"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Miss Photogenic

>> Sunday, September 30, 2007

Since I spent Caelan's birthday flat on my back in bed I had to reschedule her photos. We finally had them taken on Thursday and she modeled unashamedly for the camera.

We call this one"Let Me Think"
And this one is "I'm Cute and I Know It"
"C" is for Caelan
"Gathering Pumpkins"
"Pretending to Be Shy"

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Fall Organizing

Yep, with spring comes the cleaning and will fall comes the organizing. Because, without a daubt, everything we used during the spring and summer has become piled in the 3rd stall of our garage. Bikes and trailers- check. Inflatable swimming pool and sprinkler- check. camping gear- check. Outdoor toys-check. Random hoses, lawn sprinklers, outdoor furniture and lawn maintence equipment- check, check, check and check.

Honestly I can't complain too much. I actually like organizing stuff. I love to empty the garage and put things away in a orderly fashion that makes sense.

So the bikes get hung on a bike rack, the trailers get folded and hung on hooks, the camping gear gets stowed in the attic (I dearly love that we have pull down steps and tons of attic storage), and the small stuff gets filed away in it's own area.

Now, if you are anything like me and love to be organized I have found a website that will make you salivate. This is garage storage at it's finest. Heck, a few of their garage cabinets would be great in my someday-to-be-added craft room.

What? You don't like organizing? Really? I think some of their shiny cabinets could change your mind.

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Motivation

>> Friday, September 28, 2007

Sometimes you need just a bit of "oomph" to get you moving. I am that way with eating "right", exercising and losing weight.

In fact, I convinced Doug that we should get a home gym so I could work out at home. Well... that's not going too well. With one daughter that wants to "help" and won't nap I don't have any time to myself for the whole "working out" to actually work out. And I find that I get a better work out in a gym. So on my list of things to do once my back will actually rotate again is "find a gym".

As for the eating right, I think I do ok... It's not so much what I eat but how much of it I eat. Portion control is the key.

Which brings me to weight loss. I just need motivation. So I got all signed up over at IowaMoms.com to do the weight loss challenge "The Greatest Loser".

Unfortunately, right now I am the only one signed up. Anyone want to join me? There are prizes....

And I have a great recipe below to start your healthy eating habit...

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Fab Food Friday

When I worked in St Paul there was a little Vietnamese restaurant just a couple doors down. I lived on their Spring Rolls. Good, fresh ingredients wrapped in a soft shell. And, best of all, not fried.

I was so sad when they closed. And I could never find an unfried Spring Roll. So when I saw this recipe in October's Fitness magazine I had to try it.

Asian Spring Rolls


8- 8 inch round spring roll wrappers (I found mine at Hy Vee, a local grocery store)
2 cups shredded Bibb lettuce (I used cabbage because I couldn't find Bibb)
8 ounces cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 c shredded carrot
1/4 c sliced scallion
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
5 T bottled peanut sauce
2 T seasoned rice vinegar

Fill a shallow dish with warm water. Dip each spring roll wrapper in water, place between damp paper towels for 10 minutes. Tip: use damp paper towels to separate moist wrappers! In a large bowl combine lettuce, shrimp, carrot, scallion, cilantro, 2 T peanut sauce and 1 T rice vinegar. Toss.

In a small bowl stir together the remaining 3 T peanut sauce and 1 T rice vinegar; set aside.

Place 1/2 c of the shrimp mixture half an inch from the bottom edge of a wrapper. Fold bottome edge of the wrapper over the filling. Fold sides over and roll up. Repeat with remaining wrappers.

Other ideas:
This would be great with chicken!
Sprouts would also be good, I think.

Brenna liked them because they had "dippies"!

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Children In The Corn

>> Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last night was the Harvest Moon (the first full moon after the first day of fall). It is called the harvest moon because farmers were able to harvest crops long into the night by the light of the moon. This was, of course, before tractors with headlights.

Yesterday was a gorgeous fall day that became a perfect fall evening. I had reserved a fire pit area at Geisler Family Farm Corn Maze and invited a group of friends to join us for roasting hotdogs, toasting marshmallows and fun in the corn.

This is quite possibly the best corn maze I have been to. I love the layout- pictured below. You are given a picture of the maze with the locations of 10 numbered posts. If you find all the posts and stamp your card you get a prize.




But before that fun the kids wore themselves out on all the fun stuff the Geisler family set up. There is a huge tire swing (think rear tractor tire huge), a swingset with a "lookout tower" and slide, beanbag toss games and roping a (PVC) steer. The rope was also great for some impromptu tug-of-war.

Of course cooking over fire was a great hit. Here is my nephew Carter learning the fine art of marshmallow toasting.
The fire pit areas are set up with benches and a table to lay out your feast. There is an electrical outlet (with two plugs) if you want to bring something in a crock pot. (I brought Taco Soup. It was a hit. I'll share the recipe soon.)

After cleaning up and when the moon was high in the sky it was time to take the girls and navigate the maze. Here's Brenna at a crossroads.


I wish you could see how spectacular the moon was. It was huge and so bright. Unfortunately I didn't think to use the "fireworks" setting on my camera... I bet it would have worked.

And here we are deep in the maze. We had a great time. Caelan even stayed awake the entire time. She was bouncing around in the backpack as we went trudging along the paths singing "Old McDonald".


If you are anywhere near central Iowa some weekend during the next month I really recommend a visit to Geisler Family Farm. In addition to the fun stuff I mentioned they also have a soybean maze tha tthe kids can navigate on their own, hayrack rides (handicapped accessible) and pumpkin picking! It's great family fun. I promise.

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Happy What?

>> Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's embarassing just how far behind I am on my scrapbooking. I have a plan in place to catch up... One page per day. HA! Like that happens.

