A whole table of weirdos

If you weren't at McDonald's on Saturday, Dec. 20 - you missed a fantastic 8th birthday party for a fantastic little boy. Javi didn't officially turn 8 until the 23rd, but his buddies helped him celebrate early. How cute are these kids?!

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What day is it?

Is it really Christmas eve? I feel like I went to sleep on Thanksgiving/my birthday and woke up today. Luckily, we have bought and wrapped all our gifts and now only have to suffer through getting the children appropriately dressed and transported to the three different Christmas gatherings we're attending.

But I promise an update from Javi's birthday (!) party this past weekend. And the sweetest little photo of my Bella with the best gift she could've received - a shimmery and glittery scarf that belongs to my sister but that Bella has claimed as her own.

All to come sweeties. All to come.

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Christmas tip

When your child must be removed 8 million times from the cords hanging by the Christmas tree and you resort to lightly popping her hand which means she walks around writhing in torturous pain and demonstrating how to pop hands and then promptly runs right back over to the Christmas tree cords ... you might just lose your ever-lovin' mind.

I mean, sure, you could leave her to the cords and cables and electricity until she learns her lesson. You could allow her to pull the tree down on herself and gnaw on the plugs. You could throw your hands up when clutches the cords with both hands and tries to drag them across the room.

Or, you could just plug the damn things in. Because, apparently, that's all she wanted. And once you plug the lights in? She could care less about the Christmas tree and its cords. I mean, cheese and crackers, Mama, just give the tree some breathing room already!

Just a little heads up for those of you still fighting the battle. ;)

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Letter to Bella: month nineteen

Dear Bella,

Another month has flown by, hurtling you closer and closer to big kid status. Every morning before I get you out of bed I stop to wonder: Which Bella will we have today - the roly-poly baby girl or the demanding I-kn0w-exactly-what-I-want big girl.

Though it has taken several months, I think I'm resolved to the fact that the baby girl is not long for this world. You will always be my baby, but you're growing up so fast. You can go up and down the stairs without holding onto anything, you jump with both feet off the floor, and you are full of curiosity and wonder - noticing small details that you used to overlook.

Your body looks more kid-like these days, too. You've thinned out and now weigh 23.2 lbs and stand 32 inches tall, putting you in the 25th percentile for weight and height. That makes you a small girl, but one whose face has become more angular and whose legs are longer. Your hair may be responsible for some of those inches and pounds - it's the biggest thing about you. I saw your shadow the other day and you looked just like a lollipop!

This month marked a sad, but exciting milestone in your life. You now sleep in a toddler bed! You finally decided that climbing out of the crib was fun, so to keep you safe, your Daddy and I converted your crib to a baby bed. Of course the transition wasn't smooth. The first few nights we tried to the stay-in-bed technique, but that traumatized everyone, so we switched to the "just shut the door and ignore the screams" technique.

The first few nights, you would immediately pop out of bed and move to the glider with a toy or stuffed animal, where you'd fall asleep. Your Daddy would sneak in before he went to bed and move you to the bed. It took about a week, but eventually you got used to the idea of a bed and began staying there. We tuck you in with your "babies" (a couple bears and a kitty), kiss you good night, and then shut the door behind us. I'm pretty amazed how quickly you went from screaming mess to serene sleeper!

But as if sleeping all by yourself in a toddler bed wasn't enough of a big-girl rite of passage - you've started showing an interest in potty training! As I noted in your last letter, you'd gotten in the habit of pooping in the tub. To combat that problem, your Daddy bought you a Dora potty ring that we now sit you on before you get in the tub. For the first week or so, you simply tolertated the ring because you were so excited to get in the tub.

However, one day you tinkled in it! We all clapped and danced and sang together - and though you had no clue what was so wonderful, you clapped and danced right along with us. Now you like to sit on the potty seat just because and often a tiny little stream of pee will come out. We don't think you'll be trained in the next few months, but we've definitely begun that journey.

These are the signals that we will soon have a full-fledged little girl on our hands - one with her own opinions and desires. I can already tell that you will be stubborn and demanding. But I can also tell that you will be sweet and compassionate. You can't stand to see someone cry and often try to comfort your brother or the other kids at daycare when they are upset. You love on your babies when they fall or after you've thrown them around.

You are an exciting, complicated little person. Every day, I am reminded how lucky we are to be your family and how much we'll learn by being in your life. As Christmas approaches and we watch you stare in awe at the wonders of the season, I will continue to count my blessings - of which you are one of the most spectacular.

Love, Mama

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Merry Christmas!

We took the kids to get their photo with Santa today. Javi was fine with it, thankfully, though we spent his first 5 Christmases getting him accustomed to Santa. Bella was okay with it as long as her brother was with her and we were close.

I wish you could've seen the panic in her eyes, though. You just see her thought process: "Um, my mom and dad are here and my brother's here but I'm sitting in some strange bearded man's lap and he's TOUCHING me and there are dogs and everyone's staring and I think this isn't a good thing and maybe I'm going to cry and OH THANK GOD IT'S OVER!"

But don't let her smile fool you. There was a whole bunch of shucking and jiving going on behind the camera. We WORKED for it. (My scanner's broken, so enjoy this picture of a picture.)

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Message from God

Today, Bella and I met up with Abbey and her little ones at McDonald's for lunch, chatting, and playplace-ing. While we were there, a lady walked in who I first met last summer when she brought her kids to the summer reading program.

I knew she was a childcare worker of some type but I wasn't sure where she worked. However, I knew that her kids loved her and that she is always taking them to educational and entertaining places around our town. I could also tell that she genuinely loves kids and that they love her back - rather than just working for the money.

So, of course, I tapped her shoulder, asked her where she works and told her that I wanted her to watch my kid. She didn't have a card, but gave me the address for her at-home center along with her phone number.

You will not believe where she lives. AROUND THE CORNER FROM ME. I'm serious. I used to walk past her house all the time. I really believe this is a sign that I should call her and get Bella in over there. I've hated that her current sitter doesn't take her to the library for story hour or out to the fun free stuff for kids around town...

So I'm going to call this lady tomorrow and see if we can come visit next week. Doesn't it seem like God sent me a message today? I'm listening!

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So the tour of the potential new daycare was ... informative. Here's the scoop:

#1: The building interior looks crazy old. As in, peach sponge-painted walls and brown trim. Also, everything has that old look - like when you go into a paper-based office and there are yellowing papers tacked on the walls everywhere.

#2: The "teacher" was outside with the children in their tiny playground. The 1 and 2 yos play outside together so there were a LOT of kids out there at one time. We went into the 1 yo/2 yo split room through the back door and I was immediately hit with the stench of NASTY A$$ DIAPER. OMGosh it was nauseating! I couldn't believe the teacher neither mentioned it or apologized for it.

#3: The "teacher" talked about how she doesn't focus on the "art stuff" or "learning stuff" and it's mostly free play until they move to the 3 yo room. She said she does redirection and timeout for misbehavior and mostly instructs on boundaries. She said for language, she does repeat what the children say and ask them to communicate with words. However, her country accent was so thick that I could barely understand what she was saying. Um, yeah.

#4: The room was dirty and the fabric on the naptime cots was both stained and torn in many places. The "teacher" talked about how she does work with them on picking up after themselves, etc but that the room pretty much stays destroyed. About that time, all the kids came in from the playground and at least 75% of them had big green ropes of mucus steaking their faces. Nice. Oh, and the "teacher" was wearing a gray hoodie covered in stains and spills. I suppose that's to be expected, but it looked as though she hadn't washed it in weeks.

On the plus side, when we were leaving to meet with the director about the possibility of speech focus, one of the little boys yelled "bye bye pretty!" to Bella and she blew him a kiss. It was very sweet! All the little boys (98% of the class) rushed up to touch and love on her. Of course, I promptly picked her up - no mucus ropes for us, thankyouverymuch.

