Have I Mentioned My Cat?

His name is Leo, and he’s kind of a character.  I think he’s pretty smart for a cat…I have to have child locks on my kitchen cabinets, because he knows how to open them and likes to get in there and sleep with my pots.  I don’t like furry pots – hence the child locks.  He goes on water strike if I will not put a pitcher of water on the floor for him to drink, even if he has a full water bowl.  I made the mistake of putting the pitcher down on the floor one day while I was watering my plants, and since then, he will not drink out of anything else, except sometimes the faucet in the bathroom sink.  If I take the pitcher up, he stands in the kitchen and meows when he gets thirsty.  Leo has had many close brushes with death, the most expensive scariest being his dog fight resulting in a collapsed lung and multiple puncture wounds.  He’s also had a severe allergic reaction to his vaccinations resulting in swelling to a size much larger than his already gigantic 16 Lb. cat frame, and he’s been stepped on, resulting in a broken leg and surgery to put a pin in…and follow-up surgery to take the pin out.  You get the point.  My “free” stray cat has literally had more spent in medical expense than I have in the 8 1/2 years I’ve owned him. 

But, as most pet-owners, I believe he is worth it.  He’s been with me through 4 moves, and lived with my brother & sister-in-law for a year.  I taught him how to use the toilet once, and, yes, he actually did it.  But only for a few weeks.  I don’t think he liked it, so he stopped, and being an indoor/outdoor cat, just started holding it until I let him outside, which was also fine with me.  I just didn’t want to deal with a litter box anymore. 

I’m bringing him up because I wanted to tell you how he decided to “help” me with my art project last week…so sweet – him taking an interest in my life.  He is actually usually pretty good about staying out of the way while I’m working, except for the time he stepped in oil paint and then continued walking through the house before I realized it and the time he started chewing on one of my smaller paint brushes, and broke it in two.  But really, he usually doesn’t take that much of an interest.  Not so with my latest project.  Apparently, my materials were intriguing to cat intellect. 

First, he was trying to sharpen his claws on the trim I bought for building my frame (as discussed in my Art Projects post).  This was, of course, dissuaded by me.  Then I had several sheets of tissue paper out, and he thought he needed one.  I gave him some newspaper to distract him, and put it across the room (although across the room is not very far in my house).  This worked for a few minutes.  Then, he decided that in addition to the pitcher on the kitchen floor, the bowl of water I had been rinsing my paint brushes in for two days was a good thing to drink out of.  Then, I had my painting laid out on the floor, and he thought he needed to get on it.  Repeatedly. 

I finally resorted to opening the linen closet, with which he has an obsession, and letting him get in there.  That worked until I got things to a point that I could pick them up off of floor.  I usually don’t let him get into the linen closet, because he likes to sleep behind the towels, and he has been mistakenly closed in there for full days more than once.   Besides the fact that I also do not like furry towels.

So, here are some pictures of my cat, further displaying his quirkiness:

As most cats do, he loves to get into boxes…mostly he likes to attack people from inside them.

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And he likes to get into boxes even if he doesn’t fit into them…I tried to tell him.

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Evidence of his obsession with the linen closet:

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He likes to sleep like this, but it looks like he has full-on rigormortis:

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And he thinks he is a person, and likes to sleep like this, using my headboard as a pillow…ok, ok, I made the bed up around him.  I couldn’t resist.  But otherwise, he really does sleep like this.

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And this is a pretty normal picture of him sleeping in the basket he usurped as his permanent bed after refusing at least 3 store-bought cat beds.  I thought he would get tired of it, but it’s been over 2 years now, and he still sleeps in it regularly.

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And that’s my cat.

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Art Projects

It was pointed out to me recently that I seem to enjoy doing the crafty part of art projects more than the painting.  I started considering this, and realized it was true.  I have the most fun with my paintings when I am doing more than just using paint and a brush, like the time I put cheesecloth over the canvas before painting, and then pulled it off when the painting was done, so there is this cool criss-cross pattern on the painting.  I do project-type things a lot, I have realized…the art above my bed is a collage I made from a book of old movie posters, the art in my hallway is a garden trellis with Picasso prints mounted on wooden panels, and hanging from the trellis at various heights.  You get the point.  These are the things I really have fun doing. 

