This is how it is with kids: they remain exactly the same for so long that you relax into thinking you're on top of things, then they leap into growth overnight and you have no idea who they are.

Jordan, for instance. The other day, while we were camping, I was watching him play. He was throwing pine cones in the fire (from a safe distance--grandmothers need not panic!) and watching them fill with silver smoke and then burst into withering flame. This entertained him to no end. He was so serious, getting just the right flick of the wrist to get the pinecones in the right spot, then crouching to watch the conflagration.

And I said to myself, why, this kid has grown up. Even three or four months ago it was incomprehensible that he would be away at school all day this September, and now it seems perfectly reasonable. With the exception of the occasional meltdown, he's generally thoughtful, conscientious and curious. Also, he's like four and a half feet tall with powerhouse muscles. At least he still likes to fling himself in my lap, even if it crushes me.

Then there's Maya. Yesterday I suffered a low moment when, as I gratefully helped her into bed, she said, "It stinks!" Well, it did. It stunk with probably several days' worth of leaking through her nighttime Pull-Ups and then covering wet sheets with her blanket. I was not happy. I said so. What I said, in fact was, "It's time for you to stop peeing in your diapers and be a big girl!" I must have looked like Mommie Dearest: No. More. Pull-Ups. All this while shredding her bedding down to the mattress. (Never mind that if I had noticed that her sheets were stinky at a more reasonable, less exhausted hour, then she would have been going to sleep in fresh, clean sheets.)

Poor kid. She looks at me with her huge blue eyes and says, "But Mama, I try and I try." I immediately felt like a terrible person. This must have been obvious because then she says, "It's okay, Mom. We can just wash the sheets."

Yeah, you think you have a little kid on your hands, but really you have a wise old woman in a teeny weeny adorable little body.

That's how they stay ahead of you. So far, I have still managed to stay ahead of them--but just barely.

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