So, in case you couldn't tell, we won't be going to that center. Esp when you consider all the above and then I tell you that the price is the same as my at-home sitter who keeps a spotless house, cooks with the children, and does learning play even though she relies on the tv a lot and is tacky as hell.

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Our morning

Here's what we did this morning. Nothing too exciting, some reading to get the day started.


We're off to meet the possible new daycare teacher. I took Bella over to Javi's old center yesterday and she LOVED it. She had to touch and sit on every toy, surface, and seat in the toddler room. Then she flipped the eff out when we left. I had to drag her kicking and screaming to the car.

I think she's going to love the daycare center environment. Will report back later!

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My expressive reader

Back to regularly scheduled programming:

Javi has a weekly paragraph in his homework agenda that he is supposed to read every night. Most weeks, he reads the paragraph without much gusto. And then there was this week:

You see that facial contortion at the end? We videotaped him reading at least 4 times and each time he ended immediately with the facial tics/muscle impulses. He does that all the time and is something his Concerta is supposed to help control.

However, instead of being embarrassed by it (the way grown ups would be), Javi thinks it's hilarious. He watched the videos over and over again and just cackled at himself. I love it!

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Off Topic: The Perfect Body

I normally keep my personal opinions to myself (um, except for the oodles of Obama videos - a girl can't help her excitement), but I have to unload today.

I saw a commercial this morning during my Dr. Phil fix (don't judge me) that really made me shake my head. In the commercial, perfectly sculpted, beautiful, white people are rolling off an assembly line. Two "non-conformists" break free from the pack and run off to lead non-conforming lives. However those free-thinking radicals are just as beautiful, white, and perfectly sculpted as those on the assembly line -- they're just wearing better clothes.

My brain screamed at the TV: THEY ARE STILL PERFECT. They probably spend a lot of time and money to keep their lithe frames, perfect hair, and gleaming complexions. They may suffer from eating disorders, body hatred or dysmorphia, or drug addictions -- or maybe they were born (not blessed) with great metabolisms. But here we are, using them to symbolize what I guess is an ideal.

Just thinking of the commercial raises my blood pressure a little bit because these marketers are sending the message that people should embrace their individuality and take comfort in how they are different from everyone else. Yet the visual message is insidiously opposite: Yes, you should embrace differences, as long as you're skinny and beautiful. Because being skinny and beautiful is normal, of course.

With this on my mind, I heard about Amanda Palmer's fight with her record label because the label refused to release her video due to what they considered her too-fat belly was exposed. Yes, that sucks and it's ridiculous, but what's really great is that Amanda tells us on her blog that HELL NO she isn't fat and if she were there's NO WAY she'd be proud of or show off her belly and that she hates how she looks when she's pregnant.

Dub Tee Eff, people. So you're mad at them for calling you fat, not because they are making a judgement call about what will sell your records? You're mad because NO YOU ARE NOT FAT! And then your fans post their bellies and in 15 or so pages of belly photos, I see no fat bellies. What I see is a whole bunch of defensiveness about how Amanda is not fat and that "fatties don't have cheekbones like that."

Then there's a new book on Feminism for young women and what image graces the cover? A young, trim belly. Why the belly? Why are girls supposed to see in that body that will bring them to buy the book or heed its message? That feminists aren't all old and fat? That you can be a feminist and still be attractive? Because attractive = thin and young, you know.

I think my biggest problem with this whole mess is that I am raising a daughter. A daughter who may grow up with a slow metabolism or an aversion to sports and who may grow a belly much bigger than Amanda Palmer's. And where does she fit? Where in the hell do fat bodies fit in our culture? And going back to the commercial, where do bodies of color fit in? Where were the latino, black, or Asian bodies on that assembly line?


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The Tinkler

I'm sure y'all remember that we were having a problem with Bella pooping the tub or peeing on the bathroom floor right before getting in the tub...

We started a new bathtime routine where immediately after dinner, we head to the bathroom and she sits on the ring while we run her bathwater. She picked up the new routine very quickly and now puts the ring on herself and tries to get her diaper off - basically she'll do anything to get into the bath!

Well, all this prep work and she stopped pooping in the tub (tho she may be peeing in there - you never know) and peeing on the floor - but she NEVER tinkled in the potty. Rather, she sat there impatiently and signed please over and over while staring longingly at the tub.

UNTIL TWO NIGHTS AGO!!! She let out a teeny tiny little stream of pee and DH and I reacted like it was New Years Eve. There was much clapping and jumping and the distributing of candy. Bella was super excited, too, though you could tell she wasn't quite sure what happened.

Now, she hasn't done it again, but I just wanted to share this little milestone. I know she's no where near ready to train, but she's starting to get the idea! By this time next year, diapers will be a distant memory in our home!

Also! This morning she fought me for her own wipe while I was changing her diaper. Normally she just likes to throw wipes around the room, but this time ... THIS TIME ... she wanted the wipe so she could CLEAN HER OWN CHINA.

Ohmalord! I was so proud of her because this is really the first time she's shown any interest in what goes on during diapering or demonstrated that she is connecting elimination with the diaper. I'm really thinking this is another sign that diapers are not long for this world!

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Cuddles from Home

If you're in need of a baby gift or want something super cute for your little one, you have to shop Cuddles from Home. I ordered some cuddlies for a few of the new moms in my life (there are FIVE of them!!!), and the cutest head wrap for Bella. Everything arrived quickly, wrapped beautifully for gifting, and is so soft and ... well ... cuddly!

Here's Bella wearing her fancy new hair accessory. Unfortunately, we're still working on getting her to wear things in her hair again. Though she used to leave hair clips and bows alone, she now pulls everything out or off as quickly as she can. So we're all lucky I snapped these shots.

This one was the wrap fresh from the box. I call it her 40s broadway look:

And here is my favorite. You can see the wrap, but you can also see The Look my child gives me when she's not happy with me. Which happened a lot today, thanks to Sassypants' refusal to take a nap.

So please do keep Cuddles from Home in your memory bank for the next time you want something hand made, high quality, and made with love. You won't be disappointed!

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Adventures in cooking

So after whining about my picky eater, both of my children scarfed down firsts and seconds of dinner tonight. Of course, it fit on Bella's short list of desirable meals: fruit, cheese, yogurt, some mixture of tomato sauce and noodles.

Tonight's dinner was lasagna, salad, and garlic bread. Bella signed more and please after inhaling her first plate - which was definitely on the skimpy side considering I never know what she'll eat. Javi, on the other hand, had two pretty big portions (for a 7 yo).

But, I figured out a secret to get Javi to eat: let him cook with me. I have so far avoided getting a kid helper because I get annoyed quickly and I'd rather hurry up and get the cooking done.

However, Javi really wanted to help me make chicken noodle soup last night, so I gave in. He helped me shred chicken (left over from a whole chicken we cooked on Wednesday night), peel bouillion cubes, and dump frozen veggies into the soup pot. He then helped me stir and, when everything was boiling, he helped me add tri-color rotini.

He was a great little chef and took a lot of pride in helping. When we sat down to dinner, it was as though he was vibrating with excitement that this was a meal he had helped cook. And the soup was delicious, which helped!

So tonight when we decided to have lasagna, I asked him if he wanted to help. Of course he did! He got out all the ingredients while I chopped onion to cook with the hamburger. Then, while I browned the meat/onions, he mixed together ricotta cheese, an egg, my favorite mixture of spices, and shredded cheese. By then the water for the noodles was boiling, so I let him salt the water and add the noodles one by one.

He also helped stir the tomato sauce into the meat mixture and layer all the ingredients. We then set the timer for 35 minutes (gotta make sure that egg is cooked!) and cleaned up our mess.

It was slightly annoying that he asked me 800 times "is it ready yet?" and I answered 800 times "not until the timer goes off." But the good definitely outweighed the bad and now that I've seen how he devours the food he cooked, I plan to involve him in cooking as often as possible.

