Monthly Archives

April 2014

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Do You Have Many Mom Friends?

Do You Have Many Mom Friends • Little Gold Pixel

Alexa has been on spring break since Friday. We have had a lot of fun together, as well as some OMG-more-terrible-threes moments (I swear to you the Terrible Twos were a walk in the park compared with the Terrible Threes).

One of the things we have been doing consistently is taking a morning trip to the park.

There’s nothing like going to a park on a weekday morning to remind me that I do not belong.

There is an entire network of moms out there who know one another and all their kids know one another and they meet at the playground in their workout gear with their strollers and their wine in plastic cups. As a friend dubbed them: the Lululemon Moms.

This is where I admit that I have very few “mom” friends. The moms I know do not have kids Alexa’s age, and/or they live nowhere close to us. So there is a part of me that yearns for the camaraderie of another parent who knows what it’s like to have a child who is sharing the exact same experiences as my child.

I have been striking up conversations with parents I see at preschool. And at the park. I feel like a tourist, though. Most of the women I’ve spoken with work part time or are full-time stay-at-home moms. Most of them have family near by, parents who babysit and step in on workdays to help with the kids.

We do not share the same experience, not even kinda-sorta. So even though they are all very nice and congenial, I do not feel like we are talking about nearly the same life.

Yesterday I spoke with some grandparents who were watching their grandkids over spring break. We had a lovely conversation, and still the entire situation tugged at my heartstrings because Alexa does not have the grandparent experience. I do not have the luxury of having a touchstone parent anymore. My mom is gone, and my dad has serious health issues. H’s mom lives in another country altogether.

H and I are raising our family from scratch. Just the three of us, a ton of love and a pinch of luck.

Even though I feel envious of the Lululemon Moms and other parents who have a multitude of child-rearing resources, I have to admit to enjoying our solitude.

Our attentions are firmly fixed on our family, and as such we can put our all into our time together. Our weekends are ours alone. I can show Alexa how to navigate the world, and she will feel confident to do things by herself.

It doesn’t hurt that we really, really love spending time with our daughter. OK, so maybe we could use a date night every now and then, but we do not long for extended breaks; we are whole when we are together.

I’m sure there are moms out there like me, transplants from another city, working outside the home, very few childrearing resources. We just haven’t met yet. But I have faith they are out there, these elusive Unicorn Moms. (If you’re out there, let’s meet for coffee!)

The Day the Bees Swarmed

The Day the Bees Swarmed • Little Gold Pixel

Alexa and I were at the park when something crazy happened.

It was a crowded day at the little seaside park, kids climbing and falling all over one another. The chaos level was typical; some children were crying, some were laughing, some were throwing tantrums. Parents were watching, hovering, reading a book. Nothing really out of the ordinary.

Then I heard a low rumble, a murmur in the distance. It’s definitely an unusual sound. Not an earthquake. I’m perplexed. I glance around me, but nothing has changed in the worlds of the other park-goers. Then I see it.

A giant black cloud. A giant, moving, buzzing black cloud.

It’s a swarm of bees.

It is heading straight for the park.

Have you ever seen a swarm of bees? Let me tell you, it’s terrifying. A bee or two? No problem. But hundreds thousands? That’s a situation out of a horror movie.

I leap to my feet, somehow managing to stay calm as I shout to the other parents, “BEES!”

I sweep Alexa off the slide, miraculously without a protest. Perhaps she could sense the gravity of the situation, perhaps she could sense that something wicked this way comes. Thank god for small miracles, because it helped us get out of there all the quicker.

The rest of the parents follow my cue and remove their kids from the playground. Our mass exit was just seconds before the bees overtook the park.

“Thanks for the warning,” one of the parents shouted to me as we closed ourselves in our cars.

“It’s so loud, it’s so loud,” Alexa said as the bees neared, their buzzing growing to a load, creepy roar.

“We have to leave the park because there are too many bees, and we don’t want to get stung,” I said matter-of-factly, adding that a bee sting would make a “boo-boo” on our skin.

She didn’t stop talking about the incident for days. On our first trip back to that park, she had to be consoled.

“The bees are gone now,” I promised. “And if they come back, Mama will keep you safe.”

Teaching Kids to Face Fear • Little Gold Pixel

Once, as a child, I accidentally stepped on an anthill and unleashed the fury of an entire fire ant colony. They scurried up my bare legs like zombies in “World War Z” and bit me relentlessly as I ran screaming back to our campsite. My grandpa had the presence of mind to hose them off.

Up until that day I saw nature as benevolent, something that existed for our joy and benefit. It never occurred to me that I needed to watch out for forces that might do me harm.

