Musings About Life... After Birth

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MommyMeritBadges

Posted by Colleen on August 25, 2011

If you read my last post, you know that I traveled to Chicago this past weekend to be the MOH in my cousin’s wedding. Since my husband, being the primary breadwinner in this ensemble we call a family, had to “work” Friday and Monday, that left me to fly with three kids. Alone. Both ways. Gulp.

Now that we’re safely back in Georgia, I can say it: We survived! (In person this is accompanied by Spirit Fingers. Or maybe some Jazz Hands. Which are NOT the same thing.) The trip there was a breeze, so for the return trip I figured I'd used up my good travel luck. I was scared, but was armed with activities and snacks. Neither of these helped, though, after we’d been on the damned plane for 30 minutes due to a maintenance issue and my toddler decided that he no longer wanted to wear his seatbelt. In classic toddler timing, this moment was also the exact time we started moving, thus requiring physical maternal intervention. And toddlers love physical maternal intervention that opposes what they’re trying to do.

I snapped his seatbelt back on.

And he screamed.

This wasn’t a cute little, “Hey, please don’t do that” screams, either. This was one of those “Holy hell, if you weren’t my child I would hate you right now and you just convinced all the single folks not to ever have kids kind of screams.”

At this point one of the ladies across the aisle put her earphones in, and I considered stealing them. I, after all, have to hear the kids ALL the time. She only had to bear it for the hour and a half flight.

Further proving the extent of God’s love for me, however, the two smaller kids instantly fell asleep after that, and the Tween lost herself in Angry Birds. Whew. Crisis averted. After such a rocky start, the rest of the flight was a breeze.

Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.

When we landed, the older lady in front of me complimented my parenting and how well behaved my children were. Headphones lady agreed. I just smiled modestly and thanked them, happy to take the compliment I hadn’t really earned.

Then I waited for all the other passengers to leave while I wrestled all three kids and six carryon items (suddenly the $25 checking fee didn’t seem so unreasonable) off the plane.

I have to admit that I lost it a bit when I couldn’t find where my husband had parked the van in the Atlanta airport. I may or may not have introduced my kids to a terrible word that echoed through the cavernous garage. Whoops.

I then drove my exhausted and cranky kids almost two hours home.

My husband was happy to see us, but when we pulled in the driveway, I sort of expected fanfare. I felt as though I’d completed a marathon, implemented world peace, and cured cancer, all in a day’s work. But there wasn’t even confetti, nothing to commemorate what had to be one of my hugest accomplishments as a parent.

I’m not gonna lie. I wanted a trophy. Or at least a foot massage. I got neither. I was disappointed, and I know that I’m not the only mom who’s ever felt the burn of a minor victory go uncelebrated. So here’s what I think we should do. I propose than we implement a merit badge program. Like Scouts parading around with cute little embroidered trophies proclaiming their ability to build shelter (pshaw), I want one for “Flying Solo with a Tween, an Infant, and a Toddler with Only Carry-On Luggage.” Even if the men of the world didn’t know what my badge was for, maybe the other moms would recognize it and silently fist bump me in passing.

I think I’d put my badge on a cute scarf, or just attach it directly to my double stroller. Other badges I’ve earned might include:

· Catching vomit in bare hands
· First aid basics: Racing a child to the hospital for sever allergic reaction, deep cut requiring stitches, and/or a broken bone
· Breaking a toe in front of children without swearing
· Reading “Good Night Moon” 500 times without “accidentally” losing the book
· Learning the words to Justin Bieber songs….you know, because the Tween likes him. (Ahem.)
· And the one I’m really striving for? Raising all children to be non-felons. I’m gonna make it, girls. I can do it.

How about you? You interested in joining my troop? What mommy merit badges have you already earned, or are you working on?

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PreppingtoFlywithKids:Tips,Bribes,andSuperstitions

Posted by Colleen on August 17, 2011

I’m flying to Chicago tonight with my three kids, sans husband. Somewhere today are the individuals who will be on the same flight as us. They’re going about their business, peacefully unaware of the potential hell awaiting them. Of course, my toddler and infant may sleep like angels (ahem, Benadryl) while my Tween is immersed in her Dsi (with ear buds, natch). It may be a non-issue and the other passengers may never even know we're there. But I like to play a game called “Worse Case Scenario.” It’s pretty self-explanatory. I imagine the worst-case scenario, not out of morbidity, but for two reasons. First, in my superstitious English-major’s understanding of probabilities, I imagine that this reduces the chances of it actually happening. To say, “I bet on my way to the grocery store I’m going to get struck by lightning” and then actually have it happen? Crazytown…that would make me psychic. Which I’m not, or I probably wouldn’t have majored in English. (Kidding.)

