Thursday, January 31, 2008

...when all through the house, not a little creature was stirring, not even a BOY or GIRL


"If you attempt, as I recently did, to describe the events of the first two episodes of the new season of "Lost" to someone who hasn't watched the show in a while, you will find it a humbling experience. So much cool stuff happens it is difficult to articulate properly - rescuers arrive, except chances are they aren't actually rescuers..." By Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times.

I've got the chocolate stash for two (me!) The VCR ready to go if BOY fails to be out by 7:45pm. And friends ready to call after it airs. A plane bearing a LOST banner flew by today. Just for me. All is right with the world. Now if they would only make a banner of Sawyer, without his shirt...

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just a boy who is operating at his own speed

BOY's Pre-K teacher met with us a couple of weeks ago and expressed concern that he was not functioning as well as the other children in his age group. (There are both 4 and 5 year olds in his class. BOY is in the younger range, having just turned 4 in November. The plan is for BOY to get a bonus year by doing Pre-K again next year.)
Some of the examples she gave were:

  • that he speaks out during circle time saying, "Are we done yet? & Is it over?"

  • that he was not able to complete more than 2 step tasks.

  • that sometimes when he was asked to do something he did something else.

Hello! Maybe we are describing a 4 year old here?!

She was open to them learning new ways to connect with him, but also wanted us to consider that he might have an auditory processing disorder.

My GOD, the boy is only 4! And all I see when I look at BOY is the phenomenal growth and maturation that he has had, especially over the last 8 months. When he first started going to daycare part-time, at a little over 2 years old, he couldn't even sit still for a circle time story. He had to sit in his teacher's lap. Then came the next step, which was to sit next to the teacher. Now, he can sit in his spot for the duration of a story, but sometimes has a problem staying for the whole story. At 2 1/2 he had a handful of words. Now, he not only has a huge vocabulary, but is creative in his expressive thoughts and choice of words.

After our meeting, when it had all sunk in, I wanted to say: Shouldn't we gauge his development by his progression, rather than holding him to a standard of comparison to the other children in his age group? And if so, shouldn't we acknowledge what he IS doing, rather than focusing on what he isn't doing? And don't you think that maybe, he could be picking up on these expectations?

Why should a child be judged on his development by his birthdate? Do all of us develop at the same rate? Does a timer go off at 3 or 4 years old and PING we're nailing everything that we're supposed to get? No, I don't think so. Why I should have doubted this, even for a moment, is sad to me. But, I am still taking tentative steps sometimes, with BOY being my first child. And avoiding these parenting pot holes is tough. As I learned almost a year ago, when BOY started potty training at 3 years and 2 months old... every child has to do it at his own pace. Everyone is unique. Potty training will definitely make you check your preconceptions at the door.

But, as a good parent, you certainly want to acknowledge a teacher's concerns. So, we met Monday with the preschool special education group from our local public school district. E, myself and BOY were there for about an hour and a half. The room was a playroom environment, with a conference table at one end where we could sit, and BOY was able to have a free-for-all, with brief periods of directed activity at a table. There was a team of people in the room: a School Psychologist, an Occupational Therapist, a Physical Therapist, and a Speech and Language Pathologist.

The evaluation consisted of: "an interview with the parents, language sample, file review of previous OT & speech/language reports, play-based observations, cognitive, pre-academic, social, emotional, communication, gross motor & fine motor."

Their findings were this: "BOY is developing typically in all domains at this time. Consideration of teacher's/classroom's high academic expectations, and BOY's developmental level."

My findings were this: They thought he was a perfectly normal boy in a school with high expectations. He is active, incredibly creative and imaginative in play. But, there is no mystery or needed diagnosis here. Just a boy who is operating at his own speed, who needs to be recognized for who he is and allowed to be ...himself.

Yesterday was one of those life altering days for me. I learned so much. And every single person on the evaluation team was helpful. I got book recommendations, resources for researching boys, and I now have a new passion... discovering how boys learn differently than girls. And how children assimilate individually, uniquely, as themselves. Most of all, I took away this gut instinct is rarely wrong. I just need the confidence to trust my gut instinct as a mother.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ready or not, here I come!

I'm starting to feel a bit panicked that nothing is happening on the job front. Well, that isn't exactly true. I have picked up some freelance work that I get to do from home, referred to me by a friend. But, my recruiter hasn't sent me out since the end of November and when I check in with her she says it is incredibly slow right now. Says the Writers' strike is creating havoc in LA county's job market in all areas. This probably is true, but hell, it makes me feel like an actor again - doing the "weekly check-in" with my agent. Been there. Done that.

I do have some requirements. I want a job close to home, with little to no overtime, that provides a decent salary and is family friendly. I don't think I'm being unrealistic, but having those parameters does limit me. And it still feels important and right to want those things. But, time is passing...

Ironically, I'm finally feeling very ready now to get a full-time job. And nothing is happening. I'm checking the job boards, continuing to do my own networking, and considering getting an additional recruiter at another employment agency. I do know that putting the energy out there usually brings something back to you. But, I feel like screaming: GIMMEE, GIMMEE, GIMMEE!

Tonight after a brief meeting at BOY & GIRL's daycare, I found myself not quite ready to go home yet. The kids were there, having a blast with E. I had left them with dinner on the table. And now I was a free woman, at least for another hour. Freedom!!! FREEDOM! So, I popped into Starbucks for a latte and scone, picked up a book at the fabulous local bookstore, and then sauntered into Target for some urgently needed AAA batteries for BOY's remote control train set. As I drifted from place to place, I found myself looking around and thinking...mmm... Starbuck's might be a good place to work, lots of happy people getting pumped up with caffeine....mmm Vroman's bookstore might be a great place to work...a job where I'd get to inhale books ALL day long...mmm...TARGET might be a fun place to work...I'm there practically everyday anyway. None of these jobs would realistically even pay for daycare, this point everything is looking pretty good. ....OH, there goes a taxi...maybe there's a need for a chatty taxi driver? Maybe? Maybe. Not. Let's just say, I'm open. Well, I draw the line at being one of those people waving at you from the side of the road in a chicken costume. Once again: BEEN THERE. DONE THAT. But, that aside, I am READY to work. Ready or not, here I come!

