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Friday, September 30, 2011

Lose your Embarrassment Meter

You almost can't be a parent to toddlers if you are easily embarrassed, humiliated or sensitive. They will see you. They will see your weakness. You will perish. Okay, maybe not, but it will feel as if you're going through the seven gates of hell. At least once a day.

It all starts with a bad idea. For me, today, that idea was bringing the girls to the toy store (should have listened to you, Janel).

I had the option of bringing them out for a short jaunt before nap to buy a present for our friend whose daughter turns two tomorrow, or of waiting until naptime and going myself, possibly getting a coffee and sitting down with a friend for a moment. I'm not sure why I hate myself, but I chose the former. I thought it would be nice to get them out of the house or some such nonsense. Never again.

It started out just dandy. Toys R Us had a clearance table outside with random toys you know your child will just pick up and pocket, or throw a fit over before you've even entered the store. Great idea, Toys R Us. Fortunately, at the beginning, you can say, "Let's go see all the other toys!" And your kids are like "Yay! Toys!" And you're off. Unfortunately, that blasted table is still there when you're done shopping and you really really really need to get back to the car right now or else.

Then, you enter the store, and what is with all the balls everywhere? Seriously? Because as a mom, all I want to do in a toy store is bend over every few seconds and put your balls back in their kid-accessible containers. And that's not counting the errant bounces that knock over DVD displays or get stuck in back-to-school clearance items. Sorry, I'm not fishing for those because I have two kids to watch. Two kids who just took another ball out of your kid-accessible container. Dammit, kids, I said Put It Down.

Why can't you be like grocery stores and cage those round, bouncy monsters in so that the kids can poke at them longingly but never really get their grubby paws on them? My patience would run longer and your merchandise would stay fresh--as in not scattered all over the ground after being pummeled by a big pink ball that "now bounces up to 15 feet!" Great.

Then it's turtle stuffed animals and matchbox cars and stickers and blocks. Finally, there is a train set. Thank you, Toys R Us, at least for that. The kids play with the train while I quickly grab the present we're there for. It's buy one get one half off so I grab another toy for my girls, thinking it will help get me out of the store with no hassle. That's laughable, isn't it?

So now I have an extra toy on my hands that I can give to someone else because the girls' exit performance was such that they are never going to play with another toy again. Ever.  Okay, just kidding, but it was bad, and they're not getting the toy I bought them and told them I bought them. Consider it a broken promise, I don't even care.

Even with all of this, though, I considered the trip going well. The twins were putting things back (eventually) when I asked them to, they were moving along at a clip just faster than molasses but slower than a tortoise, which I think is top-speed for a toddler in a toy shop, and they hadn't tantrumed once. We were nearing the finish line now.

And here's where the bad idea became the worst idea ever...if you are reading this, heed my warning. You know those cheapo car-like, merry-go-round things you can stick a quarter in and they give the child a 30-second ride?

Just say no.

I had a death wish this morning, and after a fairly incident-free trip where I was now facing the doors of freedom literally just feet away, my children saw one of those cars, and I thought, well, why not? They deserve it.

Don't be like me. This is where, as parents, we need to save our children from themselves.

First of all, the ride is not a quarter anymore. Prices have risen since 1985, apparently, and 30 seconds now costs you 50 cents.

Guess how much change I had?  Go ahead, guess. I can't make this shit up.

I had FORTY NINE cents.

And the guy would not let me change 24 cents for a quarter. He was firm. Meanwhile, as I'm begging like an ass, my kids are on the verge of meltdown (not there yet, just teetering) because the car that they knew was supposed to turn on was not turning on.

A mother on her cellphone handed me a quarter and smirked at me. I should have been grateful, but, really, I just wanted to smack her. Mind your own business if you're going to be mean about it, okay? I'm sure you have awesome, amazingly well-behaved children at home, and if you don't you at least have enough brains to leave them there when you go to a toy store, but leave me and my misery alone.

You may think I'm being harsh. I might be because usually I would be very thankful for a kind soul like that. But when I went to thank her, she brushed me off and seriously stuck her nose in the air. Like actually stuck her nose in the air.  Okay then.

So I pop her pity quarter in the machine and the car starts to go, and that's when everything shatters to pieces. The babies wanted to put the money in. And since I had, their little world was smashed to bits and it was all my fault and I find myself in the parents' nightmare of being in a toystore with two little creatures who are trying to show everyone that someone is in charge in this family and it's not mommy.

Let the head shaking, the ear blocking, the hate-filled staring and the jaw-dropping begin. Because on a tantrum scale of 1-10 this was a 10. And I have two of them. So it was a 20. And it was over sticking a quarter in a car the right way.

I don't think so.

Last year, I would have been so embarrassed, and, you know, I was embarrassed still, but I didn't let it show. I scooped those children up, one under each arm (have you ever seen a mother of twins storming out of a toy store with two bags in her hands and two 35-pound children wriggling away and screaming to be put down? It's hilarious, I'm sure. At least at this point we were entertaining to the onlookers, right?)

We get to the car. I strap them in. I am pissed. I am that super mom pissed you only get, like, once every four months or so when you simply cannot stand any more nonsense and enough is too much.

Once driving away, I gave them the sternest talking to they've had thus far in their little lives. I did not spare them, nor was I gentle with my voice. It was raised, it was low, and it was serious.

By the end of it, they had gone from screaming in retaliation, to disagreeing with me, to trying to explain their position, to kicking my chair, and I never desisted. I never compromised with them. I continued to tell them over and over again why that behavior was unacceptable and why it was never to happen again. Over and over and over and over. Repeat, repeat, repeat. See, babies? You've at least taught me something. After the chair-kicking stopped, they became more reasonable. I began to get responses like, "Okay, mama. I understand. I be good. I be nice. I'm sorry."

