Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo No Mo'

DONE! That was exhausting.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

They are officially GIANT.

Holidays and other things that happen once a year really put into perspective how quickly small children change. For example, today we attended our church's Hanging of the Greens (or as Ryan calls it "Hanging With the Greens") as a family and I was struck by how calm and happy we all felt. Last year we had a giant fight on the way there about something I don't remember, forced smiles and magical happy holiday memories the whole time we were there, bickered on the way home, and then stayed up all night with Wesley, the child who hated to be a newborn.

Here he is this year, dressed like a humanities professor, master of the quick under-the-pew escape, and happy to hang a dove ornament on the Chrismon tree:

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And here he is around the same time last year:

Whatever Works

Come to think of it, maybe I would hate to be a newborn too.

Here's still-baby Charlie last year:

Charlie's Chrismon

And here is the giant boy who can see over a pew, who I pulled out of disappointed sobs by making a joke about Santa's pants falling down, and who threw his arms around my neck as we walked outside into the cool night and exclaimed "It's COLD, Mama! I keep you warm!" as he rubbed my back.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

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I'm taking tonight off because Ryan and I realized a few minutes ago that we have not had an actual conversation in several days, so busy were we supervising our wild children in the various un-childproofed (and clean!) homes of our friends and families.

Please accept this picture of my enormous non-baby playing with my lip gloss instead.

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"What's up, ladies? I wear a 2T and can stand unsupported for as many as ten seconds at a time."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Now that I've got that off my chest

Many many bad words were said at this sign:

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which helpfully suggested we not tailgate the car in front of us because traffic pretty much sucks and in this age of shovel-ready stimulus projects our best effort is throwing up this asshole sign on the side of the road. Happy Thanksgiving, sorry you've spent three hours driving the last sixty miles. It's not about to get any better so suck it. And don't tailgate. We would hate for the minor impact caused by rear-ending another car going fifteen miles per hour to dislodge the blood clot that's been forming in your neck from all the pent up fury and kill you. Happy holidays!

There, I feel better.

Fortunately the drive up did not set the tone for the rest of the trip. We had a GREAT time.

Charlie ran around the back yard like a maniac with all the big kids at the family Thanksgiving, pausing only to eat every carbohydrate he could find before scurrying off to play tackle football with a bunch of kids who outweighed him by two times and had already agreed they were playing touch football. The effect was quite comical. Wes enjoyed looking cute and eating all of Ryan's turkey, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. I was with the whole family (forty people) watching the Cowboys game in the living room when Charlie came and asked me to find Phent for him. I grudgingly put down my wine and found Phent then shooed Charlie off to play. A few minutes later the day caught up with Charlie:

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That wooden thing behind him is the leg of the entertainment center. He was right in the middle of the crowded noisy room. What a party animal. I moved him to a bed, then later into the car, then later into his own bed and he didn't wake up once.

A few minutes later, however, when Ryan went in to say "Your cousins are here, do you want to go ride the train?" he snapped out of bed like a fireman. Ryan's parents' neighbors have an elaborate train set up in their yard along with lights and music and they give rides to whomever wants them from Thanksgiving through New Year's. When we rounded the corner and Charlie saw the house he shrieked "MAMA!" and RAN the rest of the way there. It wasn't crowded and he went for four rides before I cut him off.



The drive home went very smoothly and then we put on the adorable new jammies Ryan's mom bought for the boys and put them to bed.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

The last few days when I've gone out I've noticed little pairs of parents and their college-age kids. The parents beaming happily, the kids wearing sweatpants and sneakers and their college sweatshirt, awkwardly sipping coffee (oh, you drink coffee now?) as they ease back into being cared for by their parents, who for their part, are happy to have them home and probably made brownies and opened a fresh bottle of red while they fretted about the long drive until their baby was home safe in their arms.

I still remember how good it felt to come home. It still feels good to go to my parents' even though I've made sure by creating two independent little people that I will never be able to truly relax again.

But here I am at Ryan's parents' drinking a hot cup of coffee, watching the Today Show, and listening to Charlie massacre the piano while my father-in-law feeds Wes fruit salad he made this morning before we all got up. And in a few minutes Charlie and I will watch the parade together all wrapped up in the new Santa blanket he couldn't part with at the store yesterday.

This is pretty awesome too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Because I have thirty minutes to slap something up on my blog

I had about a million funny slash nasty post ideas in my head as we slowly (20 mph) snaked up the highway (for three plus LONG hours) (yes that is sixty miles. in three hours. with two children. on a two-hundred mile trip. OMG IT WAS BAD) this afternoon on our way to Ryan's parents' house, but all of them seemed a little inappropriate given the spirit of the season, so I will just say "Happy Thanksgiving!" and tell you some not-so-obvious things I am thankful for (because who wants to read another post about how thankful I am for my family, home, and job? Maybe my family, husband, and department chair? Hmm.).

In no particular order, things that I was thankful for today:
  • Drive-through banking, library book return, and donuts
  • Rear facing carseats (appreciate them while you have them, ladies! Snacking will never be the same again after they can see you)
  • The good folks at Community Coffee
  • Dimetapp
  • The library's CD collection
  • My helpful friends (thanks again to LM who switched my laundry over after we had left because of an ill-timed poo accident on the way out the door!)
  • The fact that I am no longer expected to wear low-rise jeans
  • A husband who changes all poop diapers on weekends

Tomorrow I will be sharing the Macy's parade with Charlie and Wes. I expect jammies and blankets. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I still don't think we need cable

As you know, we don't have cable. This began as a matter of economics, two grad school "salaries" + one baby = you get the idea--and then once we graduated to adulthood two years ago became more of a source of smug pride slash competition slash staring contest between me and Ryan to see how long we could make it without getting cable. I sort of thought "the switch" would be the impetus we needed to take the $25/month plunge, but we left that in the dust months ago.

