Compassion Bloggers in Philippines

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A few years ago I started reading about a ministry called Compassion International.  And I dismissed it.

I had seen the ads on television for child sponsorship programs before.  You know, the ones with a tearful celebrity begging you to give up one cup of coffee every day so a child could eat.  Not that I don’t think those programs are wonderful, but I was just desensitized to the weepy pitch.  So when blog post after blog post began popping up about Compassion, my first reaction was to ignore them.

I hate jumping on bandwagons and this seemed like an online Christian bandwagon.  I’m revealing a bit of evidence of my sad, stubborn little heart to you all today…

After the Compassion bloggers went to India, though, I began to take notice of this organization a little more.  I was impressed by several things -first, Compassion is serious about meeting the needs of children.  Sponsorship money goes to the child and is used honestly and wisely and lovingly to make sure that children living in poverty are given hope for the future.

Second, the hearts behind those involved with Compassion are so humble, tender and filled with love.  Compassion has a purpose to “release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.”  They take this purpose seriously and it really made an impression on me.

Finally, I couldn’t help but be impressed by how well this ministry utilized social media for the greater good of humanity.  I’m not sure you’ll find another organization that is better utilizing social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogging to bring hope, healing, faith and love to the most remote areas of the world.  I’m seriously amazed by what they do.

So, I finally got over my silly pride and we sponsored a child from the Philippines named Jonri, and what a blessing it has been.  The kids LOVE to get letters from Jonri and to draw pictures in return.  Admittedly we have not done a good job of consistently writing him and we are working on communicating with him more.  But it has blessed our family to know that Jonri is being loved and cared for and he is definately prayed for.

This week, Compassion has another group of lovely bloggers touring none other than the Philippines and the stories coming out of the country are beautiful and moving.  You will be blessed to follow their journey.  And if you feel led to sponsor a child, you can rest assured your money is not squandered or wasted.  It is well spent and you will be impacting a child’s life forever.

That’s a bandwagon that’s totally worth jumping on, in my opinion.

The Pick-Up Game

Did you know that my man was a star basketball player in high school and in college?

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He would never tell you that because he’s too humble and he wouldn’t want to brag.

I don’t mind bragging about him, though.

Did you know that my husband was asked to play professional basketball in Germany right before we got married?

We said no.

It is perhaps our biggest regret.

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Not that we regret the way our life turned out.

The decision we made led us down a different path of blessings.

But the reason we declined that opportunity is cause for regret.

We said no because we were scared.  We were babies and marriage felt monumental enough.

Moving to Europe didn’t feel safe.

That’s a terrible reason to say no.  Fear is never a good reason to dismiss opportunity.

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Did you know that my basketball man still has game?

He’s humbled more than one teenager on the court.

He’s not afraid to humble the college boys, either.

He gets a little more sore after playing than he used to, but he’s still got skills.

Did you know that my basketball man can not say no to the game of basketball?

Even if he’s bone tired and has had a long day working…

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if Sloan asks him to play ball, he will say yes.

And you will probably find two or three neighborhood boys out there with him, too.

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He always shares the ball and makes sure everyone, right down to the littlest one, gets a turn to dribble and shoot.

He also…

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makes sure they know…

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the old guy’s still got it.

Happy Memorial Day!

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

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Last night we watched the American Idol finale.  We haven’t watched American Idol all season so we had no idea who the finalists were, but we knew that the final show was bound to have good entertainment.

It had excellent entertainment, if slightly inappropriate for young eyes.  What the heck was up with J-Lo’s dress and dance?!

Yes, the show was good.  Only Idol could bring together Judas Priest, Kurt Franklin and Gladys Knight all within a ten minute time span and make it work.  But I must say, the real entertainment did not begin until TLC walked on stage.  When they announced it Lee looked at me with wide eyes.

TLC is coming on stage?”

“Who’s TLC?” Sloan asked.

“TLC is old school, son,” I replied.  “They were popular when I was in high school.”

“They were popular was I was in high school!” Lee said with a laugh.

