Teach Kids How to Control Their Emotions


"I want to tell you something."  My husband pulls my daughter aside in the other room.  She's in a huff, a frothing mixture of frustration and tears and hiccups, over something that her sister has done. 

He waits until she simmers down to speak.  His tone is gentle, but it carries weight.  "I know that you're mad, but you control your own response."

It's a simple message that we're trying to instill in our children: they are the ones who control their reactions to whatever circumstances they encounter.  They control if they get mad, if they lose their cool, if they throw a tantrum.  Not anyone else.

Simple, but revolutionary.  Not to mention, hard.

Even as an adult, it's easy to let other people and outside circumstances dictate how I'll react.  He made me mad.  Her comment made me feel inferior.  That situation frustrated me.  Given enough outside turmoil, the emotions and thoughts of my inner life can be run through an agitator, leaving me ungrounded, unsettled, and upset.

Whether you're five or fifteen or forty-five, this isn't a stable way to live.

This is why we're working to coach our children through the process of handling their emotions, and here are a few strategies we've been trying:

Take a breather.  In the heat of the moment, tempers can flare.  In my own life, I sometimes need to step away and compose myself before responding.  Likely, our kids need the same buffer.  Coach your child to count to ten, encourage (or make) your child leave the room, or build in a waiting period until a child is calm enough to respond reasonably.

Acknowledge the feelings.  If your child is angry, frustrated, or hurting, acknowledge that these emotions are normal and powerful.  Denial never is helpful.  However, we still can help our children interact with those emotions more productively.  Emotions can be the caboose, not the engine that runs our lives.  (If I'm angry but choose to respond calmly, eventually I'll feel calm.  Emotions, like a caboose, will follow the engine of action.) 

Focus on what you can control.  We can't control how others respond to us.  We can't control how events unfold.  We can't control that whether a sibling breaks our toy, whether a traffic light turns red, or whether a new day dawns.  If we're honest, we'll admit that we can't control much.  If we're really honest, we'll admit that we enjoy control.  Lately, I've been reminding myself that there's freedom in recognizing my limitations.  (Serenity prayer, anyone?)

Knowing my limitations allows me to focus on the one thing I can control: my response.  Can I choose kindness?  Understanding?  Patience?  Can I model this for my children?  Can I talk them through the process of making good choices with what they can control? 

Try and try again.  We'll mess up.  I still respond with impatience to my children's impatience.  I mull over a comment, stewing over its intended meaning.  I bristle when snubbed.  But, Lord knows, I'm taking strides and growing in my capacity to honor God with my responses.  I expect that I'll be learning for the rest of my life.  Our children will, too.  We're all works in progress.

During these formative years, let's give our children the necessary tools to control their responses in a productive way.  And when we're frothing, hiccuping, angry messes, let's gently remind ourselves with the same message, "I know you're mad, but you've got this one.  You control your response."

Have any tips that have worked for you?  Feel free to share!

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6

A Disaster Waiting to Happen


Title: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Subtitle:  Tell me I'm not the only one who breathes more easily when melt beads finally are ironed. 

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Only Because of the Cold

While walking across campus to my morning class, I joined up with a student.  "I can't wait for warmer weather," she admitted. 

I understood.  I'm not generally bothered by winter, but I'm developing a serious itch for sunshine, warmth, and color.  The fence that separates our backyard from our neighbor's farm has served as a metaphor for the lingering winter: it's stretching on, mostly devoid of color, as far as the eye can see.


My student continued, "If it were 75 or 80 and blue skies everyday, I'd always be happy."

I gave little thought to her statement until I was walking back to my car after my final class.  As I looked from the gray pavement, salt-stained and gritty, up to the gray sky, a part of me agreed with her proclamation: a 75 degree day would be entirely welcome right now. 

Still, it's bleak days like these that make me appreciate spring all the more. 

I know myself.  If I had perfect weather all the time, at some point I'd take it for granted.