(When we stay in hotels we become total addicts, by the way, lest you actually believe what I said about "not watching that much TV." When I was eight weeks pregnant with Charlie we went to a conference in Houston together and spent HOURS in our disgusting hotel room watching a Mythbusters marathon. This was a hotel room in which we had to bail out the bathtub into the toilet after showering because the drain simply did not work. Disgusting. And yet.)

Our downstairs TV, which I bought shortly before Ryan graduated because our old one stopped getting NBC and I wanted to see the ER season premiere (and LIKE HELL you are going to leave me home by myself with a baby and no TV while you work in your lab until god knows what time of night), has a digital tuner so we were a little lazy about getting a converter box for the upstairs TV. It's been a giant paperweight ever since we moved in, serving only as a target for mumbled insults and swear words as I think of all the showers I could have taken during the PBS morning line-up.

Today, my dad told me we could use an extra converter box that he had. I brought it home tonight and we set it up just in the nick of time so I could watch Jay IN MY BED. It was everything I thought it could be. (Except that I still had to drag myself back downstairs because of NaBloPoMo.)

They say you shouldn't have a TV in your bedroom because it takes away from the romantic atmosphere. I don't think that's the case, do you? What could possibly be un-romantic about this little arrangement (and no I'm not talking about the framed picture of me and our department chair at graduation)?



The second, non-functioning set of rabbit ears adds a certain je ne sais quoi, don't you think?

Monday, November 23, 2009

We are Disgusting

Rossby Laundry

Rossby has become quite the grumpy old man of late, having a panic attack when the FedEx truck passes the house, putting stuffed animals in his water bowl, growling at the merest hint that someone in the house might be having fun, especially if that fun involves loud laughing, shrieking, and/or jumping. And let's not forget how he steals food right out of the hands of children, while they are sitting at the table. For these infractions he has spent a lot of time in "The Hole" (sleeping on a down blanket in our master bedroom).

Today my mom came over and watched the boys while my dad and I ran an errand up to school and when we came back she commented on how grumpy Ross was acting and suggested they take him home for the rest of the week. I thought he could use the downtime too, so I sent him home with them.

As soon as we walked back into the house Charlie asked "Where's Ross go?"

"He's on vacation!"

"Why?"

"He's tired."

"Oh. He'll come home when he feels better."

SADDEST LITTLE SAD KID THAT'S EVER BEEN SAD.

Did I tell you that on Charlie's Thanksgiving turkey project at school where he had to list an item he was thankful for on each feather? And his turkey had only two feathers? Mama and Rossby?

I thought of Ross numerous times. When I went to check on Charlie and I didn't hear his collar jingling down the hall after me, something that usually makes me CRAZY--does he have to be so noisy ALL the FREAKING TIME?--it was kind of lonely. When I laid down to read during the boys' naptime he didn't jump up into bed with me and snuggle against my chest. When we got home from a doctor's appointment Charlie flung open the door expectantly then turned and said sadly "Where did Rossby go? I miss him."

I miss him too. I hope this vacation helps him calm down and we can all start fresh.

Because I had no idea what pigs my kids were until I didn't have a dog eating everything before it hit the ground.

Can I interest you in some black beans? Roasted potatoes? You know you want a Cheerio!



We've woken up every morning of our marriage to Rossby joining us in bed--under the covers of course, we cosleep with our dog--at the same time every day. Tomorrow is going to be so quiet. I hope he can come home soon. Because Charlie misses him!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

And breathe...

Friday was a Bad Day. Charlie stayed home sick from school after nearly falling asleep on the way there in the morning and convincing me with general all-around pitifulness that he just couldn't face four hours of singing and fingerpainting with his friends. I got him set up on the couch with a blanket and pillow and the PBS morning lineup, Wes took a nap, and I got some laundry done. It was shaping up to be a good day.

And then Wes woke up an hour ahead of schedule for no good reason and all Hell broke loose.

Three is a special age, isn't it?

I have exactly one happy memory of Friday and it was when I made Charlie a hot chocolate and he said "thank you" without being asked. You read all about Wesley's climbing habit, well there is no relaxing when he is awake. None. The second you think maybe it would be safe to switch the laundry over he's pulled a kitchen chair over on himself. It's like living with a newborn again. A twenty-one pound VERY VERY STRONG newborn. His fierce will will serve him well one day. Maybe he will be a reporter, or run for public office. But right now, it is kicking my ass.

And Charlie? Just at the moment that I thought I couldn't take it for one more second, after Ryan had called to say he wouldn't be able to make it home early after all and the thought of thirty more minutes of doing this by myself made me want to curl up into a ball, Charlie ran over my foot with his tricycle after I asked him to put it away. When I told him he had to apologize he snapped "Get out of my way!"

When Ryan came home I handed him Wes then got into my car by myself, backed out of the garage, cried for a few minutes in the driveway as I thought about what the absolute perfect dinner would be so I could go get it BY MYSELF.

General Tso's Chicken and veggie spring rolls fit the bill. I took it to go and when I got home the kitchen had been cleaned up and everyone was playing nicely in the play room. Ryan took Wes to bed and I got Charlie into his jammies. He was sweet and snuggly and compliant. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, that one.

Then I came downstairs and gorged myself on Chinese food while I watched Law and Order.

The next day, after we came home from an errand and the boys were going down for naps Ryan folded some of our date money into my hand and told me to go buy a new book and a cup of coffee and not come back for three hours. It didn't take much convincing.

I went to the coffee shop in our little downtown with a long neglected Newsweek. I walked in and they said "Small Americano with skim?"

"And a piece of shortbread" I answered.

Then I sank down into a leather chair and didn't look up from my magazine until I had finished it. Then I lucked into a walk-in appointment at a hair salon across the street.

When I got home Ryan had cleaned the house beyond my wildest dreams and gotten both kids to take long naps.

And today? I actually enjoyed playing with the boys instead of wanting to hide from them. Until now because Charlie is supposed to be sleeping and instead I hear a lot of thumping and giggling.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like

Christmas!

