Saturday, January 30, 2010

First Bite

Goodbye to the Wonder Beagle

For a month I have been posting on classifieds and calling rescues trying to find a place for our Giant Sausage. Even Curly agreed he'd be happier in a different home. You see, he's been banished to the back porch indefinitely where he still manages to commit grave indiscretions, mostly due to our patent neglect of him. Poor dog. So I decided to look for a better home.

I was beginning to be concerned. We had several inquiries right away but everyone quickly left again. I guess I am too honest. But I could not bear the thought of someone getting home with him and treating him badly when he tore something up or messed in their house.

Then I would get emails like this (actual email):

i am interest on this beutiful dog, i feel like i need a companion up here at school, i have three other dogs back at home in oregon, well since i left they became my moms dogs, but i love them and miss them very much, is he still available?

Uhhhh, sorry, but no. He would not sit in your apartment all day while you were in classes, as contraband from your landlord and happily wait for you to get home and maybe not even take him out because you have no yard. Get a fish.

I was beginning to think we'd never find a good home for him.

Then today I got an email from some people who live out in the country, whose beloved dog had died and who knew how to train him, who would give him exercise and attention, who were good, salt-of-the-earth people. People who had horse manure on their boots.

Oh, Please, I prayed. It remained for them to meet him.

They came today. They met. They heard about all of his foibles and laughed and told me stories of training a redbone hound. They took him with them to the grocery store. They came back to let Curly say goodbye (she did not cry) and they left with the Beagle, his food, his bed and his stuffed hippo.

And we rejoiced.

Bathroom Facelift: Light Fixtures

Shopping at the hardware store a few weeks ago, I was determined to find something to replace the 30-year-old light fixtures in our bathroom. They were pseudo brass with ruffled, frosted glass. The brass paint had flaked off in places and though we'd replaced the stiff turn-switch on the bottoms, the kids still could not reach them to turn them on and off. (Part of the quirkiness of our house means they are not wired into the wall switch.) See before picture.

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I found the most darling fixtures at the hardware store, in the outdoor lighting section. Little brown lanterns, they look like they belong on a wharf, perfect for my beachy lighthouse theme. The first order of business after unpacking them from their boxes was to install a switch of some sort.

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I used to work in a lighting store repairing lamps and I was trained in doing little electrical projects like putting in switches. In fact I remember my boss doing a very similar install on a ceiling fixture. So it wasn't hard to drill a hole in the side of the casing (a little scary to drill metal), install a pull-switch and wire it into the fixture, ready to set into the wall.

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With Hubby down at the breaker box we yelled back and forth until we'd gotten both circuits killed. (Yes, another quirk of this house is that the bathroom fixtures, only two feet apart are on separate circuits, one being on the one with the living room, oddly enough.) Then I took out the old fixtures, marveling at the mounting hardware installed directly into the lath and the old, cloth-covered wiring, which, thankfully was in good condition.

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I carefully took out the old hardware, installed my new stuff and wired in the new fixtures, taking the precaution of covering the wire nuts with a wrapping of electrical tape. Putting the fixtures up, we also found that the way they're designed means it's necessary to take them completely apart to get the bulbs in. That'll be a picnic when it comes time to change the bulbs!

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Ta Da! There they are, my little wharf-lanterns. The best part is that I put a long enough pull chain on them that the kids can reach to turn them on and off all by themselves! I am so all about kid-independence and not having to go turn the lights on so Little Mister can use his newly-acquired potty skills.

Previous Bathroom Facelift Posts:
Before
THE HOLE
Ideas
Stuff
Oh No!!
The New Blue
Mural

Friday, January 29, 2010

Four Months

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(Here are the three months and before pictures.)

Now, take a look at this!

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Methinks somebody has learned to be a ham for the camera. As soon as I pull it out he turns on the charm. He cracks me up!

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For fun, here is Curly Miss at 4.5 months, rolling over for the first time. Back in 2005. My, time flies.



And here is Little Mister at 4.5 months. Look at those cheeks! He was a chunky monkey. Well, he still is. Built like a brick. Baby Bear feels surprisingly like him... very solid.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Me 'n' Titus, We's Buds

Apparently in taking the counterpoint in our discussion of homemaking, I defended my position a bit too vigorously. It seems I gave the impression that I actually promote career women and domesticated men, when in actuality nothing could be further from the truth.

