IMPORTANT DISCOVERY: YOU *ARE* PREPARED! FOR ALL THE THINGS! Unless you’re actually ready for them, in which case you’re not prepared at all.

Aug 30 2016

School starts in 7 days.

We have nothing ready.

Nothing.

NO things, to be exact, unless you count the grubby, holey clothes my children already own, in which I fully intend to send them to school.

This is OK with me.

This is fine.

I’m over new school clothes and over new school shoes. Statistically, only 1 out of every 5 Woolsey children gives a poop about wearing clean, new clothes to school, and that one is already away at college and therefore theoretically capable of worrying about her own damn clothes this year. The rest of the minions? All of my efforts are lost on them. ALL OF THEM. EVERY EFFORT = LOST. They do not care, friends. And so, because I have neither the time nor the funds to artificially care on their behalf in order to meet a social standard for dressing and shodding children in overpriced gear so I can hold my head up in the mommy circles, I also do not care.

But people seem to want me to care. And to be prepared.

Are You Prepared for Back-to-School? <— I keep seeing articles with titles like this. And every time I think, “Hahahaha! NO. No, I’m not prepared. I didn’t have time to wash myself today; OF COURSE I’M NOT PREPARED FOR NEXT WEEK. What kind of a dumbass question is ARE YOU PREPARED?”

But then I started to wonder what prepared means, exactly.

Prepared.

Prepared.

Pared before.

What’s pared and why to I want to be before that?

And so, because I love words, I looked up the etymology of prepare. The history. The original meaning. And you know what I learned, guys? THIS IS SO GREAT. For reals. SO, SO great…

Ready?…

IMG_1430Prepared is derived from two Latin words: prae which means before and parare which means make ready.

Literally, the word prepare means before making ready.

Guys! Guys. Guys. To be prepared does not mean we are making ready. It means we are before making ready.

If we are prepared — if we are preparing — we are prior to making ready. We not yet making ready. We are not arrived at making ready.

Which means I AM SO PREPARED, y’all.

Next time people ask me, “Are you prepared for school to start?” I can say, “YES! I TOTALLY AM!” I am COMPLETELY before making ready. No school supplies in sight. No schedules or lists. No carpool arrangements. No clothes. No shoes. NOTHING. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. I AM COMPLETELY PREPARED.

THIS IS WHY LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT, FRIENDS; it helps you EXPLAIN THINGS.

So, in case you’re in the same boat as me with school about to start or already started and you have not made ready, then YOU ARE PREPARED. Unless you’ve made ready, in which care you’re not prepared at all, and we feel sad for you.

With love and GREAT PREPAREDNESS,

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A Favor

Aug 10 2016

Greg left home for a few days, so, as is our time-honored tradition, I had to decide which trouble to get into first. Options included a) using the three gallons of paint I bought to try to cover up the goo and grime somewhere (ANYWHERE) in my house, b) moving all the furniture in all the house and creating general havoc and upheaval from which it will take weeks to recover, c) getting the torso tattoo I’ve been plotting for years, and/or d) bringing home an English Springer Spaniel puppy.

The tattoo was out almost instantly because I would have had to make a phone call to make that happen, and, as everyone who’s tried to call me for the past month can attest, I’m not doing phone-talking right now. I don’t know why talking out loud using words feels patently impossible, but it does, so there goes that idea.

As much as I want the puppy, I decided against getting one while Greg is away, mostly because that simply isn’t how we make decisions in our marriage. Instead, I spend months — sometimes years — emotionally and psychologically torturing Greg with the concept of a puppy (or puppies, or, you know, an entire horse), resentfully enduring his pessimism and disdain, before eventually wearing him down to a mere shadow of his former self; a shadow that finally, in defeat, cedes to my wishes because a) the shadow is too tired and demoralized to divorce me, and b) I put out. I’m just totally doctrinally opposed to getting a puppy without Greg dying a thousand small deaths first; and, since I’m a person of conviction and tenacity, I need to follow my heart here, friends.

That left me with using 3 gallons of paint and moving all the furniture in all the house.

