August 2008 Archives

'They're dead."

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Ewan, discussing what happened to the dinosaurs after visiting the "gazoo." Transcript:

"What happened to the dinosaurs?"

"A meteor came down on the planet and shot the dinosaurs and they were just toy dinosaurs."

"A meteor came down?"

"Mmm hmm. And destroyed the real dinosaurs. And then there was just none here, real dinosaurs."

"What happened to the dinosaurs?"

"They're dead."
 

Cloth diaper disaster

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When I was pregnant with Liam one of the most thoughtful gifts I received was a three-month cloth diaper delivery service. I received the gift from a wonderful friend who is very pro-cloth diaper. The service literally pulled up to my curb, delivered a diaper pail and a stack of cloth diapers and plastic pants. They'd drive away and come back a week later to pick up all the crap-filled cloth diapers. They didn't even require that you rinse them - you could throw chunks and all into the pail, it made them no difference. It was Diaper Service for Dummies. Simple to use, no excuses. 

Except that this was me, and my firstborn shat more than any human baby on planet Earth has ever shat. Whenever he grunted or smelled Chris and I looked at each other in terror. Which one of us was going to change Old Faithful? During one particular episode our firstborn shot a yellow stream of gawd knows what across his room; another time he literally erupted all over Chris as Chris screamed like a girl, held Liam's leg up by a toe, and shrieked that I get him something to wipe himself off with NOW.

I tried nearly every different kind of plastic pant on the market, I varied the way I wrapped the cloth around Liam's bottom, I did everything humanly possible but lo, the dam broke every time. I was at the supermarket when I picked him up to check and saw a pool of nastiness filling the bowl of his carseat. Another time I held him at a friend's house while acid seeped out of the sides top of his plastic pants. I kept this up for three reasons, none of which related to saving the planet:

1. I was going to Le Leche League meetings and they would tar and feather me if I used disposables. When I did start using disposables and I showed up, they all gasped and whispered at my Satan pants consumption. (I have a post about this in my archives which will be fully restored shortly.) It was almost like the women in my group who used cloth diapers believed that they loved their children more than the moms who used disposables. It was fruity. A whole new world of mom politics to which I was oblivious until I had a kid.

2. I didn't want to disappoint my friend or have her think that I didn't appreciate her gift. She was one of the first mom-friends I'd made and I didn't want to come up short in her eyes.

3. I liked the way my neighbors reacted to the diaper service that pulled up to the house. I was using cloth diapers? I must be a SAINT. Selfish and weird, but I wanted to keep up the charade.

After Liam crapped on me during a trip to the zoo I threw my hands up. I was done. I went to Target and bought the biggest package of Pampers I could find (the babies seemed happier on their packaging, I don't know) and the rest of the week was uneventful and I wasn't leaked on once. It was heavenly.

And then Monday morning the diaper service knocked on my door.

I stared at the unused package of cloth diapers in panic. I still had three weeks of service left. So I did what any rational person would do: I told the man at the door to hang on and I changed Liam and wiped him up with every cloth diaper in the pack. I wasn't sure it was entirely believable, I mean, would the diaper people look at each diaper and conclude that I was, gasp, faking? I shook the thought from my head, capped the pail with the freshly dirtied diapers, and handed them to the diaper man.

I did this for the next two weeks because I was too big of a coward to say "You know what? These really aren't my thing. I'm going to roll with the disposables." When the gift ran out I declined to continue the service. My friend asked about it and I told her that while it was definitely appreciated and interesting, I wasn't going to do it. She smiled. "OK!" She said.

That was it? No Le Leche League protest about how I was killing - nay raping - our Mother Earth with my use of disposable diapers?

When the neighbors, who were a talky bunch, saw that I was no longer getting the diaper service they asked if I was still using cloth diapers. "No," I admitted, watching my sainthood slip away.

"Those things are a pain in the butt, literally," laughed one woman. "I was wondering how you did it. Sometimes I wonder if they really do help, if it saves any time, or what." She leaned in to whisper "Sometimes I think it's all for show."

A sample from my afternoon soundtrack

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Slightly an oldie but a goodie from one of my favorite bands on earth.

Moving mountains chez Loesch. Fall is coming. I can taste a subtle coolness in the air. Counting down the days until it's leather boots time.

Have a happy weekend.

