In Defense of Taylor Swift…

If you’ve read my blog before or know me personally, you know that one of my biggest passions is Africa. In fact, my interest in the continent shaped the trajectory of my adult life. I studied Africa and African languages at university, and following graduation, I went onto have a fulfilling career analyzing African politics. Earlier this year, I moved on to a different line of work, and I would be lying if I said a day had gone by when I didn’t miss my previous job. I often find myself daydreaming of my past travels to East Africa, wondering when—not if—I’ll make it there again.

If you are a reader of my blog, you probably also know that I am a HUGE Taylor Swift fan. I’ve seen her in concert on her last three tours. I blogged about taking my stepdaughters to see her Red Tour. My stepkids even wrote her letters asking her to sing at our wedding. (They were bummed when she didn’t respond, but we forgive you, Tay Tay.) Imagine my surprise when I learned that Taylor Swift’s latest music video for her song Wildest Dreams was set in Africa! Two of my favorite things in one place—fantastic!

Unfortunately, that wasn’t my initial reaction. I first learned of the video when a friend of mine posted this NPR article on Facebook. Admittedly, I sighed and thought, Oh no, Taylor. I hope this isn’t as atrocious as it sounds. I like you so much. How could you have offended something I hold so near and dear to my heart?

I watched the video, and I didn’t have a problem with it. I actually (dare I say?) enjoyed it. The video, shot in a very “Old Hollywood,” style, portrays two 1950s actors having a relationship while filming a movie in Africa. The video has been criticized for romanticizing colonial Africa and not representing a full picture of the continent. While I certainly want to be sensitive to the authors’ backgrounds and perspectives, I think they are taking away from the good intentions Swift had and making the video into something it’s not. Swift happens to be white, and she is portraying an actress in a love story with a white man on the set of a period film. Sure, it would have been nice to see some scenes with Africans, but considering the era in which it is set, they probably wouldn’t have been portrayed in the best light, if they wanted to be historically accurate.

In their NPR article, Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe criticize Swift for focusing on the waterfalls, mountains, and majestic animals rather than the technological and leadership renaissance currently taking place in Africa. Somehow I think a song whose lyrics are about a love story doesn’t really lend itself to a music video depicting the technology boom in Africa, but what do I know? Swift’s use of Africa’s beautiful landscape and wildlife for her background does not take away from all of the other wonderful, positive developments occurring in Africa today.

When topics like this start trending, I start to think that we as a society are so busy looking for ways to be offended that we fail to appreciate, or even recognize, the good when it happens. Swift’s video brings attention to the continent and may even attract more tourism—or it could have at least, before it was twisted into something ugly and racist. According to the World Bank, the number of tourists arriving in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown over 300 percent since 1990, and tourism remains one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the world economy. That tourism often includes safaris as well as various cultural events.

During a time when issues like Cecil the Lion are trending (whether you deem this an issue worth trending or not), a video that shows some of Africa’s beauty with proceeds going to African parks should be welcomed. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other causes that you may feel are more important. This was Swift’s call, and she chose a cause in which she believes. She didn’t need to choose one at all.

I also realize that animals represent only SOME of the beauty on the continent. However, it’s the amazing, diverse, and loving people with whom I’ve connected that kept me going back to Africa. I hope that Swift was able to meet some of those amazing people while she was there filming.

Toward the end of their article, Rutabingwa and Arinaitwe say Swift “packages our continent as the backdrop for her romantic songs devoid of any African person or storyline, and she sets the video in a time when the people depicted by Swift and her co-stars killed, dehumanized and traumatized millions of Africans. That is beyond problematic.”

Yes, because every white person who went to Africa in the 1950s—especially movie stars that were shooting a film—killed, dehumanized, and traumatized millions of Africans. Way to generalize.

The purpose of Swift’s video was not to give a present day look at the most important issues on the continent nor was it to glamorize the brutal treatment of Africans during colonial rule. It is a period piece about a love story with a beautiful backdrop. Plain and simple.

