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We bought a 75″ TV and had to have some talks about how we didn’t need it, but we wanted it. Mom agreed we have a happy life even without it. Natalie said: “We’re living happy lives here, except when you’re having your period.”

We just signed up for Adapter Mind’s math game program. Natalie understands why the program will come back to topics in which she showed “strength”. “So that I don’t un-get used to it.”

Natalie got excited that I’m willing to go to the rock show with her this year, the one where she got her ocean jasper last year with Skyler. “You would? Although, there is one problem. You’ll probably run into someone you know and start talking about embarrassing stuff.”

Mom: “You’re my daughter.”
Natalie: “You’re my grownup.”

Mom posted on Facebook:
If you’ve seen Inside Out (and if you haven’t, please Unfriend me now because it’s not going to work out…and if you have but you didn’t cry, please seek immediate mental health treatment for your strong sociopathic tendencies) then you know the characters in Riley’s head: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.
Coming home from school today, Josh asked Natalie how school was, and she told Josh she felt empty. She didn’t have any emotions. It was like all the Inside Out characters in Natalie’s head were busy eating dinner. Then Daddy and Daughter saw the remarkable sunset. And Natalie said: “I guess Joy finished her dinner.”

Natalie gives me a unprompted kiss. As usual, I make a lot of grateful noise about how that’s the best kind, and use the opportunity to define “unsolicited” because I’m annoying like that. I explain how people who go door to door selling things are soliciting. And Natalie says: “More of SELLiciting.” I like that.

“The thing you have to do with salad is make it a little bit messy. Then it actually looks somewhat like a salad.”

Natalie now WANTS to do math, on Adapted Mind. She’s eager. “Who are you?” I ask. “Natalie, Child Genius,” she says.

I burp. “Disgusting, Mom. A disgrace to humankind.”

Natalie: “Mom, what did you want to be when you grew up?”
Mom: “A lawyer, or an actor or a medical researcher.”
Natalie: “I didn’t know you wanted to be a lawyer. You never told me.”
Mom: “Yes I did. People would tell me I should be a lawyer. I was good at making arguments…”
Natalie: “Yeah. You’re good at shouting.”

On the phone to Uncle Alan: “Dad is trying to make french toast…and succeeding.”

Natalie’s home from school with an achy stomach due to having a cold. She slept very late and then accepted a bath. I made it too cold, and later I ran the water too hot. “Not hot like stylish.”

Natalie is unhappy that the earth will eventually stop spinning, and time will stop. She likes a night party, but not all the time. “Someone couldn’t lasso the earth and keep spinning it. They’d get tired eventually. There’s not even string that long. Fifty pounds of string couldn’t do it.”

On the current big project in school: “I wish Cindy never found out what an autobiography is.”

“What does prahzihmobly mean?” Presumably.

Monday is MLK day, no school. I ask what he worked for. Natalie says peace. I remind her that peace was secondary to his main goal of racial equality. Natalie wants to know why we have to have so many holidays recognizing people. “The thing is, it makes the normal people feel bad about themselves, as if they’re not doing enough.”

Daddy: “Come over here.” He’s got a game set up on the Wii.
Natalie: “Why, what’s wrong? Yay, nothing’s wrong, everything’s great!”

Kayla’s here, working on a school sculpture project. Natalie says: “It’s very falling-overy.”

Natalie hates Trump. “What’s wrong with Mexicans? They’re bringing over some of the best food of all time.”

“Ready for sensory, Natalie? Yes I am. I’m ready for sensory.” She loves cleaning the toilet bowl.

She doesn’t want to leave our new bed. “This bed is what I sometimes call comfy.”

On romance and stuff: “Don’t worry. I’m not into that stuff yet. I’m still into fun and rainbows and unicorns and India.”

“It’s a teeny bit impossible for me.”

“We have what some people call a washing machine.”

On being mad at Perry: “It’s a tough nighttime relationship.”