With the oldest boy away at camp this week (cross your fingers and say all the prayers), I decided to paint, clean and redecorate his room. He’s nearly 17, after all, and has been stuck with adorable cartoon airplanes on his walls for the past 10 years, which was rad when he was tiny and is less rad in his gargantuan, man-child state. “You know what would be cool?” I thought, “You know what would help this child see how very loved and valued he is?” If I spend time giving him a new space! A GROWN UP space. A space he can be proud to bring his friends. A space washed and vacuumed and painted and smelling less like hormones and feet. A space that’s ORGANIZED. And so I’ve cleaned and vacuumed and moved three beds from two rooms, and discarded broken chairs and broken toys, and created a going-to-the-dump pile, and removed twelve metric tons of trash, and found the computer bag that’s been missing for months, and done five hundred thousand loads of laundry, and run all those loads a second time but with bleach hoping that would eliminate the persistent smell of rotten cheese, and primed and trimmed and painted and painted and painted until the room looks and smells (!) clean and fresh and new.

And then it occurred to me when all the work was nearly complete that my kid, who relies on routine and known quantities is about to come home from camp to a totally reworked room that’s not at all familiar and smells different because, “SURPRISE! See how much Mommy love you??” So… that’s going to be awesome. Clearly. I mean, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

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I sat in the room last night and had a teeny, tiny panic attack.

Then I panicked more, because even though people will tell you panic and worry have never accomplished anything, I have panicked and worried A LOT and then most of the things I’ve panicked and worried about DO NOT COME TO PASS, which is clearly cause-and-effect and means panic and worry do, too, work, so HA! Joke’s on all you suckers who DON’T panic and worry.

IMG_1146Then Zoey and I brainstormed about what to do, and we decided, in addition to panicking and worrying, we would add one more decorative touch to Ian’s room.

See, Ian’s a guy whose love language is words of encouragement. He’s a sponge for kindness. And, as I looked at his new, blank walls, I remembered all of your tremendous kindness to him when he shared his own panic and worry with you. I wondered what it would be like to cover those walls with kind words.

Tonight, Zoey and I will begin writing on those new, clean walls with permanent markers. We’ll start with our own words — like we love you to the MOON — and we’ll move to yours, like “Thank you for being so brave, Ian” and “Thank you for sharing your real lives with others, it is a beautiful gift.”

The goal? That even though Ian will come home to a surprise new room, which may be hard and disconcerting at first, he will also arrive to walls of kindness and love. The kind of walls we ought to be building, you know?

So Zoey and I have a favor to ask. If you have words for the wall — your own or a quote or a poem or a song or a verse — that exude kindness and remind this kid of his tremendous value, would you put them below? I’d love it if we could collaborate on being his Village together.

With love, friends, and appreciation for you,

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P.S. Zoey says pretty please.

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This isn’t a real blog post, but it appears to be real life.

Aug 6 2016

I spilled cheese sauce down my front tonight, and I’m still wearing the dried, crusty remnants as I type. I should probably change, except I feel this is symbolic of my life right now, to be covered in goo and grime; also I’m tired, and I don’t want to try to find a clean shirt. We’re friends, so I already know you don’t care. Besides, I smell delicious, like the call of the wild if the wild was made of cheddar cheese.

The past couple of months have tried to kill me, friends. Not just by throwing cheese sauce at me. I’m at a loss, in fact, for adequate words to describe all that’s whirling around us. I cannot corral my thoughts well or form them into comprehensible phrases or an actual theme for a blog post, but I’ve decided, contrary to conventional wisdom, that the lack of words is a crap excuse for not writing, so I’m putting on my big girl pants today and crawling out from under my covers and thrusting a straw up from the depths of the Drowning Waters to try to suck enough oxygen to write something. Anything. Anything true anyway, which is my commitment in this space. I have no idea how this blog post is about to go, but here I am anyway, making an effort, and I’ve decided that counts so I’m giving myself credit even if this is a train wreck.

Ready? Here we go.