Like the time I wrapped the big bouncy ball I bought for my niece and made it look like a giant lollipop:

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Or like the time I turned this couch:

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into this one:

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Or like the time I made a glass mosaic border with salsa jars & dressing bottles and built the frame for this painting:

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Or like the time I tied these bamboo sticks together with twine to make my dried flower rack:

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Or like the time I painted this kids table & chair set for my boyfriend’s mom’s flower shop (although I discovered later that I need to research painting metal because it ended up all peeling off):

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My point is that I have decided that I should try to incorporate this type of thing into my paintings more, and I think they will be better.  That being said, I am working on a yet undisclosed project which I am super excited about.  All I will say is that it involves turning this trim (which is two different types & full lengths of trim if you can’t tell from the picture):

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into a super silver antiqued frame for a new piece I’ve been working on.  I’ll post a picture of the whole thing when I’m done.  It wouldn’t be the same to show you an unfinished work.  My duplex neighbor/handyman has been rebuilding the laundry room that we share on the back of the house…maybe he’ll have his mitre saw out so I don’t have to use my stupid plastic box mitre saw.  That would be fantastic. 

Thirty? Really?

*Preface: the universe swallowed my first draft of this post…if it seems choppy, bear with me.  My impatience may leave out the trails behind the resultant thoughts.*

It doesn’t seem possible.  This is my reaction to turning thirty, which happens today.  It’s not negative…just weird.  I don’t feel thirty.  Maybe no one ever does.  More than anything, it makes me reflective.  The other day, I watched Peter Pan (the live action movie, not the cartoon).  I’ve always loved this story, but this particular version really brings home the sadness of Peter choosing to stay a boy, alone, rather than growing up with others and to responsibility.   

I have more than a little bit of Peter Pan in me.  When I was eleven, I decided that I wanted to stay eleven forever.  It seemed a good age to me…old enough not to be under constant supervision, young enough that my livelihood was not dependent on my own actions.  I don’t know if most eleven year olds think things like that…maybe I was just odd.  But, as you can see, my wish to remain 11 forever was not granted.  And I’m OK with that.  Actually, eleven was pretty miserable as I remember it.  But, in looking back, I am wondering if all of my nineteen years since have been spent trying to resist growing up. 

In the movie, when Hook is threatening to kill Peter, Peter replies, “To die would be an awfully great adventure.”  But at the end of the movie, while staring wistfully into the nursery window at Wendy and Michael and John and the Lost Boys now welcomed into the family, he says, “To live would be an awfully great adventure.”  But he cannot move past his unwillingness to take on the responsibility it requires.   

I have had the same sentiment.  More often than not, it seems wonderfully exciting and dramatic to think of having to fight for something with swords or of having to sacrifice myself, leaving behind a legacy of heroism.  But moving on, day in, day out, seems almost nothing but arduous.  Satan uses tragedy to trip some people up.  For me, he uses monotony…the routine that lays out in front of me, and from which I can see no escape.   

Paul (in the Bible) must have had the same war within himself.  In Philippians 1: 21-26 he says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.  For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.  And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.”  He must’ve been tired of the day to day as well, but knew that Christ had him here, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of others.

All of the great stories of triumph that we love seem to be full of excitement.  But the waiting and the sameness and the loneliness in those stories all ends, for us, after a chapter.  We are able to reach the zenith of the tale in a day, and see that all of this character’s suffering was worth it.  And during the struggle, we urge them on.  We will them not to give up, not to lose heart, not to doubt.  Their years of plodding along flutter by us as we turn the page, insignificant in light of the glory to come.   

What of my own life, though?  I cannot turn the page when all I have to do is continue walking in the path I have been walking, not knowing where it is taking me.  All I can do is walk or not walk.  It becomes a question of what kind of character I want to be in my story.  Do I want to be the character who languishes, loses interest in the quest, drifts out of the story because of their inability to hang on, to believe?  The characters I love are the ones who persevere, even when all reason is against it.  That is the character I want to be.   

