Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Somewhere between Mary Poppins and an exploding whale.

If aliens landed on Earth, and let's say they reproduced asexuallymaybe they just split in half and BAM full grown second alienthey would probably be like, what is this parenting thing?  I think I would have to say, it is best described as trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to suppress the urge to yell "SHUT UP!" over and over again until you explode like a dead, bloated whale. 


And also, it is the most rewarding, magical experience in the world. 



I mean, kids are super cute. Except when they are not.


And being a mom has made me a better person. Except when I am like, Empty Threats McGee or I'm dreaming about running away from home, just like when I was ten and my parents were being super unfair. Except now I'm a grown up. So that’s not okay, you know?


My point is, I thought I’d be a lot more like Mary Poppins as a mother. Except for the singing. I have a really awful singing voice. But everything else. 


Weird how that didn’t pan out. Right?
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Monday, July 20, 2015

How to be the most prepared parent: purse edition

I decided to organize my purse by putting everything into make-up type bags. That way, I can switch purses really easily. Also, everything is all neat and organized. It is a win-win. There are some cute pouches on Etsy (like this one, below) and some cheap ones at Forever 21.



Anyway, I have one totally dedicated to being the most prepared parent, ever. Just kidding. It isn’t a competition. But one time, Hannah took off a bandaid and her arm was all red and awful looking where the sticky part was. I was like, oh shoot. I wish I had some hydrocortisone. And I got home and hit Amazon like a woman on a mission.

They have these little packets for first aid kits. 


You can get Neosporin-like packets. You can get packets for burns (I keep a couple of those in my bathroom where I curl my hair. Because curling irons will scar, you guys. They don’t mess around.). There’s wet wipes, sting relief wipes, alcohol wipes, iodine wipes, I don’t even know why you would use one iodine instead of alcohol or plain old wipes. But the point is, YOU HAVE THEM IN YOUR PURSE. Someone is like, does anybody have any iodine? You’re like, I DO! because you're the best parent in the world! So maybe my four-year old might flip out every morning at the prospect of wearing clothes on the bottom half of her body. But I am prepared for emergency surgery at the Zoo. (BTW, you can buy a travel scalpel on Amazon. Just sayin’. It isn’t in my first aid bag, but it was in my “Amazon suggested items list." That is when I knew I had been searching too long and too far. I could just buy a couple more bandaids and call it a day.)

I also got a small, weekly pill organizer for things like benadryl, sudafed, ibuprofen, etc in each day.  If a pill isn’t somehow obviously labeled, I’d recommend printing out and taping on the inside of the pill organizer lid what it is and what the dose is. Because when I was living in NYC, I was taking Ambien, and then they made a generic for it. And it looked just like my prescription allergy medicine. I mean, identical. You have to be really careful sometimes about some pills, is my point. 



Of course, I also have a non-medical emergencies bag. Because when you have small kids, everything is an emergency. As in, they are thirsty. For example. Or, their foot itches, but they can’t scratch it because their shoe!!!  But this bag is for things like Shout Wipes, pony tail holders, hand cleaner, safety pins, chapstick, you know, stuff like that. (In the summer, it’s not a bad idea to throw in a sunscreen stick and some mosquito repellent, like some Cutter wipes, in case you something bizarre happens to your regular stash in your car, swim bag, etc.)

I also keep some cute, unlined, polka dot notebooks from the Target dollar bin for the girls to draw in during long waits. Between all that, I’m pretty much prepared for anything. Seriously. Anything. Zombie Apocalypse? I’m on it. I have Shout Wipes and safety pins, okay?

Just kidding. But I’d be interested in any cool things other parents keep in their purses. (That’s right, dads can carry a purse too. A murse (man purse), if you will. Or a bag of some sort. We don’t judge here.)


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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The lazy mom’s guide to household organization

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lazy-lazy. I mean, if somebody makes a mess, it’s not like we just throw newspaper over it.


But it is like I’m JUST lazy enough to be efficient. 

