Fall around here brings birthdays and soccer and running and enchanted creatures in the forest.

 

Nora turned 3.

Yippee!

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And monsters have become the thing that gets her out of her bed and into mine WAY too much. But thanks to all of the kind advice from a little Facebook crowdsourcing, here she is with her new Monster Catcher. It seems to working so far.

 

 

monster catcher

 

Now if only it would catch her before she pours entire bottles of fingernail polish into the sink. Or tries to wash her brother’s mirror with lotion. Or empties her entire book shelf to find the book she calls Loudly Loudly. This book (actually called Holler Loudly) is threatening to take me to a dark place. I have been forced to read it at least three times a day for the past two weeks and when I first started to read it, in my innocence, I read it with a really terrible southern accent and now I am also forced to continue to do this. And so, I may have hidden it. But then that backfired with the unloading of the bookshelf.

So.

Grayson is in soccer. The first few games usually start off super slow. But usually by the end of the season the whole team is finally figuring out how to play together and I will admit I get embarrassingly excited whenever anyone gets even close to the goal. There is just something weirdly satisfying about watching your kid kick a ball. This might be the only life situation where we encourage him to be aggressive, which isn’t exactly his go-to demeanor. I mean, he gave his little sister the middle name “Rainbow” right? And he gets a little teary sometimes when Nora hugs him out of the blue. He has to work a little at aggression.

 

See below.

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The kid gets pretty tired out from all the trying and the running and the latent competitiveness that I just know is running through his veins.

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Notice the money he has clutched in his hand and the new bling. There is a great little shop in Idaho Springs (right across from the brewery) and Gray saved his money so he could buy some prayer beads there. I know. He might just be the first Buddhist in our family.

The nice shop owner noticed that Nora was admiring the hat in the pictures below (probably because she was screaming “I really want dis hat!” very very loudly at one point) and as we walked out the door, he just handed it to her. So yeah, customers for life.

And Nora learned a valuable life lesson that if she makes a big enough fuss about something, some stranger will give her stuff for free. Just getting her prepared to live here in ‘Merica.

She’s been wearing the hat ever since. Even when it was 80 degrees out.

We also made our way to The Enchanted Forest that our local Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center puts on every Fall at Mud Lake. It’s fun. The guy that is dressed as a bear acts drunk and that is pretty much the highlight for me.

The bus trip to Mud Lake selfie:

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Robb hula-hooping and Grayson trying to sneak by him looking like he is pretending not to know him:

Who IS that guy?

Who IS that guy?

 

The Moose and our tour guide Fairy:

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The Bobcat:

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And I have been neglecting my blog in favor of training for a Half Marathon that was sadly cancelled at the last minute, writing on my book (!), and well, monster-wrangling. I hope you are all having a wonderful Fall!

 

 

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I was never in dance growing up.  Not that I wouldn’t have been, it’s just that I grew up in a small town in South Dakota and I don’t think that dance classes were a super high priority. I’m pretty sure I could have found a class in my town on learning how to drive a tractor, how to properly wrestle a calf, or maybe even How To Apply Crisco While Tanning on Barn Roofs. But dance, not so much.

Now, however, we have found ourselves the parents of a little girl who is creating a tutu situation around here that is a little ridiculous. We recently decided that maybe we needed a place to channel some of her frilly, twirly energy before our house explodes into a cloud of tulle and ribbons and fancy shoes and they never find our bodies.

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Here are some things I didn’t realize before signing my three-year-old daughter up for her first dance class:

1. That I would need to take out a second mortgage or sell a kidney in order to buy, not only ballet AND tap shoes, but also the hot pink leotard tutu concoction that became lodged in my daughter’s vise-like grip at the local dance store. Note to any other mothers out there thinking of taking their child into a store specifically made for dance; Don’t.

2. That I would underestimate my daughter’s attachment to her new dance things. After putting on the entire ensemble once we got home, including tap shoes, she began to fall, repeatedly, on our wood floor because of the slippery shoe bottoms. Eventually I said, “Maybe you should take your tap shoes off so you don’t break you bottom today.” But, in her desperation to continue to wear the super fancy, future-head-injury-disguised-as-a-pair-of-shoes she said, “I’ll just crawl mom. See! I like crawling!”