You can read the entire discussion here:
Original post (dialogue begins in the comments).
My Response
Additional Comments

Although I believe that God did not create women to be floormats, the Bible does have a few key passages on what a Christian woman ought to do. The most well-known are probably Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5 and Titus 2.

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3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

How do I reconcile these passages with what I wrote previously on women being strong, smart and capable? Am I really advocating women being the breadwinners and "wearing the pants in the family?" Absolutely not! In fact I never said anything of the sort!

As Christians we are to be servants first and foremost. Christ himself served those around him, setting an example by washing his disciples' feet. It is in this way we are to serve our husbands, to come under them and alongside them. Not because we are less than them but rather because we choose to follow Christ's example in laying down our lives.

When we choose to marry and have children as I have, it becomes our responsibility to care for our homes and families. Although some of us have the "nesting" instinct in greater measure than others, in general a wife is expected to organize the household and to nurture the children. Nowhere do I ever advocate a woman neglecting those responsibilities.

The difference I am talking about is much more subtle than that. I am talking about shifting our focus away from the details and looking at the heart. Jesus worked constantly to teach his followers to lift their eyes from earthly concerns to the Kingdom of God. In this manner, I would say that a biblical Christian woman certainly needs to keep her home well. She needs to care for her children well. She needs to uplift and respect her husband, following his lead in making decisions for the family. But that may look different from woman to woman, from family to family. To me the divorce rate, the breakup of the American family, the adolescent rebelliousness and other family crises we face in this country stem not from women working but from a deeper issue of the wholesale rejection of Christianity and Christian values. But that is a subject beyond the scope of this particular post.

If a woman needs to be a full-time career mom to care for her home well, then that is what she needs to do. Right now that is my own position. For a while I worked after my daughter was born. What I discovered was that being away from her all day broke my heart. The daycare I used did not care for her in the manner that was acceptable to me. (I also had a friend watch her, which worked out much better.) But my husband and I chose to take the financial hit to have me stay home. We've had to be extra frugal over the years but it has been worth it.

If it sounds like I am backpedaling on my position here, I'm not. I think we Christians are too quick to put God into a box, to make a nice tidy formula and say that this is the only way He will be pleased with us. From the beginning of this discussion, my attempt has been to point out that God looks at the heart. A woman might not be able to stay at home full-time. If that is the case, should she pine away because she is not pleasing God or not pleasing herself? Well, she might. Or she might be content where God has her and still be able to do an excellent job with her home responsibilities. It is possible. It's not where God has me. My struggle is the opposite: being content when God has asked me to do a job beyond my own preference. It's hard for me to stay home. Am I unfeminine or unbiblical? Nope. Because I choose to submit my own will to God, to still be patient when I feel like tearing my hair out. To be kind when I want to yell and scream. I try to be self-controlled and keep working when all I want to do is crawl in bed and eat chocolate. Do I do all this perfectly? Of course not. But I certainly try.

What I have been trying to say is to look beyond the cultural formula at the heart. Obeying God is so much more than simply going through a chore list. It can take many various forms and jobs and still be "right." In interpreting scripture we need to be careful not to take a phrase like "busy at home" and assume it means "do nothing BUT get married as quickly as you can and stay chained to the house for the rest of your life." Some women want that and some are called to it. That's not wrong, it's very, right. But some are not and shall we condemn them? Does God?

As far as debate goes, I have purposefully weakened my position, but my intention all along has not been to advocate for career women, feminism, or materialism. Quite the opposite. At heart I believe a Christian woman ought to strive to live biblically and so I wanted to make sure I stated that. I'm not as much interested in the debate as I am in clarifying my own position. The difference comes in the idea that I think living biblically is a matter of a woman's heart before God, a heart to serve, a gentle and quiet spirit. Those can take so many forms and a strong woman can still be submissive and gentle. An intelligent woman can still be kind. They are not mutually exclusive. A confident woman can still serve, in fact she is more likely to serve and not be threatened or feel less because she is choosing to serve.

To sum up then, should a Christian woman be a keeper of her home? Yes. Should she stay at home in order to do that? In some cases, yes. Should we teach our daughters that this is the highest calling for a woman and the only thing they ought to aspire to be? No. The highest calling for a woman is to love God, not to rush out and get married. And as soon as we love God, He takes our nice, tidy little boxful of ideas and shatters it with His enormity and His creativity. Then we're bound to obey Him, no matter how it looks to others. I think the greatest respect we can give to another Christian, woman or not, is to acknowledge that they can discern the will of God for their own lives according to the Bible, even if they don't do things quite the way we think they ought to be done.