Tonight was the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree at the Macy's at the fancy outdoor mall here. When I told Charlie we were going to see a Christmas tree, he wanted to wear boots, mittens, and a winter hat with his lightweight fleece jacket, despite the sixty-degree weather. He looked like he was going sledding. I had no problem with it because he is fighting off a cold and I wanted to cook it out of him.

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Wes refused to wear his hat for a while, then realized it was like a lovey that hooks right onto your cheeks (which is where he holds all soft things), which left his hands free for thumb sucking and stroking the collar of his jacket affectionately. We called it the Bluetooth Lovey. I'm going to make a million dollars.

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I wore my new professoring coat. It is wool and I was super cozy. Charlie and I share a love for being cozy. We wrap up in quilts in August!

We met my sister and brother-in-law and niece.

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We took all these pictures while we waited for the part that was interesting to small children, which didn't start until about forty-five minutes in. By that point Charlie had announced that he had to go to the bathroom. Carrying him, I elbowed my way through the dense crowd then ran into a bookstore, went upstairs, and ran smack into a giant line for the ladies room. I waited a few minutes and then the lady behind me said "I don't think my daughter is going to make it!" and turned to see a child about Charlie's age dancing from foot to foot. "LET'S GO IN THE MEN'S ROOM!" I said and led a herd of mothers with small children into the totally empty (and yet somehow still disgusting) men's room. Thank goodness Charlie was wearing mittens.

It was good we did that because when we were walking back towards the door downstairs I saw the tree light up out the window and heard the crowd cheer. I picked Charlie up and we wedged ourselves out the door and into the crowd where we were treated to a fireworks show set to Manheim Steamroller music. Both boys LOVED it. Charlie and I were REALLY close to the front because of the bathroom visit and the fireworks were right over our heads. It was really cool if you didn't think about burning embers falling from the sky like a PBS special, which I did briefly; fortunately Charlie snapped me out of it by saying "WOOOOWWWWWWW" every time something new went up. It was really special.

I did not know that there was a venue for combining my two favorite holidays: Christmas and the Fourth of July. Hooray for tacky corporate sponsors, is all I have to say.

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Ryan said Wes really enjoyed the fireworks too.

Next stop Thanksgiving!

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Did not notice what appears to be a "man purse" or "murse" until after we had walked away from the tree. Ryan would like you to know that he does not carry a purse. It is a men's satchel FROM EUROPE. Just kidding, it is mine and he had just grabbed it out of the stroller because he was afraid someone was going to steal all our plastic keys and baby wipes while we took the picture. He is from the city.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wes, Disarmingly Cute and Gunning for a Head Injury

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I feel like Wes has be a little neglected here recently because we're between developmental milestones and every time I try to sit down and post something about him he does something dangerous.

I do not remember this being a problem with Charlie. I sort of remember him climbing on top of an ottoman and reminding him forty-five times a minute to get off the hearth, but constantly removing him from dangerous situations is not what I remember from Charlie's second year.

Well, we don't have a fireplace now and Wes is allowed to climb on that ottoman because AT LEAST IT IS SOFT AND RELATIVELY LOW.

Every time I pick him up from the church nursery his frazzled teachers say gravely "He's a climber." I went into the laundry room to find a shirt to wear this morning and when I came out he was suspended horizontally between a side chair and the buffet in our dining room throwing framed family pictures down onto the floor with great enthusiasm. If I turn my back for a second he climbs onto my desk chair so he can "type" and use the mouse (a surprisingly good imitation, I must say). If I dare spend thirty minutes in the kitchen preparing dinner he climbs onto my desk and avails himself of the items in the basket I have on the kitchen counter--pens, postit notes, keys, loose change. Not good.

His cholesterol is probably in the negative range because the only way I can do anything besides follow him around is to put him in his booster seat and give him Cheerios. The house is a mess, we're all living out of laundry baskets (and the dryer) and I spend twenty-five seconds selecting my outfit and getting ready in the morning.

That last one resulted in me finding ricotta cheese in my hair on Thursday. Friends, I made lasagna on Wednesday.

If memory serves, I just have to wade through this time until his receptive language and reasoning skills catch up to his physical abilities. The constant (and seemingly ineffective) redirecting and interrupted thoughts and inability to ever sit down or relax are starting to wear me thin.

Lucky for him he is also a snuggler and I am his lovey of choice. Tired? He sucks his thumb and buries his head in my chest. Hurt? He clings to me for dear life. He laughs when I walk into a room, he flings himself at me when I get him from his bed in the morning, and he mimicks my every move.

But I'm still going to say "I told you so" when he has little climbers of his own.

UPDATE: In the hour after I posted this I found him standing on the dryer door and on top of the kitchen table. Yeah.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mwa mwa

Charlie and I watched this video today while Wes was sleeping. Charlie asked me what a wedding was so I told him it's when you pick one of your friends and tell God and your families that you will love them and be their friend forever. I asked him if he was going to get married someday. His reply?

"I'm going to marry Mr. Steve [imaginary friend]!"



After we watched the video a second time he told me "I'm going to marry YOU and I'm going to give you CAKE."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shredded (Cheese)

The other day I complained to Ryan that I am not able to get enough exercise what with the gym and it's already-paid-for childcare being a whole half-mile away from our house. One thing led to another and now we have decided to do the 30 Day Shred together.

He said he wants to get more exercise too. I think he would agree to eat a bowl of mercury if it meant he could watch Jillian Michaels hopping around in a jog bra for twenty minutes.

We started on Monday. Ryan snarked his way through the warm-up, but was NOT SO CHIRPY somewhere around the third circuit when we were jumping rope and Jillian said "I want you FLOATING in the AIR! You are STRONG!" And by 'not so chirpy' I mean swearing and threatening to throw the can of chick peas he was using as a hand weight through the TV screen. Having done the video a number of times before (like five since I bought it in February), I was prepared to FLOAT and BE STRONG. If only to spite Ryan.

