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Tiaras and Trucks

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons from Twizzlers

After college, Ryan and I were in a bowling league with two of our dear friends.

That painful season is proof that bowling leagues should think about minimum bowling averages to keep out people who can’t bowl but like to drink beer and eat candy instead of keeping track of pesky distractions, like my turn to bowl.

Yet in typical glass-half-full fashion, I can think of a few things bowling clarified for me. Or the bowling alley. Or Twizzlers.

I’m talking about it over at Sluiter Nation, where I’ve been recruited!
I’d let Katie recruit me for just about anything. She’s funny, poignant, and a fellow Michigander. In addition to raising an adorable toddler dynamo and growing his little brother, she writes at Sluiter Nation and reviews books at Katie’s Bookcase, but even more dear to my heart, she is a teacher who loves her job, the kind of high school teacher I would love for my kids to have one day!

If you're visiting from Sluiter Nation, welcome! I’d love it if you looked around a bit. Feel free to listen in as I write to Abbey on her first day of school, remind myself about what matters, and disagree with (the slightly more successful than me) Stephen King.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Running in November

Running in November generally requires gloves and long sleeves and a retreat to mindless miles on the treadmill, trying to find something suitably distracting on TV. 

So Saturday, when the weather beckoned me outside in short sleeves, there was something intoxicating about my run, short and careful in case my tailbone decided to protest halfway through my route. Gingerly setting one foot in front of the other, familiar music flooded my ears, and my feet carried me along without thought, letting my thoughts drift into rhythm with my increasing pace.

Scenes to be written for my National Novel Writing Month unfurl smoothly in my head, and I give a belated moment of thanks for the extra time I’ve had the past few days to write with Ryan at home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Knowing the kids are soaking up the extra time at home with Daddy, I let my feet keep time with the beat without guilt about leaving them at home.

I’ve given myself a free pass for the weekend, keeping my list of things to do minimal and focusing on writing and time with family and friends.

In this moment I feel balanced; I feel content.

Still, there are miles stretching in front of me, and balance is not the only thing I am trying to find as wind blows my hair from my forehead. Goals hover in front of me, priorities and dreams shifting depending on the day. 

I delicately toe the line between being grateful for the contentment I feel and the aspiration to tweak and improve myself in so many areas of my life.

Warm air pulls me to go farther than I had planned, but I turn and begin to run home. I know staying uninjured after a running hiatus means slowing down even when I want to speed up.

Finding balance step by step means returning home with a clearer head, resolving to set small goals for myself in parenting, in writing, in health and fitness.

Running gives me a place to let my dreams soar and the peace to allow myself to reach for those dreams, knowing that the most important ones have already come true.

Have you heard of Striiv?  Do you want one?
Visit Just.Be.Enough. this week for the chance to win one of two Striivs that they will be giving away this week.
For your first chance to win, link up a Be Enough Me post.  This week's prompt was: What are you striving for?
For your second chance, come join us for our first Twitter Party!
(11/29 at 8 pm EST)
We’ll be discussing getting moving and putting ourselves first as we strive to live healthy lives full of movement.
And giving away awesome prizes!
Every MONDAY join us…
Write, post, link-up, share your story and your voice.
Be part of carrying the weight of confidence and share our mission
to empower, inspire, and remind
women, parents and children

that the time has come to celebrate ourselves!

Next week’s prompt: The best present...

(Remember you can also write on a topic of your choice.)


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving State of Mind

Happy Thanksgiving!

This day is set aside to bask in all that we're thankful for, and many of us are thankful for similar things, even if those things may look different for each of us.

We're thankful for the simple things, like families and friends, the people always in our hearts no matter where they are around the globe or the universe.

We're thankful for a multitude of intangibles, things that soothe our souls, and the beauty in those lies in their differences for each of us.  Some of mine are writing and books and running and laughter and the thought of listening to waves crash on a beach.

As the holiday season kicks into high gear, I hope I can carry this feeling of gratitude with me, like a warm blanket to burrow under when obligations seem endless.

