Category Archives: Life

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I meant to have a sneak peek of my upcoming children’s book today, but due to some unexpected snafus and technical problems on my part, I was foiled — I’m hoping for better luck next week!

I’m working on the custom illustrations from what is now an embarrassingly long time ago, and as my mother-in-law would say, the whole process is moving “slower than molasses in January.” I just hope I’m still not apologizing this time next year! The horse above is one of the few I’ve been able to finish. My scanner lost quite a bit of the details, but I actually like this version.

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Early in the morning yesterday:

K: Mama! You look so tired! You shouldn’t go outside — you have big fat lines under your eyes…

Me: I do? That’s okay, I don’t really care what I look like.

K: No, I don’t mean that. I’m saying you shouldn’t go outside because I’m worried you might fall asleep and collapse while you’re walking.

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Have a wonderful weekend, my friends! Postings might get a little spotty these next few weeks as I enter the last couple months of working on book #2. I’ll do my best to stay up to date here, though I must ‘fess up that I’ve officially caught the instagram bug and can be found there pretty regularly now (can’t.stop.following.people – so much inspiration! It’s like my first blush of Pinterest obsession all over again). It’s probably the cause of those big fat lines under my eyes…

I’m telling myself
I will not get overwhelmed
Not sure it’s working*

*It would probably help if I’d cut back on the social media. But oh, all the pretty images!

Happy Friday + Randomness

home-carsonellis

Happy Friday! I’m working on (what I hope will be) a fun sneak peek post for Little Kunoichi next week, and as I was planning it, I thought of my favorite illustrator in the world: Carson Ellis. My own drawings feel like feeble chicken scratches next to her masterful art, but I don’t hold that against her. She just released a new book, Home, and oh…it’s classic Carson Ellis with the luscious details and hidden gems and muted tones that feels so very Pacific Northwest. Like this:

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This is her debut as auther/illustrator though she’s a veteran illustrator; in the past, she’s teamed up with her musician and writer husband to write a runaway bestselling children’s series (I hear the movie rights are in the works) and has illustrated some of my all-time beloved books like this one. It’s one of K’s faves too.

I have every intention of becoming friends with Carson even though she has no earthly idea of who I am. I feel the same way about Molly of Orangette (who is also unaware of my existence). As a trio, I’m certain we can combine cooking, illustrating and sewing into a grand force of good — with some writing thrown in. My hope is that I’ll think back on this post in the near future and chuckle slightly red-cheeked about my creepy stalker-ness as I sip coffee with Carson and Molly at one of the fabulous cafes in the PNW. We need to dream big, people.

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K on getting older:

“Mama, my life as a tween is hard.” 

I sympathized and told her it sounded like a good title for a book. That made her smile. What do you think?

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Off to get my weekend started! Hope you all have a lovely one!

SVE gift’s here
I knew it would be gorgeous
above and beyond*

*My SVE partner was Mirta of Modern Botanics and you can see a glimpse of her gift(s) on instagram. She crafts charming and beautifully handmade/handprinted goods out of her dreamy studio in Italy. Grazi, Mirta! I’ll feature more details later, because the gift deserves a full post!

Happy Friday + Randomness

 

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Happy Friday! It’s been a whirlwind of a week, and I have much to report, but I’m keeping it short and sweet today. This just in: for anyone still waiting for SVE gifts, it’s more than likely that your Secret Valentine shipped from a particular region where the postal system has been delayed several weeks. In fact, my very own Secret Valentine is in that region so I’m waiting for my gift with bated breath (I, of course, know who my partner is and know I’m going to receive something amazing). I’m going to wait to do the round-up until I have the present in my hot little hands, but in the meantime, if you participated and still haven’t received your gift, give me and Ute a shout out.

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We have a guinea pig in the house. We’re pet-sitting for K’s friend, and I have to admit that Dorothy — as she’s called — is pretty darn cute with her sparkly eyes and pudgy bod. She’s very well trained and doesn’t like leaving her cage. My kind of pet. We’ll see how I feel after a week with good ole Dorothy.

K is smitten. I can already see the cogs in her mind turning to figure out how to talk me into getting one.

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Have a wonderful weekend, friends! I’m off to go recharge…

Daylight savings time
Tends to throw my schedule off
But it’s worth the change*

*I’m looking forward to longer-lasting daylight!

I Can Do Anything, But I Can’t Do Everything

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Throughout my childhood and beyond, my mom kept telling me that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I believed her wholeheartedly and set my mind to many career paths, and I have accumulated quite an eclectic background in various fields and industries. I jumped from corporate boardrooms to high school classrooms to theater productions to technology groups to the freelance life in writing, sewing, illustrations and photography. I seem to perennially be a Jane of all trades, master of none.

