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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Homeschool

Not long before my face-smashing wrestling match with my brother, my parents informed us that instead of going to school like everybody else, we were going to be home schooled.

I was still pretty young — probably between 3 and 4 years old — so I didn’t really understand what that meant. I had figured out the correlation between school attendance and marriage (you obviously can’t get married if you don’t ever leave home!), so one day, I asked my mom how I was supposed to get married if I was home schooled.

She told me that we were going to trust God.

Oh. Ok.

I went about playing like any good preschooler would do.

The smashed face ER visit occurred after this discussion with my mom, so you can imagine how messed up I was after that. First I have to trust God to get a husband, and now my face is mutilated and no one is ever going to love me or want me. (Keep in mind, I’m speaking as a 3-year old who doesn’t completely understand what’s going on. My face turned out just fine — I only have a small scar — but I didn’t know it was going to turn out that way. I was going on what the doctor was speculating and I felt like a hopeless case.)

My parents began homeschooling in ~1985, about 4 years BEFORE it became legal in my state.

I honestly don’t know if I knew about the legality of home schooling at that point. The only thing I understood about the situation was that we weren’t allowed outside of the house before 3:00 pm when all the school kids were coming home. The reason for this was because if the police saw a school-aged child running around, the parents would immediately be charged with having a truant child. So, to avoid this little problem, we had to stay in the house during school hours. Once public school was out for the day, we could play outside, but we had to stay in the yard unless one of our parents was with us. These days, that rule makes sense. But back then Jacob Wetterling was still at home with his family and the part of the world I lived in felt pretty safe.

We were part of an “underground” home school group. Well, I guess it wasn’t underground — it was held across the river in Minnesota at the time, and since home schooling was legal in Minnesota, they could do whatever they pleased. But those of us who lived in North Dakota kept our involvement a secret.

My parents have been asked why they didn’t just move across the river so we wouldn’t be participating in illegal activity. In Minnesota, if you home schooled a child, you were required to have some government person monitor your curriculum, your schedule, your record keeping and your child’s grades. My parents saw this as interference in their “right” to raise their child however they wished, so rather than jumping through a few hoops, they chose to stay put and risk losing their children (this did happen from time to time!) for the sake of their “freedom.”

Basically, they risked everything over a technicality.

I knew the risks they were taking. I knew I could be seized from my home and family if anyone found out. I knew that if the wrong person became privy to the wrong information, I could lose everything that mattered to me. I knew that if my family had been found out, it was possible that I might have to testify in court either for or against my parents. But, I didn’t understand it in terms of “we’re doing something illegal” — my understanding was that the government was against us because we were doing what God wanted. We were doing it because God is righteous and holy and He wants us to be separate from the heathen of the world, so of course, we can’t go to school with heathen kids and be taught by heathen teachers.

What an awful situation to put a kid in! Even the fear of the possibility of any of that happening is enough to scar a kid for life.

We were found out.

My mom received a phone call from the school superintendent asking why her child wasn’t in school.

She did what every good, home school mom did in that situation at that time. She referred them to her attorney.

Our legal counsel was a representative from the Home School Legal Defense Association. I believe it was Mike Farris, though I’m not sure if he directly worked with the case or not. Whoever it was, he told my parents to take all of us and leave the state until he told us to come back.

So we did.

I don’t think any of us under the age of 30 knew what was going on. To us, it was just a visit to Grandma’s. After a few days, the attorney called us at Grandma’s and told us we could go home, it had all blown over and we were going to be ok. When my mom asked what they had told the school people in order to get them off our backs, he said, “Oh, I just told them that your kids were uneducable and they didn’t want to have to deal with them anyway, so they just dropped it.”

Uneducable? Really? I really don’t understand how anyone would buy that argument — not without doing testing of some kind or something!

At some point, late in the battle for the right to home school in North Dakota, a small girl was forced to testify against her parents in a child abuse/neglect/truancy case somewhere in the state. This was a terrifying time for small home schooled children in North Dakota because we all knew what was going on and we all knew that it could be us next.

