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

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

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

“My nails are painted, party-wise.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is the shortest weekend of my life.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“USDA? United States D’of America?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can’t wait for midnight to struck.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m readier than eadier.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A sweet song by Natalie:

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

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


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

“Sleep well, my extra sweet.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

We begin the new year with Natalie noticing that the price on “Where the Wild Things Are” says US $7.99/$11.99 CAN. She notices that you can make a joke about the price for “us” versus Canada. Then comes the inevitable gibberish. “It’s us that have the un-99’s. Of elevens.”

Natalie: “I hope you’ll be cured by February.”
Daddy: “I hope so too.”
Natalie, under her breath: “There’s not much hope.”

Natalie: “How many movies are made each year?”
Mom: “I don’t know. I can look it up.”
Natalie: “Thank you!”
Mom: “Do you mean in the U.S. or in the world?”
Natalie: “In the world.”
Mom: “Okay. I’ll look it up…But I know it’s different each year.”
Natalie: “I know, but, around. Circa.”

My computer’s fan just gets louder and louder when I turn it on; it appears to be broken. We’re not trying to turn it on any more. Natalie “checks” it. “Yup, it’s broken.” Oh yeah? “I tried looking up ‘Is my computer broken right now?’ and nothing happened.”

We were going to spend Saturday night in Queens, but that fell through. Before it did, Natalie was beside herself getting everything ready and wearing the planned clothes. “I still wanna get into it, so I’ll be ready. I like being ready. I get that from Cindy.”

Mommy “baked” with Natalie, which means creating a semi-disaster even from a mason jar pre-filled with the dry ingredients. Natalie got very excited about licking the cookie dough. “So can I eat my fingers now?”

I’m cutting Daddy’s hair. Natalie disapproves. “I don’t think Dad should look good while he doesn’t feel good.” I told him what Billy Crystal would say, and Natalie heartily disagreed with me. I had to tell her it’s just a quote.

“What do you say when you’re in hell and you need something? Hellp, hellp. Get it?”

“Snow is ice but less, icey, I’d have to say.” So wise.

Natalie finishes guitar and skips to our bedroom. “I’m quite ready to watch movie.”

Natalie: “Are my glasses real glass?”
Mom: “No.”
Natalie: “Then why aren’t they called plasses?”
Mom: “I don’t know, but I like that.”

Natalie to Daddy: “You fascinate me.”
“Seriously. You’re very interesting.”

Natalie: “You do what you do, and you don’t say poo.”
Daddy: “Poo!”
Natalie: “You broke your intelligence!”

Daddy: “Laura, the director of Frozen, Jennifer Lee, has apologized to parents for ‘Let It Go’.”
Natalie: “Because kids around the world are singing it in languages!”

Mommy Bakes With Natalie 2.0:
Daddy prepares all the ingredients for us and talks us through the prep. The first batch of Snickerdoodles comes out gorgeous.

Mommy: “You ROCK, Josh!”
Daddy: “No, you guys did all the work!”
Mommy: “NO! Shut up. It was you.”
Daddy: “Okay.”
Natalie: “Never speak again unless you’re gonna say that you rock. Right, Mom?”
Laura: “Right.”

“Can I have the other half of my cookie?” No. “I finished a very very very while ago.”

Natalie picks up a book I just started reading, The Color of Water.
Natalie: “What IS the color of water?”
Mom, chuckling: “No color. The man who wrote it–”
Natalie, chucking it aside: “Then what good is this book?”

Natalie is reading every single Peanuts comic since the beginning. “Oh my god, finally.” What? “Peppermint Patty has been introduced.”

A balloon mysteriously attached itself to Natalie’s ankle. “Let go I say! Let go of me or I’ll slug you!” SLUG?? She got that from reading Peanuts! “Well, I’m saying it to an old-fashioned balloon!”…”Just my nervous system. Stupid nerve. I’m punching an innocent mouse. Wait, it’s a giraffe. Poor giraffe, I’m sorry for slugging you.”…”You stupid, non-innocent, non-humble, a–a–a–I’ll say it…” But she didn’t say it. …”Just as I should have suspected. …YOU’RE OFF! You’re off to see the horrible wizard.”

Natalie makes an impatient sound as I make her wring out a washcloth more thoroughly, or what passes for thorough, from her. “It’d be an easier world if we didn’t have things to do.” Well DUH.

Monday morning in our house, so of course the casual chitchat turns to cancer. (How, you ask? Natalie was examining state-themed quarters and it came out thought that she thought Florida is known for peaches. She’d seen the license plate, but the orange doesn’t have texture and it looked like a peach. I said that orange texture can show up on the skin in certain diseases, like cancer, peau d’orange.)
Natalie: “Is it catching?”
Mom: “No.”
Natalie: “Oh. That’d be a good excuse to go to school.”
Mom: “You mean to not go to school?”
Natalie: “No. To get away from learning.”
One minute later: “I hope it’s not a late bus. I’d hate to be late on the first day of school.”

Then some knots in the hair. “Mom! Carefulness.”

“I feel like I need a break of something but I don’t know what!”

I overheard the tail end of something strange: “…because people make me do too many needs.”

Natalie brings a washcloth to the bathroom to wet it. “This is not for me. It’s for Dad.” Okay. “I’m like the person who fulfills his every any need.” Whatever you say, Electra. Then she comes out of her room because she thinks she heard Daddy ring a bell for her. She told him to ring the bell even if she’s sleeping. “A caretaker must be rung up!”

Natalie told Daddy that her school is going to have a benequit for Oxfam. “A benefit?” he asked. “No… …a banquet!”

Oh my god, a pic of a girl in a pink Vader veil thing. “What’s going on in that? Is she in the public?” Yes. “How can she survive it?”

Daddy: “Someone sent me two pounds of See’s candies.”
Mommy: “Someone?”
Daddy: “All right, me.”

Mommy: “She speaks very good English.”
Natalie: “For a Denmarkian.”

Natalie to Daddy, the night before his nose surgery: “I love you in triplets.”

HAIR. “It’s fine. It doesn’t actually need to look good, because it’ll just get messy during the day. LOGIC, THERE.”

Waiting in pre-op. Daddy needed a fast LR drip for low potassium. “I feel like I have the strength of a hundred bananas.”

They went sledding down the hill at school. Natalie’s face went into the snow twice as she jumped to avoid a thorn bush. She only cried inside. “Sometimes I can hold in my cry, so I just whimper.”

“Or there’s vagina in the penis. That would hurt less for girls.”

On Jan 10, our friend took our precious scion off our hands for a few hours to play with her daughter Pam. Here’s what she posted on FB: Overheard between our daughters on the way home: “I hate being annoyed and my mom annoys me almost everyday.” AW!! I love it when she validates my mad parenting skilz.

“Mom, I’ve asked you this before, but I didn’t get an answer I understood. Who do you tell about your job? Who do you ask? Do you ask the government, do you ask politics, WHAT?”

“Oh Perry, you have such a holy heart.”
“Perry, you’ve very cute. I was exaggerating. You’re just cute. KIDDING!”
“Perry, you’re gonna see some sights you’re never seen or sawn before.”

Daddy presented Natalie with crushed ice, which has become her bedtime addiction. “Oh my goodness. Good man. Thank you.” She sucks on a wet washcloth filled with smashed ice. We find stiff dried washcloths in strange shapes around the place. I suppose there are worse habits.

Natalie is mildly anxious about starting her work as a Yoga Assistant for the 3- to 5-year-old set. “And Primary kids, I’ve observed, don’t listen as well.”

Getting ready for a shower: “I’m unchanging.”

Scratched on my back: “u r not dum”

On doctors and nurses: “They’re technically the same, just different names.”
On medicine as a career: “I wouldn’t want to be a doctor. Because doing surgery hurts and causes pain and I wouldn’t want to perform acts of meanness.”

“Tacos just fix problems.” Oh? How so? “Any problem, if you eat a taco or two, it a-a-all started to fix.”
Happy Taco Tuesday y’all

Natalie: “Mom. What do you say to a rock with a smiley face on it?”
Mom: “I dunno. What.”
Natalie: “‘Look. There’s a rock with a smiley face on it. Jokes don’t work like that.’ That’s the true thing you’d say.”

Natalie’s clothes are “dang-ol’ cool.”

Natalie’s roller skating in the kitchen and telling Perry and me that when she’s circling, no one better get in her way. “When I’m going in circles, that means No Botherings. What’s a bothering, you’re asking. It’s when someone is bothering someone.” That’s a tautology, I say: What’s a bothering? It’s when someone bothers you. What is it when someone bothers you? It’s a bothering. “Then Lucy must have done a lot of tautoloring-jings.”

“I’m practicing my moves. What can I say? When you’re practicing your moves, you gotta practice your moves. Right?” More tautoloring-jings.

“Take THAT, people who are bad at roller skating. This girl’s got the moves.”

“…Because she’s the best at roller skating in the world. Except for a lot of people…”

“…The professionals…Don’t listen to this song…They skate like skaters who don’t skate on ice..they think like skaters..who skate twice…”

She’s singing about becoming a clown by skating. The people will complain, they’ll go to court, they’ll see a judge, eat some fudge…

“Could you at least not have LISTENED? It was a one-person song. A no-listen song. It was a non-rhyme song. One of those songs people shouldn’t know about.”

New word: GRITSY. It’s greasy and gritty.

7:18AM. Mommy and Natalie are having a morning snuggle. Daddy plays “Side By Side” very loud. “Dad thinks he can lure me out with song. But nope. I’ll just listen from here.”