Recently, I realized that I’ve misunderstood my mom all this time. Somehow I was hearing, “You can do everything.” This is a very dangerous and unhealthy mistake, I’m discovering. We have so many roles to play, all of us, and I constantly have a running monologue in my mind in the form of a checklist. A typical list includes:

  • do laundry
  • plan photo shoots
  • develop patterns
  • schedule K’s playdate
  • remind M to fill out tax forms
  • meet with friend for coffee
  • sew skinny jeans
  • write blog post
  • paint custom illustration
  • contact so-and-so to promote Little Kunoichi
  • buy compost bags and zit cream
  • pick-up guinea pig from K’s friend (we’re pet sitting)

…and the list keeps getting longer and longer every day. Like other moms and women, I juggle home-management with some semblance of work, all the while trying to maintain relationships and family commitments.

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Things are falling through the cracks. And the cracks are getting bigger.

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with two delightful and mind-bogglingly talented friends and we talked about the concept of “polymath” – a person with expertise in multiple disciplines. We each have ardent curiosity and enthusiasm for a variety of pursuits including arts and hard sciences and psychology and technology. But because we have so many interests, it’s easy to feel scattered and unfocused. It’s also easy to believe it’s possible to do it all. I mean, just look at all those overnight successes on the internet. Did you hear about the youtube video sensation that garnered millions of hits? A woman unwraps toys from Target. That’s all she does. The seemingly low bar of such stories inserts thoughts in my mind that maybe I too can create some fantastically popular video and rake in gazillions (maybe by folding fabric into origami shapes?) and spend the rest of my days becoming a polymath at a leisurely pace.

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I know that the definition for success is amorphous, and money and youtube viewer numbers are not the best indicators, unless that’s your particular M.O. The other morning as I was dropping off K and her friend at school, the friend asked me what I was going to do for the rest of the day. I prattled off something about editing images and writing and she said, “Wow, your day sounds awesome!” And then she said, “If you become famous, will you buy a new car?” Because you know, we drive a junky old car and clearly famous people would never own such a vehicle. I informed her that the chances of me becoming famous are slim to none and it would be a long, long, long time before I could afford to buy a new car at the rate I was going. She looked disappointed that my “job” wasn’t as glamorous as she’d hoped. Remember how I started trying out the Amazon affiliate links? I earned $18.25 for the month of February. Exciting, but not exactly rolling in the dough.

In all but the financial realm though, I’ve been inching closer to my own personal definition of success. For me, a life well-lived is being able to spend my days on my own terms doing what I love with people who matter to me, and I want to create small ways to add beauty and goodwill around me. I’ve always wanted some version of that, though I’ve been fuzzy about what that actually looks like. For my college admissions essay, I unapologetically wrote, “I want to make the world a better place.” Ah, such an earnest idealist. I don’t hold grandiose aspirations at a global level anymore, but if I can nurture my family, be a good friend, and perhaps provide a space that’s on the positive end of the spectrum here with this blog, I’d be heading in the right direction.

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My point is not that I am a financial failure nor that I’ve achieved some sort of exalted state of following my passion (ugh – yet another word I can’t seem to write without cringing). I think I’m trying to say that I’m getting closer to a way of living that feels right for me via slow and deliberate steps, but I’m also getting greedy about all the things I want to do. I want to be excellent at everything I love, and it’s just not possible, at least not all at once and not in my lifetime, most likely.

This second book I’m working on serves as an example. When I signed the deal, I agreed to do all of the writing, illustrations, pattern development and photography. It was such an honor! I couldn’t believe they thought I could handle this! The publisher told me that they’ve never actually had one person do all of that for a book. I felt my stomach sink a little at that revelation, but it sounded like a hearty challenge. And let’s be real: the publisher was getting more bang for their buck. It was smart on their part.

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At first, I took on every aspect of the book by myself because I have a hard time asking for help. I stayed in my lone wolf comfort zone, writing the words, sewing and illustrating the projects and trying to style and photograph them. It became quickly apparent that my skills were lacking in many of the areas and this bummed me out — I worried about the quality of the book. Eventually, I owned up to where I couldn’t do certain tasks at the level I desired and tentatively reached out for assistance. Sure, I could try to continue bumbling through on my own, but it was uncanny how events unfolded as soon as I accepted my limitations. For example, a few months ago, I admitted to myself that I wasn’t as good a stylist as I wanted to be, then an old friend who’s in the styling biz contacted me out of the blue and after a lovely catch-up session, she connected me to her stylist network here in Seattle.