I was working on it in the evenings but, quite honestly, I am so exhausted by the time 8 pm rolls around that I can't even think of a layout for pages, let alone a cute title.

So then I decided to do a page during Caelan's afternoon nap and Brenna's quiet time. Until Brenna decided that she didn't want to spend quiet time in her room and I spent the entire time transporting her up and down the stairs.

So then it was decided that she could rest and watch a movie in my room. Which then led to her watching a movie in the basement. Which is right next to the office. Which led to "Mommy I neeeeed you" and "Mommy,I want to work with you".

Which is not working. So tomorrow we go back to quiet time in the bedroom. I am honestly beginning to second guess my parenting skills- or lack there of. I just need an hour of solitude! Aaagghhhh!

Oops, got carried away there...

I was actually trying to lead up to this:


Isn't he cute? I made him with my Wishblade from a dingbat font. I'm pretty proud of him...

But now you can see how far behind I am. I have a scrapping night planned for this weekend. Hopefully I can get done through the end of May...

Speaking of scrapping, have you seen the way cute album I am giving away this month? Just a few days left to comment and win!

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Busy Here

Wow, Doug posted. Of course that throws off my posts as you have to scroll farther down to reach me.

Let me make it easy. Doug has a post below about health insurance. A nice hot-button topic.

Next is my post about using an ID when you vote.

And, if you have no interest in politics but want to see what I recently created with my Wishblade then click here.

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How I feel about Health Insurance

This post on TCS pretty much sums up my thoughts on healthcare insurance in America.

First, change the tax structure so that it's a personal deduction instead of a corporate one. Your job shouldn't determine your coverage. You as a person should.

Second, let people choose their own coverage from the vendor of their choice. You know what you want. Do you want higher deductible and lower rates or vice-versa? Do you want an HSA that invests your money and builds over time, or do you want to give your money over to someone each month and have your coverage stop when you stop paying? It should be your choice.

Third, keep the government reporting down to a minimum...just enough to make sure epidemics get spotted early and to capture the data needed to catch trends and abuse. The administrative overhead required to keep the government happy drives up costs by 20% to 40% depending on the state and entity.

Fourth, reduce government involvement in anything that competes with the free market. The free market can supply it cheaper and quicker than the government. Use it.

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Have You an ID?

OK, I guess that I am confused about why it would be unconstitutional to have to show an ID when you are voting.

Does that mean it is also unconstitutional to have to show ID when applying for a job? Or getting a driver's license? Or even a passport? (And is it ironic that you have to show ID to get ID?)

The tag line for this argument is that showing ID is a plot to "suppress voting by the elderly, poor and minorities".

Being as I have been among "the poor" in this country (to the point of my family being "assisted" deeper into a hole by the government that you can only get out of if you quit being "assisted" cold turkey and work really freakin' hard, live with a family of 5 in a one bedroom house and have family with a farm that will help provide you with food... but honestly, that's a whole nother post)...

As I was saying, having been among the poor in this country I think I have the right to say this: quit using the "disinfranchised" as pawns.

If you really don't want to show an ID when you vote get an absentee ballot. They bring them to you and pick them up.

If the cost of the ID is the trouble then your worries are gone because you can get a voter ID card free. Problem solved. But, and I'm just wondering here, if you can't afford a state ID then I am going to assume that you are on some sort of government assistance. Which I believe you have to show ID to receive. Hmmm...

As for the elderly, having not been elderly I can only speculate and make assumptions using people that I know. Which would be my grandparents, Doug's grandparents and my great-grandparents. Who all viewed- and view- voting as a privlege.

My great-grandmothers were born before or at the turn of the (last) century. As they grew up voting was not something they were allowed to do. Both were married before they were allowed to vote.

My maternal grandparents have carried themselves from dirt poor to very well off. This was before the government aided you with food, money and medical coverage. Hard work and going without was a way of life. If you think that they aren't going to vote and have a say then you'd best screw your head on straight and think again. And I will wager that most in thier "elderly" group have the same experiences and feelings.

As for the minority, I cannot say that I have been that, either. But my ancestors are Irish. And if you look at how the Irish were treated when they came to this country... I believe they were first a slave class. (OK, so they were called "indentured servants". It's just a nice way to say "owned". Actually, the Scottish were "indentured" as well. And the Chinese...) Yep, working in gold mining camps in the west, using pick axes in the mountains for the trains that would eventually come, working as housekeepers and nannies so their children could, maybe, have a better life. During the potato famine when they were immigrating to the US is droves I believe there were signs in the windows that said "No Irish".

It's time that we stopped taking our freedom for granted. Voting is a privlege. Driving is a privlege. Owning a home is a privlege.

The only rights we have are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everything else is cake. It would do us all good to remember that.

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Be Stylish, Momma!

>> Monday, September 24, 2007

You may remember the post I wrote a while back about My Favorite Travel Diaper Bag (shown below). If not you will definately want to follow the link and check it out.




The very kind ladies at The Essential Bebe asked me to try a couple of their other items and give them some feedback.

The first item is their Big Kahuna Changing Pad in "Flower Power". Here's my advice: throw out those tiny, cheap changing pads that came with your diaper bag and get yourself one of these!

I love that this pad completely covers the oversize changing stations you see in bathrooms now:

Complete coverage! (19"wide x 32"long) It's nicely padded and the lower half is a wipeable surface ( just in case someone wiggles and makes a mess. Of course that has never happened to me...) Nope, no wiggly babies in this house...
It folds so nicely and has an adjustable velcro closure. I really like the closure because it allows me to fold a package of wipes and diapers inside the case. I don't really carry a diaper bag anymore so I love that this folds so neatly. I keep it in the base of my stroller and it goes practically everywhere we go.
There are 5 designs to choose from including camo and green and camo and pink so you are sure to find something that will make you feel hip and stylish even when changing a nasty diaper.

