There's something is happening here (what it is ain't exactly clear...).

The battle to actually get paid for my work (you know, per the freelance contract I signed) has whittled me into a sharp, shiny point. Concurrently, opportunities are opening up on a local level that I couldn't have contemplated a year ago (or a month ago, honestly).

Freedom is an interesting concept right now. For me, now, it's knowing you can contribute financially to your family. Freedom to be home when necessary, to pick up dinner rather than whip it up from scratch, to grab an extra day of daycare here and there. But there's also freedom in deciding your contributions won't be financial. You save money by caring for your children, bargain shopping at the grocery store, consigning used clothes and toys, and supporting the people who make your house a home.

Or, potentially, the freedom of soaring in your own direction, to carve a new career out of something that you love and that you're good at. Something that started small but has become a huge part of your life. The freedom of getting paid for doing what you love.

And here's the crux for me. Is financial security worth performing a service that you loathe? If you aren't paying me in a timely manner and I have to fight and scratch for the money that I've already earned ... is it irresponsible to walk away -- and embark on opportunities that may not pay off in the long run, but that make my soul happy?

So there it is. The freedom I'm contemplating carries tremendous risk. It would require sacrifice and buckling down. A potentially wonderful, well-suited-to-me career change could mean no freedom at all. Or it could mean living the life I dream of.

I'm teetering on a line here and one foot has already lifted. Do I stop expecting to find joy and purpose in my job or do I use my freedom to jump?

How about you? Have you ever fought your inner desire for stability and taken a leap of faith that could affect your family? And here's my take on the freedom that comes with a second (or third or fourth) child.

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Daddy Camp

Remember that miscommunication? It resulted in a Daddy Camping night that meant this mama got to be home. Alone. For hours on end.

It was magnificent.

But don't think I had all the fun. Despite his planning inability, my Mountain Man had a wonderful night with his two favorite little people. They gorged themselves on hot dogs, honeybuns, and chips. They built at least three fires, fished their hearts out, and came home filthy. That's called camping success.

Because my MM is a man, he took all of 15 pictures. (Compared to how I took 70 today alone.) These are my favorites:

Bella and her very first catfish! She was proud of catching
but it was up to her daddy to release it. Fish aren't for
touching, she says (and I concur). She does bait her own
hook though! (This picture makes my heart swell.)

This is my favorite. I love that little boy (who had to move over there
because he said there were too many bugs where they set up their chairs
and who only lasted another five minutes after this). He says he's filled his
quota of "roughing it" time for awhile.

You didn't think my Mountain Man would take his show
on the road without electronic babysitters, right? What
else would they do at night? Tell stories? Talk? Sleep?

See above caption.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday and Wayback When-esday.***

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Creativity with a Dash of Magic

For my last week of Neighborhood Fridays, I give you Dee from The Argonne Chronicles -- a chronic "yes"-sayer (aren't we all?) and mom to a handsome young man who happens to have ADHD. I have enjoyed reading about her wanna-be-rocker husband and spirited young son, as well as the trials and tribulations of another over-committed mom. I hope you will, too.

Creativity with a Dash of Magic

The stereotype of a kid with ADHD is a boy running around wildly, maybe kicking holes in the wall, talking a mile a minute, and just too busy to sit and focus on anything. It's not a picture of creativity.

We need to change this idea.

A recent study confirms what many parents have known all along. Kids with ADHD may be a little harder to manage, but their creativity is off the charts. I know this is true in our house. Dylan is just about the most imaginative person I know. A simple walk becomes a whole story line. Last night he and I took our Siberian Husky, Nikki, for a walk and in no time, I was Dylan's horse Goldie (fortunately without him on my back) and we were traveling through the desert. I answered in (what I hoped was) my best impression of Mr. Ed. Not that he has any idea who Mr. Ed is.

Today we participated in the Scout Parade. The theme was magic, so Dylan was, of course, Harry Potter. Okay, so maybe that's not the most imaginative costume, but he was completely in character, yelling out "Expelliarmus" and riding his Firebolt broomstick.