Nature, of course, is a metaphor for the world at large.

There are flowers that blossom, and we see beauty. But the bees are close by. Flowers do not exist without bees. Bees make delicious honey. They also sting. Nature/life is complex.

It’s hard to explain this to a 3-year-old. I don’t want her to fear bees. I don’t want her heart to skip a beat like mine does when I see fire ants.

Teaching Kids to Face Fear • Little Gold Pixel

Teaching caution and respect without fear is something I’m actively working on. I was/am so scared of spiders that I used to freeze them with hairspray if they dared show up in the bathroom. Nowadays H is very much the designated bug handler in our house. He usually captures and releases into the wild. I am in awe of his respect for the creepy-crawlies that still give me the hibbity-jibbities.

The other day Alexa saw a daddy long-legs spider, and her immediate reaction was fear.

I quashed my initial desire to grab a shoe (or hairspray).

I explained that she was seeing a spider on the wall, and it wasn’t going to hurt her. I told her that it’s natural to be worried about spiders, and that we should keep our distance because we do not want to upset it, but that the daddy long-legs was not going to hurt us.

She did not seem convinced. She didn’t relax until I removed the spider from the room.

“Don’t worry; Mama will keep you safe,” I said. I hope the quiver of spider fear in my voice did not reach her subconscious.

Life/nature is complex, isn’t it?

Plan the Perfect Easter Sunday

Plan the Perfect Easter Sunday // Little Gold Pixel

What does it say about me as a thirtysomething woman that I still get ridiculously excited about the prospect of an egg hunt? What does it say about me that I used the word thirtysomething?

While you ponder these thought-provoking questions, allow me to introduce you to the perfect secular Easter (you’ll have to turn to your church for the religious stuff).

1. The day before, an egg-boiling marathon. Only, instead of dipping into dye (which I will totally still do anyway), how about glueing confetti to your eggs instead? A good non-messy alternative for kids.

2. Another kid-friendly craft: washi-taped egg ornaments.

3. Tuck a surprise ball into the Easter baskets (along with a book, my favorite Easter gift).

4. After the egg hunt and candy coma, it’s time for a bunny lunch with a few vegetables.

5. Put a pot of Greek lamb soup on the stove for dinner, and head back to the chocolate rabbit with the hollow ears. Just do it. I mean, you’ll have to wait till Halloween to have an excuse to eat so much candy again.

6. Don’t forget the Ham Florentine cups.

7. Eat dinner while watching Steel Magnolias. This movie screams EASTER in my mind.

8. While everyone is sobbing about Shelby, excuse yourself to concoct a Very Easter Dessert to finish the day: Peeps s’mores. Enough said.

**UPDATE: I just saw these brown sack Easter masks this morning, and I’m totally going to do this with Alexa on Friday. Easy crafts = my kind of crafts.

Would I be trivializing the holiday if I said the thing I am most looking forward to this weekend is sinking my teeth into the delectable, luscious, milk chocolate of a Cadbury creme egg? Forty days of abstaining from chocolate, and it has opened my eyes a little to how much I crave that sugary heaven.

Cadbury Eggs / Little Gold Pixel

Listen & Look: Beck

I have been spending a good portion of my working day listening to “Morning Phase” on repeat. It’s so soothing. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud. The album has an alt-country feel mixed with a “Scarborough Fair” vibe. Above all that, though, it’s uniquely Beck. It took listening to his set from Coachella to remind me of my 20-year-long love affair with his music.

When I first heard “Loser” in 1993/94, I was going through my faux hippie phase. It was around this time that pop culture started longing for the Woodstock era, so much so that it spawned Woodstock ’94. I wore long, flowing skirts and signed notes to my friends with the signature “Daisy,” a nickname I kept throughout high school. I would traipse around in Birkenstocks, and braid a few long strands of my hair randomly while wearing John Lennon sunglasses. Thankfully, though, I managed to avoid playing marathon games of hacky sack (most likely because I was no good at it).

Anyway, here’s an updated version of my 1990s hippie style in this round of music inspired fashion. The Birkenstock thongs are pretty rad, and I may just don a pair this summer.

Music Inspired Fashion // Listen & Look: Beck // Little Gold Pixel
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Family Movie Night / DuckTales & Wolf of Wall Street

Family Movie Night / DuckTales & Wolf of Wall Street • Little Gold Pixel

Alexa is old enough know that she likes to look forward to things. If I tell her about what the next day holds as I’m tucking her in at night, she is more eager to say “goodnight” and settle in without a lot of fussing. Last night I told her how we’d wake up and make breakfast, and she would go to school and play “treasure hoops” with her friends. On the weekend, I tell her about beach trips and swinging at the park … and Family Movie Night.