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Just a day in the life of a BOY who was late to speak...

Apparently BOY knows his way around a sentence. Somehow, I don't think we need to be too worried about his language skills...

I let him have a little bit of my ice cream, so he can taste it and think it's yummy.

Mommy, you make it SO difficult for me.

Wow! That's a good looking noodle!

Goodnight, Precious Mommy.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

LOST 3 seasons in 8 minutes! - Catch up LOST

For me LOST is up there with chocolate....

Why? It is luscious. A decadent delight. And not just because of Sawyer and Jack. It's everything.

For those of you who have never seen it, this 8 minute voice over summary of the show is pretty good. And funny.

Now I just have to figure out how to get BOY and GIRL asleep before 8pm on Thursday. Any ideas?

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LOST -Part 2 for the technically challenged

I still haven't gotten the YouTube thing down yet. I deleted the video this first time. Hence, the lovely Liv's comment below...which I shan't erase.

I know YOU thought I just had to blog about LOST did give me an excuse to post pictures of Sawyer & Jack.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

You really attract 'em, don't you?

So, yesterday I was innocently traversing the Trader Joe's aisle and was just reaching out for the cheddar cheese, when a man with a derby hat and scarf, bounded out of nowhere and said rather LOUDLY, "You shop JUST like a MOM!" I tried my best not to recoil from the onslaught, but was a bit taken aback. Bounding is the only way to describe it. Well, it was bounding and then almost like a slide into home plate, but he landed smack up against the brie. And yes, DERBY HAT. After checking to make sure my clothes hadn't been blown off by the mighty wind of his approach, I did manage to answer proudly, "Well, I am one" in my perky mom's voice. The man, practically doffing his hat and leaning into the cheese like he was going to stay a while, then launched into a monologue in which I think he said something about having been some kind of coach and how children always shouted out to their mothers in greeting, but never to their fathers. Truly, I had NO idea what he was talking about. But, being the polite MOM that I apparently am, I nodded along. Although, I was a little worried that he might erupt into a song and dance number at any minute. The energy and dramatic gestures that accompanied his words seemed almost as if he was auditioning for me.

Now let me just explain that these odd incidents with strangers are not new to me. No, it seems that I am and always have been a magnet for the eccentric, kooky characters of the world. Like bees to honey with me, as if I am the golden honey comb. Men, women, some ...I'm not quite sure of- all have one thing in common. They seem to find in me some kind of instant soul mate. It used to embarrass me. Because, for some...perhaps karmic reason a commonality among my "instant friends" is having a LOUD voice and approaching me within large crowds of people. So that everybody STARES. And also looks at me as if we are "together" and why are "we" being so LOUD?!

Then there is that other thing. Blushing. I know. I know! Blushing at 46 years old is really unreasonable and quite ridiculous. However, one's body doesn't always cooperate. And my body apparently thinks it is 13 and just budding. To empower myself, I tend to stay away from wearing white. Not becoming with a face of scarlet hue. But, by now I've pretty much accepted that I must have done something very bizarre in my previous life, hence I am everywoman to the masses, the confidante of strangers. Last time I looked, there was not a WELCOME sign on my ass. But, I can't bend as easily as I used to, maybe it is hidden betwixt my cheeks.

When I got home from my interesting excursion to TJ's, I related the story to E. In all honesty, it was fun to reenact bounding across the room, sliding across the hardwood floor, swooshing my arms heavenward a la grande gesture, and exclaiming, "You shop JUST like a MOM!" E, was a little alarmed by my flamboyance, but hung in there.

You really attract 'em, don't you? was his opening.

Yes, E, I really do.

What exactly did he mean by that? E asked me.

I have NO idea, I said.

Was that supposed to be a good or a bad thing? E asked me. [Clearly he thought I would know the answers to these very important questions.]

Well, I've decided it was a good thing. The man seemed so gushy about me being a mom and all. But, I still can't figure out what it was that gave me away. Was it the 2%milk? The strawberry banana yogurt? Surely not the 1/2 & 1/2, or the 2 bags of romaine lettuce? It must have been when I hesitated over choosing the mild cheddar or the sharp. That must be it. That moment of indecision. A dead giveaway. Indecision. Apparently it SCREAMS "shopping just like a mom!"

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

all about me meme - links to 5 posts

That woman who drives a kamikaze minivan, HRH, over at June Cleaver Nirvana has tagged me for " It's all about me: links to 5 posts" meme. I will do my best, Missy. Please know that I can't be responsible for the following choices as I am currently in severe chocolate withdrawal as a certain husband forgot to arrive home last night with the requested stash. True, the weather is doing a good imitation of a tropical monsoon, and he would have had to brave the fierce elements, but COME ON! I mean what IS really important here? I guess I should have put a big note around his neck to remind him. "WIFE DESPERATE FOR CHOCOLATE." A reminder to keep the wife ....satisfied. Or ELSE!

It's all About Me meme: linking 5 of my posts (pull up a chair, perhaps a chaise lounge...and a big bottle of the good stuff and settle in...)


1) Acknowledge the person who tagged you. Thanks, HRH! (yeah...thanks a LOT ...only took me 4 friggin' hours to come up with these gems of blathering prose...)

2) Tag other blogging SISTUHS and leave a comment on their blog letting them know that you have tagged them.

3) Go back through your archives and post the links to five favorite blog posts that you have written.

But there is a catch:
Link 1: must be about family.
Link 2: must be about friends.
Link 3: must be about yourself, who you are… what you’re all about.
Link 4: must be about something you love.
Link 5: can be anything you choose.

And so here I go:

Link 1 (family): No stinky butts, a few jellyfish and beauty thy name is swimming pool captures some of the adventures we had visiting my mom on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, this past summer.

Link 2 (friends): Grown-up time is good describes a well needed dinner party with friends, well sort of ...there was some interference by small children.