Yesterday morning, however, Ryan got the last laugh. He teased me as I used my hands to lift my legs out of bed one at a time then braced my upper body on the ironing board until the searing pain in my ass had subsided enough that I could hobble to the bathroom, use our remote control to push my pants down, and then freefall backwards onto the toilet.

So when Ryan suggested we do the Shred last night, which would have been Day 2 if you are keeping track, I suggested he better step aside because he was blocking Nova and I would hate to have to wave my badly atrophied arms at him. And bring me another cup of eggnog while you're up.

Then today my doctor (Dr. Google) told me that if I wanted to start sleeping better perhaps I should make some lifestyle changes like more exercise or less caffeine. I chose option A.

So we did the Shred again today. And I probably did about half the strength moves and spent much of the cardio time trying to jump into a position where I could see a clock so as to not miss the gory opening scene of Law and Order. Mr. Perfect did the whole thing, but you know what? I'm not going to help him to the bathroom tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some light reading material for bedtime

I met with the professor who currently teaches the course I will have in the spring today and she let me borrow the textbook for the class. It is giant and unwieldy.

I got a lot of information about how the class runs, what is expected of me, what is expected of the students, etc. And then the department chair introduced me to a group of students as "the new physics professor" and I laughed before I caught myself. Way to be cool, me. I am getting really excited.

Also exciting? I was offered a second section of the same class. Now I will be teaching T and F, 2-5pm. They offered me a third but it would have been on Monday and would have required I be there early enough to set up the experiment for the week and I just could not figure out how to make that work with Charlie's preschool schedule. Don't I sound like a dream come true to a potential department chair?

I am struggling with what the right decision is here, truthfully.

I figure on Friday I can pick Charlie up at school a little early and have him home or to whatever childcare arrangement I have made for them (still haven't discussed the additional hours with our Manny (my dad, who charges $10 an hour and a welcome home beer, a bargain really)) and make it to the university (panting and sweating) with plenty of time to compose myself before class.

On Monday I would have to be at my school an hour or more (I have no idea) earlier, which would mean someone else would have to pick Charlie up and I wouldn't see him between dropoff and my arrival home after class (a little before six). I realize that people do this every day, but I'm having a little trouble wrapping my head around the logistics.

The benefits of taking on the third class are all professional--more responsibility, more pay, gold stars for being a team player. But my heart says two is the way to go right now. There is a lot of time for me to work more hours if I want to; once I get a feel for what is required I can make a more informed decision for another semester (I hope). The chair was quite laid back about it, no pressure either way, do what is best for you, etc. I can't believe my luck in finding this department!

On the way out of the building today the chair said to me "You seem to have a really even personality, like you would do a good job handling students who get frustrated and want to give up." I think raising small children has more professional benefits than some would care to admit!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recipes: When you are completely out of blog ideas but it's November

I bought this cookbook the other day thinking it would have some good vegetarian recipes, judging only by the title and the apple on the cover. It does have a vegetarian chapter and a nice soup chapter, but is not strictly vegetarian. Wesley's not one for companionable silence while book shopping so sometimes I have to make quick decisions.

Today I took it with us on a trip to our new special hippy grocery store and chose two recipes to make. The first was corn chowder, which I was going to make tonight because it's cold outside, but ironically I forgot to buy corn, so it's going to have to wait. Instead tonight I made the "Tricolor Spaghetti Squash" found on page 206. As usual I modified the recipe beyond recognition to suit my whims and budget.

Here are the ingredients:
  • 1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 lb)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmasean cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce (the book has a nice recipe for this, but I bought a jar of tomato and basil spaghetti sauce instead)

So, first thing... Pesto is freaking expensive at the store. SEVEN DOLLARS for a jar with probably exactly a half a cup. So? I made bicolor spaghetti squash because the green? Was too much green.

Second thing, since we were at the hippy grocery store I didn't have access to my usual super cheap bag-o-cheese and instead had to buy their freshly shredded cheese in the deli. I AM NEVER GOING TO BUY CHEAP CHEESE AGAIN. It was unbelievably good.

The steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F


2. Stab the squash a bunch of times with a fork or a sharp knife, put the squash on a cookie sheet and add water to a depth of 1/8 inch. Bake the squash for 90 mins then let cool.

There is not a lot of hands on time with this recipe, but it took for-ev-er. I started at 3:30 and it was ready to eat when Ryan walked in the door at 6:00.

3. Grease a medium sized baking dish/casserole

4. When the squash is cool enough to handle (or when you start to panic a little about not eating dinner until tomorrow because the squash had to cook for so long), cut it in half lengthwise. Scrape all the seeds and stringy stuff out and throw it away. Now the COOL part! Scrape the squash flesh with a fork to get the spaghetti stuff out. Put the spaghetti stuff in a bowl, toss it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, put it in the casserole dish.

Allow about seven hours for this step because those seeds are SLIPPERY and there are MANY of them.

5. The recipe says to make an Italian flag with the marinara, cheese mixture, and pesto on top of the squash, but I say FIE on multiple steps. I poured marinara over the top to cover then topped with the two kinds of cheese.

6. Cook for 15 mins covered with foil and then 15 mins uncovered.

7. Trick your children into eating lots and lots of delicious, good for you squash

This was a huge success. Wesley had finished his first portion before I even made it to the table, licking his plate before shoving it at Ryan asking for more. He had three servings. Charlie had two servings. Ryan and I both had seconds.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ouch

Recently Charlie has been bringing little gifts for me that he found outside while playing. Usually it is a pretty rock or an acorn or a flower. He picks all kinds of flowers for me. At school he brings flowers in from the playground and puts them in his cubby, then proudly presents it to me when I arrive to pick him up.

"Here Mama! For you! It's so PRETTY! Smell it!"

It's very sweet. I love it. Even when he forces me to smell the rocks. I think he may think gift smelling (as opposed to flower smelling) is a social norm. It is probably best we are doing Christmas morning in the privacy of our own home.

