Monday, December 31, 2012

Not Caring What People Think

Blog Pause Day Six:  It's the final day of 2012!  Thank you for joining me during my Blog Pause these past few days.  I'll be back with fresh posts starting tomorrow, but for now, I'll leave you with this final flashback from 2012.

Originally posted April 8, 2012

As I readied the girls for church this morning and we rushed out the door, I took a final look at their outfits.


For a moment, I thought that I should have done better.  Shouldn't they be wearing tights under their dresses instead of cotton leggings, mismatched socks, or bare legs?  Shouldn't they have new dress shoes instead of everyday sneakers?

Wouldn't we be better prepared for Easter if we looked the part?

As we drove to church, I realized that the answer is a resounding no.  

It's not about our outward appearances.  We don't need to have our acts together to come to God.  He invites us this way -- honest, broken, disheveled, just as we are.  We can come before Him with mismatched socks.

During service, a man stood to speak about how Christ changed his life.  I hated everyone.  I didn't care what people thought of me then, he said, speaking of his sordid background filled with crime, drugs, and stints in rehab and jail.  I've known this man for years, and I knew parts of his story but not the depths.

His life is so different now.  He's a preschool teacher.  He works in children's ministry.  He's been clean and serving God for ten years, and my children absolutely love him.  I can't help but smile when I see him.  And what he said next struck such a chord in me:  And I don't care what people think of me now.  I'm living for Jesus.  How could I not want others to know?

I don't care what people think of me now.

During services, this is a man who claps the loudest.  This is a man who always stands in the front, his arms raised, and will will shout Amen! and Thank you, Jesus!  

This is a man who -- I am sure -- has gotten sideways glances, even from fellow church-goers, because of his unbridled zeal.  Can't he just tone it down?  Let's keep this respectful.  

But no, he can't tone it down.  His life has been changed, and he's not going to forget it.  He wants everyone to experience what he's discovered.

When I accepted Christ at age fifteen, I was a pretty good kid.  By most people's standards, I hadn't done too much wrong.  I don't have a dramatic testimony of being lifted from the gutter by God's grace, yanked from a lifestyle of blatant sin or addiction.  I've been following God for nineteen years. 

Still, do I have the same tenacity to boldly proclaim, I don't care what people think of me now?  

Because sometimes I do care.  I work in academia, an environment where faith in Jesus is not the norm.  I live in regular society, a society where following God can seem antiquated or closed-minded.  I blog, and some of my readers might not agree.

Even though I should have immediately left the sanctuary to pick up my girls in their Sunday school classrooms once the service ended, I instead went to the front for prayer.  My request was simple: "I don't want to care."

So there I stood, tears on my face, wiping my nose with my daughter's jacket that was draped over my arm, knowing that I looked disheveled and mismatched.  Exactly as God wants me to be -- honest, without pretense.

I'm living for Jesus.  An audience of one.  

It won't always be popular.  It might not be applauded or even understood.  But I'm like that man.  My life has been marked by God, and I am so grateful

How could I ever forget it?  How could I not want everyone to know Jesus?

I want to point others to Christ.  Let me always care about people, but let me not care about what people may think.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Thing That's Constant

Blog Pause Day Five: The beauty of revisiting this post is that all of the "about-to-be-born" babies I mention in the first paragraph have arrived.  And since time just keeps passing, I'll note that some of them already are crawling.

Originally posted March 22, 2012

I'm surrounded by pregnancy and babies.  Two of my friends, one local and one distant, likely are rocking or nursing their newborns as I type this post.  Seven additional women I know are pregnant, all of whom are due in the next few months.  New chicks are hatching.

Last night I delivered a meal to my local friend.  As I carried the plates into her kitchen, I nearly sucked in my breath when I saw her ten-day-old daughter sleeping in the baby seat stationed on the floor.  Do they really come that small?

My three girls were in tow, following me like ducklings, all capable of walking and eating and jumping and climbing and talking and doing so many other things that this precious baby was not capable of doing.

Not yet.

Where did the baby stages go?  Whenever I nuzzle my face into my youngest daughter's curls, I still breathe in her scent as if she were a baby.