When they hit the stage Lee’s shoulders immediately began to shake throwing me back to 1999 when I first entered a dance club with my soon to be husband…

*squiggly lines* *dream sequence* *squiggly lines* *dream sequence* *squiggly lines* *dream sequence*

I stood in line outside the club with the man who had not long ago professed his love for me.  We were waiting to get into Midnight Rodeo, the hottest dance spot in Waco, Texas.  At least I think it was still called Midnight Rodeo – the name of the club might have changed at this point.  This part of the dream is a little fuzzy.

“Why is it so crowded tonight?” Lee asks the couple in front of us.

“Vanilla Ice is going to be here tonight,” the guy replies, his cigarette bouncing between his lips.

“Seriously?” I say.  “Did Vanilla Ice have any other songs besides Ice, Ice Baby?”

We finally paid our admission into the club and, for the first time, I am able to enter without being branded with a giant X on the back of my hand by a Sharpie wielding bouncer.  I’m 21 now so I don’t have to be branded anymore.  How cool am I?

We start the night by watching the two steppers in the middle of the hard wood dance floor.  Lee and I marvel at the size of the mens belt buckles.  The only thing that rivals them is the womens hair.  After watching for awhile, we decide to try and join the ranks.  We don’t know how to two step, but how hard can it be, right?

It’s hard.  Two stepping is country’s version of swing dancing.  There’s twisting and turning and their arms intertwine into four knots then they spin and unwind and Voila! They are no longer tied in knots.  All the while they’re two stepping their feet in a slow circle around the stage.

We try for one song and decide to quit embarrassing ourselves.  But then Strawberry Wine comes on and everyone slows down, so we do too.  Because who doesn’t want to dance to Strawberry Wine, right?

After our slow dance, we head to a small room on the right where it’s just been announced that Vanilla Ice is about to take the stage.  We head inside and cram in with more people than I thought would care about Vanilla Ice.  And take the stage he does.

“He’s short,” I shout to Lee over the noise of the crowd.

“And he still has the same haircut!” Lee shouts back.

Vanilla Ice starts and it’s horrible.  His songs…they’re horrible.  They don’t make sense, every other word is the F-Bomb and it’s just terrible music.  We decide to leave when we hear it.

Bum dum dum dum da da dum bum

That’s the beginning strains of Ice, Ice Baby.  Couldn’t you tell?

And Lee freaks out.  He waves his hands in the air and then starts doing a move I’ve never seen before.  His fists ball up at his sides and his shoulders start shaking up and down.  I laugh and join in.

Alright stop.

Collaborate and LISTEN.

Ice is back with a brand new inVENTION.

Something. Grabs a hold of me tightly,

Pulls like a harpoon daily and nightly.

Will it ever stop? Yo!  I don’t know.

Turn out the lights and I’ll go.

To the extreme something something like a candle

Light up the scene somethingsomething like a vandal

DANCE.

I stop singing because I don’t know any of the words after that, but Lee does.  He know the whole. dang. song.  And he sings it while bouncing his shoulders up and down, his body moving to the rhythm.  It was hysterical and terrifying all at once.

After he woos me with his impressive knowledge of early ’90′s music, we head to the third room in the club where they are playing true dance music.  We take to the colorful dance floor and Lee continues to dazzle me with his impressive shoulder shake.  He shakes his shoulders to every song that comes on.  It is a move I’ve never seen before and I’m slightly baffled by it.  He accompanies the shoulder shake with a great deal of attitude in his face.  Lips pursed, brow furrowed, I’m a hip dancerman type face.

Sexy.

We dance until someone spills a large cup of beer in my hair.  As we leave I wonder if Lee’s shoulders are sore from all that bouncing.   Little did I know that the shoulder bounce is his signature move and he would bust it out anytime a song from his glory days (high school and college) came on…for all of eternity.

*squiggly lines*  *dream sequence ends*  *squiggly lines*  *dream sequence ends*  *squiggly lines*

As TLC sang last night, Lee’s shoulders shook out of habit.  It’s force of nature for him, you see.  But what I wasn’t prepared for was the TLC girls (what are their names) dance moves.

They were doing the shoulder shake!