I hope it sticks. The only thing we can do when these things happen (which they will for even the best child, now and again), is push forward and keep on keeping on. Don't lose yourself in the embarrassment of the situation. It won't help. It will distract you from the overall goal, which is: Get out. Get away. Teach your kids what was wrong about that in the privacy of your own car/home/stroller/whatever. Feeling embarrassed, looking around at those who would judge you, trying to shush your child in the store itself to prove your parenting prowess (after the tantrum reaches a certain stage, of course. There are some instances where you can pull this off. Today was not one of them), trying to reason with the child, give the child what she wants to shut her up, use logic with Too late, too late.

Get out. Get away. Otherwise you might not make it out at all.

Good luck.


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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Toddler Necessities on Vacation

My family goes on a few two-to-four-day vacations a year. Whether you're going for a real week-or-two vacation or just overnight somewhere, this is what we've found to really help our trips.

- Make sure breakfast is included. If it's not, you'll spend $40 on it anyway, and most likely the kids won't eat much because they'll be excited to get where they are going. Plus, a buffet-style breakfast speeds up the meal and gets you on with your day without being a hassle.

- If breakfast is not included (which it wasn't for us this time), make sure your room has a kitchenette. This saved us, so many times in just a few days. A dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, some tuna and breakfast sausages from Publix and I was armed with breakfasts and lunches for days. No cleaning everyone up only to hustle them into the car, drag them to a restaurant, wait forever, pay a lot of tourist prices, race back home, get back in the suits and go back to the beach. Nope. Scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, tuna sandwiches for lunch, and it still felt luxurious.

- Bring some toys with you. I brought along their loveys and sand toys and a few books. It was not enough. One of our daughters kept talking about how she wanted to go home. The best reason she could give us was that she missed her toys. Maybe one or two small toys would have helped her with homesickness.

- Use nap time wisely. Take turns when the toddlers are conked out in the afternoon. One of you stay with them, the other can go off and do something close by. We walked on the beach, perused the town, had a drink downstairs at the pool. The two hours of nap time should not be squandered.

- Keep a routine, even on vacation. The girls soon got used to our vacation routine which was breakfast, beach in the morning, shower, lunch at around 2p.m., nap, pool in the afternoon / evening, shower, dinner, bed. Every day. Would we have done things differently without them? Absolutely. Am I happy we did it this way with them? Yes, yes, yes. It's worth it to let them know what they can expect. Trust me.

- Understand that the first night is going to be a trainwreck. The kids aren't used to the room, the bed, staying with you in close quarters (in our case. At home they sleep in their own room.) They'll be hot, cold, someone will have more covers than the other, someone will want a bigger side, someone will be touching someone else, someone will roll out of bed, someone will have a coughing fit...and that's all before 2 a.m. Don't give up. The next night will be better. The first night is always the worst.

- Take pictures. This way, when you look back, you won't remember the whinefests, the embarrassments, the tantrums, and the obstinacy that is a three year old. You'll remember this:

And this:

And this:

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Vacation, Know What You're In For

There are a million posts about traveling with toddlers: what to pack, where to go, how to book successfully, activities to plan, ways to keep the kids entertained...the list goes on.

Well, here we are, on a short vacation again, and the best tip I can give you is that you had better know what you are in for ahead of time.

You are in for three days, or a week, or two weeks of whining, heckling, discombobulated nervousness and crankiness.

Don't leave until you've accepted that.

Because once you have, the rest is piddly and you'll have a great time. Vacation is fun, even with toddlers, and even if they are throwing you curve balls left and right. You just have to know that those curve balls are coming and adapt.

No, they're not going to sleep right away in a strange bed. Yes, at least one of you will be stuck in the room during nap times (if they even sleep) and at night. Yes, you're going to hear all about how they want to go home or to the beach or to get their lovey or to go to the pool, or any number of things that you are most definitely not doing at that precise moment in time.

You'll get requests for a video you don't have or a book you left at home. You find yourself awash in the tears of a baby faced with the cruel, cruel world of inconsistency and change. Don't be alarmed. It's all part of the process.

If you can keep your game face on, if you can not lose patience, if you can reason with them as best you can and distract them, you will have fun. You will. You will be talking at them 24/7 so that they remain at peace, and even then it won't be nearly enough, but you will have fun because you will have been prepared for this.

A vacation on your own with toddlers is very different from an adult vacation. There are sacrifices to be made, but it is still vacation nonetheless, and in the end, you'll all be better off for it. Your children will see a little bit of the world they wouldn't otherwise have known. They'll have fun in 30-minute increments, on the beach or even in the "big room's" shower. They'll break down, but you'll buoy them back up, and again and again the cycle will continue.

A vacation with toddlers is all about your mindset. And as I type this out on the balcony of our room with the fresh Florida breeze coming through the waving palm fronds, and I look up at the ocean hitting the waves while my children sleep for their first nap in two days, I'm not thinking about all of the life out there that I am missing (okay, only a little), I'm thinking about how glorious it is to be here and to see the sea and to feel the breeze. It's different. It's nice. It's fun.

And yes, in a few moments it will be back to "she hit the button on the elevator last time," and "mama, I want to go home," but right now it is peaceful and quiet and I am on vacation.

It's all about your mindset. Know what you're in for.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe Monday - Unstuffed Peppers

This is not my recipe. I shamelessly stole it from my friend Janel. It's wonderful. Stuffed peppers are my favorite meal ever, but they take too long and make too much mess for too little reward. This casserole is the easy version and it tastes just like the real thing.

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 jar marinara
1 lb hamburger
4 cloves fresh garlic or 2-4 T diced jarred garlic
1 onion or bag of diced frozen onion
2-4 bell peppers or bag of diced frozen green peppers
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Seasonings like: salt and pepper, Italian seasonings, balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, worchestshire sauce

First, cook the rice on the stovetop.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

While the rice is cooking, cook the meat. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, and garlic. Drain meat. Add in the wet ingredients like balsamic vinegar and worchestshire sauce and jar of marinara. Add the bell pepper and onion and let it simmer for a bit on low-medium heat for about 10 minutes

Your rice should be finished by now. Dump it into the saute pan if there's room. I transfer everything to a large casserole dish. Mix together well. Top with the cheese.  Put in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Take out and let cool for a bit.

