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Today, Serena and I had a rare opportunity to take a nap together, one I eagerly jumped on. Or, more accurately, flopped on. I quickly dozed off with my sweet little girl snuggled close in my arms. Rio and I used to nap together almost every afternoon, and laying down with Serena brought all that lazy sweetness right back to the present.

Rio used to fall asleep with me, though. Serena lay quietly until I passed out, and then wiggled out of my embrace and went exploring. She can’t climb off the bed on her own yet, but she explored the wide world of my bed until she found my cell phone.

I was not deeply asleep. I knew she’d gotten up, and was sitting quietly on my feet. I heard her fiddling with something.

Still, I was surprised when I heard her godfather’s voice saying hello at the other end of the line. So was Serena. She eagerly held the phone up to her ear, nodding and looking very sage and serious while he chatted with her for a few minutes. “Say hi,” I suggested. She said hi, and hi again, and hi louder. Hi! Hi! HIIIIIII!

Then she moved the phone away from her ear, looking curiously at it. She shook it, turned it over, clearly trying to figure out how John got in there. Finally, she waved bye-bye. “Bye! Bye! BYE-BYE!” Waving enthusiastically at the phone.

I had totally forgotten kids do this. I remember Rio as a toddler, signing to the phone. Of course if they can hear you they can see you, in toddler-logic. This is the same logic kids use to “hide” from adults by covering their own eyes. Gotta love it.

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The Boston Globe today published a detailed, caring essay on What to do if your child has superpowers?, written by an expert in pediatric heroism. While the main goal of the piece seems to be to reassure parents who have recently discovered superpowers in their young children, he does offer some practical tips on the raising of young heroes, like how to handle discipline with children who control magnetic fields.

His best advice for all of us, though, comes in his closing, where he helps us lay aside the natural fear that our teenagers will grow up to be supervillians:

“My experience has taught me that being intent on world domination is a phase that everyone goes through. If these feeling persist, however, consider allowing them to control a small region populated by self-aware robots.”

All parenting advice should be this useful and entertaining. Are you reading this, Parenting Magazine? Less fashion advice, more superheroes!

The scene: Serena is sitting quietly on the couch, playing with a basket of dolls. I am sitting on the floor nearby, trying to sweep up the carnage of broken crayons, doll parts and torn paper flowers that Rio and her playmate have left in their wake. Picking through the trash I’ve swept up, I find a few dolls that belong in Serena’s basket.

Casually, I toss one into the basket. A few seconds later, it comes flying back. I look up and Serena is staring at me in open delight. She picks out another doll and throws it at my head, then waves her hands happily.Let me translate her shrieks of joy for you:

“Best game ever, Mom! I had no idea these things were for throwing at each other! Love it!”

*Zing* Here comes another one. Fortunately I was already hanging my head in shame, or I’d have caught that one square in the face.

Rio, drawing a whale on her arm

Rio, drawing a whale on her arm

After rolling around on the floor whining, ‘I’m bored, Mommy. MOMMY I AM BORED,” for about an hour, Rio decided to draw. I promised to join her in this drawing project in ten minutes when I had finished reading Livejournal, uh, the important business I was doing online.

We carried on an animated conversation for the next ten minutes about how many minutes it would be until I joined her and what animals I was going to draw pictures of when I got there.

I arrived at the table to discover that she had put away the coloring books I’d laid out for her and set up our face paints. OK, sure, we can paint each other’s faces.

“You just have to wait a minute, Mom. I am busy.”

Busy, o bored one? What exactly are you busy doing?

“I am drawing this shark on my arm.”

Scribbles furiously in blue.

“Actually, I think it might a whale.”

More scribbling.

She asks me if I have ever seen a whale, and if her arm is bigger than a whale in real life. The scribbling continues. And then…

She is finished.

“Now THAT is a whale.”

The scene: my bedroom, late at night. Y’all are adults, and can use your imaginations to fill in the action behind this (very quiet, sneaky, don’t-let-the-kids-catch-us) dialog:

Me: “mmmm”
Husband: “ooooh”
Me: “oh! oh! Oooooh!”

The door slams open, hard. We jump apart like teenagers caught in the back of a car. When I dare to peek out from under the covers, the doorway appears empty, but my husband says, “Oh no. The Sheriff’s back in town.”

I look down, and down. Then I see her: twenty-eight pounds of naked fury. Her hair is standing straight up on her head. She has, in her rage, vaporized her PJs* and is standing there naked as the day she was born. A little more naked, actually, since she is (happily) not covered with slime. Her hair is standing straight up on her head, adding an air of authority and stature to her chunky little frame. Her hands are balled into fists and her looks says everything:

Get your hands off my Mama!

Her dad and I stifle a laugh (from opposite sides of the bed, where we have been cowering since she slammed the door open). Sheriff Baby uses her superpowers to become airborne, launching herself onto the bed in a single bound. She latches onto my exposed nipple as she makes her descent, and is sleeping peacefully between us by the time her head hits the pillow.

I swear, they come with a built-in alarm system to ward off any future siblings. It’s OK, Sheriff, we’ve got it covered. You can sleep through this shift IN YOUR OWN BED.