“So you’re eager to brush me hurtfully? …It’s not funny. How is it funny?”

Natalie wonders how much money there is in the world, down to the last penny. I tell her I can look it up, but we won’t know about exact dollars or pennies, and it’s a LOT. “So, around two thousand, more or less?”

Natalie wouldn’t leave my bed to go to hers after several prompts. Finally we lay there silent for a couple of minutes and then I asked if I needed to count. She got up and gave me what for. “I thought you would accept what I was doing. And it’s called love.”

Still having bedtime trouble. “Remember how you told me you didn’t want me to read, so you told me to tell my problems to the stuffed animals? There’s only one problem with that. A stuffed animal doesn’t have empathy or sympathy.” I told her to bring me her heart pillow – the one that represents my love – so I could fill it with unicorn tears. This year, the tears have been diner-themed, and tonight I warned to her not to drip or waste any of the cannoli cake tears that had filled the pillow. She carried the drippings to Daddy while saying “drip, drip, drip”.

Daddy and Natalie are not feeling the love for my burps. You’re just jealous, I say. “We’re not jealous, we’d never be,” says Natalie. “And, uh, it’s not jealous, it’s envy.” She’s right. I just taught her that recently. Dammit.

Natalie’s going to write a fan letter to Laurie Friedman with a suggestion for her next Mallory McDonald book. It comes from Natalie’s own experience. Mallory has to write a biography. The title is “They’re People, Mallory.” The best part: “And she does not have to pay me.”

One of those spinny helicopter stick toys…”I’m going to aim it toward you, Cindy. Try not to be hurt.”

Consenative = Consecutive

The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice finger puppets are chatting up a storm. “Why won’t you date me? You’re so talented…I have a college education! I’m a scientist, a doctor, and guess what else I am! I’m an an-ghee-o-ologist!…And now, I have a healthy, nutritious meal that tastes horrible. … Just like it shouldn’t. …”Which tastes even worse. And it’s moldy and fungusy.” (And redundanty.) “I don’t know what to do.” Maybe you should go meditiate like Mommy suggested. “Yes, that’s a…a odd one. But nice. Yes. Your ideas always get to me. In a very odd way.”

Perry seems to have gained a bit of weight. He’s having trouble jumping up onto beds and couches. No more snacks. “Perry sounds heavier. He even leans heavier. It’s awkward, but–adorable!”

“Don’t get too heavy that you can’t weigh yourself. That means don’t do so much of anything that it leads up to another bad thing.” (It turns out she meant “can’t LIFT yourself”.)

Daddy is going to keep making strings of paper cranes at each birthday until Natalie has a thousand, so I suggest hanging some upstairs in her new American Girl area. “That’s–not–allowingable.”


On Jan 20, a true Montessori Story brought me to tears. Natalie was with three other girls her age who were all trying to talk about their travel experiences because they’re doing something on Africa. Two of the girls were shouting over each other to be heard and Natalie could not get a word in. Natalie was very frustrated. Finally she left the group and went off to copy assignments from the board. Yolanda, a sixth grader in her class, came over to ask if she was okay. Natalie told her what had happened, and Yolanda said she’d love to hear about Natalie’s travels. Natalie eagerly told her everything she could remember about our Baltic cruise last summer. Yolanda shared her experience in a museum in Germany.

It’s just a little throwaway thing, and it’s a tremendously huge game-changing thing. Natalie is in Yolanda’s mentor group, and there is no question that Yolanda is doing her job and then some. I’m going to write to the teacher and Yolanda’s parents and my congressman and maybe some other people…


Finally Natalie is forced/convinced to go brush her teeth. “Can I say the word?” We really don’t know which word that might be. It could be an inside joke, or maybe something she likes to call Josh for mysterious reasons, “Mister Mineral Burglar”. But she surprises us.



“You wanna know something? When people say ‘shucks’, they’re really saying ‘shit, fucks.’ Like, aw, shit fucks. Aw, shit fucks. Aw, shit fucks.”

<<sniff>> SOOO sweet.


Natalie wants to know where water goes after the sink. I tell her it goes through a network of pipes to a treatment center, then back to the rivers and oceans. She seems satisfied with that. “As long as they put a nice cold compress on it, as long as it’s being cared for.”

Did you put stuff on your lips? “Yes.” What did you put on? “Oh, I didn’t. I was thinking of last night. Sorry.”

We saw our cardinal in the morning: “Beautiful and bashing.”

Mommy: “You have a job to do.” (Teeth brushing, getting shoes on, etc.)
Natalie: “Did I sign up for it?”
Well, of course she hadn’t. I told her this put me in a tough spot, because I like that kind of snark, but I don’t particularly want to hear it from her.

I come home from work and greet my girl. She’s on the floor of her room. I hug her, tip her slowly into a lying-down position, and kiss her cheek. “Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa,” she says. “You’re making too much of a situation.”

“Look that way…Please. I don’t like being dancewatched.”

Natalie’s painting my face so I look “Native American/African American”. She means tribal.
“You look so African Americany. I’m so jealous.”
“You look like an African Amer-tican boy.”
It’s my turn to paint her.
“Mommy, remember. Paint like you mean it.”

“Well, I’m done with guitar practice. And you are darlin’.” NO idea what Daddy did to deserve the compliment.

We’re doing a moderate clutter pickup in advance of a friend’s first visit with her little boy, and Natalie doesn’t see a need. “The house doesn’t need to be precisely perfect.” No danger of that, we tell her. No danger at all.

“Lucy’s psychiologily booth”

Daddy: “Go brush teeth. You’re running out of time.”
Natalie: “Sah-REE. Books are interesting.” Calling from the hallway: “Books are for reading! You can’t just neglect them!”

Mom: “Natalie, do you want to come see a picture of Ana with her braces off?”
Natalie: “I was going to say that Ana told me today that she was going to get her braces off.”
Mom: “You want to come see?”
Natalie: “I can picture it. I’m just staring at the ceiling and I don’t want to be interrupted. In my staring.”

Mom: “Have fun out there. I hope you find some snow.”
Natalie: “I don’t get it.”
Mom: “It’s a joke. There’s snow everywhere!”
Natalie: “Mm. Not very gettable.”

Natalie: “What’s a coodellasee?”
Mom: “Jesus. That’s a quesadilla.”

“It’s not busy out there. There’s no rustle-bustle.”

Corthadonistrone = Chlorthalidone

Hair brushing recap:
“So, when I have a drink, you’re okay with being gentle, but when I put it down, you’re what I would call ‘frantic’.”

Mom: “Do you need help with your shoelace?”
Natalie: “Sure. But usually, I’ve mastered a walk where I fling my foot, and put it down before the thing can come down. So I never trip. Really. I promise.”

Overheard pretend play: “What’s wrong, Sweetie?” “I don’t feel good from all the dancing and prancing.”

Natalie sticks her head under my shirt and enjoys the warm comfort within: “Ah, boobies.” Nothing like them, I say, except all the others. “No. No other boobie just as fat as yours.”

Natalie’s new saying: “You can’t throw out a shadow.” It means that you can’t get rid of a thought, or a worry, so you just have to live with it.

We described Sarah Palin’s jackassery and complete incoherence in her recent teleprompterless speech, and showed it to Natalie. We also gave her a bit of background on her attempt to become VP. Natalie was fascinated and highly amused. “She’d write… ‘All politicians are, my dog is.'” That sounds about right, we said. “Is she dead yet?” No. No she’s not. “Okay, is she alive yet?” Sadly, yes. She remains yet alive. “Is she Obama’s Vice President?” Fuck no.

“My dear hearting Mom.”

“But if we do the closet, all you’re going to do is say curse words, and it’s only going to get messy again. Can’t we do it tomorrow?”

We cleaned and cleared Natalie’s closet without any cursing! Natalie had some funny suspenders from Daddy’s days as a stand-up comedian, for dress-up fun, but does she need them any more? “No. I’m not a trousers man.”

Q: What is the time you should be starting to make sex?
A: At the age sex-teen!

Natalie is planning her shirts for modeling Daddy’s balloon creations: “Naturey but fashionable.”

“My bed’s a little more comfortable by pillow. Just me opinion.”

Pretend play: “Ooh. You just fell in the dips of the dungreon.”

Bad watermelon. “Uck. It tastes like…oranges mixed with…I don’t know, poison, I don’t know.”

Terry, Natalie’s first WHMS yoga instructor, still teaches some math and yoga at the school. I wonder aloud why they developed such a special bond when Natalie was little. “I think it was that she’s my kind and I’m hers.” Things can be so simple and beautiful when you’re young.

So, Natalie is going to help Terry teach yoga to the wee ones this winter! “I want to practice yoga. I want to be good, and be a nice role model. And USE MY MAT!”

And now for a Non-Natalie Funny:
Unfortunately it’s been stressful at work.
Fortunately Daddy made me shallots in caramelized sugar and butter.
Unfortunately my marriage may be over if we can’t get that window open.
Daddy sez: “The couch was very comfy! And with the bedroom door closed, I could barely hear Laura’s cries of, “Ohmigod, that’s HEINOUS!” I kept telling her that the “h” is silent.”

“I keep asking and you won’t tell me. Who won the elective for our government??”

For the millionth time, I tell my arachnophobic daughter that spiders are our friends. “Did they make us friendship bracelets yet?” Well no.

