Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yarn Along... Again? Already?

Wow! Where has the past week gone? It's already time for another yarn along? Joining in with Ginny at Small Things  to share what I am knitting and reading.
I am still working on Phoebe's dufflecoat, which is going much slower than I anticipated. I think it is because I have been doing a lot of sewing lately, which hasn't left much time for knitting. I also just cast on for Phoebe' felted stocking. I made Finn a felted stocking last year, so I thought it was only fair that I make one for Phoebe as well. My to-knit list for the holidays is ever-growing, so I want to cast on for about 5 different things.. however, I am making myself stick to 2 at a time.
I just started reading Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning. I just finished up Shanghai Girls a couple days ago.. I guess I am on a Chinese-American literature kick.
What are you reading? What are you knitting? Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Advent Owls: A Month of Family Togetherness

Finn loves advent calendars. Who doesn't right? Isn't the anticipation usually as much fun as Christmas itself? We have a wooden advent calendar with doors that open into tiny cubes that I found at Goodwill a few years back and I normally put a small candy or sticker in the cube for each day. But this year I started to wonder if Finn really needs a treat every day for 25 days? I decided what we really needed was to spend more together time as a family. Not just in each others presence, but actively enjoying the company of one another. Even though we are all together for parts of every day, sometimes we are so rushed with preparing dinner, cleaning up, getting the kids to bed, etc. that we don't actually take the time to "be" together.
And so my owl advent idea was born. These were certainly a bit time consuming to make, but I think they came out well. And I even finished in time! I am actually hoping to get them up on my etsy shop next winter.... Although I think that I need to get some smaller clothespins to hang them from.
The pocket in front is where each day Finn will get a piece of paper that will include a family event for the day. Some will be more extravagant than others, depending on schedules, but having a least a small time together each day where we are focused on being together will be wonderful.
I was really excited about this idea... until Finn got a Lego Star Wars advent calendar as a birthday present. I admit, it does look super cool, but as my husband said "who cares about felt owls when you have legos?". So, hopefully this will still be fun for all involved. The lego guys can come too.
Here are my ideas for the 25 days. Most of them are not yet in the correct order, but I still have time for that!

  1. write a letter to santa
  2. make paper snowflakes
  3. go out to a movie in a theater
  4. make cookies to deliver to friends
  5. watch a holiday movie at home
  6. take a nature walk
  7. walk down peacock lane (infamous in Portland for super decked-out houses at Christmas time)
  8. play in the snow (which will likely require a drive to Mt. Hood)
  9. listen to a holiday record
  10. make a gingerbread house
  11. decorate or tree (or tree alternative-- more on that later!)
  12. drink a cup of hot cocoa
  13. go ice skating
  14. make salt-dough ornaments to give to family
  15. volunteer together
  16. go out to breakfast
  17. gather of box of canned goods to donate to the food bank
  18. take the bus downtown to see the city lights
  19. go out to dinner
  20. take the holiday train ride
  21. watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  22. watch the holiday ship parade
  23. go on an adventure
  24. read The Night Before Christmas
  25. Spend Christmas day together!!
Do you have family plans for this month?

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Vanishing of the Bees: A Review

I had a chance to watch Vanishing of the Bees over the weekend, and I loved it. I have read and seen quite a bit on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), but this film does a great job of putting it all together, and is the best I have seen on the subject as of yet. I am planning on showing it to my environmental science class next term.
The film goes into some details on what CCD is and how it has affected our agricultural system. Then the film dives into possible reasons behind this mysterious disorder.. and why most of them are likely not valid. The reason that the movie suggest to be the likely culprit is pesticides. But not the spray-on pesticides that have been used for generations. Instead, the problem is likely the new systemic pesticides which work from inside the plant.
These pesticides are not killing the bees on contact. And, in fact, that is what is so mysterious about this disorder. Very few dead bees are actually discovered. So, it's not like the fields were sprayed with pesticides which instantly killed many bees. That would be obvious. Instead, these bees are visiting plants with sub-lethal doses of systemic pesticides in them and bringing pollen (with systemic pesticides in it) back to the hive to feed the brood. The results are not immediate, but instead start to appear about 6 months later (during the winter), when the hive is relying on this stored pollen as its food source.
So it is not the pesticides that kill the bees directly. Instead, it is thought that these chemicals weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to viruses, limited genetic variation or other problems that have been labeled as potential causes of CCD. The overall collapse of a hive may take several generations, which is why it is so difficult to show a precise link between these pesticides and bee deaths.
France had their own version of CCD happen there about 10 years ago, and after eventually figuring that it was linked to systemic pesticides, they were banned throughout the country and are now banned throughout many parts of Europe. Yet we are still using them in the US. With a vengeance.
The US follows an "innocent until proven guilty" method, where chemicals are usually approved for use unless it can be shown that they are dangerous. The problem with this is that the way this is regulated is that the EPA requires chemical companies to do their own tests to determine chemical safety. Hmmm, sounds fishy, right? So, if the pesticide company says it is safe, then it must be? Bayer, one of the makers of systemic pesticides, did test these chemicals on bees. But, they gave them high doses and watched them for 3 days. When they found no bee deaths, they deemed the pesticides to be safe. We now know that CCD happens over a longer period of time, and that it affects multiple generations (not just the bees who ingest the affected pollen). But Bayer says that they don't need to test that because no one is requiring them to. It's a crazy world that we live in.
To me, the most depressing aspect of all of this is that if bees that come into contact with systemic pesticides are seeing their entire civilizations die off within a generation or two, what is going to happen to the humans who are ingesting food with systemic pesticides? Are our children never going to be able to have children because of the affects of these chemicals? I think that we should take this as a warning. If the bees are suffering tremendous consequences from these systemic pesticides, don't you think we will as well? It may take a generation or two, which for humans is many many years, but if we wait that long to fix the problem, it will likely be too late. Let's save the bees and save ourselves. Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Thanksgiving Adventure

