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Stories seem much more exciting when they start out on a dark and stormy night. My story starts completely opposite. I was born on a bright and sunny morning at 8:16 AM on September 4, 1987 to my parents, Alice and Stephen in Seattle, Washington. I already had two older siblings; Rosie was 9 years old and Christian was 5. I don't remember any of this, but Rosie has told me that these were the last good months of my parents' marriage.

Rosie says that by the end of that year, things started to fall apart. My mom and dad were fighting a lot, and things got worse the next year. Christian and I were too young to understand, but Rosie could see a divorce coming.

On August 28, 1988, one week before my first birthday, my younger sister Samantha was born. Since I was so young, I don't remember a time without her. We were only about a year apart, so we played well together when we were little and we've always got along very well.

My father was never very involved with me or Samantha. Rosie says that he spent a lot of time on fishing and hunting trips with his friends after I was born, leaving my mom to take care of us alone. Because of his lack of interest in the family, it wasn't much of a shock when he left in January of 1989. I was 16 months old and Samantha was 4 months old. We have pictures of my dad, but I don't remember him and I haven't had any contact with him since he left.

After my dad left, Rosie said that she and Christian were upset for a long time. Rosie had been close with my dad, since she had him to herself for four years, and it was hard for Christian not having a role model. But they moved on, and things went back to normal. Because of my experience with my dad, I'm disillusioned with a father's role in the family. We've done all right without one. My mom has been providing for us for 14 years. We aren't dysfunctional. We've turned out okay. I like my family exactly how we are, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

We lived in Seattle until I was four. My mom's job was transferred to California, so we moved and have lived here ever since. It was perfect timing, because Samantha and I hadn't started school yet and didn't have to switch. Rosie was just starting high school. The next year, I started kindergarten and met Natalie, who has been my best friend ever since.

I learned to read really quickly, and I picked up on a lot of things very fast in kindergarten. It was suggested that I move ahead to first grade early. However, I was already just ahead of the cutoff date for my grade and was the youngest in my class, so my mom didn't want to move me ahead. The year after, when I was in first grade, my school developed a program for gifted kids. Natalie and I were both recommended for it, and I've been taking advanced classes since then.

When Rosie was a junior in high school and I was eight years old, she brought home her boyfriend, Jared, for dinner. I remember it because I thought he was cute, and he was really nice to all of us. He came over a lot after that, and I developed a crush on him. I'm sure he knew, but he was always nice to me about it. I was jealous of Rosie at first because she was dating him, but I got over it as I realized that there was a pretty big age gap between us. Jared was a senior at the time, a year older than Rosie. They dated for the rest of the time that she was in high school, and after she graduated they got engaged. In the fall of 1999, they were married. Samantha and I were junior bridesmaids in their wedding.

Rosie hadn't kept in contact with my dad after he left, but she invited him to the wedding and he came. He didn't sit in the family section, and he didn't make any attempt to talk to anyone but Rosie, but he was there.

When I was 12, my doctor started to worry that I wasn't developing at a normal pace. I hadn't grown much in the past two years, and she suspected an eating disorder. It worried my mom for a while too. I was classified as dangerously underweight. Even though it was only by a few pounds, they were required to hospitalize me. After several sessions with a psychologist, I was pronounced mentally healthy and was released. After several weeks of tracking my eating habits and lifestyle, my doctor couldn't find anything wrong. She still felt uneasy with my weight, so she and my mom put together an eating plan for me to try to get my weight up. For some reason, my genetics keep my very small and it's hard for me to gain weight. I moved out of the dangerously underweight category, and although I'm still technically underweight, my doctor says that as long as I'm eating healthily, I should be fine.

Rosie and Jared had a daughter, Gracie, when I was 13. Gracie is the most adorable little girl. We've been really involved with taking care of her, and since Rosie lives near us, we baby-sit for her a lot.

Christian graduated high school in 2001, and he's in his second year of college right now. He's been with his girlfriend, Kelly, since November of 2002, and we met her over spring break. She's from our area in California too, and we love her to death. Jared just graduated college in 2002, and he's now a high school math teacher, but not at my high school. They're doing well enough that Rosie doesn't have to work, and she stays at home with Gracie. Sam's loving being a freshman, and we're still getting along really well. It's just me, Sam, and my mom living at home right now. We split up jobs pretty evenly so that nobody ends up with all the housework. I'm taking a lot of advanced classesand I was really overloaded for a while, but I'm trying to balance things out and get myself back to normal. I made varsity cheerleading this year and Samantha made JV. Overall, I think my family is doing great.