“AHAHAHAHA!” I laughed.  “They’re doing your move.  It’s old school, baby!”

“THIS IS WHERE I GOT IT!” he yelled and jumped off the couch, his face full of attitude, his shoulders full of bounce.

Awe-to the-Some.


We’re Back

On Friday I picked Sloan up from school early.  I took all three kids outside the building and finally let them in on a secret I’d been keeping quiet for two weeks.

We were going to Florida.

I have never had more fun.  We will definately be doing more surprise trips in the future because their expressions were priceless and it was so fun to tell them we were hopping in the car and heading to the airport.  I kept it a secret from them out of necessity because we were going down there to surprise my Mom when she landed in Tampa after being in England for forever.  My Dad and I planned the trip several weeks ago and I knew that if I told the kids the surprise would be ruined.

So fun.

Mom was surprised and had no idea we would be there.  The kids thought it was the greatest thing ever to jump out and say surprise when she got off the plane.  It was just fun.

We soaked up every minute of fun while we were in Florida.  We swam, spent hours at the beach, rode on the kayak and the boat, snorkeled, found sand dollars, watched the sunset and ate lots of M&M’s and ice cream.  It was a great quick trip.

This was my first time flying alone with all three kids so I was a little nervous, but they did great.  Sloan sat in a row by himself and talked the ear off the woman next to him.  The only hiccup came when all three kids had to go to the bathroom at the same time and were all positive that they were going to wet their pants.  The bathroom closest to us was occupied for a solid 20 minutes by a man two rows back (yeesh) so we finally trekked to the front of the plane only to be informed by the flight attendant that we all had to squeeze into the bathroom together because we weren’t allowed to wait in the hallway.

So we all squeezed into the bathroom together.

Adventure.

The people in the first few rows of the plane got quite the entertainment as they heard my kids squealing and screeching.

“Don’t touch me while I pee!”

“I don’t have space!”

“My pee won’t come out.  Stop looking at me!”

“I can’t reach the toilet paper to wipe!”

“You’re too close, this is weird!”

All the while I’m taking deep breaths and trying not to panic because we all know I have an irrational fear of airplane bathrooms.  I tried to think of happy things like puppy’s and butterfly’s so I could keep my mind off the vision of the four of us plummeting 35,000 feet to our deaths inside a cramped airplane outhouse…

Finally everyone managed to do their business and we exited the bathroom to applause.

Awesome.

We’re home now and it’s time to finish school and prepare the house for the inspections that are happening this week.  I have pictures and video to share, but not today.  Today I have to scrub floors and organize so that my house can be picked apart and scrutinized.

This is the part where I tell you I wish I was back at the beach…

Ulyana

Sveta and Uly

We met eight years ago. Both of us young, married and in love with the world. She was my translator and for one month she acted as my guide. I was on a grand adventure. I was touring the country of Ukraine, interviewing veterans of the great war, World War II. I was five months pregnant and became ill almost the second I set foot in the country. And she made sure that I was well taken care of as we traveled.

We took trains and taxi’s, my pregnant belly bouncing all over the pitted roads, me hanging on for dear life becuase the taxi driver’s seat belts were broken.

“He wants you to trust him,” she said. I heard the sympathy in her voice. She knew I was uncomfortable. Over the course of our adventure, Sveta and I bonded. My mom was with us and the three of us became fast friends – family. Separated by an ocean, but filled with trust and love for one another.

Sveta and her husband, Vova, were fairly newlywed and were devastatingly cute. They were, and still are, madly in love and it just made me smile to see them together. They were mushy and gushy, but not in an uncomfortable way. They just made you happy.

One of the stops on our trip was to Sveta’s hometown of Dunaivtsi. We spent two days with her family, her Mom and Dad fussing over me and making sure I was well fed and taken care of. I ate her Mom’s green borscht and it was, quite possibly, the most wonderful meal I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

Sveta and I laughed a lot on that trip. Her sense of humor was so keen and her English so sharp that she was easily able to keep up with my random wit. We visited fortresses and classrooms. We spent time in colleges and she stood by my side as a group of veteran soldiers poured out their hearts, and their memories, to me in vivid detail.

