Friday, October 30, 2009

What I hankered for

State Farm paid me more than I needed to fix my motor scooter after a client of their so rudely backed her minivan over it. It didn't ask or expect them to—they just did! Whee!

I banked most of my windfall into the Fig Scooter Trust Fund (these little Italian bikes save a ton on gas and parking but are quite expensive to maintain) but diverted just enough to treat myself to something I have wanted for years:

A pair of these.

I have an old pair of boots that is wearing out and no longer keeps my feet dry in the rain, so the time seemed right to indulge myself.

And I would just like to say THEY ROCK! Sturdy and comfortable, with a great hard rubber sole that is perfect for winter scooter riding. There's nothing harder than trying to kick the bike back onto its stand with a slick leather sole. And these boots will probably last a life time. My only complaint is that with my high instep they're a battle to get on. I can deal with it now, but I'm concerned that my nursing attendants in the home may have trouble getting them on me, and I want to be sure to be wearing them when they wheel me down the hall for meals. Maybe I can have some discrete little zippers put on the back.

They also look fabulous—great with jeans or a long skirt. And sort of western but not too cowboy, which would be sort of silly.

And I like the snap they put in my step. Actually more than a snap—more like a little two step.

Pick it up at
When I'm slow on the draw and I need something to chaw,
I hanker for a hunk of cheese!
. . .
When my get up and go has got up and went,
I hanker for a hunk of cheese!
When I'm dancin' the hoedown and my boots kinda slow down,
Or anytime I'm weak in the knees,
I hanker for a hunk of,
A slab, a slice, a chuck of
A snack that is a winner,
And yet won't spoil my dinner,
I hanker for a hunk of cheese!
Oh, well. We can't all take our fashion inspiration from Ralph Lauren.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

High five right here, please

Honestly, there are so many times as a parent when I get it wrong. Really wrong. Like my swearing policy: "These are words I am only allowed to use because I am a grown-up. You are a child and will have to wait until you are a grown-up to use them. Like alcohol." This totally did not work and I had a lot of explaining to do when other parents observed that my daughter had been using some rather inappropriate language. I had to explain to everyone that I was an obvious idiot and it was all my fault for instituting such a flawed policy. Although it's worked with martinis—at least for now.

Bu check this out: For Christmas Sophie does not want an American Girl doll. YES!!!!

Horrified by the prices and still pissed at them for having a character in their live show declare about World War II "The war is over! Hurray, we won!!" (yes, I took Sophie to the doll worship center in Los Angeles for the doll purchase, doll lunch, doll show, and doll photo session and then had to spend the drive home explaining that in a war, no one wins and that whereas the American Girl people are not necessarily bad people, they are clearly very confused), I have been removing all American Girl catalogs from our home, if I'm lucky even before they make it into the house from the mail box. "Recycle it! Before she sees it!!" I hiss at Husband, because I know the progress we have made is fragile and could be compromised by a single holiday catalog. 

Instead of an overpriced, slickly marketed doll requiring her own furniture, wardrobe, accessories, and pet, Sophie would like A GOAT. And the best part (I made sure she knew this): A goat that does not ever come to my home.

In place of the American Girl catalog, I slyly left the holiday catalog from one of my favorite nonprofits, Heifer International, on the kitchen table. Heifer works to end global poverty by giving individuals livestock animals that they can use to generate food and income with the goal of becoming self-reliant. There are gifts available at a variety of donations ranging from chicks ($20) and bees ($30) to goats ($120) and water buffalo ($250). Here's what Sophie's goat will do for another child:
The gift of a dairy goat represents a lasting, meaningful way for you to help a little boy or girl on the other side of the world.

Goats can thrive in extreme climates and on poor, dry land by eating grass and leaves. The gift of a dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day - a ton of milk a year. Extra milk can be sold or used to make cheese, butter or yogurt. Families learn to use goat manure to fertilize gardens.

Goats often have two or three kids a year making it easy for Heifer recipients to pass on the gift of a goat to another family in need. This great investment allows our partners to lift themselves out of poverty by starting small dairies that earn money for food, health care and education.
I explained that neither the goat nor the child will be sending her a letter or photograph. They will never visit us nor we them. She will have only what is in her heart. 

If you know someone who has everything and needs nothing, please think about a Heifer gift for them. You do get a lovely card showing the animal you have donated to print from their website or have sent. No trip to the mall required. 