3. That I would soon realize why the dance instructor briefly allowed the parents in the dance room to help don our children’s tap shoes and take a couple of pictures and then politely told us to get the heck out. The kids would have never been able to hear the Frozen sound track over the audible swooning and the,  Oh My Gawds!!! and, They Are So Cutes!!! and the, Look at them tap their darling little tap shoes’!!!”

4. That the first dance class might turn the mother’s into women that they didn’t quite recognize. There was only one tiny side window in which we could all see about half the class at any one time. There may have some polite shoving involved. I don’t really remember. We were all very excited.

5. I didn’t understand what an amazing bargaining tool that the hot pink tutu concoction would be. Getting a three-year-old to listen to all of the words that are coming out of your mouth is challenging. Unless…you have leverage. That dance dress has become the ultimate leverage. “If you throw your brother’s art project all over the room because you are angry at him, you are choosing to lose your dance dress.” or, “If you continue to make going to bed into an MMA Fighting Championship, you are choosing to lose your dance dress.” or even, “If you continue to talk to me in a voice that only dogs can hear, you are choosing to lose your freaking dance dress!”

6. How she would tell everyone, including every checkout person we see, our garbage lady, or anyone accidentally making eye contact with her, about her “Dance Party” and her “New dwess! That twirls and sparkles!” And is, of course, hand-wash only.

7. That I would need to make a deep investment into Woolite because I am going to be hand-washing that thing every day of my life.

8. That my daughter would start to creep me out a little standing there in The Dress, hip jutted out, head at a weird angle, and talking in an even higher falsetto than her normal voice saying, “I am a pweeetty pwincess! Aren’t I mommy? Say it! Say I’m pwetty pwincess!”

9. And well, the cuteness. Oh my gawd.

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I’m over at Scary Mommy today with this post talking about this girl.

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Toddlers are kind of like escaped insane asylum patients who you are forced to feed a strict diet of noodles and applesauce and then they are allowed to touch your eyeballs while you are sleeping.

But, they are also like the naked truth of humanity walking around doing everything that we secretly WANT to do but have learned through societal norms that we must NOT do. Yes, there are many reasons why I love toddlers. (Well, at least mine. Yours is kind of annoying.)

1. They are adorable enough during even the worst temper tantrum that you never actually toss them from a high place. How is it possible that I can find the enraged, snot-streaked face hollering at me still one of the cutest things ever? Must be a survival of the species thing.

2. They feel ALL the feelings. This can definitely work against you if they happen to miss seeing the random cow you pointed out during a car ride. But they also have so much love to give! Like a short, creepy stalker kind of love, but still.

3. They help you gain upper body strength with all the shoe-wrestling and clothes-putting-on and tooth-brushing. I will sometimes pick my toddler up in the middle of a tantrum and she is kicking so hard in my general direction that I have to hold her at arm’s length to get her to time-out without me receiving bodily injury. But my Deltoids are amazing!

4. They live in the moment. You, as their parent, can learn to appreciate the pretty flowers on the side of the road while you are on your hands and knees with a box of wipes and a soaked and unwilling version of yourself. And don’t forget about appreciating the “I love you Mommy song” in the gas station rest room that might go on for a good long time while you try to get them to concentrate on what they are doing. So sweet.

5. They try SO hard. The determination! The commitment! I wish I could sell the single-minded focus my child gives to convincing me she needs to wear her tutu with everything.

6. Their wants are still so simple. Rocks. Water. Tupperware. Day made.

7. You are pretty much a superhero. You probably won’t ever feel as loved as you do when the preschool teacher is physically wrenching your small toddler away from you at drop off.

8. You can still fool them a little. They actually believe you when you say that eating their vegetables will make them grow big. They don’t always care, but they believe you.

9. They get excited about…freaking everything. I wish I could muster the same amount of excitement for my life as my toddler does about simply going through a car wash.

10. They still want to cuddle and they still might call cantaloupe, “camel milk.” Their babyhood is leaving and you will have to tell them the proper way to say stuff eventually, but not today. And if they go to Kindergarten still calling a dump truck a dumb f*ck, well, they should have thought of that before they Sharpied the window sills.