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This past weekend, with the pro bono help of my long-time friend and a new friend — professional stylists with decades of combined experience under their belts — we had a test photo shoot at my house and it was brilliant. They showed up in front of my house loaded up with bins of props and flowers and produce. So fun, so energizing, so full of inspiration. So very different from my lonely, solitary photo shoots filled with doubt and a sense of misgiving. I did, however, suss out that I had to up my photography game significantly since I couldn’t even set up my tripod properly without aid. And it dawned on me that shooting for print is less forgiving than shooting for the web, so I’m already working on rectifying the situation. I am completely open to suggestions for all you photography experts out there.

By the same token, frustrated by the pattern-drafting process, I talked about it with friends some more, and then got hooked up with a professional pattern drafter/sewing expert. She’s been giving me invaluable advice on construction methods for my patterns and it hit home how inadequate my pattern-making skills are. My eyes filled with grateful tears when she showed me an ingenious zipper insertion technique and wowed me with her ability to look at my sketch and immediately figure out the construction.

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Other friendlies from the sewing sphere have kindly offered their time to test patterns. And on and on and on. I’ve been overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of magnanimity. And I may even ask you, my dear readers, for input and recommendations. What started out as a daunting solo project has morphed into a wonderfully collaborative, stimulating team effort that’s teaching me so much.

With enough time and knowledge and hard work, I can probably do anything, but I certainly can’t do everything. There’s no shame in not being able to do it all; a few years ago, I would have rather asphyxiated myself with a jump rope than type those words. Sometimes things will fall through the ever-present cracks, but that’s part of the whole process, no? A process of letting go, of finding a foothold in my strengths and being honest about my limitations, grasping onto outreached hands for support. And repeating this cycle for myself, for others, for everything — could this be the way to climb unimaginable heights? Maybe it’s not even about climbing heights but marveling at the power of community to move mountains (or molehills in my case)? As usual, I only have questions and few answers.

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P.S. The images are outtakes from this past weekend’s photo shoot with fabulous stylists Allie and Rachel.

Happy Friday + Randomness

magpie

Happy Friday! A little illustration I made for a friend – I FINALLY started making progress on the custom illustrations and will start shipping them out over the next few weeks. Note to self: learn how to under-promise and over-deliver instead of the other way around.

This illo reminded me of how, late last night, our neighbor texted me for help. A bird mysteriously appeared in her house and was flapping wildly around in her bedroom. The odd part is that nothing was open — no doors, no windows, no vents. I sent M over to settle the matter, and though they weren’t able to identify the fowl, it looked a little like a crow (but with brownish-orange markings) and was big! M maneuvered the enigmatic bird out the front door with a broom and all was well.

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Friends, I have to share this adorable Powerpoint that K made (I wanted to keep the voiceover, but the file got too big so screen shots only):

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It may not be riveting content for those of you not passionate about frogs as K is, and I wish you could hear her voice because it really makes the presentation. And that last slide! Killed me. She made the whole thing herself, including figuring out how to do the voiceover. It wasn’t even a school assignment – she did it purely for fun.

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Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

February’s done
I better be careful or
the year will fly by*

*What??? It can’t be March already! One of my big goals for 2015 is to be more present (even though it makes me squirmy to type those words — I have weird issues with a lot of words/phrases) and I clearly have my work cut out for me. Speaking of being present, I checked this book out from the library as an afterthought since K wanted to stay longer to read, and I ended up loving it. I finished it last night and parts of it made me cry. I hope to be a wise American one day.

Beauty

marlene-dumas-barbie

“Barbie (with pearl necklace)” by South African artist Marlene Dumas – 1997

 

There is a beautiful woman I see nearly every morning during my walk. Her hair is the shade of honey-infused lemon and I haven’t been able to discern the color of her eyes, but I’m guessing they’re blue. Slim, with delicate, symmetrical facial features and perfectly shiny, unfrizzy hair (I’m a bit obsessed with shiny, unfrizzy hair, if you haven’t noticed – my own tresses are channeling Einstein’s), she looks like an aristocratic, polished Barbie. I’ve never seen her smile, but I’d bet my mother’s prized costume jewelry collection that her teeth are blindingly white. She’s probably in her mid-twenties, give or take a few and puts a lot of effort into her appearance, you can tell. And she’s good at it. I love the crimson coat she sometimes pairs with her pretty black scuff-less boots — it’s a bold color that suits her. The chilly morning air flatteringly reddens her cheeks to almost match her coat and I can easily imagine her riding a thoroughbred amid some manicured estate with her handsome beau.

