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Pickle Me This

June 23, 2017

Rosie and Michael, by Judith Viorst and Lorna Tomei

I’ve spent this week finishing up the second draft of my new novel, whose title at the moment is I Wish It Were Tomorrow. That title is actually the last line of The Hating Book, by Charlotte Zolotow (and if this title remains and my book is published, this will make for me two-for-two for novels inspired by works edited by Ursula Nordstrom). The Hating Book, like my novel, is a story of the complicated nature of friendship, about friendship’s necessary flip-side, which isn’t the opposite of friendship, exactly, but simply part of it. To expect to lines to run strictly parallel forever and ever is an awfully high expectation. And even when the course of a friendship does run smooth, things can be complicated. It is to one’s friends that one is not always the kindest. And it is that way that friends are like family.

Rosie and Michael, by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Lorna Tomei, first published in 1974, was not a book I was familiar with until Harriet’s class recited it in their school’s spring concert last month. Harriet’s line was, “I worry a lot about werewolves, and he understands.” And oh, is there anybody else who can illustrate the full spectrum of human experience—the good, the bad and the awful—as well as Viorst, author of classics such as Alexander and the No Good Very Bad Day and I’ll Fix Anthony? She gets the quiet rage of childhood fury better than anyone, and can frame it within a context of love and security, which isn’t easy. Judith Viorst would know that friendships can be complicated: “Just because I put a worm in his tuna salad sandwich doesn’t mean that Michael’s not my friend.” Exactly.

We are coming up to the end of a very good school year for both children, and a more difficult ending than we had the previous year in which both Harriet and Iris were returning to the same teachers. Iris’s teacher, the inimitable Tracey at playschool, who introduced the concept of “friendliness” into our lives in a way we hadn’t experienced before. Why don’t we hit, bite, stomp through people’s gardens and act out when we are cranky? Because it’s not very friendly, Tracey has taught us, along with the idea that friendliness is a way of being in the world, a general level of approachability, giving other people a break, giving other people space, even. To be friendly is to reach out to somebody in need, to give a hug to somebody who is sad, to smile at a stranger, to pick up litter in the park, to hold a little kid’s hand firmly when the little kid is crossing the street. A lot of it is about taking responsibility for one’s own actions. A lot of it is about being kind.

Harriet in grade two has had similar yet, appropriately, more advanced lessons about friendliness and friendship in her class over the past two years. Her teacher, Ms. T, has subtly and yet powerfully gone to great lengths to nurture a sense of community in her classroom and sense of responsibility toward the wellbeing of others. I will miss the unique dynamic she has created in her class, which has made for such a positive experience socially for Harriet, who has learned about appreciating difference and finding what’s in common, about working together and supporting each other. The children in her class seem to be inclusive and welcoming, playing together, letting quirky kids be quirky and appreciating those quirks—Harriet’s classmates have been incredibly avid in supporting her hedgehog obsession, for instance. The class is united as a group, and doesn’t become divided along gender lines, and I’m so grateful for the friendships Harriet has been able to have with the boys in class. They’re an incredible group of unique and funny personalities, and part of that is why they work the way do, but so much more is also because of the deliberate approach of her teacher.

All this occurred to me at the spring concert as I listened to then reading Rosie and Michael, what a perfect story is this for this group, this celebration of friendship’s elasticity and solidity at once, and how these relationships become the foundation of the people we are. And it occurred to me too that I have a lot more work to do on my novel, to get at the nuance, amazing singularly, friction, synchronicity, and care involved in sharing a friendship over many years. But still, I’m getting closer.