 

 

I find myself at the zoo once a year.

 

This is usually when a friend from out-of-town with children is coming to Denver and it has been a year since I have been to the zoo so I have forgotten what the zoo is actually like.

 

Here are some reasons why the zoo sucks:

 

1. Sunscreen Mosh Pit Hell. This is the place where Moms are punished for not putting sunscreen on their children before walking out of the house. The Moms then have to pay for this sin by being forced to lotion the bodies of drunken Orangutans, otherwise knows as their very excited children.

2. It’s hot. I usually only go to the zoo when it’s 1000 degrees out. I’m sure there’s a psychological reason behind this.

3. At least one person is going to give your frantically excited kid the stink-eye for going against traffic in the doorway, nudging their kid out of the way to see the humping bears, or generally being a menace to the zoo-going society. It’s okay, you will return the favor.

4. The stroller situation. I am in stroller purgatory right now. My littlest is still too little to not bring one for all of the crap and snacks and water, but she is too big to actually use the stroller for anything other than a jungle gym.

5. Most of the pictures look like this:

6. Or after 15 minutes of bribing them with ice cream, a future trip to the gift shop, and a college education, I can get them to smile about this big:

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7. I am with my friend who I haven’t seen forever, but I don’t ever actually get to talk to her because toddlers are crazy, and the big kids want cotton candy and a carousel ride and to see whatever is around the next corner because this animal isn’t doing ANYTHING.

8. And that’s because most of the animals are nocturnal (and hot!) so they all look about like this:

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9. The gift shop that you bribed them with is its own version of hell, especially after a full day of crazy.

10. Your kids are so exhausted that they have to sit in time-out 4 times at dinner.


And here are some reasons why it can be sorta fun:

 

1. Humping bears. This happened last year and it was actually pretty entertaining.

Kids: Look Mommy, that big bear is hugging that littler one from behind!

Moms: Cough. Snort. Giggle.

Kids: What are they doing?

Moms: Ummm….wrestling.

Kids: I think that little one is mad at the big one! Look how she is biting at him!

Moms: Yep. I see that. Okay! Lets go see the lemurs!

2.The Flamingos, despite being smelly. One particular Flamingo stepped it up this year by having a baby and getting super bent out of shape whenever any other flamingo even looked in the general direction of her baby.

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3.The actual Orangutans, not the drunken ones I am chasing around. The Denver Zoo has a small family of Orangutans and they often remind me of my own family. Last year we watched as the baby Orangutan kept bothering his Dad who finally ran away and hid under a blanket. So then the baby wandered over and started jumping on his Mom and she finally got so annoyed that she climbed to the top of tree where the baby couldn’t reach her. I felt then that we were kindred spirits.

orangutan

4. We all actually have a pretty good time.

5.And…my kids are so exhausted that they fall asleep before we leave the parking lot.

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I’m from a small town.

Like the kind of town where you ride on a flatbed trailer in a parade and squirt people with squirt guns and throw candy to the kids when it’s your 20th High School reunion.

The kind of small town where, at one time or another, I have done all of these things in this same parade; ridden a horse, been in a fancy dress in a convertible, played in a marching band, and wore a cheerleading outfit doing something like this (I know):

cheerleading

The kind of small town where most of your graduating class started the first day of kindergarten together.

The kind of small town where you and your girlfriends all dated the exact same guys at one time or another and this was normal.

The kind of small town where jumpy castles and bed races and a fireman’s ball are Where It’s At during the reunion weekend.

Cowboy hats.

Bud light.

The best Prime Rib you will ever ever eat.

 

Custer is in the heart of the Black Hills and 20 minutes from Mount Rushmore which means when you grow up there, everyone starts working when they are 14 because there are 9 million jobs available in town over the summer. My first job was being a dishwasher and a bus person and if that doesn’t make you want to go to college, I don’t know what will. This year was my 20th High School reunion which is completely crazy because I think I might still be only 19. I mean, I still feel nervous sometimes when I buy wine in a liquor store.