Fortunately, that “could be” never happened for me or my family.

In the spring of 1989, roughly 2 months before I was scheduled to start first grade (the first mandatory grade at that time), home schooling became legal in North Dakota.

Of course, we still had to jump through some hoops in order to be legal, but IF you did it right, you didn’t have to be monitored. It involved one parent passing the NTE (National Teacher’s Exam) and every child passing a standardized test in certain grades. If both requirements were met, you didn’t have to be monitored by the state.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in My Story

 

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A Thought

At times, I hate where I’ve been because where I’ve been is what keeps me stuck where I am.

Perhaps it’s not always the actual experiences of the past that keep you bound.

Sometimes it’s not knowing how to be different.

Sometimes it’s fear that you’re going to have to explain yourself.

(And the explanation is “I simply want to be normal!”)

But mostly, the past has me locked in its prison because one’s expectations are a dungeon all their own.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Accidents

I was an accident-prone child.

When I was somewhere between two and 3 years old, I had my first ER experience.

I had been playing with an older cousin who was holding me by the arms and spinning me around in circles. It was fun. Lots of fun.

I imagine myself all giggles, begging for more-

Until I found myself flying through the air and then falling to the ground with a thud.

I don’t remember much about that incident. I was taken to the ER where I had an X-ray of my arm done. They asked me if I could put my arm above my head and I thought about it and said no. I hadn’t tried to move my arm after the incident, and I didn’t want to try at the hospital either, so I didn’t. I’m not sure why that detail stuck out to me. I just didn’t want to move my arm and no one made me. I wasn’t given much choice about whether I did things up until that point, so when I was given an option, I chose exactly what I wanted. This may have been the first and only time in my life (until recently) when I made a choice, not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

I went home with my arm in a sling. Later in the day, I tried to tell my dad I didn’t want it on anymore, but it took him a while to figure out that the only thing I wanted was to get rid of that annoying sling.

In another incident, just days before my 4th birthday, my brothers and I were playing on the top of their bunk bed while my parents were getting ready to paint the boys’ room.

Maybe “wrestling” would be a better term. I was totally tomboy back then. I could wrestle with the best of them.

At any rate, one second I was pinning one of my brothers and the next, I was falling. The next thing I knew, my face had made contact with the can of paint that just happened to be sitting next to the bed and there was blood everywhere.

I did what I did best — I shrieked and cried and spent the entire time between then and when we got to the ER screaming. Mom tried to stop the bleeding, but I was too squirmy, scared and screaming for her to do much with me.

I had a huge gash on my upper lip.

They put me on a bed with a big light shining on me. Before the doctor stitched me up, he told my mom that he recommended that I have reconstructive surgery rather than a simple suture because the scarring would be terrible and no one would want to look at my face.

Ok, so maybe that is embellished. But I was 3 and I didn’t understand everything he said. When you’re 3 and someone says something like that, it tends to sound way worse than it actually is.

That was the first time that I had associated appearance and acceptance. And I was convinced that because my face was going to be scarred, no one would ever love me, want me, or find me attractive enough to want to possibly marry me one day.

I was completely crushed.

After discussing the notion of reconstructive surgery, it was decided that I would be sutured and they’d leave it at that. I remember the ER staff covering me with a sheet with the injury site exposed. The doctor stitched me up, taking only a few minutes to do so. I remember being really scared that it would hurt, and being pleasantly surprised when the only thing I felt was a little tickle with each stitch.

And then I went home to think about how no one would ever want me now.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in My Story

 

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On Being Three

One of the things that I really loved about my childhood was story time.

My parents read to my brothers and me every single day of our lives until we left home. I developed a deep love for stories, reading and writing at a pretty young age. I was eager to learn to read because I wanted read by myself and not have to wait until Mom or Dad had time to sit down with us.