Sveta became more than a friend. She became a sister.

And for eight years, Sveta and I have remained the dearest of friends. We’ve rejoiced in children born and mourned pregnancies lost. Her first born, Ulyana (Ulya) and Landon are just days apart. I’ve watche dSveta, through her blog, as she’s grown into such a wonderful, beautiful, lovely mother. She is expecting her second child now and I’m just so proud of her and excited for her.

But tomorrow Sveta and Vova need your prayers. Ulya was born with specific health challenges that have brought them to a point of needing surgical intervention. The surgery is tomorrow and it’s dangerous and meticulous and difficult. No parent ever wants to see their child suffer pain or discomfort. It’s stressful and frightening.

Would you please pray for Sveta, Vova and Ulya tonight and tomorrow?

Pray for peace as Sveta and Vova wait. They are currently in Kiev, where the surgery will take place and they will remain there as Ulya recovers. Pray for Sveta in particular as she is dealing with major stress while pregnant. Pray for her safety and for the safety of her unborn child.

Please pray for the doctors as they work on Ulya, a sweet little girl with a vibrant personality. Pray that they have wisdom and special skill.  Pray for protection over her little body.  Pray for Ulyana’s bones, that they would be strong and that her body would be able to withstand the procedure.  Pray that this surgery would only enhance her life.

Sveta and Vova have been on my heart for some time now as they prepared for this day. They have been concerned and frightened, as any parents would be. It just felt right to share this prayer need with you all and I’m thankful because I know that you all will lift them up.

Svetochka, I love you and I, along with many others, will be praying for you, Vova and Ulyana tomorrow!

Thank you, everyone, for supporting a sister in need! I appreciate it more than I know how to express.

On Jeremiah and being a Disney Princess

“What do you want me to do?!”

Alligator tears roll down her soft cheeks, her blue eyes swimming with a mixture of frustration and sorrow.

“I want you to obey.”

I don’t know how to obey!” she wailed, flinging herself down on the floor in fantastic Disney Princess fashion.

“But if you listen to me, you will hear exactly what you need to do to obey and when you obey me, things will go well with you.”

Oh the mournful sobs.  Being five is hard.  It’s hard, people!

Being 32 is hard too.

I have my own Disney Princess moments where I fling myself onto my bed, dramatically sighing with such force that the air pressure of the room changes.  I bemoan how difficult it is to obey, how I don’t waaaannnna do this or I’m not goooonnnaa do that.  Sometimes I cry, other times I pout.  Sometimes…sshhh…I toss out a few four letter words for good effect.

All in private, of course.  Wouldn’t want anyone to know I do that, you know?

Today I received a phone call as I was just on the cusp of a full blown Disney Princess moment.  I was working up to it.  It was slowly simmering and boiling and I was ready for a full out drama fest.  Hand on the forehead, fist clutched to my chest, “Oh my,” flop to the floor in a heap of hefty sobs.

And then the phone rang.  And a friend shared Jeremiah 42-43 with me.  You know the passage, right?  You don’t?  I didn’t either.  The Isrealites go to Jeremiah and ask him to pray to God on their behalf.  They want to flee from Babylon to Egypt and they want God’s confirmation.  So Jeremiah does what they ask and he comes back with the Lord’s answer.

“Don’t go.  Stay here and I will bless you.  I will show you compassion and favor.  Don’t be afraid.  Trust me.”

Ah, but they didn’t like that answer, you see.  Because they had already purposed in their hearts to go.  They weren’t really looking for God’s answer – they just wanted a little justification for their actions.  And in the end, they chose to go their own way.  The way that seemed easier to them.  Because staying in Babylon?  That was too scary, too hard.  No.  Going to Egypt felt right…it felt better.

Things didn’t go well with them.

We are constantly drilling Ephesians 6:1-3 into our children’s heads: “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the Earth.”

They hear that a lot.  So much so that I can guarantee when they are all young adults, they will probably sit around the dinner table and make fun of us for it, rolling their eyes and laughing.  Hopefully in a good-natured way, of course.  I can see it in my head, like a movie reel.