There is also a point in Peter Pan where the mother explains that there are different kinds of bravery.  Dialogue below: 

Children: “Father? Brave?”                  

Mother: “There are many different kinds of bravery.  There’s the bravery of thinking of others before oneself.  Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens, but he’s made many sacrifices for his family… and put away many dreams.” 

Children: “Where did he put them?”                     

Mother:  “He put them in a drawer.  And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them.  But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer.   He does.  And that is why he is brave.” 

I think I am full of Peter Pan bravery, but I don’t have much of Father’s type.  Not that I’m saying I have to put my dreams away in a drawer, but I would like to have the kind that thinks of others before myself, the kind that does not fault the world for making dreams difficult to reach, the kind that does not allow circumstances to shape who I am.   

With that said, I must say goodbye to Peter Pan.  I accept responsibility for my actions and my reactions, for my life, for my relationships, and for what comes out of them, because I know that to live is an awfully great adventure.  It does not cease to be so, simply because I cannot see the grand finish, and will have been so even if I never see the outcome of any of my actions.  Apparently, God knew I would feel this way.  Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Every renewal of hope, every remembrance of beauty, every act of kindness, every smile and every mundane thing in life that is performed with joy – these are feats of heroism. 

Peter Pan

by Patty Griffin 

Hey, Peter Pan
I’m going home now
I’ve done all I can
Besides I’m grown now
I’ll think of you all painted with the night
You sit and watch from somewhere
As one by one the lights go out

I wrote a note to tell you how you matter
When the rain came down
All the letters scattered
And washed away
Drifted off to Never
Where you’ll be safe from me now forever

I believe you now when
You say that this will hurt
So I don’t have to go and
Play with you in the dirt now

Hey Peter Pan
I’m going home now
I’m all grown up
You’re on your own now
I’ll think of you all painted with the night
You sit and watch from somewhere
As one by one the lights go out 

Lessons from a Six Year Old

In case y’all haven’t figured this out yet, I over-analyze everything.  Or maybe I just analyze everything.  I’m not really sure if there is an overage.  The past few days I have been seriously contemplating the psyche of this six year old girl I babysit pretty frequently.  I was telling my boyfriend that if she didn’t figure something out, she was going to lead one miserable life…not that I’m giving up on anyone at six, you know.  She’s a great kid – smart, funny, all that stuff.  Her problem is that no matter what is going on, what game we’re playing or how many people are around, she tries to control everything.  Rules, rules, rules…she is constantly making up rules that everyone else is supposed to follow…things like which side of the yard boys are allowed on and who is supposed to play with whom and when it is time to move onto the next game.  But those are the big rules.  Just trust me when I say that she has serious micro-management issues.  And she always gets upset, because the world (other people) just don’t always follow her rules.  The other day it was slightly chaotic as there were cousins visiting.  Four cousins, to be precise.  Add this to my standard two and we get six, yes, six kids.  So, as you could easily surmise, this was a recipe for disappointment for my six year old girl.  Getting her sensitive, introspective four year old brother to be her puppet seems to be a specialty.  However, trying to use the same treatment on said 4 cousins was simply a hopeless case.  Nobody would EVER play what she wanted to play, and definitely not the way she had envisioned it being played.  I always try to talk to her when she gets upset by situations like this, hoping that some of it will sink in at some point.  I say things like, “You can’t expect everybody to follow your rules all of the time, especially when there are this many people.  You just have to kind of go with the flow and try to have fun.”  Response: “But I don’t WAAANNNT to go with the flow,” with much sobbing.  Me again, “Well, everybody doesn’t want to play the same thing you want to.  They get to choose what they play, and you get to choose what you play, but you don’t get to choose for them.”  Her response, “Why is it always about what they want?!”  I’m not sure how to get across that it could be about what she wants, too, if she let it be, but controlling her own destiny is not enough for her.  “I want to play with _______ (insert name),” she says.  The problem is she doesn’t care if they want to play back as long as they do.  She really does want little puppet playmates who will sit where she wants them to sit and play with the things she tells them to play with (and nothing else, mind you) and do it exactly the way she imagined.  The other kids around are usually quite content as long as they get to choose for themselves what they do at a given moment.  She is not happy unless everyone is following her command.  That is what she wants to do, so unless there is a subject to control, she is not getting to do what she wants to do, even if she has chosen her own action.  Are you following me here?  I have a point, really I do, but it’s even sort of lost in my own head right now, so I’m sure you guys have probably all stopped reading by now.  I can see how, given that what she wants to do is tell everyone else what to do, it could seem to her that she never gets to do what she wants to do.  I sort of feel bad for her in that I’m not sure how to make her see that if that person does not want to play what she wants to play, then she really does not want to play with that person. 