This is seriously the best thing I've ever made. My kids love it. Even my husband loves it and he hates tomato sauce. It's delicious. I can't recommend it enough. Thank you, Janel!


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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Moment of the Week - 60: Guess the Twin

Let's play guess the twin.

1) Natalina or Dulce?

2) Natalina or Dulce?

3) Natalina or Dulce?

4) Natalina or Dulce?

Show your work...if you've got any to show! If not, take your best shot!

(Dulce, Natalina, Natalina, Dulce) KEY

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 60: Give Them What They Want

The third way to shut your child up for a hot second is to give them what they want. This sounds like a bad idea, but in context, it's not.

Problem: Same as last week. Your child is yammering away at you, getting more and more upset, demanding illogical, unattainable things, and becoming enraged when you won't or can't procure their desires for them. Sometimes, you're just going to have to deal with this, using the other techniques outlined in tricks 58 and 59. Trying to keep them at a dull roar can prove very difficult, however, if the answer is no every single time. And while you can't turn that apple into yogurt, and you can't force Disney to play Mickey Mouse Club House instead of Phineas and Ferb, there are some things you can do for you child if she asks nicely.

Solution: Do them. If your kid wants a glass of water, or a pretzel, or to play blocks or a hug, don't let the request get lost in the shuffle. Even though your parental ears are shoving all of these demands into the "child yammering away at me annoyingly" file, to the kid, each and every one of their rapid-fire commands is important and legitimate. If you give in every once in a while, it proves to the toddlers that you are listening, that their words are important to you, and that you aren't just ignoring everything they say. If your kids are secure in that knowledge, you'll start to notice that they believe you just a little bit more when you say you can't do something. They are checking off everything on a mental list, and if you do get them the juice, or the crayons, or let them go outside when they ask, they start to understand that it's not just you saying no for fun. That you are perhaps a reasonable human being and maybe you really can't do what they want at that next second. This is a slow-building trend and doesn't take effect right away, but if you have patience, you'll see it start to sink in. Plus, giving your child things that are reasonable is another way to validate and reaffirm their opinions and thoughts, which is really important to three year olds.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

A Twin Specialty

Toddlers don't like compromise. This is a shame. Compromise is one of my main tactics in calming the girls, and since they don't like it, well, it doesn't work at all. I keep waiting for the day that they will magically understand how both of them get a little of what they want and it's the best I can do. I'm not sure that day will ever come.

See, when you have one child, if that child requests something that seems silly to you, but doesn't really make a difference either way, you can humor her, thus avoiding any drama and no one is excessively put out. This would work great for small things that don't have much bearing on the overall parenting or parent/child control battle. You certainly wouldn't want to allow the child to run into traffic if that's what she wanted to do, but if she needs to take a bite of sandwich on the couch instead of in the kitchen (in my house) that's a bendable rule, and I'm okay with her making that decision.

Of course, what inevitably happens is that the other twin decides arbitrarily that under no circumstances should anyone take a bite of anything anywhere but the kitchen. Now, I'm stuck. I can't give one a bite in the kitchen, and the other one on the couch. They each get upset that the other is taking a bite where the one didn't decide. I can't give them both bites mid-distance between the couch and the kitchen. Now no one is getting what they want and everyone is angry. I can't say, "we'll take a bite on the couch now, and a bite in the kitchen later." You'd think that would appease at least the couch-wanting twin, but no. She's preemptively upset about the future kitchen bite. Too upset to enjoy the current couch bite. And the kitchen twin is upset about the current couch bite, so that she cannot look forward to the future kitchen bite. They've no understanding of the future. Everything is the present.

This happens often with videos. One will ask for a video, the other will want a different video, I will say, "We'll watch this one now and that one later," and instead of them both being pacified, they're both beyond upset, fighting valiantly against the other twin's choice, now, ever and in the future.

Another great example happened this morning. They were playing quietly at the base of the stairs, and I almost didn't want to go downstairs because I knew the sight of me would disrupt their peaceful balance and I would have to suffer the consequences of merely existing and having to pass them to make breakfast.

I was right.

I made my way down the stairs and got halfway down.

"Mama comes down with herself!" Dulce shouted triumphantly (which tells me that they had quietly argued over whether they were going to come up to our bedroom to get me.) Dulce's proclamation was obstinate, claiming victory. Natalina would have none of it.

"No, mama, go back upstairs. Let me come get you."

"Well, I'm already halfway down and I wanted to sing Good Morning to you!"

WAAAAAH (didn't work).

"How about I sit right here, I'm half-up, half-down. You can come get me the rest of the way, and Dulce knows I came downstairs."

WAAAAAAH (didn't work.)

I sat there for a moment, until Natalina came up the stairs and grabbed my hand, pulling me back up the stairs. I followed her because this is a big improvement. We've been working on her staying calm and finding other avenues to show her meaning if she feels she's not getting her point across. I was quite proud of this, actually.

She put me back in bed, then immediately woke me up again and we went back downstairs. It was quick enough so that Dulce didn't get upset because she wasn't sure that Natalina had gotten what she wanted and didn't want to make a fuss, in case she didn't.

I got off light, to be honest.

Then they fought about dresses, who fell last in the park, whether or not they'd watch Curious George while I made breakfast, which side of the couch was whose, and whether or not their sister was over the line on the couch.