“Hey, remember when Mom and Dad used to tell us to obey them so it things would go well with us?”

“Aaaaww, yeah, that drove me nuts.”

Then they laugh and all take turns telling us every reason why they love us and why they’re thankful for our constant discipline as they grew up.  They tell us how right we were and laud us for pouring so much of ourselves into them in their formative years.  They do this while giving us each back massages and presenting us with lavish gifts because they are just so thankful for their upbringing.

This vision of mine may have spiraled slightly into the realm of fantasy, but whatever – I like it.

No matter what your age, obedience is hard.  And it’s not always fun.  Just because Tia feels ready to ride her two wheeler to the park a mile down the road, doesn’t mean she should do it.  When I tell her no, she needs to obey even if she doesn’t want to.  When Sloan wants to play with the boys down the street and I tell him no because I’m not sure who their parents are, he has to obey, even though he doesn’t understand.

“Things will go well with you if you obey.”

Sometimes that’s the only excuse I can give.

And sometimes it’s the only excuse I get.  Some decisions seem scary and hard and big and…

It would be so much easier to just move in the direction that feels good enough. The one that’s easy.  But the hard decision, the one you feel in your heart is right even if it’s scary, sometimes that’s the safest place to be.  And there’s no sense throwing a Disney sized fit about it.  Trust and obey and things will go well with you.  This is where freedom sets in.

And that’s a good thing because the drama filled life of a Disney Princess gets exhausting.  Who wants to be stuck wearing ball gowns and glass slippers all the time, right?

To the friend who gave me that timely phone call today…I thank you from the bottom of my heart for pointing me to this scripture.  If I could sing you a Disneyesque song in true Princess fashion, I so totally would.

Happy Birthday, Mom

So this video isn’t nearly as cool as I wanted it to be. But as we all learned yesterday, I’m not really that cool anyway, so this actually fits quite well.

Today is my awesome Mom’s birthday and she’s half way across the world. I so wanted to fly to England and surprise her for her birthday, but alas, it wasn’t to be. Instead I had the kids write down 60 reasons why they love their Byshka (short for Babyshka – Grandmother in Russian). And here they are, all 60 reasons.

Unfortunately you can’t understand a word Landon says due to his lisp and inability to say several letters but he’s painfully cute so it doesn’t matter.

(A small disclaimer: I promise I bathe my kids, although in this video they are visibly dirty. The bruise on Tia’s chin is the result of an unfortunate run in with a parked car as she sped down the hill on her bike. We’re still working on riding without training wheels. The mark on Landon’s nose is the result of me not clipping his nails soon enough. I have no idea what’s on Sloan’s face. Carry on…)

Mom, I love you and I hope you’re having a grand time in London today. We’re sending kisses from across the pond. I think we’ll even pick up a little birthday cake and eat it in your honor today. So thanks for having a birthday – it gives us an excuse to splurge on a cake. And cake is good.

Love you and see you in a few weeks!!!

Once Upon a Time

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Once Upon a Time, I was cool.  Or I thought I was.  I was informed yesterday by my oldest, and ever so wise, child that I’m “not really cool now, so much.”

“Really?  What am I, then?”

*pause*

*long pause*

*awkward pause*

“Geesh.  Don’t answer to quickly, ‘kay?”

“Well,” he says, clearly thinking hard, “It’s just that I’m not sure.”

“So I’m not even a little bit cool?”

*pause*

“When I make you pancakes for breakfast – is that cool?”

“No.  That’s more awesome.”

“When I wash your clothes and drive you places – is that cool?”

“Not really.  That’s more stuff you’re s’posed to do.”

Oh no he di’int.

“When I play games with you – is that cool?”

“No.  That’s fun, though.  Hey can we play Uno tonight?”

“So I’m really not cool, huh?”

“Nope,” he says with a shrug.  “But you’re awesome and fun and you do things you’re s’posed to do.  So that’s good right?”

Um…

I guess.

Excuse me while I go look for my cool pants.  I know they’re in my closet somewhere.  Probably right behind my fat pants and next to my sweatpants.