Enjoy something sweet today.

photo courtesy of my talented friend Laura


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Laundry During NaNoWriMo

One more week of my National Novel Writing Month experiement, and my characters have overtaken my brain.  They're misbehaving and blowing raspberries at my carefully planned tone and structure, and I'm torn between Type A chagrin and absolute delight.

It's possible that I have been so wrapped up in Greta's shenanigans that I have put the laundry into the machine in the evening and forgotten to switch it to the dryer, which is both embarrassing and annoying, since it means I have to re-wash a load of clothes.

Thankfully, at the beginning of the month, I stuck the awesome Bounce Dryer Bar (Outdoor Fresh scent) onto the side of my dryer.  At least I know I can't forget my dryer sheets while I'm trying to figure out what sort of relationship Greta might be looking for at this point in her life.

If you haven't tried the dryer bar yet, it's a bar of fabric softener that you leave in your dryer.  It says it needs to be replaced approximately every three months, and there's an indicator strip.  I haven't gotten that far, yet, so I can't say for sure.

I can tell you the smell is pleasant, which I like, and I love the convenience of not thinking about throwing in the dryer sheet.  I used Bounce sheets before trying the bar, and I haven't noticed any difference in the feel of my clothes.

Also, if you dry certain loads without fabric softener, the dryer bar is easy to clip in and out.  Dylan's diapers appreciate that, because fabric softeners aren't so great for diaper absorbancy.

One more week of NaNoWriMo, but then I'll be editing.  I wish the Bounce Dryer Bar could be trained to fold the clothes before I took them out of the dryer, but I will take any convenience I can get, and it definitely took a step out of the laundry process.

BlogHer provided me with a Bounce Dryer Bar to try, without any requirements to post about it.  I wrote about it because it is helpful and smells good.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Leaves in Their Hair

Despite late nights, I am slightly behind on my NaNoWriMo project. My tailbone is still tender. My blog reader is swollen with blogs left unread and uncommented on. Thanksgiving is this week, and my Christmas shopping isn’t even started.

This Friday, I felt overwhelmed and teary and wondered if I was taking on too much.

This Friday, Ryan and I tucked the kids safely into the arms of Grandma and Grandpa and drove up to our old college campus, tickets to a basketball game in our pockets and the possibility of a football game on the horizon.

This Friday, I flat ironed my hair without worrying about little fingers finding the scorching ceramic and left my laptop at home without worrying about my to-do list and painted my fingernails without worrying about putting on gloves.

That last one might have been a mistake, as the wind on our walk to the Breslin Center was chillier than I had anticipated.

Even with cold hands, there’s something about being away for the night that makes the responsibilities of home feel far away, something that makes laughter easier and lighter and the decision about what to have for dinner seem like the most pressing concern of the night (Pesto Bruschetta, because I love a delicious appetizer, if you’re curious.)

With a voice hoarse from cheering on the basketball team and holding a conversation over the reverberations of an eighties band, we returned home, and I felt rejuvenated.

Abbey's smile seemed brighter than when we left on Friday, sparkling sweetly with her excitement about her sleepover.

Dylan's head still fit perfectly into the side of my neck, and I easily forgave him for Saturday night's sleeping drama.

There are e-mails to answer and posts to write and paths to follow my characters down, as they stubbornly refuse to behave how I’d planned, yet I spent most of Sunday making gingerbread men and playing outside and pulling leaves out of Abbey’s hair (and Dylan’s mouth, if I’m being honest.)

Our responsibilities haven’t lessened.

No one did my laundry while we were gone.

I made three different lunches on Sunday.

Yet I feel ready for the week in a way I haven’t in a long time, making shopping lists and plans for the kids and writing lists with anticipation instead of dread.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll even find time to jump in another pile of leaves.

this week's prompt was "I am feeling..."
(inspired by a Soleil Moon Frye tweet)

Every MONDAY join us…
Write, post, link-up, share your story and your voice.
Be part of carrying the weight of confidence and share our mission to empower, inspire, and remind women, parents and children that the time has come to celebrate ourselves!

Next week’s prompt: What are you striving towards?
(Remember you can also write on a topic of your choice.)


