidence we have that points to our own apish past. Kids shouted out things like bones, and animal bones, and stuff like that. And Natalie said: “Tools!” And Andrew – she says – dramatically dropped his marker and said: “TOOLS!” I don’t often get a scholastic kvell, so I’m going to bask in this one. Kvell, kvell, kvell.

A mountain of evidence points to a Middle School boy, Lucas, having a massive crush on Natalie. The Spanish teacher had to tell him to stop talking to her in class, and she saw him banging his head on his locker while his friend counseled him and pointed out that Natalie was right over there. “I just hope he doesn’t propose to me.”

Daddy: “Give me my fortune.”
Natalie: “You will have ugly surroundings, but you will be the gem and light of the world.”

Mommy: “Daddy’s silly.”
Natalie: “No he’s–yes he is.”

I’ve done a fair amount of organizing and cleaning today, and Natalie has been asked to do her share. “But that stuff that’s yours, please deal with by yourself.” Oh. That’s rich.

“If I could create a new religion, and what we worshiped, I think it would be apples.” Why apples? “Apples are so special. It’d either be apples or water. Very special things for your body. Just like how, sometimes, you know like how, in that religion, they worshiped cows, I think it’s called Yahu Wahu? Yahu Wahu! Be careful reading aloud.” (If you haven’t read The Cartoon History of The Universe, don’t try to understand the last 75% of this one.)

“I’m not into romance. Why are you going all over it? I wish I could go back into kindergarten.” Why? “It’s easy. It’s all easy! There’s no pressure in kindergarten.”

“When people are going to be looking at you model, it’s a little pressuring.”

“But, different taste buds have their own likes. Every taste bud is an individual.”

Watching The Wizard of Oz with Skyler.
Mom: “Nobody uses the word ‘aver’ any more.”
Natalie: “But it’s still cool. It’s retro that way.”

“That must be one of the most famous lines of history.”

Skyler: “What will you wish for when you have a thousand cranes?”
Natalie: “No more, ever again.”
They don’t understand my laughter. They think it’s a nice wish.

“I hate the na-na-na clean up song.” (Daddy says: Is that the one that goes, “Na-na-na-na. Na-na-na-na. Hey, hey, clean up.”?)

Mom: “I don’t wanna go get my oil changed.”
Natalie: “Self-discipline, Mom.”
Thin ice.

Mom: “Daddy’s swaying.”
Natalie: “He looks cool doing that. He looks like seaweed. Manly seaweed. I can actually see muscle growing in there.”

Skyler’s mom took the girls to the gem and fossil show at the state museum. “Did you know that jet is polished black coal? It’s not rare, but it’s not not rare.” I look it up. Do you know that it’s also called lignite? “Hm. That’s interesting. I’ll keep it onto me. Just in case. No, literally.”

We are watching Big Hero 6. “That girl, who blew up the pink ball, she’s an optimist. A positivityist. Positivityism.”

Natalie: “There’s more than a billion people in the world.”
Mom: “Yeah. Several billion.”
Natalie: “Really? I thought it was only one billion, twenty-five thousand something.”

“I love Ana, but sometimes she can get, so, out of my comfort zone.”

Natalie was unhappy with me at the diner. She asked if she and Pam could get gumballs, and if not, could she put the quarters in the give-a-penny, take-a penny. I said no to both. She lectured me. “There’s such a thing as generousy. Like giving coins.” She cried in the car on the way home. She said she’s devoted her life to being kind and thoughtful and generous, and if she can’t give, she feels like she’s nothing. We’re now putting pennies in her pockets so she’ll always be prepared for the stealth restaurant change-making charitable giving.

I knock on the bathroom door and Natalie tells me I can come in. She’s on the toilet and asks what I’m doing. “I hope it’s nothing too personal. Like going to the bathroom even though I’m already going to the bathroom. What if you actually did that? Would it be alright if I slap you? On the face? …Why not?”