June 21, 2017

Places I’ve Gone With A Book in My Bag

  1. Our neighbours’ backyard party last Saturday evening. This was the event that occasioned this list, as it made me consider whether I might actually have a book-in-the-bag problem. I was definitely not intending to read at this thoroughly enjoyable social event (and I didn’t) but when I considered the slight prospect of one of my children having to go the hospital (perhaps after falling out of a tree?) and a five hour wait in the ER waiting room, not bringing a book just seemed dangerous.
  2. Hospital waiting rooms: Oh, the splendid hours I’ve been reading in such places. The best ever was when Harriet poked me in the eye during a heat wave in August 2010* and I left our sweltering apartment to spend hours and hours in air conditioned splendour, rereading Slouching Toward Bethlehem for the zillionth time and waiting for the doctor to tell me that I would not be going blind. *Note that I have all the details on this matter because I wrote a blog post extolling the virtues of waiting rooms as places to read back when I had a one-year-old and life was harder.
  3. The park. Always, in the park. My worst nightmare, in fact, is not of anything involving hospital waiting rooms, but instead the prospect of a sunny day where my children don’t want to go home but I’ve got nothing to read save for the organ donor card in my wallet (and I’ve already read that). I will never forget the summer day when Harriet was two and I spent a whole afternoon sprawled in the backseat of the climbing frame that resembles a jeep at Huron Washington Playground reading the entirety of Alice Thomas Ellis’s novel The 27th Kingdom while Harriet pretended to “drive.”
  4. Out for lunch. Sometimes because the book is to be my lunch companion (oh, and what a joy is that!) and even if my companion is to be actual human being, a book in your bag means you can read while she goes to the bathroom.
  5. On the subway. First, because the subway is a very good place to read, but also because what if your subway car gets stuck in a tunnel for three hours? How would you bear it without a book to read?
  6. The Bookstore. This is where it gets really stupid. I always have a book in my bag, but half the time the only place I ever go to is a bookstore anyway. But still, if I went to a bookstore without a book in my bag, I’d have nothing to read in transit. And think about if the subway got stuck in the tunnel, right?? But then, what if you were fifteen pages away from the end of a book? This is when things get complicated. Because you need to bring a secondary book to start reading when you finish the first one, and perhaps a tertiary book just in case that second title turns out to be a bit of a dud. I could possibly come up with a very good reason why you should never go to a bookstore without thirty-seven novels in your rucksack. Anything less would be reckless.
  7. Harriet’s birthday party. We took eight small girls to the movies. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to read at all.
  8. Playschool co-op shifts. I don’t know why I ever thought I’d have the chance to read on a playschool co-op shift, particularly since I never ever have. But still, you don’t want to take a chance like that.
  9. The Shovels and Rope concert at the Phoenix in October: I was reading Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth before the show while Stuart was in the loo. The security guard who checked my bag thought it was weird that I had a book.
  10. My own book launch. I was reading Big Little Lies. I didn’t get a chance to read it though.
  11. The hospital, where I gave birth to my second child. This is not so weird, but it is weird when you consider that I brought nothing else except for a pair of shoes to wear in the shower. I was hoping to give birth at home, and perhaps thought packing clothes would jinx this. Instead, it just meant I spent a lot of time naked. But at least I had a book.

June 20, 2017

On the Bearability of Lightness

A couple of weeks ago, after a string of one-after-the-other satisfying spring reads, I couldn’t get into a single book. A problem that stretched out for a week, until I had no choice but to turn to a surefire solution, which was to reread a Laurie Colwin novel followed by one by Barbara Pym. The Laurie Colwin idea occurring to me because I’d created a job for a character in the novel I’m writing that seemed Colwin-esque—she was hired as a researcher at an institute for folklore and fairy tales. Which never happens to anyone in real life, but which is all the more fun to imagine for it. In the Colwin novel I read, Happy All The Time, not a single character is in possession of a real job. The book is about two friends, one whose job is to manage the philanthropic foundation that donates his family’s wealth and the other has a background in urban studies and works for a city-planning think-tank, where he meets his future wife who is a linguist working on a language project. The first character’s wife is just wealthy and doesn’t have to work, and spends her day-to-day life watering spider plants in her apartment, making soup, and rearranging jars of pretty things on her windowsills.

Do I sound critical of these details? I don’t mean to. It’s part of the reason I life Laurie Colwin, the rarefied experiences of a certain class of people but she gets at their ordinariness. It is all very strange, and an aspect of appreciating Colwin, I think, is learning to take that strangeness for granted. Which is not to say her books are frivolous, although they are in a way. But I think maybe the problem is that we have no template except for frivolity to understand a book that possesses a light touch. This is a novel that turns gender norms upside down, Jane Austen with the shoes on other feets. The two men at the book’s centre are yearning and emotionally complicated, besotted with emotionally distant women who don’t seem the appeal of love in all its frippery. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff going on here, although it’s easy to breeze right by it, to let it go down easy. It’s easy to give this kind of literature absolutely no credit at all.

What if instead of axes to the frozen seas within us, books were umbrellas to protect us from the ice pellets overhead? Or a house that we could go inside in order to escape from the weather for a while.