Having twins is...different.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Preschool Woes

"Mama, I don't want to go to school. I want to stay home."
"But you like school, don't you?"
"No, I don't like it."
"Well, what do you do in school. Play games? Read stories? Make sandcastles? Feed ducks? Sing?"
"Yeah! We sing. Read stories!"
"Isn't it fun?"
"Yes, it's fun...but you don't leave, okay? Don't leave, mama."
"Well, I have to leave to do some work, but I come back to get you, right?"
"Noooooooo. Don't leave! Don't leave, mama. I want to stay home. I want to do work with you."
"Who are your teachers at school? Crystal? Tiffany? Ashley?"
"Yeah, Crystal. Where's Crystal?"
"She's at school. Let's go say hi to her."
"Okay, we'll say hi, but then let's go home, okay?"
"We'll go home soon, after you do an art project and sing some songs."
"No, I don't want to. I don't want to go to school."
"But why?"
"Because I don't like to."
"Well, it's time to get in the car. Let's go say goodbye to Daddy."
"Daddy, I cry, I cry, Daddy. I don't want to go to school."
"Well, don't you have fun at school."
"Yes, ballet."
"That's right, ballet. And other things, too. And then Mommy will be back."
"No, I don't want to go to school."


At the school:
"Hold me, hold me, Mama. I don't want to go. I need to stay with you."
"Okay, I'll hold you, but let's go to the classroom."
"Don't leave, okay? Don't leave."


I stay and make some sandcastles with them.

"Okay, mommy, you go, okay. You come back."
"Yes, I'll come back."


I go to leave.

Cue screaming, crying madness.

This is wearing on all of us. They have a good time at school, so why the drama? They only go twice a week and I pick them up on time and watch their extra classes with them. Preschool is proving to be very hard for us, for some reason. I don't get it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Getting Out of Trouble

As my children get a better grasp on conversation, emotion and dare I say logic, they are starting to dictate our movements more and more, wriggling out of tough situations, testing avenues and words to see what will let them do the most damage and get in the least amount of trouble.

Here are a few of their favorites:

They'll do something they're not supposed to do, and I'll tell them not to do that.

Response: "No, I just" (insert bland, non-troublesome activity here, that happens to also be taking place due to their actions.)

Example: "Stop stepping on my computer."

"No, I just reaching the chair."

Now, that's true, but it doesn't change the fact that in order to reach the chair they need to step on my computer.

This is amazing, developmentally. It shows a leap of understanding emphasis and distraction. Good job, kids. Now, get off my computer.


They'll start throwing a tantrum (normally because they've said something and have deemed my response incorrect, which is a no-win situation for me.) They'll flop around until I start my count-down, which means time out is near.

Response: "HUG! MAMA HUG!"

Yes, they scream-cry hug at me, as if all they were after in the first place was a little affection from me, and how could I be so cruel as to withhold my love from them? Had I just been reasonable about giving them a hug to begin with, they never would have gotten so upset.

Except their tantrum had nothing to do with wanting a hug from me. They pulled a bait and switch.

And this is particularly genius because not only are they doing the emphasis and distraction thing mentioned above, but what parent isn't going to go hug a clearly distressed child asking for love? You win this time, babies. On the plus side, at least the tantrum stops after that.


This is my least favorite. They will do something totally atrocious. Pull their hair, or throw a book at me, or something completely unacceptable. I'll speak very sternly to them, deepening my voice (and I have a deep voice to begin with) and look pointedly at them.

Response: They'll turn around and ask me, just as I'm most annoyed, "You nice, mama? You nice?"

No! I'm not nice! Grrrr.

But you can't do that (often.) So, usually I sigh, defeated, and say softly (or loudly, depending on how annoyed I really am), "Yes, I am nice, but you are not being nice right now." And I go on to explain what I was trying to explain before.

And they smile and nod and plan when they're going to throw their next book.

Three year olds. They're so smart. And so three years old.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Believe the Television

As the FDA has said the arsenic found in apple juice is organic arsenic, which is quite different from inorganic arsenic and harmless.

Well, let's all wipe our brows, crisis averted. Close call, right?


Now, don't get me wrong, it is great that people are at least attempting to stay up to date with the FDA or any federal organization in place. It's important for us as parents to understand as best we can why our food is safe, how that food is tested and to keep a check and balance system going so that we always know everything is on the up and up. You should never just assume believe things, just because someone says so, be it a huge organization with hundreds of scientists and accredited personnel working for it, or a television doctor.

But when these sorts of things come up, remember who is fighting whom. We all love a David-and-Goliath story, the little man taking down the careless corporations, the whistle-blowers--and, no doubt, these are important pieces in our society. But to blindly follow an inaccurate test where not all factors were taken into consideration. To freak out and test your kids and go to the doctor and write angry things on false conclusions...well, someone looks like an idiot here. It's not the FDA which has been doing its job well and efficiently and has handled this situation with grace and sensitivity. It's not the parents who understandably did pour their apple juice down the sink and did place angry phone calls to the agency and did freak out over their children's safety.

It's Doctor Oz.

Would a phone call to the FDA have been too much hassle before televising a test that was falsely grounded? Is Dr. Oz above doing thorough research? Apparently so.

Be careful about what you believe off the television. Not everyone is telling the whole story. It takes too much time to verify findings when you have a show to get on the air. I hope Dr. Oz does apologize for this. It wouldn't be the first time he's had to take something back, after all.

For a much better and more comprehensive blog on this topic: Here's Trevor Butterworth with Forbes.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Recipe Monday - Cake Mix Cookies

I don't have a large mixer or beaters, so when I make cake, I usually use cake mix. Someday this will change, but for now I usually have quite a few boxes of cake mix on hand.

The problem with that is my family can't usually finish a whole cake in time.

Cake mix cookies solve that in two ways...they last longer and they go quicker. Here are two recipes that have done us well.

Carrot Cake Cookies:


Carrot Cake Mix
1/3 cup of butter, melted
1 egg
1/8 cup water
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a spoon.
Drop tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet. (Next time I'll roll them into balls.)
Bake for 12 minutes.

German Chocolate Cake Cookies

1 box German chocolate cake mix
6 ozs. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine all ingredients; blend well.
Next time I'm going to use half the chocolate chips and twice the oatmeal / raisins.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. 
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.

