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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