 

This is the way you have an amazing time at your 20th High School reunion when you are from a small town:

 

1. Make sure you bring your people with you.

girls

Not pictured is my very patient husband who is sitting somewhere observing his crazy wife having a great time with all the other very patient husbands.

2. Begin the weekend by drinking whatever it is you (as the mature grown-up type person that you are now) drink and then by midnight the last night make sure you have devolved (evolved?) into only drinking Bud Light and eating moonshine-soaked strawberries.

3. Reconnect with old friends but also talk to people who you never really got to know in high school.

4. And even meet some of them for the first time! (Ha ha you know who you are)

5. Don’t try to play basketball and relive your glory days (sorry Jen-thanks for representing) because running in a straight line is about all anyone can ask of you these days.

6. Hug everyone that you see, especially if they are wearing a cowboy hat.

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7. Take a class picture with the purple dinosaur.

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Poor Dino has been violated by most of Custer’s graduating classes. Note the bare spot where a certain body part suddenly appears every Spring.

8.Take several pictures where you look like this:

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10. And this.

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I can’t keep my eyes open to save my life!

11. Laughingly tell the wife of the very first boy you kissed (in 6th grade) that you hope he has learned something since then. I seriously said this. I blame the Bud Light.

12. Ride on a flatbed trailer in a parade armed only with squirt guns and candy and a false sense of security.

13. Not realize that you will soon be considered “The Entertainment”

13. Get bombarded during a very deliberate and stealthy water balloon attack by one of your class members family..survive smugly with only part of you getting soaked.

12. And then finally….at the very end of the parade, get hosed down by the fire department while you run shrieking down the street with no shoes. Cause that’s what they do in a small town. The firemen hose you down. With a fire hose. For fun.

It was a beautiful thought, really.

 

Robb’s grandparents had died earlier this year so we had joined some of their ashes to spread around the outside of the home that they had shared for their entire marriage. Great Grandpa John had even been born in this house.

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As we walked over to the 100-year-old farm-house, Nora tripped and fell and began the process of trying to decide if she was hurt or not. Robb and I (trained in the art of minimizing hollering) probably said something like, “Nice crash!”

Nora decided that she might actually have an injury so she began to whimper a little. Grayson quickly turned around and helped her up and brushed her off and even admired her new scratch and I was reminded again about how he is sometimes a much better parent than me. Or he is just a huge sucker.

We made it over to the house and everyone in the family began to take a handful of ashes to scatter around the yard.

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Grayson may have been a bit nervous about the whole thing. Because he kinda knew what was going on.

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Nora wasn’t nervous. Because she obviously didn’t know what the heck was going on. But we thought it would be good for her to participate in this family celebration of life.

 

Which may have been a mistake.

 

She grabbed a great big handful of ashes.

 

Here I am documenting this beautiful symbol of family. Of love. Of the passage of time. Of multiple generations of family.

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And then Nora…

 

put the ashes in her hair.

photo 3 (46)And she even rubbed it around a little.

 

I’m not really sure what she thought it was but doesn’t she look absolutely gleeful?

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There might have been some shrieking then. By me. By the bigger kids. I’m not really sure. But I think she kinda figured out that something was up when everyone simultaneously began to shout at her that she needed to get into the bathtub Right Away.

 

Here is her screaming, “I need a bath!”

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It takes an incredible amount of soap to get human ash out of hair. Another fact that I never in a million years thought I would know.

 

I know that Robb’s grandparents were cracking up though, so I guess that’s all that matters.

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I’m over at Scary Mommy today talking about swim noodles and kids named Namaste Jones.

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Fountain Enema

Now that summer is finally, hopefully, for the love of all things hot and sunscreeny, here…we have been making the rounds at some popular pools in Boulder. Sometimes I find it fascinating to watch other people interact with their kids. This may mean that I don’t get out a whole lot.

Here are some variations of Moms that I have seen at the pool:

1. The Regulars: The swimming pool that you are at is their swimming pool, you just haven’t realized it yet. They come in small groups and set up shop at the prime sunny/shady spot with their matching fold-out chairs and their coordinated snacks and brightly colored towels and eye you a little suspiciously if they don’t recognize you. They are together. You are clearly not in their togetherness with your raggedy bath towels and your chocolatey-faced children.