Whenever I see her still-pudgy feet, I remember how I kissed and tickled and marveled at her newborn toes.


My children aren't babies any longer.  At least, not when you compare them to a newborn.

Before we left, my friend asked if I wanted to hold her daughter.  I accepted immediately.  She gingerly placed her in my arms and memories flooded back: the silky hair, the squeaky noises, the wide-mouthed yawns, the one-eye-opened and one-eye-shut unfocused glance around the room before drifting back into a scrunch-faced sleep.

I look back at the pictures of my last pregnancy, knowing that I'm finished with this stage of life.




I study myself, knowing now that the photos captured me mere days before labor.  Alternatively, I remember the time as if it were yesterday and wonder whether it was me at all.  I regard the images with contradictory closeness and distance, stepping along to an elusive dance of time and memory.

These women I know, all of them, are living their lives in step with their music: the rhythms of baby showers and baby kicks, the choruses of sleepy newborns and nighttime feedings.  If I glance back too much at my earlier stanzas and steps, I start to lose focus on my current dance.

Our own routines seem so familiar to us as we live them.  Nothing seems inherently magical about a typical day with my girls when I'm in the midst of it.  Reese gets ready for school.  Brooke curls on the couch with me to read books while Kerrington takes her afternoon nap.  I clean up toys, prepare lunch, cook dinner, wipe up spills, sweep the floor, empty the trash, fold the laundry, check the homework, help with baths, say prayers, kiss goodnight, and then come downstairs for the quiet night hours, tired.

It's a typical day in a house with kids who are almost-seven, almost-four, and almost-two.


But, from experience, I know that I'll eventually look back at pictures from one of these typical current days, and I'll wonder how it's possible that the moment feels simultaneously like yesterday and forever ago.  I'll remember the magic: how Reese dashed off the school bus and flashed a smile with a new gap where her loose tooth used to be, how Brooke rested her head on my shoulder as we read the same book again and again, and how Kerrington reached out her arms and sang Mama! when I entered her room after her nap.

The one thing that's constant is time.  It passes equally for each of us.  No matter how hard we may try, we can't stretch it out or hurry it along.

What we can do is embrace it, no matter how it's currently passing.  Lord, I want to enjoy these days.  All of these days.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Psychoanalyze This

Blog Pause Day 4: My husband and I recently were able to slip out for a date night and see The Hobbit.  Our night out reminded me of this post, which I'm sharing again for your reading pleasure.

Originally posted February 3, 2012

Occasionally a movie becomes more than a movie.  It becomes an entity unto itself, a metaphor for life.  This is the case for me with the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Perhaps I wouldn't select them for a relaxing evening at home, of course, because who really has 557 minutes to spare?

What I like about these movies is that they're highly quotable.  Plus, they're sticky, meaning that the characters and moments have lodged themselves in my brain, allowing me to frequently draw analogies between the movies and the experiences in my own life.

Obviously, I'm living an epic adventure.

For instance, whenever my children ask for two snacks between breakfast and lunch -- which is daily -- I suspect that they're hobbits.  I hear Pippin in my head, "What about second breakfast?  What about elevenses?  Luncheon?  Afternoon tea?  Dinner?  Supper?  He knows about them, doesn't he?

Whenever I'm weary, I remember Biblo's description of being spread thin, like butter scraped over too much bread.

And when I call attention to myself in an undesirable fashion, I imagine the Eye, lidless and wreathed in flame, peering down on me.


Ah, man, I brought the Eye toward me again!  Drat.

So, while I recently was going about my business in the kitchen (code for sweeping up crumbs and noticing how often my socks stuck to the floor), I paused when I saw this:


And then I really paused when I saw this:


My daughter reported that she simply had been making turkey vultures by tracing her hand.  (She's advanced beyond mere turkeys.  We're onto vultures.)

But when I studied the cut-out of her hand, I didn't see a turkey vulture.  I saw my daughter claiming all objects as her own -- starting with this riding toy -- by marking them with her hand print.

I saw the hand of Saruman.  