We spent the week before Thanksgiving in Texas visiting some friends and my husband's side of the family. We met new babies, saw new places and enjoyed spending some time with familiar faces and places as well. It was only the second time that Finn has met his Texas cousins and they were inseparable.
We flew home on Thanksgiving day, but, unfortunately, I had come down with the flu the night before. Let's just say I was very glad when we finally walked in the door Thanksgiving evening. I was asleep by 6:30!! I am finally starting to feel well again, however, the kids are still on Texas time so the entire house is now waking up at 5:30 am. Makes for some long days....
Here are a few pictures from our adventure:

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Friday, November 25, 2011

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama 
 Hope you all had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving!
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An Almost-Thanksgiving Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for yet another yarn along. We are in Texas visiting my husband's family. I was certain we would be doing copious amounts of sitting around and so I brought several books to read and a (very) LOT of yarn to be knit. Just like my home life though, things come up, babies need attention, and what seems like a day with no plans turns into a fun, yet exhausting, day with little time to myself. I did manage to finish up 1Q84 and started reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See for my mama's book club. Quite a bit different than the surreal 1Q84, but so far I am liking it.
I have managed to make a bit of progress on Phoebe's dufflecoat. I finished up the back panel and am about halfway through one of the front panels. I thought that I would for sure finish the sweater while I was here and now I will be surprised if I even make it halfway through. Isn't that how it always is though?
Stop on by Small Things to see what others are reading and knitting this week! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feeling Thankful

Today, I am feeling thankful that our cat, Flash, has returned home! We are out of town visiting family, and our pet sitter called yesterday afternoon to say that Flash, who normally goes outside for about 10 minutes at a time, hadn't been seen for 24 hours. As yesterday afternoon turned to evening, and he still hadn't been seen, I had begun to feel fairly grim. Not coming home for more than a day is completely unlike this cat, and I started to imagine all of the possibilities that could exist for his fate.
Since we are nowhere near our home, I was feeling pretty helpless in the search for him. We had already alerted the local shelters and our neighbors. I had updated his microchip information. We couldn't do much but wait by our phones and hope for good news.... And, late last night, as I was in the process of making a "Lost Cat" flier for our pet sitter to hang around the neighborhood, our lovely pet sitter called us with the welcome new of his return.
Flash has been a part of my family for 12 years, ever since I took him in as a foster cat at 3 weeks old (and never had the heart to bring him back to the shelter), and the two of us have always had a special bond. I am giving thanks a few days early for his safe return home... even though I won't get to see him until Thanksgiving Day. Welcome home Flashy! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama 
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Truth About Fluoride?