I have actually sort of taken this in a different direction than I meant to, although I have thought these things.  But it’s taken me away from my point(s).  My point is that I have been looking at myself and realizing how much I follow in this pattern of thinking.  I want everyone to behave the way I think they ought to (as mentioned in my Recipro-City post), and I get really grouchy when they do not.  I do not exactly expect to be able to control them, but I do always think that they must not be trying hard enough to listen to the voice of reason.  I do, actually, often think it is my duty to show them what they are doing wrong and what they should do to fix it.  So, in a way, I do try to control because then I am frustrated if they do not change. 

You may have gathered from a few of my other posts that I have been a little frustrated with jobs and things, which translates into something akin to depression as jobs take up a lot of time, you know, and so when jobs are what’s buggin’ you, well, it’s hard to get away from it. 

But tonight, I took a lesson on what NOT to do from a six year old.  I always wish that I could make her see that her position is not so bad…that at this moment, she gets to choose her activity.  I am not making her do anything unpleasant.  She is surrounded by fun things to do in the great American home of toys and more toys and yards and swing sets and sprinklers and puzzles and books and crayons…all of which she enjoys.  All this to choose from, yet she is choosing to be miserable instead. 

I have been doing this myself…coming home from work and choosing to allow the frustration to follow me around like a shadow into everything else I do.  When I am not at work, the moments are mine (well, really God’s if I let them be, but you know what I mean).  They are mine, but I had been relinquishing them to the power that I had given to my frustration.  All moments were held captive by what I was not allowed to do or by what I was forced to do.  Tonight I looked at my evening and remembered that it was mine.  I got to choose what I did with it.  I have not been choosing very wisely here lately…turning to things that keep my mind thoughtlessly occupied, and in this only adding to the feeling that I was not doing anything worthwhile. 

There are a lot of points that I have not made, although I alluded to them.  Here are two of the main things I am trying to teach myself through this:

1) Even if my rules are the best rules and the game I made up would be the best game if everyone would pay attention (which is all highly unlikely), I can only force the rules upon myself.  Trying to force other people into my mold will always make me miserable.

2) When I am allowed to choose what I do with my own time, I should choose wisely and let it be enough, because THAT moment is my own.  The bad should not be allowed to creep into the good.  (By the way, I think this is sort of a lazy-man’s fix.  The real fix is to figure out how to get the good to creep into the bad.)

My Farming Adventures and Change

I wrote a while back about perhaps taking on a little work at an organic farm.  This I have done.  This is my fourth or fifth week there, I can’t remember.  I’ve been working 1-2 days a week in between my other duties.  I’ve stuck with the second one I tried.  The first one was a larger 60+ acre farm, and seeing as how I was wanting to do this so I could learn how to garden organically for myself, well, it just wasn’t gardening the way I would have to be gardening in my back yard.  If I ever get a back yard, you know.  No, that farm had tractors and many other types of farm equipment which I cannot begin to name.  I didn’t think I would learn as much because the work would be so much more spread out…I would get left out of a lot of the steps in the process.

So, I moved on to this approximately 1.5 acre farm, with 2 big plots and 3 greenhouses (or hoop houses, as my boss there calls them).  This is more back yard speed, although it cannot be called a back yard operation by any means.  This lady makes her whole living off of an acre and a half.  Pretty impressive to me!  She does the local farmer’s markets and supplies a few things to some local restaurants.  But it’s all by hand, you know, hoes and things.  She also has chickens and bees.  I think she does the chickens and bees herself as we’ve never had to mess with them yet. 