These recipes make for delicious cake-like cookies, that are huge hits in my house.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moment of the Week - 59: Florida Weekend

This is more than a single moment, but I snapped a few pictures last weekend that really show the girls in all their glory and go through a typical Florida weekend.

We play a lot of imaginary games. One of their recent favorites is to pretend they're toys. Then I go to the box and find them and try to play with them as if they are toys until they dissolve into laughter saying, "No! I'm Dulce! I'm Lilly!"

Also, sometimes I really do dress them identically.

That night my husband and I tried to watch a bit of the U.S. Open. Dulce's choice was Blue's Clues. She's protesting right now.

The next day we went to a nearby beach with a playground attached. Natalina played in the sand, but she made it clear that she would rather be going down the slides.

Cedar Key is great so long as you don't want to swim. The water is...not my type.

That night after dinner we took a walk out onto a pier, and we were surrounded by weather and atmosphere. On this end, we saw an amazingly red sunset. Directly opposite of this, the full moon had risen and the sky was already a nighttime hue. In between day and night, an incredible storm raged within a cloud. The lightning bolts seemed contained within the mass, and they flashed the clouds pink and purple with electricity.

It was a lovely weekend. One of many I'm so lucky to have.

If you like this blog, please vote on Tales of an Unlikely Mother is number 18, just scroll down and click on the thumbs up! Thank you so, so much.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 59: Pay Attention

This is another way to stop the repetition, repetition, tantrum sequence.

Problem: You have the same problem you had last week. Your child is talking your ear off, and it's all "I want this, I need that, mommy, mommy, mommy, mama, maaaammmmmma, do this now, do that now, you get it, get it for me." When did they get so bossy anyway? And who put the three year olds in charge? And you know that if you make a wrong step here, it's meltdown city. Toddlers have no priorities. They will die on any hill. Taking a DVD down from the shelf is as important as going to the beach. There is no reasoning with this. So, how  can you subvert the entire process and save everyone a headache?

Solution: Do you look at your child when you answer her? I mean really look at her? Squat down to her level if necessary. Make eye contact. Let the child know you not only "heard" her, but you really heard her. That the reason her request has been denied or pushed off until later is not lip-service, but a real thing with real consequences. I've noticed that if I'm not paying attention to myself, I can do the whole, "yeah, yeah, yeah, later, baby, later. Mommy is washing dishes now, blahblah" all without breaking from my task. That's a mite disrespectful, if you think about it. Just because they're only three feet tall and their desires are often ridiculous to us doesn't mean they're not important to them. Very important. They don't like being brushed off, just like no one else likes being brushed off. And they know what you won't brush off. A tantrum in the middle of the kitchen, that's what.

One of the best side effects of this looking at them in the face when they talk is the appreciation I can actually see in their eyes as I pay attention to them.  It validates them, and they deserve to be validated. If they feel as if you've at least heard what they have to say, they tend to be calmer about their demands. At least that's what we've found.


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Friday, September 16, 2011

Shown Up by Three Year Olds

The girls are requiring all of my attention today, so I'll keep this short and laughable.

Remember how I killed the plant?

My toddlers have now proven their plant-tending abilities far superior to mine.

I give you, the grassmen.

Yes, it's true. What mere days ago were nylon stockings, grass seeds and cotton balls are now fully-fledged grassmen.

Beautiful, aren't they? We are very artistic around here, as you can see.

And if you are wondering why the grass is growing right out of their faces and not as hair out of the tops of their heads like it's supposed to, well, that's my fault, too.

Mommy cannot follow directions to save her life. So I told the girls their men would be growing beards instead of hair. Close enough, right?


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Rules of Preschool

This will be the preschool edition. Here's a list of things that I have learned these past two weeks, the hard way.

1) When you drop your kid off, drop him off and go. They told me to do this. I didn't believe them. The first day I stayed for ten minutes or so, comforting them and telling them over and over again that I'd be back. Sounds like a good plan, right? The teachers know preschoolers, but they don't know mine, right? Mine maybe just need a little reassurance that everything will be okay.

No. Apparently (shocker, I know), the teachers do know best. Lingering confuses them, and, eventually, they'll cry either way. I stayed there for almost a half hour this morning, and when I left (and I was thisclose to taking the twins with me) they were still carrying on. I made the teachers' jobs much harder. And if they're going to cry and freak out either way, why tease them with your presence, leaving them in confusion as to what is going to happen next? Consistency is the key for three year olds. If they don't know how long you are going to stay, or when you are going to say goodbye, they worry it the whole time and make it bigger than it is.

I thought they would be comforted. That it would show them that I love them very much and will stay until they're satisfied. But in their ideal world, I would never leave them. And so the time stretches and gets harder on them, on me, and on the teachers. Drop them and go. If they are going to freak out, they are going to freak out either way. And I've watched on the other side of the window. It's true what they say. The kids are fine once you've left.

2) Find a half-day program, and if you can't, don't go pick them up in the middle of the day. I have been picking the twins up around 12:30 / 1 every afternoon. That's when all the kids go down for a nap, and I'm home and I'd rather them sleep in their own beds than on little plastic mats on the floor. After they slept and ate, I would bring them back for dance, or music, or drama or whatever specials class they had that day. This worked great for the first two weeks. I loved it. I got to see them in the middle of the day, they got to sleep in their own beds and I was sure they were well-rested and well-fed before bringing them back.

This drives the inconsistency of their day way up. If you are going to pick them up, you pick them up and bring them home full stop. They apparently don't appreciate seeing you and then having to go through the whole thing again in the afternoons. I've also been confusing them because I'll stay with them for the classes. This, again, worked well the first few times. The last time, one of my kids wouldn't let go of me and wouldn't participate in the class. The other always follows her lead, so I had two unhappy children not partaking in the fun class I'd signed them up for. They'd rather hang out up in my uterus, apparently.

