Monthly Archives

January 2013

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A Letter to My Daughter on Her 2nd Birthday

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Dear Alexa,

A few weeks before your second birthday it happened. You reached the terrible twos, and suddenly everything was even more dramatic than before. I wouldn’t have thought it possible because you’ve always been a vocal, spirited girl, but you have become even more vocal. More spirited. More stubborn. More loving. More emphatic.

As challenging as your temperament will be for your Daddy and me and our constant quest to teach and discipline, we are actually very happy that you are your own little person even at this young age. You know what you want (even if you don’t yet know what you need, but that’s a struggle even for adults), and you are not easily deterred.

There will be people along the way in your life who will try to tell you that what you want to accomplish is impossible. That you are not good enough, that you are not strong enough, that you are not enough. I hope you stay as pure as you are now, to know what you want and go after it regardless of the naysayers. You can do away with the tantrums, but please stick to your guns and keep that determined nature. It will serve you well in life.

I hope you will nurture your loving side, too. You can never give too many hugs and kisses to the people you love. You can never tell them you love them too many times. Be free with your affection, with your smiles and laughs. I hope your Daddy and I have taught you that there’s nothing a hug and a kiss can’t cure.

And remember, just like we learned from “Yo Gabba Gabba,” when you get hurt you gotta shake it off. Shake it fast, and the hurt falls off. This applies to more than just a booboo on your knee. You’ll see.

I can’t believe it’s been two years since you entered our world and changed it in so many beautiful ways. I can only guess what adventures we will go on in the next year, the next decade, the next lifetime. All I know is that I can’t wait.

Xoxo,
Mama

Note: Alexa’s birthday was Monday, but times are busy so I just now got around to posting this!

Things I like that other people might call guilty pleasures

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I do not believe in guilty pleasures. Why feel guilty about things that bring you joy? That’s my philosophy. There are highfalutin people everywhere who will try to look down on the things you love. They only have power to make you feel guilty if you let them. So let’s all let our freak flags fly!

1. Dance movies (think Center Stage, Flashdance)
2. Pretty Little Liars (above)
3. Melrose Place
4. Twilight book series
5. Kraft mac-n-cheese
6. Surf movies (think Beach Blanket Bingo, Gidget)
7. Beverly Hills 90210 and its bastard daughter 90210
8. Cadbury creme eggs
9. All of the CSI iterations
10. Most Adam Sandler movies
11. Anything Sophie Kinsella writes
12. An occasional Coke
13. Arnold’s comedies
14. Hot dogs
15. Southern tearjerkers (think Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes)

What about you? Do you have any “guilty” pleasures?

Observations on the 10 Freeway

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The moon broke free of the clouds, and it all became clear to me. The fat raindrops that were beating down on my windshield, the swoosh-swoosh of the wipers. It was like a switch flipped and everything was in HD.

Before the channels were fuzzy with static, and there I was squinting into life. Always looking into the future can mess with your vision like that. What is the next move? What should I blog about? Should I blog at all? What are our plans for tomorrow? For next year? For our entire lives?

Being in the moment, the now, the here. The mellow sound of Foxygen is on the radio. It is a crisp 57 degrees. The moon is glowing bright over downtown, clouds framing its clarity. The traffic is going my way for once. Click-click-click, no one in my blind spot, no one to block my path. I can switch lanes. I can see the road.

A Week in the Life: 4/52

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» Bright and early on a Saturday morning. We had every intention of going to the beach. But errands beckoned. (A certain little girl is turning 2 soon and we stopped at the party store to get balloons.)

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» A practice balloon. You can’t expect a toddler to leave the “bah-woon” store empty-handed! “Dis DJ Wock,” she says, pointing to DJ Lance Rock.

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» They’re landing, we’re leaving.

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» Tunnel shots are an old favorite of mine. Alexa fell asleep in the car, so we took a cruise down PCH so she could get her nap in.

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» Alexa’s first Chuck E. Cheese experience. She rode this ride forever.

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» Meanwhile, in Adultland.

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» Alexa helps Daddy put together our new elliptical machine. It is not electric, all resistance bands, which means it’s double the work and effing hardcore. Just an FYI.

