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    August 11, 2015

    Side effects

    I went to see the brain doctor today. Before I say anything else, I want to tell you how much I LIKE my brain doctor. With the exception of my beloved but not entirely effective naturopath, she's the only medical person I've seen about anxiety who trusts my reporting of my own symptoms. Does that make sense? I felt like every other doctor was either comparing me to the last anxious/depressed person they saw and copying their prescription OR filtering everything I told them through a Can't Trust A Half Crazy SAHM With An English Degree filter. This doctor BELIEVES ME. 

    So going in today to talk about WEIGHT GAIN was not as painful as it could have been (and HAS been in the past. Previous Brain Doctor: "You're probably just eating more." YA THINK?) Well, it was just a checking in appointment, but since weight gain is basically my only side effect, that ended up being the topic of conversation. FUN TIMES. 

    The bad part is that I've gained a lot of weight. Sometimes I feel okay about it. Most of the time I don't. And then there are days when I feel horribly ashamed and hate myself. Like, more than the average lady is ashamed of and hates her body. 

    The good part is that my doctor agrees that the meds have played a large part in my extra padding (even when I told her how much cake I eat - she said, "I don't know, this is more weight than just CAKE") and she suggested a few options. The one I'm going with is lowering my dose for a while and combining that, when school starts again, with the Taking Care Of Myself routine I used to have before meds made eating well and exercising feel totally pointless. I was going to the gym pretty regularly before school got out and even though I wasn't losing weight, being active made me not hate myself as much. You know? And it was SO GOOD to have a regular schedule for exercise. Sometimes I beat myself up for not being able to lose weight when I was able to lose so much weight after having Molly, when I had TWO BABIES. But I remind myself that they were BABIES and had nowhere to go and were nice long nappers in the afternoons. I DID have more "me" time then! Believe it or not. 

    ANYWAY. We'll see if that makes any difference. I don't feel particularly hopeful, but I do like having a PLAN. Or something to TRY. It will require me stepping on scale, something I haven't done in a few months, and I am horrrrrrrrified at the prospect. But my doctor doesn't trust me so much that "just going by how my pants feel" will be enough data for her. Unfortch. If it works and I'm still feeling like a normal person, then yay! If I get anxious, I'll go back up to my current dose. WE SHALL SEE.

    In the meantime I remind myself over and over and over that I would rather struggle with how clothes look on my body than be anxious. THAT IS HOW MUCH I DO NOT WANT TO BE ANXIOUS. I would rather stress about what shirts hide my muffin top and if they go with these pants or that skirt or maybe I should just give up and wear that maxi dress for the nineteenth day in a row. I would rather not be able to wear most of whatever they're selling at the Loft than be anxious. (Not that I like anything at the Loft these days. Hit or miss, that place.)

    Phillip completely wholeheartedly agrees and does not seem to mind my expanding size at all. He says so often and I almost believe him. I really really wish that made me feel okay about myself, but guess what! It doesn't really help! Is that a women-in-general thing or is that just ME? It seems like it should help. It helps right when he says it, and then I go back to wondering how to cut my hair because I think my neck is too fat for a pixie.

    Anyway, this was not meant to be a Woe Is Me post or a I'm Doing So Poorly post... I just really wanted to write about What It's Like and be honest, for my experience anyway. I don't want to blame it all on the meds, I mean, I eat a LOT of cake, especially when NOT eating cake doesn't appear to have any benefits. I think the truest way to say it would be that meds have made it next to impossible for me to LOSE weight. I am a responsibility taker! I take responsibility for the cake!

    But my doctor, who has DEGREES and an OFFICE and a PRESCRIPTION PAD thinks it's a bit more than that and it is VALIDATING. She had ideas and that is HELPFUL. And when I told her that I've been chubby my whole life and that my two sisters are cute and thin and so much smaller than me, but *I* have a SCINTILLATING PERSONALITY, she laughed. Does it sound like I think she's a fantastic doctor because she likes me? YOU'RE RIGHT AND I'M KEEPING HER. 

    I am not my pants size. And even if I could fit into the size 8 jeans I keep stashed in the back of my closet, I would not be a better person. I might even still not like the way I look. I would probably still take issue with many parts of me, just like every other woman I know, of every size. The "celebrating the body that produced three amazing humans!" perspective doesn't completely speak to me, but I do think the person INSIDE my body is pretty awesome. I like me. It's been nearly a year since I started this new med and it's been a good one. Lots of great stuff happening, new stuff, fun stuff. It's a near-daily struggle not to let a year of weight gain cancel out all that great stuff, but it's a struggle I generally near-daily win. 

    August 04, 2015

    My mother would like to know what the point of having a blog is if I'm not going to write about her grandchildren so HERE YA GO, MOM

    As this is/used to be/poses as a Mommy Blog, I thought I'd throw a bone to at least my mother and write about the kids. I have kids! Do we remember them? This used to be all about them! Now they are... big. They also have absolutely no idea that I write about them on the internet. I suspect all three would be pleased in some way, though the only one who would ACT pleased is the middle one and for sure the oldest one would have some sort of cheek-sucking, "Well, I don't know how I really FEEL about that..." comment. Though the cheek-sucking is there to contain the Secretly Pleased that he can't help but show whenever anyone is paying attention to him. And then the youngest, I mean, she's still trying to color her whole self with pink highlighter, so does her opinion matter much?

    But I'm not sure how much longer the Pleased will continue. The oldest is eight. EIGHT. And now he is all tanned legs and knee-length baggy shorts and sports camp t-shirts and "Can I play the Xbox? Can I play the iPad? Okay then, can I play your PHONE? And can we get a new game?" This reveals poor parenting, I know, but I feel that I can blame this particular flaw on my husband, seeing as how HE is the one who had to have one each of the the Xbox, Wii, Apple TV, Roku, Newest Phone, Newest Laptop, ETC. How am I supposed to stem the tide of Screens when I am married to that? 

    I have my own screen habit btw, if you hadn't noticed. 