“Mom?” Yes? “If someone cut off their own elbow, and licked it, that’d be licking your own elbow. So it is possible.” Yes it is. Good night.

Strong contender for New Terminology of The Year:
Mom: “You have some dry eye gook near the corner.”
Natalie: “That’s a morning casual.”

Natalie put shredded cheese, lettuce, and black beans on her fake meat burger. “It’s my Taco Burger! To the rescue of my likings!!”

“I’m going to beware you on something, all right?”

Daddy cracks a ball of ice into shards with one stroke. “Oh my goodness,” says his starry-eyed daughter. “You are truly the man.”

Vocabulary lesson: FACETED
Not only referring to crystals and gems, it can describe a personality, I tell my daughter. We have many facets: mad, sad, happy, calm… “I’m more of a stress person.” Ah. “It’s true.”

Dinner’s on the table, and Natalie peeled the carrots.
Daddy: “She was my sous chef.”
Natalie: “Don’t sue me though.”
Mom: “It’s not the same word. Sous means assistant in French.” (Not really. I had it wrong. It means ‘under’.)
Natalie: “Hm. French is weird.”

Mom: “Go put some Vitamin E on your lips.” (It’s on my nightstand.)
Natalie: “Dad’s in there. Doing his – manlike stuff.” (Watching TV.)

Natalie is the first-ever human to fly. Some snippets…
“I need to keep my arms up and above. I – have – FLIED!”
“C’mon, Natalie. You gotta be in fit to do this. Yes. And I am in fit.”
She lets the air out of a balloon behind her butt. “You have to fart to fly. Farts are amazing.” Well I knew that. “But they’re amazing and business!”
Now she’s making wings to wear to school. “Maybe it’ll tickle, but it’ll be worth it. People will compliment on my beautifully decorated tissue wings.”
“I know exactly how to fly like a bird. And I’m going to use this occint, just to make you crazy.”
Some gibberish about traffic…then “I’m just a nonsense lady! Nonsense to the rescue! I won’t save the day! Nonsense Lady to not the rescue!”
“I’m afraid of nuthin. Eeek!” “Me to the rescue not not rescue.”
“I’m Mrs. Wonder Woman!” She wants to know what WW’s powers are. I don’t remember her having special powers – she had the rope and the gold bracelets that can stop bullets and lasers or something? “Mm. Well, you want to know what Wonder Woman’s real power is? She questions EVERYTHING!”
“I’m an alligator!”
“I’m mostly doing this to be in good shape. But I also want a good record of myself. Print out most of those pictures.”

Earth girls are easy:
I give permission for a cup of water by the bedside. Gasp! “You are the greatest person ever to live.”

Natalie says she and Skyler are the only kids in the class who enjoy reading TIME For Kids. And because of this, “Cindy said that we’re both going to be presidents when we’re grownups, because we’re staying in on the news.”

The Drug Mule
Mom: “Go give the Sudafed to Daddy, please.”
Natalie: “Mom ordered me to give you these pills.”

I have to explain “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” because I don’t like the attitude, for a change. “That sounds like something I’d get in a fortune cookie. The unlucky, nontasty kind of fortune cookie.”

Natalie’s terrified of a small pimple on her knee. Puberty’s going to be GREAT.

“I feel uneasy. I need ice cube in a washcloth. If there was an ice cube in a washcloth for everyone, the world would be alright.”

“Who is the President of New York?” Man. I thought we’d been over this.

Natalie has permission to stay up late reading and drawing in bed, but not watching TV. She lets out a dramatic sigh. “I thought it would give me at least a smidge of being a nighttime grownup.”

Natalie was wearing a hand-me-down shirt from Anya and Nora, the soft cotton orangey-red one with the tulle flower. I was admiring the flower and we both agreed it’s good for fidgeting when you’re bored. Plus, she said maybe I can wear her shirt when I shrink. “Grownup shrink.”

A beautiful deep wet fart.
Mom: “Nine!”
Natalie: “Well, once the smell comes over, it’ll be a ten.”

Problem: School lice
Silver Lining: Hair in Princess Leia twists

Mom: “Riley bit the hell out of me yesterday.”
Natalie: “Well, at least you have your heaven.”

Natalie is writing a book about a girl with parents who never listen. It’s about 10% nonfiction. “But sometimes, I gotta admit, you never listen.”

Natalie’s thrilled to have found her spinner sneakers from earlier this year! “I’ve worn them out, and they still have more worning out to go. Can I keep them forever?”

Natalie comes to me with some news. She says it should be pronounced “fithteen” because of “fith”. I have to tell her the bad news. She sighs. “I actually thought I was getting smarter.”

“Your future is so bright, that someday you will have a garden of flowers on a farm.”

Daddy emailed me at work that Natalie was playing STYLE SAVVY, and got very excited. “There’s a magazine in the game, a magazine about fashion, called ‘Nauseous.’ And my shop is on the cover! Come see!” Nauseous?!? He went over to look. “Sweetie, the name of the magazine is ‘Nuances.’”

Natalie got a new hot pink kimono and said she’s only going to wear Asian-inspired clothing when she’s a grownup. In the meantime, since we went halfsies on it, she owes me $7. But she says she needs to pay me $9 and I’ll owe her money back. Why? I ask. Your share is only seven dollars, I say. “I know,” she says. “But I can’t put it in seven dollars, because I only have a four dollar bill, and a five dollar bill.”

Natalie’s tossing her head about. “This is what I always do when I take out a ponytail or pigtail. It fluffens it out.”

Daddy and Natalie are now watching Australia’s version of Master Chef Junior. Daddy realizes he’s going to have to let her in the kitchen more and offers to start by teaching her how to perfect one dish so she can always go into anyone’s house and make them a meal. She chooses avocado sushi and he balks because he wants to do more “cooking”. Natalie changes her mind: Pancakes. Daddy’s kind of pancakes. “The normal, usual, technical pancakes.”

Natalie’s end of the convo with my mother: “What about your um, husband? You’re with him last, so why don’t you think of him last?”

Natalie doesn’t necessarily want to see all the “adult” movies we want to share with her, like Airplane, and Planet of the Apes. “Not every-devry-one has the same…thinkbuds.”

Daddy was at his ENT appointment. “When will he be home?” Maybe in about an hour. “That just let my heart sink.” Aw. “One parent just isn’t enough.”

Natalie says that on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the ones with the eyelids that move – the deer – “They look like crapples of paper.” She said she just made that up. “It’s like cutting paper when you don’t mean to.”

Xmas Thought of the Day:
“She’s really nice. If I had to execute my family, and I could only have one friend, it’d be Cindy. If she was the only person left in the world, I’d be friends with her. …Of course. Heh.”

Natalie’s playing Style Savvy and reports hating the brand “Asusa.” “It’s a mixture of MA-jak and Al-VAR-ka-doh. It’s glitzy.” I can’t wait to see what those words really are.

Natalie’s trying to play Jingle Bells on the keyboard.
“Ugh. I don’t know how those pianoists do it.”

I asked Natalie if she’d make Gail a copy of a poem Gail loved on Facebook. She wasn’t into it. “It’s just – I don’t like making copies. It’s like this poem has a TM sign to it, almost.”

Mom is Mrs. Gribenes, and has to pay all her billions to Natalie for her order of all the pies everywhere. I point out that I won’t be a billionaire any more now. “You’ll be a twentyaire.”

“We’re making green and red eggs and no ham.”

On Dad: “He’ll always have his humor with him. Even when he’s old. And loses his mind.”

After a very short visit from a friend who lives in another state: “I don’t know what to do without Lena.”

“The watermelon is so not in season.”

Natalie really liked seeing the new Annie with Elena. “Amazing. But Annie had a big attitude.” Hm. “A hip swiggle attitude. That’s what I call her kind of attitude. By attitude I mean, she was always talking back.” Looks like this Cracka Momma has some work to do.

Natalie had a good visit with her grandfather Micky. But “I didn’t like how he told so many stories without getting my opinion on them.”

Grandpa Micky: “I tell my students I live in a cave.”
Natalie: “I know. I’ve seen your apartment.”

Natalie said she was astonished that “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” was not in the new Annie. “I was GREATLY astonished.”

Daddy made lots of food for our little New Year’s Eve party. Natalie tasted the homemade French bread for the bagna calda: “Mm. Very successful.”

Daddy finally talked to his own doctor on NYE about his horrible sinus infection that resulted a few weeks later in surgery to clean out an abscess. We all sat around discussing Dr. Lieberman’s thoughts. Finally Natalie spoke up. “Can we talk about more delightful things?”

I called Natalie over for a quick cuddle, and she indulged me for only a few seconds. “We’ll be cuddling when the ball strikes.”

Taylor Swift was to perform shortly before midnight.
Cindy: “Have you heard of Taylor Swift?”
Natalie: “No. Just once or twice.”

Natalie went facepaint-crazy on Cindy’s face. “You’re an unusual beauty.”

How about giving the girl some melatonin, Josh? “At this hour?” Girl was incredulous. “No way.” Sigh. “I’m not goin’ to sleep. I don’t need melatonin.”

More unsolicited facepaint offers. “Does anyone want to be redorated? It’s like decorated, but red.” Fine. “Yours is going to be cray-cray. Like mine, but less. …Wait, you need more. Don’t you want to be cool? ….You’re been redorated!”

Mom: “It’s 11:30. You should probably get up.”
Dad: “I have a cold. I’m trying to get better.”
Mom: “I don’t know that sleeping all day will make a cold any better.”
Dad: “There’s only one way to find out.”