Frankly Speaking…

IMG_1634Over the Thanksgiving holiday, RM and I had the opportunity to visit the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. I’ve wanted to visit Fallingwater for years, but I never made it there—until now.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fallingwater, Frank designed the home for the Kaufmann family—owners of the department store—in 1935 and finished the home in 1937. It was designated an historic landmark in 1966 and was listed on Smithsonian’s list of 28 places to see before you die in 2008.

The timing of our visit was especially perfect because I recently finished the historical fiction book, Loving Frank, which tells the story of Frank’s love affair with Mamah Borthwick. If you haven’t read the book and you don’t want the ending spoiled, then you shouldn’t read further OR Google anything about Mamah Borthwick. I really do think the book is best experienced if you don’t know how it ends. That’s the spoiler alert, folks. Read on at your own risk!

Loving Frank tells the story of the scandalous love affair between Frank and Mamah Borthwick (Mamah Cheney at the time), the wife of one of Frank’s clients, from 1907-1914. Not much is known about Mamah, so the author hinges the story on a handful factual events and information, largely creating a work of fiction told from Mamah’s point of view. Together, Mamah and Frank leave their spouses and children for Europe but eventually have to come back to reality, only to find that their reputations have been tarnished in Chicago society. Frank returns to his family, mostly due to the fact that his wife Catherine will not grant him a divorce.

Mamah, on the other hand, is steadfast in her decision to leave her marriage and views it as a form of feminist liberation, convincing herself that she will be happier with Frank, and by extension, her kids will be happier as well. What Mamah finds as she slowly gives up her own intellectual pursuits and becomes more engulfed in her romance with Frank, is that she has sacrificed her relationship with her children, almost to the point that it is irreparable. The author does a fantastic job of painting the picture of a woman who slowly starts to feel the regret of choosing the instant gratification and tempting passion of a love affair over her maternal love for her children.

The Golden Standard
The Golden Standard

In 1914, Mamah finally begins to rebuild her relationship with her children while they are visiting the home Frank built for her in Wisconsin when her and her children are brutally murdered by their cook. A tragic end that I certainly did not see coming!

While I didn’t agree with Mamah’s or Frank’s choice to leave their families, I couldn’t help but feel compassion for them. They found happiness in each other and had a way of making the other come alive. Who doesn’t want to feel that way? Interestingly, I found the ending of this book strikingly different from the story we often read in books today and increasingly in our culture. For example, I would argue that books-turned-movies, Eat Pray Love and Wild, encourage the same type of “feminist liberation,” Mamah was searching for in the early 1900s. Yet in these modern stories, everything magically works out for the better in the end. The women find happiness after leaving their husbands to pursue their own interests. We all applaud and admire them for it. We give them book deals, million dollar movie deals, and Golden Globe nominations for the actresses portraying them. Is it possible that after more than a hundred years women are still searching for the same things, just with a different backdrop? And at what cost? Would we feel the same way if it were men who left their wives in pursuit of liberation and being true to one’s self? Would we applaud them or would we call them jerks?

If Mamah were alive today, would she tell us that she would have chosen differently? Maybe. Maybe not. Part of me hopes she would for the sake of her children and husband, but if I’m honest, the other part of me loves her romance with Frank—eccentric, self-centered, talented Frank. –And we all love a good tragedy, don’t we?

As RM and I walked the grounds of Fallingwater, I imagined Frank walking those grounds, so many years ago.  Did he think of Mamah as he designed the home?  Did he miss her?  Or was Mamah merely a distant memory, as he went on to marry two other women after Catherine finally granted him a divorce in 1922.  At the time of Fallingwater, Frank was married to his third and final wife, with whom he stayed married until he died in 1959.

Have you read Loving Frank? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think Mamah ultimately regrets her choice to leave her family for Frank? Should she have chosen differently? How do you think women’s approaches to marriage and love affairs have changed (or haven’t changed) over the past 100 years?  Did Mamah and Frank really love each other or was this lust?  How has learning of Frank’s multiple affairs and marriages following Mamah’s death impacted your view of his relationship with and feelings toward Mamah?