    Jackson is going into third grade and while second grade memories are, for me, spotty, THIRD grade is when my real life began. So I am tremendously excited and tremendously afraid. This is when all the reasons he'll have to go to therapy as an adult will start happening, am I right? Now he's going to REMEMBER all my parenting flaws. And these are numerous lately, as I contend with a Jackson who is also not being the best version of himself. This summer we've had conversations on what exactly denotes a dirty pair of shorts, how (and why) to not steamroll one's grandparents, how to move about the house your mother is losing her mind with you (pretend you do not exist), why Reading is Important, how much your mother does not care what state that license plate is from on that car up there (like, so so so does not care), and why saying "please" or a "no, thank you" to something you say does not automatically make it good manners. This is the summer that real and true Boredom has set in, meaning it is the summer I have started saying things like, "You could fold this laundry right here and put it away! You could sweep the deck! Do you want to do the dishes? I CAN THINK OF LOTS OF THINGS FOR YOU TO DO."

    He is moody, whiny, and entirely self-absorbed which makes me tremble with fear for his future as a teenager living in my house. He is only eight. Why so much existential angst? How bad can it be when one lives on one's favorite orange processed noodle food, has built approximately thirteen million Minecraft cities, and is continually asked to play by the cute blond girl down the street? Is this such a rough life? 

    That said, the key to getting this kid to be a Good and Decent Human Being, one that does not walk about the house like a Freaking Martyr, is not taking away his beloved electronics or yelling or lectures or solitary confinement or early bedtimes. (Though none of those things are his favorite and can often serve to make his parents feel better.) No, it's actually putting absolutely everything else aside and sitting down with just Jackson in his own space and Asking Him How He's Doing. He will tell you (!) and usually at least half of it makes you want to explode with annoyance or resentment or frustration, but really he wants to be Heard and then loved on a little bit. Reading him a story (even though he's EIGHT and doesn't LIKE READING STOP MAKING HIM DO IT) or playing a game or watching him do his magic tricks or talking about what we'll do tomorrow or next weekend. A little one on one time, a little attention, and suddenly I have my sweet little boy back, the one who draws me get well cards and snuggles and cleans up the living room as a "surprise" for me. He beams with happiness, he gets the giggles, he wears what I tell him to wear, he is kind and loving to his sisters, he actually secretly does like reading. 

    Molly finds the entire world to be a delight and in doing so is a Delight herself. She has her occasional moments of Devastation, for example when Jackson throws a ball and it glances off her elbow, or when Jackson (again) says something less than completely complimentary about her French braid. We understand - after all, we live with Jackson too - but we can usually find a way to move on from these bits of Crushing Despair and move right back into out of control laughing and going along with whatever anyone else wants to do. 

    She's taken to sitting at the table and intently drawing girl upon girl upon girl upon girl, all with different styles and colors of hair and dresses. As I remember doing this exact same thing, I find it enchanting. She makes up stories and her response to Enforced Reading Time is generally happiness for twenty minutes or so, then, "Mommy, can I WRITE my own story?" To which Mommy always enthusiastically nods. (When she is not half asleep on the couch - HER response to Enforced Reading Time.) 

    Molly is all tanned legs, too-short skirts and dresses and shorts because DEAR GOD this child is a weed, and hair that WANTS to be Princess Elsa, but is more (and beautifully so), end-of-the-movie Mulan. She is up for anything at any time. As she kept telling me in Italy, "I want to do EVERYTHING!" A former nearly-seven-year-old girl myself, I know that this effervescent cheer does not last, that one day everything will be terrible, that no one will understand her, that her mother, especially, will not care one ounce about her emotional well being or fragile state of mind or the thousands of feelings she will have in the space of one fourteen-year-old hour - so I am VERY MUCH ENJOYING nearly-seven-year-old Molly who seems to have no clue about Mean Girls and cannot wait to go back to school and see all of her favorite people, which is all of the people. 

    I suspect she takes after her father, and not because she will often a choose a potato chip over a cookie (although this is because she knows her brother and sister will choose a cookie and then she can get them to share, thereby enjoying both a cookie AND a potato chip - smart). Like Phillip, Molly floats along, not really noticing the not so nice people or comments that could be taken a certain way or unpleasant dynamics. I think this will change as she gets older - she IS a girl - but for now I am in awe of this cheery oblivious-ish personality and the lack of drama compared to so many of my friends' girls of the same age. As long as we are wearing a cute skirt and braid and Mommy has allowed her to pick out her own snack, everything is very very good. 

    As for the youngest, she is... the youngest. As the oldest I vowed - V.O.W.E.D. - to treat all of my future children equally, to not lay more responsibility upon the oldest, to not baby the youngest, to not ignore the middle, and especially not to let the younger kids do things at an earlier age than I allowed the oldest. HEAVEN FORBID. While that hasn't been a problem yet (no one is quite asking to shave her legs), I have utterly failed at not babying my youngest. I coddle her, I expect less independence of her than I did with Jack when he was her age. I rarely say no to anything - treats, toys, anything that should be special tends to be the norm with Emma. The thing is, I'm not sure I can help it and (worse) I'm not sure I want to. I KNOW. I AM A TERRIBLE HORRIBLE UN-EQUAL MOTHER AND MY KID-SELF IS FURIOUS. 

    There is one thing about Emma that drives us positively INSANE and that is the fact that she will be wearing pull ups in college. Oh, also that if she happens to sleep during the day, even for five minutes, she'll be up until the wee hours in her bed, singing the Wicked soundtrack and/or Taylor Swift and annoying the entire house. Some people sleepwalk, Emma Cheung sleepsings. Whether or not Emma took a nap that day is a question the entire family asks, every day. We like to be prepared. 

    That said, I have been ridiculously attached to this kid from Day One and that combined with the fact that she is likely our last makes it very very hard to be Objective or Stern. About anything. We find her charming and endlessly entertaining. The other day I found a video on my phone of 1-year-old Emma doing something silly with a toy, and then continuing to do it because it made the rest of us laugh. I suppose that is quintessential youngest child as well? When she's not milking her Youngest Status (and we ALL get suckered by that, her siblings included), she's searching for the thing to say, the thing to do (or sing!) that will make us all laugh. 

    She loves Jack, but she wants to BE Molly. One day she'll hate that all of her clothes used to be Molly's, but right now it is the best! thing! ever! Did MOLLY wear this when SHE was three?! THAT IS JUST THE MOST AMAZING THING SHE'S EVER HEARD!!!!!