However - there are certain meals he doesn't need persuading to try, including macaroni and cheese, grilled shrimp, pizza, roasted chicken, spaghetti, and peanut butter sandwiches. He is a 7 yo, you know!

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Why is it that my child will eat 8 million pancakes at home but when I take her out for breakfast to meet a friend, she spits the pancakes out, tosses them on the floor, squishes them up in her grubby hands, and then cries because I won't move the plate of pancakes out of her line of vision.

What's THAT about?

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RIP Ms. Rothstein

One of my area's most beloved teachers passed away on Thanksgiving day after an eight-year-long battle with breast cancer.

I never had a class with Ms. Rothstein, who taught Latin at the local high school, but she and my best friend's mother were extremely close, which meant that I became friends with Ms. Rothstein outside of the school environment.

I knew her to be witty, sarcastic, intelligent, and a huge Harry Potter fan. The last time I saw her was right after Bella was born when we were both at a retirement party for another dear woman and family friend.

Ms. Rothstein marvelled and delighted over Bella, who was quiet and observant in her sling at the time. Though she was too weak to hold Bella, she tickled her chin and pronounced that little Bella was going to be both a charmer and a genius.

Dedicated to her students and her partner, Ms. Huey, Ms. Rothstein never had children, but she made an impact on every student who crossed her path. While the world is losing an amazing spirit, I am sure her passing means the end of very painful struggle.

Rest in peace, Ms. Rothstein. You will be missed.

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Birthday at Fujisan

The only bad thing about skipping traditional Thanksgiving is you can't unbutton your pants and lay around on the couch immediately after stuffing your face. Instead, you have to package up your leftovers, pick the rice out of your kid's hair, get everyone's coats on and them to the car without losing anyone or anything.

But that was the only downside to our amazing dinner at Fujisan last night. It ended a really great birthday. Billy and Javi made pancakes and served me breakfast in bed after letting me sleep in. Then Javi and I snuggled in and watched the "Untold Story of the Mayflower" on the History channel. Then it was naptime and doodling around the computer until I realized it was 3 pm and time to start getting ready.

Around 4:30 pm, Billy, Javi, Bella, my mom and I all packed into our Vibe and made the 50+ minute drive to the restaurant. Bella and Javi began to get surly about 30 minutes in, especially after they finished off the only snack we had - a half-box of raisins that had been in the car for at least a week. We tried singing songs and telling jokes, but about 15 minutes before we were slated to arrive, the adults just had to hunker down and hope to outlast the kids. My sister Ashley met us and we all agreed it was past time to get our eat on.

Luckily, we were immediately ushered to a table at the restaurant, which had a nice sized crowd despite the holiday. The soup and salad cheered everyone up and got us in the mood for a good show. Our chef was a little on the quiet side, but he still found a place in Javi's heart. Actually, Javi thought he was going to be too cool to clap or cheer, but after the first trick, he was totally besotted and the clapping totally got away with him. It was very cute!

Meanwhile, Bella was not a fan. She doesn't like loud noises or strange people, so a strange man setting things on fire and banging stuff around not less than 2 feet from her face? Enough to cause a heart attack. So, she spent most of the show trying to climb up into her dad's arm pocket or behind my back. She loved the food though. My girl who won't eat anything except cheese and fruit chowed down on onions, zucchini, shrimp, rice, noodles and even a little beef! It was great to see her eat so well. And she had a ball with the chopsticks.

Then came the birthday surprise. My mother had mentioned a few times that it was my birthday and the staff didn't disappoint. They came out with a balloon and a small cake and told me, "We sing you happy song!" Everyone in the restaurant clapped along and the Javi and Bella helped me blow out the candle. After finding room for the yummy sweet, we all decided it was time to roll out to the car and hurry back to our respective couches.

At the end of the day, I had two new books, a couple pairs of fuzzy socks, a gift card for a full hour of quiet time (which Javi and I decided we'd use in 5 minute increments because, as he admitted, he "can't be quiet that long!!!"), a book on recycling and living greenly, another canvas tote for shopping, and a Garmin GPS for the car (!!!!!).

We're heading over to a friend's for 2nd day Thanksgiving dinner tonight and, yes, I'll be plotting the route on the Garmin despite my friend living only 5 minutes away. I mean, it's all mine - I have to break it in!

Thanks to everyone for a lovely 32nd birthday. I took a picture of myself for posterity. :) I look so much like my father in this photo!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

We are skipping traditional Thanksgiving this year in favor of a tasty and relaxed Japanese steak house dinner at Fujisan. I promise to eat until I'm stuffed and take lots of photos of my children either a) enthralled and enchanted by the sights and sounds or b) surly and unamused.

Can you believe I'm 32 today? Where did the time go? Happy birthday to me and all the other Turkey Babies out there!

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I am thankful for many things: my health, my family, my work, etc. But I am extremely thankful for videos of my babies. Especially when one seems so much younger than he was at the time and the other has a hair pattern straight out of Last of the Mohicans, such as this one from summer 2007.

Can you believe that a year ago, Bella was just learning to sit up by herself and pull up to standing? Can you believe I was excited? What was I thinking?!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Drawing Debacle pt 2

So, after reading Katie's advice this morning, I sat Javi down and asked him why he lied about the drawing. He told me he didn't lie - it is an airplane. Then I pulled out my back-up evidence and he said, "Oh, yeah, those are hot girls."

After I picked myself up off the ground, he told me that, "See, the hot girls are wearing skirts." And that was true.

So we're moving on from this. I didn't lift the ban on guns, but we did decide that they couldn't be pointed at other people. That's our rule about water guns, pretend guns, finger guns, etc. Javi is never allowed to point guns at other people.

I didn't ban him from drawing hot girls, either. It was very hard! I did ask him if he could use his fantastic art skills to draw girls and boys so they weren't stick figures. He is now at the table practicing. I peeked over his shoulder and the girls are still busty, but not crazily so. Now they have really long hair (as opposed to just a big round O head), longer skirts, and high heels.

This has been a study in the development of a boy. And also society. Why does my kid think girls/women have long hair, and wear skirts and heels? I have short hair, as do two of his aunts. I very rarely wear skirts and can't think of any close friends he's been exposed to who wear skirts. And I don't think I know anyone who wears heels on their scooter.

But he's got the message. And, I guarantee you, his daddy would draw the same thing. Guess that's just men for you. Luckily, there is 50% estrogen in this house - so Bella and I balance them out!

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What do you think?

I found this drawing in one of Javi's notebooks.

When I confronted him, he told me - very quickly - that it was an airplane coming toward you. He traced the "airplane parts" with his finger. This, he said, pointing to what looks like a head, is the where the pilot sits. This, he said, running his finger over what looks like arms, is the wings. These, he said, tracing what looks like a woman's chest, is the engines where the fire comes out. And these, he said, pointing to what looks like legs, are the wheels that come down.

He said it all so quickly and nonchalantly that I had to believe him. I had to. It was an unfortunate coincidence that my innocent 7 year old drew what looks like a very busty stick figure. Right? RIGHT?

But then later I stumbled up pages and pages of stick figures. Men pointing guns at each other (a no-no in our house - we don't play with or draw weapons), men on skateboards, busty women riding scooters...

My kid not only straight up LIED about the "airplane," he did it with panache! Had I not found the further evidence, I would've believed him to this day. So now I'm faced with: What do you do about it? It's not pornographic. He's really into comic books right now, superheros being his favorite, so I know he's seen some rather unrealistic female characters.

Do I ban him from drawing women? Do I ban him from drawing boobs just like we've banned him from drawing guns? Anyone have suggestions? Or maybe a tequila shot? I'd take either.

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In the mood

After rearranging all of Bella's clothes, I got the bug to finally put up the wall stickers I found at the Dollar Tree a few months back. I can't believe they were only a dollar! The only part I don't like is that the green letters don't really pop against her sage green walls. Oh well!

These poppy photos are from the May and April pages of our 2007 calendar. In the frames, they just happen to match the colors in Bella's room (red, green, and black).