Friday, November 18, 2011

Turn Down the Heat

“Keep your scarf on,” Cate hissed at Greta under her breath, straightening her gloves.

“I’m sweating,” Greta said, loosening the soft wool.

Jenna’s comfortable sedan was blasting heat. Cate and Greta had claimed the backseat, Cate stretching her legs on the seat amongst magazines, strawberry Twizzlers, and diet Coke.

“Let’s listen to Christmas music. We are going Christmas shopping,” Claire said.

Cate and Greta exchanged a quick glance, and Greta ducked into an extra-thick fashion magazine, letting her hair fall over her face.

“I made this playlist just for today!” Jenna protested.

“So you and Chase are getting serious?” Claire asked, Christmas music forgotten.

“That’s the craziest news of the holiday season, isn’t it?” Cate said lightly, catching Greta’s eye across the plush seats.

“You and Chase? I’d say you’ve made it a point to define crazy,” Greta agreed amicably.

Sensing a subtle shift in the energy of the car, Jenna flipped down her rearview mirror so she could see most of the back seat.

“Catherine Jane. Talk.”

“I thought we were talking,” Cate said. Greta bit her lip, laughter threatening to escape.

“I’m confused,” Claire spoke up. “I thought we were just going Christmas shopping?”

Cate glanced at Greta, who might have nodded.

“It’s going to come out eventually.”

“What’s going to-“

Cate smiled at Greta, who said, “You can’t wear gloves all night.”

“Wear gloves?” Claire asked, but Jenna swerved the car to the shoulder and leaned over the back of the seat.

“Are you crazy?” she asked, grabbing at Cate’s fuzzy gloves.

Mirthful, Cate let her pull it off.

“We’re not just going Christmas shopping!”

Light caught the diamond on Cate’s left hand, sparkling into dancing colors.

“My maid of honor and I would like to invite you on my first wedding dress shopping trip.”
Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
the prompt:
This week, we’d like you to take us on an actual journey, specifically a road trip.

This is part of Greta's story, which is also my NaNoWriMo project and now over 30,000 words.  Some of them can be found in Greta's Story.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Unpredictability of Water - Jeremy Page's Sea Change

Sunshine and rainwater flow through the first page of Jeremy Page’s Sea Change, beautifully written, with the incredible attention to detail that unfailingly draws me into a book. 

With the same deliberateness, Sea Change twisted my heart, though I was prepared for it by reading the description of the book.

The story seamlessly moves through time; past, present, and future are woven together, the future imagined through Guy’s extensive journals. His writings can be disconcerting; both he and the reader are aware that the future he paints exists only in the words in the pages of his hardbound journals, carefully protected in waterproof plastic.

Guy’s choice to live on a boat, untethered and drifting, is in direct contrast to his desire to hold onto his family. At one point he claims: “It’s a wonderful thing to write. You can reclaim the things you lost.”

As the story unfolds, Guy begins to wonder if that’s necessarily true, and the changes in his journals reflect his change in perspective.

Sea Change uses the setting to its best advantage; like the sea on which he lives, there are lulls and storms, unexpected twists and turns that can’t be avoided, even when Guy is furiously trying to rewrite his family’s future.

Guy encounters Marta and Rhona, a mother and daughter looking for closure on the sea as well, and they breathe a sense of hope into his journey. They are a reminder of the ways in which water can throw an unblemished shell at your feet when you least expect it, though the threat of it being swept away by the tide is always lurking underwater.

Sea Change rocks back and forth between hope and despair. Guy’s insistence on trying to build a future without truly facing the ruins on which he is building, leads to a sense of foreboding.

The reader may be forced to choose between believing in the fatality of some emotional wounds and the power of the survival instinct.

Join the discussion about Sea Change over at the BlogHer Book Club, where we’re discussing the power of small moments or learn more about Jeremy Page’s Sea Change.