Like have you heard of that parenting hack where you layer the fitted sheets on your bed? Like this:
  1. Top layer is a fitted sheet (obviously);
  2. under that is one of those waterproof fitted sheets (they make those for adult beds too, don’t act like you have to wet the bed to own them. Our mattress warranty would be nullified (allegedly) if we didn’t use one...but who ever cashes in on a mattress warranty? I think they are just trying to sell you another product. luckily it is a product that has proved itself amazing);
  3. next, you use another fitted sheet;
  4. finally, we use a padded fitted sheet for extra squooshiness, but you could do whatever you want here, including nothing, I guess.
Here is the genius of it. Let’s say somebody comes into your bed and throws up everywhere (WHY? WHY!) , or you you go to grab a glass of water in your half-asleep state and spill it everywhere, or maybe you wet the bed (I’m not here to judge you, this is a safe space)? You just take off the top two sheets (throw them in the wash if it is vomit, for the love of all things holy), and go back to bed!!! put them back on the bed in the morning! It is like magic! No fumbling with replacement fitted sheets at 3 AM.

That is the kind of lazy I’m talking about.

Also, and this is huge, to be an awesomely lazy mom, you have to put your kids to work. Their freeloading diaper pooping days are over. They need to start paying rent. Earning their keep and such. That’s why I really like these:


This Etsy shop makes chore charts and custom magnets with pictures (they also have words on them so it is like, literacy strategies and chores mixed into one. Genius). Mine have the girls’ names on the chart and mostly their bedtime routine on the magnets (brush, floss, clean the playroom, etc. etc.) My favorite magnet is the reminder to get water. Nothing makes me want to set the house on fire more than a kid I thought was asleep who, all of the sudden, realizes she needs water. They have to get that before they go to bed. Because MAGNETS! Darn it!

I also love these:


They are from this Etsy shop. And it is a downloadable, editable PDF. I like to use it to track things like how well they are doing at giving “gentle touches” (aka, not hitting each other, but I’m trying to focus on positive goals) and using gentle voices (see also, no gratuitous screaming, no being mean, etc). I break it down into gentle touches and gentle voices in the AM on the way to school, in the PM on the way home from school, (our commute is a beast) and in the evening. I try to focus less on creating a “token economy” (you get a reward for doing what I want), which might undermine their internal motivation to be good people), and more on using it to notice trends. I also like to ask them to self assess (did you do x this morning/afternoon/evening)? They are usually pretty honest and I think it is good for them to reflect on their behavior. Once I get enough data to see if there are trends (e.g., Maggie is a morning monster) I can try to do more to help give the girls tools to suck less at the times they seem to struggle. (jokes! kids don’t suck. what kind of terrible mom would say such a thing!?). It is also good for tracking mommy’s gentle voice.

I also use it to track how well each girl is doing her chores. Because, sometimes one girl cleans a room for the both of them. I want to make sure that that girl gets recognized and rewarded (with mommy/daddy dates) for that.



I also love these habit trackers from this Etsy store. It is downloadable and editable so you can put in those chores you don’t really feel like doing (e.g., making your bed, wiping down the counters, whatever.) on there and keep it in your planner. And when you are sitting there like, should I sweep the floors or not? You’ll think, if I don’t sweep, I can’t put a check on my habit tracker! UGH! and you will totally sweep. Because there is nothing more fulfilling than a checkmark. Not even cleanly swept floors.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What to do when you hate your job and your job hates you back


The weird thing is, I didn't hate my job. I mean, I really liked what I did; I really liked the people I worked with. I loved so much about my job. And yet, I was miserable. 

I found myself reading books about dealing with difficult people, finding the perfect phrases, and handling confrontation. And I started curating boards on Pinterest about what good management looks like because, I mean, this is super messed up and not okay, right? It's not just me?

I started keeping a "cheat sheet” of phrases tucked away in all my notebooks and agendas with professional responses to irrational, disrespectful, or inappropriate comments or situations. I felt like I had to walk on egg shells and be prepared at a moments notice. {I'm even sharing them with you guys! See below!}

The saddest thing was, everything I read was was like, some things are so bad, and some things will never get better. Basically, you really ought to just quit. And OMG, you guys: everything was right. 

I started a new job a couple weeks ago, and my new "chain of command" (if you will) is wonderful. 

They are transparent, and respectful, and it feels like the clouds have parted and the birds are chirping and the sun is shining. 