I read Barbara Pym after that, because I love her, but my confession is this: apart from Excellent Women (which is so so excellent, but they all are) I have a hard time remembering what Barbara Pym novel is which and they all run together. Which is why I try to reread at least one annually, and this time it was No Fond Return of Love, which I last read in 2010 (which I know because I then recorded a youtube video about how much I loved it). As with the Colwin, this is a book that skews with conventional narrative and is more subversive than it ever gets credit for. Really, it’s a story about stories, about seeing and watching and it’s an experiment in a novel with a protagonist who is not a protagonist at all. Very little of Dulcie’s story is her own, and she doesn’t even want it to be. She is content in her experience, but it’s other people’s experiences that fascinates her, and we keep waiting for the conventional things to happen, but they don’t. Dulcie is far more interested in other people than she is in herself, and so is the novel, which is pretty unusual. I think I read this one around the same time I saw the Emma Thompson film Stranger Than Fiction and read the Muriel Spark novel The Comforters which is similar, and so the metafictional elements of this Barbara Pym book (and the ways in which Pym represents her work and makes a cameo appearance) are underlined to me. I can’t remember if other Pym books are quite as self-referential as this one, or if No Fond Return of Love is an outlier.

In this novel too, things are arranged in jars on windowsills and we’re told what these things are and how the light things through them, and I think of the materiality of both Colwin and Pym’s work, how the furniture is so important. And is there anything wrong with books that are more concerned with end-tables than axes? What if literature didn’t have to be a weapon?

I read Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk next, which I read first in January, but I wanted to read again before my book club discussed it. A book I was so glad to get a chance to return to because it reads so easily you might almost forget it, or at least imagine there is not so much to remember. This the trouble with lightness, of course, is its deceptiveness. Which is the entire point of Lillian Boxfish, actually, and we had such a fascinating discussion about this book, about style and substance, about the way in which its narrator cultivates her persona and how reliable is she, is she writing us another rhyme? This novel written by a poet is written with such an awareness of language, and sense of play about it, and Lillian Boxfish’s point about her heyday is that there could be an intelligence to lightness then, humour and grace. And it made me think about Colwin and Pym, writers whose lightness might be held against them, as Lillian’s work is against her later in her life, dismissed as silly rhymes. But is there a difference between these silly rhymes and today’s silly rhymes, and has a basic assumption of a reader’s intelligence and vocabulary and capacity for challenge changed in the years since Pym and Colwin were published. Remember too that for many years Pym wasn’t even published, out of print for nearly two decades until her resurrection in 1977—so maybe it’s the same as it ever was?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I’m glad that reading light this last little while has given me so much to think about. Thinking about those pretty things in the their jars on the windowsill and the narrow space between light, light (illumination) and delight, which has no etymological connection, but it probably should.

June 18, 2017

SUMMER READING CONTEST!! #MitziInTheSun

When Mitzi Bytes came out in March, it was packed along on plenty of spring break trips and celebrated by readers as a bonafide beach read—a distinction I’m proud of, and one that only becomes more paramount now that summer is here. And so to celebrate the novel’s beachy qualities—it is plot-driven, comedic and fun‚ plus its pages have been specially manufactured to be sand-resistant*—we’re having a Mitzi Bytes summer reading contest, hashtag #MitziInTheSun.

How to play? Post the official #MitziInTheSun image (above) on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram for one chance to win. OR share your own image of Mitzi Bytes in a summer setting (at the beach, on a picnic, at a bbq, etc. I can’t wait to see your summer takes you, and where you take Mitzi!) for FIVE CHANCES to win. Tag your posts #MitziInTheSun, of course.

And the prize? Three excellent (autographed) summer reads from Harper Collins Canada, posted straight to your doorstep, along with a beach/picnic blanket for you to curl up on. Contest runs until the end of July 31. Canadian addresses only please.

*Just kidding. Or not. Why not try it and see?

June 16, 2017

By the Time You Read This, by Jennifer Lanthier and Patricia Storms

I love By The Time You Read This, the new picture book by Jennifer Lanthier (of the award-winning The Stamp Collector) and illustrated by my friend, Patricia Storms. It’s a story about two friends who’ve had a falling-out, and the wronged party is eager to rid his life of any sign the friendship ever happened, and so he’s taking down their fort, throwing out their stuff, shutting down their zoo, and ending their novel for good.

“By the time you read this,” he writes, “I will have forgotten we were ever friends.” Very dramatic, yes, but it also demonstrates the force (and complicatedness) of a child’s feelings toward relationships, and this force creates serious momentum too as narrator moves through the story with firm determination.