Feeling Comfortable in Your Own Skin

copyright ANTM website
copyright ANTM website

While watching Access Hollywood yesterday (hey, we all have our guilty pleasures, right?) I learned of a 19-year old woman named Chantelle Brown-Young (aka Winnie Harlow) a sufferer of vitiligo who will be a contestant on the upcoming season of America’s Next Top Model. I was amazed at how this strong young woman has embraced both her inner and outer beauty and not let cosmetic changes in her skin tone hold her back. It particularly hit home for me because I also have vitiligo, which I have affectionately come to call my “Michael Jackson Disease” because it just sounds cooler.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses pigmentation. While the effects are largely cosmetic, vitiligo does put the affected skin at higher risk for cancer, and it has also been known to cause psychological problems in some individuals, especially those cases in which the disease is more noticeable and prevalent, i.e. Michael Jackson.

As for me, I have a pretty fair skin tone naturally; however, I’ve always enjoyed sunbathing and have tanned quickly and easily, so in the summer time, my complexion is much darker. Five years ago my tanning habits changed when my boss pointed out a white patch on my neck at our weekly staff meeting. “Ew! What’s wrong with your neck??” That’s not embarrassing at all.  My doctor at that time mistakenly diagnosed it as tinea versicolor, and coincidentally, that spot re-pigmented, leading us to believe that her diagnosis must have been correct. I didn’t find out that it was actually vitiligo until two years later when it came back with a vengeance. The spot on my neck was back, only this time it was bigger and crept up my jaw line to my face. There was a matching white spot on the other side of my neck. I also had symmetrical new spots on each of my wrists and large spots under my arms.

It probably sounds silly when I say that I was down when I learned I had vitiligo. I felt pale. And pale meant unattractive.  We’re often surrounded by photos of extremely thin, sun-kissed celebrities and told that is the norm. That is what beautiful is. And that didn’t include me.  It’s so interesting to me that in our culture, a tan is considered healthy and beautiful when in other cultures it’s just the opposite.  Walk down an aisle in a store in the U.S. and you’ll see an abundance of self-tanners.  Do the same in an African country, and you’ll find skin bleaching lotions.  What’s that they say about wanting what we don’t have?

Anyway, I feel fortunate to have a very fair skin tone when not exposed to the sun, so over the past three years, I have made a habit of slathering SPF 50 on before I head out the door every morning.  By doing that, my vitiligo is barely noticeable unless under a woods lamp at the dermatologist or if you know it’s there. The spots under my arms are pretty distinct, but I don’t generally walk around revealing my armpits on a daily basis, so I try not to let it bother me.  I guess I can’t say that I’ve become completely comfortable in my own skin, but it’s an evolving process, I suppose.

It’s taken the past two years for me to learn to love my skin this way and myself, even when spotted or just plain pale. It sounds so superficial and silly to share this, especially when I see people on a regular basis–people like Winnie–who have darker skin tones than I do and are unable to hide their vitiligo. I find myself wanting to say something to them like, “I know how you feel—I have it too!” But then I realize, I don’t know how they feel. If I felt down when I learned that I had it, even though you can barely see it, how can I say I know how they feel when it’s something that they have to deal with every time they look in the mirror? Every time a stranger stares at the drastic color changes on their hands or around their mouth or eyes? Or growing up with vitiligo like Winnie and being called names like “zebra” and “cow” by other kids.  Vitiligo may be part of my story, but it isn’t painted on me the way that Winnie describes her experience in this video.

I’m so happy that the vitiligo community has such a wonderful example in Winnie to show young women and men how important it is to be confident in our own skin and to love ourselves.  It’s incredibly humbling to see how she has handled her vitiligo.  She is an inspiration to me. I know who I’ll be rooting for this season!  Good luck, Winnie!

 

 

Running into the New Year

For the past several years, when I find myself in conversations about sports, I often proudly tell others that I played varsity basketball as a freshman in high school.  They’re usually surprised and impressed, and then, depending on the audience, I may or may not share a critical detail—I went to an all-girls school with a mere 40 girls in my entire grade.  The fact that I was on the varsity team as a freshman didn’t mean that I was exceptionally talented or skilled.  I was also on the junior varsity team.  There simply weren’t enough of us.