Secondly, once I’ve imagined the worst case scenario, whatever happens, even if it’s pretty bad, seems tame in comparison. (I have a pretty vivid imagination.) Yesterday I had a pretty clear idea of the worst case scenario when the Infant, the Toddler and I (oh, my) all were struck with a 24-hour stomach virus.

The cons: Yuck. Yuck, yuck. The laundry. Yuck. Feeling like crap and crashing on the couch when I needed to be packing.

The pros: I think I lost five pounds, which is good, because since the bachelorette party I’ve decided that brownies are a food group. My lovely bridesmaid’s dress is hanging in a closet in Chicago, and I’m a little skeered to try the bad boy on. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…thank God for Spanx.

Luckily, this virus was one that stuck to a strict schedule, and by this morning it seems to have moved on, leaving us all a bit weak but less…fluid. Halle.freaking.lujah. This? Along with the Spanx proves that God loves me.

So worst case scenario: Three kids on a plane, screaming, diapers, vomit, diarrhea, while sick to my stomach myself. And in my mind, this beats firey inferno of a crash.

We’re gonna be golden.

But just in case, here’s how I’ve prepared for a 1.5 hour flight solo with three kiddos:

  • The Husband is getting a gate pass so he can help get us through security, so I'm not having to convince my toddler to cooperate with the body scan machine while holding an infant and trying to collapse a stroller. All while trying to explain the the uniformed officer that unless it causes yesterday's reaction in the baby's stomach,  the contents of her bottle aren't explosive. 
  • The Infant and The Toddler are going in a double umbrella stroller by McLaren. This product? Up there with the Spanx.
  • Packing was done with great efficiency and deliberation. We’re going to do some laundry while in Chicago, so I didn’t pack a full week’s worth of clothes. Since I’m going to be pushing the stroller, I packed bags I can carry on my shoulder, and  a suitcase with wheels that my Tween can help me with. Minimal luggage means minimal juggling. 
  • Snacks. This will be my first time bringing snacks through security so we’ll see how it goes, but I’ve heard it’s pretty simple as long as you declare them. When going anywhere with kids, I've learned that food paves the way to a peaceful experience. Doctors have lollipops at the checkout for a reason. 
  • Packing said bottle. I’m nursing but occasionally supplement with formula, especially now that baby's appetite is through the roof. The logistics of popping my boob out on the plane without flashing the other passengers intimidated me, although they may need a mercy flash. I have my nursing wrap packed in case, but the bottle helps covers my bases. (Pun intended.)
  • Activities. In the diaper bag I have a plethora of new funsies…cheap little activities I’ll bust out in case of emergency. You know, if the Benadryl lets me down.
  • Car seats at the destination. Rather than dealing with checking car seats and having to strap them into the car, my aunt and uncle borrowed some and are going to have them there and ready to roll when they pick us up. Whew.

 

The Land of Nod has a fabulous new blog, Honest to Nod, that has great ideas for moms. They published a post on making favors for the surrounding passengers when you travel with kiddos…you know, just to smooth the way. Brilliant. Did I have time to do this? Please. I haven’t even packed my toothbrush yet.

Wish me luck. How about y’all? Any tips for flying with small people?

Tags chicago, wedding, traveling with kids, travel, flying

ChicagoBachelorettePartyRecap

Posted by Colleen on August 15, 2011

Although it’s taken me several weeks to recover, the bachelorette trip I went on in Chicago was worth mentioning. (I must note that it was more sleep deprivation and less alcohol I was recovering from. If I go to bed anytime after 11 my wake cycle suffers. I? Am a toddler.)

The trip was to celebrate my cousin Katie, a special lady who’s getting married this upcoming Saturday. I hadn’t met any of her friends before the party, but had a blast getting to know them all. By the time the weekend was wrapping up we were all fast friends, and I’m looking forward to seeing them this weekend.