P.S. If you haven't (and thank you if you have), please take a moment to vote for my SXSW panel on intellectual property. I hope that it makes it past the preliminaries so that we can have a truly-needed discussion on the topic. Danke.

sxsw.GIF


Goth boys are hot

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For the past several weeks many people I know have been gushing about some vampire book. They do it purposefully; they are hooked on the series and I'm sure there is some euphemism about how junkies love company but I can't remember it (i.e., I have infected Tracey with my obsession. Mwa ha). My brain isn't functioning all so great because I've been up until the crack of dawn reading the first two stupid books in that Twilight series.

I purposefully avoided it for several of reasons:

1. After watching a campy documentary about "real" vampires and realizing that the people claiming to be such were really just unattractive, delusional, video store employees I resolutely swore off any vampire books.

2. The series is classified as Young Adult. It didn't stop me with Harry Potter, but my reasoning was all "Well, that was a phenomenon, society can overlook one YA series on my bookshelves. I am in my late twenties and am ignoring my birthday next month; I don't need a book for the Miley Cyrus generation to remind me that I am, we all are, literally rotting as I type and will one day die. Yeay!

3. Everyone was reading it. I am one of those people that will go against the grain if for nothing than to prove to myself that I am not easily swayed. It's a sickness. For example: If I am walking and music is playing and I catch myself walking to the beat I will purposefully shuffle my stride so as to walk out of sync with the beat. (Also because it reminds me too much of Johnny Depp in that scene from "Blow" where he walks through the airport in time with Ram Jam's "Black Betty.")

So there were all these reasons for me not to read it, even though reading is the one thing I love to do more than anything else. I am very picky about my books, to paraphrase Anton Ego, if the book isn't good I don't go beyond the first paragraph. If it is, I have to devour it whole. Bookmarks are almost irrelevant to me. I can't read a bit and put it down; the unresolved plot drives me mad throughout the day and I literally go through the motions of living until the sky is dark and I can curl up in the chair by the window and read more.

But because all these people wouldn't shut up about it, and because I know they have impeccable tastes, I drank the Kool Aid. AND LO, THE KOOL AID WAS DIVINE.

I walked into Target, bought some laundry detergent, tampons, Twilight, and Chef Boyardee ravioli for the boys. While in the checkout I turned the book on its face and put the tampon box on top just so the checker or people in line wouldn't be all "Look at that woman buying a kids' book. She's going to read about unrequited vampire love and reminisce about her fleeting youth." Not really, but I'm dramatic and neurotic and in my head they said that.

I got home and hid the book on the uppermost bookshelf until after the boys were in bed. Then I cracked it open and instantly loved the conflict in the first sentence. I hate talking about a book unless I like it of my own will and please, dear God, don't let this be an invitation for publicists to send me a frillion more emails requesting me to look at their clients' books. I like Stephanie Meyer's frankness in writing and she was expedient and wasted no sentence on anything other than developing essential character traits and progressing the plot. Loves it. And I read and I read and Chris was all annoyed because DUDE, he had Tivo'd some UFC and it's just not as entertaining if I'm mentally away, not rolling my eyes every five minutes. I finished it early yesterday morning. I was ashamed, but I feel no need to hide my love any longer.

Then I texted him like mad and demanded that he stop at Target and pick up the next in the series on his way home.

"why can't u do it?" he texted back. (Sidenote: I can't stand "u" in lieu of "you." I will always take the extra two minutes to locate those letters on my Centro's tiny little keypad because I care.)

"Because they know I was there yesterday buying it and it will be too sad." I wrote back.

"u are weird," was his reply.

I finished it sometime after midnight.

I know why the series is so successful: because there is nothing better in life than love in its infancy. Everyone can identify with it. And because the leading male character in the story is a pale goth boy, it reminded me so much of Chris, who was, and still is, a pale goth boy. My favorite couple in the history of ever (the Darcys excluded) has always been Gomez and Morticia Adams. Basically, I am perpetually 13 years-old.