I think the hardest part of having ADHD is that it's hard for these kids to translate their imagination into something that fits into academics. Education today does not leave a lot of room for self-expression. There is a huge focus on being able to complete a test and if you are good at that, you are considered smart. If you are not good at that, well, your intelligence is not, unfortunately, valued as highly.

I don't blame teachers or even the educational system. Schools are continually being asked to do more with less. How do you create a meaningful educational environment with more kids, but a smaller budget; more requirements, but less time?

We need creative ideas, but we don't value them.

There's a huge comparison going on between the U.S. and China. China's education system values test scores and getting the "right" answers. Despite the fact that our history is built on imagination and thinking outside the box, American education is leaning toward China's rote, only-one-answer-is-right kind of thinking. We are being short-sighted. We needed more than right answers to dream up the idea of going to the moon.

On my best days, I know that Dylan will do fine. While his grades are all over the map, he enjoys school. He thinks science is just about the coolest thing ever. He likes to read, even though he still doesn't choose to do it on his own. I don't know if his grades will ever reflect his ability (although I hope they will!), but so long as he keeps that spark, that interest in the world, that belief in magic and imagination, he'll do just fine.

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QOTD: Yep.

There's a well-known fact amongst our circle of friends: Without the benefit of their wives, our husbands couldn't plan their way out of a paper bag.

Therefore, whenever one tries to schedule a "boys' night out," there's invariably a wife (or three) working hard behind the scenes: calling other wives, making lists, coming up with suggestions, smoothing out all the barriers to said night. (Surely this is the way of wifedom, right?) For our group, "boys' night out" is usually a camping trip. It's one night, without wives or children, in a camper at the local lake. They pick a day ... and then the wives take over.

We make the reservations, communicate about who's bringing what, buy all the fixins for a camp lunch and a grilled-to-perfection dinner, stock the camper with sunscreen and bug spray, and make sure everyone has at least two clean towels and enough freshly laundered sheets and blankets.

It's a process that the men don't even notice. You'd think there was a camping fairy who waved her magic wand and created ideal conditions for them. No fairies. Just wives.

But sometimes the husbands get tired of hearing the wives joke at their expense -- which is the only way the wives know to deal with zero acknowledgement or appreciation. So the wives poke and laugh and blow out their breath. And the husbands roll their eyes and ... well, that's about it. But their exasperation is known.

And so, my individual husband asked me not so politely to butt out. He had this crazy idea that he didn't need my planning or communication skills. I heard his message loud and clear and have left the whole process to him.

That's why he's going man camping this weekend ... maybe. He's not exactly sure what's happening because he's had to communicate and plan all by himself. In fact, he thought the other husband had backed out and was planning to go with the kids instead. Why? Because of this conversation-via-text:

The other husband: Wanna go Friday or Saturday?
My husband: Not sure yet.
My husband: Thinking Friday too.
The other husband: Suppose to rain. Might want to do it another weekend.
My husband: Yep.

And that was the entire conversation. Yep. And off both these husbands went on their ways.

The other husband's interpretation: Saturday night only. My husband's interpretation: Friday night without his buddy, so take the kids instead.

Guess where my husband found out about the differing interpretation? Facebook. Last night. Days after the kids began dancing around and making elaborate lists of what they'll do with their one night and half day of camping with dad. Lists that require you check off each action as you do it.

I have no idea what the new plan is. I'm guessing with two men scheduling it, they aren't quite sure what the new plan is either. What I am sure of is that text conversation (if you can call it that) is exactly the reason I still do all the vacation planning, school communicating, and friendly gathering scheduling.


Only a husband.

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Beary, Beary Happy

My 90-year-old grandmother is somewhat famous in my circle of friends. Though she was born in Cape Verde, she has lived in San Francisco since she was a small child and knows all the best [second hand] places to shop. Which brings us to the gifts.

My grandma sends gifts that make people gather 'round her shipping boxes (that are wrapped with 837 layers of packing tape) and eagerly dive into all 76 individually wrapped presents inside. I fondly remember one Christmas when I was in college. Grandma sent not one, not two, but five plastic-canvas, yarn-stitched checkbook covers for me and my friends. Five of them! (Who used checks in college? You know it was all about the credit cards.)