*sigh*

There’s a chance I was never cool to begin with…

The part where I really start to enjoy motherhood

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I have a confession to make:

I haven’t always enjoyed motherhood.

The act of being a Mom came so naturally to me at first.  When Sloan was born I was immediately comfortable with him.  I wasn’t one of those neurotic moms who worried about every little cry.  I didn’t care if people held him without washing their hands first and I didn’t freak out at every little cough or sneeze.  I was laid back.

Except when it came to sleeping.  I made that poor child take naps all the flipping time.  Four naps a day for the first four months of his life, three naps a day for the next four and two naps a day until he was eighteen months old and he staged a morning nap coup resulting in me freaking out for a solid month before requiring he take a three hour nap every afternoon without possibility of negotiation until he turned four when he staged yet another coup and has refused to sleep since.

Okay I might have been a little neurotic.

I also required 12 hours of sleep per night and made sure bedtimes were rarely messed with.  No wonder that child hates sleeping now.

Alright, alright – I was a lot neurotic.

But, neurosis aside, I was comfortable as a Mom.  Babies are hard, but now that I’m on the other side of them I find myself snorting at how not hard babies really are.  Am I confusing anyone yet?

The real work of motherhood starts when their reasoning ability kicks in.  When you are no longer merely keeping them alive and sustaining them from day to day (or nap to nap in my case).  Wait…you mean..I…have to…ya know…teach them?  I have to raise them to be morally responsible, compassionate citizens of the world who contribute to society in a positive way?

*gulp*

I love being with my kids.  I love doing the fun things with them.  Going to the Zoo, playing at the park, going to the beach and the pool.  I love to do the activity of life with my kids.  But the day to day training that’s imperative to their development?

It hasn’t always been my favorite.

In fact, the day to day instruction has always been a bit daunting to me.  The business of training them to be respectful and obedient.  It’s hard!  Give me a fussy newborn over an insolent toddler any day of the week.  Can I get an Amen?

For those who know me well, you know I’m not what you might call a homebody.  I don’t enjoy just being home.  I like schedules and activity.  I like to be on the go.  I like to sprint through life.  But guess what?  It’s hard to sprint when there are three little ones whose legs aren’t as long as yours.  My metaphor is getting a little rough, I know.  Stay with me…

I’ve spent the better part of the last few months trying to slow down.  I’ve cut out a few activities here and there and tried to pull back.  I’ve tried to spend a little more time at home and when at home, I’ve tried to stop being so…busy all the time.  I tend to equate down time with idleness.  That’s not necessarily the case.  Sometimes it’s good to sit and read a book to the kids in the middle of the day.  It’s good for them and it’s good for me.

I’m finally beginning to enjoy the art of motherhood.  The hard part.  I’m even getting excited about it.  I know, right? It’s about time.  I’m looking forward to and excited about the process of training them.  I look forward to praying for them and being with them.  I’m so excited for this summer to just be.

I know it will be tiring and exhausting and hard.  But I love the hard.  I love the tiring.  I’m learning to love the process.  I’m learning to sit, to be still, to play Barbies, to have imaginary tea parties, to read books, to live every day life.  I’m finally enjoying that part of motherhood a little more.  Fewer schedules, more free time, more playtime.  I’m slowing down my pace and finally giving my kids a chance to catch up.

This is a great place to be.

Meet George, George, George, George…

Sloan brought home “pets” yesterday.  Tadpoles.  Fifty of them…at minimum!

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He fished them out of the neighbor’s algae-ridden pool.  Naturally.

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More than half of them did not survive the night.  Much to my relief.  The rest are, today, munching on lettuce and I’m headed out in a bit to buy distilled water so they can have a clean, healthy environment per Google’s recommendation.

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“Have you named them?” Lee asked.

“Yeah.  One of them is George,” Sloan replied.

“Which one?”

“Um…that one.  No.  That one.  Wait!  Um…that one.  I don’t know, really…”

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“Soon we’ll have a whole family of frogs!  We can build them a pond in the back yard!  Aaawwwesoooome.”

Has anyone ever tried frog legs?  I hear they’re delicious…