We’re organizing Natalie’s jewelry with very little drama! We’ve stuck gold thumbtacks on a wall to hang her necklaces and we’re making headway among her other dresser items.

Natalie: “Mom, I promise there will never be a need to clean again.”
Natalie: “It’s not supposed to be funny.”
Mom: “Well, it is.”
Natalie: “It’s not supposed to be.”

^^^ “Mom thought up with it and I went along.”

Bath is nearly ready. Do you want bubbles? “No. Bubbles can be too, you know, interfering with what you’re doing inside.”

“Why is thirty such a common number, thirty?”

Natalie misses the stripes I had painted in the bathroom before going over them in the light minty green. She says we could paint red dots everywhere. “I do could it myself, in fact. As long as I could stand on the toilet at a time.”

Skyler is here for her first play date. “Natalie? No offense but Perry is so much smaller and cuter than I thought.”

Natalie: “We have to say ‘Good Boy’ to him all the time because he’s so spoiled.”

Natalie invites me outside where she’s playing with Skyler.
Natalie: “To have your comistics done.”
Mom: “Comistics?”
Natalie: “Your eyes, your cheeks…”
Mom: “Ah.”
Natalie: “If it’s not pronounced ‘comistics’ please tell me.”
Mom: “Cosmetics.”
But it’s not cosmetics. It’s sidewalk chalk.
Off I go to my doom.

The girls are having bagels. Natalie says Yes to toasting. “It doesn’t taste good without toasted.”

Pretend play with the Candyland set:
“Now. Let’s get back to our per-fect li-ives!”
“If we colored the whole entire world like this, it would just be a world of un-nice.”

Daddy is taking requests to play songs from The Wizard of Oz. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” says Natalie. “It’s like, a song to remember for your life.”

“I’m being very pressured. I have to practice my four times tables up to twelve by Thursday.”

Overheard during pretend play monologuing:
“Do I look like a butt? I’m sorry if I do, but I don’t.”

We’re fighting in this house. “A very little, but greatly sorted idea. I’ve been thinking, for only two seconds, but I do have a thought, that Mom can kiss one half of my face and Dad can kiss the other.”

“Dad? Can I please hug you so tight?”

A joke by Natalie.
Q: What do you call an apple that’s very cute?
A: Adorapple!

Natalie asked for whom I’d vote for Governor, and I told her.
Then she asked: “And for Governess?”

Cindy called to tell Natalie to go out and gaze at the moon, with the clouds rapidly moving across it. It’s beautiful. “Tell her you’re twirling on the lawn,” I call to her. “I’m twirling on the lawn right now,” she says, “From the beauty of the moon.”

New outfit from the Zulily vendors of fashion magick.
“I’m a schoolgirl!!”
“This outfit makes me feel like a kid!”
“Does this outfit make me look more like hippie, or rock?”
“I mean, look at me! It looks amazing! I’m glad we picked out red. Pink would have been, not so nice.”

Natalie can’t do the craft right now. “I’m busy sort of sleeping.”

Dad: “I can’t believe I have to make a speech in front of five hundred people.”
Natalie: “You could have declined.”

“I’d rather have a Daddy be sick at home, than go away feeling good.” I made Natalie’s lunch in the morning when Daddy was in Buenos Aires. She’s down to a very small serving of fruit for her entire lunch since she keeps coming home with uneaten food, so all I have to do is cut up some melon and apple. She watches as I cut a small chunk of apple, which pulls away from the rest without me having to slice all the way through. Very unfancy. “Cool slices. I like how you cook.” Don’t tell Daddy, the fabulous fancy amateur home cook.

While Daddy was in Buenos Aires, Natalie was in mourning. The first night, I took her to Buffalo Wagon, where she occasionally broke out in tears. She began to write a letter on the placemat, intending to fold it into a paper airplane and be read by a random stranger. After she wrote our address I had to tell her to stop because I wasn’t going to allow her to fly our address around…and what exactly was she writing? Natalie said: “I’m looking for a father to replace him for now.” Daddy later said he loves the fact that he’s apparently easily replaceable by anyone with the basic know-how to open a paper airplane.

I told Natalie what a wonderful opportunity Daddy had in Argentina, being with people who love him and his work. I said this was a big deal for all of them and for him too. But she was not giving in, because she knows that Daddy has important hobbies at home: “Balloons are big things! Balloons can be four feet tall.”

Perry’s paws were SOOOOO corn chippy one morning. “He’s so delicious!” I said. “Unh,” says Natalie, “and he probably does taste good, but I’m a vegetarian and I can’t eat him.”

“Why do people say ‘birdbrain’ when they’re weird, or not very smart, when birds are very educational?”

There’s a coupon on the front of the Savings Source for free fudge. “FREE FUDGE!” Yeah, if you buy something. “But still, FREE FUDGE. That’s a deal. A big deal.”

“Is there any such thing as negative twelve dollar bills?” She’s been watching Gravity Falls.

“Does the United States have a flag?”

I’ve shown Natalie the Britain’s Got Talent auditions of Susan Boyle and Paul Potts. Natalie says that if she were to say something to people who look a certain way and sing that well, she would say: “If you were trying to tame a lion, you could sing one note and that lion would be tamed forever.”

“Mom, can we go back to Estonia some time?” Same tone as if she’d asked about going back to a local farm stand.

Natalie and her grandfather drew tikis during his last visit, but he kept his and she kept hers. I thought maybe they should have traded. “Mm. I like to keep my work. Because, I mean, look at that.”

“Mom, have you ever wondered a big question?”

“Why is Natalie an inpopular name?”

Natalie doesn’t need TV to watch her favorite episodes of Gravity Falls. Her eyes are closed. “I can watch it, for free, on my head tablet!”

I told Natalie she hadn’t cleaned up the car game Rush Hour as I had asked. “I will. Although I’m gonna do it very organizily. …See? Very organizable.”

I put on some minimal makeup. “You don’t really need to look beautiful. You’re already beautiful on the inside.”

We think Natalie should call her friend Emily in California. It would be a little after 4 o’clock there, and she might be home. But Natalie’s not ready. “Maybe later. It would be more accurate to call her in the fives.” Ummm–why? “I don’t know. It just would be.”

Mom: “You need a trim.”
Natalie: “But I don’t want one. For my own good I don’t want one.”

Natalie asked us to hide the bowl of candy for Ana’s sleepover. She says Ana always wants to sneak candy. Daddy says she should answer: “Let’s sneak some cauliflower.” Natalie won’t use that joke, but I really like it. “I like it too, but I won’t get a chance,” she says. “Usually on sleepovers, it’s always her saying stuff.”

“Mom, what is your favorite online resource? It could be email, YouTube, Wikipedia, anything.” Online resource. She kills me.

Mom: “Do you want some hot chocolate that’s just warm?”
Natalie: “No thanks. Almond milk plus chocolate to me equals a bit too slimy.”

“If I had to choose something other than an artist when I’m a grownup, it’d be jokemaker.” She doesn’t want to be President because there’s too much math involved. I tell her other people do the math for the President. “You know how they’re always sending bombs to other places? They need to do math about that. They need to know where it’s going to land.”

“The Green Party must live in the forest.” I showed Natalie an article about the Greens being a threat in a British election. “What?! I didn’t know the Green Party did threats.”

Natalie: “What day is today?”
Mom: “Monday.”
Natalie: “Oh darn.”

I tell Daddy that I can’t believe so-and-so’s obtuseness. Natalie, eavesdropping, is indignant. “She’s not made of angles!”

Natalie continues to develop her puns.
Q: What shows the line between two berry countries?

Natalie is playing Style Savvy on the DS.
Natalie: “YAY!! I finally won!!! I’ve been playing for months and I finally won!!!!”
Mom: “What did you win?”
Natalie: “The Plantanium Contest!”
Mom: “What’s Plantanium?”
Natalie: “A kind of metal.”
Dad: “Platinum.”

Oh, those people at work! I can’t stand them. “Maybe they’re just going through a phase. Humans can have phases too, you know. Life cycle of a human. It’s not just wild animals that have life cycles.” Oh those people. I am so DONE with those people. “At least you don’t have growing up problems,” says the short person. “Some time or other, every night, I get a tantrum. It’s a silent tantrum. A breathing tantrum.”

Morning bed snuggle.
Natalie: “Ow!”
Mom: “What?”
Natalie: “Your leg hairs.”
Mom: “That’s not painful.”
Natalie: “To me it is. It’s scratchy and crunchy and critchy.”

Daddy bought Natalie a Staedler Xcellence Mathematical Set for about $4 at Staples. Natalie is thrilled and has already begun making art. She says it has a protractor, a compass, and “Two triangles. For protracting stuff.” Very cool. So lucky. “I was kind of embarrassed that I didn’t have one. It’s for school, as you must know.” THE NERDLY IS IN THERE, PRAISE BE

I played Bruno Mars singing Count On Me.
Natalie: “I didn’t know you liked that song.”
Mom: “Oh yes. It gives me chills.”
Natalie: “Why do you get chills?”
Mom: “It’s part of being happy. Like OOOOH! What gives you chills?”
Natalie: “Being with my parents.”
Mom: “AWWWWW!!!”
Natalie: “Now you have to tell Dad that being with me gives you chills.”
Mom: “Being with Natalie gives me chills!”
Dad: (sn-o-o-o-o-ore)

11/22/14 9:53 a.m. — Daddy comes out of the bedroom. I mention all the new cheapass pens I just noticed. They write surprisingly smoothly. Daddy had gotten a ton of them at Ocean State Job Lot for two dollars and spread them throughout the house (where we’ll lose them anyway). I’m so happy that we have pens. (It doesn’t take a lot.) Daddy says, in his dry way: “Yeah, isn’t it good news?” I find this hysterical and I go to hug him and tell him how hilarious he is. Natalie, as always, won’t tolerate a display of affection that excludes her, and she barges in on the action. “You’re lucky I love you guys enough to want to get in the hugs you do.”