Link 3 (who am I anyway?): Saved by the perpetual neglect of the unfolded laundry, I think, gives a glimpse into who I am.

Link 4 (what I love): These are a few of my favorite things, inspired by Mrs. G, gave me an opportunity to list A LOT of things I love. Warning...the post doth go on and on...

Link 5 (anything): We made it. Barely... is the story of me traveling with both children last summer, alone, on 2 airplanes relatively unscathed (depending on your perspective) only to reach the break-down point at the Jacksonville Airport around midnight...

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The death of Heath Ledger

I was greatly saddened yesterday afternoon to hear of Heath Ledger's death. Although I can't say that I knew him, I did meet him at the wedding of a close friend of my husband's in Malibu Canyon the summer of 1998. This was before his meteoric rise to fame after playing Gabriel, the son of Mel Gibson's character, in the movie "The Patriot." He sat at our table during the reception with Lisa Zane, whom he was dating at the time. He had it all. He was funny, charming and of course, impossibly adorable. And he was dating someone significantly older than himself. Which made him irresistible in my book. But, what really stood out about him was that he was interested in other people. He asked you about yourself. A quality that stands out in the land of LaLa. When he became famous, I wasn't surprised. He had that mysterious "IT" factor that makes people movie stars. I was blown away by his nuanced performance in Brokeback Mountain. The sadness I feel is not just that he was 28 years old and had so much potential - as a human being who touches others, and as an actor, but that he was father to a 2 year old little girl. He will never again get to hold her little hand as they walk together across a crowded street. He will never again be able to throw her in the air and hear her giggles. He is gone. And he will be missed, even by people who didn't know him.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

They are plotting my downfall

It's been a delightful day of games. Except no one warned me to wear my helmet and full-body armor. When in Rome...They are in cahoots. They are plotting my downfall. Two children aged 3 and 4, such innocent looking angels, such marauders.

Stick your tongue out at Mommy, BOY! Stick your tongue out at Mommy! ...she shrieks with glee bordering on rapture.

Poop Poop, Mommy! Poopy Poop, Mommy! Crazy Koo Koo Poopy Mommy! ...screams BOY so full of mirth that he's practically drooling.

And one wonders why they call it fried Mommy brain. Would your brain be intact if you listened to this several times a day, as in... 100?!

Another thrilling competition played by two is the "Mommy is the Punching bag game." Otherwise known as running as fast as you can and ramming into Mommy, while screaming at the top of one's lungs and then laughing because it is OH so funny. For them.

And lest I forget there is the "let's dump cupfuls of water out of the tub and onto the floor bathroom game." Another 5 towels used to soak up the spill, no problem. I just LIVE for doing MORE laundry. How did they know?

Oh, yes, and then there's the "food toss from the table game." It requires great skill with or without the use of flying eating utensils.

I'm just SO proud that they are getting to be such great athletes in the Winter Games. So proud. And now I'm going to finish off this chocolate, take 2 aspirin and go to sleep for a whole 2 hours upon which I will be awakened by the "I'm SO scared, Mommy, I NEED YOU, MOMMY...I need you to SLEEP WITH ME game." I might as well face it. I'm becoming a very good loser. And waay out of shape to compete with these two Olympians.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

As to why I didn't get the job...

Today I received a call from a very nice man letting me know that they would not be hiring me. Although it never feels good to be turned down for something, I must say that I was relieved. I interviewed for the position right before Christmas. A former journalist, the man seemed pleasant, witty and an intellectual giant (which is always both attractive and intimidating, since I am not one.) However, I was less clear after I left the interview than when I had gone into it as to what exactly the job description entailed. Everything was rather vague and as time went on and the actual interview started to fade from memory, I realized that I really had NO IDEA if I wanted this job since I didn't understand what it was. Hence the relief when I got the phone call.

As to why I didn't get the job, I really don't think it was because I was having so much fun during the interview that when the potential boss said they were looking for someone who could put a sentence together and help write fundraising letters I enthusiastically screamed stated that I had a blog.

Oh, really? - [him asking with interest... thinking that he had found a literary gem and not the babbling, tired looking woman he had spent the last 20 minutes interviewing.]

Yes! - [me feeling "that common bond between writers" later to be realized as narcissistic lunacy.]

I could have given him the wrong blog address. I could have said that my blog was personal and not a public forum. I could have... But, in the moment none of this occurred to me. And so I found myself reaching into my purse and, as if in a trance, handing him one of my cards. Yes. I did. And he said he would take a look at my blog. Perhaps COMPLETE IDIOT and HOW COULD ANYONE BE THAT STUPID come to mind?

I couldn't get out of there fast enough, quickly realizing the error of my ways. Yes, Mr. Policeman, that was me in the minivan screeching around the corner on 2 wheels, madly flying down the freeway and arriving home within record time. Yes, Nosy Neighbor across the street, that was me thrusting my key into the front door lock and literally running back to the home office, leaping on the computer and going to my blog archive, fingers at the ready to DELETE. But, how much would I be able to delete and what? Well, perhaps I should take the most recent potentially offensive post out of circulation. Just that week I had written an entry about being so incredibly fabulous that I had moved up in the world and my blog could be found by the search engines under "butt crack clip art." Otherwise known as the gluteal cleft. Yes, there really is such a phrase. Probably comes from the French. You know how they make everything sound so much better. And I thought...maybe I should start there. Probably not an entry that would get me the job. So, I changed the post to "draft" and took it off the blog. Oh, but this was insane. What was I thinking!!

Oh, no! my friends assured me when I frantically dialed telling them how incredibly, STUPID I had been. They probably won't even have the time to look it up. [That JCK is really NOT an intellectual giant.]

Oh, O.K., you really think so?

Yes, I'm sure they have too much on their plate to spend time looking at a mommy blog. [Friend laughing hysterically while covering the phone with her hand.]

Oh, you're right. I'm probably just obsessing.

