Weekly menu

Yesterday I didn’t make a big Sunday dinner because (drumroll please) Lance and I went out on a date! As in, just the two of us! Together! With a bottle of wine! And two courses! Which we ate slowly! SAVORED, even! Then we went for coffee! It was amazing! I’m five years younger today! I can’t stop exclaiming! With the exclamation marks!

So here’s what we’re cooking up this week. It’s still icy and gray outside, so we’re gettin’ our comfort food on (two crock pot meals!) and it feels so good. I’ve got BBQ chicken in the slow cooker right now and it smells so heavenly my mouth is watering! Have a great week, everyone. Stay warm and eat well!

Monday: Slow cooker bar-b-que chicken sandwiches with red cabbage, cilantro, lime slaw; homemade wheat buns; oven fries

Tuesday: Baked pumpkin-ricotta cheese shells in marinara sauce, roasted broccoli

Wednesday: Slow cooker lentil-carrot-kale soup, wheat rolls ((leftover from Monday)

Thursday: Fish tacos with red cabbage slaw (leftover from Monday), fresh guacamole

Friday: Valentine’s Day! Frittata with potatoes, spinach, and gruyere, green salad, warm chocolate chip cookies

 

The #1 rule for thespians: keep the drama on stage. HAhahahahaa….

I’m going to leave out a good bit.

I’m for SURE not going to talk about A) the gigantic shit-storm that went down between the hours of 12pm and 1pm beside his dresser, when I pulled out his last remaining pair of clean pants, which happened to be jeans, the article of clothing for which he holds the most contempt. You won’t hear any complaints about B) the existential lecture Lance gave him about how having love for someone means you back up your words with actions and listen to what the other person wants and think about what the other person blah blah blah. I certainly won’t bring up C) his continued yell-sobs as he tried to convince me that while he did love me, he was NOT going to wear those “stupid pants.” I also will not be mentioning D) his insistence that he had absolutely no desire to accompany me on our well-planned (by me) and exciting (to me) date to the Nashville Children’s Theatre, as I have on an alarming number of occasions assured him that he would be QUITE bored if he came with me to “the theatre” where I have inevitably been headed for a board meeting. I won’t rehash E) how I had to beg and plead with him to get dressed, how I finally quick-washed and quick-dried his “police uniform” pants so that he could wear them but by the time they were dry he had calmed down and resigned himself to finally putting on the jeans and when I held the other pants out, a peace offering, he glared at me and showed me that he was ALREADY WEARING THESE JEANS! We don’t need to go into F) the further desperate attempts I made to explain to him why this theatre experience WAS for him and he WAS going to have fun, unlike when I have to go to meetings or rehearsals that are NOT for him and where he would NOT have fun. I’d rather die than tell you, Reader, G) how many times I lost my patience and let my tongue run away with me, or worse, H) how many times Lance and I collectively hurt his feelings just so that I) I could threaten not to even fucking take him because WHY GOD WHY. None of this is important, so I’m not going to go into it. It’s also completely unimportant that J) I had to apologize to him and tell him I loved him on the way there, after which he rolled his eyes, looked out the window, kicked his sneakers, and mumbled something that sounded like “stupid outfit.” It might be noteworthy that once we got there K) he got really worried about the overwhelming nature of the place and L) grabbed onto my hand and M) started asking me questions and not stopping, everything from “what does THAT do?” (“That’s the light track. Those lights will light up the stage.”) to “why are there stars on the stage? Is this the play?” (“No, that’s just a projection. The play will start in a minute.”) to “who’s that guy?” (“A guy who is talking an awful lot for a children’s play curtain speech, so probably the marketing director.”) to (my personal favorite) “what are you going to do IF I GET BORED?” Then of course he N) had a mini-panic attack when the lights went off, looked at me with a quivering lip, and gripped my hand even tighter and O) asked me CONSTANTLY (also LOUDLY) throughout the play “what’s happening now, Mom??”

