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Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday drive



I think the first thing I said when Greg brought up racing was something supportive like "And I think I will start shooting up heroin". Yes, his hobby was legal, but risky. And as the funny fates would have it, I have always been afraid of car crashes - phobic of driving at times, justifying my fear with crazy stats. But I grew up rural and learned how to drive and deal with white knuckles.

Let's just say that racing scares me. Greg's hobby gives me hives.

But I am not his mother, so he races.

headset

Yesterday we went on a drive up around Mt. St. Helens with Greg's car club. (Car scouts? Car team? Car comrades? I don't know what to call them.) I wish I could have snapped a good picture of Ms. Helens all dressed in snow. She was lovely. We were smack dab on her, and whenever I got a decent view, we would zip around the corner and she'd be gone.
Greg and the kids on the drive
I didn't know I could play cat and mouse with an active volcano.
Along the way
The kids were so tranquil and calm; this after a tumultuous trip home from church. Twenty five minutes after the last amen, and my kids were driving each other nuts in the way siblings do. I had serious doubts about climbing into another car, for FUN. But they were game. And sweet. The only way to travel

We stopped and um, hung out and visited with strangers along the way. It seemed a little funny to me, this caravan way of driving, but no one else seemed to be complaining so I kicked back, stuck my hair in my hat and enjoyed the ride.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Now you see it

Shhh, I don't want to get caught ratting my kid out here, but he caught the tooth fairy red-handed last night. He told me in confidence. She has blue wings, with a tooth tattoo.

We can't let that get out.

There were just a few kids left in his class with all their 'baby' teeth intact. This was a heavy burden - a burden he freed himself from with a mighty yank and a twist.

It made his mama proud.

So welcome to land of adult teeth, son.

Now, go brush 'em.


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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The new F* word

My 'babies' climbed in my lap this morning - all 100+ pounds of child - to snuggle with me while I petted their bedhead and talked up breakfast. I was busy yesterday with meetings and another doctor's appointment, soccer and coffee with a friend at night. It was nice to start the day together. Until we had to talk about the F* word. Again.

Zack has intuited that there is something magical about the middle finger. We have explained that while saying 'heck' and 'dang' may not embraced by all, gesturing with Mr. Middle could land him in Mr. H's office. I must have done a bang-up job, because mid-snuggle Zack cried out that he touched Lexi's finger, front and center. Like it was a private place. Like they were both dirty and guilty with their nasty, nasty hand brushing.

Once I explained that the mere touching of tallman was not in fact principal-visiting behavior, he calmed down and Lexi whispered in my ear that she knew what it meant. Always curious, I asked her to tell me more.

She whispered, salaciously, "F-U-L-C-H-E-N. It's very bad."

I looked at the clock. It wasn't even 7 am and here I was, defending digits and dispelling made-up curse words.

This is what I get for taking my 'kids to work with me' today. I am never bored.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I wanna be a real blogger

I was tagged today by Shelly at This Eclectic Life - my first meme. At once, I feel so validated and real - I am no longer a marionette blogger. Then again, there is the pressure. I am sure with careful examination many of the world's woes can be traced back to the times I failed to forward inane email messages; dropped the ball on chain mail dating back to the 80s. But this is a great way to push blogs on y'all so onward I go.

With no further delay, I present you with some blogs that have made me think, caused me to ponder. Check 'em out!

First up, Stephanie at Bad Mom. Yes, she is a real life friend that tempts me with chips and PTA, but she also writes a thoughtful, funny blog in its own right. (Make sure you click on her Flickr account - she is a world traveler-type.)

Next, check out Chicken and Cheese, by Mrs. Chicken. I always am touched by her honest essays about raising Poo - no false words here.

Then there is Jennifer of Creative Outlets Lab. I am proud to say I've known Jennifer since high school, when we were in a youth group together. Prepare to be blown away by her business smarts and savvy.
I discovered Kerrie at The Daily Headache via Chronic Babe, my resource for figuring out all things related to chronic illness and pain. Kerrie is adept at combining personal experience with great information and research about headaches, all without sounding whiny. Tough to do.

