Archive | January, 2014

Veggie garden

28 Jan

Aaron has been busy making me a garden in the backyard.  We don’t have a big yard, but I still want to be able to plant vegetables/fruit/herbs.  We also want to have room for the kids to run around and play.  So Aaron made me a garden bed that takes minimal space, but is still enough for me to plant a few things:

The garden bed is almost finished.

The garden bed is almost finished. A shed will eventually go on top of the cement tiles in the top left corner.  There is a water access point that can’t be covered or blocked, between the future shed and edge of the garden, otherwise we had planned to have the garden go all the way to the fence. A potted plant will go between the shed and the garden so there isn’t a bare patch.

Aaron has been building the garden bed in stages since it took a whole lot of digging, followed by bricking.  There will be one more row of bricks on top of the ones that are sunken in the ground, and then it will be all finished.  Oh, and I’m going to nail boards across the beams that hold up the clothesline so that heavy things like pumpkins can grow up instead of out.

This is the first section of garden that Aaron made.  I planted two types of heirloom beans, heirloom corn, and a marigold (helps keep pests away).  In the corner in the pot is a grapefruit tree, surrounded by thyme, oregano, and mizuna.  In the next pot is a macadamia tree (which needs a bigger pot and will be moved to the front since one macadamia can kill a 10kg dog) surrounded by rosemary, and next to that is my stevia plant, which also won’t actually stay there.

My heirloom beans are thriving.  Behind them is a row of corn, which is also thriving, and there is a marigold in front of them.

My heirloom beans are thriving. Behind them is a row of corn, which is also thriving, and there is a marigold in front of them, and it’s mulched with sugarcane.

I love growing my own food.  I know what has been put on it (nothing), that it’s not GMO, it’s fun, and best of all, the kids love helping in the garden and eating straight from the plants.  It’s good for kids to know how plants grow and see it happen right in front of them.

Vegetable gardening isn’t as easy as popping some seeds in the ground and then reaping the rewards though.  Different plants like different conditions, different soils etc. Some fix nitrogen, some don’t.  Some plants don’t prosper when planted near other kinds of plants.  Some plants make other plants taste better and/or grow better.  Some plants attract beneficial insects, others repel bad insects.  They have to be planted at different depths and with different spacings. You could spend a whole lifetime learning about gardening.

But to make it easy, there’s the UrbMat.  The UrbMat has holes the correct distance from each other, close enough to maximise space, but far enough apart so that the 10 different edible plants grow properly.  Weeds are suppressed under the mat.  The types of plants have been carefully chosen and placed for compatibility and even pest control plants are included.   So you don’t have to stand outside for ages watering everything, there is even an inbuilt irrigation system.  The UrbMat shows you what to plant where, making it great for beginning gardeners and kids.  Best of all though, for every UrbMat sold, two meals are donated to kids in need.

The UrbMat. Making gardening easy.

The UrbMat. Making gardening easy.

As a Mommy Adventures reader, you get 15% off by entering the code MOMMYADVENTURE at checkout.  To buy your very own UrbMat, click here.

More about the UrbMat

More about the UrbMat

The UrbMat in action

The UrbMat in action

UrbMatinpost

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maggots

21 Jan

We don’t have a doggie door.  We plan to get one soon, but for right now, there is no such luxury.  For the first week or so when we got Rosie, we would just leave the back door open a little bit.  Just far enough so she could go out and in when she wanted/needed.  I wanted to make this whole potty training thing as easy for both of us as possible.

Unfortunately, with the open door, came the flies.  There were only a couple at first.  But then, seemingly overnight, their population exploded, which I suppose is not surprising considering a female lays 75-150 eggs per batch.  Flies were everywhere.  They followed us around the house trying to get moisture from our faces with their stupid sopping mouthparts, landing repeatedly despite our many attempts at the Aussie salute (for you non-Aussies, that means waving your hand(s) in front of your face to ward off flies).

a housefly and it's disgusting sopping mouthparts. Image courtesy of

a housefly and it’s disgusting sopping mouthparts. Image courtesy of jangala.co.uk

I made sure the bins in the house were tightly sealed.  I washed the dishes straight away after every meal, no food was left out, and I stopped leaving the back door open (resulting in lots of pee accidents).