    Emma had just started to bloom - happily leaving me for preschool, playing with other kids on her own - when we whisked her out of preschool and went to Europe for three weeks. Since then she's back to her clingy self, getting out of community center ballet class by whimpering, "I miss Mommy!" She's alternately terrified of and in love with other people's pets, glued to my leg while one hand gingerly pets a furry head. You ask her what she wants to do and nine times out of ten the answer is "Go shopping with Mommy." (I MEAN COME ON.) In the fall she goes back to school, now three days a week, and staying for lunch. It will be wonderful, and it will be sad. The only thing sadder will be kindergarten. Let's not think about it. 

    Together they are amazing. As one of five kids, all 1 year apart, I know from fighting and my kids don't do it. Not like we did. Jack and Molly will annoy each other, take each other's thing, accidentally poke or shove or hit, but most of the time they are super tight, two heads put together making up games or shows or the most amazing domino run in the world. They're almost always happy to let their little sister play too, and if Jack can find something better than Minecraft for ten minutes, he's motivating the others and I don't even care that they're destroying the house because ALL THREE ARE OCCUPYING THEMSELVES AND HAVING A GOOD TIME AND I CAN READ THE INTERNET IN PEACE. 

    The little blond girl down the street is absolutely devastated every time she rings the doorbell and Jack and Molly aren't home - they're at camp, or out at the pool with their dad, or something like that - and she is SO. VERY. SAD. And my kids aren't ever like that because they have each other and I'm just amazed and thrilled that it turned out the way it did. It is my deepest dearest hope that they are friends when they grow up - good, close friends like they are now. At swim lessons, Jack and Molly are in different classes, but if they bump up against each other in the water, they're like OH LOOK, IT'S MY SIBLING WHO I HAVEN'T SEEN IN FOUR WHOLE MINUTES HEY HEY HIIIII THIS IS SO COOL! And at school when their classes are passing by in the hallway, they throw out a secret sibling wave that everyone can see. And then Emma is on the sidelines with me, not quite old enough to have her own class yet, and shouting, "HEY I SEE MY SISTER!" and that sister will hear and throw a wave to the other one. I could not love it more. 

    Still need school to start soon. I'm not THAT in love with these kids that they don't need to spend copious amounts of time away from me each day. LET'S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY HERE. 

     

    July 30, 2015

    The Two A.M. Feed: Best read in email!

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    Last night I met a friend at the Barnes & Noble Cafe and over her shoulder I spied a copy of a hunting magazine with a big lion on the cover. HOW TIMELY! I thought to myself. 

    IN OTHER CONTROVERSIES
    Fury over Cecil the Lion also sparks race conversation
    Why Dems don't want to talk about Planned Parenthood
    And Camille Paglia doesn't like Jon Stewart!

    PALATE CLEANSER
    I got drunk on a cruise ship with Kathie Lee Gifford    

    LONG READS
    This was all over Facebook so you might have seen it already, but if you haven't, it's pretty wild (and sciencey) (can something be wild AND sciencey?): The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogota

    This piece about FitBits is... well...
     

    A FitBit has little tolerance for magical thinking. It says: Eating the 0% yogurt rather than 2% yogurt for lunch after sitting at your desk all morning will not make up for your past three days skipping the gym, any more than finding out why that thing Dad said still hurts you will save your new relationship.

    FitBit tells us back a story of our lives that has become highly abstract. The difference between the springtime run that you take with two friends and the half hour of jumping jacks that you do in the bathroom after not managing to throw up all of a chicken burger will not register. In this life, steps are steps.

    Every form of confession comes with settings that determine what kind of self we get to know, and therefore, be. It also implies a particular vision of society. A kingdom of souls under God. A nation of citizens just repressed enough to get married and carry on reproducing citizens.

    In the Republic of FitBit we are fundamentally alone.

    Oh my. 


    PEOPLE TO WHOM I CANNOT LIVE UP
    We went to see a Jim Gaffigan show a few weeks ago. Jim Gaffigan is not my favorite (that creepy "inner" voice!), but allll our friends wanted to go and it WAS more fun (and funny) than I was expecting, but now I am slightly obsessed with his wife. Jeannie Gaffigan is a Model for Modern Women. I know that I personally do not aspire to live in a two-bedroom Manhattan walkup with my creepy-voiced husband and our five children, but her perspective on work and creative fulfillment is pretty all right with me. 

    IS THIS NOT WHERE YOU COME FOR FASHION TRENDS
    What is a Jumpsuit? No on really knows.

    Time for...

    THIS WEEK IN NAZIS Lithuania tries to forget it's collaborationist pastMike Huckabee compares Obama to Hitler(this quick blip of a story is worth it for the last three sentences), Nazi tunnels under Berchtesgaden, I'd only heard of 1 of these Four Weird Things The Nazis Did (and the last two kinda blew my mind). 

    THIS WEEK IN SEATTLE The Mayor backs downAnd Erica C. Barnett is pissed.  

    July 24, 2015

    The Great Pet Plan

    Soooo I have been spending a LOT of time browsing Petfinder.com. I KNOW. I mean, maybe you don't think I know, but I KNOW. I KNOOOOOW. 

    BUT YOU GUYS. 

    We're not getting a pet. We aren't. The reasons are as follows:

    1. Phillip only wants a cat. 

    2. Maggie only wants a dog. 

    3. Phillip doesn't want to pick up dog poop. 

    4. Maggie is terrified of cats. 

    5. Phillip is ALLERGIC TO CATS. ("I'll just take a Zyrtec!")

    AND YET. 

    I continue to browse Petfinder in hopes of finding a nice fluffy white living stuffed animal doggie in need of a Furrever Home (GAG!) who wants to curl up in my lap while I watch TV and follow me around the house while I do laundry and basically be a Sweet Sweet Doggie Friend. 

    The closest I've come to convincing Phillip is: "Maybe when all the kids leave home and you NEED a dog." 

    We had a dog when I was a teenager, but as I had already mentally removed myself from Family Life by the time he showed up, I honestly don't even remember paying attention to the dog, let alone enjoying him or taking care of him. I have no idea how to take care of a dog. I don't know what you're supposed to do. And I admit it, there are many things about owning a dog that would potentially be terrible and maybe it would be terrible. 

    Then again, I've talked to several people lately who are in love with their little dogs. People who love the addition to their families and going for walks and seeing their kids interact with a pet and having a little furry companion. I THINK I COULD BE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. 