And last but not least, I give you Susan - actor, lutheran, and writer of Gray Matter, among other things. She is one witty lady with a lot to say.

Okay, that's five.
Go forth ladies and tag, when you get a chance. (These are busy folks!) And thanks for making my days a little more informed, a little brighter.
*****
Here are the rules:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.



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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bad attitude

I woke up grumpy and prone to tantrums. It was a rock throwing morning, as in I would like to cruise the unsuspecting neighborhood and launch rocks at things. Houses maybe. There was no justifiable reason for being so foul; knowing that did not help.

Perhaps it was because Lexi lied about her homework last night. Perhaps it was because Zack continued to talk loud, even after I reminded him I had yet another migraine. Maybe it was the migraine. Maybe Greg has been traveling too much.

I'm sure it was all of those things. But I have managed to smile, quite sweetly, during rougher times, so go figure.

I had to get a filling fixed this afternoon. I drove my poopy-pants down there, scowling. The hygienist was cheerful (she did know about the stones in my pocket) and she got straight to work. I sat in my sexy dentist glasses, growing numb, sitting still.

It didn't take long for me to tell myself to knock it off. Because really. This mood, it serves no purpose. It is dumb. By the time there was four hands digging around in my one mouth, the absurdity took over, and I started to laugh. And drool.

I am still a little stressed out and tired, but nothing a good glass of wine or bath can't fix. Or in a pinch, a filling.

I never said I was sound.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Many will enter


Shelly at This Eclectic Life is hosting the above contest for humorous posts. I've entered three of my favorites (yes, it's too late to tell me I am not funny) - what are you waiting for?
There are prizes...

Fruit

For many years, I thought I had lost my faith - that I no longer believed in God. I never uttered the words 'atheist', though many of my friends embraced Disbelief at the time. There was a bleakness and a sadness without God I couldn't get past, something that still made me want to believe. I may have misplaced my hope and lost my footing, but the yearning and desire never went away.

That is when I started going to church again. I had my reservations about giving my children an imperfect tradition, but I had more concerns about raising them unchurched; that they would grow up with nothing to hold on to, nothing to give meaning to their lives or hope after the grave.

Or, as small children, they'd miss out on lessons in loving thy neighbor. That sort of thing.

Zack memorized the fruit of the Spirit yesterday in perfect Zack style - he numbered the virtues, like a shopping list, things to remember.

When we were leaving the parking lot after church, he commended me for being kind when I let some kids pass in front of my car. (As opposed to running them down like I normally do.)

"I think that is #4."

When his special burger, just with Mom, was taking 'too long', he softly remarked that patience was actually the fourth fruit. He closed his eyes, sighed and tried self-control as well.

It was a quiet moment, with no fanfare. No angels sang and the skies certainly did not part (we were in Oregon after all) but it was clear my commitment to church, even when I am exhausted or frankly uninspired, has begun to shape my kids in tangible ways. Good ways. Certainly not to my credit, and beyond what I could have hoped for when I started attending Imago two years ago.

And I thanked God for not forgetting me, even when I ran away.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

You can call me Martha

Monday night I nursed a migraine into the wee hours of the morning. I haven't had one in a while; I couldn't figure out why my head was a poundin' and I was so queasy. I would doze off, toss and turn and think about the day. (I had just enough prednisone coursing through me to keep me awake.) And every now and then a thought would cross my mind: Did I just become vice president of my local PTA?
I know I went to the general election, with hot tea in hand and a nasty sore throat, to support Stephanie in her bid to take over the world. Or at least the PTA. (I don't think *they* know about her little chip problem.) Then there was a vacancy and a light-hearted threat from Zack's teacher and prodding and...



It's in the minutes; there's a paper trail. I am the co-vice president now. There's no backing out.