2. The Nannies (Or “Au Pairs” if fanciness is required): They often look as weary as any mother. One told me the other day, after she rehearsed an oddly mechanical phrase to the child she was watching, that she has a set “script” that she was supposed to say to get the children to stop doing something. I could tell that her heart wasn’t really in it though, and I think the little girl could too, because she kept right on pushing those other kids off the ladder to the slide like it was The Lord of the Flies.

3. The Fun Mom: This mom makes us all look bad and I don’t like her very much. She tickles her kid going down the slide EVERY TIME and she lets the kid ride around on her back even though they are clearly choking her and she encourages games of tag where she actually tries to catch them and everything. And she brings swim noodles for chrissakes. Swim noodles. Her kids look pretty smug too, as if they know they had done something pretty great in a previous life to earn Fun Mom.

4. The Phone Moms: We all need to talk at some point, but there are some moms that literally spend the whole time on the phone at the side of the pool. It’s impressive. Their child is eating other people’s snacks, using my kid as a floaty and clogging up the slide situation by trying to go up backwards and Phone Mom is completely clueless.

5. The Toddler plus New Infant Desperation Mom: She has a new baby snoozing at the side of the pool. She has a toddler wreaking havoc like a boss. She is lucky if her swimsuit is on in the right direction. She looks a little freaked out around the eyes. We’ve all been there. You may see her nodding off a bit as she sits down in the shallow end and then get startled awake when her toddler pokes her face with an errant swim noodle.

 

And you can read the rest here!

 

 

 

I’m so excited to be on the Huffington Post today! This is a rework of “The Stamp Incident” that I published in December.

 

A leprechaun siting!

 

It all started to go wrong while grocery shopping.

This was because I decided to let my 2-year-old, Nora, push her own cart and every time I turned around, she had put another frozen chicken or other random food item into it. These were things like cartons of plain yogurt (no, thank you), or roasted chestnuts (festive, but I don’t think I would know what to do with them), or Raisin Bran, which she called “meatballs.” She also proceeded to freak out when I took the random food item out. Each time I took something out, she screamed at me, “my shopping!” And I could hear her really saying, Step off, lady, I am trying to feed this family and my bubba (her brother) likes chicken and yogurt and meatballs!

Finally, because I wanted to appear as if I had some semblance of control over the small human I was shopping with, I got down to her level and said,”OK, sister, here’s how it’s going to go down. You can only put what I give you in your cart or we can just put that cart away.”

Boo-yah, little girl.

In retrospect, Love and Logic would have told me to say, “You can continue to choose to be a crazy person and have your cart put away or you can choose to be normal and continue to push that thing around like a pretend grown-up.” But, sometimes my Love and Logic training slips from my brain and all I can think of is my threats and bribes training.

But, amazingly, she took the ultimatum in stride and said in a surprised tone, “Oh!”

As in: Like, that is a huge surprise to me. Why didn’t you just say so to start with? Then I wouldn’t have had to scream at you for the past 15 minutes.

We got the shopping done. Nora, of course, had to put all of her items from her cart onto the counter. That was challenging, especially when trying to lift the heavy milk over her head and the breakable eggs, but I didn’t make the mistake of trying to help her twice. Everyone around me most likely was thinking she was being a cute “helper,” but both her and I knew that she was not there to help me.

What she was actually doing was attempting to assert her dominance over me via a gradual wearing-down process, one vegetable at a time. It’s possible that she was winning.

We then went to the post office and I bought stamps and I was also handed five boxes with the idea that I would attempt to carry them out to my car. A nice person asked me if I needed help, but I am part Norwegian and the other part is German, so I basically have to do everything by myself. Huh. Sounds familiar, somehow…

At that point, I realized that I didn’t have any way to carry my stamps. That was when my dormant Love and Logic skills kicked in and I got a brilliant idea.

And the rest is here!

Like many parents, I am entering into Summer feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

On the one hand I’m like,

“Yay, we get to sleep in!”

But then,

“Holy crap what am I going to do with these children for 82 days.”

Yes. I counted.

So, I had my 7-year-old sit down and make a list of all of the things he wanted to do together this summer.