    I do not want a big giant slobbery dog, although I occasionally enjoy other people's big giant slobbery dogs. My neighbor dog is one of these dogs and if I happen to leave the garage door open she will invite herself in and make herself at home. It's okay because in addition to big giant and slobbery, she is friendly and lovable. But I want a little stuffed animal dog, preferably some sort of Poodle mix, no terriers. Today I found myself perusing the sites of people who breed mini goldendoodles. OMG SO ADORABLE.

    Then I saw someone selling a mini goldendoodle on the Nextdoor site. I made Phillip look at the picture and he refused to say the puppy was cute. DOES HE HAVE A HEART OF STONE. 

    (Note: I promise not to buy a dog off some random person on Nextdoor.)

    I am reminded of the time I was 9 months pregnant with Jack and driving downtown. I'd just dropped off Phillip at work and as I was pulling away I saw one of those downtown apartment dwelling hipster people walking a BABY BULLDOG. And I thought I might die of cute. Seriously. At that moment I told myself, "Self? You just need to have this baby."

    Well folks, pretty sure Phillip would rather have a dog than a baby. 

    I'll keep working on him. Picture me tapping my fingers together Mr. Burns-like. My goal is to know for sure that I DO want a dog (because it's true, I should weigh more pros and cons than I have) and what KIND of dog and how to acquire such a dog and how to take care of a dog by, say, when Emma is in kindergarten. And then I'll just wear him down until he says yes. Because mawwiage.  

    July 22, 2015

    The Two A.M. Feed

    How about a Reads & Recommends post in newsletter-via-email form??? Here's the text of my very first NEWSLETTER (BECAUSE I HAVE SO MUCH TIME!)

    (If you want to subscribe, sign up here! I'm still figuring out the format, but I know you'll humor me... RIGHT?)

      

    THE TWO A.M. FEED 

    Hello Friends in the Computer!

    On account of being 1) bored and dissatisfied with the blog format, 2) a delighted devourer of the Engaging Email From An Interesting Friend genre, and 3) a bookmarks folder full to bursting, I welcome you to the new home of my semi-regular-ish Reads and Recommends posts. I thought the TinyLetter newsletter format, wherein I send out a weekly Reads and Recommends-type blog post-ish email, would be a fun experiment for me and, possibly, a halfway interesting diversion for you. 

    The title of my newsletter - The Two A.M. Feed - comes from memories of sitting up with nursing babies in the middle of the night wishing I had something to read. Man, those were bleak hours! Now that God has given us smartphones we can click interesting links in the middle of the night - or at the DMV, or in the school pick up line, or at swim lessons, or on the toddler's floor at night when he won't go to sleep on his own, or waiting for the dentist, or on the bus so we look busy and our chatty seat mate is deterred from conversation. All moments The Two A.M. Feed may come in handy. You are welcome. 


    MUSIC I LISTENED TO IN COLLEGE 
    Any Ani DiFranco fans here? I once made Phillip go to an Ani show with me. He was the only 6 foot 2 inch Asian man in attendance and afterwards he confessed to feeling terrible about blocking the view of the short and devoted lesbian couple behind him. If you ever tried to pick out 'Both Hands' on the guitar you will enjoy 32 Feelings And Then Some: An Inquiry Into The Non-Legacy of Ani DiFranco.


    MUSIC I LISTEN TO NOW
    Oh, TaylorTaylor Swift and the Silencing of Nicki Minaj


    POLITICS 
    The 2016 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet You guyssss, I love this stuff. We gave up cable after the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl, but come next year I might need to go back on my steady diet of roundtable talking head shows. I KNOW.


    ENNEAGRAM STUFF
    This January 2015 New Year resolutions post from Jen Hatmaker speaks to myTHREENESS big time. (Also I did not promise you timely links, just interesting ones.)

    Speaking of threes, Three-ness Gone Wild! Success and Achievement as America's Top Values.


    INADVISABLE ENTREPRENEURSHIP
    As someone with resources who is STILL struggling with ensuring her small business is legal, I am tremendously sympathetic to the people in Baltimore's "informal" economy.


    A WHITE GIRL BROADENS HER HORIZONS
    What I know about Ta-Nehisi Coates I know from following him on Twitter and readingThe Case For Reparations in the Atlantic. Now he has a book out (I haven't read it) and everyone is writing about it. Here's David Brooks, here's New York Magazine, here's theWashington Post on his "radical chic"


    And now for The Two A.M. Feed's only regular features:

    This Week In Nazisremains of Jewish medical experiment victims found in FranceEdward VIII giving the Nazi salute in pictures, and the 94-year-old "bookkeeper of Auschwitz" appeals his sentence."

    This Week In Seattle: RENT CONTROL? You WISH you could browse the conversations happening in my neighborhood listserv.

    Thanks for subscribing!

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    July 14, 2015

    A little late thirties mulling

    I turn 36 on Saturday. This is the first birthday I've felt uneasy about. I had absolutely no problems with turning 30, having looked forward to Actual For Real Grown Upness since about age fourteen. But now that I finally feel like a grown up, am taken seriously by other grown ups, have acquired some confidence and self-assurance, and, most importantly, FINALLY LIKE MYSELF, I am not terribly pleased about turning 36. 36 is the other side of 35. The "Late Thirties" side of 35. The downward slope to Middle Age. It doesn't seem OLD old, but it feels an awful lot closer. 

    We're going to Leavenworth for the weekend. Leavenworth is this cute little town in the mountains, a Fake Bavaria. I love Fake Stuff (see: Disneyland, Vegas) so I expect to be delighted. We plan to do a bit of outdoorsing, which is not my bag, but seems like something We Ought To Do.  If all else fails, the hotel has a pretty outdoor pool. The big kids have become swimming junkies this summer, so I feel good about our chances for a half decent time. 

    (Even though I just found out that Harry Connick Jr. is playing at the Chateau St. Michelle winery Saturday night and that would have been the PERRRRFECT birthday outing for Phillip and me, ALAS. People who do not like Harry Connick Jr. can exit the blog quietly, I'll wait.)

    Other things about 36:

    Is 36 when they start saying you're of Advanced Maternal Age? NOT PREGNANT. I am just SAYING. It seems unlikely we will have another baby (a nervewracking thing to put out there when you are hovering on the outskirts of Catholic Blogdom, but there it is), but just in case I WASN'T nervous about more babies, I have Advanced Maternal Age to consider. 