3) Don't do a two-day program. Again, inconsistency. The teacher told me today, while tears were streaming down my face at the absolute monstrosity that was dropping them off this morning, that children who only go to preschool two days a week have it the hardest. She says it's because they never know what their day is going to be like.

I thought it would be a nice way to break them into this school thing. You know, gradually. A little at a time. They still get mommy five days a week, and two days a week they get extra-special-fun-extravaganza school. But toddlers don't understand days of the week. To toddlers, every time is the present. They are just grasping the fact that the past does exist and the future...they hardly understand it, although they try. As they work on getting the general idea down, there's no way they will understand that on Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the preschool and mommy drops you off, then on Saturdays we go to the preschool and mommy stays with you because it's specials day.

A quick example of how bound my toddlers are to routine: Last week, Starbucks rolled out the Pumpkin Spice latte and I got one before picking them up from school. I gave them a sip. On that Thursday, I got another one. I gave them a sip. This Tuesday I was over it and decided I don't need to spend $4 every time I go out without the babies, so I didn't get one. I heard about how we didn't get coffee and we needed coffee for hours. After getting it only twice. My kids, at least, need routine.

They never know whether they are coming or going. Since staying home is their most comfortable routine, they cling to the monster they know, instead of braving a new, and quite fun, world.

It's the inconsistency that breeds fear of abandonment, not your presence or lack thereof. If you consistently drop them off and consistently pick them up, they know what to expect. And toddlers, above all else, need to know what to expect. Otherwise they are scared. And leaving a scared child at school is almost unthinkable to me.

So, now that I've made a royal mess of things, what is there for me to do? I plan on keeping on keeping on, but today truly broke my heart. Don't be me. I might know my children better than the teachers, but the teachers know childhood behavior better than I do. If you're going to do something, you've got to do it. Wishy-washy flip-flopping will only serve to confuse, agitate and upset your little ones...which I'm pretty sure will be the opposite of your intent.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Facebook in all its Infinite Wisdom, on Spanking

Facebook strikes again. Have you seen this in your feed?

"Have to laugh at people who are against smacking. My parents sometimes smacked me when I was naughty. . .I didn't hate them. . .I didn't have trust issues with them because of it. . .I didn't fear them. . .But I definitely respected them! I learned what my boundaries were, and knew what would happen if I broke them. . .I wasn't abused, I was disciplined. . .SINCE WE TOOK THIS SOFT APPROACH LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY & YOUNGSTERS *Re-post if you got your ass smacked and survived."

Thanks, Facebook, yet again, for your sage, all-encompassing knowledge on this topic. You sure showed us. 


See how much attention you just paid to that sentence? Obviously it works. 

Since the original poster of this message clearly wanted us to pay the most attention to the caps, let's start with that. Since we took this soft approach, look what happened to our country and youngsters.

I'm sorry. What exactly has happened to our youngsters that is a direct result of parents not hitting them? I'm pretty sure the state of our youth is the same as it was when I was a kid, in terms of that youth itself. It's the society that has changed. And who is responsible for that society? The people who "were smacked and survived." Of course, this argument only works if I'm willing to admit that spanking has had a direct entire cultural effect on the nation. Which I don't think it has. Whether or not it's bad for the particular child in question is a raging debate, and I happen to think it can be very bad. There are other ways to discipline. But whether or not you spank your child, I don't think you're responsible for THE STATE OF OUR COUNTRY (see what I did there?).

They're two different issues. Can discipline techniques as children grow up affect their adulthood decisions? Yes. Can those decisions affect the state of the country? Yes, eventually. Is not spanking responsible for the economic trouble, the housing bubble bursting, the drugs on the street, the oppression of whole groups of people just trying to get by? I don't think it is. That's quite the stretch, Facebook writer. 

Now to address the rest of the message. I think it's just great that you respect and appreciate your parents and their disciplining methods. It's clearly left you open-minded and accepting of others, which in turn makes you a good person. Oh wait.

There is a huge difference between sticking up for the methods that you use or that your parents used, and lashing out offensively at those who do things differently. How do you know those parents who do not hit their children aren't properly disciplining them? They know what works for their family, just like your parents knew what worked for yours.

Did you think you were going to bully parents into hitting their kids? What is the point of this message? There is no point. You're certainly not changing the tide of the country or our youth's problems. You just wanted to prove how tough you were? How much pain you could take as a kid? How much better a person you are because you were spanked? Do you think being spanked or spanking makes you a better person than those who do not practice that form of discipline? Pointing and laughing while making huge generalizations definitely helps get your point across, I would say.  I look at a message like that and think, damn, spanking really does work! Look at the kind-hearted, mature adults it's reared. If only everyone I know could be like this person.

I guess my biggest message with this post isn't pro or anti spanking. It's more along the lines of this: Facebook can easily make you look pretty stupid. Try not to take the bait. Just because someone got their "ass smacked and survived" doesn't mean they agree with this trite and twisted message. 

If you like this blog, please vote on Tales of an Unlikely Mother is number 18, just scroll down and click on the thumbs up! Thank you so, so much. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why Bath Crayons are a Bad Idea

Not long ago, I purchased a brightly colored, fun-looking package of bath crayons for the babies. What a great idea, right? I mean, who wouldn't want their child to have fun in the bathtub, drawing all sorts of cool gadgets and trying to spell his name? And in a bathtub? Where the mess will basically clean itself? Count me in.

Or not.

Even if we totally ignore the fact that these devices teach kids it's okay to write on walls, the mess doesn't end in the bathtub. Oh no. The water splashes over, the crayons fall apart, the wax gets on your clothes. Let's take it from the beginning.

We start with Dulce ecstatically tossing the bath crayons into the tub of water. They're in these plastic casing contraptions so that you can click the waxy part up, and hold the plastic, like a marker with a tip. However, this ingenious idea only works if the crayon isn't wet. Within minutes, the crayon wax had melted enough so that the crayons slipped out of their containers and would not stay back in. I took them out and lined them up.