He is so proud of himself, and I am so proud of his thoughtfulness and generosity (the kid loves acorns, for him to give one to me is like me giving you a kidney, or my first cup of coffee in the morning). All of these mutual warm fuzzy feelings make it awfully hard to be hard on him when I've asked him to get out of the flower beds at church for the fourteenth time, or to stay away from Miss Lisa's landscaping down the street.

Well today might have marked the end of my flower child's gifting.

We were at my parents' for lunch and Charlie and Wes and their cousin were having a blast running around the yard, jumping into piles of leaves, screaming happily, throwing rocks into a trough of water the deer drink out of, kissing each other (that was Charlie, he's a lover AND a fighter).

In the long established tradition of Mom being the no-fun saftey police, I stood there wringing my hands as Charlie came closer and closer to wiping out near my dad's metal boat trailer and said to my mom "This is going to end with screaming" then asked Charlie to find another place to play.

Not TWO SECONDS LATER I heard screaming.

It was Charlie and he was nowhere near the scalp-o-matic metal boat trailer of forehead stitches death.

My mom said "CACTUS!"

Charlie ran for me with his hand outstretched, a thousand tiny needles sticking out of his palm.

"TAPE! GET ME TAPE!!!" was the first thing I thought of. It looked like all the little needles could be pulled out with a piece of duct tape. Or I thought I'd heard something on TV one time about getting cactus needles out with tape.

Charlie howled deep wet sobs into my shoulder.

My mom's friend ran out onto the porch with a Scotch tape dispenser.

"POPSICLE!" I said. My mom grabbed a lime one out of the freezer and handed to Charlie who went from howling to hiccuping as he took it. He sat in my mom's lap fervently holding his fingers against Phent, waiting for the magic to make him feel better. Wondering why it wasn't working. It broke my heart.

And then I had to try and get the needles out with a pair of tweezers. My mom held Charlie, Ryan held the flashlight, I held his little hand as hard as I could bear but he was terrified of the tweezers and couldn't stop thrashing around screaming. I'd get one needle out, lose my grip, encourage him to eat his popsicle and calm down, then try again. We worked like this for a long time and I couldn't even get a quarter of the tiny needles out, but eventually he calmed down and finished his popsicle and then hopped down to play.

Later I walked by the cactus, which was a long skinny green soft-looking one, and saw a chunk of it lying on the driveway, the piece Charlie had picked to give to me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Garden Revisited

In April I spent a lot of time ripping out our old front garden and replanting it. I was so proud of the finished product!

What I didn't know at the time is that I had inadvertantly installed an all-you-can-eat deer buffet. We have a pack (?) of deer that live in the woods adjacent to our house. At night they come graze on our grass and landscaping, apparently. I didn't know what was happening when I first noticed that it looked like someone was trimming the plants at night, but the next night there were hoofprints in the dirt. GRRR. Then it seemed like everyone on my street had a "deer eating plants" story to share with me.

It was like the part in The Poisonwood Bible where the father plants the vegetable garden and the jungle plants take it over and all the natives are like "Duh!"

Anywho, when that happened I was so disgusted I washed my hands of the whole thing and just let them have it. And then we went approximately seventeen years without measurable precipitation. And then this wild grass-vine thing took over everything that was left.

The garden was looking bad. It was a big grassy mess with two three-foot Franken-marigold plants spilling awkwardly over the retaining wall.

Then we got a letter from the HOA telling us someone had narked us out for "unkempt landscaping."

Today I finally got sick of getting the stroller tangled up in the giant marigold plants as I passed by and decided to "fix" the garden. I started by digging up every last cubic inch of dirt looking for the roots of the wild grass infiltrator.

As you might imagine, Charlie was lots of help. Good company, though!

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I dug and dug and dug and Charlie built roads with his toy excavator while Ryan mowed the lawn (good little suburbanites, we). And then dug and dug and dug some more.

Then we took a break to go out for pizza and to buy some new DEER PROOF plants.

Charlie eating a piece of apple dessert pizza.

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"It's pizza with PIE inside!


Wesley chillaxing with his pizza:

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Always take a picture before correcting inappropriate behavior.

After I planted those plants I had to go to Lowe's and buy more plants and mulch and some of that fabric stuff that supresses weeds. Because I am NOT fighting off that grass ever again. I'd show you an "after" picture but I couldn't take one as it was DARK when I finished working and also I had to go attend to the frozen lasagne I had lovingly microwaved for my family. Maybe I'll take some pictures tomorrow if the deer have behaved themselves.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meditation on a Turkey

This is my favorite preschool project of all time.

The feet! The beak! The colors! It kills me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All I want is a room somewhere

I miss news.

I love to watch the evening news. I used to watch the 5:00 local, the 5:30 national, and then the 6:00 local. And when we are on trips and have cable in hotel rooms, I like to watch the news networks. When I was on maternity leave with Charlie, The Today Show and a cup of coffee was my morning routine (and then The View, Divorce Court, Judge Judy, Tyra, Dr. Phil, Oprah, and then? The news again, of course. It's possible I had a TV problem, but when you are pinned beneath a nursing infant and you can't reach your stash of 18th Century Russian Literature, what else are you supposed to do? Snort).

In high school I made time for Harry Smith every morning and Dan Rather every evening (more info-tainment, yes I know). I attempted to read my mom's Newsweeks, even though much of it wasn't actually interesting to me at the time, in an attempt to develop my "serious intellectual" side (I also spent a lot of time doing my homework in Starbucks, at the time the closest thing we had to a coffee house in my shiny suburban world.).

I don't get to watch any news now that Charlie is older. We don't have cable, so the only news available is on when he is awake. Even the relatively sanitized for stay at home moms Today Show has pictures of burned out, upside down cars and lots of words I'd rather not explain to Charlie yet--drunk, high, murder, killed, terrorist, war, Botox, Cheney. Instead I have my Newsweek, which should be called News-six-weeks based on how long it takes me to get through it with my fractured attention, and the paper on weekends.