I wanted to put "busy as a bee" on another wall but I used up all my Bs. Instead I have "busy as a" - which really confused Javi. I'll have to make another Dollar Tree run. I hope they still have these stickers. If not, maybe I can fashion a B out of a D? Or find a funky bee to stick up there? Or take my $1 stickers and go home?

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It's never too early

If you thought 19-month-olds were too young to learn about the dangers of alcohol, think again. Bella sends this public service announcement for your benefit.

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Cutting the apron strings

For the past 19 months, Bella's clothes have lived in my closet. In the beginning, it was just easier to keep her 8,000 onesies and 1500 pairs of socks downstairs rather than truck up and down the stairs everytime she needed a wardrobe change.

Then we cleaned out her room and made it safe for her to play in there on her own. Because her dresser is really a changing table with baskets as drawers, we quickly learned that she would not leave the baskets alone. Instead, she pulls them out of the shelves, dumps whatever is in them, and then throws the basket down the stairs. Once it's downstairs, she likes to sit in it or use it to reach things too high up.

So the combination of inconvenience and pure laziness led us to buy one of those canvas shelf things that hang in the closet. It worked perfectly until the recent explosion of 18-24 month clothes our nice friends passed on to us (hello, budget saver!). All of a sudden, we were faced with a clothing crisis of epic proportions. (Seriously, how did Skylar manage to wear 25 different jackets between 18 and 24 months?)

So tonight I bit the bullet and cleaned out everything except pajamas and socks from my closet. Everything else went upstairs. I didn't realize how much space one little girl's wardrobe (one who only goes to daycare 3x per week and has no other social obligations) could take up. And look at all those pajamas. I'm not even sure she'll wear each set at least once before she grows out of them. Of course now I need to clean out my closet from where I was just shoving things where they'd fit.

But the next challenge is teaching my stubborn little busy bee that she has to leave the baskets alone. We thought about buying a dresser, but where would we put it? And how would we keep her from climbing on it? The stuff hanging in the closet? All jackets - all (except a couple) from Skylar! Seriously.

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The Monkey On Tape

Previously, we've only been able to catch Bella sneaking out of the crib in the shady darkness or by interpreting her weird noises. But last night she decided to just go on and show us. She then clapped for herself because what's wrong with a little self-pride? Nothing!

When we realized that climbing out of the crib isn't about to stop, we went ahead and removed her crib rail.

Then we realized that the crib bed is too high off the ground and we have nothing to keep her from falling out. So we improvised for last night ... by setting her up in the bouncy castle.

When we left her for night-night, she whimpered and cried and played with her toys ... and then she got really quiet, so we assumed she had gone to sleep. Easy peasy! A quick peek into her room revealed (or so we thought) that she was passed out in the bouncy castle. Who knew it could be so easy?

But as soon as we shut the door back, the kid was up and at 'em. More playing, more noisy toys, more heavy breathing. But then it got quiet again. We decided to just wait it out, although Billy and I both agree that we need a two-way mirror in there just to watch the antics.

Billy went up around 11:45 pm to check on her before we tucked in for the night. Guess where that child was sleeping? On the glider! Every night before we lay her down, we sit in the glider and read books, sing song, or just cuddle. And the night before last (when it took us 3 hours to get her to sleep), that's where she kept running to when she'd escape from the crib. So the glider is her safe place.

But she wasn't just conked out in it sitting up. Nope, she was face down in the seat with her legs dangling down to the floor. As if she ran over there and threw her face down in the seat out of disgust or desperation. Billy picked her up and laid her in the bed ... where she stayed all night - no falling out!

This morning I heard her rustling around at 8:30 am. I went up to get her and this is what I found. What a sad little bundle of pink floofyness.

I think she may have been a little freaked out about waking up to her new bed, but hopefully by the time Monday rolls around, we'll be champs at getting her to sleep in it!

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This just in!

The wee one was found asleep face down on the glider in her room with her legs dangling over the side. She was fast asleep. Her father did not take a photograph. For this he will be punished.

She has now been moved to the NOW CONVERTED crib/toddler bed. Pictures of that forthcoming.

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My fashionista

Recently, my baby Bella has begun to manifest some quite stereotypically girly behaviors. I don't know where she's getting it from, but I can tell you it's not me!

Firstly, her friend Zoe sent a big box of clothes. Bella's favorite item? A pair of sunglasses. She's been a glasses girl, but she is possessive over these pink shades and gets upset if she sees someone else even holding them. I was cleaning up the other day and picked up the glasses to put them away. That child ran over to me and yanked the glasses out of her hand. She then cradled them to her neck and gave them kisses.

Her other weakness? Shoes! Boots are her #1 love, but sandals are a close second. She inherited a pair of black and pink light-up boots from her other friend Skylar. I had just set them out when she spotted them - and made a bee line for them. I couldn't get them untied on her feet fast enough, so she spent that minute of waiting doing what she does best, knocking me with her feet and grunting like she was dying. The light-up boots are awesome, but she still has love for these: her starter boots. The whole boots love affair began when she spotted these cuties, which were given to her last Christmas by my Aunt Debbie.

So what's next? She hates tutus and hairbows, so I think I'm okay in those areas for awhile. However, I signed her up for gymnastics yesterday and she was AMAZED by the girls in there. I have a feeling she'll want a leotard soon enough.

(I won't go into the tantrum she threw when I didn't let her run wild in the gymnastics building, but suffice it to say she REALLY likes it - and she wants to play NOW. Also, note to self: never take Bella into a dance/gymnastics studio unless I plan to let her loose. It's easier on everyone.)

**Notice I am avoiding discussion of bedtime. It's still happening so I'll report tomorrow.**

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Return of the Escape Artist

Bella May has been a wonderful sleeper since we first stopped rocking her to sleep at night, way back when she was 10 months old. However, over the summer, she learned how to climb out of her crib at nap time. I simply put her back a couple of times and she accepted that she'd have to lay there. And that was that.

Until yesterday. We had breakfast for dinner - which both she and Javi loved. Of course she wanted nothing to do with the grits or eggs, but she loved the sausage and toasted English muffins with strawberry jelly. After dinner, she had her bath as happens every night. Billy then lathered her up in lotion, brushed her hair, and put on her sleeper. We then read books and watched some Sesame Street. And then it was bed time. Just as happens every other night.

So she gave everyone kisses and Billy took her up to bed. And that's when the problems started. She climbed out of that crib no less than 20 times in the next few hours. We'd hear her little padded feet on the stairs and when we'd appear from around the corner, she'd collapse in a heap of snot and tears.

So I tried rocking her. Which of course didn't work. So Billy then implemented the "put her ass back in bed technique" - loosely based on the Super Nanny's stay in bed technique. I tried to part of it but Billy let me know that I am not helpful, so I stayed away. He eventually got her to sleep around 11:30 pm. That was more than 3 hours after we first laid her down.

But here's the funny part (even funnier than her dramatics on the stairs). Billy watched her climbing out to see how it happens. He reported to me: She drags her body up the rails and then kicks one leg over. Then she wraps her legs around the slats, and grabs on to the side board. Then she heaves her body over the rail and slides down the side like it's a fire pole. You can hear her hands squeak down the side. It's great!

Yes, that's my husband being proud of his climber monkey daughter. At first, she was getting up on the rail and then launching herself into her bouncy house, which was pushed all the way against one side of the crib. When we removed that, she had to get crafty.

I thought she'd be done with it by this morning, but I was wrong. I heard her rustling around - no crying or talking, just rustling - so I went on upstairs to get her up. I openned her door and there she was - sliding down the side. Apparently now that she's remembered the beauty of the escape, she has no intention of waiting around for me anymore.

So here's the question: Do we go ahead and convert her bed? If we do, how will we keep her in it? Obviously she's not staying in the crib, but at least it provides some deterrence. If we do convert her bed, do we institute a closed-door bedtime policy? We usually leave it open all night and Billy closes it in the morning so she doesn't wake up ... and if we shut it, do we shut it without a night light?