Well, I’m learning things, and I picked a great time to decide to do this as we are just at the hottest part of the year.  Fortunately, I don’t mind the heat nearly as much as most, but it still wears you down after a while!  I like to learn things, although one of the things I’ve learned is that I am allergic to tomato plants.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I didn’t even know you could be allergic to tomato plants, but, let me tell you, you can.  The first couple of times we picked them, I just got a bit itchy.  Last time we picked them, I got an unbearably itchy rash.  Thankfully, it went away after a couple of hours.  This marks the beginning of long-sleeved tomato picking. 

I also have learned that I think this would be much more rewarding if it was, indeed, my own garden in my own back yard where I was growing things for my own dinner table.  No big surprise there really.  The point is that it has not cured my growing restlessness and need for some CHANGE!!! 

I think people get nervous when I start talking like this…I can hear the whispers, “Uh, oh.  What’s she going to do?  Is she going to quit her job before she gets another one…again?”  No, ladies and gentlemen, I am not known for my stick-to-it-iveness.  Mostly in the area of jobs.  Not exclusively, but we’ll leave it at that for now.  I don’t think (I repeat think) that it is because of a lack of ability to persevere.  I just have not ever felt that any of my jobs were important enough to me to persevere through them if I started disliking them that much.  And, unfortunately, I can’t think of a job that I would feel that way about.  Refer back to my Ambition post if you need more explanation for my complete lack of that quality. 

So, does anyone have any ideas about jobs that would be exciting and/or interesting enough to hold the attention of this non-degreed (therefore mostly unqualified), yet very versatile (if I may say so myself) individual?  I like to hear people’s thoughts.

I promise I’ll get back to being intellectual one day.  Right now I’m trying to figure out my life.

Last random thought for the day: if they only grow vegetables, can I call it a farm?  Because when I say farm, everyone thinks I mean cows and stuff.  But saying garden just doesn’t seem right….

Anybody Want a Painting?

As I said before, I’m getting a little bored with the day-to-day routine, and trying to think of ways to not have to “go” to work. 

I’ll do commissioned works if anyone is interested.  There are a few samples of stuff I have done in the past at the bottom here.  (Sorry about the weird sizes…I apparently still have no idea how wordpress really wants you to put photos in your posts.  You can, at least, click them for a larger image.)

I would have to charge a non-refundable downpayment up front for supplies, varying based on what you wanted, but this would give you the option to refuse purchase if you were not happy with the final result.  Shipping charges would obviously have to be added as well. 

As far as my style goes, I do not consider myself a “realist.”  You’re not going to get a painting that looks like a photograph.  They are more interpretive, and I can do paintings based on photos or I can do abstracts, given the parameters of what you want or examples of what you like.

I can give you more examples of my art if you would like to see, or if you have a myspace account, I can direct you to mine so that you can look at them there.

Anyone interested?

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Crossing: An abstract painted for my brother & his wife.  Ask about the symbolism if you’re interested.

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Ethereal: Painted for my sister.

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Fishing: Painted for a friend and based on a photo.

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Martha Graham: Based on a photo of Martha Graham, a dancer.  Also with a little bit of symbolism if you’re interested.

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My Niece: A portrait of my pixie-niece.  🙂  Based on a photo.

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My Sky: An abstract horizon, painted as if in wide-screen format.

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Sunflower Bouquet: Loosely based on a photo of the bouquet sitting in front of my mirror.

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Jazz: Painted by request for a friend’s recording studio.

Wanta See the Basement?

Not so far in the distant past, I went to do a nanny job.  It was for a family I had not met before, as is the case much of the time, seeing how I work for a nanny service.  At this particular nanny job, when I got there, the mom was still getting ready.  The dad was out in the kitchen with me, and the TV was blaring the news pretty loudly.  It was discussing this truckdriver suspected of killing 6 people in 4 states.  After a moment, the dad said something to the effect of, “You know, I just can’t understand that – just driving around killing people.  That’s something I really can’t relate to.”  I said, “Well, that’s comforting to me.”  He laughed and said, “Yeah, like babysitter stories…’Wanta come see the basement?'”  He laughed again and said, “All the girls love the basement.” 