“We will make popcorn and turn off the lights and watch a movie,” I say.

“We will watch … Smurfs?” she asks, hopeful we’ll watch her favorite movie for the gazillionth time. I remind her of our only Family Movie Night rule: no repeats.

The goal is for the film to be something different that all three of us can watch without being bored (not an easy feat!). Sometimes we hit, sometimes we miss. After our family movie is over, H and I say goodnight to Alexa. We then return to the couch to snuggle in for a grown-up movie. Again, sometimes we hit, sometimes we miss.

Family Movie Night is an occasional series highlighting our movie-night hits. We tested out these movies so you don’t have to. Pop some popcorn, curl up with your favorite people, and prepare for a double feature.

Family movie

DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp
If you’re an adult of a certain age (ahem, my age), you will remember watching DuckTales cartoons as a kid. Scrooge McDuck is still awesome with his Scottish accent and miserly ways. The exploits of Huey, Dewey and Louie will keep your kid interested. The storyline is like Indiana Jones meets Aladdin, in which the little ducks wind up wishing for all kinds of random things, including an ice cream sundae as big as a house. YAY

Grown-up movie

The Wolf of Wall Street
Full confession: We knew we were going to love this movie because, hello, it’s Leo and Marty. What we didn’t know was how much we were going to love this movie. The (mostly true?) story is so filthy, despicable, downright crude, greedy, reprehensible. And yet, you can’t help but watch, dare I say even root for these characters. We were on the edge of our seats watching them self-destruct. Leo is amazing. Jonah Hill is amazing. Matthew McConaughey is amazing in the five minutes he’s on screen. YAY

Do you have a Movie Night recommendation? Have a film you want us to test first before you commit to watching it?

Do Outbreak Movies Make You Paranoid?

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I’m drawn like a moth to the flame when it comes to outbreak movies because they give me the hibbity jibbities for months afterward, and yet I can’t seem to look away.

For instance, “Outbreak,” when Patrick Dempsey spreads the disease and Dustin Hoffman gets huffy. Then there’s “I Am Legend,” “28 Days Later,” “The Crazies,” I could go on and on because apparently Hollywood is drawn to epidemics just as much as I am. Tonight I finally watched “Contagion” — which came out in 2011, but as you know the past three years have been somewhat a blur, so let’s just pretend for this post that I’m not as out of touch as I am.

Like a moth to the flame, I dance around the fire, baited breath, waiting to see how things will end. Then I get burned. I’m fairly certain that tonight I will dream of mutated viruses and global pandemics. Never mind that the movie was slow and meandering and I didn’t care about half the characters in the slightest. Now every time Alexa so much as clears her throat I’ll be checking for signs of an MEV-1 outbreak.

In my defense, it’s easy to become paranoid when your kid has an ear infection for a month that just. won’t. go. away. (Fingers crossed, for the moment it finally seems to be cured.)

Like the tagline for the movie warns, “Nothing spreads like fear.”

The flip side is that, even though I consider myself to be a clean person, I’m not hyper sterile. I believe that some germs are good for the immune system. I subscribe to the five-second rule (in my house, not an alley or something). I will use my spit to wipe a bit of dried toothpaste off Alexa’s cheek. It’s not like I’m thinking about living in a bubble. But films and/or books like this remind me how fragile our human bodies can be, how fleeting it all is.

Which makes me curious: What’s the most paranoid moment you’ve ever had when it came to a sickness? Do you go to the doctor for every sniffle? Or do you just assume you’ll be fine, even though you actually have bird flu?

I’ve Been Reading: 10/60 Book Reviews for 2014

Remember how last year I set a goal to read 50 books, and just barely squeaked by? I think I finished the 50th book just a few hours before the clock struck midnight. Yes, that’s me, getting down with words on New Year’s Eve. That’s how I party.

Point being, I could barely finish 50. This year I decided that 60 would be a perfectly reasonable number. Based on what, I do not know. It’s not as though a huge chunk of time has suddenly opened up, freeing me to read at my leisure. You can never say I don’t like to challenge myself.

But I will succeed! Because failing online is worse than failing quietly, a pity party of one with my sad glass of wine as we count down 10-9-8-7…

This is my first reading report of the year! Book reviews 2014: take one. Let’s see how it went, shall we?

(The links lead to the full reviews I wrote on Goodreads. Do you follow me there? You should!)

P.S. My favorite books from the 2013 challenge.