Not that I want to back out - I care about my kids and their school. Heck, I care about kids in general. If I had ran a real campaign, instead of a forced coup, I think It's about time... would have been a good slogan for this slacker mom.

It's the cultural iconology I am afraid of. I hear PTA, I think of Bree Van de Kamp and pearls. Polished and immaculate. Perfect kids and manicures. Cheerful and well-dressed.

So, I decided I need to revamp my look a little. Is the bow PTA-worthy or do I need a pouffy hairstyle? Something that screams I know how to make casseroles and I am not afraid of sharing them.

All kidding aside, it has been my fear of having to fit some cookie-cutter model of what a good mom, a good PTA leader, a good christian should be that has kept me away from stepping up and speaking out - from being the leader I could be. I imagine other moms feel the same way sometimes.

And that my friends, is not a good thing.



*****
Much to My Sjogren has been updated.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

More with the grr and the aargh

Zack and I are still an odd pair of sickies this week; he with the manly smoker's cough and I with the telephone operator nasal congestion. We are mucous-music to the ears. So, I did what feels right when the world seems bleak and I am spending too much quality time with a snotrag. I set aside my worries and partook in a little Buffy viewing while I was folding clothes. Meanwhile Zack was playing Jedi Knight with his invisible (do not say imaginary) brother, Jack. We were coping well.

Then we got creative. We played slayer - a cross between Jedis and Mommy's trash TV watching ways.

Here's how it works:

1. Someone gets to play Slayer. In this case, that would be me because I am the girl. The watcher rules are very clear on the gender of the slayer. If Lexi is around she can play Faith to my Buffy (minus the evil stage), but I will not go quietly into the night as some lousy vamp.

2. Identify vampires. At the end of season 7, Spike provides us with a rough sketch, to help us root out evil, or at least Angel. (They have a troubled past.)





Don't know Spike? Look here he is, in posable doll form. (No, that is not Billy Idol. Legend has it that he took his look from William the Bloody. Aka Spike. Am I going too fast here? Am I high on sudafed?)






3. Chase potential vampires around, tickling and dusting them. With a unseen stake, of course. Until the little vamp giggles or coughs up a lung.


Vampyre Zack



4. Provide a means for tortured vampires to regain their souls, or as Zack says, "Become good again."



(I tried to find a Angelus picture for you, but I get the feeling David Boreanaz just wants to look pretty, not undead.)


5. Wash your hands and return to the 'real world'. Whatever that is.

6. Hide your head in shame and threaten the first person that calls you 'Andrew' upon reading this post.




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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nineteen minutes

"To oppose something is to maintain it."
-Ursula K. Le Guin

Last week a boy with a learner's permit trotted through a mobile home park with a rifle in hand and an axe to grind and opened fire on his alternative high school - just minutes from where we used to live. It hardly made the news; he was unsuccessful. He had been 'inspired' by a documentary about Columbine. The principal once called Thurston High his home.

This is where I would like to hit pause; to go on to something witty and bright, but I've avoided this post for a day now and I know I won't feel like writing much else until it is out of my system. When I heard about the shooting in Gresham, Oregon, it hurt my heart. I was reading Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult and feeling raw. If you are new to this bestselling author, please be advised that she can break your heart. On the surface, Nineteen Minutes is about a school shooting and its aftermath. But it is so much more. It is also about bullying and being different, about raising a child and raising a monster. The writing is sentimental at times, but powerful. The fictional shooter, Peter Houghton, has been haunting me all week. I have woke up in the night, troubled. I don't think I will forget this character any time soon.

*****

I hate to comment on the Virginia Tech massacre - I don't want to cheapen its horror by my thoughts thousands of miles away. What do I know? I can't pretend to.