I'd forget to appreciate how good it feels when sunshine kisses my skin with warmth.  I'd forget to savor the fresh fragrances of a spring breeze.  I'd too quickly forget how much easier it is to move around and run errands without accounting for the girls' cumbersome jackets while bucking them into their car seats and wrangling on their boots.

But after a long winter?  These simple pleasures aren't taken for granted.

When I reached the top of the parking deck, I paused for a moment to look across campus: an aerial view of the historic buildings framed by the leafless trees; a bleached, but tranquil, sky.  Beautiful in its own right. 

And at that moment, the cold felt alright.

I thanked God for the winters that I've faced.  I thanked God that things aren't always perfect in my life.  My struggles, conflicts, and inconveniences might not be comfortable, but they're what draw me to Him.  Through them, I learn and grow the most.

It's only because of the cold that I can so deeply appreciate the warmth when it comes.

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To the Ladybug Who Entered My House


Because we haven't seen the likes of your kind for quite some time, you created quite an uproar with our children yesterday.  I'm uncertain about your specific anatomical workings, but if your antenna are even remotely sensitive, you likely heard that uproar.

From the seven-year-old: "Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom -- there's a ladybug!  A ladybug!  It's a ladybug!"

From the four-year-old: "Come here, you little ladybug.  You're so cute!  I'll hold you."

From the two-year-old: "Bug.  Bug.  Bug.  Bug!  BUG!"

Your delicate ladybug wings momentarily fluttered, as if you were poised to dart toward freedom, yet you held your ground.

This was a tactical error.

They crowded you, poked at you, and attempted to pet you.  Only then did you fly.  I'm not sure how you managed it, but you swooped directly into the seven-year-old's open mouth.  (Another tactical error, but I get it: you were confused.  They confuse me sometimes, too.)

She spit you out and began a strange, contorted dance that resembled someone walking on hot coals while gargling.  It was at this point that I seized my opportunity: I rescued you, carried you to the sliding glass door, and gently flicked you from my palm into the great outdoors.

It wasn't even thirty degrees outside, but I hope you understand my reasoning:  I simply thought you'd be safer.

Stay warm, little ladybug, stay warm.

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Photo compliments of Flickr.com (Reinhold Stansich)
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On Bunk Beds

Recently we rearranged the girls' bedrooms to accommodate for a new piece of furniture in our house: bunk beds.  Here are some thoughts.

Do you consider "bunk beds" to be singular or plural?  (As in, is my opening sentence grammatically incorrect?  Should I have written "new pieces of furniture" even though it's one entity that happens to hold two beds?  Have you ever looked at a sentence so long that it not only looks ungrammatical, but it also looks as if it's no longer written in your primary language?  I'm hitting that point.  Moving on.)

Bunk beds are as awesome as you remember them to be from your childhood.  Unless, of course, you had a traumatic experience with a bunk bed that scarred you and forever made you wary of heights, ladders, or sleepovers.

Recognize the limitless depth of a two-year-old's trust.  Apply this knowledge when that two-year-old is on the top bunk and you're standing nearby.  Expect to catch her if she decides to leap into your arms, or (more accurately) when she decides to leap into your arms.

When sitting in the lower bunk, you'll remind yourself not to bump your head when you sit up.  You'll still bump your head when you sit up.

Changing the sheets on the upper bunk will count as your exercise for the day.  As you're wrangling the fitted corners, you'll question the feasibility of the task.  Can one really put a sheet on a bed when you're on top of that very bed on all fours?  You'll maneuver your body in odd ways, as if you're trying to levitate, kind of like when you bite into food that's too hot and attempt to make that bite hover without touching your tongue or the roof of your mouth.  Somehow, despite physics and all odds, you'll secure the sheet.  You'll never want to change it again.

Do you have any bunk bed observations?