Really, I’m not going to tell you any of that stuff, because despite my doubts and how often I looked over at him to make sure he wasn’t bored (God, what WAS I gonna do if he got bored?!), he totally dug it. He wanted to go back in after intermission! I consider that a success.

“Did you like the play, Bubbs?” (nods) “Yeah? Do you want to come back again, another time, and see a different show?” “How ’bout if we come back another time and see THIS show again?”

I won’t tell you that I P) teared up right then, because I often do and it’s become somewhat insignificant. I don’t have to tell you, Reader, that I teared up because as hard as it was to get him there, as much as we fought, it ended up worth it. This is me, my real not-just-a-mommy self, a piece of my very soul, and I shared it with him, and he enjoyed it, and he talked about it when we got home, and he wants to see more.

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And I DEFINITELY won’t tell you that Q) right after I took this picture, nay AS I WAS SNAPPING the picture, he was reaching up to turn my phone off. I looked at him in surprise and was greeted with a stony, annoyed expression, before he rolled his eyes and turned back to the stage to stare at the star projection. I’ll not tell you, and I’ll try to forget it myself so that I can treasure it as the picture of our first theatre date, the first of what I hope becomes many many many.

(P.S. Here’s our ACTUAL first theatre date: he’s in my belly and we’re at the Tony Awards. There were no complaints back then.)

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Sunday dinner

The Menu

Chicken and zucchini parmesan with spaghetti and homemade red wine marinara

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Sauvignon Blanc

Chocolate chip cake with dark chocolate ganache

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Month 21

Dear Violet,

A few days ago you turned 21 months old, and Daddy and I sat across from you at breakfast, watching you eat your waffles with a fork, and marveled at how quickly time passes. “Can you believe she’s almost t–” “No,” we say to each other quite often these days.

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Daddy and Mommy can’t believe you’re so old, Baby Girl, but most people can’t believe you’re so young. In fact people people are usually quite surprised when we tell them you’re not yet two. You also seem to think you are older than you actually are. I tried to teach how old you are by asking and then saying “one!” and holding up one finger, but you never said one. You said “two!” and held out one finger. It was so funny the first time we got into an argument about your age, and it stuck. But it speaks to your attitude: you think you are older than you actually are. You always have held firmly to this belief, even when you were a month old and you didn’t think you needed to sleep because hey, everyone else was awake? What the? And it’s been true your whole 21 months of life, as you’ve walked earlier, talked earlier, stacked and sorted earlier than I thought possible or even necessary.

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You now know how to help me empty (and load) the dishwasher, help me put laundry into the dryer, help me vacuum, pick out your own shoes, pick out your own clothes, sit on the potty, bring a stool over to stand on so that you can help me cook dinner. And when I say “help” what I mean is you scream “I DO!” until I relinquish control of whatever I’m holding, then you take over. And actually sometimes you are quite helpful! I never have to bend over to put the kiddie plates or the plastic food storage containers away anymore, for instance. You’ve got me covered there. But sometimes Mommy gets very frustrated with you. Yesterday you tried to take my phone EVERY TIME I picked it up. You yell “BABY!” at me and I know you want to look at the pictures, which are mostly of you and Brother. You know how to slide from photo to photo and you can press the play icon whenever you come across a video. You also know how to delete pictures, and you have done this with ferocious regularity. You also want to take the pen if I’m writing, and you aren’t satisfied with your own pen or your own paper. You want what I’M writing with, and what I’m writing ON as well. If I’m on the computer for even three seconds (which I only dare to do if you are fully engrossed in another activity, such as sliding games in and out of the Wii), you immediately drop everything and run over so that you can take over.