    (Somewhat relatedly: Have you seen 'Catastrophe' on Amazon Prime? It is not for people who are squeamish about squeamishy things and/or enthusiastic swearing, but SO FUNNY. Also Phillip likes it. Also a lot about being of Advanced Maternal Age. Heh.)

    At age practically-36 I still have not figured out what I will do when I grow up. I continue to be awed and cowed by ladies with careers. 

    Tonight we meet with another engaged couple to do some extremely amateur pre-marital counseling type stuff. If there is anything that makes me aware that I'm on the Late Thirties side, it's chatting with 20-something couples. 

    I have started thinking about writing again, but it seems the older I get, the younger I want to write for. I keep imagining stories my 8-year-old boy would want to read. 

    Practically-36-year-old me makes friends so much easier than 16- or 26-year-old me. 

    Oh God, 16 was 20 years ago. I mean, I don't MISS 16, but for the amount of thinking I still do about What Stuff Messed Me Up When I Was A Teenager, it seems like I should be, you know, over it by now. 

    One one hand I feel so Desperate Housewivesy - we're interviewing kitchen/bath remodel companies, my kids drive me crazy, I'm overweight, the best thing that's happened in weeks is hiring a lawn service to clean up my jungle yard. And on the other hand I spent two hours with my best friends talking about what it would be like if we created some sort of retreats/trainings/spiritual direction type place HOW COOL IS THAT. (SO COOL.)

    Inactivity, crazy pills, and a lifetime devotion to baked goods have me at my possibly highest weight (I stopped checking, ha), but hey, there's always Hot By Forty. Right? Right. 

    Aaaand, just like that I see it's 5:12 pm and I have yet to figure out what we're eating for dinner. Do we think 36 will be the year I learn to love cooking? I don't think so either, internet. 

     

    July 08, 2015

    The web we miss

    I just read a piece called "Tiny Letters To The Web We Miss". It will be most fascinating to those of you who've been around blogging a while, but I think it's interesting regardless. It's useful as a super brief history of how those inclined have been exposing their insides via the World Wide Web. It also articulated something I haven't been able to pinpoint: 

     In 2003, the internet felt like it was just us.

    Self-publishing online was fluid and inviting in the early years because the community was self-selecting — the sort of people who would know what Blogspot was in 2003. I didn’t worry about my boss finding my blog... We didn’t have the same worries over public personas, because the internet felt like it was just us.

    Blogging before social media was like drinking with friends. If someone adjacent to your conversation said something interesting, you would pull up a chair and invite them in. 

    Yeah.

    I continue to mull what this place is for, now, and whether it should still exist. Same for my Twitter handle. Some women wonder whether they'll go back to work once all their kids are in school, and some of us wonder whether we'll keep our social media accounts. 

     

    June 25, 2015

    LONDON [WITH CHILDREN]

    Before Phillip and I were married and my parents were still living in Italy, we traveled with two of our best friends (not another couple) to Europe just because we could. We flew into Rome and drove our way up to my folks' house north of Venice. It was, quite possibly, the worst vacation of my life because I was caught between the needs and wants of my very VERY good friend and my future HUSBAND. Very Good Friend's goal was to spend as little as possible while seeing as much as possible. Future Husband's goal was to...hmm. Eat? See a few things? Be comfortable while enjoying himself? Oh, and buy stuff. 

    The worst part was when we reached Florence and our hotel reservation was messed up (probably my fault, everything felt like my fault) and it turned out we'd all have to share a tiny room and Very Good Friend declared she would sleep in the bathtub before paying for another room and Future Husband was sick and tired of slumming it and grumping around and I called my mother in tears from a payphone because OMG WORST TRIP EVER. 

    My travel style was, and still is, much more in line with Very Good Friend, but I ended up MARRYING Mr. Comfortable. KEEP THIS IN MIND. 

    So London! One of my very absolute favorite cities in the WORLD. A bajillion things to see, a crap ton of history to delve into, AND A MUSICAL EVERY NIGHT. Okay, maybe that is my ideal London trip, if it were, you know, just me. 

    I spent weeks agonizing over where to stay, the area being mainly dictated by the location of Phillip's company's office. NOW. If I were doing this OVER. I would not NECESSARILY go along with trying to find a place as close to the office as possible because London has an excellent public transportation system, especially if you are riding solo. But without the benefit of hindsight, we were trying to find a place close enough for Phillip to walk, and which would also be relatively near a tube station. 

    Those parameters in mind, and the discovery that there weren't a lot of apartments available to rent in that area plus the stomach sickening price of hotels sent me a bit farther out, but I thought I found the perfect spot. A two-bedroom apartment with an amazing view, walkable to the office, smack in between two tube stations, seemingly close to restaurants and sights. Also it was the best price I could find. 

    And you know what, it worked. IT WORKED. But it wasn't quite as walkable as I'd hoped. The walk to Phillip's office took more like 20 minutes and while the walk to the tube bordered on 10 to 15 and not THAT horrible, I had not factored in my unpleasant-when-forced-to-physically-exert-themselves children and how that 10-15 minutes started us off each day on a Tired Foot. 

    It wasn't even a very NICE walk, since our area was pretty residential and absolutely packed with people trying to get back and forth to work. Also construction. CONSTRUCTION EVERYFREAKINGWHERE. 

    Phillip's mom and dad stayed in a more tourist-friendly spot about 15-20 minutes away from us and would often meet us at the Shard, the easiest halfway point between our two locations. The thing was, the first few days I was still thinking we would walk and tube everywhere and it would have been smarter if I'd just admitted defeat right off the bat and walked/tubed/cabbed/Ubered from the beginning. My default should have been: "What is the EASIEST thing to do right now" instead of "What is the FASTEST" or "What is the SMARTEST" or "What would a Smart and Seasoned Traveler like myself approve of right now?" Because those answers were always wrong. The fast thing was never fast and the smartest thing always made me look stupid. You know how I feel about looking stupid. My personal stupid standards were extra stupid for this trip, but then again, even the easiest thing wasn't always easy. I don't know WHY getting around London was so hard when there are so many WAYS to get around London, but we had a difficult time of it. Next time: live next door to a tube with at least four lines. The end. 

