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My daughter was born with an old soul. She is more mature than her six years allow and generally conducts herself in a manner above reproach. She notices the smallest details while keeping the big picture in mind. She plans ahead; laying out her clothes the night before she wears them, making sure her bookbag is packed and ready for library day, spotting and collecting items for future projects of her own design. She is a quiet, but undeniable presence in our house. A smile from Nora is a true gift.

She also has a mile-wide stubborn streak. Once she has made up her mind, there is no moving her. And Lord, I have tried. Her dissents are typically measured and yet, forceful. To wit: the other day, we disagreed on a point. I wanted all the kids to go outside and play. She lobbied to stay inside. I gave her a choice: Go outside for a while and then play video games or stay inside and find something else to do while the other kids played video games. She firmly informed me that these options were unacceptable and stalked off to her room. She did not slam the door.

Hours later, after the cycle of diplomatic entreaties, acknowledgements and apologies was long completed, my husband came home. “Did you see Nora’s note?” he asked me, laughing.

“What note?”

“Oh!” said Nora, looking up from her snack. “It’s kind of funny, now.” She seemed a little sheepish.

I went upstairs. This is the note she wrote to me:

She’s a pistol; there’s no denying it.

I am reluctant to ring in the new year. For when I do, I will be that much closer to someone’s teen years.

Here’s to 2011, anyway!

 

 

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As part of his school’s curriculum this Spring, Large has the opportunity to take foreign language classes – French and Spanish. He chose to start with French; I suspect largely because some of his north country friends are bilingual and it has always fascinated him that they-along with their parents-can carry on entire conversations “in code.” I thought I fully understood his desire to crack the code having spent many a meal at friends’ houses where my conversational contributions were “Oui,” and “Je ne comprend pas.” But, non.

A few weeks ago, one of these French speaking families was visiting ours. We were eating lunch at the fabulous Burlington institution, Al’s French Frys (if you haven’t been, you must – your arteries will not thank you but your salt-and-grease taste buds will). Liam was graciously pumping ketchup into little paper cups for the group when I remembered to mention it to his eight-year old buddy.

“John*, did you know that Liam has started taking French at school?”

“Yeah, I know,” John replied. “He asked me earlier how to say ‘stupid idiot’ in French.”

“What did you tell him?” John’s mother and I chorused in stereo.

John shrugged and picked up a vinegar-drenched french fry.  “Stupide idiotte.”

Quelle fantastique.  Liam’s French teacher must have loved that one.

*Not his real name.

I took the kids with me to the grocery store today, not by choice but by necessity. If I had attempted to serve them what was left in the cupboard—namely artichoke hearts and black olives—they might have tried to bury me in the backyard. Winter break is interminable.

Before we went, I tried to prepare myself and them. I carefully wrote out a shopping list (by aisle, no less), made sure their little stomachs were full (we went directly after lunch), and spoke with each of them about the difference between “helpful” and “unhelpful” behavior (Putting items Mommy hands you into the cart = Helpful. Attempting to lie down on the bottom rack of the cart = Unhelpful.).

Not that any of this ultimately mattered.

Kid Dialogue:

“I’m hungry!”

“EEEK!”

“But he scared me!”

“I want this!”

“But I WANT THIS!”

“OW! Mom! Liam just ran over my leg!”

“Can we have gummies?”

“But everybody else has these in their lunch!”

“How come YOU always get to pick out what WE eat?”

“Ewww!”

“NO!”

“Stop it!”

“He’s doing it again!”

“I wanna see the lobsters.”

“But I’m still looking at the lobsters!”

**Sob**

“Ooops!”

“Mom! Look what he did!”

**Sob**

“THEN can I have a muffin?”

“How come HE always gets what he wants?”

“I hafta go to the bathroom.”

“We need gum!”

“More gum!”

“Oh, no! I dropped my quarter!”

“Mommy, you gotta go back!”

Mom Dialogue:

“But you just ate!”

“Please, put that back.”

“Stop sniffing the rotisserie chicken. Remember last time?”

“No.”

“Where did Henry go?”

“Say ‘excuse me’.”

“I’m sorry. Excuse us.”

“Try harder not to run into people.”

“Get back in the cart.”

“Don’t hang on the side of the cart.”

“Be careful of the eggs!”

“No.”

“Get back in the cart.”

“Just put it back.”

“No.”

“No!”

“NO!”

“Get out of the cart.”

“Please, guys, we’re almost done. Keep it together.”

I am sure I had more than a glint of crazy in my eyes by the time we reached the cashier.

And that was before I noticed there was no bagger.

Would I like wine with my whine? Why thank you, I would.

P.S. This is one of the funniest commercials out there, thanks to my friend, K, for sharing it:

We are eating lunch. Henry picks at the PB&J he requested. I am devouring a freshly-made garlic and herb turkey wrap that I impulsively procured from a gas station deli. It tastes like manna from heaven. I am too busy stuffing my mouth to make conversation.

“Mom?”

I freeze, mid-chew. Oh no. Here it comes. Had I insisted that he try some, he would have refused. But when I’d rather not share, he decides he wants some.

“Can I have yourth?”

I hand him half my sandwich in silence, selfishly hoping he won’t like it and will hand it back. This is a good bet since it is stuffed with banana peppers, red onions, chopped lettuce and tomatoes.

He takes a bite, then nods his head vigorously. “It’th good.”

“Really? You like it?”

“Yup. Did you know dere’th bacon in dere?”

Why, yes. Yes, I did. Damn that delectable smoked swine.

I relinquish my meal with only the slightest hint of a grimace. “Good for you for trying something new.”

On the bright side: Less sandwich now means more Girl Scout cookies later…

For weeks, my little girl’s bite was doubled up like a shark’s. Her baby tooth just would not budge. Rather than wait, the adult tooth emerged behind it.

Even her teeth are impatient.

When she ran over to me this morning with her face alight and bottom lip pulled out, I was relieved.

Tonight, there was no fussing about bedtime. Nora was more than happy to go upstairs, get into her pajamas and brush the rest of her teeth. After I wrestled Small out of his day clothes and into clean Dr. Denton’s, I went to find her. She was sitting on her bed, silently caressing the milky white tooth in her hand.

“Don’t put it under your pillow loose. It’ll get lost.”

Nora gave me her standard response – a headshake in lieu of words.

I persisted. “Really, sweetheart. Use the little jar you had it in. Put the tooth in the jar and the jar under your pillow.”

She stared at the floor.

This was going to be an issue.

“How about if you use this box?” Now I was pleading with her.

“No, Mommy.” Her voice was quiet, but firm.

“A plastic bag?”

“No, Mommy.”

“Honey, the tooth fairy works on a very tight schedule. If you leave it loose under your pillow, it could get lost. And if she can’t find it, she won’t leave you any money.”

“I don’t care if I get money, Mommy.”

Apparently, she’s no capitalist. This argument would have worked on her big brother. How was I going to get her to help me? I sat next to her on the bed. She peered at me through her curtain of wispy, brown hair.

“Are you sure?” I gentled my tone. “Why don’t you put it in a box? Otherwise, she might not find it.”

“No, Mommy. She will.” She nodded earnestly. Her confidence in her fairy was unshakable. “She will,” she said with certainty.

And so, the tooth was placed under her pillow—unfettered and naked—directly on the sheet. The lovely multicolored floral patterned sheet with the white background.

God help me.  I may need the Rock.

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