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» I have someone to break my shoes in for me now.

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» Morning coffee, email check and watching President Obama get inaugurated.

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» Raisin bagel with cream cheese. Nomnomnom.

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» Standard Alexa breakfast: scrambled eggs with spinach, toast, blueberries and raspberries.

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» And thus begins a rollicking round of Where Did the Attendant Park My Car?

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» She thinks the car key unlocks everything.

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» If the rain comes they run and hide their heads.

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» Thursday evening grocery stop. I call H to ask what creamer he wants. He doesn’t answer. I get the milk, though, because we always need milk. As soon as we put milk in the fridge, we need more milk.

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» L.A. love note: I love your brightly painted, random restaurant murals.

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» Sara and I hit the $2 thrift sale, and even though I haven’t been out hardcore thrifting in awhile, I quickly blend in, kicking my basket around on the ground and overfilling it like a pro.

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» Every time I check my cellphone Alexa requests, “Picture?” She then comes over to check my work. Little miss bossypants!

*This is a weekly project inspired by Shutterbean’s My Everyday Life. Shot on iPhone this week because it was just too easy. See past weeks here.

The Many Cries of a Baby and/or Toddler

When Alexa was 10 months old, I wrote a guest post for Growing Up Geeky. I filed it away as a draft here, maybe so I could remind myself of it on a rainy day and get another chuckle. What’s funny about this is that all of it still applies, maybe even more so as we enter the Terrible Twos. No, seriously. It’s like a switch was flipped a few weeks ago, and the Terrible Twos are here. I would like to fill out a complaint form, though, because she is not 2 yet. The Terrible Twos are not supposed to start until at least next Monday, mmkay?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this blast from the past. I know I did, and I didn’t even cry at all. 

No, I’m not clutching a handkerchief and sobbing in the corner. That would be just … silly.

Alexa has always been what I’d call “spirited.” She was vocal as a newborn, labeled “feisty” by the pediatrician and she’s happy to test the limits of her vocal chords for … no special reason, really. Just ’cause.

Normally she does her vocal experiments with a smile, like so.

But lately she has learned a new set of cries that have nothing to do with her basic needs. There are so many of them, all meaning different things, but they all have one thing in common: THEY ARE INSANE.

The “Hey, you’re making me milk!” cry.
I can tell when she’s hungry, and typically it’s around the scheduled times of day that she normally eats. But here’s the thing: she’s happy until she sees me making her bottle or preparing her food. Then she starts the complaining. Meh! she says impatiently. I’m making your bottle, I say. Meh! Meh! Meh! Meh! And then the full-fledged: Waaaaaaaaah! This continues until the bottle is in her mouth, then silence and smiles.


Don’t even think about prying this spider out of my hand.

The “Hey, you took something … whatever that was … away from me” cry.
Who knew this piece of lint held such meaning for my child? As soon as I extricate it from her clutches, there’s the sad face. Then the scrunchy face. Then the wail. Weeeeeehhhhh! Insert lint back into fist. Happy face. Take it away, Weeeeeehhhh! Give it back, happy face. Repeat.

The “Hey, don’t you dare lay me on my back” cry.
This cry is accompanied by kicks and spastics. Diaper changes, naptime, even leaning her backward in the tub to rinse the shampoo out of her hair. This cry sounds like she’s being tortured. It’s a full-fledged scream. Upright again? No tears.


Stop taking 5,000 photos of me and hold me, Mommy.

The “Hey, if you have time to do that, you have time to hold me” cry.
Dishes need to be done. Photos need to be taken. Pee breaks need to happen. If these things happen when Alexa is bored and wants attention, watch out. The whining commences. At first it is breathy and cute. Then it gets shrill and annoying. But it’s also fake. As soon as I pick her up, she wants back down to play with the toys that just a second ago were not enough to hold her interest. Sigh.

I try to keep my cool with all of these cries, saying soothing things like, “Just a minute.” Or “Mommy’s right here.” Or “No, honey, you can’t eat lint.” Sometimes I’ve almost retorted, “Save the drama for your mama.” Oh. Wait.

A Week in the Life: 3/52

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» Wearing a sweater plus a scarf plus my mom’s old, thick cardigan. You could say it was chilly.