Get ready to gag: Reading this book made me think about those early days of my and Chris's courtship. He was older (is seven years older); his hair is jet black, his eyes are black and very intense. He has an intimidating persona and I was immediately drawn to that when I first met him. The way he would wrap his arm protectively around my waist if we were in a club; the way he would drive us through the hills in his sports car on the way back to my parents' house; it was seductive. I remember one time at a blues festival in Memphis, as we walked through a muddy field on makeshift sidewalks made of wood planks, I excused myself as I tried to cut through a group of guys so as to avoid walking through the ankle-deep mud all around me. One of them spit an obscenity in my face and then suddenly the guy flew off the plank and landed in the mud three feet away. I saw Chris's arms extended by my side and he stood there and glowered at the guy as the guy's friends helped him up.

"GET THE HELL OUT OF HER WAY," Chris snarled. A sane person would've been nervous but all I could think was "GAWD THAT'S SO HOT."

And just like that I was in love. While the feeling is always there, it's sometimes buried underneath daily routines, making dinner, bed head, paying bills, morning breath, yard work, et al. Words such as Meyer's pierce into those earlier memories and pull them to the forefront of my mind.

So in many respects, if could be called a silly YA series, if a critic wanted to be obtuse and elitist. And thus ends the weirdest unprovoked (as in, no one asked) book review-slash-courtship-post I've ever written.

Seven-year-old wisdom

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Since the death of their Great-Grandfather (and the arrival of Wii's Boom Blox, a Spielberg-designed game in which you can choose little Grim Reapers, what Ewan calls "the living dead," as characters) the boys have been fascinated with death. Being children, they talk about it in the frankest of terms; ways of speaking that adults tip-toe and whisper around. Kids are frank because they're innocent. We call them "naïve" because we're cynics. When you're young that forthrightness stems from innocence. When you're old, you're forthright because you realize that living with sugar-coating and dishonesty are worse than the repercussions from being outright.

We were on our way to have lunch with the boys' Great-Grandmother, Chris's Grandma, and Chris was lecturing Liam on how he shouldn't bring up Great-Grandpa's death. The last time we talked to him it was right before a phone call to Great-Grandma and we instructed him to not mention it. He got on the phone and was all "Hi Great-Grandma. Hey, I'm real sorry about YOU KNOW WHAT, you know, about YOU KNOW WHO dyin' an all? But I'm not supposed to talk to you about that because Mom and Dad don't want me to." Chris and I would've grabbed him and shook the phone away but we were driving, belted in our seats, so the worst we could do was to mime idle threats from the front seats.

So we're in the van, on our way to lunch and we're involved in the same "don't talk about death and dying, please, dear God, just don't, we're really serious this time" conversation.

"Don't even mention it," barked Chris. "None of the dying stuff."

"Why?" Liam asked.

"Because Great-Grandma is still upset. Her husband isn't here anymore."

"Well Dad, you know, he's always with us."

"You're right, Bub," Chris replied, realizing that he had just been owned by a seven-year-old.

I looked at Chris; he looked at me, both of us with incredulous expressions. I turned around to look at Liam in his booster seat, his spindly legs and feet still half-a-foot from the floor. He stared out of his window at the traffic zooming past in the opposite direction.

Insert title of a Sting song here

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One of my longtime readers emailed last night to ask why I don't post as regularly anymore. Somehow the discussion got all big and philosophical and it ended up becoming this big armchair therapy deal wherein I realized a lot of things.

The gist was that my faith in people was really shaken this year, following my massive screw-over by the P-D. Chase that with several people who came along years after I first used, established, and trademarked my website's name and tried to use my mark in various ways. I am very cynical and don't trust easy and it was really alarming for me to watch as all of my ridiculous little neurotic hang-ups were confirmed. Oh. And then there was all the drama in the comments for my SXSW panel. (Thanks to those who shared kind words.)

I kept writing, as I always have, as it was suggested to me and encouraged by a therapist when I was a kid because it was the only real way to draw anything out. It's a survival technique just as much as it is a hobby. This has been a weird year (but punctuated with some really amazing things like the 30 Under 30, et al.) and because I wear my heart on my sleeve, my tone and words mimic whatever it is that I'm feeling. I exorcise any hurt by spitting it out in paragraphs but even I know that there's only so much poison you can throw out into the world. So a lot of what I've been writing lately has been private. I've also been busy with a side project and have gotten bogged down with a couple other things.