I saw this:


And I'm not sure what this reveals about me.

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LOTR images compliments of mormondiscussion.com and myecdysis.com 



Friday, December 28, 2012

Teach Kids How to Set a Table

Blog Pause Day Three:  This was one of my most widely-circulated posts from 2012 -- and one that was great fun to write.

Originally posted June 4, 2012

It's possible that I will spend six entire days of my life buckling and unbuckling my children from their car seats.  Don't ask me to show you the math.

Actually, let me show you the math.



Continuing with this loose form of estimation, I'll also probably spend three weeks of my life searching for items that my children have misplaced and eight months of my life folding their laundry.

Can you imagine the time that you would save if your kids knew how to complete simple tasks?  What if you could teach them to take over a job that you normally do, like setting the table?  Not only would your children learn a valuable skill, but also you'd save a few minutes per day.

Eventually you'd gain entire days of your life.


Yes, through this video tutorial on how to teach your kids to set a table, I'm giving you the gift of LIFE.

Just think what you can accomplish with additional days of life at your disposal.  How many books you could read!  You could pick up a new hobby or start cracking away on that laundry, for example.



Of course, if you know any tips on how to accelerate a child's mastery of the seat belt buckling process, feel free to share with me.  I'm all ears.


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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why My Kitchen Is Not the Setting for a Reality Cooking Show

Blog Pause Day 2: Do you recognize your dinner preparations in this post?

Originally posted April 27, 2012

I'm raising a young chef.  Even as I type this, I'm scratching my head -- which is hard to do because both typing and scratching require the coordinated use of your fingers.  My daughter doesn't get this budding culinary aptitude from me.  At this juncture in life with three young children underfoot, my cooking philosophy is "Eat to Live."  There's little art involved, just survival.

It's a shame because when someone cooks with flair, it's beautiful.

I noticed this the other day when my daughter bypassed cartoons in order to watch the Food Network.  When she discovered this channel she looked at us deeply as if we had been depriving her, as if she were thinking, Food Network, where have you been my whole life?

The chef was making lobster risotto.  My daughter was enthralled and, to be honest, I was too.  Everything about the way she worked was systematic, smooth, calm, and pleasant, and for a moment I felt a desire to cook rise up within me.  Not just to cook -- but to create something exceptional.

Then I snapped back into reality.  Because what I'd actually like to see on the Food Network is a reality cooking show.  It can be filmed at my house, and it would go something like this:

At the start of the show, I'd scramble to see what we have in the refrigerator and make a quick decision that we'd be making tacos.  I wouldn't call it tacos, of course.  I'd call it Mexican Fiesta Night.  Two out of three children would cheer.  Ole!  One would declare that she no longer likes Mexican food, although it was her favorite last week.


As I browned the ground beef and spoke to the camera about the fine aroma, my kids would begin fighting in the background over a toy that previously had been untouched for 17 days until one picked it up and the other two decided that they, too, must play with it instantly.

Instead of having ingredients prepped and measured in adorably matching dishes at the onset, I would scramble to grate cheese, cut tomatoes, and shred lettuce, only to realize that we are nearly out of cheese and our lettuce is wilted.  At the last minute, I'd decide that canned corn would be a nice addition.  Isn't that color just beautiful, I'd comment, wiping my hands on my back pockets because my dish towel currently is serving as a blanket for someone's doll.

Periodically as I worked, small hands would reach onto the kitchen island to steal food items.  One child would wrap herself around my leg, hindering my movement around the kitchen.  Someone would yell from the bathroom that they just went potty and need to be wiped.  Cue commercial break.

Once I'm back, the camera would capture me delicately scooping meat and sprinkling a meager ration of cheese into each taco shell, confirming "You wanted a hard taco, right?" while making direct eye contact with each child and observing the nod of affirmation in return.  I'd carry plates to the table and we'd pray.  Mere seconds after "amen" one child would look at her plate, shocked, and announce, "But I wanted a soft taco."

