Calm and clear communication is so important. To get my daughter's full attention, I dress up like a giant Starbucks cup. Her eyes light up as if she's spotted Jesus.
"I hear you're moving out," I say.
"Um, are you really coffee?" my daughter asks skeptically.
For you beginning reporter types, note that her answer is neither a confirmation nor a denial. It's what you call a deflection. That's why the follow-up question is always more important than the initial inquiry.
"So, when are you leaving?" I say.
"Who says I'm leaving?"
"The leprechaun who lives with us."
"I'LL KILL HIM!" she screams before running off to hunt down her little brother.
Like I said, calm and clear communication is so important.
For weeks now, she has been buying furniture for her new apartment.
Never mind that she hasn't found an apartment, or even established whether she can afford an apartment.
Yet so certain is my younger daughter that she will soon lease her own place that she has begun bringing home cast-off couches. You have to admire that kind of sheer determination.
You know how in critical situations, Kobe Bryant used to get that focus and you immediately knew that something spectacular (or spectacularly bad) was about to happen, he just had that look?
That's the same focus my daughter has now. She's in a zone. A moving zone.
"She's really moving out," I tell my wife.
"Is there anything you don't know?" Posh says sarcastically.
Never thought it would come to this. For almost a year now, since she moved home after college, my younger daughter and her mother have been a couple.
They'll sit on the couch together eating these amazing assemblages of tofu, kale, mushrooms and capicola, stacked high in a bowl, as you might food. Stuff no one would ever eat, they happily eat together, as if they've created some new cuisine from the clippings you throw out when you're done weeding.
One time, at one of those build-your-own-pizza joints, my daughter ordered dandelions and sunflowers as topping. I swear she still believes in unicorns and tooth fairies. Which is just the sort of unyielding faith you need if, at 22, you think you'll ever find an affordable place in Los Angeles.
"Where are they looking?" I ask.
"Brentwood," my wife says.
Well, at least they're being sensible about it. A little research finds Brentwood is one of L.A.'s hottest apartment markets, with a 2.5% vacancy rate. Late last year, average rents in that area were just under $2,600.
In fact, rents are going up all over town and averaging about $1,700. But she's not looking all over town. She's looking at Brentwood, which to my mind is a great place to live if you're a 60-year-old studio exec.
No worries. My daughter has this friend, Quinn, who has no money either, so they've decided to shepherd their resources and have no money together. So when they're hungry, or the power is shut off, they have someone to go drinking with.
From all reports, Quinn and her mother are also a couple, so this is bound to be an interesting experiment. I give the girls about four minutes in their new place before -- knock-knock-hello? -- their mothers show up to help decorate and watch "The Bachelor" together, in some sort of cross-generational, kale-eating sorority.
Eventually, they will recruit Taylor and her mom and Marisa and her mom, and they'll have re-established their Brownie troop from 1998.
You'll see them in front of Trader Joe's selling cookies, just like they used to. As back then, mostly men will stop. The moms, they're still attractive. Plus, they wave a lot.
Anyway, this bold new cross-town move seems to be well underway, wise or not.
"Will you," the little fugitive asked the other day, "help me build a headboard?"
"You're Amish now?" I ask.
The little girl has never picked up a tool in her life, so she's the perfect candidate to build her own headboard. When the headboard is finished, we'll be putting up a barn and a general store.
Honestly, I will miss her when she goes. I'll miss the rattle of car keys being swept off the kitchen counter at all hours, the ka-thunk of the heavy front door.
My daughter's not exactly a force of nature, more like nature itself -- all bees and dandelions and Thin Mints. In spring, she sort of blossoms.
So it figures she'd leave about now. Unresolved is who will now help her little brother with his fifth-grade homework, or drink up all our better Cabernets.
If you're interested -- and who wouldn't be? -- you can follow this impending move on Doppler radar during the evening news. Look for a cold front of shoes bumping up against a warm front of jeans and fashionable tops somewhere on the Westside of Los Angeles, where all the good clothes live.
Followed by a chance of showers.
Next week: Working the numbers.