Why can't she just stay put?!

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My children hope you have a happy hump day

Javi runs home from the bus stop every day. And every day I tell him he can walk, he doesn't have to run. And then he asks me why I won't walk him home from the stop (two houses up). Today's conversation:

Javi: Why don't you just put on a coat, put on your --

Me: I'm not even wearing pants.

Javi: PUT ON YOUR PANTS, put on your shoes, and come get me!

And now, some love from Bella:

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Lady Warrior Bug

Last Halloween (2007), I was so excited to dress Bella in Javi's first Halloween costume - a ladybug. I had held onto that costume for six long years (and three moves) just so that baby #2 could wear it.

You know how this story ends, right? Halloween 2007 rolled around and I couldn't for the life of me find that damn costume! I searched for it in Javi's costume drawer (he has a lot of them), in his dressers, in the attic, in my closet, in the basement, etc. I finally had to concede that the ladybug costume had given up the ghost.

Well guess what I found this weekend? That damn costume! I used to collect boxes and one was a treasure box. Apparently, some time in the past I decided to turn the treasure box into Javi's keepsake box. In there was a Tufts tee shirt from Kati, Javi's first pair of mittens, a pint-sized diaper, some booties, his first tiny cap from the hospital and THE LADYBUG COSTUME.

Obviously I had to force Bella to wear it around, right? I mean, what else would I do? Notice how she looks a bit stumbly on the stairs (in her new favorite shoes). And how she really wasn't happy about wearing a costume made for a 9 month old. Also - there's nothing cuter than a Lady Warrior Bug (except a Javi Warrior Bug, that is).

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So THAT's what they're used for

After listening to Bella's loud breathing all weekend, Billy and I discussed whether she'll need her adenoids removed. Billy's were taken out when he was infant because he couldn't eat and breathe at the same time. You can hear Bella breathing in the living room when you're standing around two corners in the bedroom ... so we're thinking she may have a similar issue.

But that led us to wonder what the hell adenoids are for, anyway? And tonsils - what purpose do they serve? Why do we have them if people can have them cut out and never miss them? And the spleen. And the appendix. Why do we have these useless organs?!

At the time, I told him to Google it but instead he made a jab at me by saying, "Like I'm going to jump right on the computer at 10 at night." Which was a stab, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. Because where was I at 10 pm at night last night? On the computer, that's where. Googling stuff. But I digress.

We went to bed information-less. But today when my new book arrived and I immediately began devouring the beautifully designed pages, I found the answer! Tonsils destroy inhaled or swallowed bacteria and adenoids also take out those inhaled bateria. They are our bodies' body guards! And here I've been dismissing them for so long. While the book doesn't mention the appendix, it does inform me that spleen works with bone marrow and thymus gland to produce white blood cells. WHITE BLOOD CELLS. The freedom fighters inside all of us.

I shall never blow off the importance of the body's natural defenses. The tonsils, adenoids, and spleen work to keep us healthy. And no damn wonder she breathes so loud - her body is HARD AT WORK keeping her from getting sick, which in turn keeps me from going out of my ever lovin' mind with a sick and whiny baby.

I salute you tonsils, adenoids, and spleen. You are my heroes.

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This time last year

I sometimes forget how quickly babies grow. These days, Bella loves watching herself on YouTube. She laughs along with the video and re-enacts particularly funny ones - such as smacking in the stairs and playing peek a boo with her brother.

But this time last year? She was just learning to crawl and still firmly attached to the pacifier. What a difference a year makes!

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Things fall apart

My center is not holding today. It seems as though everything I touch is turning to crap. I don't mean this on a metaphysical level ... because life is good - but I'm a clumsy sumbitch!

It started with Bella's blueberry waffles this morning. Somehow, I dripped the syrup onto my feet ... and then got carpet fuzz stuck to me. Then, of course, Bella decided to tip the waffle plate onto the floor and I had almost caught it, but then I just made it worse.

Then I decided to try Campbell's Select Harvest Maryland crab soup, but I hate fish and I hate all things fishy. But I had a bowl of clam chowder once in Reagan National while waiting on a flight from DC to Boston and that clam chowder was good when mixed with hot sauce, so I decided to attempt the soup because it was $1.15 at Walmart and I love soup. So anyway! I added shredded cheese and hot sauce to the soup ... but it was still crab soup and therefore it was disgusting. And when I was trying to dump the soup, I spilled it all over myself.

Then I tried to make lunch for Bella but she spit out the ravioli. So I cut up ham into tiny chunks, but then I tripped and spilled the ham everywhere. By this point, I had to go have a moment by myself lest I scream at someone for my own lack of grace. After I got myself together, I cut up more ham and fed it to the girl, who liked it (she really liked it!) ... but then she kicked the bowl over and ham went all over the carpet.

At that point I gave up. I did a Sudoku puzzle in the bathroom, then took a long lukewarm shower (to make up for not being conservative with my water use) during which I hacked off the thickets of hair on my legs and arm pockets), then I put my contacts in (because contacts make me more graceful than glasses do) and put on clean clothes. Now I'm headed out to do some destruction in the world ... because my house can't take any more of me.

Hope you're having a better Sunday.

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Write about anything

I have a friend who'd like to blog, but who doesn't think her life is very interesting. She told me that her blog would be "wash, rinse, repeat." I'm always surprised when people equate an interesting blog with an interesting life because ... have you met me? I work from home and I really only blog about the kids. Now, granted, to some I am not at all interesting, but others find me worth the few minutes.

So I set out to help this gal understand that blogging isn't about a recap of what you did that day. You can write a whole post just about something funny at dinner or that silly photo of your kids or where you'd love to vacation. Any small and seemingly insignificant thought/item/experience is likely something we've all been through and like hearing others complain/rave about.

So, in that spirit, I found this writing prompt site and sent it to her so that she could use it when she runs out of ideas or when she wants to do the laundry list of her day post. (Although, I found this laundry list extremely well done.) I figured I'd post it here to in case someone needs inspiration during NaBloPoMo.


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Tell me I'm not the only one

I have really good blood pressure - so good, in fact, that every time the nurses would take my blood pressure when I was pregnant, they'd do it again and again and again because surely that fantastic reading was wrong. How can one be fat and have such sexy blood pressure?

I am here to confess that feeding my child turns my blood pressure into a nasty, hateful beast. I feel like I spend the majority of my time manipulating food into something she'll eat. But what she'll eat keeps changing ... she gobbles up apple cinnamon waffles one day and spits them out the next. She clamors for cheese ravioli one day and gags on it the next.

I can handle it at home. I simply offer her the food, watch her either refuse to open her mouth or let the half-chewed food roll out of her mouth. Then I take the food away and don't offer her anything else until snack time. Because I'm aware that she's not starving and that if she's really hungry, she'll eat.

But at a restaurant? Help me Jesus. I lose my patience. After wrangling her into the high chair and keeping her occupied until food arrives, she only wants to lick salad dressing off her crackers or suck the tomato sauce off her noodles. The rest? The rest she wants to crumble in her hands and then drop on the floor. She wants to wave at it then and yell "bye bye noo!" or "bye bye cacka!" And what does she do with those food caked hands? You guessed it: She runs them through her hair or wipes them on my shirt ... right before she throws her cup.

By the end of it, I can feel the blood throbbing through my veins. I can't breath well and my hands are shaky. I snap at people who think she's cute or who want to "just eat her up." I fantasize about the day when I can take her in public without feeling like I'm corralling a baby pig. I have to take deep breaths and demand no one talk to me in the car.

Am I the only one?

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The Stepford Kid

My son, who sometimes morphs into the Stepford Kid without warning me first, was on his best behavior at the dinner table tonight. He was recounting his day as a Terrific Kid (which he confessed to me earlier this week, he begged to be) and how yesterday he chose a boy to sit in the lunch booth* with him, so today he chose a girl.

