On Raising a Parrot.

In our pre-kid days, Chris and I had the peculiar hobby of reading Screen It reviews before, during, or even instead of watching movies. Geared toward parents, the site gives an intensely detailed yet discreet laundry list of every profanity or slightly negative word in the movie, detailed descriptions of all violence, drug use, or frightening scenes, and any sexual references all the way down to “There was a slight amount of cleavage showing on the lady in the far left background of the scene.”

Juvenile though it was, we especially loved the detailed explanations of how a word was used. For instance, it’d say “14 scatological terms, used literally three times, once with ‘head’, twice with ‘piece of’, and once with ‘you little’.”

Although we sometimes did make movie-watching decisions based on these reviews, we often found them more entertaining than the movie itself.

Since that time, Screen It has become a paid service, but other free sites like Kids in Mind have taken their place. Our kids aren’t really off the Disney/Pixar/Veggie Tales track yet, so we still don’t have a good use for this service, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

Like, for instance, who is looking up “The Wolf of Wall Street” to see if it’s appropriate for children? And if they are, do all deem it inappropriate when they see* “Over 414 F words and its derivatives…82 scatological terms, 53 anatomical terms…name-calling (midget, scum, nitwits, degenerates, depraved, lazy, idiot, sweetheart)”? Or are some parents like, “Oh, well there’s under 500 F words, so I guess I can take the kids to see it!”

* I left out at least half of the Profanity listing of Wolf of Wall Street in the interest of not taking your entire day to read this post.

One service that Screen It offers is a listing of all imitative behavior, which would include any phrases or actions that they thought kids might mimic. For some reason, I always pondered these greatly. Like, would a kid really jump out of a fiery car just because they saw it on a movie? And if they did, wouldn’t that be a good thing? I mean the car’s on fire and all. And if I took my kid to see Maleficent and the worst thing they came away with was repeating the phrase “How Quaint!”, am I really going to care?

I looked forward to the day when I could see for myself if Imitative Behaviors really do get imitated.

But alas. Ali has never been an repeating type of kid. She’s a deep thinker, an independent thinker, and never seems to pick up other people’s behaviors.

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So we had to have another kid.

Noah did not disappoint. He can pick up on anything anytime and repeat it with the perfect inflection and gusto.

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Enter The Lego Movie – clearly a must-watch for our family.

As we have now seen The Lego Movie more times than the F word comes up in The Wolf of Wall Street, Noah has grafted many new phrases into his dictionary, such as “Darny darn darn!”, “Honey, Where are my paaaaaants?”, and “What the heck!”

But my favorite phrase…perhaps my all-time favorite imitable behavior of all time…is this Lego Movie Jewel.

Imitative behavior is every bit as awesome as I’d always imagined it. And then some.


Disclaimer: Before you ask, no representation is made that the contents of this video in any way reflects the speaker or the blogger’s feelings toward any recent blog topics.

A Time to FitBit.

Really, it was all the old man’s fault.

He was ambling around the edge of the cliff at Weathington Park, offering to take everyone’s picture with their phone.

I don’t know if he was doing some sort of undercover operation to plant a tracking device on everyone’s phone or what, but he was quite insistent.

I was the only one on the ledge that day with a DSLR. I handed him my camera, which is pretty hefty compared to the variety of phones he’d been using.

“Whoa. Is this thing going to kick back?”

“Maybe a little. All you need to do is push this black button.”

“Which button?”

“This one.”

“Okay. Where is it?”

“Riiiight here.”

I placed his finger on the button, then Chris and I posed at the cliff and smiled, somewhat plastically.

Old Man stared at the backside of my camera.

“I can’t see anything! Are you sure this thing is on?”

“Yes sir. You have to look in the the viewfinder.”

“The who-what?”

“The little hole at the top of the camera.”

“OOOOH. Okay. Say cheese! HOLY COW I DIDN’T KNOW THIS THING WAS A SEMI-AUTOMATIC! How many pictures did I just take?”

“It’s no problem. Thank you!”

I quickly saved my camera from further misunderstandings and we moved on. Later, I looked at his photography portfolio.

Most of them contained my hand in front of my face, trying to arrest a bunch of stray strands that gathered there at just the wrong moment.

There was only one where my hand was just barely blurring. But the photo disagreed with me, as do most photos of myself these days.

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Granted, it wasn’t that bad of a picture. But for some reason it was the picture that I could see every one of the fifteen pounds I’ve gained in the past year. I can blame it on the medicine all I want, but it’s still there and it still bothers me.

I’ve tried to convince myself to exercise and get back to using Lose It a few times over the past year, but I lacked motivation, and was in general too tired from those same stupid medications to keep it up. And really, the real reason I need to exercise is not for vanity, but because Dysautonomia’s two main solutions are drinking ridiculous amounts of water and exercising regularly.

…But it’s counterintuitive since simply standing up can double my heart rate – it doesn’t exactly feel like running would be the best idea.

And also, the only two times I’ve ever been successful at losing weight also happened to be when I was nursing my children. And I can’t lactate on command, therefore I’ve been demotivated ever since.

But still. I knew it was possible.

Here were my before and after photos while nursing Noah:

BeforeAndAfterMaking milk: Does the body good.

But it was time. It had to be done. With or without my mammary glands taking part.

We got home from that trip on Sunday, and on Monday I bought myself a FitBit.

(And Chris one, too, since he’s always a good sport to play along with my geek-motivation needs.)

By Tuesday morning I was unforgivably angry with myself for not getting one years ago. For someone who is motivated by charts and graphs, a FitBit is like finding and taking up residence in The Garden of Eden.

It’s.

So.

Pretty.

FitBit Screenshot

And that’s only half of the information it gives me. ANY TIME I WANT IT.