Boy, he sure knows how to put a babysitter at ease.  My first reaction to his statement (which I decided against, you know, for the sake of a parent’s comfort in leaving their child with me) was to say (with much sarcasm, of course), “Oh, I don’t know, sometimes you know, I can understand the draw to being a serial killer.  You know, on certain days.”  Is it really necessary to point out to the babysitter that you have no inclination for serial killing?  At least, that was what I was thinking.  I mean, it’s just like saying, “Just so you know, I’m not a serial killer.  I mean, I’m not going to kill you or anything.”  The need to lay it all out is, well, disturbing, if yet a bit comical. 

And our lesson for the day is: the more fervently you feel the need to deny all sympathy for serial killing, the more I start to believe you’re a serial killer.  And I’m definitely not going to see the basement.  Thanks, though. 

Kids Are Funny

So, I told y’all I was a temp nanny right?  Well, this means I keep lots of different kids all of the time.  Doing this has made me appreciate them a lot more.  They are hilarious.  Here is a collection of some of the funniest things they’ve said.

During a game of 3 on 1 “tie up” the babysitter from a 3 yr. old boy: 

“I’m going to pour hot bubble gum gas on you!”

Conversation between me and a 5 yr. old girl after her disappointment at finding the cupboards empty of hot chocolate:

5 yr. old girl: “But I really wanted some hot chocolate!” in her best whiny voice.

Me: “Well, I don’t know what to tell you.  I can’t make hot chocolate out of thin air.”

5 yr. old girl: “But I know how to make hot chocolate out of thin hair.” 

Conversation between me and a 3 yr. old boy while driving in my car:

3 yr. old boy: “What’s that thing?”

Me: “It’s an ice scraper.  It’s for when you get snow and ice on your car windows.  You use it to clean them off so you can see to drive.”

3 yr. old boy (after pause): “Can you do that by yourself?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

3 yr. old boy: “Well, did you have to get a grown up to help you?”

Me: Poor attempt at stifled laughter.  (I’m 29 yrs old.)

3 yr. old boy (after second pause): “Are you a grown up?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m kind of a grown up.”

3 yr. old boy: “Yeah, I’m kind of a grown up, too.” 

Conversation with a 4 yr. old girl while having a pretend picnic in the hall:

Me: “What are we having to eat?”

4 yr. old girl: “Broccoli.”

Me (thinking it was odd for a 4 yr. old to volunteer broccoli): “Do you like broccoli?”

4 yr. old girl: “No, I’m having chicken nuggets.  You’re having broccoli.”

Conversation with a 3 yr. old girl:

Me: “I like your jeans.”

3 yr. old girl: “Thanks.  They have a rope to tie them up.”

Me: “I see that.”

3 yr. old girl: “That’s so the wind doesn’t blow my pants off.”

Conversation with a 7 yr. old girl after she told me the same story twice in 10 minutes:

7 yr. old girl: “Did I already tell you that?”

Me: “Yeah, but that’s OK.”

7 yr. old girl, shrugging: “You start to forget things when you get older.”

Conversation with 3 yr. old boy proving premeditated bad behavior:

3 yr. old: “I think when I wake up tomorrow I’m going to be really, really messy.”

Me: “Oh, yeah?  Like what kind of stuff are you going to do?”

3 yr. old: “Well, I might turn that kitchen over (pointing to his toy kitchen), and pull all of the stuff off of it.  And I might take those (pointing to 3 large toy drawers) and dump them out and then just put the stuff everywhere (with much large gesturing).”

Conversation with 3 yr. old boy:

3 yr. old boy: “Sometimes I like to try to go to school naked.  One time, I took my clothes off and I was running around the house and then I hid from my mom.”

Me: “What did your mom think about this?”

3 yr. old boy:  “I don’t think she was very happy.”

Impromptu song sung by 4 yr. old girl pretending to be a rock star (imagine in very sing-song, dramatic fashion):

“When I was this many (holding up 3 fingers) – I used to be scared of the dark – And I had to sleep with the nite lite on – Because I was sca-ared of the ghost-es – And I was scared of the ghost-es – Because I accidentally watched Ghost Hunters with my mom.”

I think that’ll do for now…I have more, but maybe another day.  I hope it made you smile!