The Big Kahuna Changing Pad was a 2006 iParenting Media HOT Award Winner, a 2007 Creative Kids Top Product and is used by some of Hollywood's hottest mommies like Heidi Klum, Brooke Shields and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The second goodie they sent we actually already had. The Petite Love is a snuggly 18"x18" blanket that your baby will love to nuzzle. As a matter of fact the second "Love" was needed as Brenna attached herself to the one Caelan received as a gift so long ago. This blankie is made of incredibly soft chenille. Honestly, you won't believe the softness until you touch it yourself. I had never felt chenille like this before.

All the Essential Bebe products are made with incredible attention to detail and of the highest quality materials right here in the USA. I love their stuff. I love it so much, in fact, that a certain brother and SIL of mine will be receiving choice items at a soon-to-be-held baby shower. Yep, the stuff is that good.

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Who Is Coming?

>> Sunday, September 23, 2007

This weekend was Homecoming in my town. Which meant fun pranks were played on the football team.

While driving to the chiropractor on Friday Brenna looked out her window and asked,"What's in the tree, Mommy?"

"Toilet paper, honey."

"Why?"

Well, now, that's a good question, isn't it. So I told Brenna that it was put there for Homecoming.

"Home is coming over tonight?"

"No, honey. Homecoming is a big party for the high school with a football game."

"Football is coming home tonight?" Brenna asked hopefully.

"No, honey. Football is at the high school tonight. Then they will have a party."

"Oh," Brenna said, sounding thoroughly confused.

Later, explaining it to Daddy, Brenna said that she saw "toilet paper in the tree for home to come over tonight for a party".

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This is What You Get at 4:39am

>> Saturday, September 22, 2007

First off, I would like to thank Wells Fargo for this yummy cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera that I am enjoying at 4:39am. Doug has been in big (read: top secret; he could tell me but then I'd have to pretend to understand) meetings this week and I guess there were an over-abundance of bagles remaining yesterday. So, thanks to "the Farg" for something to snack on whilst I try to become tired again.

Yeah, I know it's an obscene time to be awake. I tried not to. I had a very strange dream that my sister, two SILs and I were in a house and the owner came home. I guess we shouldn't have been there... Anyway, that woke me around 3am and, though I spent the next half hour trying to get comfy and go back to sleep, I finally got out of bed to keep from bothering Doug too much. He needs his rest; I've volunteered him to help some friends move today and I am letting him out of his shackles tonight to go out with my brothers. (What? You think I let him out with people I don't know?) I understand that it is Oktoberfest at a local German restaurant downtown. Mmmmm....

*****************************************************

I got two pieces of mail today that were unexpected.

First was a package. I thought it might be a birthday gift for Caelan from Doug's mom. Instead it was for me... From E's mom. She sent me E's Lenore doll. I referred often to E as my "creepy little girl". The box also held two of E's stuffed lions for the girls. I am very touched that E spoke to her mom enough about me for her to know that and that she would think to send those to me.

The second piece of mail was *somewhat* expected until I opened it. It was a large envelope from the Giuliani campaign. That, of itself, wasn't too odd. The fact that it was addressed to me kind of was. I opened it to find a stack of articles that his Field Rep thought might interest me. There was also a note:


Jody- I read the artice in the paper and wondered if you had looked at
Rudy. I am including some articles that may be of interest to you.
Also, great name for your daughter; it is not often you hear of others with that
name.

All the best-
Brenna W*****


Hmmm... an article, you say? The only article I could figure it to be was from the AP interview at the Fred Thompson event a few weeks ago. So I did what anyone would do... I googled myself. And here is what I found:

From The Tennessean: Jody (last name removed), 36, of (city), Iowa, has not yet decided whom she will support, but attended the Thompson speech with daughters Caelan, 1, and Brenna, 2, because she thinks Thompson may have the best chance among the GOP candidates of winning the general election.

"I hope what I see today shows he can lead and not just act like a leader," (I) said.


On Fred's Website : "Jody (last name removed), 36, of (city), Iowa [said]...she thinks Thompson may have the best chance among the GOP candidates of winning the general election." (Bill Theobald, Tennessean, 9/7/06)

And the AP article from US News & World Report (and lots of other papers): Just after Labor Day, Jody (last name removed), 36, of (city), toted her two daughters - 1-year-old Caelan and 2 1/2-year-old Brenna - to see Thompson's first event as a full-fledged candidate. She had seen all the other Republican candidates in person but remained uncommitted, saying she was looking for a conservative who could win in November.

After listening to Thompson, she said, "he's probably my top candidate" and then added: "right now" as she, like so many others, reserved the right to change her mind.

OK, I like that I am quoted pretty much verbatim. I'm a little bothered that the guy from the Tennessean did not actually interview me but, instead, listened to my interview with the AP. Ah, well, it got me on Fred's website...

*************************************************

*sigh*
5:13 am Maybe I should try to sleep before Caelan decides to wake for the morning.

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Worth a Visit

>> Friday, September 21, 2007

I have a few new posts up on my travel blog. See the photo link at the left? The one that says: My Little Travel Blog. Click that and take a virtual trip...

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Fab Food Friday

Caelan turned 1 this past Tuesday. The first birthday, even though the guest of honor can't remember it, is very special.

Caelan's party had a Princess theme. The card I made was "Mirror Mirror":




And, of course, every princess needs a castle:



This cake was very easy to make; it was actually more time consuming to decorate. I got the "recipe" from FamilyFun.com.

RECIPE INGREDIENTS:
2 baked 9-inch square cakes
Pink frosting
4 baked cupcakes
4 ice-cream cones
Green colored sugar
4 Hershey's Kisses
Necco Wafers
M&M candies
2 cups blue Jell-O
1 cup shredded coconut, tinted with green food coloring
1 graham cracker
1. Place one of the square cakes on a large platter. Frost, then layer with the second square cake.