Now my children beg to break into "Big Grandma's" packages when they arrive. This past Christmas her box included 25 individually wrapped die cast cars for Javi and a yellow bear hat for Bella. My goal now is to take a photo of each person in our family wearing it. How could I not?

Ashley (wearing Javi's hoodie)

Bella's grandma (my mama) who she loves like no other

Bella says the hat makes her "beary, beary happy." Javi and my Mountain Man don't believe her. All in good time. All in good time.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday, Wayback When-esday, and You Capture.***

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Cluck of the Week: Eating for three

By now it's no secret that we feed our hens more like people than like animals. Well, we snack them more like people -- they do also eat real feed and worms and bugs. But they're like Pavlov's dogs when the sliding glass door leading to the deck opens and lately we've discovered they hear (and flock to) the sound of the front door.

I suppose it's no surprise that the best treats come from the three year old. Because she's home most days of the week, she's the one who has the most opportunity to "share" our tasty vittles. I've caught her tossing them strips of string cheese, whole grapes, orange segments, and a potato chip or two. Usually they love staying near her because she feeds them more than she eats herself.

Today wasn't one of those days. Leave it to me to think Honey Oat Rings from the Dollar Tree are on par with Honey Nut Cheerios. I told Bella she had to eat them until the box was gone and then I'd buy the right kind. What does she do?

The face of defiance.

Yeah. Notice those brown dots. They're hard as steel and dark in color. And the entire box of them is now strewed across my deck. Guess who else won't eat them?

We had to rustle up something else because the girls were severely pissed off that we'd tricked them by putting rocks out for them to snack on. All I had was a discarded lid full of granola from a yogurt cup (someone in this house needs to hit the grocery store!) that the kids refuse to eat.

I love how one looks like the other's reflection.

The hens thought it was heavenly. (Let's not talk about how much sugar must've been in that granola!)

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My Personal Road to Salvation

It's time for Amy's Neighborhood Fridays. Today's thought-provoking post comes from Amber at Making the Moments Count. She's currently healing from having her wisdom teeth extracted, so make sure you show her some love.

My Personal Road to Salvation

Many individuals in history have risen from humble beginnings. Generally their success is measured by their riches and many admire, and envy, their new position of power and financial freedom.

I will admit to dreaming that one day my life would resemble these people I had heard so much about. However, as time progresses, I find myself idolizing those who made a significant impact on the world through their selfless service and abundant charity. People who, at great financial loss to themselves, have dedicated their lives to global change through their non-profit organizations and programs.

Ben and I are on a professional track that could lead to great wealth. We have the potential to pursue a medical occupation that would leave us very well off and enable us to do many things --potentially wonderfully humanitarian things; however, neither of us desires this outcome.

When Ben first chose medical school I will confess that the knowledge of one day living in great comfort was appealing even though I knew the difficult demands that his career would place on our marriage and family. But the closer we get to starting medical school, and the more globally aware I become, the more uncomfortable I feel about pining away for ease when so much of the world's population lives in extreme poverty.

Most of my thinking evolves around my Christian upbringing: How can I, an acclaimed believer and follower of Christ, forsake my fellow women and men by lusting after riches?

In the end, Ben and I have concluded that combining our intellect and skills will help people significantly more than pursuing extravagant wealth. Our combined goals have turned into a collaborative dream of opening our own not-for-profit health clinic -- Ben overseeing the medical side and me overseeing the mental health side (once I obtain my Ph.D.) -- catering to the minority and poverty stricken populations.

Obtaining wealth is not inherently evil. Billionaire philanthropists, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have relieved the suffering of millions. However, I recognized that my personal ambition to attain wealth wasn't entirely wholesome. I feel that I can personally make a bigger difference in the world by using my God-given talents.

This journey has opened my heart to the immense suffering that exists among mankind. It is my hope that through our combined occupations Ben and I can provide a catalyst to change by encouraging our children to follow our path.

