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Britney Spears Would Be So Proud

We all have flaws in our character and if you say you don't, there it is. There's your flaw. You lack self-awareness.

I have many, many, MANY flaws, of course. I'd put "lets words fall out of mouth before thinking" at the top of that list.

For Alexis, that list would start with "can't see the grey area." What I mean by that is that her world is very black and white. There is no grey. For example, if her cheer coach says the girls need to stand with their hands on their hips between cheers, by god, the child is going to stand with her hands on her hips. A swarm of bees could land on her forehead and shout "slap us and we'll give you $1 million!"  and she would not move her hands because RULES, PEOPLE. She can't figure out why other people don't see everything as black and white right along with her.

I've sort of tried to help her understand that sometimes a little grey is OK, but then I realized something really important. It's EXHAUSTING constantly worrying about what other people are doing wrong. If she continues the behavior, eventually she's going to wear herself out. She might sleep for more than a few minutes when that happens!

In the meantime, sometimes I sort of bend the black and white for her. For example, when she asked why the other girls on her cheer squad didn't have their hands on their hips the whole time, I answered, "because their feet were itchy." It was an answer that made absolutely no sense and it confused the poor kid so much she forgot what rules she wanted enforced. I have also proven to her that I can walk around with my flip-flops on the wrong feet, that nothing bad will happen if you color outside of the lines, and that sometimes you can talk loudly in the library.

More notably, I try to challenge her to break away from the black and white once in a while.

A very interesting place to challenge the kid was at the Great Lakes Science Center. The entire upper floor is filled with hands-on activities that allow you to see the laws of science in action. You can create a bubble wall, but only if you pull on the lever slowly and evenly.

You can watch smoke turn into a tornado if conditions are right.

You can balance a beach ball on a gust of wind if you follow the instructions.

Law after law is described in a poster and then proven with a hands-on display. In challenging Alexis to see the grey, I suggested that she see if there were any displays that worked even if you didn't follow the directions. The idea was for her to see that you absolutely can put together that bookcase from IKEA without looking at the little pictures and trying to figure out what they mean, you just have to apply yourself. And drink a lot, probably.

The rule she was quickest to bend was the one that said not to touch any people while touching this thing.

So that "bend a rule" thing backfired. I ended up getting shocked by a super giggly rule bender.

It wasn't until we moved to another floor that Alexis truly embraced the rule bending mentatlity. There is currently a LEGO display at the Great Lakes Science Center that features lots of awesome like this.

Alexis, as a human being under 200 years of age, did what anyone would do in her position -- she ran in and started to build at the designated workstations. She grabbed big blocks, little blocks, all of the blocks, but then she noticed that she needed some yellow blocks in order to finish the pattern she had started.

It was no big deal. All Alexis had to do was walk around the corner to another bin filled with LEGOs.

She was out of sight for all of about two seconds before she came running back and asked to show Mila something. I obliged and then followed them.

Alexis found a rule to bend.

"Mom, look!" she said. "Mila is driving! She's not old enough to drive!"


I Love Pittsburgh Best, But Sometimes Fun Is A Bit Further Away

Sponsored by TourismOhio. Opinions are my own.

Imagine a place where fine art is accessible.

Imagine a place where dreamsof trips to the moon can happen with your feet firmly on Earth.

Imagine a place where you can walk on water or relax under the shade of succulents.

Imagine a place where sharks swim amongst the humans and fish photobomb your kids.

Imagine a place where larger than life rock stars shrink to mortal sizes.

Now imagine that all of this were just 90 minutes away from home.

Because it is. Yinz, this is Cleveland.

Now, hold up. I know you have thoughts about the land of the Browns.

But do those thoughts go past football and really look at the city?

Pittsburgh, you have a whole lot in common with Cleveland. I've lived in both places and while Pittsburgh holds my heart between its three rivers, Cleveland does indeed rock.

Both cities are full of hard-working people, terribly inconvenient road construction, and a number of great places to visit.

While we've got Phipps, they've got the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

Phipps does a great job of creating outdoor spaces indoors. The Cleveland Botanical Gardens does a great job of creating magical outdoor spaces.

We have the Carnegie Museum of Art, but it simply can't compete with the Cleveland Museum of Art. Free admission makes Cleveland's version instantly more accessible, and then that theme is expanded by the way the security guards interact with visitors. Instead of making you feel that your children are not wanted, sometimes you will find a guard who will engage with kids and help them understand the importance of what they are seeing.

Within the Pittsburgh Zoo, a world class aquarium can be found. It's a fantastic space, but the nooks and crannies of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium will leave you with an appreciation for the architecture and a love for the interactive exhibits.

And then there's the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Sorry, yinz. We can't compete with exhibits that lead to moments like this.

She's listening to "Hey, Good Lookin'" by Hank Williams, by the way. All kids should take a moment to appreciate the classics, don't you think?

There's far more to Cleveland than a crappy football team. I swear it.


Baked Eggplant and Spinach

For anyone planning to have a baby anytime soon, I highly recommend having a due date at the end of May. There is nothing but fantastic to be had when your maternity leave conveniently lines up with summer.
Until fall shows up and ruins the party, that is.
Alas, the party is over and I am returning to not being home until 7:00 each night. That means it's time for the husband to start making dinner again. That also means it's time for me to remind him to make some of my favorite stuff PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
Start with this, sir. I first posted the recipe in 2011, but it has been one of my favorite dishes for years and years.

Baked Eggplant and Spinach

1 Eggplant, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Spinach (If frozen, use one package. If fresh, use as much as you can fit into a produce bag.)
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup (or more) shredded cheese

Slice the eggplant into 1/3 inch pieces.

Coat each side of the eggplant slices with olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt. Place in the oven under the broiler (low, if you have a choice). You can use a cookie sheet if desired, but I like to put it directly on the rack.

While you're waiting for the eggplant to cook, cook the spinach. I prefer to steam it, but it doesn't really matter.

When the eggplant is lightly browned on top, flip it over and allow the other side to cook. It takes about 5 minutes per side, but oven temperatures vary, so keep an eye on it. (Pro tip: If the eggplant seems a little dry after cooking the first side, feel free to slap some more olive oil on the uncooked side before putting it back into the oven.)

Once the eggplant is lightly browned and softened, remove it from the oven. Place a layer of eggplant in the bottom of an oven safe dish.

Add a layer of cooked spinach.

Add a layer of marinara sauce, and then repeat the layers until you run out of eggplant.

Then look at how amazingly healthy you're being and realize there isn't enough protein happening. Fix that with some shredded cheese on top of your last layer of marinara.

I'm a fan of mozzarella and provolone, but anything works.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until it is warmed all the way through. Then turn the broiler on high and make some quick magic.

Whoever first figured out that burnt cheese is the greatest thing ever deserves a medal. We fight over that stuff at my house.

I like this as a side or a main course exactly as it comes out of the oven. The husband, however, likes to put a huge serving of it on a hoagie roll.


It's good no matter what.