I was compensated for this book review and provided with a copy of the book to review, courtesy of BlogHer and Penguin Books. All opinions expressed are my own. Your experience with the book may be different, as all readers come to the couch with different expectations and experiences.

this is Lake Michigan
not the North Sea
my travel budget for blog photos is a bit limited


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cooking During NaNoWriMo

At the beginning of the month, I wrote about participating in National Novel Writing Month.  I meant to write it as a pledge to myself and possibly a warning to those who have to listen to my character gossip. 

I didn't mean to throw down the gauntlet to the Universe.

Still, the Universe countered with two sick kids and my own decidedly ungraceful fall down our wooden stairs.  (My parents deserve at least half a refund for all those years of ballet lessons after that one.)

With a possibly bruised tailbone, unable to run, my best sanity saver, I've been trying to direct all of my jumbled, rushing thoughts into my little notebook.  My mind is consumed with my characters, which is exactly what NaNoWriMo should be about, but it's not conducive to planning dinner.

Universe, I'm countering back with my crockpot.
1 package of Chicken breasts
1 bottle Frank's Red Hot Wings sauce
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch original salad dressing
cook on low for approximately 5-6 hours
shred chicken around 5 hours and let it soak up the sauce for a while longer
make delicious sandwiches, salads, or nachos

the cutest clean-up crew around
although they tend to make a bigger mess than the one they "clean"

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Monday, November 14, 2011

I Never Knew I Could Miss Shoes

Sitting patiently on the stairs near the back door, my running shoes have been lonely lately.
Please visit me over at Just.Be.Enough. today, where I'm hosting the weekly link-up.  I'm talking about why I haven't been running and how I feel about that.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bringing the Fun Inside

Autumn in Michigan is means colorful trees, red barns at cider mills, warm colors tinged with sunshine.

Taking advantage of sun soaked mornings, we dawdle on our way to the garage, turning the few feet into a roundabout journey through the yard, pointing to old birds' nests peeking through thinning leaves.

Autumn in Michigan is gray skies, wind stripping branches of their colorful accessories, rain-soaked leaves trodden into brown pulp on the sidewalks.

Errands and playdates beckon, but some days the rain is chilly enough to bring the fun inside instead.

Both kids love washing dishes, brushing their teeth, washing their hands and all other activities that involve running water. 

In an effort to practice a little conservation, and give them a way to play together without elbowing for position, the water table came inside, along with some bath toys.  Later, a couple squirts of floor cleaner and a mop recycled some of that water into an afternoon cleaning session.

This week, we washed and hollowed our mini pumpkins.  Perfect (temporary) homes for my little Cinderella's favorite friends.

How are you spending your rainy days this fall?

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finding Holiday Comforts in the Stillness

This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, the brand millions of owners trust to deliver their best night’s sleep every night. Enjoy our Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer now and give the gift of custom comfort to someone you love.

The three of us, my mom, Donnie, and I, pulled on winter coats and slid into my mom’s car, driving around neighborhoods sparkling with elaborate light displays.
Protected from the Michigan weather by a car heater and my mom’s favorite Anne Murray Christmas cassette, we could chat, debate the merits of multi-colored versus all-white lights, or ride in silence, hundreds of tiny lights breaking the early darkness of winter nights.
At home, our Christmas tree lights reflected off the gold garland always strung in looping circles around the trees we chose as a family, early in the day to accommodate my dad’s afternoon work shift.  I curled on the couch, legs under me and a book on my lap, reading by the lowest possible light to maximize the magic of the hundreds of colored lights.
More than a small Whitman’s sampler tucked into my stocking or my beloved Brother typewriter or the triangular bottle of 273 Rodeo Drive by Fred Hayman perfume I desperately wanted, the moments I return to when planning ways to create memorable holidays for our kids are the ones removed from the gift giving. 
Car rides along Jefferson Avenue to watch the stillness of Christmas lights reflecting on the water, late nights sitting near a lit tree, and Christmas day spent curled up with a new book, pajamas worn long past morning, all conjure the peace and comfort that make the holidays my favorite time of year.
browsing her favorite doll catalog