For those of you not familiar with FitBit, it’s a tiny clip-on gadget (or bracelet, if you prefer that choice) that tracks your steps, and by doing so extrapolates all of the above information (except the water – I am manually adding that) and makes it available to you in real-time on an app and a website. Which, since I would marry a spreadsheet if I could, translates into immediate gratification – a hard thing for me to get from exercise.

(And even the manual water entry is made super easy by standard measurements and a pretty little woman turning blue.)

FitBit Water Tracking

It also seamlessly interfaces with Lose It, which was my non-boob tool in my weight loss last time. FitBit sends Lose It the number of calories I’ve burned, Lose It sends FitBit the number of calories I’ve eaten, and both use the information to help me make wise decisions. It’s a lovely relationship.

Lose It Compared to FitBit

I know that FitBit is basically a glorified pedometer, but any organization that can take a simple tool and turn it into such a beautiful graphical representation of Doing The Right Thing is a hero in my books. Because I need goals. And I need to see how I achieved those goals. And better yet, I need to compete and beat everyone in my path.

(Until Chris ruins everything with his 14 mile Saturday morning runs and taunts me on Twitter.)

FitBit Tweet
(But that’s exactly the kind of competition I need. Because by Monday morning, I had fought my way back on top.)

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…And he thought he was so special because he runs a half-marathon every Saturday.

Mm hmm – Motherhood takes more steps.

(Well, Motherhood plus an intense need to beat one’s husband.)

But back to FitBit. It gives you goals in every area that you could possibly want, offers beautiful and drill-downable charts and graphs of every kind, changes colors from blue to yellow to red to green as you achieve those goals, and allows you to compete with all your friends, and in general completes me.

FitBit Dashboard

It EVEN offers a premium package where you can compare yourself to all the humans. UNIVERSAL BENCHMARKING.

I expect to break down and buy the expanded software within days.

It’s been a full week now, and I have felt fantastic six out of seven days, free of Dysautonomia symptoms. It could be a coincidence, or it could be because I finally found the right tool to reward me with pretty colors when I do the right thing.

At any rate, I’m hooked.

(But whether this pretty software makes up for my lack of lactation remains to be seen.)


If you have a FitBit and want to further my motivation by becoming my friend, my email address is graspingforobjectivity@gmail.com.

For the Record: I was not compensated by FitBit to write this nor did they ask me to nor do they know I’m writing it. But if they want to give me that premium package for free, I’d totally take it. FitBit? Are you listening?

On Declaring Independence.

I know that you’ve all been waiting with intense anticipation for an update on the fallout of Noah’s stomach virus.

I am here for you.

I am gleeful to report that, although it did last through the night and he woke up Thursday morning with his bed in such an abominable state that if I described it I’d have to burn my blog, it did end quickly after that. And more importantly, whatever parasite he licked off of only God knows what disgusting surface was blessedly not the type that spreads to other family members.

So, gloriously, we were all free of spurting out of any orifices just in time for the holiday weekend.

And as we’d been in our-life-is-falling-apart-at-the-stomach-seams mode, we found ourselves having not planned ahead a single minute of our Fourth of July.

So we did what any loving parents would do and made our children hike two miles up a mountain in the woods.

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(With one in a diaper. JUST in case.)

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(He can’t believe I just told you that.)

On their way up the mountainside, they both managed to find gender-stereotypical pieces of nature, of which they took a moment to appreciate once we allowed them to sit down.

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Seriously guys. That was unstaged.

…As was Noah’s near-use of his rock when I actually asked them to pose for me.

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And he wonders why she doesn’t trust him.

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That night, we set out on an unplanned attempt to find a vantage point for Birmingham’s fireworks show above Vulcan. We had no idea where to go and were entirely uncertain as to whether our children would be whiny-sleepy, interested, or petrified, as Noah had a bit of a traumatic fireworks experience last fall, and this was the first Fourth of July we’d been in town in many years.

I applauded my husband’s ability to withstand such tenuous uncertainty.

We ended up on the Children’s Hospital Parking Deck, where they had actually roped off the top deck for viewers, and were quite kind to everyone who had found their way up there.

Better yet: we made it in time for sunset.

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A sunset which, for a moment, even turned red white and blue. JUST FOR ME. (And everyone else.)

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Our children were excited and self-entertained while we waited for 9pm to arrive,

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Chris had the forethought to pack popsicles,

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My Parents, Grandmother, and Brother joined us after we let them know we found the best view in Birmingham,

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And when the fireworks began, Noah relieved us all by saying “I do like these kind of fireworks!!”

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From Puke and Poo Hell to Family-Togetherness Utopia…clearly God did indeed shed His Grace on us.

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I took my DSLR, set it up on a tripod, adjusted it to what I hoped would work, then carelessly snapped about 250 crappy fireworks photos without even looking through the viewfinder. Chris suggested that I pick the least blurry ones and create a composite image of the night, which turned into an obsessively geeky exercise in Photoshop Layering.

140704 Vulcan's Show

(But I totally got fussed at by my seven-year-old for not including one of the upside-down smiley fireworks.)

(So here you go.)

Smiley Firework

The next morning, gloriously, (how often does the climax of a story come after the fireworks are over?), I dumped my disease-free children at my parent’s and Chris swept me off to North Alabama.

For Recovery from Motherhood.

(It’s a real thing, y’all.)

140705c Weathington Point

We visited the above, Weathington Park, then continued to one of our favorite retreats, Gorham’s Bluff.

140705 A Gorham's Bluff Sunset

We ate, we rested, we read, we biked, we talked, and we got to sit on the edge of a ledge and see this.

140705b Beams over Gorham's Bluff

Happy Independence Indeed.

(p.s. I love my children.)

(p.p.s. But sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder.)