At Rite Aid, Natalie suddenly asked if I want to know how to tell if someone is a show-off. If they only hold their fingers apart, because if they put them together they think they won’t look beautiful, then they’re a show-off. She had been looking at a large nail polish display. And at the food co-op: “I can usually tell if something is organic. It’s a little dirty, but edible.” And: “That felt amazing.” What did? “Waving to a little girl.” Also at the co-op, she found the shelled unsalted pistachios immediately. I was impressed. Unfortunately they were some kind of candied cashews.

“Why is he named Rudolph? Is he rude, and he goes off?”

Mom: “Are you off school?”
Natalie: “Yep. For forever on this week.”

“I just figured out something big. Not like Albert Einstein big, but big for me. Thirty tens is three hundred.” Natalie went on to note that it seems like it should be more. I agree.

“Sometimes troubles are worth it. Because after, you feel good. Am I right?” You’re right.

Later in November, Natalie still wanted to know how Daddy’s friends in Argentina could be happy that Daddy left us to be with them. I explain that they don’t feel bad because it was only a few days. “It was a few days of horrorness.”

“You have to enjoy your birthdays while you still have them. I’ve heard that once you turn 65, you’re eliminated with birthdays.”

I’m telling Daddy how frustrated I am that some of my friends are devoting their online energy to decrying the violence of the rioters instead of the institutionalized violence from above. And Natalie chimes in: “I just don’t know why it’s interesting, politicky stuffs.”

Natalie tries the Parmesan from BJ’s. “It has just the right kind of bitterness. I think you chose a good one.”

I call Riley a dumbass. Natalie wants to know what that is. I tell her ass means butt, so it’s like calling someone a dumb butt. Daddy reminds her of when Captain Kirk said “Double dumbass on you.” And then, the Hurt.
Natalie: “Who’s Captain Kirk?”
Natalie: “Are you really crying?”
Mom: “Yes I am.”

Natalie’s got her apron and gloves on and is impatient to take over the dishwashing from me. “Are you READY? I can do the work. It’s like eighth heaven.”

We heard a story about the World Trade Center tightrope walker.
Natalie: “Do you think that was one of the most main events of his life?”
Mom: “The most what?”
Natalie: “Main. Not Maine the place.”

Mom: “This skirt has paint on it.” Natalie: “Ohh. That was a very very very very very very while ago.” It would take less effort to comment on any items of clothing that are not so decorated.

“Mom. Have you been waiting to see me in a rock-y outfit? Well you’ve come to the right time.”

Overheard repeatedly from the other room where the girl was torturing her father:
“Sorry about all that violence. All I wanted was just to be able to do…THIS!”

Mom: “Are you getting used to Upper El?”
Natalie: “Unh-uh. It’s the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to me. The only good thing about it is that when you see your friends, they treat you like royalty. That’s the only thing I like about it.” Those would be the friends still in Lower El. Poor girl.

Natalie said “I think they should go to court for that, but–BUT–they shouldn’t go to Judge Judy. She’s too cranky for Cindy.” And: “I envy her famousness, but I also hate her bossiness.”

October 3: Apparently Skyler has been Natalie’s new BF for almost the whole new school year, and I just found out tonight. So I ask if we should invite her over to play. “Maybe,” says Natalie. “She can be pretty offensive.”

Mom: “It’s in your nature.”
Natalie: “I see lots of nature, but none of it is me.”

October 4: We tried a new place today, the Country View Diner in Brunswick, on the way home from Maggie’s birthday party, since my Garmin POS – sorry, GPS – was confusing me and I wasn’t sure which way to go; and when you’re lost, the thing to do is eat. The eggs came out quick and the home fries were great. Natalie likes jelly on her toast, but it’s also delicious right from the container. “It’s a new hobby of mine. Eating–raw–jelly.” Later we showed the girl “Star Trek: Save The Whales” for the first time. So–double dumbass on you.

Natalie spends a significant amount of her time reassuring us she’s not trying to offend. “Good night. You’re the best person in the world except for Dad. Not offensive.”

October 7: I’m so tickled that we are still treated to the monologuing from another room, and I’m even more amused by tonight’s growling.

There’s supposed to be showering going on. The water in the bathroom seems to have stopped, but we do hear chatter. I go in to check. “I’m taking a playful bath first.”

Read this one carefully:
“You don’t look as cute in me as this hat. Right?”

Mom: “Nice speed on that cleanup.”
Natalie: “Thanks. Wait – sarcastic or not?”
Mom: “Not.”
Natalie: “Okay. Because sometimes when you use that tone, it sounds sarcastic. I don’t know why. Not trying to be mean.”

We were watching “Lunch Hour” which is about improving school lunch foods and combating childhood obesity. And Natalie says: “That would be good for Liesl’s family. They really only ever eat nutrition stuff.”

Natalie still wants to be an artist and says how amazing it will be doing crafts all day. “Imagine. It’d be doing creativity all day. I can’t believe someone came up with it.”

October 15: I’ve decided start asking Natalie if she’s asked any good questions in school each day. Today is the second day I’ve asked, and both times the answer was NO. I said perhaps Natalie will tomorrow. But she said: “School is for learning, not for asking questions.” WTF. I have failed. And maybe the school has too. :-(

I started playing Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Natalie said she wasn’t trying to hear it, but she could hear it. She tolerated about 40 seconds and ran down the hall. Closed her door.

This isn’t about Natalie. Mom said: “Oh no. Elizabeth Peña died. She was in Jacob’s Ladder and The Incredibles. This says she died after a brief illness.” And Dad answered: “Well…should we make a donation to the National Brief Illness Foundation?” Mom: “You’re a terrible person.” But really, it’s why I married him.

Tumbul weed,
Humbul weed,
falling into bed,
Many Dreams to
Dream about,
falling in your head

“I love crayons. They’re so artistic. Most of my friends say they’re not. But Grandpa says if you put them in the right hands, they really are.”

Q: What happens when a nose goes to school with a funny name?
A: It gets picked on!

October 22: I think Natalie just called her toy Abominable Snowman toy The Avomitable.

Playtime monologue:
“You’re over-reacting. Again.”
“I’m not over-reacting. I’m just being myself.”

“My father’s so illuminating. Right? Right?”

I dropped my camera…again.
Natalie: “Does it still work?”
Mom: …”Yes!”
Natalie: “Well…it’s good made.”
Mom: …”Yes. It’s good made.”
Natalie: “Although–I don’t think you’d make a good maid.”

Natalie: “Mom, can I go outside? Can I go outside?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Natalie: “Good. Cuz…jump-roping in the house, not one of my best decisions.”

“I’ve never had Lucky Charms. And I’ve heard really good rumors about them.”

We’re massively cleaning the girl’s room. “I can tell you’re stressed. I know how you feel. I’ve been feeling it for years.”

Still cleaning. Natalie swipes her fingers over the hair and dust clumps on a barrette to clear it. No, I say, that’s part of the problem. Why do you think that’s okay? “Because dust blends in. And dust is okay. It’ll just re-form.” I’ve told her about her choices. She can stay on top of things and not lie about putting things where they belong, OR she can deal with me going in there and making her life miserable for a few hours every once in a while.

I’m doing some more cleanup in the girl’s room and I asked for something to eat. I got delicious scrambled eggs and half a toasted bagel. So. Um. This just came out of my mouth: “You and me and sriracha forever, Joshie!”

At a restaurant Natalie referred to beef as “Unvegetarian meat. Super-unvegetarian meat.”

Natalie helped Daddy make Apple Tarte Tatin, and offered feedback too. “Number one, that looks amazing and awesome and yummy. And number two, you have GOT to clean that oven.”

October 27: Natalie gets her first glasses. Oh, and cuts her own bangs. Very short.

Natalie is enjoying the microscope the tooth fairy got her back when she “lost” her first teeth by surgery. She’s astounded that the set of 100 slides only cost another $25 or so. “But they’re made of glass!” Then, almost reverently: “It’s amazing what money can do.”

I mentioned that Natalie needs a makeup lesson since she missed it last week for her eye appointment. I was talking about guitar. But Natalie is too young: “I don’t want to do makeup yet.”

Natalie is insecure about the glasses. “Perry, do I look different? In a bad way?”

I took some shots of the girl this morning and they suck.
Mom: “None of the pictures came out good.”
Natalie: “Well, that’s cuz you’re a photographer. So–you know.”
Mom: “What?”
Natalie: “They’re not photographers.”
Mom: “What?”
Natalie: “The people who took the pictures.”

The glasses do make a difference. “Everything is brighter. And darker.”

‘Why do they call it a diary if it sounds like diarrhea?”

The nine-year-old is riding her father like a pony.
“Faster! Faster all the while!”

Natalie doesn’t want to tell me about whether a kid in her class, Alison, knows a lot. “It would be almost like cyber-bullying, except without the phone.” Natalie’s motto should be “Unclear on the Concept”. Oh and Natalie also criticized me for having friends online. How does one explain how I know certain people are safe, but she can’t at her age? I did my best.