In the name of full disclosure: Sophie will have a gift to unwrap. Husband ordered her a wood burning kit. If we find her name burned into a window sill or wood wall, I told him so. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Am Nancy

Riddle me this:

There are two families in the orthodontist's office learning braces are indicated: One child is crying. The other child is gleefully picking out band colors. One mother is smiling stoically. The other is sobbing and dropping silent f-bombs.

The orthodontist was probably thinking "OK, if I could just have that child and that mother, my world would be a much better place." Alas, it is not to be.

I was as composed as Nancy Kerrigan: "Why? . . . why? . . . WHY?????"

Because Sophie's teeth look JUST FINE. Evenly sized and spaced. A teensy bit of crowding in the bottom front, but other than that FINE. But apparently only to my untrained eye. She has a "serious" bite problem that if not repaired will cause endless grief (she will wear her front teeth away) and will have crowding once more molars arrive on the scene. All the baby teeth are gone, so it's time to start the fun. At least for Sophie. She will look so grown up in braces!! And the colors!!! "TEAL and LAVENDER! No—LIME and PINK!! How about ORANGE and PURPLE???!!!" This site, which is almost as fun as the Bonanno sandal customization site, will occupy her for hours. And she finds the prospect of visiting the office, which is full of friendly people ready to raid my wallet who seem to really like kids, for the next two years a dandy idea. I'll give them snaps for reacting positively to her running in by herself in a motocross helmet announcing, as I instructed her, "I am Sophie! My mother will be here in just a minute!" 

But back to me. Do you how much this is estimated to cost me?? 


Goddamn. Do you think this is reasonable?  I am suspicious. Because let's do a little math here: The bands are changed every (I think) eight weeks. So that's six times a year, two years, divided into $6,000, and we have $500 a visit. I know, not really: There is the initial fitting, all the new-fangled plastic braces are made of these days, and the color consultation that will be required at each visit, BUT STILL. Six thousand dollars would probably pay for a full-body liposuction and Botox treatment for ME.

Should I get a second opinion? A second cost estimate? How about from one of those discount orthos advertised on television? I'm with a wise friend of mine who insists that children do not need the best of everything. The reasonable version is often completely adequate. We saved money on the medium-priced car seat and the super cheap stroller, and Sophie is very bit as healthy and fit had we bought the Britax and the Maclaren. Besides, we then had money left over for expensive ski lessons. It's all about priorities. And apparently about spending crap loads of money.

So this is what being a parent is all about. Guess I should have paid (that word: pay, paid, paying—make it stop!!) attention to the fine print.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gatos Ninos: The Kids Are Alright

This post is in response to my my father's inquiry, by way of a blog comment, as to how my kittens are doing. I'm not even going to try to convince anyone this is a normal way for families to communicate, but this is how we roll. I found out about my Aunt Louise's heart surgery through a Facebook post—from Aunt Louise herself.

Aunt Louise, who is doing quite well.

Anywhoo, they are well. Gatos ninos is the term we have assigned them, marking Husband's astonishing progress in his Spanish class. It's a conversational class, so they are often encouraged to share personal information as fodder for conversation: My daughter is nine. My in-laws are visiting. I like to eat. When I asked if he had told his class about his new kittens, he confessed that he did not know the Spanish word for kitten. Surely it's a diminutive form of cat, I offered, to which he replied after not enough some thought "Gatos ninos?" I was right, of course: It's gatito. But gatos ninos has grown on us.

The girl, Lily (although I have been calling her Lillian), although much smaller, is the dominant cat. She is first to the food bowl, finishing her food quickly so she can nudge him out of his bowl, and he lets her. She is quicker, more agile, more outgoing, and more vocal. And she is interested in anything I am doing in the kitchen. Mama's girl.

Loki is more shy, has almost no voice (his meow sounds like he is choking, and we almost never hear it), and draws back whenever someone makes a sudden move toward him. He is content to let her take the lead in almost everything. The adjustment to our home has not been as easy for him. After recovery from his initial reticence (hiding under a desk for two days), he's had what we think is an upper respiratory infection (he's on antibiotics) and has reverted to some of his early timid behavior. We're content to be patient with him and give him time to regain his comfort.

He is our boy, and we love him.

What's more, they love each other.

And this guy? Yes, we had another cat before we let these two invade our hearts and home.