2. Place the cupcakes on top of the cake in each of the four corners. Top each cupcake with an inverted ice-cream cone. Frost the cupcakes and cones. Score the frosting with a fork to make the textured castle siding.

3. Now, add candies. First, sprinkle the green sugar on the cones, then top each cone with a Hershey's Kiss. Outline the top of the cake with Necco Wafers. Create a castle door with more Necco wafers and M&M's.

4. Surround the cake with the blue Jell-O and a ring of the green shredded coconut.

5. Finally, place a graham cracker drawbridge over the moat, and invite the party guests to dig in. Serves 8 to 10.

I did make changes, though. I used different ice cream cones because I already had them, I bought different candies to decorate, and I added gummy "sentries".

What I would do differently:

  • I used 2 cake mixes (one to make 2 of the cakes and one to make cupcakes). Next time I would make 3 cakes and half the number of cupcakes. I would have liked the cake to be taller.
  • I might add flags to the tops of the cones. Maybe with a toothpick and Fruit Roll Ups.
  • I would remember to unwrap the cupcakes before I put them on top of the cake- to prevent slippage. Yes, I know, genius.

Don't be surprised if this cake shows up again... improved.


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I'm Happy On Top!

>> Thursday, September 20, 2007

Click ME!!! I'm a Top Momma!

I'm a Top Mommma!

I would LOVE to stay on the board for a while... PLEASE click the link at the top.

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Perfectly, Wonderfully Average

>> Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Caelan had her one year Well Baby visit today. The dots on her growth chart follow the growth curve almost perfectly.

She is 29 1/4 inches long and 20 pounds 11 ounces. Just enough for us to turn her car seat forward! What a great day! Caelan is so happy to be looking forward. If you glance back at her you see a big smile. And if she sees you look at her she erupts in contagious laughter. It's impossible not to laugh back.

The downside of today was her shots- 4 of them including a flu shot. Ouch! And they topped that off with a finger poke to draw blood to check for lead and her hemoglobin levels. Poor baby was not happy when we left.

All is well now, though, and we are off to play with chalk and paint on the driveway.

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So Boo-tiful

Halloween will be here before you know it. Do you have your costumes yet? This month's scrap bribing is an adorable "paper bag" mini photo album ready for photos of your favorite ghouls, goblins, pirates or princesses.

Here's the cover. A cute smiling ghostie accented by rhinestones and a tiny ghost jingle hanging from the binding ribbon.



Each page is decorated and ready for photos. The black cat page pulls out from the "top" of a bag.
Here's the back of the first page.
The center of the book is full of sparkling rhinestone "stars".
And the flip of the fourth page.
Another pull out from "behind" the haunted house
And the back. Happy Halloween!


Pages measure approximately 4" x 4 1/2".

Want to win this adorable album? Just leave me a comment- it's that easy! Want to double your chances of winning? Write a little post and link to this post (be sure to let me know you did!) and you'll be entered twice!

Final day to enter is September 30.

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Mirror Mirror

>> Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Mirror Mirror
Full of fun
Show us who
Is turning ONE!

Yep, my little LoveBug is one today.
One year ago Caelan entered the world 3 1/2 weeks early. It just doesn't seem possible.
Birthday cake is best enjoyed for breakfast!

Happy First Birthday, my baby girl!

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Dad's Home

>> Monday, September 17, 2007

My dad was released from the hospital Saturday morning. He will have in-home physical and voice therapy three times a week for, well, probably a long time.

Your prayers, good wishes and kind words were so helpful. As were the understanding comments when I needed to vent my frustrations.

Thanks to everyone!

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Trust The Locals

One of my favorite aspects of travel is trying to blend in with the locals. Although being "tourist-y" is a must for much of what I want to see and do I love feeling like I "blend".

On my first trip to Ireland I had another American ask me for directions. She and her husband assumed I was a local because I "didn't look American". Ummm, ok... When Doug & I were in London we also had people ask us for directions. But, honestly, even Londoners carry the mini AtoZ map... You have to unless you know exactly where you are going.

We always make sure to ask people that we meet or our B&B hosts where the best food, entertainment or not-to-be-missed things are.

Now I have another way to get local input. Let's say that Doug and I are heading to London for a quick getaway (It could happen- the prices are really great right now) and I want some references on London restaurants. I just go to TrustedPlaces.com, enter what I am looking for (restaurants) and where (London) and I have a list complete with reviews. Of course London is full of restaurants so I can break it down by category (let's say English) and I'm left with a reasonable 74 listings to peruse. Pub grub, anyone?

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How Do I Do It?

Yesterday I threw out my back while changing a diaper. No, I have no idea how, I just know that before I changed the diaper I was fine and after I couldn't move.

So I spent yesterday flat on my back in bed. I had so much I wanted to do- and lots of pictures from Caelan's birthday party to share. But that has to wait as my list of things to do today is long and I am moving very s l o w l y. And painfully.

Added to my to-do list for Wednesday: check out a local gym. I know this is happening because my core is weak. And if that's not the reason working out certainly won't hurt.

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Remember Ramona?

>> Saturday, September 15, 2007

In a story that will make most Iowans titter with glee Ramona Cunningham, the former chief of CIETC, is now a housekeeping supervisor in Louisana.

In all honesty Ramona should have been a success story. She never graduated from high school but did achieve her GED. She became the chief exectuive of the Iowa job training agency which should have given an "if I can do this so can you" example to everyone.

Instead CIETC became overrun with scandal involving exhorbant pay for some, family members of the board being hired, romantic involvement between Ms. Cunningham and a board member and massive fraud. What a mess.

So Ramona has gone from a $360K job to what is probably no more than $12 per hour. Well, it looks like she kept the guy...