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A new hope

I sat with my sister today,
in the middle of early Spring
as we both cried about life's
twists and turns and inevitable unfairness.

With red eyes and tears flowing,
she admitted she thinks about death --
anxiety slicing her like a knife --
long after she should be sleeping
night after night after eternal night.

Only 30 years old, yet aged
by a lifetime spent chasing life.
Now one kidney, two new lungs,
and more fight may break her.

I don't know how or when
I'll have to tell her goodbye,
but I know it's coming. Faster
or slower than predicted, but coming.

When it happens, let us be
older, grayer, and happier than today,
her body free of endless pain,
and her mind void of fear.

When I bury the best friend
I'll ever know, let her know
she will never be alone, because
half my heart goes with her.

My love forever and ever, amen.

***This post is part of Six-Word Fridays, Bigger Picture Moments

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Living with a Mountain Man often threatens to drive my nerves off a cliff.

Like when asks rhetorical questions and then stares at Javi as the child stumbles over words trying to figure out the right answer. Or when I'm supposed to alert him to my every whereabout but he can come and go as he pleases. Or how he gives me the stink eye when I cut an overly large slice of chocolate cream roll. (Totally when he does that.)

But there's a side of my MM that's too good to dream up. Like when he wears bunny ears or a Pippi Longstocking wig or dresses up as Santa or does an interpretive ADHD dance.

(And how he does lots of housework and plenty of childwork ... but I don't want to tell you that lest he earn your sympathy.)

But today's reason is one I found on my camera last night. Behold:

Yeah. I'm keeping him.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday and Wayback When-esday.***

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Cluck of the Week: Birth control

Sitting on the porch this afternoon, basking in the warmish sun of early Spring, the kids and I took turns scooping out palmfuls of gourmet granola. I savored the pecans, Bella the cranberries, and Javi the coconut. The seeds? Those were gobbled up by Fancy and Lulu.

Javi: "Sometimes I think I want another little brother or sister, but then the chickens eat my food or poop on my shoe and I'm glad I just have to put up with Bella."

Yes, my friends. I've taken it as a opening to remind him of each and every annoying quirk his sister and his chickens bring to his life. Let's just say he's taken to screaming "I do NOT want any babies!" when he sees me coming.

That's called birth control.

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Choose My Own Adventure

It's time for Amy's Neighborhood Fridays. Today's beautiful and haunting post comes from the talented Stacia at Fluffy Bunnies. If you aren't reading her blog, I can't describe what you're missing out on. Here's a sample:

Choose My Own Adventure: The Prologue

Three weeks.

In three weeks, my husband will board a plane and fly to Romania. He'll work there for two months. While he's gone, he'll find us a house and a car. He'll figure out where to buy groceries and how to get peanut butter. He'll shop around for preschools and pediatricians. He'll also celebrate his birthday. Our anniversary. Our baby's first birthday.

I'll celebrate, too. Here. With our three kids. Without him. We'll Skype, we'll chat, and we'll e-mail. It won't be quite the same, but it's only temporary.

Because in May, we'll join him. For a year.


I keep having this dream.

I'm with my children. At the circus, at a concert, at an amusement park. We're laughing and soaking it all in. Then, one of my kids is gone. Gone. Just like that.

I look everywhere. I am frantic. I scream. I beg people to help me.

Eventually, I find my child. He got distracted. Or she got carried away with the crowd. They are fine. I hug them and vow to never let go again. Only then do I let myself cry.

I wake up. And I'm really crying. Real tears, real fear, real relief. It all floods over me as I stare at the green light on the baby monitor or listen to the wind chimes tinkling on the porch.

I realize it's a dream. I know my children are cozied up in their beds with their favorite frazzled blankets and worn stuffed animals. I know they'll be knocking on my bedroom door in a few short hours, asking for bananas and Sesame Street.

I know everything is the same as it was before the dream. But I'm not.


How long is a year?

I keep asking myself, trying to assess how much to pack, what to leave behind, what we can live without and what we can't. I make and remake lists. I pack and unpack boxes. I send e-mails, ask questions, and search Google.