It’s funny—I can remember avoiding sports for as long as I can remember.  If I had a dime for every headache I faked to get out of a game of kickball in grade school… or every excuse I came up with so that I wouldn’t have to “run the mile” in the annual physical fitness test… That said, I enthusiastically leapt into basketball as a pre-adolescent and like most kids in my Chicago suburb at that time, I was obsessed with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.

It wasn’t until about halfway through high school when I came to the sad but true realization that I excelled at other school activities more than sports.  I hung up my basketball jersey in exchange for theater costumes.  I nerded out in Latin Honor Society, Speech Team, and show choir.  Following high school, I went on to college where I lived in the honors dorms where I knew I would face no pressure to be good at sports.  I managed to complete my bachelor’s degree without once setting foot into the school’s gym facilities.  Now that I’m nearing 30 years old, I realize that’s not a fact of which I should be proud.  In fact, I’m realizing a lot of things…

  1. I can no longer eat meals of breadsticks or Mad Mushroom cheesy bread for dinner.  How was that ever acceptable?
  2. I can’t will myself to be thin without ever stepping into a gym nor can I rely on a stressful job to keep me thin (so long Washington D.C. lifestyle!).
  3. If I’m going to live in Seattle, I should take advantage of the outdoors because it’s amazingly beautiful here.  Seriously.
  4. I need to take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, and physically if I want to be in the best position to be kind and loving to RM and the kiddies.
  5. I want to live a long, healthy life.

For these reasons, on 1 November I decided go against everything in my being that tells me that I am not athletic and begin my 2014 New Year’s resolution early.  I set a goal of running an average of three times a week for at least three miles.  I counted up the runs and put that number on a dry-erase board, giving myself until 1 March to complete them.  If I complete my goal by 1 March, I will reward myself with a 6-month membership to Yuan Spa.  You can check it Yuan Spa here.  A-mazing.  I went there once in October, and I’ve been DYING to return.  I’ve gone from barely running one mile to running three miles continuously, and recently FOUR whole miles without walking.  Now, I know that might not sound impressive to people who are dedicated, legitimate runners, but for me, this is a huge accomplishment.  I’ve also upped the ante a bit with the upcoming start of the New Year and registered for my very first race—the Shamrock Run 5k on 15 March.  This might be the first actual concrete resolution that I’ve ever made, and I intend to keep it.  When I feel like giving up, I have a spa to fantasize about… and a wedding dress to make sure I look good in 🙂

Eat, Pray, Leave Your Husband

During my transition from self-obsessed singleton to insta-fam over the past year, my perspective on relationships has changed.  A relationship is not about self-actualization, self-discovery, or self-indulgence.  It’s about selflessness.  Read on.

Three years ago, women everywhere—including myself—went wild over Julia Roberts’ portrayal of Elizabeth Gilbert in the book-turned-film, Eat Pray Love.  If you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years (or seven years, as the book was a New York Times bestseller in 2006), Eat Pray Love tells the story of a woman, who decides she is unhappy in her marriage and promptly abandons her husband to travel the world—eating in Italy, praying in India, and loving in Bali.  Publisher’s Weekly praised Gilbert for her “soul-searching” and “self discovery,” and women everywhere, young and old, embraced her story, quickly shifting their views of commitment, and more importantly, their views of marriage itself.

Unhappy in your marriage?  Husband getting you down?  No problem.  You deserve better.  Time to self-actualize.  Pack your bags, travel the world, and find yourself a sexy Brazilian lover to melt your problems away.

There’s a slight problem with this plan, I’ve realized.  It is not REALITY.  When did we, as a society, adopt this Hollywoodized view of romance?  Did it start with Gilbert’s book or was she a product of a disturbingly growing trend stemming from rom-coms, etc?

It reminds me of an excerpt from Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage, in which he discusses how you never marry the right person.  You can read the excerpt here.  Keller quotes Duke University Ethics professor, Stanley Hauerwas, who hit the nail on the head when he said:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

How does this affect me, and why am I blogging about this?  Why all of the marriage talk, you wonder?  Well, RM was on the other side of Gilbert’s story, as well as another friend of mine.  They are the remnants left behind due to this growing trend of women embracing their “self discovery,” only to leave their families in the dust.  Wonderful, amazing men who give everything to their wives and their families, only to be left so that their wives can seek “greener pastures” complete with new careers and new companions.