At fifteen years old, I suppose we were naive thinking he would make a better adjustment. He hates them. In fact, I think he is terrified of them. Although he outweighs them significantly, in his mind I think he believes he is small and at danger in their presence. He hisses and runs. At least we're fairly confident he will not try to kill them. They, on the other hand, just want to get to know him. Their resilience is admirable: No matter how many times he rejects them, they are back for more, certain he will love them like we do. Which he probably never will.

I imagine The Who's lyrics running through his head:
Sometimes, I feel I gotta get away
Bells chime, I know I gotta get away
And I know if I don't, I'll go out of my mind
Better leave her behind with the kids, they're alright
The kids are alright
They are, we are, and he will be. Todo gatos.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Emergency appetizer: Goat cheese tarts

Ugh. So I've had the virus that has taken root in my sinuses, moved down to my lungs, and just when I think I'm on the mend works its way back up to my sinuses. Seriously, this is not like me. When I don't have cancer or pneumonia, I am the healthiest person on earth. I am also the world's worst patient. It takes major surgery to take me down. Although I enjoy a brief power nap, I am in general not a rester. The busier, the better.

But, still. When faced with Sunday dinner for the MIL, I was in need of a quick appetizer that required minimal effort. This recipe always reminds me of those articles that talk about needing appetizers for "unexpected guests." Who in the hell might those be? If you show up at my house expecting an appetizer, you had better have called in advance. But still, I cannot argue with an appetizer that can be thrown together using ingredients on hand.

These tarts use one of my favorite cheater ingredients,

phyllo dough shells. Not that making these shells using prepared phyllo dough (seriously fun stuff), butter, and a small cupcake pan requires much effort or skill, but when your sinuses feel like mine or you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner and have nine million other things to do, it's good to have a fall-back recipe like this.

There are certain items I almost always have in my freezer: these shells and this brand of prosciutto from Trader Joe's. The latter is certainly not the best of its kind, but it is serviceable in a pinch (there are a lot of pinches in our household).

Aside from goat cheese, almost all the other ingredients in these tarts can vary according to what you have on hand.

This version included chopped fresh mint. I've also used basil and tarragon. It also included lemon zest, although I've used orange zest if that's what I have.

Mixed together, spooned into the shells, topped with a few pinenuts ( or chopped toasted walnuts or almonds or no nuts), and toasted in the oven for just a few minutes (just enough to melt the cheese, since the shells are prebaked), and you've got an appetizer to impress and hold people over until the turkey (or in my case the roast chicken) comes out of the oven.

If you need the appetizer before the bird is done, take out the bird, tell people you are basting it, and slip in the tarts. They'll think it's all part of your master plan.


1 package phyllo tart shells
4 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
zest of one lemon, chopped
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (mint, basil, tarragon, or thyme)
two slice prosciutto, diced
half and half to thin
fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cheese, lemon zest and juice, herbs, and prosciutto. Mash with fork, adding half and half to thin to consistency to combine until smooth. Add pepper to taste. Spoon mixture into shells and top with pine nuts. Place shells on baking sheet and heat in oven until mixture has melted.

Friday, October 16, 2009

There's sick, and then there's . . .

Yesterday I took our kittens to the vet. One of them has (we think) an upper respiratory infection. The other one went as a ride-along. They're rarely more than ten feet apart, so I figured they could be more comfortable and calm riding to the vet together.

The visit with the vet was fairly routine, but what we saw in the waiting room . . .

When I arrived, there was an elderly woman with a rolling walker (my MIL has one—we call it her Rollerator), and in the basket hanging beneath it she had a brown paper grocery bag with . . . her dead cat in it. The bag wasn't quite big enough, so the cat—on its back at a 45 degree angle, totally stiff, legs straight up in the air—was sticking out. Seems the woman lives in a nursing home and there is no yard in which to bury the cat, so she was bringing it to the vet to have it cremated.

The woman was at the counter being helped, so I turned to the other woman sitting in the waiting room and whispered "Is it . . . ?" and she mouthed back "DEAD," which was of course totally obvious. The woman with the dead cat sat back down, and the three of us sat there smiling at each other. Feeling that polite conversation was appropriate, I asked gently, "Was she old?" The minutes these words were out of my mouth, I realized this was a totally stupid thing to say because the woman herself was old and my question seemed to imply that if you were old then it might be reasonable that you were dead. Fuck. For the next few minutes I sat there in silence because I was worried that should I open my mouth I would burst into either tears or laughter.