Then I catch myself. I assume so much in just the thirty seconds it takes for us to pass each other. I create an entire lifestyle for her, even a past and a future. Most notably, I assume that because she’s beautiful, she must be happy. Maybe she is. After all, there are plenty of research studies to uphold the theory that attractive people are happier. And of course, there are plenty of research studies that confirm the opposite.

It doesn’t really matter either way since this woman has no direct impact on my life, but I’m amused by my tendency to create stories for people, particularly for the ones who fall into the societal definition of gorgeous. It’s a fun pastime as long as it doesn’t become a self-defeating comparison game. There’s always the danger of comparing my insides to others’ outsides, as the saying goes.

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Times have changed. Back when I was a tween, I scoured magazines searching for girls that looked like me. Diversity amounted to including a brunette white girl amid a sea of blondes — the kinds strikingly similar to the woman I see in the morning — and I remember feeling sad about the shape of my eyes, the yellow tint of my skin. In time, a fetishized, “exotic” set of Asian models emerged on the runways, but they were even harder to relate to. All this was pre-internet, though I actually think the spawn of instant access to the glut of information and images might be more harmful for girls these days.

K attends a school where being bi-racial is practically the norm. I’m biased of course, but I think these mixed kids are beautiful on a whole new level, their identities complex and multi-layered. K likes to say she’s half-Japanese, half-Indiana. This is a cool portrait project featuring multi-racial families, created by Sweet Fine Day.

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Last year I read a YA science fiction novel called Uglies that kept me up all night. It was set in the future, naturally, in a time when all children are born “ugly” and they live in anticipation of their sixteenth birthday when they can become “pretty” via massive cosmetic and genetic reconstruction. Their so-called re-birth culminates in cohabitation with all the other pretties across town. Uglies spend vast amounts of time planning their hair color, face shape and other physical attributes. The book made me think of the proliferation of cosmetic surgery in Korea and Brazil and my hometown Los Angeles. Korea, in particular, came to mind where cosmetic surgery is taken to extremes through a popular procedure that involves restructuring the jaw bone. I have to admit that the themes of conformity and the overemphasis on superficiality felt unsettlingly prescient. But it’s also an addictive read with a relatable heroine who bucks the norm.

I’m not sure why I decided to write about that, but I’m clearly avoiding sewing my Ginger skinny jeans. Maybe I’ll make better progress next week. Fingers crossed.

P.S. The image above is actually a postcard/birthday card that was part of a gift I received one year from two friends who also have multi-racial kids. It plopped out of a box I happened to open right after I finished writing this post, and seemed like kismet.

Happy Friday + Randomness

hellebore

Happy Friday! I got this beautiful hellebore plant a little while ago and wanted to capture the lovely transition from creamy white to this gorgeous dusty pink. Since I possess an industrial-strength black thumb, it’s already dying — I love plants so much, but they all immediately wither under my care. I’m a little insecure about this inability of mine to nurture flora, as if it’s some serious character flaw that reflects my ineptitude to nurture all living things (i.e. my daughter).

Speaking of insecurity, I recently had an interaction with someone that left me feeling very icky, for lack of a better descriptor. The topic was benign, and there weren’t any critical words exchanged. But I came away from it markedly slighted and feeling not a little inadequate. I couldn’t figure it out and spent an inordinate amount of time worrying and pondering about this.

I’ve been continuing on my tidying bender, and just filled my car trunk with detritus from our basement. And this reminded me of how I wanted to apply the anchoring tenet of Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy (“only keep things that spark joy”) to people. The exchange I mentioned above isn’t really the issue. The issue is the time I’ve wasted re-hashing the conversation, trying to analyze the nitty gritty of why I felt so awful afterwards. Yes, I know that communication is mostly non-verbal so there must have been subtle clues that I picked up on. Just a week prior to that ickiness, I hung out with a friend, but this outing was filled with laughter and I left the coffee shop feeling on top of the world. Did I spend hours dissecting that conversation? Nope, not at all.

There will always be people that I rub the wrong way or with whom I might have stilted or unpleasant interchanges, but that I choose to dwell disproportionately on the negative — now that’s the heart of the matter. The ten-minute insecurity-inducing conversation plagued me for days, whereas the two-hour coffee date with the friend got tucked away in the back of my mind like an afterthought, like a book that gave me great pleasure but quickly gets overshadowed by the sensationalized violence on the 6 o’clock news.

I’d like to change this. As fascinated as I am with non-verbal communication and homo sapiens behavior in general, I want to be more attentive to the interactions and people who spark joy and reduce the energy, time and focus I direct to the enervating or disagreeable moments that inevitably happen between humans. I have extremely limited reserves when it comes to energy, focus and time. It’s so easy to take for granted the people who make our days brighter, or maybe that’s just me, and that seems a giant shame. Acknowledging that I do this is a good first step, I think.