The story also demonstrates the incredible richness of a child’s imaginary world, which is only enlivened when shared with a friend, and this reader glimpses here the subtext of this, in how much is lost to the child when the friendship is. The blanket fort which is “our Indestructible Fortress of Fiendishness”  and the collection of ordinary pets and stuffed toys which have been transformed into “our Magical Zoo of Mystical Creatures” with the wonder of play.

Having dismantled all evidence of the friendship indoors, the narrator heads outside via “our Precarious Portal for Intrepid Explorers” (i.e. the elevator—and how excellent that the story takes place amongst friends who live in an apartment or condo dwelling) and sulks on the playground contemplating just how he has been wronged, and it’s here we learn just how the misunderstanding between friends came about.

As you can glimpse from the illustration about, the two friends do reconcile, as friends often do—a very good thing to have affirmed. And by the end of the book they’re off on another big adventure.

June 14, 2017

We Love Huron Playschool

I honestly don’t remember who I was before playschool. When I had one child, when I’d never published a book, when I was a bit lost wandering around the neighbourhood without a destination. These days we meet friends every time we step outside the house, but it wasn’t like that then. My friend Nathalie lived in the neighbourhood (even though we met first on the internet) and she had three children, had been a mother for a while. It was Nathalie who told me about playschool when Harriet was two, and I registered her for the following year. That summer we came by to visit while playschool summer camp was in session, and as we walked in, an actual pig came down the stairs behind us, noisy and oinking. From our first moment there, playschool was remarkable, and this has never ceased to the case.

The pig hasn’t come back to visit. And the Ministry of Education has since prohibited visits from farm animals for public health reasons (BLAST!) but the pig was really only emblematic anyway. Of the fact that playschool was never boring, always fun, and the things you think will never happen there are never the things that do…in the best possible way.

Our family has spent five years at playschool, five years in which we’ve become us as a family, a family of four, a family tied to our community, supporting our neighbours. Everything I know about the world I’ve learned from playschool, the challenges of working in a co-op, and the rewards as well. I’ve learned so much about people, and sharing, and what it means to be friendly (and that it’s not nice to bite). Our children will carry the lessons learned at playschool all through their lives, and I know that I will too.

On the playschool blog, I’ve written a little post about what the community there has meant to me and us over the last five years, and about how much we’re going to miss it. It’s a truly extraordinary place, and we’ve been so lucky to be part of it.

June 12, 2017

Grounds For Hope

On Saturday night somebody attacked our lavender bush with a sharp stick, clearly with the intent of destroying it. Yes, the lavender that we bought two years ago in order to replace the shrub that someone tore out of our garden in a (we think) drunken rage. It was discovered Sunday morning half dug up, roots torn, sad and limp. Particularly sad because it had been so lush, flowers just on the verge of blooming. Poor little lavender, and we speculated about the culprit—was it a man who (like someone rather close to home) had become frustrated with his wife’s compulsion to add lavender to everything, and just decided he couldn’t take it anymore, every single bite of everything tasting more than a little like perfume? Or someone further over the edge, plagued by demonic lavender visions, a stake in the root the only real solution?

Anyway, we have found that tending a community garden is an excellent exercise in living with the world, in coming to terms with its realities. What kind of asshole would so something like that? But the thing about the world is that there are all kinds of assholes, and accepting this is part of life. And so we focus instead on other things, that we have a community gardening group to whom we could direct our gardening emergency questions: Can This Lavender Be Saved? I got an email back in a half hour or so, that depending on root damage the plant could possibly survive by being trimmed back and repotted in a small container for the summer and given a restful summer. We got on it straightaway and the lavender looks much less sad now. Also, the city is donating plants for community gardeners and we’ll be able to order a new lavender for our planter. All is not lost. We’ll keep tending our garden, and putting up with the jerks that try to wreck it and/or steal our plants is all part of the experience. We’ll keep planting our seeds and helping them grow, because this is the world we’ve got, and when it isn’t awful, it’s really beautiful. The one and only too.

Today marks a year since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, an event that was terrible in itself but also marks the beginning of what I think of now as The Very Bad Time, one that hasn’t yet concluded. Jo Cox’s murder, then Brexit. I remember walking home from soccer last summer on the most beautiful evening (there were rainbows) and then hearing news of atrocities in Nice. The election in November, so much awfulness since. And more devastation in London and Manchester these last few weeks, each of these events strung like beads on a terrible, awful string. It is a difficult time to be in the world. Life is so hard and random, even when there aren’t maniacs committing acts of murder on busy streets. There is uncertainty, and sadness, and so much loss. So much awful commemoration.