I have no idea where I'm going with this so let's just roll. For awhile I felt like I was writing more for other people than for myself. It's not bad to have that feeling, but I think writing suffers when it's not balanced by an awareness of audience and self-motivation. I have always written for myself first. I didn't think about what others would think of it, about family that would find it and freak the hell out, the PC implications, the censorship, all of the extraneous crap that sanitizes and ruins writing. Then at one point I pulled my head out of the sand and I saw what was going on and I hated it. I hated having to come up with cutey-little mommy columns and when I bordered on the line of what I really wanted to say the squares would freak out. I don't like writing equally-cutely little blog posts and be all yeay! It's so easy! Homeschooling and raising kids, and doing a radio show and let's all skip in a field of daises! Because it's not. And I hate sanitizing my life for the sake of a happy little blog post. That's not living.

Still don't know where I'm going with this. Sure, I could stick with kids' fashion or home interiors, or commit to just discussing the Polly Sunshine aspects of life but that's not life. I could also just open a Word document and write it all in there instead of, as some say, go attention-whoring in a post. That's great and all, except that throughout this whole "writing for myself first" thing I've come to realize that you and I have developed a little repertoire. You push me to write better, to analyze things better, to essentially keep a better record of my life. I could use you as a scapegoat and say it's because of you that I don't write in a notebook. Yes and no. I like the closure that comes with hitting "publish," too. I don't fully understand it; it's all of these things and then some.

So I haven't been writing as often or as in-depth partly because I've had to break through some sort of fourth wall in my own mind and get over some things. It's a reason comments are off a lot, not like I get a frillion of them or something, because it's a nice trick for me to pull more out of a graph than if I think comments are on. Is that weird? I just think a lot of women get caught up in statistics and who's publishing what where, self-branding, and all of this other crap that has NOTHING to do with writing well. I don't want to feel trapped by that mindset.

Anyway, this is a jumbled up mess of a post but I feel better having put it out there. I may delete it later.

I'm going to go hang out with one of my muses. It's a good day.



Another year

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class.jpg
 
This is Ewan's table; he sits here and drafts his plans for world domination while Liam does seat work.

Slowly starting second grade curriculum and full-on preschool activities today after a short two-week break following the end of Liam's first grade year. We've gone with Abeka curriculum again this year which we have used since kindergarten. It's advanced-paced and  phenomenally put together. Liam can read well; write cursive and print; do double-digit addition and subtraction; count and exchange money; speak, read, and write some basic Spanish; and he's learning to do small amounts of homework on his own time (teaching time management) to turn in the following morning. To say that I'm proud of him is an understatement. Each year I get under my homeschooling belt gives me that much more confidence as his teacher.

I'm working on a massive page of homeschooling resources and the like for those interested, including supplemental curriculum I've tried and liked over the past four years.   

Womens

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MINIVAN - AFTERNOON
Chris, Dana, Liam, And Ewan are riding in the family vehicle en route home after picking the boys up from their grandparents' house. The boys are relating their experience at a cousin's princess-themed birthday party from over the weekend. 

EWAN
I don't like girls. Girls are LAME
.

ME
That's not a nice thing to say! Mama is a girl, you know.

EWAN
No you're not! You're a WOMAN.

LIAM
Girls can be womens, too. A WOMAN is a girl who has growed up.

EWAN
I don't like growed up girls.

LIAM
They're called WOMENS.

EWAN
I like womens. I don't like girls.

ME
Please remember that when you're in your twenties.

Because it's an important issue

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Everyone is familiar with how I trademarked my name years ago and even some of my successfully defended trademark issues; you've read about publications stealing other bloggers' intellectual property and publishers stealing their posts for profit - all of this makes me realize that we need a frank discussion on the issue of trademarking and intellectual property more than ever before.

A few weeks ago I submitted such an idea to the SXSW panel picker. It was accepted and is now open for voting. Please take a moment to quickly register here (all info stays private) and vote for my panel here. Thank you!

P.S. Please ignore my stalker, my estranged, child and wife-beating (and denier! Despite records) biological father, Paul Eaton, who decided to leave a defaming comment on the SXSW website under my panel. That was what I lived with daily as a child and a demon I continue to fight in my adulthood. Hugh and the SXSW folks took care of it. Many thanks to them for their concern and attention to the matter.