We read all kinds of books, from Winnie The Pooh to Dan Frontier to Billy and Blaze. We read Beatrix Potter, Virginia Lee Burton and Eric Carle. As we grew older, we read chapter books, like Anne of Green Gables, the Little Britches series, and Little House on the Prairie. We also read the books (fiction, historical novels and biographies) published by Bob Jones University Press. We never, ever read Curious George, Dr. Seuss or Clifford. Ok, so it wasn’t never. It was just really rare. Curious George was “Naughty George” and Dr. Seuss encouraged kids to eat rotten (green) eggs. And Clifford was just too unreal. Who really has a dog bigger than a house?

When I was 3, my two favorite books were a Little Golden Book called “The New Baby” and a…. yellow book (but NOT a Little Golden Book) called “go and hush the baby” by Betsy Byars. Yes, the title is capitalized like that. And yes, at the age of 3, I absolutely adored babies.

For my 3rd birthday, my parents gave me my very own copy of “go and hush the baby.” Today, it’s literally tattered, and I pretty much still have it memorized. (My friend doesn’t allow me to read it to her daughter because the mom in the story, according to my friend, deserves the Bad Mom of the Year award. But that’s neither here nor there. I still loved the book when I was a wee little lassie.)

I have no idea what went on in my life when I was 3. The only pictures I have of that time of my life were from my birthday (with that awesome new book!), a picture of me blow drying my hair (this is the only time in my entire life that my hair has been blow dried), and a picture of me with my Christmas presents.

For Christmas that year, my aunt gave me a red sweater with my name stitched on it. How many 3-year-olds have a personalized sweater? I felt pretty special! My great-grandma gave me a mini trunk/chest thing to keep “my stuff” in. (If I remember right, she hired someone to build it.) And, my grandma gave me a life-sized baby doll. Oh, how I loved that baby! I remember later in the day, after opening all those super gifts, after everybody else had dispersed to watch PeeWee Herman or take a nap (I had given up naps after that bad experience where I went to take a nap and woke up down a grandparent), my mom picked me up and sat me on her lap and asked me what I was going to name my baby. We had quite a discussion about this. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of a character in one of my favorite books, but I told my mom I wanted to give her the same name as the girl in that story about shoes. (I have no idea what book that was!!!) I remember loving a story about a girl named Emma. But the first story character that was one of my favorites that my mom suggested was Rebekah — and Rebekah became my new baby’s name.

I still have that dolly. She still naps on the bed in my mom’s spare room.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in My Story

 

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Disclaimer

I took an autobiographical literature class in college in the spring of 2006.

Among other books, we read James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces.” This book was published as a memoir, but while we were reading and discussing the book, it became known that the story was greatly embellished — to the point that many actually considered it a work of fiction, based on a true story.

Oprah Winfrey, at some point in 2005, had placed Frey’s book on her book list.

One of the discussion starters we had while reading Frey’s book was watching Oprah’s second interview with Frey — the one where she totally ripped him apart for ruining her reputation because his book had been published as a memoir instead of a work of fiction based on a true story.

When working with autobiographical literature, one has to take into consideration the idea of perception versus reality.

For example, Frey’s book was about his experience in a drug rehabilitation center. He was coming off drugs, so his perception was obviously going to be a little — or a lot! — screwed up.

In that class, we also discussed several other autobiographical works where an author told his/her story, and when his/her family read it, they said, “That did not happen!” In some cases, the family sued the author, and in some cases, the author was completely cut off from family.

My professor said at that point that she believed that it was going to become necessary for autobiographical authors to begin their stories with a disclaimer stating that the story is based on the perception of the author, and that other people in the story may have a completely different story.

I wanted to take a moment to say just that. I had a messed up childhood, but my story is MY story. It has been filtered through the lens of MY past experience, MY pain, MY fear, and MY struggles. Any of my brothers or either of my parents could also tell the story, but I guarantee, every single version of the story would be different. None of them are less true than another.

I want to say to my family that I so value your thoughts and opinions, and if you want to challenge any part of my story, feel free to do so. But please do so knowing that I am not going to change my story. I will listen. I will respect what you have to say to me. BUT, your story isn’t going to change mine. This is MY story about how I experienced MY life.