But when the woman behind the front desk announced "That will be $175, Mrs. OldLadyWithDeadCat" I did ask her "Is that just for the cremation??" thinking there had perhaps been some medical costs preceding the death of the cat. No, that was the cost of just the cremation. It was all I could do not to offer her burial of the cat in our yard for $100. But then I remembered the clay composition of our soil and Husband jackhammering our yard in the rain to dig a whole deep enough to properly bury his beloved Zeus. Besides, she probably wanted the little urn of ashes.

Here is the picture I drew to illustrate this to my family.
RIP, dead cat in the bag.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leaving without my gin, head held high

May I just say that I find Trader Joe's strict alcohol sales policy completely excellent? It keeps alcohol out of the hands of minors and is of no consequence or inconvenience to me. After all, I am of mature age and can buy liquor whenever I want . . . uh, most of the time.

Not that I'm really complaining. The clerk this evening, who was probably young enough to be my son, gave me such a thrill by carding me that I was momentarily without my wits. "Haha! My identification. Very funny. And very nice. But no, I left it in my enormous bag, which only a middle-aged woman would carry, in my car. I have only this ATM card." He really needed some identification. "Don't be silly. I am forty-seven. Give me my gin." The manager, who seemed old enough to know better, was called over for his approval. He squinted, considered my presence, and shook his head. No deal, no gin. "Fine, I can always make it a vodka tonic."

So I left with just groceries, but in the process I enjoyed the laughter of my friend in the next line and the cheering of the fifty-something couple behind me who thought this was without question the greatest thing that could happen to a forty-something mom.

Of course afterward I thought of all the persuasive arguments I could have mounted:
"Look, son. [Raising my glasses] My face might look fairly smooth when I'm staring straight at you, but watch what happens when I smile." [He would recoil in horror and hand over the gin.]

"Do you know who my first T.V. crush was? Bobby Sherman. He was very popular. A long time ago." I could have pointed out that I watched him on a black and white television, but that probably would have been too much.

"Do you remember where you were when Ronald Reagan was shot? Oh, that's right, you probably weren't born yet. I was shopping in my college bookstore."

"And during the first moonwalk? No, not Michael Jackson. I am talking about the MOON. Oh, wait—not born yet. I was in the second grade. I was in the fast readers' group, so I went to school later in the morning and I was home to watch it. My favorite cereal was Quisp, named after a space creature eternally in a race with a cowboy named Quake. They had a write-in vote for whether they should get rid of Quake, and they did, so Quisp was considered the winner."

And Dittos jeans? Bonne Bell Lipsmackers? Dolphin shorts? Huarache sandals? COME ON, SON. Only a person of a certain age would have this rarefied knowledge.
But, really, thanks anyway.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

So you want to be an editor

Staying home from work sick always sounds like such a good idea—until I am actually sick. When I'm healthy, I think "I'll be home alone! Practice the piano! Do some Pilates! Finish a book! Put away laundry! Clean a closet! Do some canning!" Right. Yesterday I stayed home from work and did almost nothing other than nap and read old copies of National Geographic. Until I got the call from school that Sophie was sick too. I retrieved her (almost an hour of driving round trip), and we napped together.

Today Sophie seems completely recovered and is off at the neighbors, where she lives on the weekends (they have other children and a more liberal television policy). I'm feeling just a titch better. And after a little Facebooking with a friend about fig preserves, I want to make this, this, or this. All of which would require standing up. And it's not like there are not other things to be done around this dump my house. So I've constructed a little challenge for myself. For each unpleasant chore I complete, I can make something in the kitchen unrelated to a meal.

Here's what's on deck:

An avalanch of papers in the office that needs to be filed.

Or a set of page proofs I brought home from work over a week ago and have not touched.

Being an editor is so much fun, right? So let's do that.

People often say "Oh, what FUN it must be to be an editor! You work with BOOKS! I love books!" Yes, but do you notice I do not get paid very much to work with books? And I have to work with AUTHORS. You know, those people who WRITE BOOKS. I have to admit, most of them are pretty good eggs. I enjoy working with them and admire their passion for their work, however arcane their subject matter and remote the chances are that more than six people will read their book.

Then there's this guy.

Aside from his confusing instructions written in spidery old-man European handwriting, he addresses me with exclamation points, like he's shouting.