But still, they lingered, copulating like wild dogs on our countertop, in the air, and in the bathroom, multiplying all the time.  At least when they are distracted by coitus, they’re easier to swat.

We cut the tops off two water bottles, inverted the top into the bottles like funnels, taped them on, and filled them with sugar syrup – home made fly traps.  A few flies wandered into the sticky liquid, unable to escape, but the majority of them flew on.

Upping the ante, we bought fly spray.  Aaron sprayed the bathroom and shut the door, killing about nine of the little buggers.  We covered everything in the kitchen with towels and he sprayed them as they slept on the kitchen ceiling.

Still there were more.  Not as many as before, but enough to be pretty darn annoying.

I went to clean the guinea pig cage yesterday morning and discovered about a thousand (I’m not even exaggerating, I mean, literally, a thousand) maggots in the bottom of the outside organics bin, and decided to kill them all.
 
Before finding the maggots, I remembered that Aaron said dog shampoo kills them, so yesterday morning when I was at the supermarket, I bought some.  Upon discovering the disgusting present in the bin, I promptly went online in search of the correct way to use said dog shampoo to kill the little suckers.
 
Unfortunately, only dog shampoos with a particular ingredient are useful in killing maggots.  The one I got does not have the needed ingredient.  Probably because I got one labelled “gentle.” My bad.  I did find a number of other ways to kill maggots though, so I picked one and got to work.
 
First, I chose the vinegar mixed with water trick, since I had a whole bunch of vinegar in the laundry cupboard (because I use it for cleaning and got it in bulk at Costco).  I poured it in, as well as down the sides of the bin to wash the creepers that were trying to escape back down into the pit of doom.  A bit later, I looked in the bin and found that a lot of them were still alive.
 
Another way to kill maggots is with boiling water, so I boiled a full pot of water in the kettle and poured that all over them too, then shut the lid to help lead them to their steamy deaths.
 
A bit later, I opened the lid of the bin again and peeked inside, nearly puking from the putrid smell of vinegar mixed with half cooked, off food scraps and dead maggots.  The whole bottom of the bin was covered in dead maggots, floating around in their watery grave, but a bunch more of the little brats were crawling up the sides of the bin, once again attempting escape.
 
A third way to kill maggots is with good old salt.  Just like with slugs and snails; pour it over them and watch them shrivel up as they dehydrate.
 
I grabbed our bulk salt container and headed back outside.  Before opening the bin, I salted all the escapees who had successfully exited the bin and were crawling around on the top of it, just outside the lids edge, and watched them shrivel up as they tried to wiggle away from the lethal dose of salt.
 
I opened the lid with my left hand and started salting more almost-escapees that were at the top of the bin.  As I salted them to their deaths, something hit my salting hand.  I glanced down at it immediately, realising with horror that a maggot had fallen off the bin lid and landed on my hand where it was currently wiggling around, mocking me.
 
A split second later, I was flapping my hand around like mad woman and accidentally dropped the whole bottle of salt into the pit of doom in the bottom of the bin.
 
I know it’s an organics bin, which is only for food scraps, twigs, grass, etc., but there was no way that I was sticking my hand all the way down into the festy bin full of putrid food and at least a thousand dead maggots.  So I shut the lid and ran off, leaving the hundred or so almost-escapees there in the bin, climbing the sides to freedom.
 
Oh well, at least I got most of them.
 
A couple hours later, I decided it was time to go back out again and finally clean the guinea pig cage, happy in the knowledge that most of the maggots were dead in the bin and I wouldn’t be merely adding dinner to their plates when I dumped the used straw into the bin.
 
I rolled the dirty straw up in the now urine soaked newspapers that lined the bottom of the guinea pig cage with gloved hands, in preparation to easily throw the whole bundle into the bin.
 
As I rolled, I was met with a horrible sight: hundreds of maggots had made their home in the bottom of the guinea pig cage, between the soiled newspapers and the green plastic.
 
I wish I still had the salt.  Or more vinegar (I used it all up in the bin).  Instead, I put the hose on jet stream mode and blasted those disgusting little creatures right out of there.
 
Hopefully, our that was the end of our fly problem.
 