I love my friends, but they lie. To me. Often. I couldn't bring myself to erase the entry, but I did take it out of circulation and put it into "draft" status for a few days until I calmed down. It took me ... several days to calm down. I cut back on the Irish Breakfast tea to 3 cups a day, increased my intake of chocolate by 2lbs a day, and happy hour started a bit early, but who is paying attention? Then I decided, what the hell?! I don't even know if I want this job, and the butt crack clip art is going back up, by GOD.

So... the call came. Well, a month later. And I have NO idea if they looked at my blog or not. I do know that it is probably good that I was not offered the job. Because, every time I walked through the office I would have been wondering if they were checking out a certain area on my person, the location of my gluteal cleft. And that would have been, well, depending on the undergarment worn...rather itchy - at least in theory. Perhaps next time I'll just leave my cards at home....

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

... in the world of imagination and delight

The boy with eyes a startling blue,
and skin like a fuzzy peach,
cries at the descent of a balloon.

As if a death,
something ending,
he's unable to change its course.

His small body shakes with grief,
for moments there is nothing else to see,
but the loss.

The girl, his sister offers him
a small, red ball,
which at first he rejects,
and then is tightly embraced in his small fist.

The two of them nestle around their mother on the bed,
an island perched amongst a sea of scattered toys,
her soft arms encircling each one,
a kiss and squeeze pulling them in to her.

And so they read together, these three,
as if...
they are the only ones in the world,
of imagination and delight.


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Friday, January 18, 2008

Your children choose you

I went out to meet a few girlfriends tonight to discuss "The Mists of Avalon." I've got about 70 more pages to go... I wish I had read this in my 20's. I think it would have resonated with me differently. My friend, who read it for the first time in her 20's, said it was a real coming of age story for her. And obviously for so many others. It is a book that always elicits effusive comments. I'm picking "Eat, Pray, Love" to read next. I also want to read "Raising Cain," which is a book about raising boys.

I still can't get over the fact that when I come home at night, I have two small children asleep in my house. And they are my children. There exists a belief that your children choose you to be their parents before they are born. I like that idea. And it is amazing to me that the very things that are challenging to me, that I have to work on, are served up on a platter by my children. There are no accidents. I have much to learn.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Whoever is heading up the marketing for California Pizza Kitchen is brilliant

I have no other words to describe it. This morning was TOTALLY COOL. Our playgroup met at California Pizza Kitchen at 9am to celebrate the kids who have January birthdays. I don't know if this is everywhere, but this CPK hosts kids' parties ...before the restaurant opens to the public. I took BOY out of school because how often do you get the opportunity to make your own pizzas and get a tour of a restaurant and see how the whole operation works - in a way that kids can understand and appreciate.

First all the kids lined up along the long banquette to sit and listen to "the rules of the restaurant." Cleverly delivered by a tag team of kid friendly manager and head chef, the kids listened to most of it. Then we took the tour. All in a line we went past the prep cooks chopping veggies, had drawers pulled out to show us the stocked items, saw pizza dough flying and of course, the pizza oven. Then we headed to the back where we saw a waiter rolling the set-ups (silverware), passed the cleaning supply closet, and the best part to go inside the walk-in refrigerator! Imagine 3 & 4 year olds with the idea of a refrigerator that you can walk inside. It was GREAT. The group happened to corner two prep guys who did well considering they were forced against the wall while juggling stacks of cucumbers. The manager told the kids they were in a space where they could yell as loud as they wanted to. So, on the count of 3 there were shrieks and bellows of glee.

Going back into the dining area, the kids sat out at tables and bowls of cheese, pizza sauce and peperoni were placed on the tables. Each child was given a small flat round of dough on a sheet of tin foil and were shown how to put the ingredients on it to create their very own pizza. While the pizzas baked in the oven, the manager came around with a pitcher of milk and filled up their kiddie cups and the kids colored and did the puzzle book. Then the pizzas were ready and consumed as fast as the pies could cool off. And surprise...grown-up pizza for the moms. It was early, true, yet who can turn down fresh pizza?

Before we left the kids were each given a certificate with boxes checked off to show that they were certified pizza makers, certified pizza samplers and now would be very special guests for another visit. Yes, a free kids meal certificate. Whoever is heading up the marketing for CPK is brilliant. Happy kids, happy moms and people who will return. It can't get much better than that.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tracy taught me how to shoot tequila and I taught her how to wear lace

I met Tracy when I was about 23 years old. We were both working in a Texas style steak house where they served up big slabs of meat, huge baked potatoes, sweet potato fries and long neck beers. She was feisty, funny and shorter than me by maybe a 1/2". I liked her immediately. She had come from a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan, where the nearest McDonald's was 60 miles away. She thought Atlanta was exciting. A big city. I was OVER Atlanta and ready to move to a bigger city. But, we connected.

A pattern soon formed to our relationship. We'd come off of a double shift at the restaurant after having served people all day and night and now we were ready to party. We soon found the cool places to hang, where all the other waiters would go after they got off of their shifts. A bar named Carlos McGee's was the usual destination after work. Bars in Atlanta were open until 2am and when we rolled in around midnight it was always packed. We never waited in line to get in, we'd weave through the crowd, and the bartenders had a beer in front of us within seconds of making our way up to the front. We were young and pretty. And a little crazy. We joked that Tracy taught me how to shoot tequila and I taught her how to wear lace. It was the 80's, y'all.

After we closed down Carlos McGee's we'd head over to a place called The Saint. Again no waiting in line or paying a cover. We knew the bouncer by name. Mostly a gay crowd and featuring a drag queen show every night, it was dimly lit and quite decadent after 3am. The pulsating music and bizarre conversations in the bathroom with other women (or were they?) were always a kick. I learned some of my best make-up tips from drag queens. After dancing for hours in darkness, it was always a bit odd walking outside to find the sun rising and birds chirping. Now it makes TOTAL sense to me why human beings are biologically designed to have babies in their 20's. All that energy! How we could work double shifts, go out and party all night and get up and do it again. The next day! We'd rent limos with other girls and get "decked out" and go visit the men we had ongoing flirtations with who worked at other restaurants. Lace, fishnets, low cut, strapless, backless, sheer, shimmery, almost trashy - but, MAN... it was mostly fun ...and sometimes not.