That girl happened to be Jasmine R. (who he readily admits he loves). We tried to shake him so we asked him if they spent lunch making wedding plans, sang a few lines of "Javi and Jasmine sitting in a tree," and made funny faces at him. He didn't take the bait. Instead, he acted as though he was embarrassed by our elementary school antics. He rolled his eyes at me as if to say, geez Mom. I would NOT choose you to sit with me at the lunch booth.

So Billy and I got tired of the game and began to move on to other topics of conversation. That's when the real Javi burst forward. With all the sincerety he could muster, he revealed to us "Well, me and Jasmine did talk about how Dayquon** farted during pledge."

I almost choked on my food. Not because toilet humor is above me. Believe me, it's not. But this kid is like Jekyl and Hyde. One minute he's a fastidious Alex-P-Keaton (if he were liberal) in training and the next he's making fart noises with his arm pockets. Anyway, after I recovered, I asked him if that's really how the conversation went. Here's his recap:

I said "remember how dayquon farted when we said the pledge?" And then Jasmine said "yeah, he farted really loud." And then I said "I would never fart during the pledge" and Jasmine said "you should only fart in the bathroom or at home when people can't hear you" and then I said "or hang your butt out the door like my mom makes me do." And she said that was a good idea.
Classic. Just classic. I'd like to state that he saw no humor in this at all. He was really disgusted that Dayquon dared fart in the classroom and knows he's right because Jasmine agrees with him. I suppose they'll have to put up with Dayquon ... for now.

* Sitting in a lunch booth is the most sought after privilege and the reason most kids strive for Terrific Kid. Also, you get to choose your partner ... though Javi takes that duty very seriously.
** Along with Dayquon, there is a Shaquon and Jayquon in Javi's classroom. Move over Jaden, there's a new name ending in town!

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You can sleep easier

Crisis averted! I found the camera. Well, more accurately, Billy found the camera.

It was nestled among the junk (crinkled papers, old mail, fudge bar wrappers and sticks, one of Bella's shoes, and some dried up ink pens) that builds up between the couch and the chair (aka, my office).

So rest your pretty heads. All is right with the world.

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Letter to Bella, month eighteen

Dear Bella,

You may not know this about yourself yet, but you are 100 percent pork ... of the ham variety. You love to laugh and to make others laugh. I am not a natural comedian, but you, little girl, you have it.

I think I first realized it when we were at the photoshoot in early October. You are very shy with new people, but you kept your eye on the photographer and her little girl. You grinned at them when you thought they weren't looking. You peered around corners at them. When we all laughed at your antics, you played them up even more. Nothing made you happier than having you feet in the fountain ... as evidenced by your wet clothes and frozen feet when the shoot was over.

And that's what I'll remember most about you at 18 months old. You are a whole barrell of monkeys. For instance, you loved moving to the big tub, but not just because of the space. You also love that we laugh when you try to eat the bubbles or when you sit on the back of the tub and slide into the water. You revel in how much we enjoy watching you "swim" in the water. This will be embarrassing one day, so I must throw it in here: You have a problem and it's called "poop in the tub" syndrome. I suppose that's a sign that you're really comfy in there, but it makes the job of finding you utterly adorable a teensy bit harder.

We took you to three big events that caused no small amount of family trepidation: the Lee Regional Fair, the Pumpkin Festival and the No Scare Fair. At both, you basked in being the center of attention. Whether you were kissing little puppies or dancing with giganto Minnie Mouses, you were the star. I was so worried that you'd be overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds - especially at the fair. But, not you. You wanted more of everything. More baby animals, more cotton candy, more carousel rides, more jumping in the bouncy house, and definitely more dancing onstage.

But you've had sweet, quiet moments, too. Often after you get home from daycare, I'll find you curled up beside your dad just drinking some juice while he watches the news. Or, you'd grab your favorite book (This Little Piggy) and climb into my lap, holding up your toes to let me know you're ready. My absolute favorite time of day with you is first thing in the morning. You wake up with crazy hair, jumping up and down in your crib, ready for the day. But when I pick you up, you collapse against me and let me snuggle you while you drink a big cup of warm Ovaltine. You are never sweeter than those moments.

Of course, they never last too long. You have been - and likely always will be - a busybody. There is no time for sitting around being sweet. You must dance and twirl and jump! You used to dance by twirling and bouncing, but now you must HOP to the music. You launch your body upwards so that both feet catch some air time before you land again ... and less than a second passes before you're up again.

As someone who watched you slowly move from getting up on wobbly hands and knees to gingerly pulling yourself up on stable objects to hesitantly creeping around on two legs, being in the presence of a hopping, dancing machine makes my heart soar. You will start gymnastics next month - and life as we know it will be over.

If you can't tell ... I'm so proud of you! You are an amazing little bundle of energy. Every day you learn something new. Yesterday, you dad taught you to say "Boo!" to scare people. We were eating grapes and you learned to say "pull!" when you would pull a grape off the stem. You love to say "knock knock" when you come to a closed door.

I think your brother said it best when we were sitting at the dinner table the other night. You were yelling "boo!" at all of us and he turned to me and said, "Mom, I'm so glad Bella is our baby!" That's the feeling we all have, sweet pea. We are blessed for having you in our lives.

Love, Mama

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Have you seen my camera?

I loaned my camera to my sister on Election Day so that she could take a photo of herself voting for the first time. She brought it back to me last weekend and I used it to take some random photo of the kids.

And then it disappeared. I seriously can't find it! I've looked under the couches, behind the tv, under all the crap on our countertops, behind the stacks of overdue library books, in the pile of Bella's shoes, under the bed, and in the freezer (you never know).

I'm beginning to freak out!

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Prop 8 Hits Home

I found out last night that my cousin (my dad's sister's daughter) got married two months ago to her longtime girlfriend. They live in San Francisco where they share custody of my cousin's 9-year-old son with the son's biological father, who my cousin dated until she came out.

I am saddened by the marriage news. Not because I don't believe my cousin should be allowed to marry the person she loves, but because she didn't tell us about it. I worry that she thinks her family in North Carolina can't (or won't) understand and accept her as she is. I worry that she feels she has to keep her life a secret from us.

We are not close with her because we were not close with my father growing up ... but I remember when I was 10 years old and Gloria came out to spend the summer with us. We were so amazed by her - this girl who grew up in the big city with our grandmother in her life. This girl with her stunning looks and (gasp!) hair on her underarms and privates. This girl who used words we'd never heard of before and who introduced us to Super Mario Bros.

The next summer, my sisters and I visited them in San Francisco. That visit went horribly and I have not seen my cousin or my grandmother since. Since that summer, we have all grown up, had children, lived in numerous places and had numerous experiences.

When I found out my cousin was out, I called her - a special call from Boston to San Francisco. I remember feeling a kinship with her because I was spending much of my free time working at the oldest woman's bookstore in the state ... and that store was investing much of its time in a GLBT conference series that I was promoting. I knew that Gloria and I had nothing in common save for DNA, but I wanted to express to her that I was there if she needed me.

We spoke briefly, talked about how we should reconnect, and about how Boston and SF are so much alike. But that was it and that was our last real conversation. Another 8 years have passed and now she and her partner are wife and wife. I would've liked to send something, to recognize and show my support for them.

But now I wonder: Is it too late? Will their marriage be annulled? Does Prop 8 mean that my cousin has lost the right to be a wife? Should I send a congratulatory gift or note for the marriage ... or my condolences that their state stripped their rights?

I listened to Keith Obermann today - and his comment sums up how I'm feeling.

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Super Pooper

My child has a problem. She poops in the tub. Two nights in a row now she's done. The first time I caught her in the act and yanked her out.

The second time? I had overdone the bubbles a bit, so when I heard her making a funny noise and looked over at her, I believed her act. She smiled really big and yelled "duck!" - so I assumed she was just playing... so I let her play awhile longer and then washed her and took her out.