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Oh, My Aching Back

>> Friday, September 14, 2007

Tomorrow is Caelan’s First Birthday party. Which meant that today was a busy day for me. I had cakes to bake and assemble into a lovely castle, a house to clean from bottom to top (yes, I clean backwards) and loads of laundry to do… As well as my “normal” mommy duties of child rearing, food preparation, nose wiping, diaper changing, dish washing, floor sweeping, Backyardigans watching, well, you get the picture. I was busy.

When you figure in the stresses of this past week I am sure you can feel how the muscles in my neck tightened and my low back became sore. All I want to do is collapse now that the girls are asleep but I should probably fold that last load of laundry, do a few more dishes and change the bedding in the guest room.

So I did what any multi-tasking mommy would do. I dug out the samples of Freeze It
that I received in the mail the other day and had Doug rub some on my back. Quality time, my friends.




And then back to work I went.

Usually when I have back pain- and I have it quite a bit with two small children to lift- I use those hot/cold patches. Which are ok… But you have to get them on just right and if you move wrong they roll and stick to your clothes. And they aren't really big enough for the low back. Besides, taking them off can be a bit painful. So I am really liking this Freeze It. The application I used was a gel. Doug was able to massage it into my shoulders and back. I was worried that it wouldn’t last or would be greasy but it dried quickly and I can still feel the cooling sensations. I was also worried about the scent of the menthol hanging around but it has faded and I don't smell like a locker room after the medical team has left it.

You can bet I'm gonna get some more of this. I'll pick mine up at Hy-Vee but you can get it at Wal-Mart, CVS, Rite-Aid... Practically anyplace you can get that other stuff. I like the gel but I'll probably pick it up in the 3-oz roll on too, just in case Doug isn't here to apply it for me. Did I mention that it costs less? No? My mind must be on the gifts that still need wrapped.






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Fab Food Friday

>> Thursday, September 13, 2007

All I can say about these is YUM! They don't last long when I take them to gatherings.

"Almond Joy" Cupcakes



Recipe from Cuisine At Home magazine.

These are so good- don't let the directions scare you.

You will need:

2 T unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c turbinado sugar
1 c sweetened shredded coconut, toasted (I have a quick way to toast coconut. See below)
1 1/2 c cake flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 c milk
1/2 c cream of coconut (usually found in the alcoholic beverages section; it's used for pina coladas)
1/4 c coconut rum (usually found by the cream of coconut...lol)
1/2 c heavy cream
2 c dark chocolate chips
1 T corn syrup
1 t almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a popover or muffin pan with butter then turbinado sugar, shaking off the excess.

Pulse toasted coconut in a food processor until fine; set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and ground coconut in a bowl; set aside.

Cream butter and sugar using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer on medium speed. Beat until white and fluffy, 5-7 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl periodically. Add egg. Blend on medium speed for 1 minute.

Combine the milk, cream of coconut and run in a cup with a pour spout. Alternately beat the dry and wet mixtures into the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry. After each addition mix on low speed for 30 seconds then on medium speed for 1 minute.

Fill molds half full and bake 20-25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool 3 minutes in the pan then invert onto a rack to cool. Note: Leave cupcakes upside down to cool.

Butter and sugar the pan again and repeat with remaining batter.

Simmer cream in a saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Off heat whisk in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup and almond extract; cover and chill 20-30 minutes to thicken. Pipe frosting on to cupcakes. Garnish, if desired, with coconut.

Popover pan will make 10-12

Muffin tin will make 18-20

*To toast coconut, no oven required: This is best for amounts up to one cup. Spread shredded coconut on microwave safe plate. Zap on high power for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until it's lightly golden. It will become crisp as it cools. Keep an eye on it as it can burn if you aren't careful.


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The Darkest Day

You know it’s coming. You can feel it in the air as it turns brisk. You can see it in the changing leaves. You are even beginning to see it in retail stores. (Insert “Jaws” theme here)

The holiday season is upon us. And with that comes “Black Friday”.

OK, a bit off topic here, but do they call it “Black Friday” because the stores all pull out of the red and make money? Or is it called “Black Friday” because of people’s moods? Because I guarantee that my mood is rather dark when I have to be at a store at 5am to try to get one item of which only 10 are available.

Which actually brings me to the whole point of this post. I love the thanksgiving deals that magically appear but I absolutely abhor the crowds on “Black Friday”.

Enter BlackFriday.net. (Insert Halleluiah Chorus here) All the deals from the privacy of my home. I can shop in my pajamas! (Yes, I know that some people do go out in their pajamas to shop, but, honestly, it's just not right.) A few of the expected offerings include Toys R Us deals, Target specials and Old Navy bargains.

Sign up for email updates so you can know when new Black Friday ads are posted.

Be prepared. You can't avoid it. It's coming...

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At What Point

Do you just throw in the towel and say "I'm done"?

A few of you saw my rant about my father's wife the other night. For those of you who didn't, here's a run down. She lied about quite a few things to my uncle's wife and they came out when my uncle's wife couldn't keep her mouth shut.

Being me- and operating on barely any sleep for two days and stress- I called her on those lies. It was an ugly scene.

But the next day I was big enough to ask forgiveness -even though I really don't feel like I was in the wrong. And I went on with doing what I could to help family.

Well, it seems that my father's wife just can't let things go and has been laying into my father about us kids and our dislike for her. Honestly, I think she does it just because he can't get up and leave.

But I digress. Tonight he talked to my sister about it. It seems that I am the source of the trouble. Things that happened at least 10 years ago were brought up- things that I had forgotten about. Things that were instigated by my father's wife. Like the letter "they" wrote to me calling me a prostitute. And, of course, the fact that I "started" the bru-ha-ha on Saturday.

There is much more that I could throw in that goes back to my childhood, but let's just say that I have done a lot of forgiving in this relationship and I just wonder when is it time to say "I'm done"? And can it be done at this point in time?