I am quite sure these days I am failing at All the Things, and even though I definitely, for sure, absolutely do NOT subscribe to the idea that we have to All the Things well All the Time, I do like to do Some of the Things well Some of the Time. Hell, I’ll even take doing One of the Things well On Occasion and high-five myself for it in the mirror because my standards are low, which is a darn good survival skill if I do say so myself, but right now I’m rather certain I’m doing Almost None of the Things and that the things I am managing to do, I’m doing Poorly.

 

I mean, I’m drinking coffee every day, so there’s that. ONE THING I’M ROCKING. Otherwise? Not so good. Like momming and wife-ing and friending and working and writing and cooking and cleaning and sleeping and waking and cleaning cheese sauce off myself? HAHAHAHAHA! All have fallen by the wayside.

IMG_0544My oldest boy child is suffering these days. Special needs + mental illness + being 16 are tough rows to hoe, man. We’re on the waiting lists and seeing the specialists and adjusting the meds and trying — trying — be kind and loving and steadfast and set up the bumpers and boundaries this kid needs to survive and thrive, but there’s always that voice in the back of my head, and sometimes the front, that says I should’ve done more, worked harder, been better prepared, more proactive; I should’ve seen the struggles coming and headed them off at the pass. I should’ve seen the invaders landing. I should’ve pulled this kid to higher ground. I should’ve been attentive and focused and not distracted. I shouldn’t be moved by the tsunami of this struggle. I should’ve done more paperwork and insisted on better interventions. I shouldn’t have spent any time — and I’ve spent loads and loads — wishing he would be magically better. I should have been tireless in my efforts to help my kid instead of what I am, which is tireful. Chock-full of tired. And sorrowful. And sometimes frozen. And although I know I would be kindness itself to another mama in my shoes and offer her only grace and a hand to hold in the dark, it’s the hardest thing of all to be kind to myself while my child hurts.

Also, I spilled a half bottle of bourbon in my car. Not because I was drinking while driving, though, so I’m counting that one as a win. I’d shoved the nearly full bottle in the back of the car, returning from a beach weekend; the cork popped, the bottle spilled, and my car smelled like a distillery for days. Wafting bourbon smell all over town like a fruitcake on parade. My shirts smell like cheese. My car smells like booze. I’d say that shows how far we’ve fallen except I’m pretty sure both are improvements over the usual smell of things around here, so maybe we’re not doing so badly, after all.

Also-also, we totaled our minivan two weeks ago. And by “we,” I mean Greg totaled the van and NOT ME. HOORAY! I asked Greg what happened but he didn’t really say. All I know is that the tree won, and the van lost, and no one got hurt, and I have learned SO MUCH about marriage during the past 20 years, y’all — SO, SO MUCH — that I didn’t ask any follow-up questions, and I’m letting it remain a mystery. Upon further consideration, I’m taking back what I said above about not wife-ing well. I’m pretty much the best wife EVER.

Also-also-also, I quit my job with Medical Teams International. I love my job because I get to work to improve the lives of mamas and daddies and their babies who don’t have the pleasure of whining about first world problems. No minivans to crash or cheese sauce to spill. No enormous pile of clothes to dig through. No access to psychiatrists for mental health. It’s a real perspective-changer, friends. I quit my job, though; it was necessary because of everything happening right now in our lives, and it’s a relief because we need me focused on us, but it breaks my heart. Blerg, friends. Blerg and grarg and I wish I could do All the Things and do them well. Reality’s a real kill-joy, you know? Reality is a party pooper.

Also-also-also-also, my 9-year-old kid got a mosquito bite on his balls and he was furious with me for refusing to apply the anti-itch cream for him.

Also-also-also-also-also, the same kid got a splinter on his tongue.

Also-also-also-also-also-also, don’t ask me how either of those things happens. I have some thoughts but dwelling on naked fence-licking feels counter-productive at this time.

Also-also-also-also-also-also-also, my oldest baby is leaving for college next week. For college. NEXT WEEK. Which is wild and weird and wonderful.

Abby is ready, and I feel strangely ready, too. Both happy and sad that the years flew so swiftly, even if there were moments I was sure would last forever.

IMG_1050She and I got matching tattoos last week. Lotus flowers — the national flower of Vietnam, the country of Abby’s birth — which grow out of muck and mud and yet, somehow, pull strength from the mire and reach for the sun, all ethereal beauty and delicate wonder.