Our lives eventually took turns in different directions. She joined the Navy hoping to become a pilot. I took a job as a performer with Eastern Onion Singing Telegrams hoping to get over my phobia of singing in front of people. (It worked.) She came back to Atlanta to get married, I moved to New York City to go to acting school. We always stayed in touch, but sporadically. She was stationed in San Diego and I moved to Los Angeles. We saw each other a couple of times. Her marriage was foundering and I had changed. Maybe we both had. I no longer wanted to party. She needed to. We drifted apart and lost track of each other. I heard through friends that she had not reenlisted. She never became a pilot.

Two years ago I thought I would Google her name and see if I could track her down. I thought maybe enough time had passed, that we perhaps could reconnect, if only to laugh at those crazy Atlanta days. I found this:

January 9, 2004

I have known Tracy Lee (Hagwell) Grall,originally from South Range since May 1980, almost 24 years. Together we shared many happy moments, and supported each other through just as many rough times as sisters. I will forever miss her. She lost her fight with cancer today at her mother's home in Bay City, MI.

I had had doubts that I would be able to find her or even that she would want to be found, yet I had never imagined this. That she would be ...dead. And had been gone for 2 years! Shocked and stunned, I contacted her friend who had posted the above on a Michigan chat page.

Tracy had never wanted to believe that she had breast cancer. She was a waitress living alone in Seattle, dating a man who was married. She always chose the more difficult path in life. Never finding a man who was really available. She fought the cancer for a while and it returned. The man in her life chose not to be in her life. When things got really bad, and it was clear that the cancer had won, she moved back to her childhood home to be nursed by her mother. Dying with her mother by her side, yet alone. I grieve the loss of Tracy Hagwell Grall. And of course there is much more to her life than what I have detailed here. She was something. And I will never forget her. Go in peace.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

... her little girl should believe that her mom is the strongest

Imagine if you will a very large black lab mix who is almost 13 years old and weighs well over 90lbs. This particular dog doesn't get much exercise to speak of these days. He was shoved aside by a BOY & a GIRL who arrived within a year to usurp his place as the King of the household. He has felt a bit miffed about the whole thing. Especially during the period where that BOY would whack him just to see what would happen. Or dump the dog's water bowl on the dog's head just for kicks. After many months of very few walks, the dog is even older and fatter and his nails not only click on the sidewalk, but would make any Long Island woman envious for their awesome length. Although not polished, the dog's toenails are quite distinctive. It has been hard for him to walk, what with the old age, weight and now these nails to balance on. So, his Mistress at one time devoted, now noncommittal, has finally decided to take him to get his nails clipped.

The other dog, a medium sized snarky female blonde lab mix, could also use a good trim. Both dogs are leashed and walked to the back of the minivan. The blonde dog jumps in the back. The big black dog, known as Soul man, can't even move in any way, shape or form in what you would call an upwards direction by himself. So, the not very tall mistress at 5 foot 3 1/2 inches and weighing about 116lbs herself, attempts to get this large animal into the back of the van. There is much straining and flexing of arm muscles, which are out of practice since the days of arm lifting BOY & GIRL multiple times per day appear to be over. Finally the dog is thrust into the vehicle and the mistress quite out of breath from the exertion feels triumphant! Until the very dim witted mistress is struck with the fact that she will have to do this again at the vet's, again after the vet's and AGAIN when she returns home. Luckily this doesn't occur to her until after the 3rd time of lifting the dog back in the car. She is blessed with an optimistic outlook on most days. While trying to hold 140+ lbs of dog(s) on two leashes with one hand and holding the hand of a little GIRL who SHRIEKS and MOANS every time one of the anxious dogs (because they KNOW they are headed to the Vet's) bumps into her, the Mistress wonders why she decided to do this today. It had started out so nicely.

Afterwards the big black Soul Man appears to be hobbling along more comfortably. Once home again, after the final launch of Soul Man out of the car, the Mistress walks the dogs back to the garage. The Mistress has high hopes that now, Soul Man will embrace his pedicure and frolic about. Alas, it is not to be. He is just old. His silver beard now covers half his body. He retires to his bed, a contented old gentleman with a good pedicure. And the Mistress? Well, she feels GREAT that she finally got something done that she had intended to do for months...but, she will need to appreciate her accomplishments on the couch with a heating pad applied to her now very sore back, which feels that it will go out at any moment. The little GIRL has no idea that her mommy is not really THAT STRONG. But, the Mistress believes that her little girl should believe that her mom is the strongest, if not the smartest mom on the block.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

GIRL's first episode of hurt feelings

Mommy, I don't WANNA go to school TODAY. [This from my GIRL who loves school?]

Well, GIRL, it is a school day. It's a work day for me and for Daddy and a school day for you and BOY.

But, I don't WANNA go to school. I want to STAY HOME with you!

I'm sorry, sweetie, but it IS a school day. Sometimes we don't want to go to school and then you get there and you see your friends and get to paint, play outside and have fun.

We don't paint anymore.

The easel isn't in your class?


Well, there is an easel outside, right?


O.K., guys - BOY, GIRL let's get in the car.

NO, MOMMY, I DON'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL! - GIRL bursts into tears and I pick her up.

Put me DOWN! I want to walk by myself! - I comply.

I want Mommy! I WANT MOMMY! - I pick her up and we have a heart to heart.

GIRL, can you talk to me?

I don't want to talk.

Are you worried about something?

Alice hurt my feelings. She and Jeremy wouldn't let me play with them. She said I couldn't dig in the dirt with them.

By this time HUGE tears were rolling down my little GIRL's face. She was heartbroken. And I was crushed for her. It is so very painful to get your feelings hurt from a special friend who won't play with you. I remember that well.

GIRL, I'm so sorry that happened. I know it hurt your feelings. Did you tell Alice that it hurt your feelings?


Well, next time you could tell her that. You can say, Alice that really hurt my feelings. I wanted to play with you.


And you can also talk to your teachers. Your teachers are your friends and they can also help you with your words. You also have lots of other friends you can play with if Alice is not being nice, right?