I wish I could go back and tell “old job me” you are not "letting someone win" if you quit a job that is not a good fit or get out of an emotionally draining, dare I say?, emotionally abusive situation. Unless that someone is you. Then, yes. You are letting *you* win.



Here’s my “cheat sheet”
(you might remember some of this stuff from previous blog posts)

The Secret to Communicating with Irrational or Angry people:

Don’t take it personally. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! They are probably having a bad day (life).

Listen. Do NOT talk over them.

Paraphrase. “It sounds as if you’re ____. And if I understand correctly, you need me to _____. You’re also concerned with _____. Have I captured you’re main points?”

Inquire. “You mentioned that _____. Help me understand how you came to this conclusion. And let’s talk about how we can create a situation that you find more reasonable.”

Acknowledge. “It sounds as if you’re quite disappointed with __.” So much so that you have serious concerns about whether ____."

(Sometimes listening and then paraphrasing/inquiring/acknowledging is all you need to do to help calm an angry person. However, if they are still upset, it can help to move on to focusing on solutions: What can I do to help you with this situation (see “Art of Focusing on Solutions” below)? This can help refocus them from being problem-focused, to solution-focused. Or it can help them realize that all they really wanted to do was complain.)

Other good phrases to use with an angry person:
·         I noticed that.... (objectively describe any abusive behavior.)
·         I don’t feel comfortable with... (how loudly you are talking to me. The tone you are using. )
·         Given the desired outcome, how would you handle the issue  // Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind.


The Art of Focusing on Solutions
Problem-Focused Question. What is wrong? Why is this happening?
Solution-Focused Question. What do we want? How do we create it?
(Being solution-focused is generally more productive and less anxiety producing.)

Questions to Refocus a Power Struggle
·         What is the outcome would you like to create or maintain?
·         What will having that outcome do for you? (what are the benefits you’ll get?)
·         How will you know you’ve achieved it? (what are the criteria?)
·         What will you do with this?
·         What is the value and the risks of this?
·         What are the next steps?


Crucial Conversations
Motivation​. Start by asking yourself why you are having this conversation. Is it necessary? You can tell that it is necessary because it is eating away at you. And verbalizing your motivation will put you in a more logical place to have the conversation.
Common Ground​. Start​ by looking for mutual interests and goals (and stop looking for every flaw in their logic and arguments). When you first start a conversation, you’ll want to begin by sharing these instances of overlap with the other person). There are also ways to remind the person of your common ground throughout the conversion, as they respond (even when you disagree).
Agree: let them know where you have points of agreement 
Build: where you have information that has been left out, build on their story
Compare: “I think I see things differently here"
Permission​. Before you share your story, ask permission to pursue the conversation. This starts the conversation at a respectful place (and the first few moments of a conversation are the most important, as they set the tone for the entire discussion).
Tell Your Story. What is the gap between what your expectations were, or what was appropriate, and what happened. This should be succinct, objective, fact-based, and respectful. 
Be Curious​. Be open to their influence. “do I have this right?” “Am I missing anything?"
Listen​. Show that you are hearing them; be respectful.


Contrasting
Deny. What you anticipate they will think you are saying, or what they have stated their misunderstanding is. “It don’t think you ___”
Assure.​ The opposite. “In fact, I’m very satisfied with ____”
I don’t want you to think I’m unhappy with your management of this department. Overall I’m very satisfied. I just want to talk about how we handle X. 
I’m not saying it was wrong for you to say X. It is important for me to get feedback from you. It is just that I heard your tone and words as demeaning. 
I didn’t mean to imply that you were doing it on purpose. I believe you were unaware of the impact you were having. That’s why I wanted to bring it up in the first place. 
I’m not saying you have to treat me in any special way. All I’m asking for is that you treat me in a way that communicates respect and doesn’t sound like you think I’m incompetent.

Asking difficult questions
“Did you…?” and “Have you…” or “Are you…” may be well intended. At the same time, they invite yes-no answers instead of more open sharing. By contrast, “How…?” and “What…?” questions invite more ample flow.