When I was growing up my mom had a tiny black and white TV mounted under a kitchen cabinet. I remember her sitting on a kitchen chair, sipping coffee and watching Donahue. We knew it had better be important (blood, fire, tornado) if we were to so much as set one toe in that kitchen during Donahue. Or make noise of any kind--fortunately we spent most of our time playing Sega and listening to records in the basement anyway.

I always wondered why she didn't kick us out of the family room and use the big TV for that hour, but I get it now.

She didn't care if she had to listen to it on a transistor radio standing outside in the rain if it meant we would leave her alone for one. single. solitary. hour. A kitchen chair, my favorite show, a hot cup of coffee? It sounds like heaven to me now.

Oh to be able to set those kinds of boundaries.

For now I sneak my news in five minute bits standing in the living room with the kids nearby in the playroom, my thumb on the "input" button ready to switch over to Curious George on DVD at a moment's notice.

Something about Brian William's voice calms me. What can I say?

I think what I need is a TV in my kitchen. I could put it near The Rug, which is where I stand when I am doing things that are sharp or hot. Children are not allowed on The Rug. It is my three-by-five foot sanctuary.

Because I am weary of knowing more about what happened on Curious George than the contents of the House's version of Obamacare. Are they even calling it that anymore?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wait, I think I made a mistake

1. Enter a "1" if you are single or if you are married and no one claims you as a dependent: 1

2. Enter a "1" if you are a married head of household: 0

3. Enter 1 for each dependent child living with you if your total household income is greater than $20,000. Enter 2 for each dependent child living with you if your household income is less than $20,000: 2

4. If your household income is greater than $50,000 AND less than $50,000, enter a 5: ?

5. Enter the number from Table 2, Column B associated with the income range of the primary earner (found in Table 2, Column A): 3

6. Enter the number from Table 3, Column B associated with the income range of the secondary earner (found in Table 3, Column B): 1

7. If Page 2, Line 5 is less than Page 2, Line 6, skip this section and proceed to Line 15. If Page 2, Line 6 is greater than Page 2, Line 5, enter a 2: Uhhhh

8. Multiply the number in Line 7 by the number of dependent children, then divide by the boiling point of water at sea level (in Kelvin), then think of a number between one and ten: 8?

9. If a train leaves Cleveland headed eastbound at 60 mph and another train leaves New York headed westbound at 30 mph on the same track, write where they meet on line nine: Scranton-ish?


It goes on like that for several more pages. My witholding category comes to √15π. I'm going to let HR figure that one out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You can thank Nablopomo for this shimmering piece of coherency.

You guys are the BEST.

Thank you for being so excited with me. You guys mean a lot to me and it was SO MUCH FUN getting all the virtual back-pats and hugs yesterday afternoon. Thanks!!

I knew about the job early in October after I gave a seminar on campus. I didn't want to say anything until I got the official offer letter. It came yesterday in the middle of a particularly trying week of teething and colds and Ryan having to work a lot and let me tell you I practically danced up the sidewalk to the church to pick Charlie up after school after getting the letter.

I will be teaching Physics II (God help us all) Lab Tuesday afternoons in the spring at a small liberal arts college. One day a week in the classroom! I cannot think of a more ideal situation. My dad is going to be our "manny!" Charlie can stay in his awesome school, which meets on MWF. It's PERFECT. And I did not expect to be called "Assistant Professor (part-time)." I am blown away.

ANYWAY! Moving on! Today was very much back to the nap-resisting, tantrum throwing status quo. We left bilingual storytime at the library in disgrace after Wesley threw a head-banging tantrum in the middle of the circle and Charlie got up in the middle of one of the stories and noisily ran over to my place by the window where I was trying desperately to keep Wes quiet post-slamming his forehead into the floor in protest. It was a bad scene.

We walked up to the coffee shop afterwards because I figured if I did the work required to get everybody out of the house I was going to get more than ten freaking minutes of enjoyment out of it. I needed coffee! I texted Labmama to let her know (her kids are slightly older and more capable of behaving like human beings in storytime) where we were. She called shortly after to say that they were going home because her kids flipped out too. Must be the moon or something.

That's all. Thanks again.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Mail Call

Dear Dr. Academomia:

I am pleased to offer you the position of part-time Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics for the 2010 spring semester.

(yadda yadda yadda)

We'll pay you and you can call yourself a professor [paraphrasing here]. Of Physics (Holy kamoley).

I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Dr. Provost

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Now I'm hungry for eggs

I've spent the afternoon attempting to condense a chunk of my 166 page dissertation into a technical paper. It's a little disheartening watching multiple pages of hard work collapse down into a succinct three-sentence paragraph, but at this point in my career if I want to get anything read it's got to be short and snappy. Here's what I'm talking about (and my dissertation was not about omelettes!).

Dissertation writing:

An omelette was made based on the work of Davis (1997). The eggs for the omelette were Grade A organic eggs, size Large, purchased from the Whole Foods grocery store. The egg size "Large" was chosen based on the work of Smith (2002). Also based on the study conducted by Smith, sharp cheddar cheese was selected. Table 2 lists the various brands of cheddar cheese available. Ultimately the Kraft Fancy Shredded Cheddar Cheese was chosen, both due to it's low cost and its similarity in consistency to the cheese used in the Smith omelette. Although the Davis study omelette featured green onions, a more appropriate choice for the region in which this study was conducted was cilantro. Furthermore, Roma tomatoes were chosen, rather than Beefstake, due to regional and seasonal availability (Parker, 1974). Schmidt (2007) compared the relative merits of Roma and Beefstake tomatoes and found negligible difference between the two.