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Say Click

For my last birthday I asked for a new digital camera. The one we had (and still have- it’s now Doug’s) was too bulky to carry easily in my diaper bag or purse. With the girls doing adorable things all the time I wanted a camera that I could tote everywhere.

Now I have a lovely pocket-size camera that takes wonderful photos. And has some great extra features. Like the video option. Check out our white trash water slide:

My camera goes everywhere I do- because you just never know when you'll need it. I've taken photos of presidential candidates and pigs, food and fun.

I'm considering digital picture frames as holiday gifts this year. It would certainly save on printing costs considering all the pictures I take. Besides, it seems like the perfect geek gift.

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Just Another Day

>> Wednesday, September 12, 2007

OK, honestly, will I ever get caught up? I feel like I am running about 6 paces behind. My "to do" list keeps getting longer as I realize there is more and more that I need to do.

Somehow I forgot that Caelan's birthday party is Saturday. I need to get the stuff to make her cake. I need, desperately, to clean my house. In fact, I should be doing something other than sitting here writing while my banana-chocolat chip muffins are baking.

For those of you who are wondering, my dad is improving every day. He was able to walk to his physical therapy appointment today and says his pain is "only" an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Last night he had a CAT scan but I haven't heard any results. He may need surgery to repair a bleeding adrenal gland and, possibly, his spine.

Pfffftttt..... I'm so scattered. And my muffins are done.

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Diet... No. Cheat on Diet... Yes!



I went shopping yesterday. It sucked. Because I was shopping for me. Between my bQQbs and my very un-toned abs I hate, hate, hate trying on clothes.

Now, granted, there isn't much I can do about the bQQbs.
Even if I got down to my goal weight they would still be here. They just don't shrink much whatever my weight.

But my belly... well, exercise would definately help. But so would a (ACK!!!) diet.

I hate diets probably more than I hate shopping. I dislike feeling hungry and I dislike most "allowed" foods. I wish I liked fruits and veggies more than I do. And I try. But something always throws me off.

So I am pretty amped to see the Cheat to Lose Diet. According to the website you get to work your favorites into your weekly menu. Pizza, burgers, ice cream... even birthday parties!

You get a meal planner, recipes, a fitness plan, a motivating online community and so much more.

The creator of this is the winner of the 2001 Body For Life challenge so he's been there. I figure he might know a thing or two about losing weight and keeping it off. So I'm gonna give this Cheat to Lose Diet thing a try. I really need to drop 30 pounds.

Gack! That's a whole toddler worth of weight!

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Just to Make You Smile

>> Tuesday, September 11, 2007

After last week's very serious blogging I thought a bit of fun was in order. So here are all the pictures I was going to show you before life was interrupted. Enjoy!

Brenna had an electrifying experience on a slide...

Another geek in the making! I think I have a similar photo of someone else...

Brenna's first day of school...
Caelan loves the swing! Look at those little legs go!





The girls boogie down before Fred Thompson's speech...



Brenna shows off her moves...

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Time is Money

If you work you want to get paid. It's quite a simple concept, really. And one we know all about here at Casa Geek. Doug has been a consultant for as long as we have been together. And his hours are strange. Some days he will work a regular 8-5, others will be 7-6 and still others may be 8am-3am. And let's not skip over those panicked phone calls about something that only he can fix.

All those random hours must be accounted for if he wants to be paid. So when I saw this online time tracking software I thought it might be handy. There is nothing to install and we can try it free for 30 days. Nothing to lose... And he just might remember to track those "few minutes" of checking in that turn into couple of hours.

Because those two hours equal a new pair of shoes, my friend.

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Monday? Really?

>> Monday, September 10, 2007

Like it matters. My days all blend... And right now I am barely coherant. This morning came way too early. I got the girls dressed, Doug off to work and Brenna off to school, ran a few errands, made a quick visit to the hospital, picked up Brenna and now we are home again. The list of things to do is long...

Laundry
Grocery List
Grocery Shopping
Everything needs cleaned
Caelan's birthday party is Saturday (!!!) so I have shopping to do for that as well as cake making
I have lots of great pictures from earlier last week to share

And all I want to do is sleep.

So I will crack open this Pepsi One, throw some laundry in the washer, change one daughter's diaper, convince the other daughter that she needs to sit on the potty and hope that they will both nap soon... And for at least two hours.

Have you forgotten?
This came from my grandmother and I think it is worth sharing:
On Tuesday, September 11th, 2007, an American flag should be displayed
outside every home, apartment, office, and store in the United States.
Every individual should make it their duty to display an American flag on this anniversary of our country's worst tragedy. We do this in honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11, their families, friends and loved ones who continue to endure the pain, and those who today are fighting at home and abroad to preserve our cherished freedoms .

In the days, weeks and months following 9/11, our country was bathed in American flags as citizens mourned the incredible losses and stood shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. Sadly, those flags have all but disappeared. Our patriotism pulled us through some tough times and it shouldn't take another attack to galvanize us in solidarity. Our American flag is the fabric of our country and together we can prevail over terrorism of all kinds.

Action Plan: So, here's what we need you to do...
(1) Forward this email to everyone you know.
Take a moment to think back to how you felt on 9/11 and let those sentiments guide you.

(2) Fly an American flag of any size on 9/11.
Honestly, Americans should fly the flag year-round, but if you don't, then at least make it a priority on this day.

Thank you for your participation.............................
God Bless You and God Bless America

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Looking Good

>> Sunday, September 09, 2007

Just a quick update before I head up to catch up on my sleep. My dad has been moved out of ICU and into the neurology wing of the hospital. He has an MRI scheduled for tomorrow and we will see what is next.