Today is a new day. I bet you won't get your feelings hurt today. And your friends will be SO happy to see you! How are you feeling now?


It is so great that you talked to me about this, GIRL. I'm really proud of you.

And so we got in the minivan and went to school. A little late, but one little GIRL was relieved of her worries. At least for today. It makes my heart ache that she got her feelings hurt. But, life is like that. And hopefully, I can teach her to pick herself up and go back and try again. And that she can empower herself by expressing her feelings.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

I have to feel that I am doing more than scrabbling up a dirt hill via my fingernails

Balance. That's what I'm going for this year. I can picture myself thus. A balanced person. What does this person look like? It is yet to be determined. But, I know she exists. Somewhere in here. I can feel her tapping my insides, tickling my ribs, whispering to me: It's fun to be balanced. Try it. Your life will be so much easier. You sure set yourself up a lot. I mean, it's kind of HILARIOUS to watch you sometimes. The way you muddle through...

So, this is it. Soon I will be reentering the work force. (A job will appear that feels right and I will take it.) I will have to navigate the waters of employment from an outside source with being a mother and a wife --yet save a piece for myself. I've found that piece here in the last few months. And it has felt damn good. It is as if I have awakened from a long slumber and now that I have tasted from the delicious, delectable blank page of blogging, I don't want to let it go. I cannot. And I won't.

Yet... I have to feel that I am doing more than scrabbling up a dirt hill via my fingernails. It is cathartic to get dirty, but sometimes the dirt just feels ...well, dirty. My family is my ballast and I am the rudder (with a very bad sense of direction) and lest I forget even for a moment that this is true, thank GOD they are here to remind me of this. I can be my own woman and be a wife and a mother. Can't I? I really think I can. Being a mother has been the most amazing, joyful, enriching, frustrating, mind-blowing experience of my life. And I can't wait to see where the path will continue to lead us. I am here for them. I am here for my husband. I am here for me. I just need to find balance. Even for one day. And I think I'm on my way...I can feel it.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Maybe tomorrow you'll be faster

You've GOT to be kidding me, Mom.

You really think so? - said with sarcasm. Sarcasm? Sarcasm. Just how early do they learn sarcasm, anyway? Apparently very early.

OOOOhhhh, coooome ON!

This is what I'm up against these days. A 4 year old BOY who is reveling in using the English language as a weapon, and his mom as the target. I might as well have a red circle on my forehead with a big X in the middle of it. I've got ding marks all over me. Or maybe those are tread marks. In any case, the boy who talked late is talking. A lot. At me. There is no hiding from THE MOUTH.

And GIRL, what can I say...she believes in NO. And laughing. And NO. A little more laughing. And basically, NO. Usually she outmaneuvers all of us with her steady stream of language. Her linguistic skills are awe inspiring. We can have conversations for days. It's really wonderful. Except that she is a human wrecking ball. She goes from zero to 100 in about....1 second. Whatever force is in that head is one to be reckoned with. Apparently the reckoning could well be NOW. A fiery temper matched with the gift of gab...mmmm, SO looking forward to the teenage years.

I love my children. They are precious beings. They are just smarter than me. I could be depressed about it. But, I won't be. I'll just beam and say, that's right, those little darlings are mine. Huge brains. HUGE. Would you like to keep them for a few days? They might increase your vocabulary. Oh, you wouldn't? Well, better start running NOW. They WILL catch up to you. Oh, SO sorry. You weren't fast enough. Maybe tomorrow you'll be faster. At least that's what I always say...

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Warning: rambling & WHINING MOMMY ahead

I'm having one of those days. One of those days in which I feel that I am unraveling. I am clearly trying to do too many things and not doing any of them well. Yes, I am a very good multi-tasker, but I'm beginning to feel like I did in my previous life in the working world when I worked for 4 bosses at once on an executive level and they needed everything NOW. I have many things "due NOW" at the moment, but the over expectant boss is me. I've truly got to sit down and put myself on some kind of routine. The only reason that I managed all of those people was because I managed them. I had them on schedules. I cracked the whip, baby - although this was years after I used to wear a skin-tight leopard print unitard and carry a whip to work as Sadistic Sadie. But, I need Sadie back - for REAL. A little whip action on my own ass would help about now. Not that I really used the whip. That would be another story. And this is a family friendly blog. A F*CK ACHOO! That was supposed to be a large sneeze, just in case you were wondering. I'm UNUSUAL.

O.K., one more thing ...just to reveal how very nutty I am today. I almost started venting to that FUR REAL cat - who, incidentally has been the absolute hit with the under 5 crowd. And apparently with mothers going insane. Hey it blinks, tilts its head and meows, what better listener could I have? I need someone to vent to, and I certainly can't upchuck this all over E when he gets home. I've learned that much in marriage. Well, usually. And believe me, I'm tapering myself here. O.K.... cut off time IS NOW.

The morning started out very normally. I was up until 2AMish (for the 3rd night in a row), unable to fall asleep due to 24hr allergy medicine that is supposed to be helping me decongest. So, I overslept until 7am and launched myself in the shower. E out the door and kids were up - before me. Managed to impressively get kids dressed and breakfast on the table, although we were detoured by GIRL refusing to put her shoes on before coming to the table, which resulted in a 20 minute meltdown, which resulted in us getting BOY late to his 1/2 day daycare, which resulted in accelerated anxiety for him. All of this my fault, really, because I overslept. Much as I'd like to blame the temper of a 3 year old girl, it all boils down to my not getting my own morning together. So, that's that.

And despite all of this chaos ruling, and there have been worse mornings, I'm just moaning basically, because I CAN. Even if you tune me out. I still can. Because, I'm wearing my BIG OL' WHINING MOMMY badge today. Tomorrow, I will be more together.