Sharing difficult feelings
1.       “I feel (felt) _____ that (or when you) ____.” Fill in the first blank with a one word feeling; e.g., “sad.”
2.       “My concern is___.”
3.       “I would like to ____.” Note: Avoid “I would like you to____.” Which is telling someone what she should do. This sentence started is highly provocative and comes across as invasive and controlling.


Feedback
Behavior. Describe the behavior (this should be fact-based, not vague, or subjective)
Impact. Describe the impact of the behavior. (why it was good or bad.)
FutureDescribe the desired, future behavior.


Feedback
Criticism
Focuses on improvement/solutions
“Here is another way to do that”
Focuses on problems
“You did this wrong”
Is about behavior, not personality
“It sounds as if you are having trouble doing X, would you agree? Maybe together we could come up with a plan…”
Implies the worst about the other’s personality
“You are too [negative trait]”
Encourages
“I know you have a lot on your plate, but I think you can do this.”
Devalues
“You always/never seem to….”
Forgets blame, focuses on the future
“We can fix this if we….”
Blames
“This is your fault/Look what you did”
Respects autonomy
“What do you think is the best choice?”
Seeks to control and undermine
“We are doing this my way because I know what is best.”
Respectful
“I think we can find a solution that is best for both of us”
Coercive
“It is my decision”

Responding to Feedback
·         I would like to improve my performance, but comments like that give me no direction.
·         I would like to know specific ways that I can improve.
·         Please let me know what results you expect and how I can recognize them once I have reached them.
·         What would you like to see me start/stop/keep doing?



Responding to an Abusive Person

The less you can respond the better.
Try your hardest to never escalate or respond to their anger.
If you can, respond with detached indifference (remember! It is not about you!), like a reporter trying to understand a subject.
·         What I just heard you say is X
·         Is that right?
·         Tell me a little more about X?
·         What would X look like to you?
(There is nothing a bully hates more than feeling powerless to intimidate you or evoke a response)



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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Little Kid Seat Belts Are for Winners

Hannah is getting to the age where she can tell that her parents aren’t as “cool” as some of the other parents. For instance, she has figured out (Lord only knows HOW?) that some of her friends use adult seat belts and some of her friends are, like her and her sister, still in little kid seat belts. So not cool.


I know you can move kids to a booster seat when they are four years old or forty pounds, but we stay in the safest seat possible (cough, we were extended rear facers, cough). So we are staying in car seats until the girls outgrow them. So even though the girls are four and forty, as are most of their PreK friends, they are still buckling up with little kid seat belts.  And thanks to Hannah I know exactly which of her friends are also in little kid seat belts.

She wanted to know WHY?! So I told her because we love her more than some of her friend’s parents. Obviously.

Jokes!

But her friend Brooke was in a car accident this morning. Luckily, she is in the little kid seat belt group. Hopefully the car accident wasn’t seriously. And she is okay. But I was relieved to know she was in the not-cool parents club.
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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. I should have gotten more pictures of some of my awesome dishes. But I guess I was a little too busy cooking. You know how it goes. (I also should have gotten some pictures of my lovely family, whom I am incredibly thankful for. But yeah. That too.)

For the first time, we moved our meal to later in the day. It was actually kind of awesome. I don’t know why we hadn’t done it before. We had brunch snacks and drinks out all morning and afternoon and then Thanksgiving for dinner. I didn’t have to wake up crazy early to put a giant turkey in the oven, which was huge. And it was just way more relaxed, all around.

We also tried that spatchcocking thing. I hope it is a verb, because if not, I just made it one. It went really well! Except most of the directions we found, didn’t seem to provide really clear cooking times. We had just read sort of vague “90 minute” or until the bird is 165 degrees guidance. Turned out, it was more like two hours for our giant bird. NBD. It's not like we were timing everything else around the turkey. 




I was really proud of the table setting. Because I’m not naturally good at this sort of stuff. So it means a lot to me. It looks even prettier when you dim the lights. But I’m also not good at photography.


My cheese tray, the cheese is supposed to look like a turkey. I made a face in the dip. I didn’t try that hard because once I had this amazing veggie tray that looked like a turkey and nobody ate it. Because vegetables, maybe? Anyway. My sister said something about my snowman dip. Eh. Close enough.