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13

Hope for When You're Not in the Sweet Spot


My daughters have been arguing lately.  I could analyze the contributing variables: the cold weather that's kept us inside, a series of sicknesses, or the underlying crankiness from not sleeping as well as they normally do.

But sometimes you're too tired for analysis.

I asked the girls to sit across the kitchen table from one another and explain one thing they enjoy about each other.  A little exercise in appreciation, I thought.  Let's stir up some good feelings.

"I like when you play in the other room away from me."

"Well, I like it when you don't hit."

The bar was low, indeed.  I was tempted to lower my head to the table and admit, "Right now, what I like is when you're all asleep.  Because it's quiet then."

I don't particularly enjoy the hard moments of motherhood when I'm in the trenches, but I'm no longer surprised by them like I was when I was a new mom.  I've lived through enough to recognize that rough patches smooth over.  Challenges lead to insight and perseverance.  Deep in my heart, I know that my kids are maturing, even if current behaviors or circumstances might point to the contrary.

One day, many years from now, one of my grown-up daughters might call and say, "Mom, I tell you, the kids were terrible today.  I think they're rabid; it's like we're raising feral squirrels.  I sat them down at the table and made them compliment each other.  You'll never believe what they came up with."

But I'll believe.  Oh, I'll believe, and I'll know just how to listen.  I'll be able to tell her that she's going to make it through.

That's because it's the hard days that teach us that there's always hope in motherhood.

If you're not in the sweet spot of motherhood today, know that this day won't last forever.  You're going to make it, and so will your children. 

____________________________________________________________________
Read more motherhood musings from Robin Kramer: Then I Became a Mother.

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Taking a Low-Keyed Approach Valentine's Day

Pinterest, you've outdone yourself this Valentine's Day.  You've revealed amazing crafts and snack ideas, and I appreciate that.  But this Valentine's Day, I've taken a step back.  We might bake a batch of cookies tonight, but then again, we might not.  We might create some pipe-cleaner heart garland, but then again, we might just pile onto the couch -- these three coughing, sniffing kids of mine and me -- and quietly read some books.

That shows love, too.

No matter how we celebrate (and I hope it involves some chocolate, regardless), let's make today a day when we simply love on our kids all the more.

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The State of the Blog Address


I believe in the value of written reflection.  This belief is a large reason why I blog: writing about life enables me to live it more intentionally. 

When I first launched Pink Dryer Lint, my youngest daughter was a month old.  Looking back, it's clear that blogging was one of my better impetuous decisions.  After all, considering that I was sleep deprived and hormonally unstable, I could have opted to do something equally rash but much less productive, like getting a drastic hair cut or eating a regrettable amount of chocolate.

I've written hundreds of posts since then.  Early on, I questioned if I'd eventually run out of things to say, but I'm no longer concerned that ideas will dry up.  This is because Pink Dryer Lint's essence is sharing daily life -- the ordinary stuff that makes up ordinary days.

Stuff like dryer lint, which we typically scrape from our lint trap and toss aside, but on occasion, we pause and actually notice.  It's pink, I had thought, stunned, the first time I had washed and dried a load of my daughter's baby clothes.  And at that moment, dryer lint was more than just dryer lint.  It stopped me in my tracks how ordinary and extraordinary it was all at once.

As I reflect on the state of this blog, looking to the past and considering the future, I realize that it's always been my goal to embrace the ordinary moments of motherhood and life with you, dear readers, so that we can realize that our lives are far from ordinary.

My mission statement remains intact: To share moments that are underpinned with humor, characterized by transparency, and grounded in faith in order to help mothers (myself included) find pleasure, contentment, and encouragement in their daily lives.

It's a broad mission statement, perhaps, yet it effectively unites my posts, which, when cobbled together, resemble an all-you-can eat buffet.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

I like it that way.

I am so grateful that you have joined me here.  For each of you who has ever left a comment, sent a note, or just read along, quietly coming back time and time again, thank you!  It is such an honor to share my words -- and these ordinary parts of my life -- with you.