Toy catalogs are peppering our mailbox, and we’ve already spoken at length about the various decorated trees in Lord & Taylor; soon the holiday season will be in full swing.  With two young children, there’s not a great way to escape the insanity of toy store shopping or visiting Santa at the mall, and truthfully, that hectic energy is its own sort of holiday magic.
Yet, the moments I look forward to the most are the still ones.  Abbey and Dylan easing into new Christmas jammies after celebrating Christmas Eve at my parents’ house.   Seeing our stockings hanging along the mantle.  The blissful moment Ryan and I can finally sink into bed after spending too much time doing Santa’s grunt work with a few tools and too many parts making up a dollhouse.
For Abbey’s sake, this January and February I forgave the people who left their holiday lights up far too long, because we could still drive past and marvel at the sparkling colors, the kids snuggled into cozy car seats, adults enjoying the warmth of heated seats and holiday music on the radio.
Shopping lists and wrapping gifts and snowflake crafts are already bouncing around in my head, and I relish creating holiday magic for my family.  But the moments of stillness and joy are the memories I cherish; long after our ornaments have been packed into their boxes, I carry those moments of holiday comfort with me into the unknown adventures of the New Year.
Comfort is the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday gift list, so be sure to take advantage of Tempur-Pedic's Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer!

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Rethinking Regret

I've written before about living without regret, and as I sat down to jot down ideas for today's post, I planned to continue with similar sentiments.  Then I found this quote, from L.M. Montgomery:

My cherished copies of three Anne of Green Gables books are currently on Abbey's bookshelf, waiting to be shared.  Their spines worn and pages yellowing with age, I've lived and relived Anne's adventures and mishaps, as a child and young adult and mother-to-be, softly reading aloud with the book balanced on my pregnant abdomen.

I've imagined Abbey curling into my side, listening to stories of Anne long before she's ready to read chapter books, talking with her about some of the mistakes Anne makes and the lessons she learns.

I stared at L.M. Montgomery's quote and considered my "I don't regret a single moment" philosophy. 

My thinking shifted.  Perhaps I had been putting too much power in the hands of regret.  I was letting the idea of it mean more than it does. 

Regret doesn't have to mean I would change a decision or a mistake; it simply means that I feel sadness and possibly some disappointment about those missteps, those bumps in the path I've taken to get to this place in my life.

I do have regrets. 

I have made decisions that have hurt others.

I have made decisions that have hurt me.

I have put myself in the position to be hurt by others.

I do, in fact, feel sadness and disappointment about those parts of my past, as I'm sure I will about decisions I have yet to make.

But I have learned from my regrets, even the lessons that had to be repeated, the pain that had to be replayed time and again, until my thinking shifted into place.

Those lessons mean I can face my regret, forgive myself, and leave those mistakes in the past.  I do not carry them into my future.

So one day, when I am settled into the couch with Anne of Green Gables, Abbey at my side and Dylan clamoring to catch a whiff of pages feeling the breath of excited children after far too long, I may pause for a moment to feel some sadness, some regret for mistakes I've made in the past. 

Their sweet smiles and ability to snuggle into nooks I wasn't aware my body had will be even more of a gift, because I can be certain they are the two things in my life I have never regretted.

this week's prompt:
"Something I do not regret..."

We hope you will read, comment, link up, and explore the stories of others who have linked.

Every MONDAY join us…
Write, post, link-up, share your story and your voice. Be part of carrying the weight of confidence and share our mission to empower, inspire, and remind women, parents and children that the time has come to celebrate ourselves!

Next week’s prompt: “One image or symbol that reminds me to Be Enough"
(Remember you can also write on a topic of your choice.)

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Evening Silence

Her parents move through the kitchen in a practiced, synchronized dance of carrying and rinsing and wiping away the chaos of dinner.

Forks scrape plates into the stainless steel sink, clinging food rinsed clean with scalding water.

Spoons lift the salvageable into carefully labeled containers, stored neatly in the spotless refrigerator.

Her mother pauses, pushing back her hair and leaning against cold granite, breathing in the warm scent of pine and the silence of post-dinner homework.
Her father moves back and forth, his mind in his office.

The flickering candle casts shadows they wordlessly ignore.