But I know I'm the only one who can answer that question: How long is a year?

It's 18 toothbrushes, 60 gallons of milk, and 26 boxes of waffles. It's 2 bottles of Children's Tylenol. It's 8 sets of sheets, 3 jackets each, and 32 haircuts. It's 12 glue sticks and 4 packs of crayons. It's 1,095 bedtime stories.

It's a visit from Mos Craciun instead of Santa Claus. It's weekend trips to Kiev and Warsaw and Dracula's Castle. It's sitting down to a dinner table piled high with sarmale and schnitzel and raising our glass of palinca with a hearty "Noroc!" It's a family vacation to Euro Disney.

And it's countless internal battles between my brave spirit and my anxious mind -- 365 exhilarating days waging war against 365 nightmarish nights. Which will prevail?

That's my adventure to choose.

How do you balance adventure and anxiety? What's your family's grandest adventure so far? And how did it show up in your dreams?

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I believe

I believe in...

Toke, toke, pass; drunk texting; friendship
strengthened by silliness; making crazy memories;
sex as natural; sex as good
(not everybody does, but everybody should);
spooning; kissing despite hot morning breath;
loving yourself first (last and always).

Freedom of choice; extending helping hands;
keeping America beautiful; loyalty to friends;
choosing your family; oversharing on Facebook;
handwriting notes to post right here;
smiling at a computer screen; holding
hands virtually until someday finally arrives. 

Keeping America beautiful; closing the lid
before you flush; all light switches
facing the same direction; sleeping in;
doing what works; catharsis of crying
and a really good belly laugh.

Children seen and heard and believed;
a woman's voice is her power;
raising men to respect and admire
the amazing women in their lives.

But most importantly, I believe in
the power of wonder and curiosity;
in asking all the hard questions;
and looking deeper than the surface
to find glimmering kernels of truth
buried deep in sludge and sediment.

I believe because I have to.
I believe because not to means
losing such precious pieces of myself.

How about you?

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Cluck of the Week: Visiting

Here's the thing about chickens.

They poop. A lot. And the poop in places that make you gag a little. Like the front steps and the back deck. So anyone who visits you must step around a mound of poo and anyone walking through your kitchen will see a mountain range of poop even if you hosed off the deck six minutes earlier.

They also make quite a bit of noise. They "talk" to you and each other. They squawk and bawk and tap and chatter. Some times are louder than others, like how they sound like they've found a mini-megaphone while egg laying. And heaven forbid something freaks them out -- expect the neighbors to mention it.

But the other things are really great. Like how they come visit you and eat oats out of your hand (which will always tickle and make you laugh). And how your kids giggle and smile just looking at them.

See? Now who doesn't want a chicken in her backyard?

(Side note: I will get Lulu on a scale. Believe it!)

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How To Fuel A Whirling, Twirling Tornado

I am excited to offer you a great, tasty treat today -- it's The Kitchen Witch and she's offering delicious ideas for a quick, protein-packed breakfast. Go forth and enjoy!

How to Fuel a Whirling, Twirling Tornado

I'd like to introduce you to my first-born, Miss D. Otherwise known as "The Human Tornado." Miss D. is good at lots of things, especially making noise and wreaking havoc on anything within her vicinity.

I phone my mother every day at 4pm (yes, I just might have attachment issues), and as we're chatting, she'll hear the ruckus and racket in the background and say, "Good God, who is over there? The Green Bay Packers?"

And I will reply, "No, it's just Miss D."

Welcome to the world of ADHD. It's as full of twists and turns as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

When Miss D. hits the door after a full day of school -- a full day of reining in her jitters/jabbers -- that girl is rocket-powered and ready to par-tay, let me tell you. As you may suspect, late afternoons are a bit of a struggle. In fact, late afternoons are often cause for medicinal glasses of Chardonnay.

But do you know what's worse than late afternoons? Mornings. There are no medicinal glasses of wine to ease morning agony. Mornings in our house = Freakshow. Even when I'm organized enough to pack lunches, set out clothing, and put bowls on the table for morning cereal, I still can't seem to manage. No matter what I do, I'm scrambling and barking orders, and when I finally get her minxy butt on the school bus, I exhale and think, "Jesus. It's 8:30am and I. Am. Exhausted."