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You also don’t think you need adults to help you with things like brushing teeth, pouring juice, or holding hands in parking lots. “WALK!” you scream, going limp and kicking your feet when we try to hold hands, as if you’re not already walking. I think I’ve figured you out, Boo Boo, because Daddy and I discussed how different you are from your brother the other day. While Noah will watch something or hear something and internalize it for several days or even weeks, then spit it out, a perfect mimicry, at very unexpected times, YOU will watch adults or bigger kids do something and then immediately have to try for yourself. It may not be the perfect imitation at first, but you practice until you’ve got it. It makes you take dangerous risks, like launching yourself off a tall stool because Brother can do so and land on his feet. You land on your face, cry hard for two minutes (mostly out of anger it seems, rather than pain), then you’re climbing up there again to figure it out.

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You get angry about so many things these days. You have two modes: peaceful and batshit crazy. Most of the time we’re home alone you’re quite content, although you require my attention for most of the day. And don’t get me wrong, I make you furious sometimes, like when you hand me an open marker and say something in Violet-tongue SO I CLOSE IT HOW DARE I, or when I try to put your shoes on BUT YOU DON’T WANT THOSE SHOES TODAY, or when you hand me an empty cup and I put it in the sink (“NO!”), then try giving it back to you (“NOO!”), then try filling it up (“NOOO!”), then try giving it to you (“NOOOO!”), then empty it (“NOOOOO!”) then put back it in the sink (“NOOOOOO!”), then throw up my hands in desperation and wonder aloud JUST WHAT THE EFF IT IS YOU WANT, but mostly we get each other, I think.

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Most of the screaming comes when Brother is here, in fact. He likes to play with you, but you want to play on your own. (SCREAM, CRY, TANTRUM) Or he doesn’t want you to take something he’s working on. (SCREAM, CRY, TANTRUM) Or he is breathing on you. (SCREAM, CRY, TANTRUM) The nerve of brothers. You get more frustrated with Noah than you do with anyone else in the entire world, but you also love him more than you love anyone else, which is what makes the fighting slightly tolerable. Yesterday you and Noah were running laps around the house like maniacs when he tripped and fell and started crying. From across the room, you stopped mid-sprint, did an about face, and rushed over, saying “K?? K???” with real concern on your face and in your voice. You reached him before I did, and by the time I got there you were gently stroking his hair and leaning in to kiss his face. He explained to me where he was hurting and before I could, you kissed that spot, too. Daddy and I are like holding each other, faces contorted with the effort of keeping all these emotions from exploding on you kids.

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You still love making art, and your favorite color is still “lellow,” although you now know how to say blue (you say it like a French person might pronounce the cheese) and white (you say this like a midwesterner and you make sure that T sound is really hard). You got an easel for Christmas and the butcher paper that came with it is always covered with different colored marker scribbles. Part of Mommy’s nightly cleanup routine is picking up a thousand markers (also a Christmas present, thank you SANTA) and putting the lids back on. When you’ve decided you need a clean sheet, you unscrew random bolts on the easel so that it’s falling apart before you come to (begrudgingly) ask me for help.

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Coats are “totes,” of which you demand certain ones on certain days. Coffee is “ca-co” and you have “caco” parties instead of tea parties, in which you sit us all down and hand us all our “caco” and a “plaTE” and a “poon.” Daddy is “Dod-ty” when you’re tired and “Dad-ty” when he comes home from work, and Noah is “Nah-no!” Cats are “meow”s and most other animals are “daw”s, although you can tell us what most animals say now. Because your favorite color is yellow, you ask for the yellow version of certain things to indicate you’d like your favorite at that moment. Because we should definitely be in tune with that. We hand you the baby doll that has a green outfit. “NO, LELLOW, BABY!” you tell us, frustrated, pointing to the pink doll. You can string words together now to make three and four word sentences, but you pause between each word, and sometimes you mess up the sentence structure, like you’re trying a literal translation of a romantic language. “Mommy, tote, white!” you say proudly, grinning at my white jacket. You love to identify whose object belongs to whom (“Daddy, caco” “Nah-no, wah-we”) and you make these pronouncements with such pride that you usually end up chuckling to yourself and swinging your arms back and forth as you walk away. photo3

I’m amazed by your patience (with everyone except for immediate family members). If kids come over to play and you want what they have, you usually shyly wait until they drop it. If you do end up fighting with a playmate (only ones which whom you are very familiar), you seem very able to listen to adults and comply with their wishes about taking turns. Maybe because Brother didn’t have as many playmates when he was your age Mommy marvels a bit at the way you play and communicate with your friends. I never worry that you’re going to be rough or mean; in fact I leave you to your own devices most of the time when you have a playmate over, and I don’t worry about you at all. It’s yet another way you seem older than you actually are.