After all, life is better when it's shared.  Here's to many more daily moments ahead!

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On These Kind of Days

My husband hasn't gotten out of bed for two days.  He's rarely ill and never complains, so this degree of surrender reveals the severity of his sickness.

The girls, on the other hand, aren't sick enough to be complacent and groggy.  They're just sick enough to be irritable.

As for me, I'm holding firm, knowing that if I go down, the household could grind to a halt.

I had other plans for this weekend.  I had papers to grade and lectures to plan for next week.  I had errands to run and (can you believe it?) an actual event to attend with Joel this evening. 

Everything has been pushed aside, and a new plan for the weekend has unfolded: to care for the family one dose of antibiotic, one tissue, one glass of water, one Saltine cracker, and one load of laundry at a time.

On these kind of days -- these days that seem like interruptions to how your life should be unfolding -- I must remind myself that there's still purpose.  It's not the plan I would have picked for today, but God reminds me that His plans supersede ours.

I had planned to be productive.  Perhaps His plan was for me to be poured out instead.

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Hard Copies Now Available!

There's something wonderful about curling up with a good book.  Don't get me wrong: I thoroughly enjoy reading eBooks, but I also savor the physical sensation of holding an actual book in my hands, turning its pages, and closing it, slowly and with satisfaction, upon completion of the final lines.

This is why I'm delighted to share that hard copies of Then I Became a Mother are now available through Amazon!

Here's what readers have been saying:

The way Robin weaves her advice with humor and experience is delightful.

The perfect read for those days that you wonder if you are doing anything right.  Kramer imparts wisdom, maturity, and humor in her writing.  If you need a pick-me-up or a good reminder that you are not alone, this is a must read!

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.

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


I wish I could give this to all new parents... We are not as alone as it can feel.  Thank you, Robin, for writing this and giving voice to many shared feelings and experiences.

Check out Then I Became a Mother -- a gift for you and the moms you love!

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2

A Four-Year-Old's Perspective of Her Dad


 Title:  A Four-Year-Old's Perspective of Her Dad

Subtitle:  In addition to being 15 years old, maybe 60 pounds, and capable of doing 15 push ups, he's also considerably tanner than I typically recall him.

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Exercising With Kids, In Spite of Kids

The most frequently-recurring thought I have while exercising is that I really need to vacuum.  Distractions abound when you're doing push-ups on your family room floor but noticing the ground-in Goldfish cracker crumbs and the balled-up socks that were abandoned by a child and stuffed underneath the couch.

While I'd love to think that devoting time to exercise would provide tranquil moments, it's not entirely true.  I exercise at home, with three kids, and it looks very little like this:
 

and much more often like this:


I'm not especially coordinated.  I'm not exceptionally fast.  I'm not overwhelmingly skilled at any one athletic endeavor.  But, I am a proponent of living an active lifestyle and making time to exercise regularly.  This is because I've had seasons when I haven't exercised regularly.  When life gets uncomfortably busy, I've unwisely skimped on sleep and cut out exercise -- ironically, the very things that make me more productive and balanced.

At first, I don't notice the toll it takes, but after a month (or three), damage has been done.  Tense shoulders.  Built-up stress.  Decreased energy.

This year I've committed to being good to myself, and part of this is accepting and honoring the fact that how I treat my body affects not only my body, but also my mind and emotions.

Interestingly enough, I've found that my biggest hang-ups to exercise are peripheral details.  I'm slow to change into work-out clothes, especially when the weather is cold.  I'm resistant to getting sweaty in the middle of the day and needing to shower again.  I'm expecting that the kids will revolt if I'm engaged for a half hour, and either a) climb on me while incessantly asking for a snack, b) request my immediate participation in a craft requiring fine-motor skills, or c) trash-talk by telling me that what I'm doing "doesn't look that hard."