Her room is the arranged mess of a teenager with one foot still in girlhood, pale blue walls and plush carpet, teddy bears pushed carelessly against lavender pillows, thrown to the ground at bedtime to mingle with pom-poms and notices of spirit week fundraisers. 

The white dresser smoothly cradles a jumble of bracelets and earrings, some borrowed from her mother’s endless collection, and glittered lip gloss, aching to whisper secrets they see in the silence.

Leaning against a wall plastered with Justin Bieber, she tips a small vial back and forth between her palms, contemplating the cleanliness of a rolled-up dollar bill.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
the prompt:
This week I want you to take me to your version of 8:00 -AM or PM, fiction or creative nonfiction- in 200 words or less.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Feminine Side of the Roman Empire - Book Review

If you cringed at the violence in Gladiator but find yourself interested a society ruled by Emperors and the theatricality of the Coliseum, Theodora by Stella Duffy should be on your must-read list.

I wrote earlier this week about truth, so I have to honestly admit historical fiction is slightly wasted on me.  I love reading it, but I’m so easily drawn into the world the author creates, and my own historical knowledge is perhaps not what it should be, so the line between what is actual history and what is fiction is blurred to the point of not existing for me.
According to my serious historical research (Wikipedia, thank you very much,) combined with notes on the book’s cover, Theodora was an actress, an Empress of the Roman Empire, and a saint in the Orthodox Church.  She may or may not have been the most powerful woman in Roman history, and like all powerful woman, there are many rumors surrounding her rise to power.
Theodora’s tagline is “Actress, Empress, Whore,” so I can’t say that many of the plot points are unexpected as Theodora rises from a young, poor, child actress in Constantinople to heights unimagined for a girl in her position.
What I found most interesting as I read Theodora was the way she used her strengths to her advantage within a system that didn’t necessarily value them.  She wasn’t classically beautiful nor a particularly gifted singer or dancer, which should have relegated her to a small, uneventful life. 
However, she used her intelligence to craft comedic timing and to understand the dynamic between people, which seems to be her most important skill throughout the book.
Her story is woven amongst the intrigue of Roman politics and religious conflict, but I found her character’s inner growth to be the most compelling part of Theodora.
While I’m not sure where the line between history and fiction is drawn in Stella Duffy’s novel, I can definitely recommend reading Theodora if you’re interested in a story about a woman’s rise to power through channels that should never had led her anywhere but the inside of a man’s bedroom.
I was compensated for this review by BlogHer, which included a copy of Theodora, provided by Penguin Books. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced in any way.
reading with Grandpa
NOT historical fiction, though it is about a dinosaur bone


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Outtakes

Zoo Boo 
very excited carousel rider
kind of grossed out by pumpkin innards 
carving a pumpkin with Grandpa
so proud of her pumpkin 
the one where I let my exhausted daughter get hyped up on sugar
she still went to sleep in the car, thirty minutes later


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trade or Treat

the best family shot we could muster

"Trick or treat" was a little more than he could handle this year, but he managed to combine a giant smile, a "tweet," and a "tank ew" to convey his desire for a piece of the Halloween fun. 

Thrilled with the game, he kept one of his treats clasped in his hand at all times. 

Always easygoing, he made sure no one was left out. 

Several times, he tried to hand over his clutched candy bar in exchange for the candy handed out at the next house.

Bringing back the barter system, one mini candy bar at a time.
a new species has been discovered
we'll call it the Pretzel Monkey 

After a late night at the Zoo Boo, Abbey awoke with a raspy voice and a self-diagnosed "scratchy throat." 

Snuggles from Grandma and a little extra TV (an episode of Little Bear, straight from the story books Grandma used to read to Mommy and Uncle Donnie) were as close to a nap as she got, but she perked up a little as the festivities began.

Layers under and over her costume and a fairly tame trick-or-treat route kept her warm, though she was hitching a ride in a stroller by the end of our evening. 

New footie jammies brought a smile to her face, as she drifted to sleep on the drive home, her small fingers still encircling her glow-in-the-dark wand.
making silly faces has replaced saying cheese
the only decent photo with the monkey hood
"loves pretzels, hates hats" sums up his Halloween preferences this year