It wasn't until later in the evening - after she was soundly asleep - that the poo was spotted. I had forgotten to let the water out of the tub and the bubbles slowly dissappated. Billy went in to shower and found her secret brown surprise! Just floating around in the now-disgusting water.

I couldn't believe it! I washed her in that water! Hello, I've earned Bad Mama badge #132.

Game plan: We have now equipped the bathroom with a Dora toilet seat. Every night before bath, we'll plop little Pooper on the seat and see what happens. We also will keep a keen eye on her to ensure no more poo!

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It's all gonna be okay

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The Sickness

I started feeling sickly a few days ago and knew it was because my children cough, sneeze, and wipe their runny noses on me every day. I don't normally get sick-sick, so I bumped up my water and vitamin C content.

It didn't work. My head is stuffy, my throat is sore, my nose is runny and my body aches. Meanwhile, my children have sloughed off any trace of their respective colds. Those little butter-nubbers infected me and get to walk away unscathed! The punks!

I'm sucking on strawberry-flavored Halls and downing pots of orange juice. It's sugar overload, but it's keeping me alive.

Bella's letter coming soon - you know, just as soon as words don't make my head hurt more. :)

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I Live In A BLUE State!!!!!

The absolutely awesome aspects of this election continue to come in.

1) Our nation didn't fault a presidential candidate for the fact of his skin.

2) NC elected its first female governor AND ousted Jesse Helms' hand-picked replacement for his Senate seat.

3) We are a BLUE state! For the first time since 1976, my fellow North Carolinians went Democrat. So now if there's a red-state blue-state split, I get to be with the Statue of Liberty, stem cell research, beautiful beaches, Harvard and Berkley, two-thirds of tax revenues, less divorce, anti-war, fresh water, fresh fruit and cheese, etc. You get the point.

And can you believe this is all because people exercised their rights to VOTE? We didn't have to pass laws in the middle of the night or strong-arm people into anything - we all just did the American thing and voted.

The United States is truly a glorious place to live.

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Question for the conservatives

I saw on a messageboard I frequent where people are saying that if we step-down our presence in Iraq, we are somehow devaluing the lives of the American troops who have fought and died there.

I suppose my questions are:

1) Why are we training Iraqi military forces to run their own country if we're never going to step down our presence? I've yet to hear President Obama say that the war is over on Jan. 21, 2009, but I have heard him say that we need to establish a timeline for allowing Iraq to govern and police itself so that we can reallocate our troops to the real battleground: Afghanistan. I imagine he will work with senior military advisors to determine that timeline rather than simply pull a date out of his magician's hat. And our troops are working harder than I've ever had to work as they train Iraq to run itself. So why must our heavy presence there be indefinite?

2) Why don't we want to work with the United Nations and our previous allies to make our wars a success? Couldn't we step down our presence by working with the UN and allies to put some other countries' troops in our citizens' places? Wouldn't it help us to have allies in this battle?

3) This question really hits me in the gut because I know so many men and women whose lives were changed forever by the Vietnam War. How can you say that leaving a country without "winning" means that our troops gave their lives for nothing? In Iraq, many of them gave their lives because George Bush asked them to. Many gave their lives because they felt it was the right thing to do. Many gave their lives because our government wouldn't let them come home.

And in Vietnam, people gave their lives for all of those reasons and also because the government forced them to. And we didn't "win" that war. We had to resign ourselves to Vietnam being a complicated ball of yarn that we couldn't unravel. But in no way, shape, or form does that mean that all of those deaths were for nothing! And it also doesn't mean that the men and women who came home traumatized from that war weren't due respect and admiration for doing the job our government signed them up for.

I know that our country will not treat Afghanistan or Iraq War veterans as dispicably as it did the Vietnam veterans when our country does allow them to come home. I know that we - as a nation - are proud of our men and women in the military. I know that every injury, every death, and every sacrifice will be repaid with kindness, gratitude, respect and admiration.

How can anyone honestly say or believe that leaving Iraq tosses those sacrifices into the trash? If it does negate our troops' sacrifices, does it mean that all those who laid down their lives in Vietnam mean nothing? Is this what pro-Vietnam people thought back in the 70s? Does this mean that McCain's years of torture as a POW were for nothing? I may not have voted for McCain, but I respect him - and his spiritual survival of that torture is large part of the reason.

Please explain! I want to understand because I do believe we need to create a timeline to end this war. I do believe we need to train Iraq to run itself and focus back on our country and its true enemies, including Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Help me see why that's wrong.

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History Books

Thanks, Jenn, for this awesome graphic.

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Top 5 Reasons NC's Results Still Aren't In

1. Who told you North Carolinians can count?

2. Their Excel spreadsheets had too many circular references.

3. God is angry about Kay Hagan.

4. They're still waiting for someone to realize Obama is black.

5. The dingo ate their ballots. (Billy is worried no one will get this one.)

Runners Up:
6. Radical muslim socialist black liberation theologists are holding everyone hostage.

7. They're trying to find the voter fraud. It HAS to be there!

8. There's still confusion over whether we killed him in a cave on the border of Pakistan.

9. There was a barbecue cook-off in Selma.

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HE'S IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

284 electoral votes now that California, Oregona and Washington have been called.

HOLY COW. I honestly wasn't sure it would happen.

Billy gives a big "eff ew" to Texas. :)

Now - could North Carolina PLEASE FINISH COUNTING??????????????????? I just want to know what color we are!

Update: Way to disappoint, NC. Way to disappoint.

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I woke the baby

My loud squeal for Ohio obviously penetrated the walls in our itty bitty house .... and immediately Bella let out a squeal that matched it. She's back asleep now and I am on the edge of my seat!

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Yes We Did.

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Go Vote!!!

No matter who wins this election, I am so proud of my country for the distance it has traveled since some of these photos were taken. We must be making our country's greatest leaders proud.

My hope is that after tomorrow we can pick up where we left off 8 years ago - regardless of who takes the oath in January. We must only move forward!

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Almost over

I'll be so happy on Nov. 5 - even if my candidate doesn't win - because finally these nasty, thuggish political ads will be off the airwaves and hopefully the slimeball rhetoric will cease.

Now, if my candidate wins ... I will be ecstatic. If the opponent wins, I will just have to pray that the next 4 years heal the deep scars the past 8 years have left our country with.

I suppose the bottom line is hope. That's all I've got ... well, hope and a vote, but I cast my vote last week so now I'm dependent on the my fellow Americans.

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Hip Hop Baby

My baby has learned to jump ... and she'll do it on command. So cute!

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Did you see the Giraffes video on SNL last night? OMLawd that was hilarious. We played it for Javi and he turned to me, very seriously, and said "See! I told you people shouldn't vote for them."

He then returned to reading his book on Abraham Lincoln. Because that's how he rolls.

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Scary Halloween

When Javi was four, he began calling Halloween "scaaaaaaarrrrry Hallllloooooweeeeeeen" in a very spooky-for-a-kid voice. He hasn't done that this year, leading me to believe he really is 7-going-on-17... Even though he did act like a big kid while carving his pumpkin. It was sweet to see him acting his age for once.

But both children seemed to enjoy the holiday. Javi originally was going to dress as Rey Mysterio, but decided at the last minute he wanted to be a spooky ghost. So, I bought face paint and spent 30 minutes doing him up. I think it took him a good 10 minutes to start complaining. The paint made his face tight, the paint was on his lips, he didn't want any red on his face, the paint was in his hair ... and it went on and on. Unfortunately, he didn't shake it off until after we visited Aunt Jean and Grandma's houses - and both ladies are big Halloween buffs, so I think he disappointed them with his whiny, I'd-rather-be-anywhere-else attitude.

However, Ms. Bella Mouse played up the trick-or-treating. She is a firm believer that all children should have as much candy as they can possibly fit in their mouths. She's a fan of Junior Carmels, candy bracelets, suckers, nerds, gummies, and M&Ms, thought I doubt she'd turn anything down. Well, except a popcorn ball. She scraped it off her tongue the one time her dad tricked her into trying it.