The inside of the bin after all of my maggot killing. Only a few maggots escaped my wroth

The inside of the bin after all of my maggot killing. Only a few maggots escaped my wroth. I should have taken a before photo, but trust me, it’s better if you don’t see that.

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Hannah eats

17 Jan

Every year, on Boxing Day, we go to our friend’s house with some other friends and enjoy a nice dinner together to celebrate Christmas.  This year, my friend’s brother was visiting from overseas, so he was there too. He also happens to be a child psychologist who specialises in getting kids to eat.

Needless to say, I told him about Hannah’s fussy eating, how we get her to try stuff with a rewards chart, and how she only ever tries a tiny bite and that’s it, etc. etc.

And then, he blew our minds.

He told us a couple strategies to get Hannah eating.  We picked the one that sounded most likely to work best with her, asked him a million questions about it, and then went for it, knowing that at first, it would be really hard and no matter how many tears were shed, we couldn’t give in.  I don’t know what age range this strategy is suitable for, but Hannah is 4, and it has worked wonders for her.

Every night (we only do this at dinner time), we give her two options on her plate.  She has to eat all of one of them.  There is also a third thing on her plate that she likes.  She can eat it if she wants, but doesn’t have to.  It’s just there to make sure she has enough to eat.

At first, the amount of food in the “have to eat it” all pile is not very much, and the amount in the “already likes it” pile is substantial.  Gradually, the amount in the “has to eat it” pile increases as the “already likes it” pile decreases.

The child feels like they have a lot of control because he/she gets to choose which option they eat all of, and the adult knows that no matter which option he/she chooses, it’s healthy and means progress has been made.  We have been doing two options that the rest of us have on our plates anyway.  For example, some of the chicken or fish or whatever will be one option, and then the salad or veggies the other (you’d be amazed at how many different veggies and different cooking methods there are.  It isn’t the same thing every night).

The first night, we started Hannah off pretty easy as one of the options was peas, corn, and carrots.  She likes peas, corn, and carrots, but only if they are straight from the freezer.  These ones were cooked.  I can’t remember what the other option was, but she chose the cooked vegetables.

Here is the catch:  She can’t get down from the table until she eats all of one of her two options.  If she’s still sitting at the table when bed time comes, she has to go straight to bed. No playing, no TV, etc.  It’s sit there for an hour and a half not eating, or eat and get down and play with us.

On that very first night, Daniel finished his food, so he got down and played with Aaron while I sat at the table supervising Hannah.  We told her that she couldn’t get down until one of her options was eaten.  After everyone else was finished, I didn’t talk to her, or interact with her, I just sat there next to her. It’s not supposed to be an extra attention thing.  As she screamed next to me while I read a magazine, I could see her slowly eating the veggies between screams out of the corner of my eye.  I continued to ignore her and read my magazine.

Though screaming and crying, she finished those vegetables with about 20 minutes to spare before bed time.  We made sure to do something fun, all together, just because we had time to before bed.

The second night, one of her options was roasted vegetables (capsicum, mushrooms, tomatoes, and zucchini, also with roasted feta cheese), or salmon.  She sat there until bed time, crying, screaming, saying it wasn’t fair, etc. etc.  Aaron and I took turns sitting next to her, but not engaging with her, just reading or doing our own thing.  It was so incredibly hard, but we knew we had to do it for her own good.  We had to be strong and not cave in. When bed time rolled around, we quickly got her ready for bed at the table, and then she went straight to bed.

She has eaten all of one of her options every night since then, mostly with no tears or fuss.  Last night she told Aaron not to talk to her so she could just eat her food and get it done, while Daniel and I were still at the table eating, (and having family conversations to make dinner a fun family time).  She now loves salad and most vegetables.  One night, we had chicken burgers and one of her options was 1/4 of one.  I’m not just talking about the patty either, I mean the patty, the wholegrain bun, the tomatoes, the avocado, the lettuce, the onion, the mushroom, and the cheese.  She ate the whole thing, which for her, is pretty much a miracle.