Three minutes into dinner, I'd remember to sit down at the kitchen table.  Instead of leisurely sipping sangria from stemware, I'd be drinking water from a plastic cup with butterflies even though I'm positive that it's not my glass.  After wiping up one spill, dinner would be finished in six minutes.

I'd wipe down the table and clean up the highchair.  I'd sweep the remnants of cheese, ground beef, taco shell crumbs, and corn kernels from the floor, empty the trash, load the dishwasher, and finally sit down.

Two minutes would pass.  Someone would ask for a snack.

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Image compliments of Life123.com (Creative Taco Recipes)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I Will Accept Your Help

As a way to rest and reflect, I'll temporarily be pausing Pink Dryer Lint for the remainder of the calendar year.  Each day I'll post one old blog entry until we reach 2013.  Think of it like leftovers that taste even better the second time around!

Blog Pause Day 1:  This was a post that I had forgotten entirely until I discovered it in the archives.  It's a good reminder for me -- and perhaps for you, too!  

Originally Posted February 17, 2012

He approaches me from the back of the bus and motions to the bag on my shoulder, the tripod in my left hand, and the hefty camera case in my right.  "Please, let me carry that for you."

We're headed in the same direction -- the same classroom, to be exact.  This particular student of mine extends a polite greeting each morning and offers a thank you, professor at the conclusion of every class -- even the boring ones -- without fail.  His college experience will be split in half this summer when he returns to his home country to fulfill a two-year mandatory military service, and then he'll return to complete his credits and graduate.

I'm so accustomed to doing things myself that I almost decline his offer, but I get my wits about me, accept, and gratefully hand over the bulky tripod.  As we walk to class together I'm aware of how much lighter my load is when another person carries a portion of it for me.

Too often I shirk opportunities to let people help me, falling into my default responses.  No, you don't need to bring anything.  It's okay, I'll take care of it.  Don't worry, I've got this covered.

It's much more graceful to accept help when help is needed.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  I've told you that it's impossible to get all of us looking at the camera at once...


But I might not ever have told you that I'm a sucker for something random: flash mobs.  (I mean, the friendly flash mobs that break out in song and dance.)  Something about organized extravagence appearing in the middle of the most normal, unsuspecting place causes me to pause, marvel, and tear up.  That's what happened when I watched this lovely video.

Enjoy!  Blessings to you this day!

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Monday, December 24, 2012

As We Wait for Christmas

The other day I discovered my four-year-old lying on her back in the middle of the hallway, staring at the ceiling, and muttering to herself about presents.  She's a typical kid before Christmas: glazed-over with anticipation.

Underneath our tree rests a manger scene.  Over the past few weeks, the figurines have been scattered around the house.  Mary is found on the kitchen floor, a camel appears underneath the table, a wise man surfaces in the bathroom.  Yet my kids always seem to know where Baby Jesus is.

This morning I overhear the girls talk as they crowd around the manger and form a new configuration with the characters.  "We need to put Baby Jesus right in the center," my oldest states.

No one argues.


"He's the most important piece," the four-year-old adds.

They might not yet fully grasp the significance of their statements, but the truth isn't lost on me.

Put Jesus in the center.  He's the most important piece.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

When Your Kids Discover Styrofoam Packing Material


Title: When Your Kids Discover Styrofoam Packing Material

Subtitle: It kind of resembles snow, doesn't it?  Or a collision between a doll house and a glacier.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bringing Beauty to the Mess

Why decorate for Christmas?  Why go through the process -- the work -- of unpacking, unraveling, and hanging extraneous things just to take them down, wrap them up, and pack them away a few weeks later?

It's because we gravitate toward beauty.  We need beauty, I believe.


When I see a crimson bow against the pine garland that drapes along my front porch railing, I see beauty.  The same goes for when I gaze out my kitchen window and notice the bulbs that are dangling above my kitchen sink,


or the wreath hanging on my front door,


or the stockings suspended from our banister,


or the festive centerpiece on the dining room table.


I see these small touches and realize that beauty has been brought to this place.

These Christmas decorations have joined the daily stuff: the crumbs, the dust, pile of clothes that needs to be carried up the stairs, the day's mail that's been left on the dining room table, and the dirty dishes in the sink that couldn't fit in the crammed-full dishwasher.


