Thinking and Telling

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The husband and I have spent many a mile on the road this week. Which I love. Is that weird? I mean we get to spend hours holding hands and listening to podcasts while the kiddos are strapped into seats. Lucy makes up songs for us and let’s us get a glimpse of the logic of her crazy rational four-year-old brain. Landon sends me lots of sweet smiles and does some great car seat dancing. Cohen had a few minutes of “get me out of this seat” screaming but he was a trooper for the most part, too.

But I think the best part of traveling, especially through the endless fields in the Land of Lincoln, is the time for thinking and telling. When Chuck gets home from 10 or 12 hours of being away at work, he’s mostly thinking about how he can help me with the feeding, bathing, pajama dressing of the kids. But roadtrips? Roadtrips were made for roaming thoughts.

One of the things that came up this trip was Chuck telling me how he felt really supported by me this past year. That I was transitioning to a bigger helpmate I guess you could say. My first thought was, “Well of course I’m supporting you, I think you’re the coolest guy I know.” But then, it occurred to me to ask what I was doing that made him feel supported. And I was a little surprised to find that one of the examples he had was when I prayed aloud for him last summer. I was surprised because it didn’t seem that extraordinary to me. I mean, I pray for him in my mind everyday! But I could be doing a much better job of telling him my specific prayers for him. Isn’t that better than when someone says, “Oh, I’ll pray for you.” Instead saying, “I’m going to pray for you right now.” Or if we’re not together, sending him a little message saying a few specific prayers.

And then I started thinking about the rest of the relationships in my life. Am I telling my friends when they’re on my heart? Am I telling them how much they mean to me? Am I making time to have them in my life? Thinking and telling. Not just thinking. Being intentional. Treating friends like family and treating family like blessings.

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Oh God that you chose this life for me. That your mission would not be lost on me.

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Trader Joe’s Turkey Burgers

So this isn’t totally a recipe as much as a dinner suggestion. Continuing on with our low prep dinners, I bring you another of our favorites from my BFF TJ. The way we make this meal, it’s an hour and a half from start to finish, but actual time in the kitchen is less than that.

It takes me longer because I’m kind of a bun snob. If I’m going to use up calories on carbs, I want them to be amazing. Because of that, I end up making our bread most days. I was using a recipe for a 40 minute hamburger bun when my [amazing] mom mentioned to me that she was using my Mountain Bread recipe to make her rolls. I’m fairly certain she makes that bread more than I do! It sounded like a genius idea [Mimi for the win!]. After the first rise, I split the dough into rolls [it made 7] and let them rise their second rise on the stove I was heating up for roasted veggies.

dinner rolls | hey, beth baker!

[This picture is actually making me super sad because I took it at 5 o'clock but you can tell how dark (and dreary) and shadowy the kitchen already was. Sigh. Bring on the Spring.]

I found these Turkey Burgers in the frozen food section of Trader Joe’s and couldn’t pass them up at around $3.50 for 4 patties. I normally don’t like frozen, pre-formed patties because I think they end up dry – especially turkey burgers. But these are amazing! In order to give them a little more flavor I made up a simple marinade.

Turkey Burger Marinade
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons barbeque sauce
juice from 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper

So to give you an idea of how this dinner comes together pretty easily, let me break it down for you.

4:00 – Take burgers out of freezer and set on a cookie sheet. Make dough, set to rise in the bowl I mixed it in. Whisk marinade and brush onto burgers. Turn oven onto 450F. Chop sweet potatoes for sweet potato fries.
4:35 – Form dough into 7 rolls. Put sweet potatoes in oven to roast.
5:00 – Turn oven down to 375F. Put rolls into oven on bottom shelf, move sweet potatoes to top. Timer for 12 minutes. Heat a little oil in skillet and begin cooking turkey burgers, 4 or so minutes per side.
5:12 – Take out sweet potatoes. Turn broiler on high and set timer for 3 minutes.
5:15 – Assemble burgers and enjoy!

turkey burger | hey, beth baker!

We enjoy our burgers with spinach, avocado, and just a dash of ketchup.

If you really want a quick dinner pick up a bag of sweet potato fries at TJ’s and pick up your favorite bun, then your only dinner prep will be the marinade and cooking the burgers!