“Oh Perry, oh Perry. And I don’t mean it in a Cindy-lovey way.”

“My heart is telling me I’m glad I told you we could fix my vision, but my brain is telling me: You can stop this instant, young lady!”

“I’m an America citizens, and American citizens have freedoms. Give me my freedom.”

On playing Morrissey’s Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want to wake her up:
“Stop, Mom! What did I ever do to you?”

“I’m scared. And I’m happy. For once, joy is here.”

On wrestling: “That’s what it takes to do it with a dog.”

To Cookie: “Your legs are in the air like you just don’t care!”

A blanket: “This thing is indestretchable.”

On Cookie’s first snow: “I know, I know I’m overreacting, but I have to, with this love.”

Mom: “Do you remember when you were little and wanted to hear about cords and smoke detectors over and over?” Natalie: “Of course I do. Those were the bad days.”

Mom: “Go bubble and read.” (Bubble means use fluoride rinse, because she started with a bubble-gum flavored one.) Natalie: “And get a drink of water because I am terrifyingly thirsty.”

I made the mistake of using gel in the hair this morning. I said I thought Natalie wanted it less bouncy and grabbing up, and gel would help with that, keeping it looking longer. “But I’m okay with it being bouncy. It makes me feel adorable.”

To a tiny doll: “Your hair, scientifically, is as black as it can be.”

Natalie came to our doorway late at night and said she’d swallowed string. She’d been talking, and her mouth was open, and string fell into her mouth from the upper bunk.

Watching How It’s Made: Peace Pipe. “I don’t smoke, but that’s cool.”

Natalie’s still being tugged in all directions by various girls who want to be her friend, and the stress is mounting. “It’s not easy being amazing. To people.”

Natalie’s upset that I’m looking at a pretty house online. She knows I want to move. She doesn’t. “I want to at least have broken up with all my friends before you move. So that it’s okay with me.”

Dec 8: Natalie bettered herself at this year’s Spelling Bee. Last year she spelled “blink” and flubbed “salsa” (salasa). This year she spelled “puddle” and “people” and flubbed “sonar” (soner). Daddy gave her a Mabel balloon as a bravery prize. She earned it.

Natalie took the Amigurumi extracurricular with Wendy this fall.
Daddy: “Wendy seems very nice.”
Natalie: “She very is.”

“She’s so corn chip! I never thought corn chips and cookies went together. I’ll have to try them when I get home. Do we have cookies in the house? …Grr.”

Daddy: “Who pooped?” It was Natalie. “Poor soul, wanting forgiveyness.”

She doesn’t like the veggie spring rolls from Van’s. “It’s spicy and sickening.”

“Ack. How come my bangs are so annoying, but I love them? And how come some people say bangs are ugly?”

We’re arguing about who owns the art Natalie makes and whether a particular piece (an image of a pink stuffed poodle) can get thrown away or recycled as Natalie wants, versus being saved, like I want, although the bird pooped on it. I tell her when you work for a company, they own everything you make while you’re with them, and the same goes for everything she makes while she lives with me. “So if I play with my toys, you get to decide the plot.”

“Mom, can I use one of your pens or pencilses?”

A kid’s magazine has a thing making the kid guess who Samuel Langhorne Clemens was. “I thought it was Mark Taiwan. I thought it’d be more of a Japanese person in a blue suit sitting at a desk. Doesn’t it sound kind of like a Japanese-Chinese person? Mark Taiwan.”

We’re in the bathroom. I ask Natalie to play one more song for her guitar practice. No sighing, I say. “No no. I needed a big breath. I don’t know how most people get by on–” And she models a normal breath.

I’m helping with Natalie’s autobiography and typed that Dotty used to knot instead of knit. Natalie thinks that’s a funny mistake. “Especially for a profeshiahnial typer.”

We couldn’t find any of Natalie’s three eye patches last night. Dad found one this morning. “I can’t believe I used a smelly old sock that made me half able to not breathe when there was a patch on Dad’s nightstand.”