And SO...despite all of this chaos, my little GIRL asks me on the way to school this morning, "Mommy are homeless people real?" Jesus. Why me, LORD, why me? And yes, RIMA, you asked if I have these philosophical conversations on a daily basis with my kids?...apparently we are on quite a roll here. Please, please do not be impressed. Because, if you really want to know, usually the biggest thing that is discussed in our house is POOP. Poop at dinner, poop in the bathroom and of course the word poop thrown around - just for fun. Of course there can be philosophical conversations about poop, but in this house...NAAH. I'm off to make lists, prioritize and breathe. Not necessarily in that order. Liv, I could use some of your OOMMMSSS about now, honey! Make me laugh SISTAHS!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mommy will you still be growed-up when we're growed-up?

Mommy will you still be a growed-up when we're growed-up? asked GIRL.

Yes, sweetie.

I DON'T WANT TO BE A GROWN-UP! stated BOY, with no moment of reflection whatsoever. He was sure.

You won't be a grown-up for a long time, BOY. It takes a long time to grow up.

Mommy, it takes a long time to be growed up? asked GIRL.

Yes, GIRL. A long time.

Girl is so literal. I think she'd be disappointed if I told her that once you become a grown-up, it doesn't mean you always act like one. It is not as if POOF I've GOT IT, I'm a GROWN-UP. If only she really knew just what the process takes and what a journey it continues to be... Take me for example, if I was a growed up person I wouldn't be sitting here eating ice cream straight out of the carton. I think I'll be a kid for a while longer....enough growed-up stuff to deal with tomorrow.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Not exactly what I expected in taking down the Christmas tree

On Saturday in-between rain storms, it seemed time to take down the Christmas tree. We had kept it up past New Year's because of the party or so I told myself. As my fingers touched each handmade decoration, what more precious? - the red stocking picture frame of BOY, leaning up against a tree, shirt stained with mud, a big boy look on his face; the little gingerbread man ornament that GIRL had crafted out of dough, plastered with mostly purple glitter; the tiny choo choo train from last year that BOY had clumsily painted yellow; the 2 wreaths each had made out of paper plates and colored paper; and the silliest ones - large Styrofoam balls festooned with glittery pipe cleaners resembling some kind of objects from outer space. All of them touched and created by little hands. My children. Who are now 3 and 4. And will never be this little again. And I sobbed. My babies are gone. I know intellectually that they are still small and have years to grow into bigger children. Yet, will Christmas ever be this magical again? So full of wonder? No, I don't think it will. There will be richness and new added depth, but nothing can surpass this year. When two little round cheeked children in PJs with footies, put on their handmade paper reindeer antlers, went outside with us to toss magic reindeer food into the grass, and watched with rapturous, wide-open eyes as their father pointed to the north and said, "That is where Santa will be flying across the sky." And they believed.... in everything.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

poetry lives here, in this place

Looking out at the winter landscape
greys and deep greens
poetry lives here, in this place
whispered through the trees.

A vision of lush, yellow lemons
cool raindrops...dangling,
a bluebird's screech and
an explosion of crisp, white flowers.

Our hot foreheads have been kissed
by the rain....

Tomorrow a vision of blue sky,
the birth of verdant hills,
mountains dusted by snow
and air clean enough to devour...

Written in a spare, quiet moment on a winter's day.... JCK

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Being one small part of a generous community

The lovely and generous Jen over at Rants & Raves honored me on the first day of the year, no less, with this Best Blogging Buddies award. If you don't know about Jen, she is not only a mother, but a ....NANNY. Yes, she has her own children and then watches other children. I know. She must be divinely insane. Her posts depicting life on both sides are really funny and I loved this recent post on her review of the children's book "Goodnight Gorilla." Jen, thank you so much for this award.

What I really like about this award is that it reflects being part of a community. And as we launch into 2008, it feels very special to be part of the incredible fellowship I have found here on my blog, and more importantly the opportunity to discover your blogs and be a part of the communities that all of you are building.

And with that in mind, I'd like to award this to the following people:

To Rachel who discovered my blog during NaBloPoMo, when I was recounting the story of our infertility and failed IVFs and hung in there through the happy ending of our little miracles through adoption and a very unexpected pregnancy. After many years of infertility herself, Rachel has 5 miracles of her own and another on the way! She is building a community on infertility, sharing her knowledge and providing inspiration to others.

To A Mom Two Boys who just recently started a blog and is working on building her community. She has to have THE MOST ROMANTIC BRIDAL SWOON picture ever taken on a beach as her blog header. If it is really her, then I am just flat out jealous. And I like her because she likes the fact that I am known to drink JD & Coke on occasion. She wrote a very, clever witty post linking several bloggers here.

To HRH at June Cleaver Nirvana, who should get an award just for the title of her blog. She started commenting on my blog, which was a gift for me to find her blog. And she drives a minivan, which puts her close to my heart. Although, her minivan appears to be an attack vehicle. She continues to leave us in suspense over the outcome of the removal of her stitches. Please report on your condition IMMEDIATELY, woman!

To Mary Alice From the Frontlines who always makes great comments on every one's blogs. She is all about community. And the first time I went to her blog, I was intrigued by her profile where she describes herself having "an unconventional up-bringing in an extraordinarily large bohemian California family that drove a VW micro-bus." She also said she likes to kick back at the end of the day and "eat a small wheel of brie." A girl after my own heart. This post about her relationship with her daughter called, The Middle Child, melted my heart.

To Amy at Milk Breath and Margaritas who takes us through her very personal and immediate story of going through early menopause...very unexpectedly. At 40 she had a baby and then went through menopause. I liked her post on Blog Me vs. Real Me and whether the person we present as ourselves on our blog is really us.

I'd also like to make a special mention of Kellan who epitomizes what a "blogging buddy" is and she IS all about community. She wraps me up in her words and is a consummate storyteller. And she is a lovely person. We are of a similar age, although she was a mere babe when she became a mom. Smart woman. Her. I especially liked this heartfelt post called The Journey, that she wrote on Thanksgiving day. Kellan also received this award from Jen, but if I could I'd give it to her again. Kellan recently gave out these awards to all of her readers (of which there are many!) In her generous style, I'd like to pass them along to all of you who would take them as yours. Enjoy! I hope they come to you, as they did me, on one of those tough days. Here's to another year full of Yumminess and it being acceptable to be a Crabby Mommy!