We adopted Abby a thousand years ago, in a time I can hardly remember, and she made me a mommy. It’s impossible for me to believe I didn’t grow her inside me, and it feels both right and necessary to have her symbol etched in my very skin, like the stretch marks I wear on my belly for her brothers.

Did you know the lotus sinks below the surface of the water every night and waits in the muddled darkness for dawn to come so it can resurface and begin again, filled, as it is, with relentless hope? It does. This flower breaks from muddy mess over and over and blossoms knowing it will sink again for sure.

Beauty in the darkness. Magic in the mess. Relentless hope. Muck and mire as a place to grow things wild and wonderful. The inevitability of dawn. And abiding love embedded in it all.

I hope I’ve given her the knowledge of these things.

In truth, that’s all I have to give.

And now, not knowing whether any of this makes sense or is the jumbled mess I fear it is, I bid you adieu, with more tattoo pics below. Because what I hope for Abby as she launches, and what I hope for my man-child as we seek help and answers, and what I hope for myself as I lay down one job so I can focus on the others, is what I hope for you, too. Beauty in the darkness. Magic in the mess. Relentless hope. Muck and mire as a place to grow things wild and wonderful. The inevitability of dawn. And abiding love embedded in it all, etched in our skin and our hearts.

Sincerely,

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The Pictures You Don’t See on Facebook: PTSD and My Son’s Service Dog Hero

Jul 11 2016

We went on vacation last week, and it’s not lost on me that we’re now part of a narrowing group of American families who can afford ridiculous luxuries like paid time off and time together in the sun and water. Never mind that this holiday was paid for by Nana and Papa, and not us; we won’t pretend generous grandparents involved in their grandkids’ lives and with the means to gift us family time isn’t its own elite past time. We’re beyond lucky. We know it, and we walk a line that’s littered with guilt and gratitude in equal measure.

I posted pics on Facebook to prove we vacationed. Our happy family. Smiles, surf, sun and silliness. And I didn’t feel guilty about that. Not even a little. I still don’t, in spite of the loud voices everywhere telling us we’re Fakebooking when we post the pretty things and are trying to deceive our friends by highlighting only the joyful parts of life and omitting the rest. Facebook is my scrapbook. It’s where I hold happy memories. And the more happy on Facebook the better, in my opinion. POST ALL THE LUNCH PICTURES, I say. I WANT TO SEE YOUR PRETTY SANDWICH, friends. And ALL THE BABY PICS, too. TOO MANY CUTE KID PICS, PLEASE. When did we decide to be the cranky, old lawn neighbors, anyway? “Damn kids! Keep your happy off my Facebook lawn!

I feel guilty, in other words, for having a vacation at all. Guilty and grateful because I want ALL the families to have one, too. But I feel no guilt for having a happy moment out loud, and one I can share in public. Maybe because I long to share your happy moments, too. Or maybe because I know that vacations and families and friendships and children and life are made up of the happy mixed with the unhappy. The joyful mixed with the barely-holding-it-together. The gasps of air at the surface mixed with drowning. The magic and the mess intermingled. Grace and grime all the time.

Maybe, for me, it’s because every moment like this one,

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comes hand in hand with innumerable moments like this one
IMG_0547where our son, who experiences Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from an early life that was deeply unfair to him, falls all the way apart.

Our vacations, therefore, are moments of trauma and triumph strung together haphazardly. Angst and sorrow sprinkled with joy. Frustration, mostly, for this precious man-child, and tiny glimpses of freedom, now and then, and not often enough.

I don’t usually share much with you about Ian’s life or ours with him. I have occasionally here and here and here and here. But mostly we keep what he experiences to ourselves because each of our kids has control over the “publish” button when it comes to their stories, and Ian is the most private of our kids, the one who’s most bewildered about this strange life; the most uncertain that there are good things out there for him; the most sure that he’ll be hurt again like he was in his first life, before we were there were champion him and fail him and champion him again, like all parents who mean well and succeed and fail in equal measure but still hope they’re not screwing it up entirely.