He was in very good spirits this evening and complaining about the hospital food. You would think that, having not eaten since Thursday, he would just be glad to have food. I'll smuggle something in tomorrow.

Well, I'm off to catch up on my sleep.

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Good News!!!

>> Saturday, September 08, 2007

Around 11 am Dad was doing well and they took him off sedation and took out his ventilation tube. He's awake, in a lot of pain but able to talk. He doesn't remember the last couple of days or what he was working on when the accident happened.
There is talk of moving him out of ICU and to a regular room.

Thanks for all the prayers and good wishes!

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Helpless

We are only allowed limited time wih my dad, not allowed to speak to him or touch him. It seems that if he recognizes our voices or sees us he becomes agitated and tries to get out of bed and remove his tubes.

It feels as if he is not improving as quickly as they had anticipated but I don't know if that is the case or if it was just wishful thinking on our part. I feel like the longer he is in the ICU the less hope we have. I didn't feel like that until today.

So it is still a waiting game. And waiting... And waiting...

There is nothing I can do here but it is difficult to not be here "just in case".

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Not Much More to Share

>> Friday, September 07, 2007

Dad is heavily sedated now. Earlier today he worked his way out of the restraints and tried to pull out his tubes and wires. We are not allowed to touch him or talk to him. Which really sucks.

So we are gathered in the waiting room. Some are playing cards, I have done some updating of the webpage. Just a waiting game.

Just a little bit ago they did bring himout of his stupor and let my step mother speak to him. He responded well and nodded "yes" when asked if he knew who it was. And then they put him under again.

Right now the plan is to take him off the respirator tomorrow. I suppose we'll see when tomorrow gets here.

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Bad News Update

>> Thursday, September 06, 2007

If you didn't hear the bad news read the post directly below this one first.

Well, it's about 10pm. I am spending the night at the hospital with my step mother. I will head home in the morning when my brother and sister come. And I'm sure I'll be back for quite a while tomorrow. And the next day...

Dad has still not regained conscienceness but he did nod when we spoke to him and he did squeeze my brother's hand. He's on pain meds now as he can feel pain. And there is a lot of it.

So, really, not much has changed. It's going to be a long night.

4am

I was awoken by the nurse saying "Squeeze my hand" to my dad. He had come out of the fog of painkillers for a few minutes and seemed conscience. He was able to squeeze her hand a bit. He opened his eyes a bit and was quite restless. I'm sure he was experiencing a lot of pain. I spoke to him and told him who had been there, who would be coming. He nedded and seemed to want to answer. He seemed, of course, very confused.

I don't think he is breathing on his own yet, which is not good. And though he could see me (I think) and he was responding I am not sure that he knew me. I hope he did.

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Bad News

I had planned to bring you all kinds of fun news about taking the girls to the Fred Thompson speech today in Des Moines. And how I was interviewed by People Magazine, the AP and another organization who listened in to the AP interview. And how Brenna was filmed dancing (so if you see a clip on TV of a cute girl in a bright green outfit dancing at a Fred Thompson speech it's my lovely. Let me know, cuz I'm no where near a TV.)

And the reason I'm not near a TV is because during the speech I received a phone call from my brother. Which I ignored. But when my sister called moments later I knew something was wrong. And I was right.

My dad was at work when a piece of equipment broke loose and landed on his chest. I wanted to use the word "crushed" but that seems a bit extreme. Anyway, he's unconscious and has been since the accident at 12:30. He's on a ventilator and not breathing on his own. The doctors don't really have much to say- it's kind of a "wait and see" thing.

I was just in there and I can't tell you how difficult it is to see someone unconscious but their body moving of it's own accord. His arms are strapped down to keep him from pulling out the tubes.

It may take a couple of days to know what is really going on. Prayers would be so appreciated right now.

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Just Don't Call Me "Green"

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads me regularly that I am not a "green" person. I think global warming can be easily disproven by facts- posted by the UN, no less- and while I think Hummers are stupid it has nothing to do with their fuel consumption.

Yes, I use an 85% ethanol fuel in my truck. Because it's cheaper and I can, not because some scientists think it's better for the environment.

Yes, we added a "space blanket" to our attic. Not necessarily to cut the amount of fuel we use but to cut the amount of money we spend on heating the house.

Yes, we are looking at updating our home to utilize geothermal heat and solar power. Not because they are better for the earth but because they are better for our wallets.

Yes, I turn off lights if I'm not in a room. Yes, I use plastic containers that can be washed and reused. Yes, I save paper bags, will let Brenna draw on paper and then use it to wrap gifts, and recycle. I do these things because it is how I was brought up. When you grow up poor you use and re-use. It's to save money, period.

So do NOT let the fact that I take my own IKEA bags to Target and the grocery store with me let you think that I am, in any way, doing it to save the environment. I do it, plain and simply, because people have no idea how to bag groceries anymore (I was a clerk and sacker at a grocery store in high school. We had a rigorous training back then. Really, it was a week long.) and I am completely sick of coming home with a dozen plastic bags when the items I purchased will easily fit in 6.



So, while we were in the Twin Cities recently we bought 3 IKEA bags. The big one was 59cents and the two smaller were 30 cents each. (Completely off topic- does anyone else miss the "cents" sign being on the keyboard?) I used them today at Target. And although the lady who checked me out may have thought I was odd it was a great relief to know that I wasn't going to have a dozen more plastic bags littering my garage.



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I Just Can't Be Content

>> Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My sister-in-law thinks it's funny when I tell her that I want to add on to our house. And, to be quite honest, I find it funny, as well. It's not that we need more room, I just really want an area that isn't indoors, but isn't really outdoors.

Conservatories fit that description perfectly. Lots of sunlight, no bugs. I picture it near the stream, bright with flowers, a few lounges and low tables.... Ahhh, tranquility.