That being said, I want to say to my family that my telling my story is in no way intended to cause you pain or embarrassment. I’m telling my story for me. It is something I have to do in order to fully understand who I am and where I’ve been, and in order to grow and become the best person I can be.

Lastly, I want to say that my family means everything to me and the last thing I want to do is alienate anyone. Please be patient with me as I go through this process. I love you!

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2012 in My Story

 

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Things I Need from My Parents

I am an adult child who sometimes — ok, a lot of times — struggles with the difference between what I need from my parents, and what I actually get from my parents.

I wanted to take a moment to talk about what an adult child needs from her (or his) parents:

Mom, Dad, I need encouragement. I need to know that you’re proud of what I’ve accomplished and that you’re proud of me — even if I haven’t followed the path you would have liked me to follow.

I need the freedom to make mistakes. Please don’t keep trying to protect me from myself — because I promise, I’ll learn from my mistakes!

I need freedom to think for myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to ditch what I’ve been taught all these years. It means that the things I believe in will have personal meaning, and I will know to the pit of my soul that they are true. When I have the freedom to think for myself, I believe out of conviction, not simply because I was told what to think.

I need you to support me, even when you don’t agree with me. I’m not asking you to somehow twist your beliefs so I fit in them. I just need to know that even if you think I’m wrong, you aren’t going to disown me.

I need to spend time with you. Time doing stuff. Fun stuff. Family stuff. I need time to enjoy having you for my Mom and Dad, and to enjoy being your kid.

I need you to visit me. That way, I know you really, really want to be around me and you’re not just letting me stay with you when I’m in town because you didn’t know how to say no.

I need you to guide me. Don’t tell me what to do — or even what I should do. I need to be able to come to you with a problem and know that the problem will be addressed in a a fair, non-biased way.

I need privacy. I need to know that you trust me enough that you don’t need to know what I’m doing all the time.

But, mostly, Mom and Dad — more than absolutely anything…. I need love. This doesn’t mean I need you to give me everything I want or to help me pay my bills, or bring me dinner every day- although those things are things that would make me feel loved. I simply need to know that no matter what I do, say, think, feel — no matter how many stupid things I do — you’re going to keep loving me, keep wanting me and keep inviting me over. I need to see you accept the people and things that are important to me. I need to know that you’re going to keep praying for me, thinking of me, calling me, and encouraging me.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Christmas

Mom’s family had a big ol’ family reunion at Christmas that year. My great-grandma turned 80 two days before Christmas and my family threw a big party. Everybody showed up.

I don’t know a lot about this party, but from memories I’ve pieced together, I get the impression that we had a little variety show in honor of Grandma’s birthday. I remember my mom’s cousin doing a little ventriloquism act, and the whole family stood up front and sang “How Great Thou Art.” (I found both creepy. I don’t remember a lot from my very young years that wasn’t scary.)

We tried to get pictures of each family posing with Great-grandma that year.The picture my mom gave me from this endeavor was of me crying and everybody else smiling at the camera.

Everybody, except Grandma. She was holding me, whispering to me, comforting me, letting me know that everything was going to be ok and this wasn’t something I needed to fuss about.

She was always like that.

I grew to trust my great-grandma to always be there for me, always listen, always encourage, always play, laugh and just be. She was the best, in every way you could imagine.

This was a stark contrast compared to what I was used to.

I was used to situations like the photo shoot. I would do or say something (or cry, or laugh, or tug on someone’s sleeve) and my family went about what they’d been doing, never acknowledging me. And, if I expressed a negative emotion, I was most definitely ignored.

This, too, had a huge impact on who I became as I grew up. This is where I learned that no matter what I said or did, no one was going to notice or care anyway, so why bother even trying? This is where I learned the “Children [girls] should be seen and not heard” doctrine. This is where I began to withdraw and do everything I could to stay as little and insignificant as I felt.