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[Quick] Asian Chicken Cabbage Salad

Asain Chicken Cabbage Salad

We’re in a season of life right now where there are a lot of activities happening from 3:30 to 5:30 a few days a week, which really cuts into my dinner prep time. So I thought I’d take a few days and share with you some of the quicker recipes I’ve found to save us from the “we’ll just pick something up” trap. I picked up most of the ingredients for this meal at Trader Joe’s because they have a lot of the stuff all ready to go. From start to finish, I’d say this took a little less than 10 minutes to throw together. I might double it next time because everyone [even the kids!] enjoyed it so much.

The recipe is inspired by this one from Bon Appetit so you get to feel a little fancy.

Asian Chicken Cabbage Salad
Serves 4

2 tablespoons canola oil
juice from 2 small limes
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon roasted red chili paste
salt & pepper

1 bag shredded cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/8 cup green onions, chopped
1 cup baby spinach
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 rotisserie chicken breast, shredded
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

In a large bowl, whisk together the oils, limes, soy sauce, and paste. Add the cabbage, carrots, onions, spinach, cilantro, chicken, and sunflower seeds on top and mix together to make sure all the greens are coated. Serve and enjoy.

If you want to pump up the vegetable volume, some steamed broccoli would be nice in this too. Or if you double it, try one bag of shredded cabbage and one bag of shredded brussels sprouts. I highly recommend you don’t skip the toasted sesame oil [so, so good].

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Lucy Lately

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“I win! I finished my hot dog first! I win other things, too. Like championships. And bingo places. And breakfast, dinner, and lunch of course!”

“Pretty please with sweet cream on top?”

“Barbie, you just gotta be yourself. Everyone will like you.”

Me: “You guys have been getting up from the table before you’re finished eating and we need to practice better table manners. So when you get up from lunch today I’m going to take your plate and assume you’re all done.”
[five minutes later]
Lucy: “So I said to myself, ‘Stay in your seat!’”

[giving her a hug]
“Don’t squeeze too hard, you’ll break all my bones.”

“Mom. I was looking at Mimi’s house the other day [when we were facetiming] and I saw that her [yep] has a lot of blank walls so I made her this picture of our family. Oh, and I put it in a frame.”

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Me: “Lucy, do you want to pray for dinner?”
Lucy: “Yes. Jesus, please let tomorrow be Valentine’s day.”
Me: “Why don’t you try praying for other people instead of just something you want. Maybe pray for some of your friends.”
Lucy: “Jesus, please let tomorrow be Valentine’s day so my friends can have it.”

“I don’t want to go outside it’s too cold. [Touches window.] Yes, it’s too cold. [Is forced by her mother to go outside.] It’s not too cold [It was 57]. It’s summer. Let’s go to the beach. I’ll watch your kindle in the car. We can build sandcastles. It’s summmmmmmmmer.”

[We recently had a wind storm and lost our internet connection for the night. We don't have cable.]
Lucy: “Mom, can I watch a show after dinner?”
Me: “No, we don’t have any internet so shows won’t work on the kindle.”
Lucy: “Oh, I’ll go get the plug [power cord]. I can fix it and make the shows come back.’
[Chuck and I spend most of the night trying to explain how the internet works to a four-year-old.]

[Sitting at breakfast. Early. Very early.]
“Mom, do you like to eat? I like to eat. I like carrots and that orange stuff you made for my birthday [butternut squash]. I like pasta. I really like pasta with cheese. I like it when you make me bread pizza. I like pancakes. When I’m a mom I’m going to learn how to make pancakes so I can teach Daddy. But I don’t like soup. But I like chicken and hotdogs… [This went on for 5 or 10 more minutes.] Mom, how come you’re not talking very much? [Forrest.Gump.]

What He Is

I had sort of a rough week last week. I spend three hours of my week with therapists working to help Landon become the best version of himself. Or something like that. He does an hour of speech therapy, an hour of occupational therapy, and an hour-long play group for children with sensory needs. If that sounds like a lot, well, I agree. We started this journey when he was 22 months old with just speech and have gradually had services added on. But that’s not really what made my week rough. I mean I think most any mother will tell you that when your kid needs something you just sort of do it until it becomes your new normal.