Natalie’s in Drama Kids camp this week.
Mom: “Are you recording today?”
Natalie: “Yeah. And no, I don’t want any special hair.”
Mom: “Well, yeah. What do you take me for?”
Natalie: “An old lady.” BAM!
Mom and Dad: “OHHHHHH.”
Mom: “You goof.”
Natalie: “If you called me that, I’d storm off into my room and slam the door.”
Mom: “If I called you an old lady?”
Natalie: “No, a goofball.”
Mom: “But I did…I’m confused.” As usual.

“Mom, Riley’s eating one of her feathers! It’s dangerous. It’s fatal, isn’t it? It’s not? That’s disgusting.”

I admonish the girl not to keep picking pilled areas from her felt hat from Estonia. If you keep picking at them, I say, the felt will get too thin. She says that’s okay. No, it could get holes, I say. She says that would be okay. No, I say, it’s not okay. You wouldn’t want holes in your most precious hat. This prompts today’s gibberish. “My most precious hat is the hat of love. And my thinking cap too. And also my Somewhere Over the Rainbow hat is pretty special too.”

Mom: “You still need to pick up your drawing and craft area.”
Natalie: “I did. It’s technically clean. There’s some things left, but it’s technically clean.”

Natalie couldn’t decide what to make. “I don’t know. There’s just so many things to think of out of my comfort zone.” We went with the strawberry Nesquik cookies, and we did great with Daddy’s mise en place.

Natalie’s telling Grandma Dotty about Murder Mystery/Secret Agent drama camp this week. “A lot of ten o’clock kind of spies.” ???

It’s not often we have Dunkin’ Donuts in the house.”Oh my gosh. Daddy, I’m so happy with you.” I start laughing as Natalie opens the box. “Dad said I could. And I am not turning down a doughnut.”

“Can’t wait for midnight to struck.”

Natalie asked about how Daddy proposed to me. “In what tone, like?”

We talked about where I lived while I was dating Daddy. I said I lived near Liesl’s neighborhood. Near Delmar. Natalie was impressed: “You live in such a peaceful, treeable place.”

Mom: “Nope.”
Natalie: “Did someone die?”
Mom: “Nooo, I was saying the Drama Kids movie from last week’s camp isn’t up on YouTube yet.”
Natalie: “I thought you were saying ‘no’ to someone being alive. After a car crash.”
Mom: “Were you just talking about that?”
Natalie: “No.”
Mom: “Then why would you think that?
Natalie: “I don’t knowww…I don’t knoww.”

It’s dinnertime and I am only allowing a demonstration of a drawing technique if the roasted carrots still keep going in the mouth. Natalie, of kohss, disagrees: “I’m allowed to draw whenever I want, ’cause it’s my joy to life.”

On Skyler: “She gets very offended by stuff. It’s wowing.”

“Nice job,” said Harold, astonished. Natalie kept repeating this in various tones for a minute during dinner, claiming it came from nowhere.

Inspired by Skyler, Natalie intends to wear pj’s tomorrow. “Oh yeah, I’ll be showin’ off. I mean, why not??”

“I’m sorry I didn’t say ‘Have a” but I was trying to talk like Olden Times. Like ‘Good Day!’ Have a Good Day!”

“Oh Perry, I’m quite scared for you. …I know I can’t hold on to you forever…”

I’m done reading The Cartoon History of the Universe to the girl for tonight. “Actually, I have some thinking to do. And I have some Perry loving to catch up on.”

Daddy: “How’s your room?”
Natalie: “It’s good. Trust me.”

“I could hit any dog out of the ballpark, but that wouldn’t be kind to dogkind.” So..maybe this is the one that finally convinces me that the child is perhaps differenter than I had suspected.

To Mom: “You are very sacred.” Turns to Dad. “You are very sacred.”
Just like that. I love atheistic semi-Buddhist children.

Natalie: “Gobblesmith.”
Mom: “Gobblesmith?”
Natalie: “Gobblesmith.”
Mom: “What does gobblesmith mean?”
Natalie: “I have no idea. It’s dramatic. That’s all that counts.”