I took the pictures below of Ian with his service dog, Zoey, months ago, because he asked me to. He wanted to “watch Zoey do her job, Mom,” and so I sat with him while she worked as she so often does to ease anxiety and panic that overtakes my son but which he’s helpless to explain, bearing the double burden of PTSD with an expressive language disorder that keeps most of his thoughts and feelings stuck inside with no way out. I’ve kept these pictures private, of course, because they’re really not mine to share.

Except that Ian has asked me now for a week straight to show them to you.

We had a conversation after vacation. A conversation about Miss Zo and her special place in our lives. A conversation about the many who suffer, as Ian does, from PTSD and myriad other disabilities. A conversation about mental illness, with which I am far too familiar myself. And a conversation about what it’s like to feel so terribly alone, wading through the muck and mire and wondering whether there’s a way out.

Ian said, “Show them, Mom.”

I said no. A whim on his part didn’t seem like a good enough reason to show his anguish to the world.

He still said, “Show them.”

I said no again. And again. And again.

But he’s asked me every day for a week after that convo. Until I said, “Why, Ian? You usually want to keep this to yourself. You usually don’t want people to see this. And once we show them, it’s not possible to take it back.”

And Ian said, “So they’re not alone, Mom. So they know they’re not alone.”

And so, to honor my son and his battle, my son the hero, and his dog the hero, too, here are the pictures we don’t show on Facebook. A face of PTSD and the dog who would lead him to the light at the end of each tunnel:

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With love, friends, and the reminder from my kid that we’re not alone,

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Mother/Daughter Look-a-Likes: Can’t Tell Them Apart!

Jun 28 2016

Everywhere my daughter and I go, people can’t tell us apart. That’s why we have a history of taking twinsy pics; to blow people’s minds that we’re actually mother/daughter.

We took some yesterday, in fact, just for you. See if you can figure out who’s who!

Good luck, friends.

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You’re never going to believe this, but we’re 25 years apart in age. FOR REALS.

I know, right??

Minds. Blown.

You’re welcome, The Internets! It’s like the blue dress all over again.

With love,

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P.S. If you’re not done being shocked and amazed, here are some of our other Twinsie Pics…

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P.P.S. In unrelated news, MY KID IS THE BEST SPORT EVER. The End.

My Husband Is A Better Encourager Than Your Husband

Jun 22 2016

Greg is an encourager, which isn’t at all what I was going to write today. I was writing, instead, an apology for my Christian faith, but I’ve only gotten to the part where I used to buy books on demon possession and stuff them in my heathen friends’ couches so they’d discover them later and be coerced by abject terror to follow Jesus. “Planting seeds,” I called it, and I ROCKED it, man.

But that story’s not finished, and I can’t write something called An Apology for My Christian Faith, or a Declaration of a Faith That’s Wild and Free, or GODAMMIT; I’M GONNA FOLLOW JESUS unless I get the words right in my own head and heart first, so that’s going to have to wait a bit.

So I’m going to tell you about what an encouragement Greg is to me, but first I have to tell you I have a new bike.

A new bike!

Which isn’t new ’cause I don’t really do new, but is new to me, so, like “Beth Woolsey New” which is as good it gets around here.

My new bike looks like this if we paint it in watercolor, which we’re totally doing because I’ve been playing with my Waterlogue app to avoid writing my apology:

Preset Style = Travelogue Format = 10" (Giant) Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Heavy Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Auto Paint Intensity = More Water = Orange Juice Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Fine Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Medium Paper = Buff Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Medium Options Faces = Enhance Faces

 

Also, it looks like this:

Painted in Waterlogue

And like this:

Painted in Waterlogue

And like this:

Painted in Waterlogue

(Psst… this isn’t a Waterlogue sponsored post, ’cause I don’t do sponsored posts, FYI.)

Back to Greg being an encourager!

I bought a bike! And I love it! It has an electrical assist I can engage when I ride up the giant hill to my house and also whenever I want to pretend I’m 87 and too old to peddle. And it’s enormous and bulky enough to haul a kid AND groceries on the back both of which I now do regularly because COOL BIKE.