Usually, she sticks to the vegetable option so we put heaps of vegetables for that choice (and if we have them, nuts and/or seeds), and for the second option, a little bit, maybe a couple of mouthfuls of chicken/fish/pork whatever protein we’re having, cooked however I cooked it and with whatever marinades/sauces/etc. for the rest of us.  She still usually goes for the vegetables, but recently, she has been trying the other option just to try it. I’m happy if she fills herself with vegetables that are full of nutrients, and I’m happy if she tries some meat, so it’s a win win, no matter which option she chooses.

Hannah helped me make the salad, and added more to her plate than I had on there for her because "she really likes it" now.  It has: lettuce (home grown), tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, pea sprouts, grated carrot, and olive oil.  On the right is a piece of home made chicken meat loaf, and the thing she can eat if she wants that she already likes is mashed potato.

Hannah helped me make the salad, and added more to her plate than I had on there for her because “she really likes it” now. It has: lettuce (home grown), tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, pea sprouts, grated carrot, and olive oil. On the right is a piece of home made chicken meat loaf, and the thing she can eat if she wants that she already likes is mashed potato.

Every night she tells us that she is going to eat her dinner really fast so we have time to do something fun.  Sometimes we go for a walk to the park, sometimes we play a game, or play in the sprinkler outside, but we always do something fun together after dinner. Not as a reward for eating, but because we have the time.

I’m still flabbergasted by the whole thing, I can’t believe how well it has worked.  She hasn’t been traumatised by it, and actually seems to have more confidence now, and more interest in helping me cook.  She keeps telling us how good she is at eating now, with a huge smile on her face, and she no longer dreads dinner time.  Mind. Blown.

You can follow our progress on Instagram #hannaheats (user name sherismommyadventures), where I post a photo of her food and which option she chose every night.

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5 Backyard activities for kids

16 Jan

During the long summer holidays, none of our regular activities (play group, kindygym, bible study) are on, so we are left with warm sunny days and nothing to do.  Luckily, today’s guest post is here to give us some ideas:

Kids need to get outdoors and play. It’s great for their health and their creativity and imagination. You don’t need to go to any expense; kids have the charming ability to make their own fun. Many children can entertain themselves, whilst others will want the company of friends or siblings. Make sure there is a shady spot if the kids are spending a long time in the backyard. If not, make sure they have hats and sunscreen on. Also make sure they keep well hydrated, as having fun can be exhausting!

Outdoor games

The ever reliable backyard games of cricket, tag and brandy are great fun. You can add some new additions to outdoor fun by organising a scavenger hunt. Hide items around the yard and see who finds the most. Put up a list of items you have hidden. Older kids might enjoy something more challenging like an obstacle course where you paddle the length of the pool, commando crawl under a table, skip several times and throw balls into a bucket.

A backyard camp out

Let the kids help you pitch a tent. Supply them with bedding and torches. You could even toast some marshmallows on skewers over a tea light candle. Make sure to always supervise this activity. Don’t be surprised if, as the dark night closes in, they decide to jump into their bed inside! They may prefer to use the tent to play in during the daytime.

Hannah and Daniel love it when I set the tent up in the backyard.  And sometimes when we're bored and it's rainy, we set it up in the living room.

Hannah and Daniel love it when I set the tent up in the backyard. And sometimes when we’re bored and it’s rainy, we set it up in the living room.

Gardening

If you have kids who are curious about veges and fruits, why not get them started on a small raised garden bed or growing in a pot? Put gloves on and let them fill the pot with soil. You can purchase seeds or punnets of young shoots. This is an ongoing activity where they can water, weed and tend to the plants until they bear fruit. They will have great delight in picking and eating fresh produce.

Our kids are helping me with my new veggie garden.  They can't wait for our two kinds of heirloom beans to be ready for eating.

Our kids are helping me with my new veggie garden. They can’t wait for our two kinds of heirloom beans to be ready for eating.

Set up a craft table

Give children the largest cardboard box you can find and be assured that their imagination will soon have it made into a cubby, a fort or a pirate ship! Set up a table with a plastic cover and have a supply of paper, paints, and coloured markers for children to create with. Brave parents may let their kids make coloured footprints or handprints!

Water play

If you have a pool, the children will find ways to entertain themselves. If you don’t have a pool, an inflatable pool will give just as much fun. Provide some funnels, plastic bottles, scoops, in fact, anything that will hold water, and watch how much fun they will have pouring and splashing about. Always make sure the pool is kept in crystal clear condition. Alliance Pool Stores can help with any pool requirements you may have.