I also have a picture of Grandma with all 6 of her great-grandbabies, ranging in age from 7 months to 6 years. Me and 5 boys. (Just wait — this situation got even worse as time progressed! Y chromosomes were plentiful in my family!) In this picture, Grandma is holding the two youngest babies (the ones under 12 months) and I’m standing next to her with a faint, sweet smile on my face.That is how I like to remember my toddler years.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in My Story

 

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Two

I have two memories of being two.

When I turned 2-1/2, my maternal grandparents gave me a little red trike to celebrate the occasion. (I was always a little spoiled. Ok, so I was a lot spoiled….) At the same time, my grandma got an exercise bike and we have a picture of her and I on our new bikes. I remember begging Dad and Gramps to assemble the trike for me. I spent that winter wanting so desperately to ride the trike, but it was too cold and snowy, so that wasn’t going to happen.

Once, my mom relented and brought it into the house so I could peddle up and down the long living room. I did not enjoy having to wait for it to warm up so I wouldn’t stick to the metal seat. I think I even remember having a temper tantrum over that. Or maybe I just whined. I don’t know.

I don’t remember riding it in the summer at all, but that’s probably because it wasn’t being “withheld” from me during the summer like it was in the winter. I know I did use it in the summer — I just don’t have any solid memories of it.

The other memory I have of being two came roughly 2 weeks after I got the trike. That was a very eventful time for me!

It was Thanksgiving, and we had gone to visit Dad’s family. The very long drive seemed even longer to me because I was 2, I was sitting in a very uncomfortable car seat with a numb bum, I had a baby brother who was yelping like somebody was going to kill him or something, and it was cold! I was tired. I was hungry. I was miserable. And I was DONE being in that stupid car.

So, so, SO done.

When we finally arrived, we walked in the house to find Grandma unconscious on the couch. To me, she was just napping. But she was all white and when Dad tried to wake her to let her know we were there, she didn’t respond.

Grandma was a tiny little thing. She weighed under 100 pounds, so my dad picked her up and put her in the van and started off to the hospital. Mom called the police to tell them my dad was speeding through town trying to get his mother to the hospital.

The details of those few days are sketchy. Time means something completely different to a 2-year old than it does to an adult, so I honestly have no idea when stuff happened.

At some point, my dad did what my dad does best…. He took me to lay down to take a nap. I was a very perceptive kid and was exceptionally good at picking up on emotion. I knew Dad was sad and maybe a little angry and he didn’t do much sleeping, so I knew something was wrong. I think that’s the only time I’ve ever witnessed him having a problem taking a nap.

When I woke up, everybody was there — except Grandma. The first thing I said upon waking was, “Where’s Grandma?” My mom just looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Grandma died.”

I wore a pink dress with ruffles and tiny, dainty roses to the funeral. It was polyester. (Really, it was! I noted this when I found it in a box of my little girl stuff years later.) Somebody sang “How Great Thou Art” and for years afterward, that song gave me the creeps. There was a dinner. And everybody went home.

They never found out what caused her to die so suddenly. The doctors best guess was that she had a stroke.

One day, Grandma was there, the next day she was gone, we were all in a funny church service singing “creepy” songs, followed by a dinner with people I didn’t know. And Grandma never came back and I didn’t know why. This event had a profound effect on the rest of my life.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in My Story

 

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Davie

Somewhere between my first and second birthdays, I got hair. Like, actual hair. I sported that reddish fuzz for roughly 19 months. Then, all of a sudden, I had two little boy cousins, another brother and…. hair. Soft, blonde, wavy hair.

But my hair isn’t that important in this chapter.

Let’s talk about David.

David was born 2 years, 2 weeks and 2 days after me. I have an adorable picture of me holding that bundle of irritation for the first time. I loved that baby! I’ve been told that when Grandma was going to change his pants one day, I said, “NO! I’m going to do it! He’s MY brother.”

I was two.

It didn’t take me too long to figure out that MY brother was nothing more than a brat.