“Mommy, is it just the sweater, or do I think you need to go back on the treadmill? Just in case.”

Walking Natalie into her room after a shower. “Ow. This is  very hurtingy.”

Natalie doesn’t want a hair gel tutorial. “I just don’t want amazing little things in my hair today. I want to be normal.”

Natalie’s desperately trying to get me back into the bathroom to watch a trick where she blows a green plastic Candyland character out of her mouth into a Fisher Price figure to knock it off the side of the tub. “Mom. I’ll do anything but kill myself. I’ll even scratch your back for five minutes. Straight!”

Late entry for Mother of the Year:
On the evening of 12/28/15, close-up mirror clattered on the bathroom floor. Natalie was hanging around the toilet as I did my thing at the sink. I whipped around.
Natalie: “Sorry!”
Me: “Oh my god. Pick it up.”
Natalie: “…For fuck’s sake?”

12/29/15: Watershed. Girl made her own dinner tonight. Crackers, half an everything bagel, hummus and baby carrots.

Daddy asked Natalie to close containers in the kitchen. “I close bags. They unclose.”

Natalie dislikes opera: “Too low, yet high. It’s like the highest low feeling. You know that feeling?”

“Not spiderwebs, just cob.”

We’re making Natalie watch The Bad News Bears from 1976, and she hates it. But she makes a couple of memorable remarks:
On how the coach is convincing Amanda to come pitch for his team: “That’s reverse theology.” She says she learned that from a Bad Kitty book.
Natalie knows very little about baseball. She knows that they go around the bases, and “…one pitches and one throws.”

The Smiths Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want:
“This song gives me growing up worries, plus his voice could use a little straightening out.”

I was washing Natalie’s hair and I reached over to turn on the radio while she scrubbed. I accidentally made a shampoo bottle fall off the bar and it hit Natalie’s tow in the shower. Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I said. Which one? The right one? She pointed to the left big toe. “The one that’s not strong enough to survive it.”

New vocab:
Offensering (Mom told Dad to so something without being polite. “You didn’t even…that was very offensing. Offensering.”
Thingamurg (On Cookie: “She’s such a…thingamurg.”) Natalie immediately acted ashamed and said she’d never say that again.

To the AG dolls: “You girls are nappin’? Nap time’s over. Now it’s time for some fun and talkin’.”

On cleaning: “Dirt isn’t falling out all over the place, and that’s good.”

“We were watching a disgusting movie that Cindy made us watch. About caveman times.”

“Oh. I guess it’s just like the olden times when women did all the work.”





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.”

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.”

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.”

To Cookie: “You’re a goodish girl. You never know when surprise’ll happen.”

“I wonder what it’s like to be a Perr-Perr. Relaxative?”

Natalie thinks our country is the most polluted or ugly or something. She says Africa and South America are more beautiful and designy.

Back with the quarantined Lizzy and Kaya after head lice. “A long-needed reunion. I don’t really know how to pronounce it out loud.”

Natalie had quite an undecent day. Kayla went to get her braces put on, and Natalie had to sit with other kids for lunch — “and I got stuck with two messy, weird, disgusting, gross boys.”

Natalie spelled DISASTER correctly, practicing for the spelling bee.
Mom: “Wait – DIS-aster or DAT-aster?”
Natalie gets upset with me – she thinks I’m calling her a butt. I have to explain that I was making a silly joke that had nothing to do with her, or with asses or butts.
Dad: “There’s a flower called Aster.”
Natalie: “Flowers aren’t butts.”
Laura: “Flowers are sexy.”
Natalie: “Don’t talk that word!”
Laura: “The planet is full of sex. Plants and animals having sex to make more of themselves…”
Natalie: “You don’t have to talk about it!”

“Daddy! Thing not understandingable.”

“Whoa. They’re so beautiful! Yet so casual.”

“TOO comfy. If they let go. If they don’t sell it any more.” (?)