Note: I am writing this to make clear my own position on this important and complex issue. I have the greatest respect for my fellow bloggers and moms and my intention is not to step on any toes. As usual I welcome respectful comments from all points of view.

Tube Scarf

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To Curly's great relief I finally finished her scarf. I think she was worried that I would never get it done. My goal was to knit one whole skein of yarn into a simple tube that would act like a turtleneck collar or scarf to go under Curly's coat.

I think next time, I'll use ribbing though. This one turned out a little loose and Curly wasn't very happy with it. I'm actually contemplating unraveling it and making it over again.

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But if I did that I really might never get it done!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Van Gogh, You've Got Company.

Hubby has a thing for self-portraiture. Since the camera is usually lying around within easy arm's reach he's discovered the fun of setting up still-lifes, taking quick candids of the kids and best of all snapping photos of himself in whatever goofy pose takes his fancy at the time.

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He usually does this when I am not looking.

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They often show some level of artistic inspiration, playing with light and shadow, exploring surfaces like glass.

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This was one of the first ones in my photo files. I have seen something of an evolution. Also this is the only one of him smiling. He has something about smiling in pictures.

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It must be something about looking tough.

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Or maybe he's going for the mugshot look. Or maybe he wants pity because he looks so tired. (This one was right after Baby Bear came and we were both shot.)

Poor Honey, you look tired.

No, I don't. I look tough. Virile.

Whatever.

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He's the artist. The scholar. The Warrior-poet.

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Things like this just appear there in my photo files. Like magic. There they are.

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And every time I see one I fall in love all over again.

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All I can say is, don't mess with a man and his self-portraits.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Homeschoolicus Interruptus

Baby Bear with lots of spit-up down his front and a big grin

Nothing says concentration and focus like a laughing baby covered with spit-up. Very, very helpful, indeed.

My BFF

We were an unlikely pair: tall and short, Mutt and Jeff. I had been in college for a couple of years, she had just arrived in our church college group. But we immediately bonded, our love of animals, our refusal to follow the popular crowd, our delight in playing in the orchestra cementing our relationship. We found we could tell each other anything, from her grief over a canine friend who had died to my struggles with fitting into social circles.

As life moved on we saw each other less often, although we when we did see one another there was no "catching up". I got married, she figured she'd remain single. I had a daughter, she applied to vet school. Neither of us worried that we'd grow apart. As Anne Shirley would say, we were kindred spirits.

Then she unexpectedly met Mr. Right and fell in love. She got married too. I sewed her wedding dress using her family's traditional Scottish plaid. I moved down to the Valley and had another baby. She was busy with volunteer work at church. We saw each other even less. Still, we felt comfortable with one another. Still Mutt and Jeff. We both loved Bagpipe music. We got together to go camping in the rain.

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Our lives are somehow growing more parallel again. She had her first baby this summer and became a SAHM. I brought home our third and at last we are matched again, sharing stories about rolling babies and naptimes. We still rarely see one another. But when we do, it's just like it's always been. I make her hot cocoa, her favorite. She listens to my dreams of making a wood shop in my garage. She gives me advice about our recalcitrant Beagle. We laid our babies side by side, laughing at their antics.

Sometimes God brings a person into our lives who is one in a million, who fits like a puzzle piece. Someone with whom it doesn't take any effort to be friends. When He does, all we can do is thank Him and enjoy the relationship. No matter where she ends up moving or how busy we get, we know that we'll still get together and drink cocoa and it will be like we never left.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Motivation in Reading

Although Curly Miss is picking up on the concepts and skills of reading with surprising speed, she still hasn't caught the reading bug. She doesn't enjoy reading books for pleasure, something that I acquired around age 3. She likes to be read to, particularly if there are lots of pictures, but she hasn't found the joy of words making pictures in her imagination out of a book.

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Hubby and I wracked our brains to think of a book with enough text and few enough pictures that something along those lines might happen, but still easy enough to be accessible for her reading level. We also needed content that would capture her interest. He chose a Speed Racer book and ordered it from Amazon.com.