Natalie has a cosmology research project due in two weeks. She wants to put her findings on a “foamy” poster.
Mom: “What is it about the Milky Way that you want to focus on?”
Natalie: “Easy. Since I’m only in fourth…”
What a scholar.

Natalie was not satisfied with the ghoulish traffic on Halloween.
“Boring, boring. Singing the boring, boring song.”

Dad: “She needs to clean her room.”
Mom: “The room is a problem. It was a problem last night and it didn’t get solved.”
Natalie: “I solved it a teeny bit.”

When she grows up, Natalie wants to be an artist or work at Target. (It will likely HAVE to be both.) Daddy says he wanted to be a whale or a fire truck. He says he fundamentally misunderstood the sentence: “When you grow up, you can be anything you want to be.”

Dad’s parents’ friend Shelley sent Natalie a Shel Silverstein book for her upcoming birthday. I asked Natalie if she already has that book. “No. But I have longed for it.”


This is the best reconstruction I can manage for one morning’s gems, which followed my explanation of how vs. is spelled without a period between the v and the s:

“That was an accident. Sometimes when I’m not looking, and the pencil is flying around, it just hits the paper.”

Then I spelled verses vs. versus:

“I wasn’t nodding because I knew that. I was nodding because it sometimes it feels good to nod. Because my head feels too light and nodding makes it heavier. Nodding sometimes gives me a headache. And I need a headache. Having a light head doesn’t feel good. Like I don’t know enough. … …I’m not going to school today.”


“I remember everything from my childhood.”

Two Poems.
Perry demands four hands.
And that stands.

Perry demands four hands
With no sweat glands.

Daddy made congee. Natalie tried two grains of the rice from my finger. Then I told her it had sherry in it. “I can’t believe I had an alcoholic drink.”

Mom: “She probably doesn’t want one of her birthday presents first thing in the morning.”
Natalie: “What I want first for my birthday is a few kisses and a different outfit.”

Dad: “I didn’t look at the Primary results yet.”
Mom: “Zephyr Teachout did really well. Cuomo allegedly told someone he’d be disappointed if he got less then 70%, and last I looked, he got 60%. Teachout got 36%!”
Natalie: “To me, the Primary kids are 100% happy. Not happy. Unhappy, because they didn’t get any brownies.”
Dad: “We’re talking about the election Primary.”
Natalie: “I thought you were talking about the Primary kids. I didn’t know Primary could go farther than that.” (This, after I brought the girl to vote with me.)

Dad didn’t sleep much last night and he went to bed early. Since I said he didn’t feel well, Natalie brought one of the mixing bowls for vomiting. She’d like to keep it on the bed for him even though he’s not that kind of sick. “What if a giant monster comes and its weakness is metal bowls?” Right! “That’s why I keep so much stuff on my bed.” She explains that if any kind of monster comes, she’ll have different things to throw at it.

For one of her birthday presents, Cindy gave Natalie a disgusting bottle of Disney’s “Frozen” shampoo.
“One of the nicest shampoos I’ve ever scented.”

Natalie’s watching some educational young adult program about space exploration. Suddenly I get reamed out: “We sent robots to Pluto??! Why didn’t you tell me??”

“I’m 99% sure I’m going to be an artist when I grow up, and I’m 1% sure I’m going to design robots when I grow up. Because designing robots looks like fun, and I want to design a talking robot.”

When you do crazy stuff on the couch.

A mom’s lament: When will Natalie learn that nail polish doesn’t dry that quickly?


September 13, Natalie’s birthday party. Ana, Pam, Liesl, Elena, Kari, and Maggie came to the Gateway Diner, and then everyone but Maggie came to our house for a sleepover (but Pam didn’t make it that far). I overheard them talking about liking blood. They like the taste of blood.

Then…holy shit. Natalie’s crying and explaining to the girls sleeping in her room that her crying is normal because she cries every night because she’s growing up too fast. I said if you’re growing up too fast, at least you’re doing it with wonderful friends.

Then one of them reported that Natalie said if she dies she wants to be surrounded by her friends. She confirmed this. Ana asked to be buried, not cremated. I asked the girls to stop talking about this subject for tonight. But Liesl said Wait, wait, I just have to say that I want to be laid to rest in my mother’s bed because I love that bed and I slept there when I was a baby. I want to be watered every night to keep the flies off, she said. That was enough for me; I got the hell out of there.

From across the house I heard more upset from Natalie and a friend consoling her that she’s not a failure, that her only failure is calling herself a failure. Now they’re singing songs from Annie to buoy her.

I hadn’t predicted this.


In the morning after the sleepover, they “took a break” from picking up Natalie’s room and left the bird in there. They went out on the trampoline, with Perry barking his head off.


“Mom, I have two things for you. One’s a question, and the other one’s a question.”

Natalie’s class visited the Shaker Heritage Museum. Everyone knows the Shakers had rainbow unicorn kerchiefs and wore them proudly.

September 20: Starting my birthday by sleeping with a vomiting child? There’s no place I’d rather be. Hours later, Natalie’s feeling a bit better, playing in the tub to get refreshed. I suggest that she take a quick shower when she’s done. Okay, she says, but no hair. “No hair?” I ask. “No hair,” she says. “What would be the point?”

Natalie doesn’t know why people would bring a boy who’s allergic to dogs to the pet supply store. “Yeah, that’s just odd. In a weird way.”

“I want to show you the kind of art I want to show you.” – Mom

Mom: “Good night, Sweetheart.”
Natalie: “Nighty night.”
Mom: “You’re my everything.”
Natalie: “You’re my infinity. Of love.”

Natalie’s listening to The Roches sing how they better get out of New York before…”The what hits the what?

Natalie’s going to do a project on the Milky Way. We’re talking about the lack of oxygen on Mars and the gravity that keeps oxygen here for us to breathe. Natalie doesn’t think oxygen weighs anything, and I tell her oxygen is heavier than no oxygen. Natalie breathes out to see if releasing oxygen will make her feel lighter. I tell her there’s some oxygen in her breath, but much more carbon dioxide. She holds her breath in her hands. “I don’t feel lighterness.”

Natalie hopes I enjoy the art she just made me after a trip to Arlene’s Art Supply, thanks to a gift card from Elena. She bought good paper and good brushes. “Please treasure it. It’s the first thing I’ve ever by-myself framed.”

Natalie asks for help spelling “grapes”.
“Wait. After g-r-a, what happens?”

Mom: “I forgot to shake the cough syrup bottle.”
Natalie: “Just go like this.” *wiggle wiggle wiggle*

Thanks to the generosity of Heidi’s daughter Rachel, Natalie’s AG family has expanded from three to FIVE. Not to mention the clothes and furniture and fine china. Well-loved dollies are the BEST! But Natalie has a problem. She now has two sisters named Samantha. Will a dollie be renamed, or will we have a “This is my sister Samantha, and this is my other sister Samantha” situation? Stay tuned.

“Where do Peanuts come from? Where did Charles M. Schulz live?”
…”Because I want to know where the Peanuts took place.”

Natalie got her hair blown out at the mall. She likes it, but…
“How can people live like this?”
“How do straight-haired people live with these weirdo bangs?”
“I think I look better with straight hair. I’ll never wet my hair again.”
“I’m a seven-year-old. No one’ll even recognize me.”

Natalie: “Mom, you really need to go on the treadmill again.”
Mom: “Yes, you’re right.”
Natalie: “Aren’t you going to thank me for noticing?”

We explain what preservatives are.
Natalie: “Not interesting. To me.”
Dad: “Well, you asked.”
Natalie: “I didn’t know it was going to be non-interesting.”

On the way to the WHMS Fall Family Fun Day yesterday, we talked about bringing a bird to the reptile table. But a bird is not a reptile.
Dad: “They’re just birds.”
Mom: “A bird is an avian.”
Natalie: “Athian? So it doesn’t believe in god?”

Overheard from Natalie to Daddy: “I told you I would never lick you again for a while.

“Mom, I’m having gas pain medicine.”


After the discussion topic wended its way into overly wet kisses, Natalie said she finds my mother…annoying…sometimes. She wanted to know if I do too. (Sometimes?) I assured her that I do, and she expressed surprise, although surely she’s witnessed our difficult relationship. Natalie still feels anger and sadness about that last visit, when Grandma was happy to see Natalie but only wanted to watch the Food Channel all day.

I tried to frame this in the most reasonable, positive way possible. I said brain problems are as real as other physical problems that don’t allow people to do things they’d rather be doing. Grandma has mental health problems that sometimes prevent her from being fully present and loving in Natalie’s presence. But she is full of love. And everyone has different gifts to give. We talked about the differences between Natalie’s four grandparents. Three can’t get on the floor and play. One is ready for anything and lots of fun, even jumping on the trampoline. One loves to paint. Another will play cards. All four love to cuddle and talk and read. Natalie pointed out that Daddy’s parents took us on a cruise. Yes, I said – these are their gifts. They’re all different.

Natalie understood. But she said some people’s gifts leave you unsatisfied. I hugged her.


Natalie clipped a flower barrette to Perry’s ear hair.
Mom: “You’re awful. You and Cindy, you’re both awful.”
Natalie: “Hey, don’t call me awful. I’m cute. Am I not?”

Natalie says Daddy goes around with two weapons: his hands and his feet. I add the head to the list – some people do a head butt. “Ew! I don’t wanna go head to butt.”