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You’re still having a hard time sleeping through the night; it’s only really every few nights a week at best that you don’t wake up and want to nurse (which you call “night-night”). We still nurse a couple of times a day, but this week you’ve been sick with a cold and even though Mommy is looking forward to us being finished with nursing, I’ve been so glad we are still on because it’s the only thing that helps you feel better when you wake up coughing. You still ask me on a regular basis, although we have been down to only pre-nap and pre-bed (and the unfortunate middle of the night when Mommy is too tired to do anything else) for some time. You especially seem to want to nurse when we’re in a new environment or when someone new comes over and I’m trying to have a conversation with that person. You are certainly attached to my hip at these times, as well, but you still want the comfort of nursing even when I haven’t put you down for half an hour. The truth is I don’t really think of you as a baby anymore, Boo. You’re such a big girl, so smart and fun and talkative and silly, and I’m enjoying this new stage. So nursing isn’t even that emotional for Mommy, which is maybe why I feel very ready to be finished. I’m sure I’ll be a little sad when it’s really over, but for now I very much look forward to truly leaving babyhood behind and embrace toddlerhood. I wonder how our relationship will change when we stop nursing.

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At this point I can’t imagine ever being any less close than we are already, although you have been asking for Daddy pretty exclusively when you get hurt or when you’re sleepy. (A Daddy’s girl already!??) But I’m not even jealous, because I know that you and I have a special bond that can never be broken. You’re still the sunshine in our lives, Boo Boo; the happiest and most vibrant part of our little family. I love you so much.

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Love,

Mommy

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Sunday dinner

The Menu

Fresh guacamole with blue corn tortilla chips

Chicken & red pepper enchiladas with pumpkin-jalapeno sauce and Cotija

House margaritas (courtesy of the Hubbs)

Warm peanut-butter dark chocolate chunk cookies

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Home tour part 1: Where we play

I’ve been wanting to get some pictures up of our lovely home post-remodel, but nothing’s quite DONE yet. I have about a million ideas and things I want to do before I feel like it’s complete, but I’ll probably always feel that way, so I’ma just dive in here.

Right after the holidays, we turned our messy little storage closet into a play closet, or, as I like to call it, “the cupboard under the stairs.” (The junk that was in there is now crammed into the other storage closet we have upstairs, so we don’t open that closet door for obvious reasons.)

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We put the art supplies in the front little half, which is great because they can reach them whenever they like now. It’s also terrible, because they can reach them whenever they like now.

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We also hung the paper cranes and the tinkly lights that used to hang in Noah’s nursery.

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The part of the closet that’s deeper under the stairs is now a little book nook, and we put some wooden puzzle toys in there too.

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I love how Noah and Violet will go in there and close the door and after a few minutes I’ll hear them playing together or Noah reading aloud to Violet. (“They frowned at the good and……… they smiled at the good and frowned at the bad. See, Vi? They’re sad ’cause he’s got a broken leg. They broke their bread at half past nine, in a straight line… and the smallest one was Madeline.”)

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This closet is just off of our front room, the room that was previously Noah’s nursery. We knocked down the wall between the living room and the nursery and put in the stairs. It’s kind of a weird layout now, and there’s a column in this room too, since the wall was load-bearing. But it’s a perfect place for art, musical instruments, and toys. One of my goals this year is to get a piano, and then this music/art/play area will be complete.