Here’s one of the dishes I did get a picture of, Brussels sprouts and bacon. it was my first try and it turned out pretty good.

Here is our broke back turkey before we cooked it (obvs).



Here are two worn out girls. And they needed their holiday rest. Because after thanksgiving is CHRISTMAS SEASON.



And yeah, we got the decorations out right away.


I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

What I’m Thankful For

Something I like about November is that it gives me a good excuse to come up with a list of things that I’m thankful for.


I bought this from Pottery Barn Kids (and plan to keep it up year round, because I love it) and we have started talking about things we are thankful for at dinner. Except the girls sort of get stuck in a rut where Hannah is always thankful for the iPad and Maggie is always thankful for macaroni and cheese.

We are working on it.

But keeping track of things you are thankful for is pretty much the best idea ever because it is the easiest and most rewarding happiness habit. I love to look back at old lists (I started keeping them on my phone). Highly recommend.

In No Particular Order.
  • Cold Weather. I always love cold weather in the fall (I stop loving it at the end of the winter, obviously). It’s so festive at the beginning of the fall though!
  • Warm Clothes. I love warm clothes. Like fleece lined tights. I think everything should be lined in fleece. Or sherpa. Or fur. (faux fur, of course)

  • Seasonal drinks. Hot chocolate, seasoned lattes, warm apple cider.
  • Fireplaces. The smell of families in the neighborhood using their fireplace. I don’t really like using the fireplace that much because smoke weirds me out. But sometimes we do it, around Christmas. But I like the smell of other people doing it.
  • Play Time. When the girls are playing together nicely. I especially love it when they are doing it all on their own and I didn’t have to encourage it in any way. (i.e., take away an iPad.) It is like, I want to go back to myself as a mom of babies me and say, hang in there. it gets better.
  • Big Girls. Ditto when the girls dress themselves, or put their seat belts on themselves, or get themselves water or a snack by themselves. It is like some kind of parenting miracle. It is about that time Cork will chime in with, hey! let’s destroy all our progress with another baby! And a little piece of my happiness sets itself on fire and goes up in flames. Just kidding. A baby brings its own special happiness. That is immediately cancelled out by all the hard work they demand. kidding again. kind of. No, seriously though, having babies and becoming a mom brought out this whole new, kind of awesome if I do say so myself, part of me that I’m forever grateful for. Kids are super hard though. like for real.
  • Going to Bed Early. I don’t know why I didn’t go to bed early starting in college. Like I know it isn’t “cool” but neither was I, so it would have worked out nicely. Going to bed early is my favorite. I go to bed early all the time these days and it is everything I ever dreamed it would be.
  • Pinterest. Don’t judge me, but I freaking love Pinterest. It has introduced me to some of my favorite recipes, decorating ideas, fashion bloggers, and craft/learning projects for the kids.
  • Marriage. I really lucked out with the whole marriage thing. I found someone who cooks (as in, dinner every day. Yeah, it is awesome) and cleans. He let’s me take naps on the weekends. I mean, sometimes we may want to punch each other in the face (which is kind of nbd, I sometimes want to punch everybody in the face a little) but we haven’t ever done it. Not once. (fyi, ditto everybody else I sometimes want to punch.) And he makes me laugh. (a lot.) Also, he reads directions, which I’m pretty much too lazy to read ever. So he’s pretty awesome to have around. And he never embarrasses me. EVER. A million years ago, I thought I’d never get married because I’m super judgmental about people saying nonsense or terrible things. And it seemed inevitable. People would be talking and I’d just be like, oh gosh, that was logically disastrous or super distasteful what you just said. and I can’t be around you any. more. ever. starting right this second. oh god. now. make this stop. And Cork never makes me feel that way. He’s really smart and compassionate. Like, really really. Which is huge. Because, I’ve seen other people with husbands who say stuff and I cringe for them and immediately love my husband even more. I mean, yuck. I don’t do second hand awkwardness very well. Plus, I’ve probably never been happier. So there is that.
  • Preschool Pick up. Drop offs still suck for Maggie (and therefore, me). But she makes up for it when she runs screaming to my arms at the end of the day. Or when I come while they aren’t outside playing and I see her jumping up and down at the window, saying, “MOMMY!” over and over again. 