Mornings are particularly taxing because in the morning, Miss D. twirls. She twirls in the afternoons, too, but nothing compares to morning twirling activity. Morning twirling activity dominates all other things; she cannot get dressed, brush her teeth, be bothered to consume food. She's too busy twirling.

Twirling: (verb) The act of grabbing the nearest object (hopefully a pencil or marker and not a knife or pronged instrument) and waving it, in a hysterical whirl, while subsequently galloping around the house. Rinse. Repeat.

Twirling is exhausting. Twirling is the reason that I'm the blonde Stalin in the morning. Twirling is the reason that my child, my beautiful, spirited child, makes me dread mornings. And this sucks, right? I mean, who wants to be a crank and snap orders at their kid and rush-rush-rush to get out the door in the morning? That's not a way I want to start the day. It's not the way I want my kid to start the day.

I wish I had a solution -- a magic bullet for you -- but I don't. Truth: mornings are, and probably always will be, a cross to bear in my house.

What I have to offer you today is the Smoothie Solution. Even if you don't have a child with ADHD, smoothies are a great way to get protein, vitamins, and fruit into a child who is just too busy to eat in the morning. Another bonus? You can blend the smoothies the night before, store them in the refrigerator, and all you have to do (besides get clothes, sort socks, and brush defiant hair) in the morning is pour liquid energy into a glass.

If morning twirling has been particularly vigorous, you can even pour smoothies into a plastic cup, stick in a straw, and smile, heart bursting, as you wave goodbye.

All recipes attributed to Ellie Krieger, with some adaptations

Peach Pie Smoothie (serves 2)

1 cup milk
1 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt (I also use sugar free)
2 cups frozen unsweetened peaches
1-2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla extract
Healthy pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger
I cup ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a blender and whirr until smooth.


Blueberry Blast Smoothie (serves 1)

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt (I like Greek yogurt for this)
1 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries
2 teaspoons honey

Blend until smooth.


Peanut Butter Smoothie (serves 1)

1 ripe banana, peeled, sliced and frozen (y'all do freeze banana chunks, right? Smoothie awesomeness!)
1/2 cup milk (preferably non-fat)
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Guess what I'm gonna tell you to do? Blend until smooth. :)


Kelly, thanks for having me. You know how much I love you, and I'm honored to be here today. Whether you're an ADHD Mommy-Warrior, or a mom who dreads mornings because they're crazy (and let's face it, they always are), I hope you'll try these out. They've saved my blonde butt on many a morning.

Because, you know, a girl needs time to twirl.

Thanks for the ideas, Kitch -- and for being such a great neighbor! 

Share any other quickie breakfast ideas in the comments! (Um, and don't flame but we allow no Red 40 and only low sugar foods at breakfast on school days.)

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I'm ready for mighty without hesitation,
strength tied only to what is
not what could be given more...
time, space, money, wishes on stars.

Give me clarity and bottomless faith
that my body and my mind
are tools honed sharp by experience,
that I am meant for more.

Give me certitude, fierce and unwavering,
that my simple and circling days,
stocked full with nurturing and need,
are leading me away from if.

I'm ready, eyes and hands open.

***This post is part of Six-Word Fridays, Bigger Picture Moments, and Thought Provoking Thursdays.***

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For the love of the dance

I've mentioned our love the dance, but I couldn't pass up the chance to make fun of children. This magnificence was captured during Kung Fu Fighting.

Not every can pull off the hair-puffed-over-sweatband look. It was so fantastic that Bella tried to replicate it with a headband, but headbands and sweatbands are two very different creatures.

(I was briefly embarrassed by the 1980s barbells, can of cheap beer, pink blinds [they came with the house!], and messy background ... but dude. The sweat bands and crazy shoulder blades and serious-as-a-heart-attack kids totally won out.)

These are the moments people are talking about when they wax on about the rewards of having children.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday.***

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