The rough came when I was talking to his occupational therapist about how far he’s come since she first started seeing him when he couldn’t sit unassisted for longer than a few minutes. She has been amazing. Honestly, I feel like we owe her so much and she’s helped our little man so much. But in not trying to overwhelm me with all the things we need to work on, she’s instead been gradually introducing new things to work on. And she gives us the next step in the best compliment sandwich. But I sort of had it in my head that he was doing so well there couldn’t possibly be too many more things to work on. And then the compliment sandwich came. And the worst part about them is how crazy inadequate they make me feel. Only because when something is pointed out I can’t help but think, “Oh my gosh I’m with him for all of his waking hours, how did I not see that?” And that is the exhausting part of having a special needs kid, as moderate as those needs may be. It’s like a Groundhog Day compliment sandwich experience.

I felt so defeated. And then we had speech therapy. And his speech therapist (who is also super great) had to tell me we’d reached a therapy plateau. That she was getting the same sounds but he wasn’t adding any new ones. We’ve been in speech therapy for nine months and we haven’t added a single word. We’re still talking about sounds. And I know Einstein didn’t talk until he was four. And I know he’ll talk when he’s ready. And I know it’s nothing I’ve done. And I know in the scheme of his life it won’t matter if he was a little late talking. And I hear you when you say that when he starts talking I’ll be wishing for these quieter days. But. I don’t know. He is in this place where he wants to communicate. He wants to be heard. And he can’t. And that’s sort of heartbreaking to witness daily. And when he gets frustrated and yells and has fits because he doesn’t feel understood, that’s heartbreaking too.

This is the third time I’ve tried to sit down and write this post. It’s sort of personal and I questioned even sharing it at all. But I started writing it anyway. As a way to work through my thoughts and to put real and truthful things on the internet. So as I started writing about this the first time, I realized it was a post full of justifications. But that felt wrong and not helpful. So I tried again with a post full of clinical explanations. But then I questioned how much of Landon’s diagnoses were mine to share, so that one went in the trash bin as well. And I realized that I was tired of trying to explain why Landon does the things he does. And which of his quirks are actually sensory “issues” that he needs help with instead of just quirks. I don’t want to dwell on how long he’s been receiving therapies and which are working and which aren’t. I want to be his mom. I want to focus on the blessing that it is to have him as my charge while on Earth. So I don’t want to talk about what he isn’t doing. That’s exactly what left me so exasperated after his therapies this week. Instead I want to rejoice in who he is.

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Landon Jude is quite possibly the sweetest person I know. He’s sweet because his lack of verbal communication has made him an early expert in non-verbal cues. He is so empathetic. He’s the first to console his little brother and the first to give me a much needed hug when I’m upset. He also feels the joy of others.

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He’s hyper intuitive. He loves to foresee and meet the needs of others. Every morning when I carry my oatmeal from the counter to the table there’s a spoon waiting for me. I know that seems like a little thing, but I can’t help but smile every single morning. When I lay Cohen down for a change, Landon loves to grab the diaper and wipe. His occupational therapist has always been impressed with his ability to understand his body’s needs. He may not be able to copy you when you point to your nose but he knows when his body gets tired and needs to rest [the alternative would be a crazy rolling on the floor tantrum].

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Landon is the first kid to try a new food. He loves hugs and holding hands. When we’re playing with playdoh stamps he finds the heart stamper and gives it to Lucy because he knows it’s her favorite. And even though he can’t talk, I’m pretty sure he’s setting himself up to be a World Champion in Charades.

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He’s a little different, but I’m a lot lucky.

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Homeschool Preschool | Letters H & I

After eight weeks of “maternity leave” we’re back to school.  You’ll have to overlook the fact that these pictures were taken with my phone, it seems to be the best way to capture their activities naturally and without interrupting their work flow.

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The construction paper letters continue to be a favorite.  I’d intended the blue squares to be windows but Lucy insisted it was a windowless house with two chimneys. Sounds good!

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We also painted hearts with q-tips. I just took a sheet of cardstock and folded it in half. I cut out a heart and then taped the frame of the heart to a clean sheet of cardstock. When they were finished painting we took off the top sheet and had some hearts.  I asked Lucy who she’d like to send them to and she couldn’t decide so she said, “Maybe we should just keep them.”

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We also talked about being helpers and one day when Daddy came home earlier from work we all made dinner together.

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I can’t find where I saw this idea to credit it, but we also said H was for hammer and hammered the alphabet pieces into our crepe puzzle.

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For ‘I’ we drew icicles.