This past summer Finn went to the dentist for the first time. The entire experience was miserable, and although I could write an entire rant post on that, I will just say that he was extremely scared/overwhelemed/freaked out, and there was absolutely nothing positive about his experience. However, while there, we did find out that Finn has defective enamel on all four of his back molars. Essentially what that means is that the enamel is splotchy, and doesn't cover his entire teeth; hence, about 50% of each molar has no protective coating on it and 3 or those 4 molars already have cavities on them. The dentist recommended not even bothering with filings, as with no enamel, he will continue to get cavities. Our current plan of action is to hold out until he has pain, and then put a crown on the painful teeth, and hope that he does not have defective enamel on his permanent teeth when they come in. Yikes, right? And, I happen to have the world's worst teeth anyways. No amount of flossing/brushing has seemed to prevent me from constantly needing dental work done. It is unpleasant and so expensive, and I can only hope for Finn's sake that he has better teeth luck than I.
So, the point to this long story is that the dentist recommended doing fluoride treatments every 6 months and brushing Finn's teeth with a fluoride toothpaste. Before going to the dentist we had avoided any toothpaste that contained fluoride as I had heard some negative things. I asked the dentist about the risks of fluoride; he looked at me like I was crazy, said it is perfectly safe, and that it is very important to maintain tooth health.
Portland does not fluoridate our public water supply. I however grew up in a town that did, and I had a slew of cavities the first time I went to the dentist. Plus, I always used toothpaste with fluoride as a child and apparently it did me no good. So, to put it lightly, I am not convinced of how much it helps... Doing some web base research resulted in many sites that claim the complete safety of fluoride. However, more than a few sites had a lot of negative things to say about this chemical that seems ot be present everywhere.
Several websites said that fluoride is extremely toxic; more toxic than lead and only slightly less toxic than arsenic. Some of the risks associated with fluoride are: acute poisoning, cancer, birth defects, depressed immune systems, formation of brittle bones, lowered IQ, and gastrointestinal problems. Several websites also talked about how prominent fluoride is, and that come companies are even adding it to infant formulas and other products geared towards children. Hmmmmm.
How can something that is said to be so toxic be everywhere and be allowed to be in my child's water, food and toothpaste? And why am I supposed to be taking him in for mouthfuls of it twice a year? But if I don't give it to him will he have teeth problems for the rest of his life?
I guess I am still fairly torn about this. Since we had that terrible dentist visit in August, I have had Finn brush his teeth with fluoride toothpaste only at night, and the other daily brushing are with a paste that does not contain the chemical. I always make sure he spits it out at night, but I have to wonder how much he is actually swallowing... I don't want his teeth to get any worse (of all people I know how horrible dental pains can be) but I would also rather see him need dental work than get cancer. I don't think I will bring him back for another fluoride treatment anytime soon, but then start to wonder if I am being neglectful.
What are your thoughts on fluoride? Do you give your child fluoride toothpaste or take them in for fluoride treatments? Did you have fluoride as a child? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny over at Small Things for another Yarn Along.  The past couple of weeks I have been doing more sewing than knitting (I finished up the first thing I sewed from a pattern last night!), but I have managed to crank out a couple of gnome hats for the kids, and I started a second sweater for Phoebe! This is another Debbie Bliss pattern, the dufflecoat, and since it only goes up to 12 months, I decided that now is the time. Miss P is already 8.5 months, so hopefully I can get this thing finished before she gets too big. The pressure is on! And, I realized I am on a green yarn kick. I bought the same colorway for the kids hats and Phoebe's new sweater (at different times), plus some more for Phoebe's stocking (which is on my to-do list).
In the world of reading, I got Haruki Murakami's brand new book, 1Q84, from the library last week and only have 10 more days before it is due. And, it is huge. 925 pages. Luckily, like everything Murakami writes, it sucks you in to the surreal story, and it goes by quick. Hard to put it down. I am about 550 pages in, and am hooked.
What are you reading? What are you knitting (or yarning, as Finn likes to say!)?
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Handmade for the Holidays

My friend Heidi, who blogs at Under the Humble Moon, is putting together a handmade holiday directory, a list of etsy shops where you can buy handmade presents for your family and friends for this holiday season. Buying handmade supports individuals instead of big corporations, is better for the environment, and the stuff is way cuter! If you have an etsy shop and would like to participate in the directory, click on the button above and talk to Heidi. If you are looking for some great places to buy some awesomely fantastic gifts, check out the directory and find some down-home mama-made goodies. Now if only I could find some time to stock up my shop..... Pin It Now!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Playful Learning: A Review