Another awesome thing not on television

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Chris popped some popcorn after dinner yesterday and he and the boys got comfortable in front of the iMac in the dining room for a marathon viewing of Japanese Bug Fights. As I said, Liam and Ewan are fascinated by bugs. With my parents took them to the zoo over the weekend they spent an inordinate amount of time at the insect house, in its cool dark corridors, pressing their faces up against the glass tanks holding scorpions and other icky things. They have bug catchers and store nasty little grody things in them and keep them confined, on the deck. It's always a delight to walk outside in the morning with a cup of green tea, look down, and see a bunch of dead bugs in a small, screened-in carrier.

On the bright side, it's a service and they're cheaper than the bug spray dude.

So naturally, to watch bugs fight in a close-quarters aquarium was eleventy-times the awesome. They particularly enjoyed it when the millipede tossed the wasp like a rag doll and when the locust tore into and started eating its opponent right after the bell.

They seriously have a bell. GOD BLESS THE JAPANESE. They can take the most inane idea and turn it into theater. I have no idea what the announcers are saying but when their voices rise and the music plays and the audience (I assume track) cheers it brings me to the edge of my seat. They even have rules: two bugs walk, crawl, or whatever it is millipedes do, and one bug walks out. Also, no weapons are allowed, you know, for that rouge Japanese beetle looking to bring in his tie iron or shank.

Yes, I could do this in my back yard but that's MISSING THE POINT. I don't have a bell like that and you and I both know that so much of it is about the bell, two, I don't have foreign announcers, and three, no audience track. I like competitive fighting be it humans or bugs. I'm a huge boxing fan and I watch UFC (the boys aren't allowed until they're older). It's one of the most basic competitions out there with a purpose that's more than just winning or setting a PR for time; it's also about dominating your opponent, physically, but in an artful way. It requires skill and timing. It's about fighting a good fight, something you can do if you either win or lose. It's actually a pretty awesome life lesson.

Anyway, the boys were fascinated and rooted for the insect they wanted to win, which was always the biggest, gnarliest bug of the two. There are a ton of episodes from which to choose. The boys particularly liked all the ones with tarantulas and millipedes.

bug1.jpg

I climbed the stairs with the boys last night at bedtime, turned the dark corner at the top of the stairs, flicked on their bedroom light and ... [cue "Psycho" shower scene music] there were a terrifying amount of stuffed animals freakishly assembled in tidy little rows on Ewan's bed.

Before Liam started growing out of his allergies his allergist instructed that I ban stuffed animals from the house as they were nothing but dust magnets. I packed them all, save for each boy's teddy bear, in plastic bags and stored them in the bowels of our stone basement.  So instead of attaching themselves to stuffed animals, the boys started collecting plastic and rubber insects. Real life-looking insects like roaches, various bugs, and spiders. At any given point there are a dozen fake black spiders and roaches lying around the house in totally conspicuous places like the stairs, in the bathroom (if they take them in there to play while using "the office"). It scares the wits out of my friend Marjorie, who has asked me before what in holy Moses is that thing in the corner? We've gotten used to it and are acclimated to the creepiness factor. It kinds goes with the whole ancient, three-story brownstone aesthetic.


bug2.jpg


My parents, like any perfectly normal parents, don't always follow our rigid rules - and we know this because the boys always regal us with tales of their overnight stay at Nana and Pa-Pa's and how Nana and Pa-Pa let them have pure sugar from the bag right before their midnight bedtime and how Nana and Pa-Pa let them drink Mountain Dew and ride their bikes without helmets. My parents started buying Ewan stuffed animals and the allergist lifted the ban and he began hoarding them in the boys' playroom. I noticed that the number of animals he took to bed at night was increasing slightly. He went to bed with six on Sunday night, eight on Monday night; last night I counted twelve. I tried to edit them down to just the long-timers but OHMYGAWD NO. He acted like I set fire to his Thomas the Train DVDs, his angst was so great. He crumpled into a pile on his racecar bed and howled. I started adding them in, one by one until there was no room for him in his own bed. He jumped in, nestled in between a stuffed dinosaur and one of his weirdo rubber lizards with demon eyes, and went to sleep.

bug3.jpg


Digression: I had stuffed animals as a kid; they sat on my bedroom floor and lined the perimeter of the room. This was until one of my brat elementary school classmates told me a story her brother told her about a girl's killer teddy bear that wakes up at night and goes off killing people in the town. It climbed from underneath the girl's arm at night and tiptoed out of the house with a kitchen knife. One night it went after the girl and her mom cut the bear up in pieces but that night the pieces all marched out of the trashcan towards the girl's bedroom. Stupid, I know, but to an 8-year-old in the 80s it was terrifying. I tried to get rid of my stuffed animals but my mother kept putting some of them back in my room. I finally tied their hands together with my hair scrunchies. Shut up. I AM TOTALLY OVER IT NOW. /Digression