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» She sleeps with her arms behind her head, just like her Daddy.

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» We were on the search for a USB cord for my external hard drive (I think we accidentally tossed it in a recent cord purge). H went to Best Buy. I stayed in the car because I hate Best Buy. Alexa napped. These carts made pretty shadows.

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» Someone, somewhere stalled on the freeway, therefore traffic.

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» She methodically moved each bag from one pile to another, stopping to investigate the contents on occasion.

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» Half a wing done!

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» Cutting a million grapes in half with a butter knife. The story of my life.

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» Afternoon coffee run with a friend. It was a beautiful day.

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» An enormous Dr. Seuss-esque plant looms in front of the La Brea tar pits.

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» “OMG, I’m never going to merge onto the freeway,” I think five nights a week.

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» During any given iced coffee run at work there is a 79% likelihood I will run into (a) someone from work or (b) someone I used to work with or (c) a celebrity. If it is (c) I wouldn’t know unless someone else pointed the celebrity out because I am terrible about these kinds of things.

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» Alexa had a cold earlier in the week, and she developed a little face rash from all the drainage. Her usual obsession with washing her hands is on hold so she can rigorously wash her face instead.

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» A few minutes ago I was sleeping here, and all I have to show for it is this lousy bedhead.

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» “Nothing stands between me and the ocean! NOTHING!” Alexa yells in a fit of rage, dropping her sunglasses and climbing the fence with urgency. (She climbs everything. I found her climbing a table in her room today instead of taking a nap. Who is this daredevil and where can I retrofit her with permanent bubble wrap?)

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» Sara took me and Alexa to Cabrillo Beach in search of sea glass for her collection. It was 75 degrees and bright.

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» Digging through rocks is very soothing. I could sit down and look for sea glass in a 5-foot radius for several hours.

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» Post shell-collecting lunch.

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» Good conversation with my girls. Well, Alexa didn’t say much besides “more” and “some” and “yummy!”

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» The sea glass we collected, which Sara slyly left in my car. I’m onto you, wink wink. I will find some little glass bottles so these lovelies will have a home.

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» Alexa’s haul of random rocks and shells (and one lonely piece of driftwood!). I put them in a mason jar; it will be the start of her own collection.

Note: Hicham somehow avoided capture with my iPhone this week. He will probably be featured an insane amount next week. Honey, consider yourself warned.

*This is a weekly project inspired by Shutterbean’s My Everyday Life. Shot on iPhone this week because it was just too easy. See past weeks here.

Things Alexa loves

The other day I was talking with a friend about baby gear and it occurred to me that there might be other moms out there who are looking for suggestions on things for their toddlers. Obviously every little one has his/her own personality, but these are the things we use and watch and read and wear on a daily basis.

Plus I think it might be kind of nifty for Alexa to look back on this someday to see what her favorite things were. Jeez, I’m so sentimental.

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  • Only shows she will watch: Yo Gabba Gabba & Super Why
  • Books on repeat: Olivia Learns to Surf (she goes to the ocean!) and Goodnight Moon (can’t go to sleep without it)
  • Binkies by Mam (these glow in the dark; oh so helpful) and monkey blankie (similar here)
  • We use these wipes for EVERYTHING. I even use them to dust the house. Ha!
  • She puts Bubbles the cat plus 5,000 other stuffed animals in her bed every night. I would name them all, but Bubbles has been with us since the beginning.
  • Jeggings are essential. Alexa cries if I put stiff jeans on her. The girl wants mobility.
  • Favorite shoe brands: See Kai Run and Old Soles (although she’s about to outgrow the soft-soled shoes altogether soon)

Eff it, I’m not a perfect mom. And it’s OK.

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My grandma (affectionately dubbed Nanny) taught me how to cross-stitch. I remember sitting in the living room at my grandparents’ house, my legs covered with an afghan and 1980s-era sitcoms on the television. My grandpa would be watching the shows, sometimes conked out in his recliner, while Nanny and I cross-stitched by the glow of our respective lamps. My first project was a teddy bear. It had four different colors. Later I would try more complicated projects with my mom’s help.