In planning the trip, I aimed for a fun but adult approach to the weekend. (Read: nothing phallic.) I would have done anything to make the weekend what Kate wanted, but luckily she was on-board with a classier approach.

Part of the fun of a bachelorette trip is always sweeping through the city en masse, feeling like the world is your party and everyone else was invited to celebrate. To achieve this, it’s important to dress up. Katie’s wedding is going to have an elegant, vintage vibe, and I wanted to tie into that. We requested that the guests all wear black, with the bride-to-be in white. (Throughout the night, we had multiple people ask which of us was the bride. This amused me.) Here are some of us right before the limo picked us up.

The rest of our party met us downtown. The dog stayed home, along with Katie's dog daughter Ramona, who guarded the bow bouquet. (Isn't Ramona the perfect name for a pug?)

 

I love the fascinator trend, but didn’t see any that were exactly what I wanted, so I made one for each of the guests. (They were simple…hot glue all the way.) We gave these, along with masses of white beads, to each of the guests. Simple, elegant, cheesy. Check.

For Katie I made a birdcage veil. This was fairly simple. I would encourage anyone to at least attempt to do it themselves, but be prepared for it to take several attempts to get it just right. Add a skinny feather boa, and Katie looked amazing. Just getting dressed up and hitting the city with this lovely group of women would have been a fun enough experience.

However…

We wanted to do something fun and memorable during our event other than dancing (although that came later, make no mistake). Kate has some education from the Art Institute under her belt, so after a lot of fun brainstorming (Kentucky Derby? Belly Dancing lessons?) we opted for a private painting class at Bottles and Bottega in Lakeview.

The venue was beautiful…lots of windows so you could see the city. The staff was amazing…the owners worked with me and another bridesmaid (in Georgia and DC, respectively) to plan the event and the owners, Stephanie and Nancy, couldn’t have been more helpful. They host regular events, not just private parties, so if you’re in the market for a fun date night in Chicago (with you SO or your girlfriends), this would be a great place to do it.

We catered in food and brought our own wine. We each painted the same picture, although our results were all widely different. (Katie’s was gorgeous and I schemed to switch ours out, but was foiled in my short career in art thievery.)

Here’s the lot of us…aren’t we lovely?

The rest of the evening involved more traditional activities, such as cramming too many girls in a cab. We read that Snoop Dogg was in Chicago that weekend and attempted, through a iPhone/Twitter/Facbook bomb, to get him to join us in our shenanigans, but he was a no-show. In hindsight, I think perhaps that was for the best.

A visit to a Sidetracks, a gay bar in Boystown, was next. This bar was clean and lovely, and had amazing Arnold Palmers…for only $5 a pop.

A note on gay bars on bachelorette trips: I recommend them highly if you’re interested in avoiding too much attention and focusing on your friends, as we were. The other patrons were friendly but respectful. We did chat with one couple that made me laugh…the blonde gentleman introduced me to his Italian boyfriend and gushed, “He’s from Italy. He knows the Pope.” Which makes absolutely logical sense. Since I’m an American and by the same logic should be acquainted with Michelle Obama. (Should I feel slighted we have yet to have dinner?)

The night concluded with a trip to Hangee Uppee, a dirty, loud, overcrowded bar that played every song you ever forgot you loved. They didn’t serve white wine, my shoes stuck to the floor, and around midnight as we sang “Love Shack,” (Tiiiiin Roof! Rusted.) I realized I was quite ready to go. Can you tell?

Katie danced on the small stage, artfully avoiding the advances of every drunk male willing to offer his services for her last hurrah. However, two hilarious guys joined Katie for an impromtu air band with Katie on bongos, a trombone, and a guitar. This performance will remain one of my favorite memories. Unfortunately the camera batteries died at this point, so I don’t have any pictures to share.

Great memories were made, and I’m looking forward to the wedding this weekend…although I’m traveling up early with the three kiddos so The Husband can finish the work week, so expect a whole other post on that.

Tags chicago, bachelorette party

ThenandNow:BacheloretteParties

Posted by Colleen on July 26, 2011

My amazing cousin Kate is getting married next month, and this weekend I'm flying to Chicago for her bachelorette trip. Shenanigans are sure to abound.