10/60 Book Reviews for 2014 • Little Gold Pixel

The Rehearsal / Eleanor Catton
File under: Literature, smarty-pants, too cool for school
One-sentence plot: News of a teacher-student scandal affects the lives of several saxophone-playing teens.
One-sentence review: Just as I would begin to make some sense out of this non-linear book, it would go wandering off again into vagueness, completely self-satisfied and abstruse.

Night Film / Marisha Pessl
File under: Literature, cinephilia, suspense
One-sentence plot: A journalist becomes obsessed with the death of a prominent filmmaker’s daughter and seeks to uncover the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death.
One-sentence review: You think you’re reading a ridiculously long but insanely inciting, well-written and juicy murder-mystery, but are you really?

Allegiant / Veronica Roth
File under: Y.A., dystopian, trilogy fail
One-sentence plot: Our heroine Tris goes beyond the border, where maybe possibly doubtfully she can forge a new life.
One-sentence reaction: Half-baked with a puh-lease ending.

Ender’s Game / Orson Scott Card
File under: Y.A., dystopian, sci-fi
One-sentence plot: A child is manipulated and tested at a school, the ultimate goal to ready him for battle with an alien threat.
One-sentence reaction: It’s like “Lord of the Flies,” but in space.

The Goldfinch / Donna Tartt
File under: Literature, artsy-fartsy, suspense
One-sentence plot: Theo survives a bombing at an art gallery as a child, pocketing a tiny painting in his exit, and we watch as he tries to rebuild his life and hide his secret treasure.
One-sentence reaction: This 800-page book is a goldmine of sharp writing and characters I felt that I actually “knew.”

Me Before You / Jojo Meyes
File under: Love story, chick lit, a good cry
One-sentence plot: It takes working for a quadriplegic who wants to kill himself for Lou to re-evaluate her life and yearn for something more.
One-sentence reaction: More than being a love story, it’s a story that will make you ask yourself what it means to truly live.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore / Robin Sloan
File under: Literature, high-tech, bookworms, mystery
One-sentence plot: Unemployed web designer takes a job at a bookstore that rarely seems to sell any books, but has a mysterious clientele nonetheless.
One-sentence reaction: I got swept away with theories about the secret society, and what might possibly be revealed at the end.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour / Joshua Ferris
File under: Literature, smarty-pants, humor, philosophy
One-sentence plot: An atheist dentist struggles to reclaim his identity when someone uses his name to spread religious messages online.
One-sentence reaction: Wit and beautiful prose aside (Joshua Ferris can write a sentence. In fact, he can write paragraphs upon paragraphs about the act of putting on lotion, and he makes it interesting), there is a lot to chew on here.

A Homemade Life / Molly Wizenberg
File under: Memoir, cookbook, bloggers
One-sentence plot: Food blogger strolls down memory lane, sharing her life stories and recipes related to these stories.
One-sentence reaction: While most of the book is a pleasure to read, I found myself skimming over some chapters that felt like fillers.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards / Kristopher Jansma
File under: Literature, smarty-pants, writing, fantasy vs. reality
One-sentence plot: Narrator quests to become a novelist but all of his writing is decidedly non-fiction … or is it?
One-sentence reaction: You get the impression that someone is literally editing the book as you’re reading along — changing details and names and circumstances — and woah is it a mind trip.

So there you have it. Ten down, 50 to go. Wish me luck! What have you been reading lately? I’m always on the lookout for a good book …

A Month in the Life 2014: 3/12

This monthly photo post was supposed to go up on Monday, but clearly I underestimated how long it would take to process an entire month’s worth of photos at the same time. My lap is currently on fire from finishing the process on my Macbook. Riddle me this. Why are laptops so fiery hot? I mean, they’re designed to rest on your LAP. And yet … I have a cooling fan underneath PLUS a laptop desk, and I’m still sweating.

Aside from the third-degree burns I’m acquiring from my laptop, I am not sure how I feel about doing a monthly roundup, after all. I took fewer photos in February overall. In March, though, wow. I must’ve gotten my mojo back. Do let me know if you fall asleep scrolling through this post.