    THAT SAID. Here is the list of things we did (or, rather, things I dragged everyone along to):

    • The National Gallery (we saw Van Gogh's sunflowers and Monet's water lily bridge, both paintings we studied in homeschool art class
    • The Museum of London
    • The Tower of London
    • Greenwich and the Royal Observatory
    • Wicked
    • Matilda
    • Hamley's the amazing toy store
    • playgrounds everywhere
    • Westminster Abbey (might be my favorite thing I did with the kids in London)
    • river bus rides on the Thames
    • catching the Horse Guard ceremony near St. James' Park
    • Clink Museum
    • Churchill War Rooms
    • eating fish and chips
    • eating terrible English food
    • Borough Market
    • Trafalgar Square
    • dim sum in Chinatown
    • watching weirdos perform at Leicester Square

    That's some good stuff! A lot of good stuff! I don't know why I was always so down on myself in London for "not doing it right" when we did get to do SO MUCH!

    Phillip was anxious about work, so I did most of the planning and sightseeing on my own and with his folks. After his first day he was a lot less nervous, so it was okay that I'd bought tickets to Wicked that night (I CANNOT HELP MYSELF AROUND DISCOUNT TICKET STANDS.) London was hard for Phillip - too crowded, too much, too hard to get places. He really loved the morning we spent in Greenwich ("I feel like I can breathe!") and was fairly unhappy with me for nagging everyone to get back to the boat in time so we could see Matilda that afternoon. 

    Oh Matilda. 

    I am only going to tell you this story because I have been praying for more humility and what is more humbling (humiliating?) than telling everyone the Matilda story? 

    I love shows. I LOVE SHOWS. I see absolutely no reason why a trip to London shouldn't be sightseeing during the day and a play at night. Every night. So I was FOR SURE taking my children to a show in London and one of you Kind Readers suggested Matilda and I looked it up and HELLO, PERFECT. And then I spent hours - HOURSSSSS - mulling over dates and times and seats and ticket prices and going back and forth with Phillip about how much and when and OMG I decided this thing to death. I wanted it to be AWESOME. So that is why I paid full price for the second-most-expensive seats you could get, right by the aisle on the floor because I'd read there was a lot of action in the aisles for this show. It was totally worth it to me to spend that much money and I was so excited. I looked forward to it the entire trip. THE ENTIRE TRIP. I booked it for the last evening we'd be in London, so even if the rest of our London trip was terrible, at least we'd have that last night at the theater to look forward to. 

    On the train from Stansted Airport into the city, after a nightmare experience with Effing Ryanair out of Treviso, I got out my London With Families guidebook and wrote out the days we'd be there and started planning our stay. And that is when I realized that I bought our Matilda tickets for the evening we were flying OUT. Our flight home left London at 1pm June 9. Our Matilda tickets were for 7pm June 9. And then I threw up. 

    Well, no, I held it in, but I WANTED to throw up. And I didn't tell Phillip right away because 1) I'd ALREADY made a similar mistake with our Paris airfare WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME and 2) he was exhausted from not trying to kill Ryanair reps and 3) he was really nervous about work and 4) we were looking at a complicated and unpleasant tube trip with 3 kids and suitcases to our apartment.... IT WAS AWFUL.

    Much much later that evening I shut my eyes and blurted what I'd done. And he didn't run screaming into the river! With a very large sigh he told me he'd call and see if anything could be done. 

    GUESS WHAT. Nothing could be done. Nothing. Our only option was to try and sell them online (which you are not supposed to do, I am such a rule follower, GAH.) I felt terrible. Did I mention we were reading Matilda each night during the trip and I'd been talking up the show to the kids? 

    So then a few days later we were in Leicester Square where all the discount ticket shops are. And I went into every single one of them asking about Matilda and in every single one of them they looked at me like I was crazy. "You know that's a very popular show," one ticket seller said. "It's very HARD to get tickets for that show." 

    As we were heading OUT of Leicester Square and as I was trying to figure out how to tell my children how badly Mommy had messed up, we passed one more ticket stand and Phillip said, "Do you want to try that one?" (HE ASKED. HE SAW IT FIRST.) Of course I did, so I went in and MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, someone had just returned a set of 8 Matilda tickets for the next afternoon. AND DID I WANT THEM? 

    They wanted nearly as much for those tickets as I paid for my original tickets. Phillip couldn't do it. Then he said, "So we have these OTHER tickets..." and I died because RULE FOLLOWER and we're not supposed to make deals with those and of course they'll scold us and now they know I'm an idiot!!!! But it turns out you CAN make deals sometimes? I KNOW. She was willing to knock 100 pounds off the price of the five tickets we wanted if we gave her our tickets. 

    This was a hassle because we didn't HAVE the tickets and Phillip had to be escorted to some print shop to get into my email and print them out and he was UNHAPPY and ANNOYED and FEELING BROKE AS WELL and I tried to look properly chastened, but it was hard because I WAS GOING TO GET TO TAKE MY KIDS TO MATILDA!!!!

    Okay, so there is another loooong story about why we were a half hour LATE to Matilda, but that makes Phillip look bad instead of me and we are only humiliating ME on the website today. (LONDON WAS HARD)

    Matilda was so great. It really was. Even from seats in the second to last row in the theater. And I LOVED taking my big kids to Wicked (they knew all the songs, we HAD to go). I LOOOOVED taking them through art and history museums, especially if there was an audio guide. They'd listen intently and then rush over to tell me what they'd just learned. Westminster Abbey was TERRIFIC with kids, and the docents there are SO kind and SO happy to chat. We loved every park and every playground and we generally found good things to eat (if very expensive) (the Borough Market is definitely worth a look). The Tower of London was difficult with a three-year-old who finds uneven stairs unfriendly and a YeYe who didn't want to climb stairs at all, but we were very interested in the armory and the gory story of the little princes in the tower. I even found the Crown Jewels interesting because Molly was there to gape at them. 

    We wish we would have spent a whole day at Greenwich. We wish we could have figured out where to catch the buses we wanted to catch. The Clink Museum was too yucky and scary, even though someone's mother told him EXACTLY how yucky and scary it would be. We did not get enough pictures with street performers. We should have gone directly to the ground floor of the Museum of London where the cool Victorian street is (and Molly's reaction to a photo of a little boy during the Blitz ensured we would not be going to the Imperial War Museum). Yours truly could have spent many more hours in the Churchill War Rooms, but the big kids were tired and kept asking me who the man in the big coat was, wait, who is he again?

    One of the best things we did was meet my 9th grade BFF and her husband for fish and chips in a random street off Oxford Street, which was not anything that had to do with London itself and serves to remind me that I don't HAVE to go go go go go go go go all the time. Although I like to. Ahem. 