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While Lucy was in quiet time one day I set up a ‘big I’ and ‘little I’ for her to put together when quiet time was over. It was actually pretty awesome because it extended my mama time juuuuust a little more.

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We also had some fun sensory play with a big bowl of water filled with water beads [instead of ice]. We threw our Toob penguins and whales in as well, but of course transferring the water beads from big bowl to little was the favorite part for both kiddos.

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Scribbles

Lucy came home a couple weeks ago and told me her friend said she wasn’t coloring, she was just filling the page with scribbles. And I think a piece of my heart fell off. I know everybody’s worried about girls and STEM; Goldieblox is on my Amazon wishlist, too. But it’s just as important that she feel inspired with a blank canvas. I know from having an engineer for a father that beyond the skill of problem-solving, there is real and significant value in solution-creating.

So I feel this deep responsibility to not mess her up, to not squelch her spirit. She’s only four but she’s already so, so great. I mean she’s literally doing this right now, as I type.

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She’s declared herself “Lucy Rapunzel” and used a tiara to keep a scarf on her head. She built her tower in the chair. I want to get this right.

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So, for now, the only solution I see is to continue to provide opportunities for her. To hang her art on the fridge [and on the walls, closet doors, in the mail to Mimi...]. To always have supplies on hand, for whenever her inspiration strikes. And most of all, to let her know that just because someone else only sees scribbles, it doesn’t mean it’s not art. So I’ll leave you with her most recent work. She”s in a watercolor phase. :)

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Self-Portrait

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[When I asked her about this one she said it wasn't hers because she didn't remember adding the pink. :) Actually now that I'm looking at it, this is definitely Landon. Oops.]

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Rain

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Waterland

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Untitled

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Snow

*I’ve actually written about Lulu the artist before; you can see more work here and her art journal here [warning: link contains lots and lots of scribbles].

p.s. If you’re my mom and really just came to see pics of the baby… here you go, ma! :)

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Decorating With Instagram

Anybody else have hundreds of recent pictures on their mobile devices while the frames in their houses are filled with pictures of their four-year-old as an infant? Anybody?

Our kids are constantly asking to look at various slideshows on the computer. Lucy especially loves to look through the pictures of her and her brothers as babies. So we wanted to get some of our favorites off the screen and onto our walls.

My first, and most obvious, choice was to look at the various instagram printing services. In fact, nearly all of the major printers [walgreens, shutterfly] have an app that will let you print directly from your account to a store or your mailbox. The problem, I found, was that these services proved to be cost-prohibitive. Most of the prints were .35 to .40 each so when I printed the 100 I wanted [I narrowed it down to my favorite 20%!] it would have been close to $40. That seemed crazy to me.

Through the process of wanting to print from my instagram account, it occured to me that I wasn’t sure if all of my instagram pics were backed up like the pictures that I download from my camera’s memory card are.

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

My tech-savvy husband alerted me to the google plus app which, super conveniently, will back up my photos to my google plus account. I feel like everyone should know this. Does everybody know this?

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

So there’s your first level of back-up protection, but if you’re like me you want a folder of just instagram shots. I am okay with them grouped together by date, but if you want to print pictures you’ll need those square shots separate.

There are a few different programs that will let you download the files from your instagram account. I found instaport to be the easiest [the instructions for downloading are in the tutorial link below].

After I got all of my pics to an aptly named folder on my desktop, I began the process of trying to figure out how to get them printed. I came across this tutorial on Little Blue Boo. It definitely took longer than sending the prints straight from an app but with a coupon I got the prints for about .08 each. And, as a stay-at-home mom, I unfortunately have more time than money at this point in my life. Speaking of money, if you don’t own photoshop I used pixlr to change the canvas size; it’s a free web-based program my husband showed me (Look at that Chuck, two virtual high-fives in one post)].

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

Because of my coupon, I printed them through Shutterfly. I thought they printed them all a little “cold” [i.e. the shadows had a tinge of blue instead of all black] so next time I’ll stick with Walgreen’s or Snapfish. It also seemed like some of the pictures “floated” around on the paper so the boarders and frames for some of the pictures weren’t even all around. But, I feel like the biggest hurdle to this project is taking the initiative to get the pictures printed, so I didn’t feel too picky. After I cut off the extra inch on either side, I laid the pictures I wanted to use on the floor to see how many I wanted to use. It also allowed me to spread it out so I didn’t have a bunch of the same filters grouped together. To get the pics on the wall, I was inspired by this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess.

