Marlo eats a bowl of Cheerios every morning (what? my kid? a creature of habit? GO ON.), but wait. That’s not accurate. There are Cheerios in the bowl. Cheerios must be in the bowl. But she doesn’t eat them. She spoons the milk around the Cheerios into her mouth until all that’s left is a bowl of soggy oats. So she has Cheerios-flavored milk for breakfast. Someone please just bottle this shit up and make my life easier. I won’t even sue you for the copyright.

This morning when we walked into the kitchen she saw something on the countertop that triggered CHOCOLATE in her developing brain, and she repeated that word about as many times as there are numbers in existence. I’m tired, still suffering from a lingering bout of insomnia that turns reasonable decisions into locked vaults. And the keys are upstairs somewhere in a pair of pants I can’t find because they’re lying at the bottom of a pile of reality I’m not yet ready to face.

Luckily, Marlo is a lot like Coco, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. She may be a fiery, wild-haired wrecking ball, but she recognizes the value of options:

Coco’s lying next to one of the glass panes flanking the front door, surveying, alert and ready to protect us from wandering Jehovah’s Witnesses when she spots a giant deer grazing in the yard next door. Violent staccato barking jumps out of her face and an unpleasant jolt of electricity climbs the spine of anyone who wasn’t expecting this interruption. She continues her noisy appeal until I find a dog treat, approach her shuddering body and hold it close to her nose.

Hmm. Let’s see. The feast of a juicy, pulsing thigh from a large woodland animal, one that would feed her for days, the bone a treasure she could bury and revisit later to remember the fantasy. Or? A bland, artificially-colored biscuit made out of flour and water. Stale. Smells like beige.

I can lure her into another room with that treat, make her sit and calm down. Demand that she wait. Because the biscuit is relatively immediate, guaranteed. That woodland animal? There’s a city in Nevada built entirely around those odds.

Marlo began to lose her mind over the chocolate, so I looked her in the face, grabbed her eyes with mine and said, “I know you want chocolate. We’re not having any. You get Cheerios or nothing.”

She fell silent into a thought, nodded and said, “Okay Cheerios.”

The difference between her and her sister is that when Leta was this age she would have knocked the biscuit out of my hand, crashed through the glass pane and seized the hind quarter of the deer with her jaw.