I'm Katie's Matron-of-Honor. (Gah..."matron." What an ugly word. It's like the name "Hulga." It makes me feel frumpy just saying it.) I am beyond excited about this honor, and I'm even more excited that Katie asked each of her bridesmaids to find a black cocktail dress we love to wear to the wedding, rather than making us each spend a gazillion dollars on a frothy confection that will just take up space in our closet. (Fist bump, Kate.)

This isn't the first wedding I've been in...in fact, I'm pretty sure it's my fifth, but I feel like I'm missing one in my mental roll call. And I've been on countless other bachelorette trips. As I'm getting ready for this weekend, though, I'm reflecting on how my maturity level has evolved since I first entered the realm of bachelorette parties about a decade ago. (Ouch.)

When I was roughly "21" (sorry, bouncer man) and prepping for a bachelorette party, I remember thinking thoughts along these lines:

  • Does this pushup bra push up enough?
  • I hope we remember to take a group picture in the bathroom!
  • Do we have enough decorations with penises on them?
  • ZOMG we should make the bride wear a tutu because that's THEFUNNIESTTHINGEVER!
  • Okay, NOW my pushup bra pushes up enough. But where am I going to stash my keys? (Lightbulb!)
  • He is so.cute. Which one of us gets to kiss him?
  • Is my skirt too short? Cause I can make it shorter.
  • These stillettos are FIERCE! Sure, I may break my ankle, but hey, if they get too uncomfy I'll just take them off! Because going barefoot in a bar isn't trashy at all.
  • I have TWENTY BUCKS! How many beers can I get with that????
  • The bar closes at THREE? Then what???

Now that I'm 31 and packing for the trip, here's the thought process:

  • A weekend without my kids! Wahoo!
  • Wait...I'm really gonna miss my kids.
  • Can you tell I'm wearing Spanx with this dress?
  • I hope my kids are okay without me.
  • These shoes are perfect with this dress...but the heels may get really uncomfortable if we go dancing. Maybe I'll just wear the flats.
  • My husband is gonna feed my kids nothing but junk food and I'm going to come home to diabetic gremlins.
  • Oooh, before we go out dancing, let's do something fun like take a painting class! (Stop laughing. We're really doing that.)
  • I can't wait to spend some good quality girl time. I hope we get a chance to talk.
  • Gah, I'm gonna have to remember to pump before we go out so my boobs don't explode.
  • Let me make sure I have enough cash in case we have to take a cab...
  • My husband better text me a ton of pictures of the kids.
  • The limo's picking us up at 1am? Gulp...maybe I can take a power nap in the bathroom.

Whew. I'm so glad I'm not 21 anymore.

But who am I kidding? I'm not that mature. We're gonna party like rockstars. And I promise to post pictures.

How about y'all? How has your party style matured, other than having the financial means to splurge for the fancy drinks?

MondayMomMust-Have(andGiveaway!):TheBritaxFrontierBoosterSeat

Posted by Chelsea on June 30, 2009

When it comes to most things, I am not brand-loyal. I dip my fries in Heinz ketchup as well as the brand from my beloved Trader Joe’s, alternate between Chanel, Prescriptives and Lancome mascaras and wrap my kids in both Pampers and Huggies. For a select few items, however, I will use one brand and one brand only. Car seats are one example of such a product; when I buy a car seat, it’s Britax and Britax only.

The reason why I love Britax car seats are simple: they’re super sturdy, easy to install, comfortable (at least my kids never complain about them) and, most importantly, consistently receive the highest safety ratings from Consumer Reports. Though they’re not the least expensive car seats available, I have no problem justifying spending a little extra on something so important. The rest of The Momtourage, it seems, agrees. Nearly all of our kids ride around in Britax Marathons, Decathlons or Boulevards:

The cutest Britax around: the Britax Marathon Convertible Car Seat in “Cowmooflage” $249.99, amazon.com. It comes in other (read: more traditional/sedate) colors, but isn’t this one fun?