He's been a naughty author: Requesting we send his editing in batches so to accommodate his vacation schedule, submitting rewrites upon rewrites, and doing super-annoying things like calling me to ask why his publicist has not responded to the email that he sent an hour ago.

At this point, I consider everything his mistake. If his original correction here had been legible, there would not have been a mistake.

And he is NOT the designer. The size of the subtitle is fine, although at this point I'd rather make the change than discuss it with him on the phone for half an hour.

Did I mention that transferring page proof corrections is a boring job that a well-trained chimp could do? We used to have assistants for this work, but they have become extinct. I am now my own editorial assistant, as well as my own secretary, processing invoices, applying for Library of Congress data, and other clerical tasks. How well I do my job depends increasingly not on my editorial judgment or skills but on how well I use my computer to keep the ever increasing number of balls in the air. A good day used to be when I got packages off in the mail; these days, it's pdfs emailed or dropped onto ftp sites. We're all shoveling more and shoveling it faster. When a book comes off press, I no longer lean back and gaze at it with a sign of satisfaction but rather hold my breath as I thumb through it looking for the errors I missed. From the outside, probably not much appears different. Our authors and their manuscripts still receive plenty of personal attention as we stand on our heads to convince them that their manuscript is the most important one on our desk. Reviewers continue to laud our books as well edited and beautifully produced. And as long as we're content to do more for less faster, faster, faster, all should remain well.

Still want to be an editor? Strangely enough, I do.

Fig vodka update

After just a few days, look at the beautiful color!

And if my sinuses didn't feel like someone had sealed them up with cement, I could probably tell you that it has a wonderful sweet, earthy aroma. But I can't. All I can tell you is that no matter how virtuous I feel when I buy tissues made of from recycled paper whitened without chloride bleach (if every household in the U.S. replaced just one box of regular tissues with these, we could save 283,000 trees!), the Kleenex brand ones probably made from virgin old-growth forest and infused with lotion and aloe vera ("not recommended for cleaning eyeglasses"—duh!) are just the bomb.

But just ask me again when I am enjoying this over ice in a month or so.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My idea of a fall craft

Why not soak chopped figs in vodka?

These figs transitioned nicely

over my cutting board

and into a Mason jar of vodka where they will live happily for the next month or so . . . maybe longer. At which time I will strain them through cheesecloth, give the worms in my compost something to think about, and—I hope—happily imbibe this taste of fall into the wee winter months.

No glue required.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What's cooking: Pumpkin Sage Risotto

Risotto is in my mind sort of like tofu. It's ok on its own (let's be honest: it's a lot better than tofu), but it's best when used as a base for something with more flavor. So it's good in the spring with asparagus, great in the fall with pumpkin or squash. I also love it with saffron and with tomatillos other times of the year. But pumpkin is what I have in abundance at the moment. Or rather, pumpkin puree. So pumpkin risotto is was.

The pumpkin part is easy: Split the pumpkin (it's got to be a Sugar Pie Pumpkin) in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp, place cut side down in a roasting pan filled an inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees until skin starts to brown and flesh is easily pierced with a sharp knife. This is a great way to heat up your kitchen. Cool pumpkin, scoop out flesh, and run it through a food mill (my favorite) or food processor). This puree freezes well and is useful for all sorts of things like pies, breads, puddings, and . . . risotto.

I follow a pretty standard risotto non-recipe for all flavors of risotto: Make the risotto, stir in the flavoring ingredient, and simmer a little longer.

Saute the shallots in olive oil and butter. Add rice and saute some more. Add white wine and cook until absorbed.

Heat stock and ladle in to rice half a cup at a time.

Simmer while stirring until liquid is absorbed. Repeat, repeat, repeat until rice is tender. Stir in pumpkin puree and cheeses.

Fine—but how to get in the sage flavor that I wanted? I decided on a two-pronged attack. I added some chopped fresh sage with the pumpkin. And I also fried some sage in olive oil.

The fried sage was delicious and pretty topping the risotto, but the sage-infused olive oil drizzled over the top of the risotto was what gave it the extra sage flavor I wanted.

And did I mention how it made my house smell? All bad spirits have been banished.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 shallots, minced
1-1/2 cup of arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups of stock

1 cup pumpkin puree
10 sage leaves, chopped

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 Gruyere, grated

sage branches
3 tablespoons olive oil, or more

salt to taste

Saute the shallots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the butter until translucent. Add the rice, stir to coat and saute for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook uncovered, stirring often until liquid is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of stock, simmer until absorbed, and repeat until until the rice is tender. Add the pumpkin and the chopped sage and cook for a few minutes more, adding stock as necessary. Stir in the cheeses.