It is easier than you think to keep kids entertained in a backyard. Younger ones can often get overexcited and tired, so make sure to give them snack breaks where they can have a bit of a rest. Keep backyard play going for as long as you can. It’s a great memorable experience for them and one day they will grow out of it.

*This post was brought to you by Alliance Pool Stores.

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Where have they been

11 Jan

“Mommy, can I lick my train?” Daniel asked me as he held up one of his Thomas engines.

“No, don’t lick your train buddy.”

“Can I lick my hand?”

“No, don’t lick your hand, who knows what your hands have been touching.”  I told him, thinking of dirty dog toys, dirt, grass, boogers, etc.

“My penis.”  He told me matter of factly.

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Pretend McDonalds

8 Jan

Driving pretty much anywhere these days means passing by at least one McDonald’s.  Driving anywhere with kids when passing a McDonald’s means begging.  Kids seem to know those golden arches from afar and even if they don’t really like the food, they still want to go there.

“Mommy, can we go to McDonald’s?” Daniel asked me yesterday as I drove them from daycare to Grandma’s house.

“No buddy, we’re not going to McDonald’s.” I told him, as I do pretty much every day.

“Can I go to pretend McDonald’s?”

“Sure.  Where is pretend McDonald’s?” I asked him, stifling my laughter.

“Um…I don’t know. Can I go there?”

“Yeah, you can go to pretend McDonald’s.  Maybe it can be at Grandma’s house.”

“Can we have real chippies with dinner?” He asked me sweetly.  “Please?”

“No buddy, we’re not having chips with dinner.” I told him.

“Oh, this is im-possum-ble.”  He said with a sigh

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All those Christmas toys

5 Jan

As usual, the kids got way too many presents from everyone, which means we had to cull lots of their old toys to make room.  And luckily for me, ToyTainer sent me a bunch of their products just before Christmas, which means extra storage places for all those Christmas toys.

For every day use, this is our favourite ToyTainer

For every day use, this hang on a door ToyTainer is our favourite.  As you can see, there is no room IN the closet for toys….

The princess castle (picture above) is a great space saver since it goes over the door.  It also has adjustable height straps, which is super awesome.  I put it on it’s very lowest setting so that Hannah can see in the mirror from the ground (which she loves), and reach even the highest toys with her stool.  Most importantly, Rosie (our new puppy) can’t get any of the toys in it, which makes it a great place to store all of Hannah’s enticing, chewable, puppies-like-to-rip-the-hair-off dolls.  When we travel somewhere that doesn’t have any toys, we can fold up the princess castle, with all the dolls and things in it, and take it with us.  Easy, and perfect for holidays/vacations.  Daniel got the boys version, called games centre, which has a basketball hoop at the top.  Hannah likes using the hoop, but Daniel is a bit too small for it.  He will appreciate his games centre when he is a little older.  And taller. For now though, it’s great for extra toy storage.

The hoop makes cleaning up super fun.

The hoop makes cleaning up super fun.

We also got a shoe box for each kid.  Hannah decided immediately upon opening hers that it is called a “Caravan Bag” and likes to take it in the car filled with my little ponies and other girly things.  Daniel likes to drive his cars and trains around on his and then put them away through the little opening at the bottom.  I like how they are portable storage, but also a toy in themselves.  We had to go on an unscheduled trip over 4 hours away to attend Aaron’s Nanna’s funeral and the kids piled their caravan bags with chosen toys.  Daniel’s fit heaps of Thomas engines, train tracks, cars, dinosaurs, and the mat I talk about below.  Hannah’s fit ponies, books, play jewellery, and her play mat.  I was surprised at how much stuff can actually fit in them, and they were perfect for taking away with us.

aka "Caravan Bags"

aka “Caravan Bags”

Another easy clean up and travel item is the EZ-mat.  There is a pink one with dirt roads/trails, and a blue one with roads.  The kids can play on them and then use the cord to turn them into a bag with all the toys and cars inside.  Brilliant for travel.

playmat

The blue version

The blue version

There is also the pink ice cream truck which Hannah absolutely loves because it’s fun to push around and unlike most cars and trucks that size, is not made with boys in mind. She loves that it’s pink.  Open the top of the truck and it’s completely hollow, designed for storage. Hannah stores all of her little toys that Daniel is not allowed to play with due to their choking hazard.  They are now all in the one place, and easy to store away from Daniel’s prying hands when Hannah isn’t playing with them.