  • Work BFFs. Work can be pretty rough sometimes. And yet it is bearable because I have these amazing friends who I get to see (almost) every day. Except they keep quitting (because see above). But I’m still forever grateful for their friendship and everything I’ve learned from them and all the times they have been there for me.
The corner of my desk that I used to cheer myself up
  • Extended Family. I have so many family members so close by, and it is amazing. I can call my sister and ask if my husband can borrow her car for the afternoon because his just got towed off right by her office parking garage. I can call my other sister and ask if she can watch the girls while I run and get my eyebrows done. I can stop by my parents house on the way home because the traffic is ridiculous. And best of all, we can all get together Saturday morning for pancake breakfasts. Plus, my brother’s in-laws live in Austin too, and they are pretty cool. Not that I’d borrow their car or anything (yet) (just kidding). But compared to moving to Washington, DC and NYC where I knew almost no one and had to move myself in and out by myself, and stuff like that, this is like heaven and I will never take it for granted. Feeling the opposite of lonely, and knowing you always have people you can count on, all the time is basically the best thing ever.
  • Puppy Dogs. I love having dogs. I love how every morning, when we feed the dogs breakfast, they will lick their plates clean and then simultaneously switch sides of the kitchen, running to each other’s plate to make sure the other dog didn’t miss a speck of food. I love how they are such creatures of habit (like me), and how Junebug is always cold (like me), and down for an extra blanket, and how much Maggie loves Tybalt (not like me, but still). I just love how they are always so happy to see us, and vice versa.
  • Crazy Baby. The girls have invented this game they play together called Crazy Baby. It is sort of like preschool with their dolls. The best part is, they have “special” versions of it, like Crazy Baby Halloween. And since they play on the iPads (#sorrynotsorry) they sometimes refer to adding new versions of the game as “downloading” them and retiring certain versions of the game as “deleting” them. As in, “if you’re not nice to me, I’m going to delete Crazy Baby Special Surprise!” or, “Thank you for letting me sit on the driver’s side! For being so nice, I’m going download a brand new Crazy Baby. It’s called Crazy Baby Christmas Time!” It is like, life imitating apps.
  • Shopping. (Just ask Cork.) Sometimes when people try to help me figure out what I should do with my life, they ask me what my favorite job was. And I always look back fondly on my time at J.Crew. Is that weird? I don’t think I could really make it in the retail business, though. Because Black Friday through Christmas conflicts with my favorite time at home (back then, not so much). But. One of my secret joys in life, I’m not even going to hide it, is shopping for clothes. If anyone ever needs help shopping for a big event or even a small one, shopping is pretty much my favorite thing. I basically deal with this unrequited love by filling up online shopping carts and closing the browser and walking away. Or not (Just ask Cork). 
  • Halloween through Christmas. I never want this part of the year to end. It is amazing. I love coordinating costumes. I love planning family meals. I love decorating. I love twinkling lights. I love all of it. September through January first needs to last longer. Or they need to get better holidays in the spring.
  • Cute Animals I found on Social Media. Self explanatory. But if you need any examples: Marnie the Dog, Pygmy Marmoset, Baby Eisleigh and Clyde the pit bull 
  • That I Could Go On And On... I could talk about how I’m still in touch with my elementary school teachers who are the most amazing women. How much I enjoy reading silly kids’ books to my girls. How thankful I am to own a home in a neighborhood I love on a quiet street where cute little kids walk with their parents and stop to stare at our pumpkin with the ghost that pops out (during Halloween, obviously). How much I love it when the girls put their plates up after dinner without being asked. How much I love it when my sister is better with my girls than I am, because that way I don’t have to get that awful, “nobody can mother them like I can” feeling (who knew that feeling replaceable would be such a relief?). That I have a minivan with doors that open remotely with the push of a button (it is awesome, TRUST ME). That I have friends all over the country from all different times in my life that I'm still really close to and can confide in and ask for advice about all sorts of random things. That I have great in-laws who love my little girls and treat me really well. That my family is healthy and none of us is under the care of an oncologist. And I could keep going and going, but I'll stop.
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