The painting on the top was Noah’s first real painting that he did at an art studio, and the lower one is Violet’s first ever painting.

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This star garland was made by my lovely friend Erin. I love it so much in this space!

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Mirror speeches added for dramatic effect. (As far as you know.)

It’s in the 20s here again today and it’s been about a week of this frigid weather, so this morning I faced one of my biggest fears: THE INDOOR PLAYGROUND. Indoor playgrounds are like breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Trap a bunch of snot-nosed kids in a room with soft equipment, turn on the heat, and let ‘em run amok? Who came up with this?! It’s the worst idea ever. Last time we were at this particular playground, a multi-tiered, four-level climbing gym where my children get lost and I have to climb my ass through chutes and over nets to save them, some kid pooped on the top level and it got smeared and trampled by a thousand tiny socked-feet before the grownups wayyyy down on the ground level found out about it.

So, yeah. If disliked indoor playgrounds before, I absolutely loathe them now, and would do just about anything to totally avoid them. Picture me, restless all night long, dreaming of poopy hands reaching out to touch Violet’s face, runny noses rubbing Noah’s arm. This morning, I ripped off the covers, marched into the bathroom, glared at myself in the mirror and, breathing hard at my reflection, made the following speech. “THIS IS IT. GET IN THERE, ROGGENDORFF! (*slaps face*) YOU GET IN THERE. YOU SHOW THOSE MOTHER FUCKERS WHO RUNS THIS TOWN! YOU MAKE ‘EM YOUR BITCH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!”

We came, we played, we conquered. (Well, time will tell if we conquered. Viruses have incubation periods, after all. But at least there was no visible poop involved, and I consider that a victory, unfortunately.) On the way home, per norm, Mr. Chatterbox starts saying weird things from his car seat.

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It’s always from the back seat of the car that Noah suddenly says the most horrifying things. It’s either that he has nothing to do except sit there and think and, like me, his thoughts eventually seem to all turn dark, or that he knows I can’t do anything about it when he expresses those dark thoughts because I’m stuck driving the car, but he uses his time back there to frighten the living hell out of me. It’ll be all quiet, peaceful, sunlight pouring in the car through the long, thin shadows of pine trees, the rest of us are like fuckin’ smiling and humming to ourselves and he’ll just break out with “If a police pulls us over, I’ll get a stick and stab him in the throat and kill him. And then I’ll throw him in the garbage.” (I’ll never forget that doozy. It was three or four months ago now, and it was (up to that point) the most insane thing he’d ever said. I almost wrecked the car.)

So on the way home today, he’s revving his engine. “I’m a good guy, Mom. But I need to KILL the bad guys. The bad guys are so bad, that I need to kill them.” Now, I’m familiar with this line of thinking. In addition to it being a central theme in many of the movies and stories we all hold dear, Noah has been very fascinated with the topic of late. “Good guys” and “bad guys” and their place in the world are very interesting ponderings in his little head these days. I have not responded well, I’m afraid.

No, because I am terrified of my children’s awareness of violence, I’m learning about myself. And rightfully so, on the one hand. Seeing children at the park play with pretend guns, running around screaming “kill” and “die” and “shoot” just makes the movie in my head flash forward to those same kids in 20 years, being convicted of homicide. Lance and I have been very careful with the words we’ve used around Noah, and the shows and movies we’ve let him watch, and the stories we’ve read together. There will come a time when he will understand death and evil people, right? Why rush it, right?

Then he goes to preschool and learns it all, anyway.

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A few days ago Noah told me he did something so bad he couldn’t tell me what it was. I pressed him until he finally admitted something so minor I don’t even remember what he said. I think he accidentally tripped the dog or something. He was that worried about my reaction to his accidental violence? Hmmm. Yesterday he said “I hate beans,” and then immediately apologized. “Why?” I asked, honestly perplexed. “For saying hate,” he mumbled, ashamed. Worst of all, last week I watched as a young toddler pulled Noah’s hair while they were playing, and Noah laid there, not moving, and cried “stop” and “hey” and “nooo” as the other mother and I rushed over to help him. It was this, more than anything, that finally jarred me. My attention to what was happening was suddenly pushed from “subconscious” to “conscious.”