Across the nation, Christmas decorations have been displayed in homes where hearts have been heavy, where little children have been shielded from the news, and where older children (like us adults) have been painfully grappling with why?, knowing that there are no glib responses or simple explanations.

And yet, the Christmas decorations are beautiful.  It seems like such a stark contrast -- almost out of place -- but isn't this the essence of the Christmas message?  That beauty was brought to our mess?

Life is terribly messy at times.  And in light of the recent events, life also is unspeakably tragic at times.  Whether our messes are purely accidental, entirely of our own doing, or dramatically and irrevocably imposed upon us, we're living in the midst of them, feeling their effects.

Why did God go through the process -- the work -- of bringing Beauty to our mess?  Why bring a baby into a manger?  Why take such beauty to such a lowly and filthy place at such a dark time? 

I recently read a post from Moore to the Point which reminded, "Jesus was not born into a gauzy, sentimental winter wonderland of sweetly-singing angels and cute reindeer nuzzling one another at the side of his manger.  He was born into a war-zone.  And at the very rumor of his coming, Herod vowed to see him dead, right along with thousands of his brothers.  History in Bethlehem, as before and as now, is riddled with the bodies of murdered children."

Certainly, in these upcoming weeks and months (even years) we need smart discussion and thoughtful, informed advocacy about school safety, mental illness, and gun laws.  That much is abundantly clear.

As for right now, I also remember John 10:10, which states, "A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life and have it to the full."  Simply put, the murder of children -- the most innocent -- is of Satan.  Period.  It reeks of evil.

We must take practical steps to do our best to prevent such tragedies from occurring again, of course.  Also, shaken as our nation is, this is not a time to run away from God, but to run to God. 

This is the message of Christmas: God became man and entered a violent world to meet us in the midst of our mess. 

He still can meet us in the mess.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

When There Are No Good Words

When there are no words for your mouth to speak, it's your heart that cries out in prayer.  Words don't make sense when there are children who climbed onto a school busy in the morning and never will return home in the afternoon.

I can't wrap my mind around the tragedy.  I can't begin to trace the broad aftershocks of the suffering for each family, teacher, emergency worker, and the community as a whole.  I can't imagine empty beds, already-wrapped Christmas gifts, and an open seat at the dinner table.  I can't fathom the ache of having life torn away so horrifically, so abruptly.

Lord, there are no good words.

As I type, my children bustle through the house, bumping into walls, squealing, bickering, asking incessant questions.  Kids being kids.  I hug them all the tighter, and I can't gather words, but my heart cries out.

Lord, bring comfort.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Gift for Mothers


I wish that I could step back in time to those early moments of motherhood when normal seemed so far off, to those days when I feared that the crying would never stop, or that the baby would never wake up to eat, or that the baby would never stop waking up to eat.  I’d gently place my hands on my own tense shoulders and whisper into my ear, “Robin, everything will turn out just fine.”

As a new mother, that’s all that I had needed to hear.  Whether new or not, that’s what most every mother needs to hear.

Last week I received a message from a woman who just had finished reading the first chapter Then I Became a Mother.

"Where was this book four-and-a-half years ago?" she began.  "This will help so many mommas!  I can't wait to continue reading!"

Fellow moms -- you women who are wiping and cleaning, rocking and hushing, feeding and burping, changing and bathing, teaching and correcting, laughing and crying, cutting food into bite-sized portions and waking early to do it all again the next day -- do you realize that you're doing extremely important work?

You deserve to be cared for, too.

So, let me ask you: Are you a tired mother?  Could you use a good laugh, a word of encouragement, and a pat on the back?  If so, this book is for you.

Have you ever faced a day where you've cried more than your children?  Well, this book is for you.

Have you so deeply longed for one quiet moment that you've contemplated staging an accident where your child's favorite musical toy is mysteriously run over in your driveway?

This book definitely is for you.

Do you know a new or young mom who needs to to be uplifted?  This book is for her, too.