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

To make sure things start off level, we threw up a piece of tape. Always good to start off level. I also cut a piece to use as a guide for how far apart I wanted the pictures.

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

Now I need you to excuse these lower quality pictures. I have a five week old. And camera batteries are never charged when you need them to be.

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

And just for fun I threw up a few food-related pics on the doorway out of the kitchen.

decorating with instagram | hey, beth baker!

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Roasted Carrot Soup [ & This Week's Meal Plan]

It’s been a month since we welcomed Cohen into our family. I know it’s my third baby, so I should know the drill, but I’m a bit impatient and ready to “feel like myself” again. In an effort to get back to our routine, I made a meal plan for this week. The hardest part was sticking to it and not waiting until 5 o’clock to start something. I was not successful on having the meals on the planned days, so I just crossed them off as I made them [which has a definite added layer of satisfaction!].

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As written, here’s how our meals went.

Sunday: My favorite fish tacos. I didn’t want to grill so I put the fish foil pouches[it was pretty thin] in the oven at 400F for 7 minutes.

Monday: Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili. The recipe we tried was only “okay” so I won’t share it. I would love it if anyone has a chili recipe to share in the comments.

Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches & Sweet Potato Fries. If you’ve never tried Stubb’s BBQ sauce, well, you’re welcome.

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie. Yum. I use my mom’s recipe but this time we did a drop biscuit crust because biscuits have a lower fat content than dough and I was looking for something a little lighter. It had been long enough since I’d baked something from scratch that after eating I marveled at how ingredients can come together to make something so delicious. Oh dear.

Thursday: Roasted Carrot Soup & Cauliflower poppers

Friday: Quinoa & Roasted Veggies. We roasted the rest of the butternut squash that didn’t go in our soup, some sweet potatoes, and some edamame. It went on top of the quinoa and we sprinkled on a little cheese as a topping.

Saturday: Pizza! I’ll be honest: it was frozen and it was delicious.

For the Roasted Carrot Soup, I used this recipe for my inspiration. To make it healthier [and dairy-free] we switched it up a bit.

roasted carrot soup | hey, beth baker!

Roasted Carrot Soup
Serves 6+

3 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped to florets
[sprinkled with nooch, paprika, garlic powder, salt! and pepper]
1 red pepper, roughly diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil, separated and melted
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.
Use one tablespoon of melted coconut oil to coat the veggies and sprinkle with desired seasonings. Bake for 25 minutes or until fork tender.

Heat up the remaining coconut oil in a dutch oven and add the onions. Saute over medium high heat until onions are nearly translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so. Add the chicken broth and seasonings. As it begins to boil, turn the heat to low. When the carrots, cauliflower, and red pepper are finished, add them in. Add in the coconut milk. Use an immersion blender to make it as smooth as you’d like.

roasted carrot soup | hey, beth baker!

Lucy Lately

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“I’m gonna watch this Barney so I can help Buddy learn his imagination.”

“Landon, you can’t push me into the potty. If you push me into the potty everyone will miss me.”

[To the tune of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'] “Myyyyyyyyyy golden rings!”

——
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…

Hm. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

We should pray for him, Jesus.”
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“Jesus, I love this dinner. Amen. I love myself. Amen. Help Cohen. Amen.”

L: “Do you like my dance?”
B: “Yes.”
L: “Thanks. I learned it at high school.”

L: “Mama, when I’m a mommy I’m going to get email.”
B: “Cool. Hehe. That’s funny.”
L: “But right now I just don’t like the way it tastes.”
B: “Huh? I don’t understand. Oh, did you mean oatmeal?”
L: “Yeah, that’s what I said.”

L: “Mom. Do you wish I was a polar bear in the snow?”
B: “Yes. Because then you could play outside and you wouldn’t get cold.”
L: “Would you like to play my polar bear game later?”
B: “Um, sure. How do you play?”
L: “Alright. We’ll. Step 1: Be a polar bear. And then there are some other steps.”

L: “Mom. Can you tell the twins’ mom to buy them bananas?”
B: “I could. Did they tell you they need bananas?”
L: “We’ll, no. But I just think they would like them and I think it’s important for mamas to buy food.”

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