Anyway. Those are just some random thoughts I’m having on a Friday.

K, on the other hand, has a much sunnier outlook on the whole (this is the cover of a book she made for me and M yesterday – she photocopied a heart she made and various other objects like nail clippers in the ensuing pages):

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Happy weekend, all!

Secret Valentine
So many amazing gifts
keep on showing up*

The instagram (#2015sve) and Flickr images are so inspiring, and I know some blog posts are popping up here and there. Looking forward to compiling all the info!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I have no idea how that snuck up on me, given that Ute and I are hosting an exchange for this very day. I just found out that my SVE partner got her gift early (!!) and I’m beyond impressed with Switzerland’s postal system, but then again, I should have expected that from the country that gave us the Swiss watch. I plan on doing more of an extensive recap in a week or two, but check out #2015sve on instagram and our Flickr pool — I’m not ashamed to admit that tears welled up while looking through the thoughtful and beautifully made gifts!

Don’t worry if gifts haven’t arrived yet. We have so many international participants, it would have been shocking if every gift made it on time. Thank you, everyone, for yet another successful and inspiring Secret Valentine Exchange!

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If you’re looking for last minute Valentines to print up, here are a few I’ve created in the past:

Animal + Dino Bookmarks

Sweet Bookmarks

Valentine’s Word Search

For K, I made a stamp with her name (there’s an “i” in her name and it’s dotted with a heart), and we’ll use that along with the froggy and heart stamps to make Valentine’s for her class. Attaching cricket-shaped candy would have been funny and okay, gross — of course, it would have been a huge hit with the third-graders. Sorry about that visual, let’s think about a field of blushing peonies instead.

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Happy weekend, my friends!

What to do for M?
Boxers were a disaster*
He’s sworn off candy**

*My last foray into boxer-making didn’t go so well…

**M’s been trying out the Paleo diet, so sweets are out, which was always my default gift. Hmmmm…I have 24 hours to come up with something….

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Whew. I shipped off my SVE gift yesterday and now I’ve got fingers and toes crossed that it’ll get to my partner in time. I loved making the little present(s) and you can see a sneak peek above. How are you intrepid SVE participants doing? All done? Getting ready to dash to the post office as I did?

It occurred to me that I’ve been remiss about extolling the virtues of my partner-in-crime, Ute. Just as she did last year, she took on the bulk of the Secret Valentine Exchange work with her signature cheerfulness and efficiency. If you’re not following Ute on Instagram, you really ought to – she has an impeccable eye for capturing the beauty and the ephemeral in the every day, not to mention her stitching skills that result in awesomely neutral sewing projects which make my heart sing. The internet is an amazing thing. Ute and I haven’t met in person, but I consider her a dear friend. Thank you, J.C.R. Licklider (who went by the somewhat disturbing nickname “Lick”) — he’s often attributed with the conceptualization of the internet. Or at least the direct predecessor that would become the internet.

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The other day, I was at a coffee shop as usual, and I saw a young man with his little baby strapped to his body with one of those fabric wraps — a Moby or Solly or something-y. He had trouble pouring cream into his coffee with the human bulk in front of him, and his valiant efforts made me smile. M always thought of himself as too manly to wear a baby wrap or carrier, but he used to plop K into his sweatshirt and zip it up so that her tiny head would be sticking out. Same concept, slightly more ghetto execution. Ah, memories.

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I’m off to finally make some headway on those custom illustrations — I haven’t forgotten, but I’ve had to stick to a rigid schedule with various deadlines (with more on the horizon so the illustrating will take a ridiculously long time, I fear). Thanks again for your patience everyone!

It’s almost V-day
Must plan to make something good
for my M and K

Happy weekend, my friends. See you on Monday!

Happy Friday + Randomness

moon-phase

Happy Friday! Sometimes don’t you wish you could pluck the moon and sun from the sky, put them into a container and take them out only when you need them? As I typed that it dawned on me that we use celestial movements as markers of the passage of time, but they aren’t time itself. I need a refresher course in the fourth dimension. The power to stop time…maybe in the future someone will figure out how to make it into an app.

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K: Look Mama! The froggies are breeding — that means they’re making babies. Just like you and Daddy did!*

*We finally had a successful discussion about the birds and the bees. As predicted, I was at my awkwardest, and she was completely grossed out.

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Abby-Sophia
You’re the giveaway winner!
Cute sock softies time

Have a wonderful weekend all!

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