Twenty years later, I am cross-stitching a butterfly for Alexa. I had to buy a pattern kit off Etsy because I forgot what to do. There is one color. I am obviously not aiming high with my comeback project, but sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk. My mentors aren’t here to help me, at any rate, and I am so not perfect.

When I think about Nanny, I am mostly comforted by memories of her smell, the way her body felt when she held me in her arms, her smile, her patient demeanor, her creative nature. To me she is almost a caricature, her idiosyncrasies hidden by time because she has been gone for more than 20 years. I know no one is perfect, really. I do recall that she was a smoker and had a tendency to internalize her emotions. And yet she was the apple of my mom’s eye, her very best friend.

I remember my mom’s flaws more accurately. She was prone to depression, smoked too many cigarettes. She was picky. She had a bit of a martyr syndrome. She cared a little too much what other people thought about her. And yet I thought my mom was perfect, even with these imperfections. To me she was a beacon of light at the end of the day, someone glad to hear every thought in my head (and believe me, I talk a lot). She believed in me without fail, spouting my accomplishments to anyone who would listen. I never wanted for affection from her; she was always quick with a hug and kiss.

I wonder if she ever felt humbled by Nanny if Nanny’s skills as a mother ever seemed too high to aspire to. Because sometimes I feel that way about both of them. When I’m at my worst: cranky in the morning, rushed and quiet and sometimes introverted as I start my day with Alexa; impatient on even my best days; overbearing as I will her to “be careful” or “stop touching that”; fixated with my body issues and eating habits even as I try to project a healthy body image in front of her; quick to snap and use a harsh voice when she disobeys; letting a few curse words fly when someone cuts me off on the road. At these times I wonder if I will ever measure up to the best attributes of my Mom and Nanny.

Will I ever have the creative drive Nanny had, to show new things to Alexa instead of getting stuck in a playtime rut? Will I ever have the devotion my mom had, to truly be present for hours on end while Alexa regales me with tales of school? Or perhaps I will just turn on the television and tune her out, as I’ve found myself doing a few times this week.

I know it’s dangerous to set impossible standards for myself, to emulate people with their own unique personalities. I need to remind myself that it is impossible to be my mom or my grandma. I need to just be me.

Even though I tune Alexa out sometimes, I am engaged 90 percent of the time. Even though I am having a difficult time losing the weight I want to lose, I am offering my daughter healthy choices and letting her determine how much she wants to eat and in the interim reminding her how beautiful she is. Even though I’m quick to raise my voice, I’m equally quick to realize it and apologize (OK, maybe sometimes not quick enough).

There is room for improvement. There is always room for improvement.

But, just like I can do with my mom and Nanny, I hope Alexa can overlook my faults and see the best parts of me. That her mama liked to take her to the park and to the beach and encouraged her to be an adventurer. That her mama cared enough to set boundaries, even if she didn’t like them. That her mama teared up with pride at her slightest accomplishment (because they all add up and oh my god she just spoke a full sentence yesterday, “I’ll get the other shoe,” and the day before yesterday she couldn’t do that!).

The day before 50 yesterdays she was learning the word “bo-fry” aka “butterfly.” And by god, I will finish this butterfly and hang it in her room, even if I curse the whole way through this cross-stitch as my thread gets knotted up. And the butterfly will be perfect because I made it, imperfections and all.

It’s a reading rainbow!

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I was the kind of kid who took books to football games. I would read, and read, and read, especially if I were bored as I often was during football games. I lived for the book fairs at school, and my parents worried about the amount I’d ask them to spend. I practically lived at the library, curling up in the children’s section with the library cat, Libby. In second grade my teacher noticed that I was bored with the Reading Time selections in her classroom library and going forward brought me books from her personal collection to read. I always exceeded the Book-It expectations.

In short, I love the written word.

Somewhere along the line I got a little lazier about reading. Life gets in the way, sure, and taking care of a child, sure, but I actually think it has more to do with the Internet. It is easier to read, surf and eventually end up reading a whole lot of nothing of substance, and before you know it, it has been three hours and your imagination has nothing to show for it.

