She was such a placid, sweet baby, I thought, as I rocked my infant daughter to sleep, kissing the top of her curls and breathing in the new-baby smell. After being born with a very rare -- and very serious -- neural tube defect called an encephalocele, which required neurosurgery at 28 days old, it seemed only appropriate that my last born, a daughter, would be the sweetest baby of them all.

My sons were lovely people, but as babies, well, it's a miracle my uterus didn't try to crawl back inside itself. I'd held out for a third child, and after a string of miscarriages, here she was. My sweet, sweet baby girl.

I was stunned that I could be so lucky to have had a baby so sweet -- me, of all the people in the world, mother to a sweet baby girl! It was a dream come true.

Until 11 months in ...

... when I caught her trying to get into the dishwasher and stand up on the door. Carefully, I pulled her down, and explained gently, "Amelia, we don't climb on the dishwasher. It can make us hurt."

The response I expected, a toothy, drooling grin, was not the response I, in fact, got.

Dramatically, she threw herself onto the floor (after ensuring that I was, indeed, watching her), and began a full-blown meltdown. I checked my watch. Not the witching hour. Had she eaten? Yeppers. Was she tired? She'd had a good nap; I doubted it.

Eyes swimming with crocodile tears, she looked up at me, pointed at the dishwasher, narrowed her mouth into a look that I now like to call "Toddler Death Stare," and said, "MINE."

I just stared at her, mouth flopped open in my best trout impression. Whaaaaa? Where had my darling sweet girl gone? And who was this child before me? She looked like my daughter, smelled like my daughter, and yet ... had she been abducted by aliens? That was my best guess.

Now that she's 3, the willfulness has taken over. It's something I actually admire in her, so long as she and I are on the same page (which happens once every three months), because when we're not, well, it's an ugly situation for all involved.

Luckily, I find this fiery streak primarily humorous. It's that or hide under my bed, waiting for the Terrible Three's to pass, which, considering her temperament, may be a lifelong stage for her. It's especially endearing when she catches me watching her because she knows that this could be the time I choose to go head to head with her.

Last week, she'd returned from preschool, full of sassafrass and adorablity. After giving me a big sloppy hug and smooch, I asked her to please use the bathroom. Everyone needs the reminder sometimes, right?

Off she stomps toward the bathroom, while I stand behind her, smiling a little bit. She's just so ... funny when she's mad.

She stopped, turned to me, in time for me to cover my smile with my hand, and said, "Mommy, I am NOT stomping."

"No?" I asked.

"No," she replied firmly. "I'm GALLOPING."

And like that, she "galloped" into the bathroom, while I stood in the living room, giggling.