I have one message for these women:

Stop ruining it for the rest of us.

Because of this trend, I am constantly fighting against RM’s perceptions of women and their views of commitment and marriage.  Will I get tired of him?, he asks.  What if I decide marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?  When it’s hard will I just give up?

The good news about all of this is that RM’s experience has forced us to have some pretty serious conversations about expectations before we move forward as a couple, and in our case with three kids, as a family.  The bad news?  We aren’t moving forward as quickly as I would like.  I am learning that patience really is a virtue.

All of that said, I have another message for these women:

Thank you.

Despite the obstacles and my (perhaps misplaced) anger toward Gilbert, all of that is outweighed by my feelings of gratitude.  If it weren’t for the wave of women’s self-actualization and the “grass is always greener” complex, I wouldn’t be so lucky to have RM.  I remember when I first met the Ex-Wife, and she apologetically told me that she didn’t know why people chose to go down different roads in life, but that she and RM just did.  I don’t know why she chose her path either, but all I know is that if given the choice, I would choose RM.  Every. Single. Time.

Pumpkin Cookie Bum

Recipe found here:  http://www.heynataliejean.com/2013/10/the-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies.html
Delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies!

Last week, I was downtown Seattle for a lunch meeting and had an interesting experience while parking.  As I pulled into a pay-to-park lot, I noticed there was a homeless man “working” the lot.  This is something I’ve noticed many times since moving to Seattle—and even fallen for a few times.  Homeless people wander the parking lots and act like parking attendants, preying on tourists or green Seattle-ites.  By the time you realize they’re not official parking attendants, you’ve already told them how long you intend to leave your car.  Next they’re asking you if you have any change to spare.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not some cold-hearted cheapskate who isn’t willing to help someone who is down on his luck.  That said, over the years, I’ve come to a point where I strongly believe in giving food or gift cards in lieu of cash.  Perhaps it’s a generalization (and I’m sure there are exceptions), but I believe that a common reason folks find themselves on the street is because of an addiction—drugs, alcohol, etc.—and by giving them cash, we’re only feeding that addiction.  It may feel like we’re helping in the moment, but we’re actually not helping at all.  We’re perpetuating the problem.

This belief was further confirmed when on several occasions, I offered to buy a homeless person a meal, and the response was something along the lines of, “That’s okay.  I already ate up the street.”  One would think if someone were truly on the street and in need of food, he would take the opportunity to get a sandwich to save for later.  Am I right?

This brings me back to my experience on Wednesday.  I saw one nicely dressed man go back to his car that he had just parked to get some cash to give the old, shabby homeless man.  I was not falling for it again, I thought to myself as I pulled into the pay lot.  I quickly scanned my purse to see if I had a granola bar or something to give the old man.  On the seat next to me, I had a full plate of delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that I intended to drop off at a friend’s house later that afternoon.  I had overdone it on the cling wrap, so there was extra to pull off and take out a few cookies for the homeless man.  It might not be money or a sandwich, but it was something I could offer him.  My friend wouldn’t notice the two missing cookies, and she would certainly understand if I told her where they went.

As I stood at the machine to pay for my parking, the tattered homeless man stood next to me, acting like he was walking me through the steps to pay—as if I couldn’t figure it out without him.  The conversation went something like this:

Man:  Do you have any spare change?  I haven’t eaten in days.  I just need $1.50 to get coffee and a donut.

That’s odd, I thought to myself.  I just saw that other man give him some cash.  He should have more than $1.50.

Me:  I’m sorry, Sir.  I don’t have any cash.  I do have some really good cookies I made that I can offer you.

Man:  [Opens his mouth wide]  I don’t have any teeth…. And umm, I’m a diabetic.  Can’t have no sugar.

That’s odd, I thought to myself again.  He just said he wanted a donut, perhaps he meant a mushy, sugar-free donut for his toothless diabetic self.

Me:  Well, I’m really sorry, Sir, but this is all I have.  I try to keep food with me, but I hadn’t thought about people being diabetic.  I guess I shouldn’t carry cookies, huh?