But, most days, I attempt to bite the bullet and plunge ahead regardless. 


Here's what works for me:

Stick to a schedule.  I carefully consider what days I can realistically fit a 30 minute workout, and I mark it on my calendar.  Once it's part of the weekly plan, I'm more likely to commit.

Make it visible.  Setting my work-out clothes and shoes someplace prominent serves as a helpful reminder. 

Be flexible.  I've accepted that taking a shower at four in the afternoon is just as valid as taking one in the morning.  You might have no problem accepting this.  For me, it was oddly revolutionary.

Prepare a diversion.  Each time I put in a Jillian Michaels DVD, I invite the kids to the kitchen table and introduce an activity that will occupy them for 30 minutes, like Play-doh, Legos, or painting.  They've learned that I can't respond articulately while I'm doing squats and presses.  I've learned that they're capable of entertaining themselves for a half hour.

Involve the kids.  You can burn some serious energy chasing after kids.  We play tag in our house, as well as a variation called tails where we tuck a dish towel in our back pockets and try to snag each others' towels.  Most often, this game is stopped after someone has collided into another person.  Or a piece of furniture.  Or a wall.  Moral of the story: watch out if you or your children are injury prone.

Remember the goal.  Grace, grace, grace.  Exercise shouldn't be about beating yourself up, nor should it be focused merely on physical results.  When I devote 30 minutes for my health several times each week, I'm showing myself kindness.  I'm investing in my long-term well-being.  I'm saying that I'm worth taking care of.

I'm just a typical woman with three young kids.  I feel lazy and skip days.  I eat cookies after I exercise.  I have workouts where I lack oomph and go through the motions in a floppy, uncoordinated haze.  Even so, I keep lacing up my shoes because the benefits are too good.  When I'm doing well, I have more to give to others.

Plus, like I mentioned, from that plank pose on the family room carpeting I'm getting an up-close look at where I need to vacuum.

And vacuuming absolutely counts as exercise, right?

Humor, hope, and encouragement for moms: Then I Became a Mother.  Available in both Kindle and paperback formats.

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48 Things

Random is as random does, and I'm feeling random today.  I first saw a 48 Things post at Bunkers Down, and I wondered: Why 48 things? Why not 50 things?  I tried to think of the numeric significance of 48.  (All I can come up with is that there are 48 continental states.  Poor, poor Alaska and Hawaii.  Must be hard being outliers.)

1- WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
No. Unless a bird counts.  I do have a spring birthday, after all.

2- WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
This is a tough one.  Does crying out after stepping on a Lego in bare feet count?  If so, earlier this week.

3- DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
I used to love my handwriting.  It was tight and delicate and could substitute for a font: 12 point Robin Sans Serif.  Now I type much more frequently than I write, and my penmanship has drastically deteriorated.

4- WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
I've never been a huge fan of lunch meat, but if I was held up in Subway and had to make a swift decision, I'd go with turkey.

5- DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
Yes, three.

6- IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Absolutely.  I'm charming.  And humble, too.

7- DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
What kind of a question is that?  Actually, not much.

8- DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes, but not my gall bladder.
 
9-  WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Probably not.  Not because I'm adverse to adventure, but rather because I have these three kids who I'm responsible for (see question five) and a husband whom I love dearly.  My presence on this earth and in their lives is more valuable than seeking thrills.

10- WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Cracklin’ Oat Bran.  Or a store brand of Cinnamon Life.  Or, when I'm down and out, Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

11- DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
If they have laces, yes.

12- DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Have you seen my muscles?

13- WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
A good mint chocolate chip.

14- WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
If they're smiling.

15- RED OR PINK?
Is this an early nod to Valentine's Day?  I guess red, especially if I have to wear it.  

16- WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
I could point out physical or personal flaws, but since I know how dearly God loves me -- a life-changing realization, really -- I dwell more on this than what I don't like about myself.
 
17- WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
Well, Martha Speaks no longer is on the PBS line-up at the typical time when my girls watch TV, and I'll admit: I miss that talking dog.

18- WHAT IS THE TECHNIQUE THAT YOU NEED TO WORK ON THE MOST?
Crimping a pie crust?  Tap dancing?  Come to think of it, I haven't brushed up on the Heimlich for quite some time.

19- WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Right now, no shoes.  Earlier this morning, tall brown boots.

20- WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
A chocolate-covered pretzel.  Before that, more respectfully, an apple.

21- WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The sound of my fingers deftly flying across the keyboard.  

22- IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Periwinkle.  Just because that's a cool word.  

23- FAVORITE SMELL?
Cut grass in the summer.  Wood stoves in the winter.

24- HOW IMPORTANT ARE YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS TO YOU?
I can agree to disagree with others, and I think honest dialogue is more beneficial than heated debate.

25- MOUNTAIN HIDEWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?
Yes?  Both?  

26- FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Don't judge me, but golf.  On a lazy Sunday after church, as those announcers speak in hushed voices and the camera pans over the back nine of Augusta National in an aerial view, everything seems right in the world.

27- HAIR COLOR?
Brunette.
 
28- EYE COLOR?
Blue.

29- DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Every day.  Except when I once contracted pink eye during an especially severe upper respiratory illness while I was pregnant.  Looking back, I'm glad that I don't have any photos commemorating those few weeks of my life.

30- FAVORITE FOOD?
Just one?  As much as this makes me sound like a college student, I'd have to go with pizza.

31- SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Happy endings.  No contest on this one -- my threshold for fear is strikingly low.

32- LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
A few weekends ago my husband came home with Iron Man from the Red Box.  Robert Downing Jr. has some acting chops.

33- WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
I'm wearing two shirts: a goldenrod tee underneath a tan cardigan, and they're paired with dark skinny jeans.  (And they were coupled with my high boots, as you knew from #19.)

34- SUMMER OR WINTER?
Summer.  But if we could bypass the humidity, I'd thank you.

35- FAVORITE DESSERT?
Cherry pie.  Or molten lava cake.  Or Key Lime pie.  Or a peppermint milkshake.  Or peanut butter cookies topped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  (Can't seem to narrow this one down.)

36- STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?
Knock 'em out together.

37- COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?
If I didn't have access to a computer, I couldn't do my job.  If I didn't have access to a television, I couldn't watch HGTV.  I'm keeping rights to both.

38- WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?
The Help.

39- WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
Our mouse is pad-less.

40- FAVORITE SOUND?
My kids laughing.  On some days, utter silence ranks pretty high on the list, too.

41- FAVORITE GENRE OF MUSIC?
Music that sounds good.  And yes, I recognize that I cannot be any more vague than that.

42- WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Costa Rica.

43- DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
Do I have a special talent?  I can type with impressive accuracy on a numeric keyboard.  I can make the sound of a train whistle by blowing into my cupped hands.  If one of my children asks for the location of a random object ("where is the scrap of paper where I drew a picture of a unicorn?"), more often than not, I can point them in the right direction.

You may not believe this, but I've never gotten an award for any of these skills.

44- WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
In a hospital.  (Weren't you?)

45- WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
In a house on the side of a mountain (which, realistically speaking, is just sort of a large hill, but it sounds cool to say that I live on the side of a mountain.)

46- WHAT COLOR IS YOUR HOUSE?
Funny that you asked.  It's white with black shutters and a red front door.
 
47- WHAT COLOR IS YOUR CAR?
Right now, it's a slush-and-salt sprayed dirty, grayish hue.  Incidentally, this is also the color of my children's jacket sleeves, since they enjoy brushing against the doors each time they enter and exit the minivan.

48- DO YOU LIKE ANSWERING 48 QUESTIONS?
You bet.  Hope you enjoyed reading them.

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