I am acutely aware that Alexa needs to see me reading more. I know she’s looking at everything I’m doing and and starting to emulate me. I take every chance I get to encourage her to pick a book from her growing library, and we look at it together. Sometimes I read to her, sometimes I let her “read” to me, sometimes we just point at things and ask each other questions. I know my mom always encouraged me to read, and she rarely ever told me something was beyond my understanding or was too mature for me to attempt. I was reading Stephen King and Danielle Steel at the same time I was mainlining Sweet Valley High and Baby-Sitters Club. The innocent + the scary + the heartache. I knew I could talk about all of it with my mom. That’s the kind of reading relationship I want with Alexa.

Strangely enough, I think the very thing that made it easy for me to stray from books the Internet and technology might be the thing that brings me back to “avid reader” status. First, in 2011, it was my smartphone and the Kindle app, making it easier for me to access books on the go and in bed and while nursing Alexa. H saw me, night after night, reading on my little phone, so for Christmas he bought me a Kindle, and it has been revolutionary. I’ve read four books since the calendar changed to 2013, well on my way to the 50-book goal I set for myself this year. Hopefully I can do even better. My friend Shelly is hoping to get to 100 books; my friend Davina 113. To me that sounds like climbing Everest. Baby steps to the top, right?

Also, I joined a book club my friends started on Facebook. We have already picked out our first book, and I am very encouraged to have a forum to discuss books again with like-minded people. There might not be any free personal pan pizzas for my reading efforts, but I am sure the reading itself will be reward enough.

Now, let’s talk about good reads. Any you can recommend? How do you motivate yourself to read?

A Week in the Life: 2/52

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» She drags her backpack all the way to the car with no help. “I do it!”

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» Monkeying around at Starbucks. God help us if we ever lose her monkey blankie.

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» Impressive row of palms in Irvine. Also impressive? No cars on this road. Orange County, it’s a different beast.

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» I love this group of succulents sunbathing. I should really pot some of my own.

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» Art is everywhere in Laguna Beach. This unicorn painting spoke to me. I have a thing for unicorns going way back to my childhood.

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» Note to self: When we purchase a home someday, lay some red brick and a clear patio table in the backyard. Top with succulent garden. Sit in the sun and admire your work.

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» A late lunch at The Cliff, and boy were we famished after driving around for 40 minutes trying to find a place to park. That corn dog stands no chance with Alexa.

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» Sunset at Laguna Beach. Beautiful. Wish you were here.

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» You see the little shimmery sections in the sand? I love when I’m able to capture that. Magic!

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» She runs toward me, holding out her hand so I can remove the icky sand she touched on accident.

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» OK, I must share an impromptu sunset portrait. When in Rome and all.

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» And another.

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» And the last one (the sun is almost setting at this point).

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» The next day it is raining and the berries are so vibrant it is scary. Every time I see berries on plants in our condo complex I am reminded of the Hunger Games and the poisonous nightlock berries. I’m pretty sure I would have a difficult time being a hunter/gatherer because (a) I do not know how to hunt and (b) I’m convinced that every wild berry I see is poisonous.

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» The ground is wet in Southern California. What does this mean? Most likely a terrible commute.

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» But it’s Sunday, so thank god for Breakfast With the Beatles on the radio.

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» Why are there so many songs about rainbows?

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» Alexa greets her babysitter with a smile for once. We had been going through a clingy phase that is 90% drama, 10% real.

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» In which I wear my Dr. Seuss scarf and attempt to not have crazy eyes while I take an iPhone selfie. Anyone else have this problem? In all my selfies, I have a rogue eye that is looking the wrong direction. What gives?

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» Washing her hands, one of her favorite activities.

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» The entire office has the plague, and I luckily only came down with a mild cold. Even with a cold, I have not been feeling up to the task of cooking breakfast. Enter: cereal.

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» She is very into stacking lately.

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» Running around the master bedroom while I clean. Unfortunately, she runs to her bedroom, grabs an artifact and brings it into the master bedroom, hindering the process. But she’s so happy about it!

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» Oops. I stepped on the crack.

*This is a new weekly project inspired by Shutterbean’s My Everyday Life. Shot with a mix of iPhone and my Olympus Evolt E-500.