The omelette was cooked in a medium-sized, Calphanon non-stick frying pan purchased at Target over a gas burner on a Kenmore 5600 series gas range. The temperature of the burner was calibrated as in Miller (2008). Historically, toast has been served as a side to the omelet (Davis, 2006, Edwards, 2004, Dean et al. 2002, Howell and Chu, 1998), however more recent work by Quinn (1999) has shown rice to be a reasonable alternative when toast is not available.

Paper Writing:

The authors cooked an omelette and served it with a side of rice.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not so bright

Yesterday at 4:30 I just couldn't. take. the. screaming. and. whining. anymore. COULD NOT TAKE.

Wes had been a giant grouch since he woke up (when he was not sleeping, which, thank goodness he took normal naps). Charlie did not nap, though I knew he was tired by the way he nearly fell asleep in the car on the way home from school.

And it was Friday at 4:30 and I had just completely had it with the whole SAHM thing for the week. I wanted to be DONE. And then Wes started fidgeting with his ears.

Oh.

I called Pediatrician Man and told the nurse that Wes had been SUPERSUPER fussy and was playing with his ears, should I bring him in or wait it out?

Bring him in? Oh. Because I really just called so I could talk to another adult and he doesn't have a fever or anything, but OK. Sure. 6:20 sounds great, thanks. Bye!

Then I called Ryan and repeated my tale of woe and asked him to meet me at Pediatrician Man's to help with Charlie.

We were in the exam room when the nurse asked if Wes had "any other medical issues" and I suddenly remembered that he had gotten his seasonal flu vaccine the day before. Of course I didn't say anything because I didn't want this total stranger whose only interest was in the well-being of my child to know what a total idiot I was for bringing a child to the after-hours clinic for TOTALLY NORMAL VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS.

Not surprisingly, Wes was the picture of health.

I apologized PROFUSELY to Ryan, who had to leave work early to meet me, being sure to carefully spell out the word M-O-R-O-N so Charlie wouldn't learn it.

On the plus side, we did score a totally awesome plastic vomit basin that Charlie took with us to dinner and then used as a plate for his burrito.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dilemma

I had to take an ethics class in grad school where we would be presented each day with a situation in which something ethical or unethical had happened or could happen and then we would have to debate whether or not the outcome or potential outcome was "ethical" or "unethical."

For example: "You see a guy come out of a coffee shop and drop a $20 bill on the sidewalk. You pick it up, but before you can give it back to him he gets on a bus, the doors close, and it drives away. What do you do?"

Some potential answers include

"Check inside the coffee shop to see if he is a regular, leave the money with them so they can give it to him next time he comes in."

"Donate the money to charity."

"Eh, you tried. Buy yourself the new Avett Brothers album and a latte."

The best part of the class was when we would argue about what the right answer was, knowing that there really is no right or wrong answer in many of the simpler situations (like the one above). There were only five people in the class, all good friends of mine, so it was kind of fun.

Anyway, I present to you an ethical dilemma I encountered today and you get to duke it out in the comments.

"A woman and child back into a parking space at a Panera. The woman gets out and notices that she has parked with two wheels on one of the parking lines. Since the parking lot is completely empty, with at least two open spaces on each side of her car, and since she is planning to just run in and buy a giant cup of coffee and twelve-hundred calories of delicious sugary goodness, an errand that will take only a few minutes, she decides against reparking the car in a more courteous fashion. Upon returning to the car, goodies and small angry child in hand, she finds that another car has self-righteously parked her medium-sized SUV approximately twelve inches away from hers, despite the two other, equally desirable empty parking spaces, centered perfectly between the guide lines causing me, err 'the woman,' to have to walk sideways to the back door, open the door approximately thirty degrees, wedge the child in sideways, then fasten the carseat straps remotely using two sticks I found nearby."

So class, in this dilemma, who is the giant bitch whose behavior was ethical or unethical and why?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

W is for Wesley and Willful

We had about two minutes today before it was time to leave for a doctor's appointment. Wesley was working on a bowl of yogurt and not making much progress on his own, so I helpfully took the spoon from him and scooped some into his mouth.

Bad idea.

He screamed as though I was ripping off one of his limbs and then refused to swallow the mouthful of yogurt. He just screamed and screamed with it sitting there on his tongue until it slid down his chin and into his lap. And this wasn't his boring plain yogurt. It was Charlie's vanilla yogurt! He refused one of his favorite foods out of SPITE!

He then screamed through being cleaned up, screamed while I got him out of his booster and into the car then screamed for a few more minutes while I rounded Charlie up and got him buckled in. And this was right after a long nap! This was our toddler in his MOST RESTED STATE.

I think we are in for a challenging few years with that one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cooking for the attention-span challenged

When Sarah said she was signing up for NaBloPoMo I scoffed that I would have to start posting recipes from the internet as my normal day simply isn't interesting enough for a blog post (I know what you are saying--"That's never stopped you before!"--but just play along). But here it is only November fourth and I am indeed sending you a recipe from the internet.

This recipe, from Rachael Ray's website, is one of my favorites to make because it is:

A) CHEAP
B) easy
C) requires only one pan
D) CHEAP

Also, it contains Garbanzo beans. I am trying to cook with beans instead of meat a couple of times a week because I am hoping the boys will grow up liking them. Why? Because beans are cheap and knowing how to cook with them will make their transition to grad school, and it's lucrative $9000/year salary, that much easier. It's because I care about their futures.

Here are the ingredients. I've noted my substitutions in italics.

•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
or butter, canola, vegetable, whatever you have seems to work fine

•3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 cloves = a heaping cereal spoon-full of the pre-minced stuff in a jar

•1 pound crimini mushrooms (about 16-20), halved
a styrofoam box full of the pre-sliced normal mushrooms works for me!

•1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
I use two to make up for using fewer mushrooms and I can't really picture it the other way, although I don't know what a crimini mushroom is and I don't think they sell them at my store, so I could be missing out on something really great.