I remember one day, David, in all his preschool brilliance, was going to take a swig of ammonia, just to see what it would do. Being the over-protective, attentive big sister that I was, I screamed at him not to do it. He didn’t. (Good job listening, Lil Bro!)

But Mom heard me scream and I was put to bed early for screaming.

The only thing I had to say about that for many years was, “????” And then I got older and wondered how it was better to have a kid drink a cleaning solution than to hear someone speak (perhaps) a little too loudly, encouraging him not to. I’ve never understood that one.

I was bitter about that for a very long time.

David didn’t speak until he was 3. As far as I understand, he didn’t even do the “mama, dada, googoo gaga” thing. But when he was 3, one day he decided to talk. And when he did, he started speaking in complete sentences. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do it. He was just being a brat.

I say “Brat” with as much affection and gentleness as I can muster.

Davie was the baby of the family for quite a few years. He still has bits and pieces of the Baby of the Family personality. Like, he says really outrageous things to try to get a reaction out of people.

Dave has a variety of interests, and a personality that doesn’t let him stop pursuing something until he’s mastered it. Like, flying, for example. He began with kites. Then he moved on to flight-related computer games. His interest in aviation led him to join the Air Guard. He served for 6 years and hated the “military” aspect of it, so when he was done, he pursued his second passion. Frying donuts. (Really.) And since that doesn’t exactly pay well, he pursued his third passion: Music. He’s been part of several bands, and has spent lots of time and energy teaching himself all about sound in preparation to open his own production company, which he did earlier this year.

It took several years, but I did get past seeing him as Brat. We will explore that topic at a later time.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in My Story

 

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And Then…. There was Me

I like to imagine that the afternoon of my nativity would have been a sunny and warm one. I also like to imagine that someone sent my mom some daffodils. Because when a mum gives birth the day after Mother’s Day, she deserves some daffodils. At the very least!

I was born somewhere between 3:32 pm and 3:34 pm. I don’t remember the exact time (I’m sure it’s written down somewhere), so I like to say that I was born at 3:33 because that’s just cool.

I also like to tell people that I’m Russian, because that’s cool too. But I’m not really Russian. My ancestors lived in Russia, but they were German.

At any rate, on that (supposedly) warm, sunny day-after-Mother’s Day afternoon, I made my appearance.

I was promptly wrapped in a orangy-pink receiving blanket and had my first mugshot. I had a teeny bit of reddish fuzz on my head and the cutest little pudgy round cheeks you ever saw. And my little fingers looked just like they do now, except that they were so tiny and cute back then!!

I was a tiny little thing. I made my debut a week or so late (that was the only time I’ve ever been late in my life, I think!), and I weighed in at 6 pounds, 3 ounces. My tendency toward tininess continued when I took my first steps at 10 months and my parents had to go shopping for a tiny pair of shoes to protect my little feet. They found a pair of cute little navy sneakers with rainbows on the sides. I still have those little shoes.

I don’t remember much from this part of my life. From looking at old photos, I can say that I had two adoring, attentive big brothers, and I learned at an early age that if you scream, you’re more likely to get what you want. And I also learned at a young age that dirt is pretty tasty (I have pictures of this!) and that I was an observer of the 3-month rule. I once found a cookie under the fridge and decided to chow down. (Again, I have a picture of this!) I adored my Gramps and Grandma, but my dad’s parents totally freaked me out. (Just observations from photos. I have several of me being playful, peaceful and serene with Mom’s family, and on the next page, Dad’s  parents are holding me and I’m screaming my head off. I wish I could have given them the benefit of the doubt, but I guess when you’re a baby, you don’t really understand those things.)

My first birthday was awesome. Not that I remember it — once again, I’m going on the photos. I had this wonderful, huge layered birthday cake with gooey frosting. It was set on the tray of my highchair and I reached out a timid fist to check it out. I guess I must not have been too fond of the sticky gooeyness, because fist promptly found its way to mouth. And then it was all over…. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. And to this day, I still love frosting!!!

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in My Story

 

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