 

Here is what he came up with:

1. Go to a hot spring. (His dad has a broken arm so I’m thinking a trip to Glenwood Springs is pretty distant on our family trip list. Sorry, kiddo.)

2. Go to the zoo. (I do this once a year. Once. And the heat and the kid-wrangling and the actual complete disinterest in the animals by my children help me remember why it is only once.)

3. Go to Spruce pool. (He forgot to add the part where he will bug me until I buy him a popsicle and then he will have 2 bites of the popsicle and the rest will melt into a sticky red goop that will keep showing up in random places for the rest of the Summer.)

4. Take a picnic to a really cool place. (Done and done.)

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5. Go waterskiing. (He’s awesome. See?)

Showing off already.

Showing off already.

6. Go biking with Mom at Valmont bike park. (I am definitely a distant 2nd choice here. Dad’s broken arm is actually the only thing keeping me in the running.)

broken

Wrists aren’t really supposed to look like that.

7. Make popsicles. (We ended up making a whole day out of this activity. We went to the store for our ingredients, we debated and decided on different flavors, the popsicles’ liquid to solid progress was checked approximately every 5 seconds for 2 hours, and finally each of the children had about…one bite. I am finding that the idea of popsicles is always much more exciting than the actual popsicle. And now there will be frozen fruit in our muffin tin in the freezer until the end of time.)

8. Make stuffed animals out of socks. (This happened. There are about 100 of them. They are all electric eels. Here are three that I could reach just sitting here in my chair. My kid is a creative genius, no? I mean look at the care that went into…stuffing those socks and…drawing stripes.)

socks

 

9. Plant our garden. (You know, to feed the bunnies and squirrels and birds with carefully tended, fresh budded lettuce and carrots that I will never ever see.)

10. Write poems. (This kid. Seriously. What 7-year-old says they want to “write poems” over Summer break?)

12. Make a lawn elf. (I’m not sure Pinterest has a section for this. I just looked. They do not. I feel like a pioneer here.)

13. Make a doll house for Nora. (Sweet, but I am still haunted by the vacuum box turned super hero castle of 2013 that lived in my house for 6 months.)

14. Play in the fountains on Pearl St. (Also known as toddler rugby. Tackling is encouraged.)

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Getting some refreshments before heading back into the game.

 

15. Ride a real train. (Does the 1880 train in Hill City count? Because I don’t think I am going to be getting on an Amtrak any time soon.)

16. Make homemade ice cream. (I totally remember doing this as a kid. Actually, I totally remember helping put ingredients in some huge contraption and then my parents cursing about how long they had to crank that sucker in order for it make something that resembled ice cream.)

17. Hear someone play music outside. (Does listening to me being forced by the toddler to sing “I’m a little tea-pot” over and over on the deck count?)

 

He forgot to add:

18. Ask mom constant, meaningful questions during her 5 seconds of mid-toddler-nap, pre-dinner writing time like,  “Are there really two-headed things in the world?” and “Do I have to put sunscreen on my penis if I’m outside naked?”

19. Go naked as much as possible.

And…

20. Continuously spray little sister with the hose when she’s trying to play in her little pool. Cause that’s always a good idea.

 

I’m at Mamalode today! They added a slightly terrifying picture of Nora as well…

Why Jon Stewart Can Wait
“My mad at you!” My two-year-old says to me. She crosses her arms and deep grooves appear in her forehead. And what in the world is she wearing?

She does look mad, actually. Adorable, but mad.

“Why are you mad at me, sweetie?”

“You working!”

“You are mad at me because I’m working?” I look down at my computer a little guiltily.

And then, as quick as a wink, she remembers that she is a baby owl and she begins to make a nest on the ground with her blanket, hooting softly, oblivious to me and my working. The moment is gone for her, but I allow it to crawl uncomfortably into me and make it’s own cozy home.

I don’t need to work when she is awake. And “work” will often involve things that aren’t quite like work and that are more like blog-reading and idea-gathering. You know, falling down into the inner workings of the Internet until suddenly I’m watching a video of Some Incredible Woman Rendering Jon Stewart Speechless and I’m so confused as to how I got there.

And you can read the rest here!

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