The national media attention is necessary and expected, but feels canned. Within hours, before parents could be notified and love ones could start grieving - before they identified the shooter's remains - there were fancy graphics and catch phrases. Since 2001, it seems like we like to give our nightmares an angle, broadcasting news like a movie trailer. We announce breaking stories, handing out rankings couched with words like 'the worst...' - like it's some sick award to win. I am not so sure this respects our dead, and perhaps it raises the bar for the next would-be killer, hungry for fame.

He sent a manifesto, mid-massacre. He wants us to remember him. I just don't know if we should, not like this.

I don't know that we can afford to point to his favorite song or to the crappy plays he wrote, like there's some big clue waiting for us. There will always be darkness with us. It leaves me sad, frustrated, impotent.

But I think we move forward, a little kinder, a little gentler.

We have to hope.

*****

FYI: Night (O the Joys) does this subject justice.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Starstruck

Last Thursday I schlepped my suburban troupe to the hip part of Portland to see Ariel Gore read at Powell's Books. I love her work (Atlas of the Human Heart, The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show), but the thought of meeting authors scares me, generally. I don't know why. I think it has something to do with the mythical proportions they inhabit in my brain and the fact that I can't string sentences together when the time comes.

I had other reasons to chicken out. Greg was out of town and I would need to drag the kids along or find a last minute sitter. I pondered this excuse and decided that if I can sit through two hours of soccer practice a week, they can repay me the favor (because kids love to think of others first, surely) and let me see my author. And I bribed them with a visit to the coffee shop where I would feed them sugar, to ensure their peaceful state of calm.

Lexi lost herself in the stacks, reading while clutching a baby doll she has suddenly rediscovered. Zack settled in next to me and drew my portrait. His attention to detail was stunning.

Yes, dear. I see you have captured the lines in my neck.

Yes, those are called wrinkles.

It was a long 20 minutes waiting, discussing in detail all my flaws in a public setting, but what's a little humiliation among mothers?

Ariel was glowing, very pregnant. She was funny and sincere. I tried to tell her that when I got my book signed, but I stammered instead, which is my way.

I drove home, intoxicated. I have been kicking around the idea that I want to be a writer since I was 8. I have spent years waiting for permission, for a sign, for the right time. What nonsense. All this drama and very little to show for it. I feel a little regret for being none too bright all these years, but better late than never I guess.

Check out: How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead. You won't be sorry.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oompa-Loompa alert

I am wearing tight jeans this week, the ones I would like to wear comfortably. I am not advocating the skanky Mom jeans look; I don't want to start a trend. God forbid. But I started taking Prednisone this week and I am determined not to gain more weight via the pill route. So I am eating lots of veggies and avoiding the Black Butte Porter my honey put in the fridge for me. I am avoiding the remnants of Easter Bunny fallout. I even refused to eat the crank-laced chips at Chipotle.

(That's a lie. I did eat some. Stephanie made me. Ok, she didn't make me. She lovingly shared her stash.)

My vise-cut jeans are a fail-stop, a reminder: pig out now and I will swell up real big like. The next thing I know, Johnny Depp will be sicking legions of Oompa Loompas on me, rolling me off to the mysterious juicing room. It's not pretty. Not at all.

I am sure there are more loving ways to cope with meds that pack on the pounds - wear big, baggy sweats or granny pants. But I am all out of love here. It's hard to be nice while chewing on carrot sticks.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wimps need not apply

I came in for a sandwich. I had just finished watching both kids' soccer practices, back-to-back, and had dropped Lexi off for Brownies - it was superwednesdayinsuburbianight- and I was hungry. I knew my girl would be too when I scooped her up.

Before I could even pick out the bread, the poor sandwich artist was in a funk. It was his birthday and he was feeling sorry for himself. Granted, I wouldn't want to spend my birthday at Subway, but I have heaved books around and taken finals on my glory day so I wasn't bound to start crying for him.

Then he started his treatise on the fall of marriage (he is lonely, no?) - that marriage is outdated and basically worthless. I could feel my left ring finger burning with evidence to the contrary, but I could see that sandwich man, pausing while he spoke, would not appreciate my tale of marital bliss. It would slow him down. Did I mention I was hungry?