I’m going to have to backpedal, I realized. Have I been so intense about not using violence or even violent words that I’ve made him believe he can’t approach me with dark thoughts that are entirely normal? Does he believe he can’t talk to me about them because I react so strongly to hearing him say words like “kill” and “hurt” and “die”? And does he believe he must lie still and take it, waiting for an adult to help, while he’s being hurt? Later that day I explained to him that while it is unacceptable to hurt someone else, using his hands to defend himself (in this case, physically removing his own hair from someone else’s fist), then getting away as quickly as possible to find help (if help is needed) is the right course of action. “I’m not telling you to hurt others, Bubbs,” I reminded him, just to be sure he understood. Then I put on my best Mama Bear voice. “But also don’t let others hurt you!” Had I forgotten to tell him this to begin with? More and more as I thought about it, I realized I haven’t been guiding him into making kind YET WISE choices; I’ve been manipulating and controlling him so that he doesn’t trust himself to make those choices on his own.

How many ways has my tendency to overprotect and control every situation bled over in his little life?

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I go back and forth. Children need guidance. Children need autonomy. CONTROL! LET GO! CONTROL! LET GO! “ROGGENDORFF!” I say to myself in the mirror. “GET IT TOGETHER OR YOU’LL FUCK UP YOUR KIDS, YA DOOFUS! GET IN THERE! OOMPH! YEAH!”

The truth is letting Noah be himself is hard. I want to shape this little person, and to some extent that’s my job and my privilege as a parent. But not when shaping becomes smothering and squashing him into the person I think he should be, into some weirdly perfect little parrot. Maybe he’ll get his hands dirty a few times as he learns to figure out “good” and “bad.” Maybe that’s the only way he’ll learn what makes them dirty to begin with. Maybe my job isn’t to keep him from getting his hands dirty, but to help him wash them when he comes home.

Today when he said that, as a good guy, he thought his job was to kill the bad guy, I bit my tongue. (Literally. It hurt.) I always find myself wanting to steer the conversation away from these dark thoughts of his. My go-to for this particular theme is along the lines of “Don’t you think the good guys will turn into bad guys if they try to kill the bad guys? Killing is bad, therefore people who kill are bad?” It’s honest. I truly believe that, so that’s the kind of thing I usually throw out whenever he broaches the subject. But today I just let him talk. I know he’s heard what I’ve said. I know things sink in even when I don’t know they’re sinking in. So I said nothing.

So Noah kept talking. Unsurprisingly, the topic organically switches from death to God and God’s role in our lives fairly often. Part of wrestling with good vs. evil is figuring out the Divine in us. It’s a subject with which most adults I know grapple, too. “If God lives in your heart and you die,” he asked me once, “where does God go?”

YES. THAT SOUND WAS A RECORD SCRATCH. Followed by my pounding heart. Followed by my Hamlet-esque soliloquy entitled “I Don’t Fucking Know! But You’re Three and You Need Answers! But I Don’t Have Any!”

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Today he mused further. “How does God live inside you AND all around you?” We chatted back and forth about it a bit, me explaining (again) that God isn’t like a person so God can exist everywhere all at once, and him asking me why God is a spirit, whatever the hell that means. When I was out of answers I remembered what a good friend advised me to say next time Noah pondered the Divine. I also remembered my vow to try to stop controlling his every thought and let him have an original one every so often. So I asked him what HE thought. He said this.

“I think God is like the sun… AND the sky.”

Holy, holy, holy shit.

I think you’re right, Noah, my deep thinker. I think that’s a better metaphor for God than any I’ve ever come up with in the 30 years I’ve been alive. I think I’m going to ask you what you think more often.

And I think you’re gonna be just fine.

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