Britax’s most recent addition to its fleet is the Frontier Combination Harness-2-Booster, a seat for when your child is ready to make the transition from convertible car seat to a booster. It can be used two ways: if your child is at least two years old and weighs between 25 and 80 pounds, you can use it strapped in as you would a traditional forward-facing car seat. If your child is between 40 and 100 pounds, the combination seat can be used as a vehicle seat belt-positioning booster. All in all, it provides eight harness positions and three buckle strap positions, and includes the Versa-Tether, HUGS and premium LATCH connectors. In terms of what the seat itself offers, it’s got rotating, soft armrests, adjustable head support that also serves as sleep support for the child and retractable cup and snack holders.

Britax Frontier Booster Seat, $249.99, amazon.com.


I’ve seen the product, and it’s fantastic - just like all of Britax’s other products. When it comes time to get a booster, you know which one’s going in my car…...

Want to win a Frontier or a Boulevard of your own? In order to be eligible to win, you must be a member of The Momtourage’s Mailing list, so click on the green “Join Our Mailing List” box at the top, left-hand side of this page for a chance to win. Winners will be chosen on July 15 and notified by email. Good luck!

Tags car seats

MondayMomMust-Have:Aweekendawaywithyourhusband

Posted by Chelsea on September 07, 2008

This past weekend, my parents came in town and watched the boys while my husband and I got the hell outta Dodge (a.k.a. Chevy Chase, MD). As much as we love the little critters, Little Bro’s 6:00 a.m. wake-ups and the stresses related to potty training Big Bro were seriously taking a toll, and we were both so in need of a break.

We went to fairly nearby St. Michael’s, MD and stayed at the GORGEOUS Inn at Perry Cabin. Interestingly, a good part of the movie “Wedding Crashers” was filmed there. Remember the senator’s house where Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s character’s go stay? It was this hotel, actually (check out the web site - you’ll totally recognize it). It’s right on the Chesapeake Bay, and wow, it was beautiful. We slept late, got massages at the hotel’s spa, hung by the pool, ate some amazing food at 208 Talbot, read the paper by the water and caught up on the first season of “Mad Men” (which is major league amazing - if you haven’t seen it - you must rent the DVDs). Neither of us wanted to leave. It was Heaven.

When we returned to D.C., we were all rejuvenated and happy to see the boys. What a difference a weekend away makes.

MondayMomMust-Haves:CarTripEssentials

Posted by Chelsea on August 18, 2008

Long car trips with kids are about as enjoyable as visits from your mother-in-law (well, not if you’re Momtourage member Alison, because hers, Grandmomtourage member Marcia, is awesome). Whether it’s watching four straight hours of Dora, stopping for 15 potty breaks or enduring screams from your baby until you find a rest stop at which you can feed him, car rides with the kids can be so excruciating that you’re tempted to bag family car trips until your kids are in middle school.

There are a few road trip essentials that can make your car trip easier, however. Here are three of my favorites:

1) Munchkin Car Bottle Warmer, $6.39, amazon.com



Store your bottles cold, but when it comes time for a feeding, pop one into this handy warmer, which plugs into any car adapter outlet. Bonus: it also works for baby food jars as well! And don’t worry about leaving it plugged in amidst the chaos - there’s an safety switch that shuts off the warmer when the bottle or jar is removed.

2) Sony DVPFX810/L Portable DVD Player, $129.99, amazon.com


When we got our SUV (I know, I know, I am contributing to the destruction of the planet…. but seriously, it holds so much stuff and so many people!), my husband and I opted to not add the built-in DVD player. Initially, I regretted the decision, but now, I realize that if we had it, each and every car ride with Big Bro would involve begging to watch “Bigfoot Presents: Meteor and the Mighty Monster Trucks”. With a portable DVD player, however, you get to control when the viewing opportunities present themselves. For a total “serenity now” moment, invest in some headphones as well.

3) Toy catalogs

When your kids have had their fill of movies, bust out the reading material. Because books can be a little short (read: not sufficiently attention-holding), I always have a stack of toy catalogs on hand. Nothing keeps big bro occupied more than looking at toy catalogs; honestly, he can leaf through one for a good 45 minutes. To get yourself hooked up, go to some of your favorite toy brands’ websites (try learningcurve.com, step2.com and intplay.com) and request a catalog of their products or hang on to those One Step Aheads that come in your mailbox every week..

What are your car-trip survival tips?

Tags car trips

MondayMomMust-Have:TheHandySack

Posted by Chelsea on April 07, 2008

I’ve lamented many times about how I long to cease carrying a diaper bag and resume ownership of a cool purse. Alas, it’s not gonna happen anytime soon - especially now that I have two children, both of whom require totally different “stuff”.