Heat the rest of the olive oil and saute sage leaves until the start to color. Watch them carefully—they go from just right to burned quickly. Drain on a paper towel.

Drizzle with sage-infused olive oil and garnish with crisp sage leaves.

Almost everything may still be green here in northern California, but there is finally a snap to the air. Fall is a time of relaxation and anticipation around here. We're done with summer camping and travels, and we're not yet to the ski season frenzy when it seems we're either coming or going and often unsure of which. I do a fall version of spring cleaning and indulge in a little nesting, knowing there will soon be no time for this. In the meantime, we're waiting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

America's worst mom

And surprise! It's NOT ME. "Really?" asked Husband over breakfast, as I announced this from behind the paper. "Are you sure??" Positive!

Lenore Skenazy apparently took her kid to a MacDonald's in Manhattan for lunch (not the best choice, if you ask me), then to Bloomingdale's (fine), where she left him in the handbag department, and let him take the subway home himself. Way to go! I let my daughter and an older schoolmate hitch a ride with another parent to a subway station and take the train home from school to the station near my work, where I pick her up and ride her home on the back of my scooter. I wouldn't have the balls to let her ride by herself, but then again, subways are sort of new for us. She could probably do it though. We play this game at the airport "OK, pretend you're here without me. What do you do first?" and she nails it every time.

I think I may become a sort of disciple of this woman. I'll start by becoming a regular reader of her blog, Free-Range Kids. As in "what's good for the chicken is good for the kid," I guess. Aside from the business of eating whatever you find off the ground, I'm pretty much down with that. Or rather, I'm working on it. It's hard.

Although the subway ride is a work in progress, I took another big step this week, and like America's Worst Mom, my efforts were not met with unanimous support. I let Sophie go on her class camp out without her parents. AGAIN, because I didn't go last year either. That wasn't my fault though. Last year's teacher wanted only enough parents to drive and offer minimal supervision, reasoning that it was, after all, the KIDS' camping trip. This year we have a new teacher, who mixed things up a bit with a more-the-merrier approach. Fun! I was ready to go, and anyone who knows me know I am perfectly capable of neglecting my kid even while present, so I was confident I would not detract at all from Sophie's experience of independence.

BUT. She did not want me or Husband to come. "I do not want to hurt your feelings, but . . . " But the all the other parents will be there having FUN! "But it is not your trip." I know, but why do you not want us?? "Because I want to be a big girl." How could I say no to that? Because she is.

She competently ran down the check list sent home from school and packed herself. "I have five pairs of panties!!" Why five if you're only going to be there for three days? You wear one pair the first day, you take two other for the next two days. You need to pack two. "I want to be extra sure I have enough!!!" Alright then. She's clearly ahead of her father on this.

She was excited, and I was excited for her. She was on her game. I felt good, although a little sniffly that she is growing up so fast. But as people talked excitedly about getting ready for the trip, I did feel a little left out. Had I made right decision by letting Sophie make the decision and holding to it when it was a decision I would not have made? At least one parent thought so: I was the adult. Since when did I allow a nine-year-old to make decisions? And was I not aware that my child "needs me"?

My child does need me—but not to take her on a school camping on a trip with twenty other adults. She needs me to set limits but also to move those limits out when the time is right. What would it do to deny her request? Tell her that she's not ready to be a big girl? That I don't trust her? That camping is dangerous? This was a trip to a forest, not the Tenderloin, and she's a big girl with five pairs of panties.

But it's a hard balancing act, at least for me. I try to tell myself it's not about me. I never fully grasped the concept of codependence until I had a child. At some level, I do need her to need me. She's the only one I've got: If I lost her, I would cease to be a mom and be only that crazy mess of a woman who cannot stop crying, throwing up, and people reasonably think why don't we just kill her too.

But as much as the mommy blog thing isn't really my scene ("my kids ate this, said that, and then pooped!"), reading someone like Lenore Skenazy helps me find and negotiate the middle ground of being responsible yet empowering: Sophie will most likely not die on the camp out (we'll know for sure this afternoon). So until she does or I do, I'm going to live as if that outcome were not possible. Or at least not probable. Most of the time. Really. Because, as I said, it's hard and I'm working on it.