“I don’t LIKE being teached things.”
Yes…see Exhibit A ^^^

Natalie wants to know what we think she should be when she grows up, because she’s not much of an artist. I tell her there’s no need to worry about that right now and that there’s plenty of time to discover new interests. It’s why I sent her to WHMS: it’s a great place to explore. But there’s nothing more to explore at school, she complains: “I know every inch of that school. There’s nothing more. I’ve been in every corner.”

Natalie watches Jennifer Hudson singing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
“Is that girl singing in English, or Chinese or something? I can’t understand a word she says.”

We’re playing a simple alphabet game, just coming up with words in alphabetical order. “Alphabetical. Biscuit. Carnival. Dimension. Exclamation. Fart. Geometric. Hideous. No, Hydrogeometric.” Hydrogeometric? I don’t think that’s a word. “It’s not? I thought that meant small geometry. Like small to look at, but big to learn.” (But as it turns out, it IS a word.)

A picture of rhinos mating. He’s putting his penis in her, and shooting sperm into her vagina, and if a sperm meets up with her egg, she’ll have a rhino baby. “So everyone is full of sperm?” No. The sperm only go in the vagina and uterus. “So you have sperm in you right now?” Um. The sperm don’t stay forever. They wash out. You know, gravity and all. “So–there’s sperms on the floor?!” No. There are no sperm on the floor. “There are sperms on this blanket?” Hey look, a squirrel.

The JWs came to the door while I wasn’t here. I lamented that, because I would have invited them in for lemonade and tough questions. Natalie wants to know why. So I can waste their time, I said, and because it’s fun to debate people like that. Why, she asks. “Because…because I like arguing,” I say. Says she: “Maybe you should go to the argument clinic.” MONTY PYTHON REFERENCE FTW!

Natalie’s having a cow because I’m planning to re-set my yellow engagement diamond into a new band. She thinks everyone in the family should be in agreement for that to happen. “Having your mom switch her wedding ring is very disappointing.”

“Why is it that I have a special relationship with Dad, but I’m always with you?” We reached the Troy YMCA for a guest-pass swimming safety lesson with Maggie. Natalie was surprised at the building. “Oh. I never knew it was so…untall. I thought the YCDA was very very very tall.”

“I build up knots during the day, so taking them out is a little bit useless. Don’t you think?”

Someone is having a tough time getting up this morning… “I’m sorry. But every bone in my body is connected. And they haven’t gotten used to moving a lot yet.”

Mom: “You can use these as scrap paper if you want, but a lot of them have writing on both sides.”
Natalie: “That’s all riiight. I can not mind that.”


Natalie’s peach-colored Target Circo brand sweats have a hole. And lots of paint dribbles. And dirt stains. She wonders if she should iron a patch on them. Listen, I say: Those pants were about six dollars. I don’t care what you do with them. Patch them, cut the legs off and make them into shorts, wear them as-is, throw them out. (That generates a gasp of horror and a dramatic pants-clutching.)

Next she makes me swing the pants with her like a jump rope. She tries to jump while we’re both swinging the “rope” and it’s a spectacular failure.

Then she has an epiphany. She drapes the unchanged pants over herself, one leg over each should, like a rich person having a gin after tennis. “Mom, Dad, look at this! It’s made out of pants.” Yes, yes it is. “Do you like it?” Sure. Why not. “I think it’s fashionable. Don’t you?” I don’t know. “Why not? You’re the expert in this house.” HAHAHAHAHAHA

“I’m dancin’ to mah toothbrush…Toothbrush Song!!”


“Dad, on my birthday, if I have a birthday party, can you specialize in doing balloons?”

I offer to play “Royals” but Natalie declines. Don’t you like Lorde? I do, I say. “I do too, but I just don’t want to hear it at the moment. I’m just off her songs at the day.”

“I’m the queen of baby blankets.”

“Cindy, can I see your earrings of today? Ohhhh, they’re so peacelike!”

During a bedtime cuddle, Natalie showed Daddy how Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph is a superhero with super powers. She has the Power of Lip Gloss. Then Natalie lifted the doll’s hoodie to show that her second power comes from the speaker on her belly. But she has a third power: The Power of Privates. Natalie pulled the doll’s pants down and bent Vanellope over. “There’s a big hole in her butt.”

“Fine” by Natalie
What an apple, oh so fine
But oh no–it’s made of…….twine!

“I paid for a couple of stuff myself.”

I’m on the treadmill…with the laptop mounted. “Wait. …Mom is exercising?!” Sigh… She runs to Daddy and whispers something. I make a guess: “You’re proud of me?” “Yes,” she says. “You already look skinnier. You’re looking skinnier and skinnier. You’re already more of an exerciser. Well, maybe no more of one. But you are one.” I stopped the treadmill at 17:46 and 111 calories burned. Natalie came up to me, put a hand on my lower back and my belly, gently moved her hands ever so slightly, and pronounced me “ship-shape.”

Natalie’s not wild for my kisses. “Your lips are crunchy.”

Mom: “Too many books on the bed.” It’s the Bad Kitty books.
Natalie: “The books are on the bed ’cause I like that series! … …There’s no point in laughing at me!”

Mom: “Why aren’t you eating?”
Natalie: (singsong) “Because…it’s my hobby…to go away from stuff I’m supposed to be doing.”
Later she mentioned the hobby again. I said she better not talk about that hobby any more, otherwise my hobby might be punishing. Then we snapped Z’s at each other. Mine were better.

“‘Y’all’ isn’t a world.”

“This balloon will protect me from all diseases of Mom. ‘Mom’ plus ‘Showers’ equals No Thanks.”

Natalie asked why boys aren’t allowed to wear dresses in this country. I said they are technically allowed, but not by social convention. (Had to explain social convention vs. law.) But it’s getting better, especially in some parts of the country. It’s not great yet, but it’s definitely better than it used to be. This made her happy. “Then Dad can wear dresses!”


Remember Emily, who broke Natalie’s heart by moving to California? Remember how they tried to Skype a few times, and it just didn’t feel right? Remember how they’ve done much better as pen pals, writing little sparkly BFF letters back and forth?

Natalie did not know that today Emily came to NYC on August 22 her Mom’s business trip and would be in Albany through Tuesday. They were to meet up at Hoffman’s Playland, where I considered having an AED ready in case Natalie needed resuscitation upon their reacquaintance.

The funny part is that Natalie said in the morning that she has had enough of playdates lately.

At the end of the weekend, Emily went home to California, and Natalie was bereft. But this time it’s different. She knows two things now: Emily loves and misses Natalie. And they’ll see each other again.


Natalie told Daddy she got up at 7:32. Oh, you slept through the night, he said. No, she said, she was actually up at five. “I got up and licked a melatonin.”

Cleaning one’s room under authoritative guidance, such fun.
Mom: “Room’s getting nicer, isn’t it.”
Natalie, splayed on floor: “And stomach’s getting crampier.”
And Leon’s getting larger!

Natalie kisses Perry on his snout. “I proposed. Will you marry me?” I tell her Perry said YES! “Our wedding date is in two weeks. …Not. I can’t marry you at this age.”

On August 28, we hung out with Cindy and Patrick, Natalie’s teachers for the next three years, at the school’s Meet and Greet. Natalie outfitted her first locker, which is on the end of a row, with a mirror and a little dry erase board. She’s anxious and uncertain, as usual for a big transition, but she’ll do fine and settle in as she always does. She found a sweet peace bookshelf with buddha statues, which she loves. And, purposefully or not, the school split up a three-girl power clique that had caused drama in Natalie’s previous class. I am so happy.

Natalie is working on her comic book – something her father did as a kid – and her award-winning movie writer grandpa is helping her. I am so full of love and kvell that I might burst.

We’re the weird twins, we’re the weird twins, killing the world of fashion
We’re the weird twins, we’re the weird twins, killing the world of fashion
– Natalie and Ana

Natalie: “Fashion’s dead with us in town.”


Getting There:
“I guess I like airplane stations more than train stations.”

Between flights:
Dad: “We’re free for an hour.”
Natalie: “I’m un-feeling free. I feel trapped with you, Dad. And you, Mom.”

“It’ll be really tough to go on a cruise for two weeks.”

“Tunnels are really cool, but they make me feel…unsecure.”

Natalie GASPS. “I just noticed. You can count to any even number, starting with two.”

Mom: “What do you suppose KoffeeHaus means?”
Natalie: “Coffee, but like a mousse?”

There’s a building on the water. What’s it for?
“Probably for people who don’t know English, and want to be teached English.”

On the ship:
“No. I don’t like anything that is over the heat of noodles. And that looks like it’s over the heat of noodles. Anything that is over the temperature of noodles that have been sitting out for two minutes is not for me.”

On her first ship meal, mango sorbet and a separate bowl of M+Ms and Reese’s Pieces (of which she had very little because she was about to be quite ill):
“I’ve only had it once. But I’ve never had Cruise Mango Sorbet. If there’s New York City pizza, and it’s different from normal pizza, then sorbet must be different on a cruise.”

Mom: “How many meringues should we bring to Dad?”
Natalie: “Zero. It’ll help you keep your compliment.”
Mom: “I already complimented him that he’s skinny.”
Natalie: “The good kind of skinny. Manly skinny.”

“Since you guys are in the Captain’s Club, don’t you get to sit at the Captain, and eat at his dinner table?”

Highlights magazine: “Try to find all the clocks I circled. Digital or un-digital.”


In the whirlpool:
Mom: “You’re so good.”
Natalie: “I’m only good in the whirlpool.”