Of course, just touching the crayons was a very messy business.

Thankfully, there was a tub full of water right there, so no harm no foul. We ran into trouble again right away though. Now I had two kids in a tub, struggling over each other to get at the line of crayons I'd made. The casings slipped off and into the tub, the crayons fell on the floor making a waxy puddle of mess and getting on the towels, the babies were fighting over the purple. My idyllic mind scene of a peaceful drawing session was thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak. There was more color on my babies than on the walls of the tub. Last time I checked, baths were for getting clean. I am not impressed.

After I finally managed to get the soppy mess back into its container, never to be released again, the babies found at least one viable toy in the bunch. The duck-shaped sponge turned out to be a lifesaver.

For about five minutes that is. It turns out that one sponge to two toddlers who haven't quite yet learned all the subtleties of sharing is not a particularly wonderful ratio. And if they're both in a 2x5 ft. space, well, mommy can't get to the sponge quickly enough.

He's now "in the workshop" getting "fixed."

So, from now on, it looks like we're back to being a squeaky-toy, watering-can, bucket family when it comes to taking baths. Which isn't so bad, really. I quite like my watering can arm cleansings.

Bath crayons: only do it if you dare.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Recipe Monday - Three Ways to Jazz Up Meatloaf

Meatloaf is great because it's cheap, plus you can throw in anything you've got and it will usually come out fine. For days when you're meatloafing it, here are three alternatives that never fail to come out smashingly. You're family won't even complain, I promise.

1) Eggless Meatloaf

Out of eggs? This is the meatloaf for you. Moist and delicious.

• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (leaner is better)
• 1 cup 2% milk
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
• 1/2 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients except ketchup in a large bowl, and mix well.
Place mixture into an ungreased loaf pan or shape into a loaf in an ungreased baking pan.
Spread ketchup or sauce over the top of the meatloaf.
Bake uncovered for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until no pink remains at the center of the meatloaf.

2) Cheddar Mushroom Meatloaf

1-1.5 pounds of ground beef
1 egg
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4/ teaspoon salt
 1/2 cup milk
1/4 onion, chopped
 1/3 cup of bread crumbs
1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
1 can of mushrooms (I used fresh mushrooms and sauteed them first)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar

  1. Combine beef, egg, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt, milk, onion and bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Roll out onto wax paper into an 8x5 rectangle, 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Sprinkle cheese and mushroom on top of beef mixture.
  5. Roll lengthwise like a jelly roll.
  6. Place seam side down in baking dish.
  7. Bake for one hour at 350° - or you can microwave turning occasionally for 25-30 minutes on roast.
  8. Blend brown sugar and ketchup.
  9. Spread over loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven. May not need to use all of the ketchup mixture on top.
  10. 3) Gorgonzola Meatloaf
    8 ounces each: ground pork, veal, beef (I just used 1 1/2 lbs of beef)
    1 onion, minced
    1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
    1 cup freshly toasted bread crumbs
    2-3 eggs
    1/3 cup ketchup
    2 Tbsp. Worcestershire
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 tsp. dried thyme
    4 oz. (or so) crumbled or thinly sliced Gorgonzola cheese
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Mix ground meats together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk together.
    Add the remaining ingredients, adding the bread crumbs last.
    Mix well and add to the meat mixture. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix everything together. Make sure it's all incorporated and uniform in texture, but don't overmix.
    Evenly press half the meat mixture into the bottom of a loaf pan. Sprinkle with crumbled Gorgonzola or lay slices of the cheese over the top of the meat.
    Top with remaining meat mixture.
    Bake for about  1 hour.
    These meatloaf recipes are sure to please. How could they not? Just remember Phineas and Ferb's song about meatloaf...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moment of the Week - 58: Dance Party!

The babies Twist Again!

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 58: Getting Them to Shut Up

Problem: The title sounds a little harsh, but if your toddlers are anything like mine, they talk your ear off. They talk and talk and talk, and it's not passive conversation where they're content to babble at you, nor is it regular conversation wherein they understand that they are supposed to say something and then you are supposed to reply, bringing new content to the flow. That will only confuse and upset them. They'll think you aren't understanding them and freak out. So how do you hold a toddleresque conversation without your partner breaking down into tears?

Solution: Repeat them. Exactly. Word for word. Do not attempt to vary your response. Do not attempt to repeat them and then add on a normal response. Do not try to repeat them in a different tone of voice. Simply parrot exactly what they have said back to you. "I cried about the yellow couch yesterday, mama."

Correct response: "You cried about the yellow couch yesterday, baby."
Incorrect 1: "Yes, you did cry about the yellow couch yesterday."
Incorrect 2: "You cried about the yellow couch yesterday, but today you are happy."
Incorrect 3: "Yes, we shouldn't cry over the yellow couch, should we?"

Another important component of this solution is that you cannot fake it. If you cannot understand each word clearly, attempt repetitions until you can figure it out. They'll not accept this for example: "I love me sugar bowl, mama," if they've said, "I love my spiky ball, mama." Even if you say the words you cannot understand exactly as the child has said them...they know. So that I can't get away with "You need ooney ceecee" if she means, "I need honey cereal."

Young toddlers are still unsure of their conversational prowess. By repeating them, it may not seem as if you are forwarding their conversational skills because that's not how real conversation works. But you are forwarding their skills by giving them confidence in their words. By repeating them exactly, they are reassured that you heard and understood them, which is a cornerstone of conversation. With toddlers, it's all about the basics.


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Friday, September 9, 2011

It's Only Socialism When it's the Other Guy

"If anything the United States is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave." --Megyn Kelly, Fox News

Now, I know this happened a month ago, but I needed that time to get my head around this. Conservative Fox News host who has time and time again come out against "entitlement programs," bashed government help, called for the retraction of "government tentacles in our lives," and said that the only reason we couldn't get rid of such programs was because people were so used to handouts from the protecting maternity leave rights?