Anglian has been the leader in quality home improvements for 36 years. Their service-based approach results in their being the most recommended home improvements company in the UK. Their reputation is stellar.

Which means that when we buy our retirement cottage in the British Isles I know exactly who to call for all my home improvement needs- from windows to kitchen remodeling. I'll just file this info under my "future" files.

But if you're one of my UK readers- and I know you're out there- be sure to check them out.

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Don't Let The Facts Get In The Way

>> Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So, how many of you remember the Kum & Go saga from a month and a half ago? Yeah, it had pretty much left my thoughts, too. So you can imagine my surprise today when this comment showed up on the second post (of four):



I just happened to come upon your blog and read about your issue with the Kum N
Go problem. I am very good friends with the woman who sent you the e-mail that
attempted to explain the issue and I am very sad to learn that you are so
incredibly perfect that you can't offer a bit of understanding that mistakes do
happen. This was something that shouldn't have happned, but it did. And I wish
you had a little compassion for the woman who is my friend who found herself at
the center of this, although it isn't completely her responsibility. I'm just so
glad to know that there are such incredibly perfect people like you out there
how just don't make mistakes. We're lucky to have you in this world. So take
your gas station business elsewhere and let them enjoy your talents.



You can imagine that this comment hit me just a bit wrong. So I did a bit of research- unlike the commenter. (A little props for Stat Counter. I love that I can see how people come upon the blog!) Here's what I found out:
  • You did not just "come across" my blog. You Googled your friend's name. Three times. Creepy. People who do that are stalkers.
  • I never had any contact with your friend. She actually sent an email to another person who then copied it in my comments section.
  • Never did I attack your friend the way you attacked me.

Did I mention I also sent an email to your friend at work? Yep, I forwarded your comment to her the only way I could- through the corporate communications email. I thought she should know just what kind of friends she has.

So, Anonymous, I hope you have a great day. I hope your little outburst made you feel better. And I hope that you can get your facts straight someday. Because maybe when you do you won't have to hide behind an "Anonymous" label.

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It's Here

September marks the beginning of birthdays and holidays here at Casa Geek. Caelan turns one in just a couple of weeks. Yes, I know, it doesn't quite seem possible. Even more impossible is the fact that Brenna will be 3 just five weeks later. Toss in Doug's birthday, my birthday, the birthdays of my grandfather, Doug's mom, two nephews a SIL, a BIL and my mom... Our anniversary falls in the middle of this mess... Not to mention Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas... Oh, and the birth of a niece right around the new year- add baby shower to the list.

Yes, the final third of the year is busy and expensive. So, of course, I use coupon codes as much as possible.

Let's see... For Caelan and Brenna I need to get stuff for three birthday parties. Oriental Trading Company can provide stuff for goodie bags... And Halloween goodies... Stocking stuffers...

Doug and I usually like to combine our birthday/anniversary/Christmas gifts and travel. Travelocity has some nice deals right now. Like the London airfare. Sweet.

And gifts. Can't forget gifts. eToys always has great deals and their customer service has been great every time I've used them.

And, finally, BabyAge for the shower gifts.

Must save money. I also need new clothes. Hmmm, I wonder what they have for coupon codes on clothes... Shoes... Bags...

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It's A Fake!

>> Monday, September 03, 2007

Don't get me wrong, I like a bargain as much as the next person. But if you are buying a Coach bag for under $100 out of someone's living room you gotta know it's a fake.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Here in my suburb there is a woman who has a sign outside of her house that says DESIGNER HANDBAGS FOR SALE.

I had driven by that sign many times and had not really considered going in but last Saturday I had a bit of "me time" and figured,"What the hell. I want a new fall bag, I'll check it out."

I had to circle the block to find parking, she was doing a brisk business. Her front room was crammed with bags. Coach, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Dooney & Bourke... The list goes on. All quite obviously fakes. (I could really tell with the Coach bags as I have my share of real ones)

Now, I'm not a snob when it comes to bags. I have some that are real and some that are knock offs. I love a good knock-off, especially if it's a seasonal bag that I may not use for more than one season.

As I am pawing through her bags I overheard her telling people that the bags were real. Now I was getting annoyed. If you know what you are looking for you can tell pretty easily if a bag is real or not- and these weren't. Then I overheard her husband saying how they bags are all shipped flat and she has to shape them. Ummm... No. No way a $400 bag is shipped crumpled. No.Way.Period.

So I spend a bit more time wandering around just so I can hear the absurd things these people are saying. Like how she has "contacts" to get the bags at such good prices and that they are the same bags you will find at the mall.

It took everything I had not to say something as I left. Selling knock-offs is one thing. Lying to people is quite another.

I have a huge desire now to contact Coach and a few of these other companies to let them know. I'm sure it is nothing new to them, but for her to blatantly lie... That really bothers me. What do you think?

Just as a side note: I did buy a new bag. It's a very cute Coach knock-off. It may pretnd to be a Coach bag but it doesn't have the Coach name on it like hers did.

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Mommy Didn't Get The Right One... By Caelan

>> Saturday, September 01, 2007

I know that Mommy told you all many times that I refused to take a bottle. Which isn't completely true. I took 3. Once when Mommy, Daddy & Brenna went out to dinner Aunt Jenni gave me a bottle. She even gave the bottle to Mommy to try. So I had to refuse it. Why take a bottle from Mommy? She had what I wanted. Gramma gave me a bottle once when Mommy was scrapping. And once, when Mommy had left me for 6 hours, I let Daddy give me a bottle. Hey, I was hungry.

And I know that Mommy told you how she bought every bottle made. Well, she didn't. Because if she would have bought this bottle I'm sure I would have used it:



But did Mommy even think to buy me a bottle from the toy aisle? No. Serves her right.

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Studying the unthinkable.

Virtual game is a 'disease model'


And studying the "Old" schools of thought.
Victor Davis Hanson

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