Man:  [Feeling more at ease, leans in and speaks in a whisper] Do you smoke cigarettes?

Oh, so that’s what this guy really wants.

Me:  No, Sir.  I do not.  My grandma died of lung cancer, so no, I don’t.

Man:  Oh, okay.

Me:  [Finishing up my credit card payment at the machine] Best of luck to you, Sir.  Take care.

Man:  Thanks, you too.

I left the scene with a mix of emotions.  I felt compassion for this old man, who probably hasn’t had much to eat in days—although as my mom pointed out, if he was actually a diabetic, he would have passed out by that point.  I felt angry that he thought he could fool me by jiggling a couple of coins as if that was all he had.  Part of me wished I had said, “You’re not fooling me, buddy.  I saw that other guy give you cash.”  I wanted to yell, “If you’re going to claim this money is for food, don’t use a DONUT as your example if you’re going to claim to be a diabetic.”  Another part of me—the more compassionate part—wanted to ask him how he got there.  How does one get to a point where he is living on the streets?  Where was his family?  Where were his friends?

I haven’t been able to shake this old man from my mind the past few days.  I’ve been asking myself, what could I have done differently?  I kept coming back to a post I saw a friend “like” on Facebook about making “blessing bags,” to handout to homeless people.  The “blessing bag,” is simply a zip lock bag, filled with items the person might need—travel size toothpaste, toothbrush, granola bar, socks, etc.  After my several experiences of folks on the street declining my offer for food, I can’t help but wonder—would they even accept “blessing bags?”

I’m ready to find out.  I’ll let you know how it turns out, dear readers.

You can find the recipe for the delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies here.  I used Guittard dark chocolate baking wafers instead of the milk chocolate she recommended because dark chocolate makes me feel like I’m eating healthier 😉

A New “Friday Night”

New addition to our movie collection.
New addition to our movie collection.

You realize how much your life has changed when your idea of the perfect Friday evening includes a warm, home cooked meal, followed by cuddling and watching a family flick with the kiddies on the couch.  This was my experience last Friday night, and I had to laugh to myself about how far we’ve all come over this past year.

RM has emphasized to me the importance of “Friday Night” with the kiddies since Day One.  They have a tradition of sharing a nice meal together and then staying up late to watch a movie as a family.  While “Friday Night” usually happens on an actual Friday, that isn’t necessarily always the case.  If the kids are out of school, then “Friday Night” can happen any night of the week—it just means we’re having a nice meal, getting into our jammies, and watching a movie together.  You’re probably thinking, that sounds great.  What’s the problem?

Well, the part you probably don’t know is that RM and I live three hours away from each other.  I know; I just blew your mind with that fact.  We’re pseudo long distance.  It’s true.  We spent many Friday evenings, particularly early in our relationship, at his place, which meant I arrived after a three-hour drive and a long week at work.  Yes, I was ready to relax and watch a movie, but I was also craving some serious one-on-one time with my man after a week away from him.

While I’ve enjoyed “Friday Nights” with the kids, it took several months until any of the cuddles were directed my way—understandably so.  Most of the time, I found myself sitting on the other couch all by my lonesome, struggling to keep my eyes open long enough to outlast the kids.  On the opposite couch sat RM, showered with affection and cuddles from his three little ones.  After all, they hadn’t seen him all week either.  As wonderful as it was to see RM be such a good daddy, often those times felt incredibly lonely for me.

It takes time, I told myself.  It’s important for the kids to have time with their dad.  You’re an adult; buck up and wait your turn.  The kids will go to bed early tomorrow night, and that will come soon enough.

Months went by, and slowly but surely, #3 started cuddling with me in addition to—or sometimes instead of—her daddy.  I still remember the first time she snuggled up to me.  RM looked over at us with a big smile that matched the smile on my own face.  What a special night!

Last weekend, we had #2 and #3, while #1 had a special one-on-one weekend with her mom.   As RM, the kids, and I were about to sit down on the couch to watch We Bought a Zoo, RM’s son (#2) said to me, “Christina, can I cuddle you?”  If that doesn’t make you feel special, I don’t know what does.  Guess these “Friday Nights” aren’t so bad after all 😉