Today, give yourself the gift of being a more refreshed, encouraged, and lightened mom.  And bless another mom by delivering a copy right to her inbox.

Simply visit the link on Amazon and look for this green box in the upper right corner.

Buy now for yourself and give as a gift for a friend.  (Gifting an book is easy; all you need is your friend's email address.)

Don't own a Kindle?  Don't let this stop you.  You can download a free Kindle reading app for your PC here.





What readers are saying:

"Hysterical and spot on!  Then I Became a Mother is a must-read for every expecting mother, new mom, or any mom of young children.  Kramer has an uncanny ability to use the written word to mentor a mother's heart.  Her writing style is as intimate and genuine as having coffee with a dear friend."  (Jennifer Wiles Mullen, Mosiac of Moms)

"Then I Became a Mother captures the essence of the mothering experience certainly more than any other book I've read."

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Behold: a new look for Then I Became a Mother!

It's the last week of classes at the university where I teach, and over the past few days I've been collecting and evaluating final speeches and projects.  (Do you realize how many times I've sung "Livin' On a Prayer" in my head in the last several days?  Woah, we're almost there!)

In the midst of this grading-induced fervor, I wanted to take a moment to share that my recently-released book, Then I Became a Mother, is sporting a new look with a revised cover.

Stay tuned for more information!

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

When You're Not Caught Up

When I left campus this afternoon after teaching my classes, I felt behind.  When I arrived home and saw the state of my kitchen and family room, I felt behind.  Tonight when I face my to-do list after the kids have gone to bed, it's likely that the feeling of being behind will perpetuate.


Have you noticed that being "caught up" is such an elusive state?  We catch up with household chores, and then the first piece of garbage is tossed into the trash can and a dirty shirt is thrown into the laundry basket.  On and on it goes: filling, emptying, filling, emptying.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Even as I type, my head hurts.  Little chores abound tonight: picking up a birthday gift for a kid's party this weekend, putting away the blocks, wiping down the kitchen table, changing the sheets, finishing a chapter for work.

In light of this, I'm going to do something as I run errands with the girls after dinner: I'm going to drive the long route that leads me along the meandering street with the house that burns a wood stove.  I'm going to slow down, breathe deeply, and pay attention to something so simple -- the warmth of a smell.

I can't just enjoy life when I'm entirely caught up.  (Being caught up is lovely, mind you, for the four minutes that it lasts.)

In the meantime -- in this mess of unfinished business that characterizes the most typical of days -- I'm going to hug my kids, love my husband, and breathe in the scent of that wood stove.

I'm going to choose joy, even when I'm behind.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Attempting Christmas Pictures


You know those families who take Christmas photos where all children are smiling, looking directly at the camera, and dressed in color-coordinated outfits? We're not one of those families.

In any given picture, one child seems to be out-of-sorts.


At other times, all three children go slightly awry: one inspecting the ceiling with an air of surprise, one eating her hand, and another curling her tongue.


Even the oldest child, the one who has handled herself with notable maturity for the other photos, eventually will succumb to antics.


As if the floor were shifting underneath, she'll also develop an inability to stand upright.  She'll extend her arms for balance.  At this point, you won't mind.  The littlest one is in motion and the middle child is trying to stick multiple fingers into multiple facial orifices.

Scrap this option for the Christmas card.


If you're feeling especially optimistic, you'll take a breather, let the kids burn off some energy, and try later in the evening.  This time, the two older children will be compliant because you're letting them hold a strand of Christmas lights.

The youngest will look at you plaintively.  Are you really doing this to us again?

And you are.  You're really doing this to them again.


But the child is intent on closing herself off from her surroundings, falling into a protective stance that adults only wish that they could do while in stressful public situations.  La-la-la-la!  I don't see you!


When she opens her eyes, she's shocked that you're still taking pictures.


So she revolts.  If you're attuned to the mind of a two-year-old, you can discern the thread of her inner dialogue:  I've had it.  I'm squishing my face.


Really.  I mean it -- I'm really going for it.  It's total face-squishing time.


I'm warning you.  This is not going to be pretty, Mom.

And she's right.  

_____________________________________________________________

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