•1 medium onion, chopped

•Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Normal pepper also works, even if you bought it when you lived in another city then moved it here in a truck

•1 can chickpeas (15 ounces), drained

•1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

•1 can diced tomatoes in puree (28 ounces)
Just realized I forgot to get the "in puree" kind this time and it came out a little watery but still good.

•2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
I loved it with rosemary the first time I made it, but ran out this time and substituted basil. It was still good.

Preparation:

1. Sautee the garlic and mushrooms in the olive/canola/whatever oil for a couple of minutes (I like to start it cooking, tend to some minor emergency like Charlie emptying the recycle bin all over the living room, remember, then go back and find that it's doing just fine without my intervention. I'd use low heat if you're going to go with that option)

2. Add the onions and zucchini, season with salt and pepper, mix it up and let it go for a few minutes

3. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices, mix it up again, bring to simmer, simmer ten-ish minutes (Or, you know, twenty if you forget)

And then the recipe says you should serve it over these delightful cheesy hashbrown cakes, which does sound really freaking delicious, but I am afraid of frying in grease because I can never remember if it's baking soda or what that you are supposed to put on the fire to make it go out. I have come up with some alternatives if you, like me, are fry-phobic.

(I recently overcame my fear of the broiler setting on my oven and it has CHANGED my LIFE. Y'all, I can make hamburgers when Ryan is not home to make the grill work!)

Alternative 1: Mashed potatoes. Use whatever recipe you want and then dump a bag of asiago cheese in and let it melt and then call me and thank me profusely for making mashed potatoes even more delicious than they already were. And then try not to eat the whole pan before your husband comes home. Go ahead and try.

Alternative 2: Asiago Foccacia from le Target. After the wild success of the asiago mashed potatoes I figured I'd just roll with the asiago train. It seems to go very nicely with the cumin in the stew. You cut it into triangles like a pie, then slice one open like you are going to make a sandwich with it, then arrange the halves side by side on a plate and spoon the stew on top of them.

And then you get to EAT IT.

The first time I made this it was a huge hit among the family. This time Charlie ate some of the bread and a couple of tomatoes and then threw his cup of milk at me and had to leave the table. Wes had two helpings and then ate Charlie's leftovers, though, so I'll call it a success!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A picture WOULD be worth a thousand words

Today the boys and I had lunch with my sister. As is our custom, I was completely ignoring the kids and was engrossed in a conversation with my sister (spelling all the really good words, naturally) when I heard a loud POP and felt a spray of liquid on my arm.

I turned to Wes, sitting next to me, who until that moment had been sucking on one of those single-serve half and half cups (that I had given him, "build a tower Wes! Ooh, blocks!). He had bitten it and made it explode all over me, him, the floor, the table, and possibly even the backs of the people at the next table.

He looked so startled by the loud noise. For a moment it looked like he was going to cry. But then he got his first taste of half and half and started slurping it down instead. He looked about as happy as I do at church when there is no skim milk to be had and I have to use half and half in my coffee instead, BUMMER.

Like DOOOOD. YUMMY. whereyabeenallmylife

(WOW I could really go for one of those right now.)

It was AWESOME.

Back to the bike story!

Ryan and I were both too excited about the bike to sleep this morning, so we sprang out of bed at 6:30 and set our plan into motion. I put the bike in the living room, where it wouldn't be seen until after breakfast. If there's one thing I've learned in the last three years, it's that you save fun things until after un-fun things, like eating enough protein and fiber to ensure you don't turn into a total psycho for the rest of the day before you find out that there is a shiny red bike just your size sitting in the living room. Then I made some eggs, cut up the pumpkin bread, and poured the milk. After we'd gotten Charlie completely dressed, including his shoes and jacket (see above function before fun rule of thumb), we brought everyone down for breakfast. Charlie was so excited to have eggs instead of fruit and toast for breakfast that he suspected nothing.

When he finished most of his breakfast I asked Charlie to go get the remote control out of the living room, but when he got to the door of the kitchen he ran smack into Ryan who said "Wait! I don't have the camera ready!" WAY to play it cool!

Here's take two:



My favorite part is when I say "It's your bike!" and he says "Wooooowwww." Such a sweetheart, that one.

Then we all trooped outside to take it for a spin. He is a happy, happy kid.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

The bike was a HUGE hit. I'll post the video tomorrow because it's still uploading. Let's just say, it was a beautiful sunrise, I didn't have time to find my shoes, and I could see my breath while I was standing barefoot in the culdesac watching Charlie test it out. That was one happy kid.

Here's Charlie blowing out the candles on the traditional breakfast birthday cake.

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And here are Charlie and Wesley and the cousins high on sugar and playing in front of our house. Not surprisingly, he was confused when he got yelled at for tackling Wes and running into the street today. We're having to do a bit of retraining after The Weekend of Never-ending Treats and No Rules.



And here's a funny video of Wes saying "Touchdown" while we were out for lunch the other day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick or Treat!

Charlie took to Trick or Treating like a duck to water this year. He was a very eager fireman.

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Our friends at the first house gave him a bag of M&Ms and he asked us to open it then and there. I don't think he could believe we were going to get even more candy!

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Wesley was content in the stroller. Someone gave him a bag of pretzels, which he reduced to bread crumbs in minutes. He was a good little puppy. Except that the second we let him out of the stroller he crawled into one of our friend's houses while Charlie was picking out a piece of candy.

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Sibley followed Charlie's lead.

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After we got all the candy we could carry, played with all the neighborhood children in Labmama's yard, and watched The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown projected on a friend's garage door, we headed home to hand out candy. Charlie met every kid at the door with a handful of candy and cheerful "Happy Halloween!" Last year he stood on our porch waving a Hershey bar, yelling "COME KIDS! COME KIDS!" and then cried when they "took the candy away from him." Also, he slept in his costume last night.

Here's the trio this year:

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and last year:

Halloween Cousins

And if that doesn't make you vaclempt, look at what is waiting for Charlie in the morning, the morning of his THIRD birthday:

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He is going to FREAK OUT.