“They always light up my day. They’re something that makes life worth living. They’re funny, Mom. They’re funny.” [And I have no idea what this was about! :-( ]

“Why is pink and purple most girls’ favorite color? I mean, I get it. They look good together. But really?”

“Do you think talking about being sick is contagious?”

Mom, on dental surgery coming up: “They’re going to make molds and play around with them to see what needs to be done next.” Natalie: “I thought having braces was serious.”

“We’re school friends, not ‘I’m going to talk about them at home’ friends.”

“She likes to be read to, do art (it’s not very good – shhh).”

“Thank you guys for being there when I need you. Except when you guys are napping. It kind of keeps me alive.”

“I don’t really use these. They don’t give me any information that I feel like knowing.”

“Whoever invented chores, I’m not amused. With them. Mom, if you’re writing down what I just said, I’m not happy.”

“People live from cancer. This is so far from that. I think I’m gonna live.”

On a piece of paper money: “At least you didn’t rip it all the way in half, that’d just be half the amount.” No it wouldn’t. “Hooray!”

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.”

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.”

“No, we’re becoming cardboard tinters.”

“So, I heard that Grandpa’s losing his mind.”

“If you ever have to get a different job, you should be a psychiatress or a patchmaker.”

“Whoa. You’re letting me get a donut. …Did someone switch out your brain even though you still love me?”

“Can I actually draw something on the piece of paper? I can’t stand a day without drawing. I won’t have much time to draw today.” I wrote a note with this quote: “Plan foiled.” And I’m typing this so long after that I have no idea what that was about.

“And it’s my favorite kind of bridge. That was a good experience.”

“You can kind of tell she’s one of those weird bossy girls.” This went with a drawing of a girl with a label saying: Do not be friends with her. >:(

“Just because I’m double digits, no one gets that I still want to be a 7-year-old.”

Mom: “How much better is it? A little, medium, or a lot?”
Natalie: “A quarter of a little. A little.”

“It’s just, she’s not the kind of girl who tries to spell harder than everyone. And she’s not a very competitiony kind of girl.”

“You know what would be the good kind of store? A store where everything is free to normal people, but robbers need to pay for it.”

“It’s been my companion for years and years.” I think she was referring to a sweater.

“I have two new kids on the bus. And I don’t tell them, but they smell odd.”

“Why is it always that way? Every genius I meet has some sort of problem. …That’s sort of sophisticated for a parent.”

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.”
To Pam, at her house: “On my god. Your “ews” have changed since I was here.”
“It’s not the feel, it’s the taste. It loses the taste and turns into an ugly, barfingable taste.”

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.

“Even though you’re mostly subording to the others?” (?)

“She has all these corners going around with her.” Cronies? “It’s hard to say with this gum in my mouth.”

“Countries aren’t all that creative.” Oh? “Mexico. Went over to New Mexico. York went over to New York. Zealand. Went over to New Zealand. Hmmm?” Zealand’s not a country. “Darn. Ruined my speech. …I knew you’d like that: ‘Ruined my speech.'”

“Only the pros know how to do it. Lucky pros.”

“Thirty-five!! I want cheerings!”

Ramblings from the summer of 2015 that, as I type them in February 2016, I have no sense of what they meant: “Hey, wanna play “Catch the Octopies? …Why would I show up in the Times? …Oh. I know what I’m doing. And it’ll be my fault.”


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.”

“The only good thing about going to church is that you get cracker.”

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.”

“Unless they strangle us and tie us down, then it’ll be later to 1:30.”

On lovey stuff: “I don’t know what boys get themselves into.”

On holding five dolls: “It’s really tough. Super heavy. All together, they weigh me.”



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.”

“Bad Matrix 4! Don’t threaten Asia ladies. I love Asia.”

“Doesn’t it sound kind of Venice-easy? Venice-easian.”

“I need to go poopy-bottoms.”

“Geez. That-is-tough-tah-go-an-inch-a-round.”



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