Such much juxtaposition too. How do you make sense of it? I remember the Pulse Nightclub news at the end of the most splendid summer day, a day that smelled like sunscreen, tasted like ice cream, and sounded like the splash of waves on the beach. It was a day that became legend in our family, because we hadn’t had a plan at all—it just happened. And then yesterday we wanted to do it again, to return to the Beaches Arts and Crafts Sale, to have a picnic in Kew Gardens, play on the climbers, have dinner on Queen Street, and so spend so much time that time slows down hanging out beside the lake, collecting beach glass, and looking for other interesting things.

Efforts to orchestrate good days can easily go a bit wrong. There has be room for them to happen, and I was thinking about this yesterday as we planned our day. (“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no terrorist attacks in it yet?”) Plus, I was wondering about the beach. Water levels are at record highs—more dread of course, global warming. Will there even be a beach? I’d seen photos of the lake right up against the boardwalk.

I love beach glass. I love that the intersection of humans and nature can result in something so precious and beautiful. I love that the story isn’t all bad. I love that beach glass by definition is sharp edges worn smooth, that collecting it is an exercise in paying attention. We started collecting beach glass last summer, to what end I’m not sure yet, perhaps just for the sake of having it. I usually resist the urge to own things I find in nature, but beach glass is different, and I don’t know that the lake really minds if we take it away.

And the thing I learned yesterday is that high water levels and diminished beach equals an abundance of beach glass—it’s all been swept ashore. We found loads of it, huge pieces, a veritable treasure trove. I think too about the high water levels in the context of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s “Big Water,” about the lake reclaiming itself. The positive ecological benefits of what’s happening, all the things that might grow, might be discovered.

In spite of everything, and maybe even because of everything: we had a very good day.

“To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.” —Rebecca Solnit, “Woolf’s Darkness”

June 9, 2017

The Thing That Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires

If life were a movie, all persistence would lead to triumph. Adversity only would exist in order to be overcome. We would all be Rocky, champions, eye of the tiger. If you just try hard enough, success will inevitably result. And it’s not just movies—it’s books too, memoir and fiction, books for all ages. Stella gets her groove back. It leads you to believe that this actually happens, all the time. And for some people, maybe this is true.

Sometimes I feel like there should be a different kind of genetic testing before two people are allowed to procreate. Oh, wait a minute. You can map your entire childhood from the scars on your face from your struggles with gravity, and you played softball for four years and never ever once managed to catch the ball? Do you really think this is such a good idea? Maybe you both should adopt a ferret instead? 

There will be a time when my child’s inability to do a cartwheel won’t really matter. (There might also one day be a time when she can do a cartwheel, but I am not holding my breath.) She couldn’t jump until she was four years old, and hopping remains a challenge. Jump Rope For Heart is coming up next week and she can’t do it. Mostly for lack of trying, it’s true, and if I could go back in time I would have enrolled her in gymnastics when she was two and given her a foundation in physical literacy, but I figured it was the kind of thing she’d pick up on her own. Like riding a bike. Which she still can’t do.

It’s not all failure, of course. I write here all the time about the magnificence of my children, their incredible imaginations and intelligence and how they are funny, kind of empathetic. They love exploring, can walk for miles, can make a game out of anything, read boatloads of books, are up for adventures, do well in school, get along with their friends, and are already very good members of their community. I admire them both immensely. But the whole story includes the struggles, and we’ve got plenty of those. Motor skills are not our forte. If I wanted to, I was told, I could pursue therapies with a aplomb and really nip this problem in the bud…or I could write my child off as a person a bit lacking in physical prowess. Something we both actually have in common. She’s kind of fine with that.

While bike riding remains elusive, she has mastered her two wheeled scooter, which isn’t easy to do. She still can’t skip (three consecutive jumps are a challenge) but we’ve finagled a slow-motion step thing with the skipping rope which might turn into actual skipping with practice. With a lot of determination, she learned to ice skate, and while she’s cautious and slower than her fearless friends, she can skate enough to have an acceptable Canadian childhood. And our latest and greatest triumph is swimming, even though she’s likely to repeat Swim Kids 2 again, but this is probably the last time, and she can actually swim now, which is a long long way for someone who has the buoyancy of a anchor. She’s had a good teacher this term who has pushed her, which she said she resented in the beginning, but she gets it now. On the chalkboard in our hallway, we’ve written, WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

At their last physical exam, or maybe the one before it, I mentioned the challenge with physical things, and our doctor (who is the mother of four children and knows a few things) told me two things that struck me as quite profound. First, that when our brains have to work harder in order to respond to challenges, our brains get smarter. Struggle is good for us. And second, struggle can make us better people, people with more empathy towards those with their own struggles, a healthy awareness that everybody is fighting their own battle.