I recently had a chance to read through Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder by Mariah Bruehl. This book came highly recommended to me by Finn's preschool teacher (who is also my dear friend), and I am so glad that I read it. I actually enjoyed it so much that after I had to return it to the library, I immediately put this book on my wish list (and am hoping that I may find it under my Christmas tree this year). We own a lot of books at our house, and I get tons of hand-me-down reads from my mom as well. Almost everything I read comes from the library or was given to me by my mom. For me to actually want to purchase a new book means that I really, really liked it.
This book is geared towards either a homeschooling family, or families who want to spend time nurturing their child's educational development. The activities are developed for the 4 to 8 year old range. Bruehl breaks the book into chapters, each of which is a school subject: writing, reading, math, science, art, geography, and conflict resolution. Within each chapter she includes games and activities that teach aspects of each of these topics.... but in ways that are both interesting to the child and relevant to the real world. There are no boring worksheets or 'scenario' situations. The focus is on hands-on exploration and in sensory learning. Along with each activity comes a list of "books to inspire"; additional reading that relates to the learning activity.
This book is so well put together that I can't wait to put it in action in my own home. I don't homeschool Finn, but I do strongly believe in nurturing his learning, and try to include "educational" activities whenever I can . I put "educational" in quotations as I believe that almost everything a child does is truly educational, but I also want to encourage his learning in the traditional school-based subjects as well. Anyways, as soon as I ever find some time, I plan on doing some organizing and setting up several of the activities that are included in Playful Learning. Once I get a system down, I can rotate through, and offer different activities during different weeks.
If you have not yet gotten your hands on this book, please do! I would say to borrow it from your local library, but I am guessing that you will love it so much that you will want a copy of your own. I know that I do! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama 
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quick Tip: Freezer Compost

A few months back, Caroline, over at The Feminist Housewife, gave me a wonderful composting tip. She told me that she keeps her compost in the freezer to help eliminate odors and bug problems. We have big gnat and ant problems in Portland, so I was game to give it a whirl. We have been keeping our food scraps in our freezer for the past few months and I have been quite happy with the results. Since there is no smell or bugs, we only have to take it out to the compost bin once or twice a week, and when I dump the compost into the bin, it comes out in this nice frozen puck (without any oozing composting juices--ewww-- that always seemed to be created when our compost stayed at room temperature). The only downside is that is takes up valuable real estate in the freezer, but so far we have made the system work for us.
Do you compost? Where do you keep your compost before you take it to the bin? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Rhythm of Family: A Review

I am sure that most of you have already read Amanda Soule's newest book, The Rhythm of Family : Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasons. I, however, waited patiently on the library's hold list for several months before I got my hands on this one, so I just finally had a chance to read it a couple of weeks ago. And, like all of her other books, it is wonderfully creative and has many sweet ideas.
This book is broken down by months, and the things to make and do are seasonally related. There are some I can't wait to try out, like the nature field bags and field notebooks, as well as her beeswax bobbles and her flower essence lotion. A few seem a little beyond the capabilities of a normal household, or at least WAY beyond my family's capabilities (like making wood-carved leaf stamps) and a few are on the very basic side (like how to pack for a picnic). But, Amanda always has lovely ideas that inspire not only to try out some of her creation, but to create my own ideas that work for my family as well. I just don't know how she manages to mother 5 children, write books, craft and bake a zillion things, and never ever seems like she is stressed out. I need some of her mama-zen!
As with all of Amanda's books, I would highly recommend giving this one a peek (that is, if you haven't done so already!)


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Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday Finn!

Four years ago today I had my first child. He surprised me, arriving 3 weeks before his due date. Looking back now, the signs that he was coming early were obvious, but I think my mind was sort of in a state of denial and I had no idea. Mentally, I don't think I was quite yet ready to be a mother. I still needed a few more weeks (or months) to process how my life was going to change.
Oh, but this baby of mine was determined from day one, and was coming regardless of my readiness. And since this day, four not-so-long years ago, he has taught me so many things. He has taught me how to be a mother, he has taught me how important patience is, he has taught me how to find happiness in the simplest things and how to view my surroundings with innocence. He has shown me that four years, which used to seem like quite a while, can fly by in the blink of an eye before you have time to look back. He has taught me to take in as many moments as I can, and store them in my mind for a rainy day. He has taught me love. The I-love-you-more-than-I-love-myself-and-would-do-anything-for-you-love. And he has give me so much love back.
It is so amazing to watch a child, your child, grow and change and become a person. And even on the days when I think it can't get any worse, I go to bed with a full heart because I have this little person who I love beyond words.
Today, my little baby, my teacher of life, turns four years old. He has grown into such an amazing little guy and I am so happy to be on this journey with him
Happy birthday, to my favorite little man!
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Almost 4 and Pirates Galore