Mom says she’s DONE following some behavior of Natalie’s. Natalie says she should get a massage. “Then you won’t have the doneness.”

“You seem like much of a swimmer.”

On the deck:
On Time Out – “That’s not so bad. As long as they don’t have to be naked.”

“This night is so pretty. All the people are taking pictures, and being beautiful.”

“Well, I’m getting a headache already. On how overwhelming this cruise is. So far.”

“Blehh. I don’t want to take Drama-Mine. I don’t want drama.”

Natalie has to try the pullout couch bed. “Just have to try it. Ooh – it’s nice and hard, just like my real bed.”


In the stateroom:
“My hair is not as knotty than usual. I just tested.”

In the spa, looking out at all the red roofs in Warnemunde:
“Ugh. I’m so tired of red.” Red roofs? “Yeah. So much red everywhere. Poor German people.”

In the hall:
Mom: “Ah, the smell of turpentine.”
Natalie: “More like the smell of stink.”

“Mom, you better bring your camera. Not to take pictures of me, but of the amazingness.”
“Don’t you get that they’re amazing? Haven’t you ever had this?”


A classmate, Eleanor, needs to lose some weight. Natalie has an idea to help.
“Do you think we could give away our treadmill for a day or two?”

“Hold me like it’s your life.”

Natalie: “Can I have this cookie?”
Mom: “Yes, half.”
Natalie explains why she needed it: “I just want my tooth to get used to having things bitten down on. Not for the sweet.”

After Mom did a semi-surprise, much-needed front tooth extraction in the shower:
“It’s going to ruin my body, there’s so much blood.”
“I have so much blood, my body will never be right.”

“I was too coward to eat where I should. So I’m a coward. And it’s not good to be a coward, so I’m kind of a bad person.”

Using a hand-held balloon pump:
“I want mouth refreshener with some new air.”


Natalie woke up on the ship to a Matrioshka doll t-shirt from the Tooth Fairy.
“Where do you think the Tooth Fairy got it? China, or a real place?”

“Why don’t they just make a New Yorky road? Even though it’s a free massage. Ew.”

“Is Pennsylvania shaped like a pencil?” No. “Then why is it called Pencilvania?”

On the tour bus: “Why are you taking notes? Look around.”

Mom: “Want some gum?”
Natalie: “Is it Trendint?”

Trying on a sailor hat in the outdoor museum gift shop: “I AM cute.”

After finding Euro coins on the ground:
“I once found a quarter duggen in the ground in the soccer field at school.”

Giving kisses to Dad, back in our stateroom after the tour:
“And last, but not un-not least, I mean, unlast but least, mwa.”

Mom: “Don’t sigh at me.”
Natalie: “I didn’t. I just needed a big breath.”


Natalie: “Do olives grow with the holes in them?”
Mom: “No, they take the pits out.”
Natalie: “Very fashionable.”

To Ksenia, our tour guide:
“Well if you want to go to an English-speaking continent, go to New York.”


Four of the ice cubes are stuck. “It’s like they’re a maniac. Mmmm. Maniacly stuck.”

“Mom, do you know any Findish?”

“So, guys, what’s the big talk in Finland? What’s the gossip?”


“But I always wear clean underwear. When I’m wearing underwear.”

Getting ready for dinner:
“And be prepared for anything. You want to look cute when you’re in trouble, don’t you?”

“What’s a banana? Is it like apple, but banana instead?”


Natalie wants Dad to grow his beard.
“Yes. Just the beard. And all you have to do every day is wet it and put it into an evil triangle.”

We’re watching Star Wars again. Natalie asks why it’s called “A New Hope.” I tell her Luke is the new hope. “I thought it was Luke destroying the big building. You know, the bad moon thingie? I forget what it’s called.”

Me: “How did the droids just cross the corridor without getting shot?”
Natalie: “It’s a fictional thing, Mom. No one can really survive that.”

“It’s a me-college.” A collage. Jesus.

Natalie wants to know if there are drones flying over our country. I assure her there are not, and that soon there may be, but mostly for commercial purposes – like Amazon dropping packages over your house. But if they start flying robot planes to watch us, it might be time to move to another country. Natalie worriedly wants to know which country. Canada, maybe, or France, I say. “But I don’t know how to speak Canadan.” True.

We didn’t have glow sticks when we were kids.
“Woww. How did you live? Really tough.”

Natalie is enjoying my belly as a pillow.
Natalie: “Mom, I’m sorry to say this, but when you die–”
Me: “You want to keep my stomach as a pillow?”
Natalie: “Let me keep your stomach and make it into a waterbed for my baby.”

We had such a lovely evening on July 5. While Daddy was Skyping around 8:15, I surprised Natalie by opening her door and asking if she wanted to go out with me for pancakes. Since we were going to her favorite diner, and her bedtime is supposed to be 8:30, this was a real treat. A few minutes after we ordered our food, Daddy showed up for surprise #2. He’d only been guessing where we’d gone. On the way home, we had to pull over to watch unexpected fireworks for surprise #3, and Daddy had bought some Perry’s ice cream for surprise #4. Not bad.
During the fireworks, I heard a sigh. I asked Natalie if she was bored. “No. I was sighing of the beauty.” Oh, okay. “Some sighs are good, some sighs are bad. Like, some people sigh when they’re going to say, ‘Will you marry me?’ It’s mostly boys asking girls to marry them, right?”
I noted how some of the upward fireworks squiggles look like sperm. Natalie reminded me how she used to think that boy sperm had black ties and girl sperm had pink bows. “And they had little phony smiles.” Yes, that’s how they charm the bouncer.

Natalie’s still up. She’s getting an ice cube to suck in a washcloth. “It just drains my heart. It just kind of makes my heart feel cold, and when it makes my heart feel cold, it makes me feel like it’s nighttime, and it makes me go to sleep. Get it?”

I’m trying to go to bed and shut down the house, but poor Natalie is still awake and wants to keep Perry with her. “I need a furry friend to go to sleep. I’m just having birthdayophobia. I just can’t decide what to do for my birthday. I’m thinking maybe Ciccotti Center.”

Natalie purposefully barreled into me on the grass at The Crossings and grinned like a maniac. “I fell you over.”

We heard a LOT of screeching on the phone from Natalie’s room on July 22. Natalie explained:
“Ana said her father was tap-dancing in his underwear. She said he’s soo hairy, you could fit a billion people in it. Like, if you made a blanket of it, you could fit a billion people under it. She might be exaggerating, but she’s probably right.”

We’re talking about self-reflection and the pros & cons of re-living the moments when we’ve been wronged and have wronged others. We need to feel bad about our bad behavior, because otherwise, what would we all be doing? “We’d all be punching each other,” says Natalie. Right! “We’d all be huffing and puffing each others’ houses down.” Exactly.

Isn’t your room easier to pick up after the last major cleaning and purging? I ask. No, says the girl, because without all the mess, the room lacks all those places to cheat by hiding things.

Pam and Natalie are upstairs playing with Zoltan the Fortune Teller.
Natalie: “Yay! My fears are real.”
Pam: “What?”
Natalie: “It says my fears are real that my friend Liesl wants to live with me.”
Two minutes later: “Hooray! Liesl decided not to live with me!”
…”I won’t live with Liesl!”

“Mom, that red shirt is outstandingly beautiful! It’s amazing! Do they have that in kid size?” It’s a layered sleeveless rayon top for work. From BJ’s. Where I got a whole bunch of clothing today, and it all fit without benefit of a dressing room. I think it’s finally time to take a deep breath and give in to Truth. My name is Laura, and I will never fit into classy clothes. I am a middle-aged table-top threads lady. I’m fat enough, I’m flat enough, and doggone it, people, Like me!

Too many crackers.
Mom: “Go get some vegetable.”
Natalie: “Or fruit?”
Mom: “No. Vegetable.”
Natalie: “But that has NATURAL sugar, not REAL sugar.”

Natalie doesn’t like sad songs unless they’re big and joyful. (Schadenfreude?)

“Mom, can you look up the most famous country in the world?” She amended it to “popular” when I teased her on the word “famous.” And it turns out that France seems to be the most popular destination.

Natalie is telling someone on the phone about the cruise. “I’ve never been on the subway here, but I went on a plain old train in Russia. And it was fun to stand up when it stopped. …And it was 200 Euros, which is 300 in Human…not Human, I mean American dollars. …I can’t tell the name, because it was in Russian and I can’t write in…I can’t write European writing. …No no no no no, I don’t want to be bald. …I have more than a thousand dollars, but THAT is for COLLEGE. …I asked my grandparents how much the cruise was. And they actually told me. It was a thousand and fifty dollars.”

Natalie tossed a washcloth across the table.
Mom: “Do that again and you’ll be invited to leave for the night.”
Natalie: “Invited…which I’ll RSVP ‘no’.”

Natalie: “Can you convince Mom not to want me to eat this slimy stuff?”
Dad: “I can’t convince Mommy to do ANYTHING.”
Natalie: “Will you at least try? It’s for my life. I might get sick with this stuff.”
So much for Trader Joe’s pad see ew. To be fair, it was extra slimy this night. I went to do the dishes. She had said she’d finished. I asked if there was any green left on the plate. I got a definitive “no.” Boy, was that untrue. Why doesn’t she secretly throw out her scraps like a normal kid?

Mom: “People are loving her picture.”
Natalie: “Whose picture?”
Mom: “Yours.”
Natalie: “Let me see. Was what me doing?”


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