Yet on he continued. He made it sound like my husband was probably carrying on with his other lady friend as I stood defending the sanctity of the institution. We hadn't even discussed the definition of 'everything on it' yet and he was starting to get under my skin. Fine. You don't want to believe someone who grew up with Brady Bunch digs marriage, more power to you. I get it. But denouncing all marriages as shams, worthless and a waste of time, while holding my 'veggie on oat bread with everything, except mayo' hostage is where I draw the polite line.

"It's funny you should mention all this today. It's my parents' anniversary - they've been married 38 years. They are out of town CELEBRATING."

I must have said it with authority because he finally stopped talking and got on with making my dinner. Or maybe it was the rabid drool on my chin. Suddenly he wanted me to go away so he could spend his last birthday hurrah harrassing fresh blood.

I often think it is pretty amazing that my parents met when they were 16, got married young, had babies and stuck together. To find the right person and to be the right person is difficult - marriage isn't for wimps.

And if being raised by parents that love each other, still, now, has shaped my rosy ways, so be it. Sure beats clobbering strangers over the head with cynicism any day.

Ammy and Papa

Herb and Donna

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

867-5309

We are not phone people. By that I mean, if possible, I will use other modes of communication before I choose a dial tone. I love email; prefer face-to-face. I never understood co-workers that called me instead of walking two short cubicle lengths to see me. I put off getting a cell phone because I feared it would be yet another reason for friends to hate me if I never answered it like a good cell phone owner should.

"You never answer your phone."

"You screen your calls, don't you?"

"I called you. You haven't called back yet." (Usually on my answering machine.)

When I try to explain my aversion to the phone, generally, that dates back to my teen years, I am misunderstood. No believes me when I say that I didn't spend the late 80s caressing a receiver. It sounds wrong. And this suspicious claim makes my phone-loving friends (you know who you are) question this personality quirk. I am gabby. I must be lying. I just must not like talking to them. See the dilemma? No winning here.

Sometimes I make friends with like-minded phone-phobes, or at least people that oblige my emailing ways. Is it weird that I email friends in town, within walking distance? Shouldn't I just pick up the you-know-what? Maybe. I pretty much save such moments for the people that will hunt me down if I refuse to pick up when they give me a jingle. Nothing like answering the phone to be yelled at. Doesn't help my affliction.

Now I give you Lexi - the reason I am making the sweeping WE are not phone-folks. Lexi never runs for the phone; she hardly knows how to answer it properly let alone how to call friends. I am looking into calling lessons with a master dialer, maybe at the middle school, because I am afraid that like it or not, one must know how to use the darn thing.

She asked me recently when she could get a cell phone. I had to laugh. A cell phone. For a 3rd grader that stumbles through leaving messages for people.

I think she'll launch a blog of own first. They are free, afterall.

And better.
*****
Try not to sing the song. I dare ya. I can't type 867 without trailing straight into 5.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Beta mom

While clearing the clutter (I say that like it's all done forever), I found evidence that I was once a go-getter, an overachiever. Cards filled with accolades that reassured me that my hard work was recognized. And I really needed it - I craved kudos.

I still do. But shortly after becoming a Mama, I found that Alexis wasn't impressed by my mad sense of humor or my test scores. Nope. No more glowing job reviews. She was colicky and despite all my very best efforts, for a couple of long months, she cried every day from about 2 pm until 7. Like clockwork. It was my first lesson in motherhood - I don't control anything. I never had. It was a rude awakening.

The pediatrician said it would come to pass, and sure enough, one day she stopped her afternoon shrieking and life was better.

In the years since, I have worked hard to be a competent mother. I blow it sometimes; sometimes I rock. I guess that will have to be enough.