In fact, I love my new bike so much I’ve decided to take it on our annual central Oregon vacation this week. And, while some husbands might discourage their wives from packing a huge, unwieldy, motorized bike on vacation — what with the 5 children and the service dog and the piles of luggage and mountains of groceries that attend our holidays with us — Greg said, and I quote, “There’s no way — NO WAY — that enormous thing is going to fit in our car.”

Isn’t that cute??

“No worries,” I said. “We can get a bike rack!”

“Too huge for a bike rack, Beth,” he replied. “There’s no way.”

Aw. He’s the adorablest! I heart him to the moon, friends!

“Car top carrier, it is!” said I.

“Read. My. Lips,” said he. “NO. Way. On God’s green earth, there is NO WAY are we taking that thing.”

I was beginning to sense some reluctance, however small, so I called my dad, and HE WAS SUPPORTIVE, TOO! “Greg’s right, Beth; that’s ridiculous. There’s no way to bring that thing on a 4-hour road trip.”

The men in my life, friends! They get me! I say I want something and then they get all tense and RIDICULE MY ABILITY TO MAKE IT HAPPEN… which lets me know they must WANT me to bring my bike VERY MUCH since expressing contempt and derision for my ideas is the fastest, most efficient way to get me to do anything. They’re SUPER SUPPORTIVE, in other words, and ensuring all my dreams come true.

The internet is all about telling other people how much better our lives are than theirs, so I figure it’s OK that I put down my Christian faith essay tonight to write, instead, about how much more encouraging my husband is than yours.

In conclusion, #FinallyDoingTheInternetRight!

With lots of love,

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How to Get Kids to Pick Up Quickly and Enthusiastically

May 19 2016

I asked my boys to tidy their room, which was a disaster, and, because they’re smart, capable, 9-year-old children who don’t need to have everything explained to them anymore in excruciating detail, I gave them two basic directions, as follows:

  1. When you are finished picking up your room, gentlemen, I should be able to both see and walk upon the floor.
  2. Your things should be organized in such a manner that you can easily find everything. I’m sure I don’t need to mention that you can certainly not find everything — including the shoes, jackets, books, homework folders, etc. that you cannot find ANY of the school mornings — if you shove it all underneath your bed or in the closet. Correct? I do not need to point this out? That there needs to be a better system? No? You get it? OK. OK, then, boys. Full speed ahead.

They finished in 10 minutes.

They have NEVER finished cleaning ANYTHING in 10 minutes, but there they were, tumbling down the stairs in holey socks with giant smiles, proclaiming completion.

I clarified.

Me: I can see AND walk on the floor?

Them: Yep!

Me: And not just a teeny, tiny sliver of the floor?

Them: Nope!

Me: And you have organized your belongings?

Them: Yep!

Me: ALL of your belongings or SOME of your belongings?

Them: ALL!

Me: And I will find how many items shoved under your bed?

Them: None!

Me: And you have completed this entire task in 10 minutes?

Them: Yep!

Me: And it’s SO complete that you feel good about me inspecting it?

Them: Yes!

Me: Now?

Them: Let’s go!

We trooped up the stairs for inspection, and I patted myself on the back on the way because friends — friends — if you give your children FREEDOM to complete tasks THEIR WAY, and you DO NOT INSIST ON YOUR OWN, they finish jobs QUICKLY and ENTHUSIASTICALLY, and it’s a MIRACLE. I should write a Parenting Book! I have finally figured it out!

Also, here is their system:

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As they say, “A clear path for walking and all of our belongings at our fingertips!” There is nothing under the bed anymore, and, in fact, nothing left in the closet, either, because they pulled everything out of it. Everything. To create their New System of Organization.

I asked where they got such a terrible, terrible idea, and they said — I kid you not — “We learned it from watching you.”

In conclusion, bless their hearts. Bless their punky, butt-nuggetty hearts.

Keepin’ it real,

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P.S. Their room still looks like that because they pointed out there’s WAY less vacuuming this way, and “it’s likely to smother all the bugs.” I’m having trouble arguing with their logic. Well played, boys; well played.