“I’m readier than eadier.”

“There’s no such thing as breaking a promise when you don’t know if the promise is going to pay off.” ??!

Mom: “I love you more than you can know.”
Natalie: “For once, I believe you. It’s parent love. It’s believable. It’s unbelievable. It’s believable that you love me more than I love you. But unbelievable how much. …You’re so soft. Soft like a woman.”

This morning we shared our dreams, and mine had to do with a store owner in a mall re-setting my diamond but actually stealing it and replacing it with glass, which began to crack and disintegrate and finally turn into huge potato chips. MY magician friend Ray was in the dream, first as a magician and then as my lawyer who was going to help me confront the swindler. (Unfortunately, I had not made the lady sign anything, so I had no proof.) But I first accused the wrong person, a pharmacist at the Rite Aid next to the offending store who was Asian, as was the swindler. In the dream, called the pharmacist a criminal. Natalie found this offensive. “Bad Mom. Bad Mom. Bad Mom. Bad Mom. Don’t threaten Asian ladies. I love Asia.” You love everything except those paintings, I said. “Those are China.” No, they’re from Japan, I said. It’s part of Asia. “It’s more of an island,” she rationalized. Oh my god, I love her so much.

I thought I had canceled the MoMA catalog, a dangerous thing to have in the house, but we have one right now and Natalie enjoys slobbering over it as much as we do. First she noted that some nesting tables were as much as a car payment. (Actually at least four payments.) Then she said how much she likes this lamp, which is only $190. “One hundred ninety. Of course, most lamps cost one hundred ninety, because they’re electric.”

“I wish Perry knew how to dance. We’d be very good dancing partners.”

Natalie: “Insurance? House care? House care?”
Mom: “Insurance doesn’t mean house care.”
Natalie: “Yes it does.”

Hole in the pants…”Do you want to patch it up? Thank you so much. I’m very happy with you.”

Natalie on toothpaste: “Is this a good amount? Good. I’m glad. I do have my reputation to think of, you know.”

“Good night, Best Love Of All Time In The World, except for Mom, who is tying with you.”

Mom: “Come on down, love.”
Natalie: “I’m down, but I have Perry with me, so I just can’t get away.”

Aquaphor for the chapped lips…”But I’m so morningy I can barely squeeze the bottle.”

“TIME TO DO HAIR!…Ooops. What am I saying.”

The gym teacher upset Natalie by talking about keeping yourself clean and healthy and avoiding diseases like HIV. She spent the time around the corner with her head down. “Not a single thing that he said didn’t scare me.”


A sweet song by Natalie:

You’re inkin’, you’re stinkin’,
You’re smellin’ like poo.
But one thing’s for sure:
I admire you.

It’s like a boy trying to admire some other boy that’s being the grossest.


Daddy finished reading from The Wizard of Oz series for the night.
Natalie: “He tripped into the throne room on his big carpenter feet.”
Daddy: “Carpenter?! Hardly.”
Natalie: “I know. But funniness is in hand.”

“Sleep well, my extra sweet.”

“I can resist anyone other than…guess what. Peanut butter and jelly on a bagel. Or egg salad.”

Natalie insists that her guitar is broken. “Literally and technically.” And it was. We got a new one. Its name is Baby Blue.

Natalie says she promised Josh she’s not going to lick him for two years. I don’t believe her. Daddy tastes good, I say. Doesn’t he. “Uh huh. Tastes so sweaty and salty. Like french fries. French fries with hair. Spokey hair.”

“We shouldn’t be cleaning, ‘cuz it’s just being…hypocritical.”

Natalie still loves playing Style Savvy on the DS. “Even though I don’t like glitz, I keep it in my store. I have to have different things in the store, to have my customers’ needs.” That game doesn’t end? You can just keep playing it? “Forever. Forever until the game burns down.”

This one’s not about Natalie. I saw something online about “Clitoris Awareness Week!” Daddy, not missing a beat: “I kept looking for that on the calendar, and I couldn’t find it.”


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