    If you are going with kids and have questions, email me, I will try to say more than JUST TAKE A CAB. (I really really wish I was one of those people who are all NO SWEAT, JUST HOP ON A BUS, EASY PEASY! but man, it just did not work that way for us.) 

    But it's okay, I'll be back. I did not see NEARLY enough war stuff OR shows. Yay London! 

    Next installment: Paris, In Which I Am Forced To Ride A Bike.

     

    June 21, 2015

    In which I ramble a lot before I get to the Thumbprints part

    It's Father's Day. I saw my own dad on Thursday. I gave him an unwrapped book of Churchill quotes and pictures from the Churchill War Rooms gift shop and as I was leaving I said, "Happy Father's Day!" and he said, "I don't believe in these ridiculous Hallmark holidays" and I said, "Oh, then can I have the book back?" and he said, "No." So that's my dad. 

    And then Phillip got what he most wanted for Father's Day, which was a day full of shameful lazing about. The kids stayed with his parents last night so we could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, or should I say so Phillip could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and I could sit next to him and drink cocktails. I have nothing AGAINST jazz, it's just that most of it sounds like a mess (TO ME). I need my jazz to be a steady stream of Gershwin standards, preferably with a singer. But anyway, the kids stayed away and Phillip and I did a whole lot of nothing until it was time to pick them up. Then they all played a Lego Xbox game (their gift to him) and we grilled hot dogs and burgers and now Phillip is out with the big kids at a MAGIC SHOW. A big one at the fancy theater downtown - we kept seeing billboard advertisements for it and Phillip kept saying he wanted to take the kids, but when we realized this was the last night of the show, an impromptu ticket buying commenced. Emma and I are home by ourselves, reveling in the quiet and the sunshine and the advent of summer. YAY SUMMER. 

    I should tell you more about my trip, but the parts of the trip I need to tell you about next require the sort of blogging I used to reserve for the Parenting Post. As in, attempt to write coherently, have a point, share actual information, etc. Tonight's more of a tipping my head to the side, knocking my temple, and seeing what spills out of my ear style of blogging. Also I don't feel well. It started last night when my friend and I had left our husbands for the second set of the jazz show while we caught up on each other's lives in the lobby of the Westin Hotel. (Pro Tip: The Westin Hotel lobby is my favorite downtown place for lounging when you don't exactly want to buy anything.) 

    HOWEVER I started to feel Queasy and it turns out you can't use the Westin hotel lobby restrooms without a key. I basically stalked someone who had a key and then I felt REALLY unwell and when I came back I asked my friend to take me home. But her husband had her car keys and my husband had my house keys and while I would have LIKED to suck it up and let Phillip watch his favorite musician's second set, I DID NOT HAVE A KEY TO THE RESTROOM. Ahem. 

    I was not going to tell you this story. It's slightly embarrassing. 

    Anyway. I felt terrible because 1) Phillip and my friend traded places which was sad for both of them and 2) I FELT ACTUALLY TERRIBLE. Jack had a fever a few days ago, Emma had one today, I am wondering if I am getting something too or what. Blargh. I had grand plans for wine and perhaps a chocolate ice cream bar on my deck for when Emma goes to bed, BUT NOW WHAT.

    Oh, I remember, I was going to tell you about Thumbprints. 

    After what seems like our 47th Come To Jesus conversation, Katie and I made some decisions. Chiefly: Thumbprints is going to become a macaron factory. With a few custom sugar cookies thrown in. After a year of this selling cookies and cakes nonsense and a whole lot of Learning From Our Mistakes, what seems WORTH IT is selling macarons and sugar cookies. I think if you were to pick our least favorite things to eat, macarons and sugar cookies would top the list. But these are the things that appear to bring a profit. And are the things that we can easily store, easily deliver, and easily manage the details of. If we were a STORE, things would be different. But we are not a store. We can't even concentrate on this endeavor full time. Today I picked up a Seattle Magazine and read about a few different food people selling ice cream and other things - they're doing it in a shared kitchen downtown, they have pop up shops, they have dreams for a permanent location. That was me for about 4 months. But Katie moving and the reality of We Both Have Small Children have really put the brakes on Ambition. 

    That said, neither of us want to QUIT and we want to do something that MAKES SENSE. Streamlining down to macarons and sugar cookies makes sense because if we just do those things, getting approved for a home baking license will not be quite as hellish as our attempt last year. SO WE HOPE. The bureaucrats of the State of Washington could still be bored and sadistic and make our application process dreadful. But getting Katie's kitchen approved is the thing that makes the most SENSE. Paying for a kitchen that is too HARD for us to use, plus insurance, is expensive and annoying. So we're going to start that process and, in the meantime, ask our old kitchen if we can go back for a weekend this summer so we can sell stuff at the street fair in August. We're still not totally legal, as our license is about to expire, but WE ARE DOING OUR BEST (@$#*$)!(#%&!!!

    I do not want to be a Quitter and you all know that Failure is basically the worst thing that can ever happen to me, but DUDES. Getting a food business going is... I mean, we finally have customers. We occasionally have to turn things down, even. I do enjoy putting money in the bank account. It is FUN to do something new and grow something from nothing. I love doing this with my sister. But everything else is SUCH A FREAKING SLOG OMG. 

    Okay I'm going to read my fever baby some stories and put her to bed and reconsider that chocolate ice cream bar. 

     

    June 13, 2015

    Phillip's company needs to open an Italian office

    We listened to the Matilda soundtrack on the way home from dinner out tonight and I thought Gee, I should probably write something about our trip! BUT WHAT. HMMM.

    People keep asking me what the best part was and the best part was either going to the theater in London, which is something I could do every night for the rest of my life, or just "living" in our Italian town for two weeks. Which I honestly didn't expect. When we first were planning this trip I didn't want to spend that much time near where I used to live. I thought maybe we could use it as a base to go to the beach and for taking the train to bigger more exciting places. I even thought maybe we'd take a jaunt down to Sicily. I was nervous about maybe having to see all my parents' friends, or old teachers of mine (because when your parents are teachers all their friends are teachers), and high school wasn't the funnest or anything and I wasn't nostalgic and didn't ever need to go back - 

    AND IT WAS SO LOVELY. It happened as soon as we'd landed and made our way through the airport to the rental car parking lot. I felt mysteriously comfortable, at home-ish. I was so happy to be there. I texted some friends right away: I AM SO HAPPY TO BE HERE!