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Now instead of us initiating the reading practice sessions, she follows us around like a lost puppy, holding her new book and begging us to help her read the next chapter. Is it stretching her imagination to the point where the magic of books takes hold and she is a reading addict like the rest of us? Well, that remains to be seen. But it's definitely a step in the right direction.

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On the Little Mister front, he is begging me to teach him how to read too. Having a big sister leading the way makes motivating him easy. So I bought him a workbook at Wal-Mart and started doing a few formal teaching sessions with him, mostly working on letter sounds and counting. So far he soaks it up like a dry sponge. I have a feeling getting him hooked on books won't be hard at all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Do We Teach Our Daughters?

Recently on a friend's blog, she graciously allowed me to disagree with her premise that Christian parents ought to be teaching our daughters to be housewives and stay-at-home moms. Although she did not go so far in her post, and I don't believe she holds the extreme views I will put forth below, I have heard other Christian parents advocating young women getting married early and discouraging them from attending college or pursuing any kind of higher education because she is "just going to stay home with the kids anyway."

Well, I'd like to clarify the position I began on Andrea's rather lengthy stream of comments (length mostly provided by my ramblings). I welcome comments from both points of view on here, just keep them respectful.

First of all, something I forgot to state on her post was that I intend to teach all of my children how to cook, clean, manage, organize and care for children to the best of my ability. I believe that as human beings at some point they will need to utilize those skills. And my daughter will probably get a little extra training along those lines since she will likely be a wife and mother at some point. I remember a huge percentage of girls in college, mostly friends at church who had no idea how to clean a bathroom and whose cooking skills ended at making pasta. I find this to be a tragedy and a real mistake on their parents' part. They struggle now with keeping their homes organized, with fixing healthy meals, using a budget and with keeping up on chores like tidying and laundry. It makes me grateful that my "old-fashioned" mother taught me how to do these things so well they are pretty much effortless now.

But on to the real point of this post. The notion that a woman is destined by God to be a sort of pseudo-child, bound to her parents until she is married, then bound to her husband thereafter as a biblical model for proper feminine behavior makes me a bit sick and completely shortchanges the amazing contribution Christian women can make to our society. I believe with all my heart that a woman can have the proper attitude of respect to her husband and be a helpmeet to him, fulfill her role as "gatekeeper" of her home and raise her children without being relegated to the status of a perennial child and maid. She has just as much worth and responsibility as a man, but in different areas.

I believe that a woman has a duty before God to be the best she can be, to use the skills and gifts God has given her, no less than a man does. Regarding higher education specifically, I see several reasons a Christian woman ought to be well-educated. First of all, say she does become a stay-at-home mom. Or a "homemaker" (I shudder to even use the word). A well-educated homemaker would be more likely to know the value of nutrition in meals, would be better able to keep the family's budget and is better equipped to raise well-educated children. I have talked to moms who say things along the lines of, "I could never homeschool my kids because I don't know how to do Algebra." Pardon me?? First of all, you're sending your children to the same institution that failed to teach you such a basic concept as substitutionary numerals? Secondly, you could sit down with your ten-year-old and learn it now. It's never too late. But I digress. This is not a homeschooling post.

Here's another angle on higher education: Should we let only secular women be well-educated? We place so much emphasis on defending our faith, yet we neglect to give the tools women need to do so intelligently. Women's Bible studies, for example, tend to be a shallow cesspool of feel-good devotionals, usually about child-rearing or housecleaning, with a few token Bible verses thrown in. Or worse they degenerate into gossip sessions thinly disguised as "prayer requests". Women are not educated in theology or encouraged to study the Bible deeply, to know their faith inside and out or to touch on the concepts of other religions, politics or world events. Yet we are supposed to be training the next generation and giving reasons for the faith within us. Many of us are poorly equipped to do so, and to the scorn of secular women, we abdicate that job to whatever handy male happens to be around. I would hope the men can do it too; I am not for the cultural softening of masculinity, but I see no reason a woman should not be aware of issues in politics, technology, theology, science, religion, philosophy or any other -ology or -ism that happens to affect our world today.

Then, there are the women who are called by God to do something other than marry and stay at home with kids. Should such a woman be made to feel inferior? By no means! She should do with all her heart what God has given her to do. She should do it well and not be ashamed. Some women need a "fall-back" career at some point as well. The ability to support herself financially contributes greatly to a woman's options. While the ideal for a SAHM like me is to be secure in her husband's financial support, we all know it's not always the case in our insecure world.