Oh, right, because she just had a baby and got paid for three months while she was out. As I firmly believe she should have been. I only got half-pay for three months, and you know what, I sang the virtues of my employer through the rooftops. Because as Megyn says:

"Just in case you didn't know, Mike, I want you to know that the United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn't require paid maternity leave."

I felt damn lucky. I got to stay at home with my preemie twins and care for them and help them to grow and not fail to thrive, and my employer was kind enough to give me three months to do that. Had I only taken six weeks, they'd have paid me in full for that time. My employer was amazing. Megyn's is even better.

But is she humbled by this great favor? Is she thankful and understanding of how lucky she is? Maybe. But I'd say she comes off as rather...well, entitled. Again, as I feel strongly she should.

"What is it about giving birth and carrying a baby nine months that you don't think deserves a few months off so bonding and recovery can take place?"

Here's the link to the Fox News clip in case the embed doesn't work.

Of course, Megyn Kelly of 2009and 2010 disagrees. (I love it when the Daily Show does my work for me.)

"This is the problem with entitlements. They're really only entitlements when they're something other people want. When it's something you want, they're the hallmark of of a civilized society, the foundation of a great people. I just had a baby and found out that maternity leave strengthens society, but since I still have a job, unemployment is clearly socialism." --Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

You go, Megyn Kelly. You take Mike Gallagher to task. But while you're at it, take yourself, too. You know that health care reform you all hate so much? It would help those less fortunate than you also receive the benefits and care you so received, and maybe, just maybe, inch us away from the dark ages.

But those people aren't you, so you probably can't see them all the way from the Fox building in NYC.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blog on Fire

Jo over at Bum Bum Germs gave me an award this week. The rules are I'm to write seven things about myself, and then give the award to five other bloggers. Thanks, Jo!

So, here goes:

1) I always underestimate the time a task will take me. In fact, just now I spent NINETY MINUTES cleaning out my upper cabinets. I'd sectioned an hour for BOTH the upper and the lower cabinets. Fail.

2) I bite my nails. My mother says I've been biting them since before the babies' age. So far, they don't bite their nails. YAY FOREVER. Last week I'd been able to let my nails grow for two or maybe even three weeks. The nails hadn't even reached the end of my fingers at that point. Gross. I'd really like to pain my nails, too. Anyone have any suggestions?

3) I have no idea what my future looks like. The only thing I know about it is that my family will be there. That's all I need to know, to be honest.

4) Autumn is my favorite season. I particularly miss Connecticut at this time of year. Quite sharply actually. The hoodies, the flannels, the boots, the jackets, the pumpkin spice lattes, the leaves -- they all fill me with hope and joy for some reason. Florida may not have changing vibrant leaves, but it does have amazing autumn sunsets.

5) I ate sushi and went to a three-hour movie six hours before I gave birth. (In my defense, they were early. In defense of the sushi...whatever, I do what I want. Oops.)

6) On the rare occasions I sing karaoke, I'll usually sing You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi.

7) Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I still don't know what to dress the girls as. The possibilities...

Now, to give this award to 5 blogs that are awesome:

- Aias dot ca; This blog is topnotch. Hilarious, cute, wonderful, clever and smart.
- Crazy About My Baybah; An intimate peek into family life, full of love, happiness and a dash of sarcasm here and there.
- Heart Shaped Leaves; A crafty, cooky blog, but with the event of a new baby in the mix, lots of squishy newborn pictures!
- The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful; a blog right up my alley, plus she just outstripped me on Babble's list, so you know she's got to be good!
- Diaries of a Grumpy Grateful Mom; honest, genuine, down and dirty and yet full of light, this blog will make you laugh.

If you like this blog, please vote on Tales of an Unlikely Mother is number 17, just scroll down and click on the thumbs up! Thank you so, so much.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Livestreaming Now - Three Year Olds

Have you seen this?

Jason Good hit gold with this little diatribe of thoughts that must run through his two year old's head.

At three, children are so much more mature, you've no idea. They've truly grown and expanded their horizons. By which I mean they're still thinking the exact same thing only they can talk, so instead of having to make up a monologue for them, they give it to you. Until your ears bleed from the utter joy at hearing their dulcet tones...yet again.

At three, they've done my work for me. I now present to you the conversations held with me during the three minutes it took me to read about three minutes in Jason Good's baby's life.

Mama, video!
Down basket!
Green couch, down basket, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
You want Cat in the Hat, Lilly? You want Cat in the Hat? Lilly. LILLY. You want Cat in the Hat?
No! Down basket! Green couch!
Hey! Don't kick the green couch.
No! No, Lilly, don't kick the green couch.
Mama, Lilly is kicking the green couch!
-Lilly, stop kicking the green couch.
No! Kick it!
Nooooooo! Don't kick it.
Hey, your nose is wet. Mama, Lilly's nose is wet.
No! My nose is dry!
Your nose is wet, Lilly.
No, it's dry.
No, it's wet.
Mama, don't wash Bean. I love Bean.
I need Cheezits, mama. I don't like breakfast. I need Cheezits.
No! Not Cheezits. I want pretzels.
I want more honey.
I need my shoes.
I want to wear a diaper. I'm a baby.
No, you're a big girl now, Lilly. I a baby.
No, Dulce. I a baby.
No, me!
No, me!
Mama, you nice? Hug on the green couch! Kiss me!
No, no kiss her.
Yes, kiss me!
I have to go potty. ... Ta-da! Wipe me, wipe me!

At this point I give up and start praying to the coffee gods that nap time comes soon. Even when they're not fighting constantly, they are talking constantly. I mean constantly. Jason Good won't have to wonder what his child is thinking soon enough. His child will tell him. His child will give him a livestream of toddler information from dawn until dusk.

Oh, and she'll continue with her love of pushing buttons and fearing that mommy has disappeared forever. Only that love will be louder.


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