In the abyss that is my diaper bag, I have all sorts of crap - diapering essentials, a bib, a burp cloth, toys, bottles, sippy cups, snacks, a little bag for myself (with Advil, lip balm, MAC Blot Powder, Kleenex, etc.), my cell phone, my wallet, pacifiers…see why I still have to carry one? As the snacks crumble and the cups spill, things get all schmutzy and/or wet, and often, the big stuff pushes the little stuff to the bottom, making it all hard to dig out. Annoying.

One solution I’ve found to help keep my diaper bag organized (and its contents protected) is The Handy Sack. These functional and fashionable pouches are made of commercially coated cotton (they come in all sorts of cute patterns) that is stain and water repellent, so they - and their contents - won’t get ruined by an exploding bottle or smashed pack of Saltines. The front is clear, so you can see exactly what’s inside - spoons, toys, passies - whatever - and you’ll always know when you need to restock it. They’re great for travel too - just stash all of your child’s toiletries in it and you’re good to go.

Oh, me so handy!
How great would this be for a new baby or shower gift?

To purchase your very own Handy Sack, visit divasanddrooligans.com. They retail for $22.95 each, but if you use promotion code April15FamilyFUN, you can get 15% off! Want to win one? Send your name, address and kids’ ages to me at chelsea@themomtourage.com.

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Honey,canwegooutforChinese?InChina?

Posted by Chelsea on March 30, 2008

First and foremost, the biggest, hugest thank you to reader Mona, who took it upon herself to up and photoshop that picture of me and the boys. Check out her handiwork:

Look, Ma - no tag!

How nice is that? Mona, you rule. Now, if you could only photoshop the post-pregnancy weight off of me in all of my other photos…..

In other news, my best friend Jessica, who has been my best friend since we were 8th graders (my, do we have some stuff on each other), is spending the year with her husband in China, courtesy of this cool opportunity she got with Google, the company for which she works. Anyway, it’s been kind of hard because China is like 13 hours ahead of me in my Eastern Standard time zone, so we rarely get to talk or google-chat. Luckily, there is email. In her latest report, she talked about how interesting Chinese culture is re: kids. She doesn’t yet have any of her own, but knows how into the subject I am, considering my profession both as Mom and parenting journalist. She writes:

“So, one of the different but really cool things here is how people are with their kids and other peoples’ kids. Since everyone can really only have one kid, people LOOOOOVE kids. LOVE them. And, in general, there is like, no violent crime here, but people especially really look out for little kids. So, if you’re at a park, restaurant or shop, you can really kind of let your kid run around and not worry about him. For example, last night we had dinner with some folks who also fairly recently moved here from Atlanta and who have an adorable 2 1/2 year old (Dillon). So we meet them at the (really nice) restaurant, and there is a kids playroom tucked away behind this like, frosted door. All of the waiters and waitresses were swooning over Dillon and
talking to him and playing with him. So he goes into the playroom, and we sit down to dinner. A few minutes later he comes out of the playroom and over to the table (totally by himself) and the waiter picks him up and helps him get settled in his high chair.  Can you imagine? And this is at a really cool, great restaurant - not one you would typically consider “family-friendly”. Nancy (Dillon’s mom) says it takes getting used to, but once you do it is awesome. And it was so fun - we got some adult-talking time when he would go to the playroom and we got some Dillon time when he came back. It’s a totally different approach but it was really cool to see.”

I’ve been saying that if a Democrat doesn’t get elected in ‘08, then I’m moving to Canada, but China might work too…

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Amuch-neededvacation

Posted by Chelsea on December 14, 2007

My husband and I are in sunny Grand Cayman for a little birthday celebration for him/pre-baby holiday. My folks came up to DC to watch my son, so we’re off,  child-free, and taking full advantage of the 5-times-a-day food “presentations” on the club level at our hotel. Sadly, I can’t take advantage of the round-the-clock free alcohol, but trust me, this pregnant chick is more than making up for that by eating my fair share.

I see a bunch of people here at the hotel vacationing with kids my son’s age. Each time I do, I feel a little guilty that we did not bring him along with us. Then I come to my senses.

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