As Finn's 4th birthday is on Monday, we opted to have his birthday party today, on Saturday, so that more people could attend. Finn really wanted to have a party outside and at his favorite park. In Portland. In November. Although we so far have had a pretty mild fall, the rains set in a few days ago and today was cold (40 degrees) and lightly raining. Nonetheless, Finn and his fearless friends braved the elements to come out and celebrate at Finn's Pirate Party.
We kept it pretty simple, as the park and nature were the main entertainment, but mama did do some crafty preparations to spice things up. I made Finn a pirate crown, which I needle felted a jolly roger onto. I also made him some pirate flag shorts (which of course he had to wear long johns under today!). For decorations I made a pirate banner, and although decorations didn't do much for the picnic shelter, the banner as well as a couple of pirate flags are now adorning his bunk bed in his room. The pirate spirit lives on! For party favors, I whipped up some pirate-themed fabric bags and filled them with some eye patches I sewed from felt, as well as a few stickers, pencils and small toys.
Find had a great time and I think most of his friends did too, although everyone was a bit cold and ready to head home as soon as it ended. I think next year I will talk Finn into planning something inside.....

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Friday, November 4, 2011

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama 
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reducing My Impact: A Year Long Adventure. Month 7- Reducing Packaging

November is already underway, but I haven't had a chance to blog about my November goals for my reducing my impact project yet. November's focus will be to reduce the amount of packaging my family consumes. Some aspects of this have already been tackled (or, at least, I have started to tackle them) in previous months. For example, reducing my use of plastics has also helped to reduce packaging (I have been using package-free bar shampoo and buying more items in bulk). Supporting local has also helped, as local items often have little or no packaging because they are not being shipped far. But, this month, I will try to reduce even more of the packaging that I seem to be met with on a daily basis.
Some of my specific goals are to become even better friends with the bulk section at my store, making sure to either bring my own bags or to reuse the bags the store provides. I do really well with beans, lentils and rice, but I oftentimes opt for the prepackaged bags of flour, sugar, etc. because they seem to be less messy in my kitchen. I am just going to deal with the mess and get more organized. I have a bunch of containers for these baking items, so really, I just need to start putting them to better use. I am also going to focus on  buying more used goods, which usually have zero packaging (in fact, I just picked up a used bike for Finn's upcoming birthday present! Don't tell!). And, as the season of consumption is nearing, I am trying hard to make as many of my holiday presents as possible (yarn and fabric have very little packaging involved!). However,  I know that I don't have nearly enough time to make something for each person on my list, so I will have to do some store shopping as well.
I am also going to try to buy less packaged snacks, crackers, and bread, which means making more of my own (yum!) but which is also way more time consuming. And I have no idea how to make crackers. However, I know there is a limit to what I am able to give up due to time constraints and bodily cravings (aka, there is no way I am giving up my red hot blues addiction. Sorry Earth). But, I can do better. I never buy pre-packaged cookies or muffins, so I think making a batch of crackers and some loaves of bread every couple weeks should be manageable. Anyone have any great cracker recipes?
Do you have any great tips on how to reduce packaging? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yarn Along and A FINISHED SWEATER! (woot-woot)

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's yarn along. So, my awesomely spectacular news is that I finished my sweater for Phoebe! My first sweater EVER, and it was done on size 2 and 3 needles, so even though it is little, it took a long time. This was my first time picking up stitches, sewing on sleeves, and adding trim. I learned a ton. In the end, I thought it came out pretty darn well. I forgot to decrease on one of the front flaps, which made the right shoulder seam a little bunchy, but hey, if that is my worst complaint about this thing, I'll take it. The bad size is I made the 9-12 month size. Phoebe just turned 8 months yesterday, and it is already a bit snug. Apparently these weren't sized on chubby babies. Anyways, I plan to squeeze her into it for as long as I can. And now I am sweater-addicted and want to make her many more!
This week I have been knitting a simple hat for Finn... mindless and on size 7 needles, which feels like a world of difference from size 2's! I am addicted to that color green and actually bought more of that color yarn today. In books I am still reading Dragonflight, which I started a couple of weeks ago. I have read quite a few things in between, but have been taking my time on this. I am not quite hooked yet, but have made it halfway and hope to polish it off in the coming days.
I took a trip to the yarn store today and stocked up for my next few knitting projects. I'll give you a clue: One is for another sweater (already? yes!) and neither will be on needles smaller than a size 7!!

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our SUPER Halloween

When Finn decided he wanted to be Batman for Halloween (despite never reading a Batman comic or seeing a Batman movie), we decided that the whole family should be superheros. Todd was Robin, and me and Phoebe were just plain ol' nondescript super-heroes: I dubbed us Supermom (yes, finally!) and Super Phoebe.
Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween as well. Finn is already talking about plans for next year... I am just glad I am done making costumes for a while!

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