*****

Ms. Alice Bradley, of Finslippy and Wonderland, was featured as a Alpha Mom on GMA this morning. I haven't read her response to her big TV debut, but I thought she done good. Real good. I wasn't totally in love with the feeling I got from the segment - I have never once got the impression that Ms. Finslippy thought she was superior or trying to put undue pressure on other moms in her columns. Quite the contrary. She, in real, blog life comes across as humble and kind. (Yes, I know I act like I know her personally. Shut up. I like her.) She may be an Alpha Mom but I will gladly follow her class act.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Get out of town


Seaside, spring break
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.

Greg just finished quarter-end, and come to think of it, year-end at work (sales-speak for HIGH STRESS and sometimes LONG HOURS). He was able to get one day off during the kids' spring break - and I prayed for decent weather so we could head to the beach.

And God doth provideth...or something like that.

It was amazing. Ahh...

(More pictures at Flickr.)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Easter past

I didn't go to church for about 10 years, save a random Sunday or two. Odd, considering I was once a ministry major - misguided, sure, but devoted.

One Saturday night, years ago, my friend Michelle and I were closing down the bar. Literally, like we did every weekend. She was a mother to three charming girls. Girls that didn't believe in Jesus, but certainly had high expectations of the Big Bunny Himself.

We were turning out the lights and locking up when Michelle realized that Easter was the next day. It was now Easter morning.

We raced to the only market open and dug through the leftover jellybeans and misshapen bunnies until we had enough supplies to outfit an army of Girl Scouts. And then we headed to a dingy bar, the only place in town still open, attached to a Chinese restaurant. It was a dive, but the bartender was a kind, older woman that ran a tight ship, so it would have to do. While the drunk got hosed and the lonely kept their own company, we created three baskets Hallmark would be proud of.

Easter was saved.

Whenever I get the kids' baskets out, you know, *wink* to assist Mr. E. Rabbit, *unwink* , I think of the all-nighter Peepfest.

We Moms somehow manage to pull something out of our hats. Even if there are stale peanuts involved.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

And counting

Twenty minutes to Lost and still no post.

All that comes to mind is the affirmation of the day, "I love spring break. I love spring break." Followed by: "Quality time with my kids = a youthful glow and longevity."

You're not buying it either, I can tell.

But after one Girl Scout meeting, two soccer practices and 3 million denied requests to play Jedi Star Wars, just a little longer, I think I am ready to tuck these four weary limbs in bed and call it a night.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bleeding heart

Last spring, a freckled-face boy found his way to my door. And my heart. This isn't some clever lead into how I adopted a fluffy mutt. This is a real boy that I will call D.

D spends most his days alone, wandering around the neighborhood, hanging out pretty much with who will have him. He is now in second grade, young and vulnerable, with no discernible supervision or rules. He rings the doorbell morning, noon and night.

Once he showed up here with a 3 or 4 year-old in tote and a puppy, in the pouring rain. He was locked out. I still don't know who the tiny tyke was, but the next day, I went to the school and spoke to the school counselor. Her expression betrayed the truth - my instincts were right. He is a boy living a rough life.

He is a foster child. His parents are in and out of jail. He has diabetes, yet is often hungry, missing meals. I give him cheese, hope for the best.

He came to Zack's party, and didn't want to leave. It was the first time a family member came to my door and met me. He hung his Star Wars medal on his wall. He didn't explain to his family that I gave it to him for being a faithful friend.

As I worry, sometimes I resent. I resent the constant interruption. I resent feeling powerless over his situation. I resent the way he doesn't respect my rules, the way he strikes out at my kids when I say he must go home. I resent that he won't go home, not really, but will roam about. I resent my bitter feelings. What kind of mother harbors hardness towards a kid? What kind of Christian?

His sad eyes devour me; he is so lonely. My throat hurts when I think about him.

Summer will be here soon. I pray for patience and wisdom.

Ding dong. Ding dong. Ding dong.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

He haunts me


Darth, coffee-style
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
One week later, and I still see Darth Vader everywhere I turn. Even early in the morning.