After visiting Grandma and Aunt Jean, we came back home to meet up with Nana and Poppie, who hung out with me and Bell while Javi and Dad went around the neighborhoods in our area. Bella loved handing out candy. She tried to hug and love every little person who came to the door. Also, the children loved her light-up shirt and socks and Nana's red, sparkly horns.

I'm glad we got good use out of all the costumes laying around our house, and hopefully the house will return to normal soon. Please let me know if you need 6 or 7 lbs of candy ... we can make a deal!

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An answer to CampGordon

I am only updating today to kick off NaBloPoMo. After 4 hours of Jaycee training and stuff, my head needs a break! I came home and sacked out on the couch until eventually Billy made me get out of everyone's way by moving to the bedroom. Do you expect me to suffer through sitting up with the laptop when I could writhe dramatically while watching Law & Order reruns?

I do want tell you I got a call from Amy (referenced here) giving me the what-for for bringing up a 10-year-old example about the scapegoating. However, I think it's the funniest example and really kicked things off - so I'm leaving it. I did tell her to start her own blog so she can post her own 7 things, which would include "my friends used to pimp me out for their own personal gain."

And that would be a direct finger pointing straight at me (and Amanda) for those sordid college years in which I'd put her right up on the butcher's block in exchange for a biscuit, a ride home, $3 to get into ladies' night at some dive club. However, I would like to make it known she once benefited in the form of a $20 bill still in the bank envelope. Also, that ride home was for her, too. So there!

Who wouldn't read campgordon.blogspot.com?

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Baby in a box

You can't tell but she's really upset she lost her peanut butter sandwich over this.

Baby in a box

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7 Things

Katie tagged me, so I am telling you 7 things about myself you might not know or realize. However, just as you'll never uncover a photograph of me doing bad things because my mama might see it, this list is mama-friendly (hi mama!):

1. I may be the only parent who finds other kids as cute as her kids. I honestly believe that I have two good-lookin' children. They have traditionally good looks, but they also have some pretty awesome personalities. To me, Bella is most beautiful when she's dancing in circles listening to one of those aweful kids' songs she loves and Javier is most handsome when he's animatedly telling me a story about something in his day or sharing his logic with me (example). But, I will run into other children in the world who seem just as adorable. However, according to my husband and my mom - those children may be okay to look at ... but they don't hold a candle to our kids. My mom says this about Bella more often than any other kid. Maybe most people don't compare boys' looks as much as they do girls'? Anyway - sometimes I feel that I should be biased, but I feel very objective about it.

2. I like to make fun of my children (and probably yours, too). My family has an infamously morbid humor. Anyone who gets along well with us probably shares that humor. That means I can laugh and joke about things other people find sacrosanct. For example, my son has the biggest teeth known to 7 year olds. I mean - they are like two surfboards hanging from his gums. Sometimes after he eats, there'll still be food stuck to the upper half of them - which is why I force him to brush ... a lot. Of course, I do not make fun of my kid (or yours) if there's any chance I could be overheard. But, dude, it's pretty funny stuff.

3. I am often other people's scapegoat. I am known for being upfront and honest. I know many people who live in carefully constructed bubbles. When their bubbles encounter friction, those people often bring up my name. I may have only a distant connection to the problem (such as I know the same people as the bubble-dweller), but nine times out of ten, it'll be me who takes the fall. My friend Amy perfected this strategy back in college when she was online dating this guy in Canada. She'd have me say or send things, then when the guy got upset, she'd say "Hey, it was Kelly!" Not many of the newer people in my life are guilty of this fall-back, but many of the people who've been around for a while are. My favorite component of this strategy is that many times the guilty parties are so clueless that they may actually believe that I am Voldemort.

4. I watch a lot of tv, but I spend way more time reading online junk. Okay, not everything I read is "junk," per se, but I spend a inordinate amount of time reading user-generated content. And, I often consider that content just as authoritative as traditional media. For instance, my feeds are full of this and this. But, they are also full of personal blogs, mom blogs and local blogs. Notice: blogs, blogs, and some more blogs. As a work-from-home mom, I think my blogs help me feel connected, as though I am dropping by the "watercooler" in many different offices. Yay for blogs!

5. I was almost a biologist. Can you imagine? As an undergrad, I double majored in English and Gender Studies. In fact, I chose my college based on its fantastic English department. However, in my freshman year, I had to take one of those 100-person Biology seminar classes .... and it was awesome. I enjoyed learning more about the human body and the subject clicked in my brain in a way that science never had before. If I could've focused more on biology, I might have considered changing my major, but instead I loaded up on science courses that fit my Gender Studies curriculum. That means I've taken lots of sociology, psychology and physiology courses, which were also fascinating. I am confident that I wasn't cut out to be a scientist, but I do know several English majors who started out at as Biology majors, and many science/math people who started out as English majors ... so perhaps there's a connect somewhere?

6. I have always wanted to leave in a commune. I don't know that commune is exactly the word, but I'd love to have a safe space for women and children where we make our own food and clothes, provide job skills and training, and focus on creating strong, healthy women ... who would then raise strong, healthy children. I'd love to be in a position to work with a non-profit that would tie into that dream, but unfortunately with the cost of child care and all my student loans, etc., I must continue churning out content for The Man.

7. I used to have a crush on Jesse Helms. Yes, you read that correctly. Jesse "The Devil" Helms. I can only explain this by saying that my papa was a staunch Republican, and I spent a lot of time with him and his girlfriend at the time... and they spent a lot of time watching and talking about Jesse. I thought he was an angel and wanted to give him a big hug. I shared that with my mother, who promptly threw up a little in her mouth and warned that my great-grandparents were rolling over in their graves. In my defense, I was probably 10 at the time and didn't realize that Jesse would consider my very birth an abomination. As I got older and actually paid attention to ol' Jesse, I came to my senses. :)

I hear a baby crying ... time to start our day!

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A lesson on how to vote

I wouldn't presume to tell you how to vote in the Presidential election. However, my son has some insight on how to vote in the contest the 2nd grade is running on November 4...

J: Mama. (That's its own sentence, you know.) What am I going to vote for: lion, dolphin, or giraffe?

M: I don't know, why are you voting for one of them?

J: I don't really remember but I have to vote for a lion, dolphin, or giraffe.

M: Okay, so which one are you thinking about?

J: Well, I don't like predators and giraffes are too tall. I can't even reach its head! I don't want to kill it though.

M: I'm glad you don't want to kill it. So, the lion's out and the giraffe is too tall. So, you're voting for the dolphin.

J: Yep, the dolphin. I think that's good because everybody likes dolphins, they're cute, girls like them. Yeah, I'm going to vote for dolphins.

And that, my friends, is what you call a decision-making process. Did he talk smack about the lion for being a predator? Nope. Did he ridicule the giraffe's long neck? Nope. He voted for the dolphin because not only does he like dolphins, but he knows that others like them, too. He's a diplomat.

Now we just have to figure out what in the world he's voting on. He did tell me that people need to stop hunting birds because there aren't as many birds in the world now as there used to be - so maybe they're doing a unit on natural habitats or something.....?

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Out of the mouths of babes

My son, like Malia Obama, has zero patience with political commercials and has gotten increasingly more frustrated with back-to-back negative ads on television. Normally he watches Disney, Noggin or Nick, but we watch Ugly Betty together and he watches wrestling with his dad.

So yesterday we were watching The Haunted Mansion and there was a political ad. Javi turned to me and said, "Can you forward it?" - meaning, can you skip ahead in the DVR. I had to admit that we were watching the movie live and he swung his head to me and said "Mama! I can't believe you didn't tape this! I'm sooooo TIRED of politics!"

He then asked for a sucker to help alleviate the pain of having to watch a political ad in the middle of his tv time. I had to give in - and I've learned my lesson! DVR to the rescue.

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