Here’s what we were up to in March:

Alexa unknowingly mirrored a scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

I made carnitas for lunch.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

Alexa helped me make banana bread. She’s always grabbing her stool to join me in the kitchen.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

I made meatball soup.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

The sky turned pink over Santa Monica Bay.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

I took a few selfies for a photo-per-hour post.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

We took a walk on the Manhattan Beach Pier. The view was absolutely glorious.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

All this girl wanted to do was play in the sand and jump off the sand shelves.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

In which I satisfy a craving for a root beer float.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

Alexa and I have a girls’ lunch after a trip to the park.
Month in the Life 2014: 3/12 • Little Gold Pixel

We played in her room. She paused to touch my hand for a few sweet minutes and tell me a story. (She made the bracelet in school.)
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I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the 405 every day. This is a point-and-pray, but I really, really love it.
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Meeting up with a friend for a dinner and chat.
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We ate Moroccan food, so I brought home some bastilla for H (his favorite).
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I found some silver coins while cleaning out my bag.
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I spied a sign that made me scratch my head. Clearly, no road work. Considering this isn’t a road.
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Haircut before and after. It doesn’t look like a drastic difference, but I swear to you there was a ton of hair on the floor when my stylist was done.
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I took a shot in the dark with these movies for family movie night, and they were a success!
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We go to this park all the time, and yet the sight of the water still heals what ails us.
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A surprise kiss.
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Cacti always look alien to me. They don’t seem like they belong on this planet.
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Yay, we’re going to school! I love her enthusiasm.
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But it’s no fun when the Little Goose gets sick. Ear infection, round one.
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Lucky Charms for St. Patrick’s Day.
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Pajama day at school. At first she said, “But Mama, I need to get dressed.” Then she got into it.
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Oh, man, it had been far too long since we had Thai food. Alexa drank all my tea and ate all my chicken. She wasn’t interested in H’s food in the slightest.
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Daddy-daughter soccer time.
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We played dress-up dolls, and Alexa has very strong opinions about hats/crowns/shoes.
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Meanwhile, a neighbor lost their glitter. We found it.
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This, to me, is the perfect breakfast. Egg on toast, turkey bacon, iced coffee = good day!
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This, to Alexa, is the perfect lunch: Apples, pretzel chips, peanut butter sandwich.
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Our weekend ritual. It would be difficult to ever be landlocked again. We love the beach.
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I stumbled upon this perfect photo opportunity. No processing, no filters. Aw, life gave me cherries that day.
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6 Chocolate Recipes You Should Try

6 Pinterest Chocolate Recipes You Should Try // Little Gold Pixel

A full box of Samoas is sitting in my fridge right now. It has been chilling there for two weeks, ever since we bought it off a Girl Scout at the beach on a blustery yet beautiful Saturday. Now, to some of you this might not seem odd at all. Allow me to explain my typical worldview:

Cookies + two weeks ≠ full box

And usually that would be my fault. I’m the chocolate fiend in this house. It’s abundantly clear that neither H nor Alexa cares to binge on the crown jewel of the Girl Scout cookie line.

But the funny thing is that I’m not in agony over my Lenten promise this year. I cut chocolate, and I’ve been fine, even with Samoas lingering not even 20 feet from where I type this.

I know something inside me is changing when I pinterest chocolate recipes like the six I’m sharing today, and my first thought is not “OMGeffitIameatingallthechocolate.” My ache for these delicious-looking chocolate concoctions is muted — it’s still there, but it’s not gnawing at me from inside.

Progress! Fighting my food crutches one step at a time.

This being said, I fully intend to stare at the photos of the following recipes on the Pinterest board I’ve dedicated to all things chocolate, enjoying them vicariously. You, however, did not give up chocolate, so bake your little hearts out.

{1} Best Coconut Macaroons // A flattened macaroon?! You don’t say …

{2} White + Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bonbons // Healthy ingredients under that decadent armor.

{3} Chocolate and Coconut Cake with Dulce De Leche and Cashews // Who just dumps a pile of cashews on top of a cake? A mad GENIUS, that’s who.

{4} Coconut Milk Brownies // These look unbelievably succulent.

{5} Chokladbiskvier / Swedish Chocolate Biscuits // I was just minding my own business, thinking the top layer of chocolate would be thin. But no — there’s a heaping mountain of chocolate to bite into.

{6} Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Stuffed Soft Pretzels // What the what! Yes, please.

Gif Me a Break

Funny Gif Posts • Little Gold Pixel

Don’t you love it when you find the perfect Gif to sum up a situation?

For example…

When I promise Alexa ice cream, her bad mood/tantrum/disobedience abruptly stops and she’s like:

When I see all that “mystery” meat they’re grilling at Terminus on “The Walking Dead,” I’m like:

When I try to figure out a glitch in my blog coding, it’s like:

When an earthquake hits, and it lasts just long enough for me to consider the duck and cover, I’m like:

When I realize I have exactly two hours before my library loan expires, I’m like:

When people talk about the finale of “How I Met Your Mother,” I’m like:

But when I realize I never have to hear about that show again, it’s totally like:

Click here to check out past Gif Me a Break posts. (Hilarity awaits.)