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

We got us some BIG OL' RAIN down heah, honey

Oh we who are SO smug. So very smug. We who are amused by it, until IT turns against us. Yes, WE who would be...ME. Miss Large Mouth - all worked up about the BIG RAIN. And. It. Is. Really. Big. SO BIG in fact that it immediately started entering our living quarters, well the playroom, like I said our living quarters...after about 1 hour [tops] of pelting rain. Our playroom is a sunporch normally. Right now, we'll just call it a RAIN PORCH, shall we?

Oh, and you, a certain wench from Washington State, you can stop the belly chuckles. Don't move to Seattle, ha! We got us some BIG OL' RAIN down heah, honey, and it ain't some WOOSY, doosy stuff liken the lil' Mistys of Avalon you got up there in Northern country. No SUH. WE gots some MIGHTY BIG RAIN.

How do I know this? Well, tonight my husband E, who has very fine rounded ... calves, ventured out into the BIG RAIN, threw up a ladder, climbed up on the sunporch roof and was sweeping WAVES of water off the roof. I kid you not. Waves. The water was about 4 inches deep up there. I did my part and looked anxiously out the window as he traversed the wicked slip-slide of the wet roof with rain pounding him from all angles. I opened the door once and yelled out that he was doing a good job speaking in wife to husband lingo - "the leaking stopped IMMEDIATELY when you did that THING, E!" It didn't matter that I wasn't specific. I know that encouragement gave him the strength to go on. My brave man. The conquerer of THE BIG RAIN. My own private rain dancer. I'm not a bad dancer myself. In the dark, if you're blindfolded. GOOD GOD this rain is coming down! I better quit my bondage fantasies, put on some hip boots and get the life vests out. We may have no recourse but to sail away on the old potty seat. Now where did I put it.....

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Friday, January 4, 2008


We are preparing for ........ the BIG RAIN. Yes, it is true. Our usual blue skies will be clouded over and much BIG RAIN is expected. The weather service is saying: RAINFALL RATES BETWEEN ONE HALF AND ONE INCH PER HOUR WILL BE LIKELY AT TIMES DURING THE STORM...WITH LOCALLY HIGHER RATES POSSIBLE ON SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST FACING MOUNTAIN AND FOOTHILL LOCATIONS.

I shouldn't jest about this. Some people will probably suffer mud slides and other nightmarish incidents. But, living in Los Angeles county has its own amusements and the condition in which people here meet rain is...well, quite humorous. There is the fact that no one knows how to drive in the rain. At all. Put your headlights on during the rain, what's that? Keep to your side of the road, why? Prevent yourself from panicking and hitting the brakes too hard, oh is it raining? It reminds me of Atlanta when it snows. Everyone mobs the grocery stores and stocks up with a year's supply of goods and the city shuts down. And secretly everyone loves it.

Here, the town doesn't shut down, but because of the news of the BIG RAIN, I find myself checking my pantry to make sure we are well stocked with Jack Daniels, Coke, red wine...and of course, chocolate. There are 3 storms expected to pass through. My GOD, surely we need more? And so then, yes, I am running to my Trader Joe's and stocking up on essentials, foods that we cannot do without - popcorn, milk, granola, Blue Castello cheese, and maple syrup. And you better believe the place was packed! GIRL and I in our rain jackets with hoods made the mad dash inside, nearly side-swiped by people also rushing inside to get out of the MISTING rain. Wouldn't want that rain to mess up your hair now would ya?

See, GIRL, that's someone with VERY, VERY BAD MANNERS! I said as someone poked me with their stadium sized umbrella. My GOD, it was the ARMAGEDDON. Well, maybe not that bad, but close. Since GIRL had stayed home because of waking up with a very CROUP-like cough, I used that to our advantage to clear the aisles. GIRL, think you could do a little cough right now? I whispered. BARK! BARK! Instant clearing. Gotta love these childhood viruses!

We managed to get safely home and GIRL conveniently dozed off as we were driving up our street. She is now safely ensconced in her bed and I intend to go to mine. I'm still recovering from the cold that kicked my ass to New Jersey & back. No offense, New Jersey. Truthfully, I need to rest up for the BIG RAIN. After all, I can rest easy now that we're well provisioned. And there's nothing like curling up and listening to the drum of rain on the roof. Gotta take it when you can... I'll batten down the hatches...later.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Yes, GIRL, GOD is in there

Mommy, does GOD talk? asked BOY.

............................................................................deep reflective thought in which said Mommy tries to come up with answers.

Well, I think GOD talks to us in a different way. When it rains or when there is a beautiful rainbow across the sky, or we see a lovely flower - all of these things are GOD's way of talking to us.

Mommy, I'm NOT fooling around. I'm serious, says BOY.

Well, I'm serious, too, BOY. It is a difficult question to answer, but I told you what I think is true of GOD.

20 minutes later... apparently we are focused on LIFE issues today....

Mommy, GOD isn't a man, right? says GIRL.

That's right, GIRL, GOD is not a man or a woman.

Yes HE is a MAN! That's why he has feet, says BOY. [I guess we women are more known for our legs.]

Well, BOY, I don't think GOD has feet. He doesn't have a body like ours. He is like air.

How does he stand? asks GIRL.

He doesn't need to stand, GIRL. He is everywhere. He is in our heart, in the world around us, everywhere.

Does he have a mouth? asks GIRL.


Well, how does he eat? asks GIRL.

I don't think he needs to eat.

Is my chest my heart? asks GIRL?

Well, GIRL, your heart is underneath your chest. Under the skin and bones, inside.

And GOD is in there? GIRL says with a smile.

Yes, GIRL, GOD is in there.

It seems the New Year has started out with deep, contemplative questions. Unfortunately, these questions are occurring when I have been pummeled by a horrible cold. Nothing like being grilled by preschoolers when your head is in a fog of NyQuil. And now I'm off to crash on the couch with 2 small children, snuggle down and watch a movie. Hopefully there won't be a multiple choice test afterwards.... Happy New Year ALL!

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