    And it stayed that way, fortunately! The house my folks rented was absolutely perfect, with more than enough space, five minutes from cappuccino and a pizzeria and the train station. It took us at least a week to get over jet lag and I think it rained every day. And my mom and dad kept asking us what we wanted to do and we always just felt like THIS. We wanted to do THIS. Have our cappuccino and brioche at the bar. Buy fresh bread in the morning. Stroll through town. Get gelato in the afternoons. Think about what we'd eat for dinner. Why yes everything DID revolve around what we would eat next. And it was fabulous. 

    We did see some old friends and we did drive the kids past my old house (they were more interested than I thought they'd be!), but for the most part we spent our days traipsing around the town and eating things, or doing little day trips here and there - Venice, Padua, the beach, markets, and this town called Aquileia, an ancient Roman city with some pretty great ruins. It also happens to be one of my dad's favorite places in the world (the favorite?). Any time anyone from the States came to visit, the next day they'd be on their way to Aquileia with my dad as tour guide. It became a running joke in my family, and when my in-laws arrived later on in our 2 weeks, we couldn't NOT take them to Aquileia. 

    One of my favorite memories is taking my in-laws to one of my parents' favorite restaurants. It's the kind of place where there is no menu and the waitress just tells you what they have that day. And you're supposed to order all the courses and you sit there for hours enjoying your meal and if it's summer you're outside on the expansive patio looking out at the kids playing on the lawn. The food was fantastic, the pace was heavenly, and because there was a huge family party happening inside the restaurant, lots of kids kept coming outside to play and Jack ended up playing soccer with them. I LOVED watching this. I loved watching them try to communicate, how the older boys were so nice to Jack, how he wasn't too shy to play with them. It was such a great moment and I hope he'll remember it. In case he doesn't I did take one million pictures. 

    I was not ready to leave Italy. I really was so happy being there. It helped having the perfect accommodations - oh wait, let me tell you about the house. So it belongs to a Belgian family who rents it out to mainly, I think, Germans on holiday. Anyway, it was spotless, comfortable, spacious, and very Italian with the entrance hall and the four giant rooms of equal size off the hallway that could be anything you wanted - just stick an Ikea kitchen in one and there you have your house. The bathroom was tiled up to the ceiling and contained an itty bitty washing machine. The windows were all shuttered, the floors were cold and hard, it had an echoey stairway up to the second floor. And the owners did not pay for trash pick up. The house information sheet, clearly posted in the hallway, instructed renters to tie up their garbage bags and place them in public garbage cans. "You'd better do this daily," the sheet warned. So every night there was this surreptitious leaving of the house with secret bags of garbage to dump in the cans along the sidewalks on the streets nearby. We weren't supposed to let the neighbors see. One night I went out with my purse full of plastic water bottles, dumping one in each garbage can I came to. It was actually sort of stressful, thinking about how much garbage you were going to have to take out that night and if it would fit in the public cans. I was so happy to note the four dumpsters outside our apartment in London PLUS a garbage chute on our floor. 

    Venice was insane. I kept reminding myself that I hadn't been to Europe in the spring/summer for years - I mainly came to visit at winter break or for Carnevale in February. I'd forgotten what the Dolomites looked like without snow and how everyone has hedges of jasmine and the smell of jasmine on a hot evening. (I smelled it and immediately flashed back to high school.) So it had also been a while since I'd been to Venice in the summer and OMG THE PEOPLE. On the plane I'd overheard a pompous young man discussing how touristy Venice is, he just can't go there anymore, and MAN, that is so annoying. Almost all of us are tourists, you know? But WOW, the tourists. The people. For the first time Venice felt like a sort of Disneyland, where this amazing place has been built just for people to visit and no one actually lives there. Scary, actually.

    Of course I loved it anyway. Crowds rarely bother me. Except for when I thought I might get squished to death on the Paris metro. I'll tell you about that later. 

    Padua was my favorite. I'd been, but I wanted to go again, and even though half the things we wanted to see closed before we could get to them, and even though the kids were so tired from walking and it was hot, it was so beautiful and St. Anthony's basilica is so amazing and I won't forget browsing the market stalls with Molly. In 10 or 15 years I might go travel with just Molly. You say, "Molly, what do you want to do today?" and she says, "EVERYTHING!" Girl after my own heart. 

    The beach. I was the only grown woman not wearing a bikini. Not wearing a SKIMPY bikini. And still I was so self conscious, so wanting to hide. I envied these ladies their bikinis. 

    The food. The last time I went to Italy I remember feeling panicky that I wouldn't get to eat and therefore remember all my favorite things. This time I had more than enough time to indulge. I ate all my favorite things and then some. Some of it wasn't as good as I remembered, some of it was entirely new and maybe THOSE are my new favorite things. And it wasn't just the food it was the process of eating it - the wine and the bread and the taking all the time in the world. I could live that way. 

    And I was exceedingly obnoxiously proud of how much Italian I could understand and speak. Not anywhere near an impressive amount, or enough worth my obnoxious pride, but I was terrifically pleased with myself anyway. I could tell you every single time I had to bust out my Italian and spoke grammatically correct sentences. By the end there I was even thinking I should download an app or something and learn it for real. I was terrified when I went to France and could speak NOTHING, relieved to go back to Italy, and for real disappointed to go to London where I wouldn't have to translate anything at all. I weirdly liked trying to speak a foreign language. 

    I was so sad to leave. I wasn't ready. I don't quite understand it... I didn't live there THAT long, and the time I spent there was definitely not the best of my life. But there's something about the PLACE and the SCENERY. There's something about those mountains, how everything is flat flat flat and BOOM: mountains, and how the towns we lived in were nestled into that right-angle corner where flat and mountain meet. It was foreign, but still so familiar. I felt like I could be there a long time. I felt like I could learn it and become it, you know? I didn't miss home at all. 

    Paris was different. London was really different. I have another million things to say about those places, and another million about the logistics of our trip. How we managed things, all the mistakes I made, what things actually did work, all that. The helpful trip recappy things. I guess what wanted to come out tonight was how much I didn't realize I missed Italy. And how I would go back, over and over, at the expense of going other places. Molly suggested we go again tomorrow and I said, "Why not?"

     

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