Ewan's obsession is fine until one of his animals falls out of bed which prompts him to wake up and yodel into the baby monitor until Chris or I retrieve it. This cannot become a pattern. I cannot be woken up night after night because some douchebag stuffed animal falls a whole foot from a plastic racecar bed. Because I'm wholly neurotic, I worry that Ewan's growing collection is an indication that he will grow up to be one of Those People who collect Beanie Babies and ride around town in his 80s-issued vehicle with a mountain of stuffed animals displayed in the back windshield.

He probably won't. But I'm drawing the line at this:


bed.jpg

(There's a herd off-camera you aren't seeing.)
I'm a bit perplexed as to why one of St. Louis's homeschooling websites won't acknowledge one of the pro-homeschooling candidates running in our local 88th district representative race.

I don't campaign, honestly, I don't have the time or the interest. However I do know Shamed; I've met him several times, and one of the first things I ask any politician is where they stand on a parent's right to home educate. 

I emailed homeschoolers before about this when I noticed that not all the pro-homeschooling candidates were being showcased to the homeschooling community. I didn't hear back. I know; I'm just one parent, right?

I think it's dangerously narrow-minded to support ONLY candidates who are homeschooling parents. There are a litany of others issues to discuss and people need an elected representative who has experience - not a guy who sorely lacks it, a guy whose financial savvy has been questioned, who's running solely on his homeschool connections and a couple of lackluster endorsements. In an effort to promote just their one issue, some homeschoolers will sacrifice the rest of the lot without realizing it.

And homeschoolers wonder why they get stereotyped. The homeschooling community shouldn't be exclusive as to only promoting homeschoolers. That goes against some of the religious motivation which brought people to such an educational choice to begin with. Who gets supported for what shouldn't be a popularity contest.

It angers me because for many parents, their only source of online encouragement are websites and online communities where like-minded independent educators can gather and exchange ideas; sadly they don't realize that those overseeing these platforms ultimately control the flow of information, they power the megaphone, and if something doesn't pass their discretion, well, then, it won't get through to the rest of the community. That both worries and scares me as a homeschooling parent.

Homeschoolers shouldn't trip themselves up in an effort to strictly promote their own exclusive community. From what I've seen regarding this particular race in the 88th district, it has.

So those of you who homeschool, who live in the 88th district and are voting tomorrow (or today, depending upon when you read this), please consider Shamed. He's staunchly pro-homeschooling (he and his wife are expecting and they're actually considering homeschooling their child) but even more - he's got actual experience.

I love my homeschool community, I do. But this? Has me a bit concerned for it.
 

The art of social grace

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The other night the boys called their Great-Grandmother, who isn't doing so well after Great-Grandpa's death, to cheer her up a bit until next we can visit. Liam is just like me, someone who says more than needs to be said, someone who shares too much for whatever reason. During the visitation Liam walked up to Great-Grandma and said: "Really sorry that your husband died and all. I love you." When he said "died and all," he literally gestured towards the casket. I furiously scribbled mental notes about emphasizing social graces to the boys. I realized that it was his young way of expressing condolences and in his mind he thought that he was demonstrating exemplary social grace. 

Before we dialed her number the other night we sternly instructed him on what to say and what NOT to say. He wasn't to mention anything about Great-Grandpa's death, dying, caskets, things like that. He nodded his head solemnly and we dialed her number and handed him the phone.

"Oh HI Great-Grandma," he chirped. "So how are you doing? I'm sorry again about you-know-what, about you-know-who dying but Mom and Dad told me not to talk about that to you so I won't."

Listening to

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Kenna "Say Goodbye to Love."

I'm rushing to finish show prep and get all my audio in to my engineers; I just kissed both boys on the cheek and sent them with Nana and Pa-Pa for the weekend while I do my bridesmaid duties for my friend Melody.

I'm so happy about Lisa's latest update I could kiss the sky. It certainly does put silly drama in the proper perspective, yes?

Happy weekending.
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