I love The Thing That Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires, because (SPOILERS) she never learns to do it. This is not a story about triumph over adversity, but about adversity. About how adversity can be its own story, worthwhile in its own right. That learning and trying and trying again, regardless of what happens next, is its own kind of adventure. And that all of us are doing this in some part of our lives, and if we’re not, it’s only because we’re not brave enough to bother.

June 8, 2017

An interlude

This week’s radio silence brought to you by fun nights out, lots of busyness, and a string of books that just aren’t taking. As ever, I’ve been instagramming though, so head over there to see what you’re missing—which is mostly hammocks.

June 4, 2017

Iris is Four

The most remarkable thing about Iris turning four (tomorrow!) is that she will be the same age that Harriet was when Iris was born. A crazy milestone, first that we’ve never had a four-year-old without a newborn, so this is a new kind of unencumbrance. And also how strange it is that we thought Harriet was so old at the age of four, whereas Iris will forever be the baby, never mind all the incredible things she does—writing her letters, knowing her numbers, drawing pictures, making up songs, and all kinds of other things her sister didn’t do at the same age. When Harriet went to kindergarten, I recall being mildly troubled because she never drew, never mind all the crayons and paper we had around the house, and how she was only interesting in using her scissors to cut the paper into little tiny pieces, and I wondered if she was drawing delayed…all of which is to say that I have always been a bit neurotic. But still, Iris will head off to kindergarten with all kinds of skills already and she’s going to learn more. We’re currently reading Ramona The Pest in order to get kindergarten-going top-of-mind and she keeps waiting for the moment when she’ll finally learn to read and write, and I’ve got a feeling that for Iris it’s not so long in coming.

These little check-ins with the people my children are are more precious than I ever realize when I write them, which I only ever realize when I go back and read them, like this one from last March. Harriet is fairly familiar, but Iris has been eleveneen people since then. And so it’s useful to sit down and note the particulars of this moment, of Iris at four. Iris, who gets a bad rap as our family mischief maker (and I have a distinct memory of cleaning crayon off the wall this morning) but who might deserve more credit than we give her—her teacher has wonderful things to say about her as a student, a leader, and a friend. She is well-liked by her classmates and they fight over who gets to sit next to her at snack time, which is good because at our house that’s kind of the booby prize. But see, I’m doing it again. Iris is notorious. She has the most curious facial expressions, and verbal expressions. She is the opposite of sugar and spice and all things nice, although she can be really nice. She gives incredible hugs and is not so big that she doesn’t like sitting on people. At Harriet’s swim class she sits on my lap and I hold her, smelling her hair, reading a magazine together, and I’m thinking it’s not going to be much longer before I never hold anybody like this again.

She loves pink and purple, and Taylor Swift. She likes to dance and do whatever her sister is doing, although she always wants to play the  game longer than anyone else does. She sleeps in her own bed now, in the room she shares with her sister and on the best mornings we come downstairs and hear them in there talking together. She talks about poo all the time, so much so that it’s not remotely funny, but she’s amusing herself. She likes hotdogs, but not the bun, and spaghetti, but not the sauce, and pizza, but only disassembled, plain dough and a pile of grated cheese. She can make games out of anything—a pile of pebbles, some pencils, Thomas the Tank Engine Trains and the game is always that one is the daddy, the other is the mommy, and the third pebble/pencil/tank engine is the baby. She can sing the alphabet, but only up to TUV and then she skips the rest. Recently she’s been telling us all over and again how boy tigers have hair and girl tigers have no hair, we don’t feel the need to correct her, re. manes and lions. She likes to make presents for Harriet. She’s partial to walking around the house muttering “for god’s sake,” apropos of nothing. She likes to help with baking, and she really is helpful. She climbs up on everything, and it’s kind of terrifying, so we close our eyes and/or look the other way. She’s the most physically coordinated member of our family, although that’s not saying much. But still. We love her. She’s awesome. Our funny looking baby who spent her early days resembling a dinosaur, and now she’s living proof that all of us and she herself have come a long long way.

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