*srsly, where did her PJs go? She was wearing them when she went to bed. When did that child learn to operate a zipper?

Serena has started prowling around my legs going “meow, meow, meow” when she wants water. I assume she learned this from the cats. Just now, Rio came up to her with a glass of water saying, “Look, Serena, I have your meow-meow.”

IMG_3657Serena seems to have about doubled her vocabulary in the past week, dropping out new words every time we talk to each other. “Bubbles”, “Cookie”, “Go”, “Cake”.

By far the best of the set has been “Scissors.” Serena picked this one up from her sister, who loves scissors as she loves all things crafty and destructive. Scissors have a special allure because they have to be doled out by an adult, following an unfortunate Scissors Incident involving the window blinds.

The scissors live in a small wooden box on the very top of a tall bookcase. Even I cannot reach them. Rio asks for them, I climb up on a stool and get a pair down, and she can have them until she’s done using them at the table, and they go away.

There are Serena-approved scissors in the box, which are not really scissors at all but just a plastic toy made to look like scissors. (Or are those scissors? Is it a pair of scissors if it looks like one, or only if it can cut? I digress.)

Now that she has the Power of the Word, Serena comes up to me all the time to ask for scissors. “Scissors! Scissors! Scissors?”

I love hearing words come from her, and I oblige her as often as I can. I go to the bookcase, get down the box of scissors, and give her the little red plastic ones. She waits with patient excitement every time, and receives the scissors into both little hands as if they were a magic wand.

Then, invariably, she sits amidst the chaos of paper and ribbons and watercolors at our craft table and looks mildly perplexed.

I can practically see the thought bubble above her: “Ok, Mom, I have the scissors. What happens now?”

The family and I were at a friend’s house today. Our friend has a dog. He used to have two dogs, but one of them died several months ago. I called the remaining dog by the other one’s name tonight, ‘causing some wistful sadness, confusion and this conversation:

Rio: Did Taiko die?

My friend: Yes.

Rio, to her dad, looking very lovingly at him and stroking his knees: Daddy, your Argentina dog died. (ed. note: This is true. Her dad had a dog, in Argentina, and it died. About 20 years ago.) I think your Argentina dog met Taiko. And I think their parents met too. And then their dog parents arranged a playdate. They are two dogs who had an Arrangement. I think they are having that playdate RIGHT NOW!

Dog: AwwoooooOOOOOOOOO!

Serena, crouching down and arching her back like a dog, neck stretched out and mouth a perfect ‘O’: AwooooooOOOOOOOO!

Rio went on to imagine all the dogs that had ever lived arranging playdates. She also figured that when Daddy and Mommy are both dead, we will meet and arrange a playdate. And best of all, when she dies, she will meet us and we will all play together. She gave no indication of where we would be meeting or what we would do on these playdates, but they would definitely be “arranged”. I think she must have just learned that word, and kind of loves it.

Mostly, I am posting this because it was hilarious, and I don’t want to forget that my child ever envisioned the afterlife as a place full of happy dog families arranging playdates, or that the younger one can speak to dogs in their own language.

It’s also a good example of how I talk to my kids about death, though. I don’t feel anxious about discussing death with her, I let her drive the conversation and I support her explorations of the idea. Doggy playdates? Sure! Happy families? of course! Sounds as plausible as any other theory of what happens when we die.

Serena, lying on the floor: “Lalalalalalala. La la la. la la la.” (roughly to the tune of Ba Ba Black Sheep)

Rio: “Mama! Serena said “update”! She said update while she was singing that song.”

Me: “uh…”

So we were having Family Drawing Time*. Rio was making a watercolor bookmark, one of her standard favorite art projects. Serena was trying to destroy it, so she got to sit on my lap. To entertain her, I put my own project away and grabbed the nearest coloring book and a crayon.

I started coloring a lion. The sight of me coloring in one of the kids’ activity books was enough to suck in Rio’s attention.

“Lion’s aren’t yellow, Mom. They are really brown. You should put brown here and here.”

I obliged with a little brown shading, but continued coloring in the rest of the lion with my yellow crayon.

“Mom! You are doing it wrong. Lions are not yellow. That is actually true.”

While I sat there wondering who she got the “you are doing your art wrong” idea from (it was NOT me), Rio took the coloring book away, and started coloring in a mouse with a blue crayon.

“Hey!” I said, being a mature adult. “Mice are not blue!”

“Yes. Some mice are. I know a mouse who is blue. His name is Cheeser. I met him in my dream one night. So that is how I know him, from my dreams. He is blue.”

“Oh.”

Rio finishes coloring in the blue mouse, which she then presents to me with the smug air of a four-year-old who is Right. As I admire it, she casually adds, “Cheeser is not real, actually.”

*Family Drawing Time is an activity I grabbed from SouleMama’s Creative Family book. You set aside an hour when the whole family sits at a table together and – you guessed it – draws. Usually, I secretly write in my paper journal during Family Drawing Time, because I am not much for drawing.

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A little bird told me…

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