Finally, a pink truck for girly girls

Finally, a pink truck for girly girls

GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!

If you would like to win over $150 worth of ToyTainer products, leave a comment below and I will pick a winner using a random number generator from random.org.  For an extra entry, like the Mommy Adventures Facebook page (click here to go there).  I will assign each new like a number (in order of the like, starting with the number that immediately follows the number of comments), which will then be included in the random number generator.

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

The winner is Hazel.  Thanks everyone for entering 🙂

*Entries open to U.S. residents only

*Competition closes 11:59pm 12 January 2014

*I received ToyTainer items in exchange for my honest opinion about them, I did not receive any money for writing this post.

If you enjoyed reading this, please vote for my blog. All you have to do is click the link below. That’s it… Clicking the link brings you to the Top Mommy Blogs home page. You don’t have to do anything else. Any clicks from my site to theirs is a vote.  THANKS!
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The insect bite

1 Jan

Last year (technically, the year before last, since it’s now 2014…), we attempted to camp at our friend’s property on New Years Eve.  The result was lots of screaming, lots of crying, not much sleeping, and going home to our familiar beds in the middle of the night.

Call us crazy, but we figured Daniel would be old enough this year (err…last year) to be ok with sleeping in a tent, so we gave it another go.  When kid bed time came around, once again, there was lots of screaming, lots of crying, and not much sleeping.  By Daniel, Hannah was loving the whole tent thing.  In the end, we let Daniel watch Thomas on the couch in the house until he was practically asleep, and then I laid in the tent with them until he was out.

He woke up in the middle of the night, stood up, and walked around the tent whilst crying until I laid him down in his bed (he had been sleeping with his legs on Hannah’s bed and his face on the bottom of the tent).

But we made it through the whole night without having to take the kids home, so that’s progress. Even Rosie (the puppy) quietly slept all night in her crate and only asked to go out for a potty break once. The kids slept pretty darn well too.  I, on the other hand, had a horrible nights sleep.  Clearly, 30 years old is too old for sleeping on a very thin Therm-a-Rest mattress.  I tossed and turned all night, with whatever body part I slept on getting sore rapidly.  I think it’s time we bought a thick, comfy, needs-a-pump-to-blow-it-up air mattress.

As we woke up in the morning, we noticed Daniel’s bright red ear.  We thought that sleeping with his face on the tent floor must have irritated it.  Maybe there was something hard under his ear as he slept for who know how many hours.

By 1pm though, it was still bright red.  It looked like a Santa coloured ear balloon.  Today is New Years Day though, so the doctors office isn’t open.  Instead, I called the after hours doctors, who told me they were full until 5pm and it could be a number of hours after that until someone could finally come to my house to see Daniel.  I called the medical advice line, who advised me that he should see a doctor in the next 24 hours, but didn’t think it warranted a visit to the hospital.  So we waited for the after hours GP.  And waited.  And waited.

At 7pm, the doctor came, and told me it was an allergic reaction to an insect bite, though he couldn’t say for sure what kind of insect.  In addition, he thought it likely that the bite was infected.  A bottle of antibiotics, another of anti inflammatory, and another of antihistamine later, and hopefully his ear will go back to normal.  If the redness spreads, he has to go straight to the hospital. We’re hoping that doesn’t happen because, obviously, that would suck for poor Daniel, but also because we’re driving for 4 hours tomorrow to go see Aaron’s dad and attend the funeral of Aaron’s Nanna.

Stupid bugs.

Daniel's freakishly swollen right ear.  I tried to get a photo of the front and side of the ear, but he moved his head too much. So sticking him in the swing and taking it from the back as he watched Rosie

Daniel’s freakishly swollen right ear. I tried to get a photo of the front and side of the ear, but he moved his head too much. So sticking him in the swing and taking it from the back as he watched Rosie

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