I touched on the issue of combining homemaking (shudder) with having a career in this post so I won't repeat the details here. Suffice it to say that I see no problem with women who want or need to do both as long as her heart is right before God. Having a career for purely materialistic gain and neglecting her family isn't going to cut it, but making sure her home responsibilities are covered by helpful family members or employees would fall in line with Biblical teaching in my opinion. Just because I chose not to go that route doesn't mean I think it's wrong.

To sum up a post that is already getting too long, I don't plan to groom my daughter for a career in homemaking (shudder). My parents did not groom me for one, although it happens to be what I feel God has asked me to do at this time. I was told over and over that I could be anything I wanted to be. I went to school and became a music teacher, but discovered I didn't like the administration using me for a punching bag. Later I married and am currently a career mom. Am I "just" a mom? Absolutely not. This job takes every bit of training, education, patience, creativity and work ethic that I possess, far more than any outside career job I have had so far. In the future I will probably go to to other pursuits as well. For my daughter, I want her to be equipped to do whatever she is called to do in her future. God has given her a very bright mind. He has given her a strong body. I won't be disappointed if she chooses to live at home and raise a family. It's not a second-rate choice. I won't be disappointed if she chooses to work at a career. It's not a masculine choice. I plan to educate and equip her to the best of my ability to have the knowledge and skills to do any number of things she might be interested in doing, just as I will with my sons. Her gender does not limit her in my eyes to menial service, rather it empowers her to be the absolute best woman she can be. Feminine, yes. But also strong, smart, independent and assured. To me that is the most effective Christian wife, mother and woman.

Multitasking

I would say we hold Baby Bear about 90% of the time he is awake. I tend to subscribe to the parenting philosophy that babies need tons of physical contact, attachment, bonding, snuggles and all that. So I bottlenurse, which means holding him in a nursing position if I am giving him a bottle. Even when he is not feeding, I still hold him, just because he loves to be held.

But I also have two other children, pets, a hubby, a work-from-home job and a freelance website building business. This means I am not only up and down a lot during the day, but I spend a lot of time on the computer.

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The other day when Curly was snapping pictures, she got a few of me, doing what I often do, sitting on the couch with my laptop and Baby Bear. Typing one-handed has become second nature since I almost always have the other hand around the baby.

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Every so often I simply have to take time out from my computer work to smooch and cuddle him. He's absolutely irresistible. Those fat cheeks. That baby giggle. Oh my. It's a wonder I get anything done at all!

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The trouble with Curly's pictures is that she doesn't remind me to go brush my hair first or maybe put on some lipstick. So you get the real me. And I'll look back on pictures like this in years to come with nostalgia, remembering all the hours of snuggling my baby, soaking up every minute because they grow so fast.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is Today Really Thursday?

I have not gone so many days without posting in a couple of years. Sorry, loyal readers, I have not been up to my usual shenanigans this week. I'm not sure why the lag; I'm not busier than usual or doing anything abnormal. I've had quite a bit of pain this week, but unfortunately that's normal and not an excuse for not blogging.

Whatever the reason, hang in there and I'll be back with more ironic stories, opinionated posts and showers of smiling goomba pictures in a day or two!

Monday, January 18, 2010

And the Little One Said...

... roll over!

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He did it twice today!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Photography and Comments by Curly Miss

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"I don't think I took that one. I think Daddy did."

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"It's a picture of a camera."

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"Haha. That's Baby Bear's plugged nose thing, the thing so you can get all ickies out of it. It was in the morning."

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"That one's a little blurry. I think it's just because the swing was moving. I took a picture of Baby Bear which I liked."

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"It's yellow, purple, orange. It looks like the yellow and purple camera, the one that I colored."

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"Oh, it's a good picture of a pretty, pretty light. It seemed like it snowed outside to me."

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"It's my little thing you're gonna knit for me. I just took a picture so you'll remember to finish it."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Snuggling

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Little Mister: I want someone to snuggle wif me.

Curly Miss: No, I want to color.

Me: I need to cook dinner. Would you like to snuggle with Baby Bear?

Mister: Uhm, ok.

Me: I'll put a Kipper movie on my computer for you to watch while you snuggle.

Curly: I'll watch Kipper with you but I don't want to snuggle.

Me: Whatever.