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The Chocolate Chip Diet

July 2015 086My students often express disbelief that my well-worn, purple “Birth Matters” metal water bottle contains only water. I don’t ever drink anything with caffeine in it and people often marvel at my level of energy and my ability to get things done, while still also getting plenty of sleep every night. While I don’t drink caffeine, I have had a little secret: chocolate chips. For about three years or so, at around 3:00 in the afternoon I start feeling the urge for a little pick-me-up and find myself with my hand in the kitchen cupboard collecting a handful of chocolate chips for a little snack. Not just any chocolate chips either, but delicious, dark chocolate, 60% cacao, bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips. In talking to other mothers of young children, I came to realize that I’m not alone in my chocolate chip habit and that it may be a common, secret way of getting a caffeine boost without drinking coffee or tea. (I also learned that feeling a need for sugar at around 3:00 in the afternoon may be an indicator of adrenal fatigue.)

Additionally, after eating oatmeal for breakfast every day for my entire parenting career, at some point I also learned I could dramatically up-level the awesomeness of my morning oatmeal by adding chocolate chips to it as well. Rather than being solely a bowl of oatmeal, my morning oatmeal became an experience. Homemade vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, coconut oil, and pecans really kick it up a notch!

In additional to my chocolate chip habit, here are two other things about me: I’ve never been on a diet and I’ve always been relatively happy with my body. About six weeks ago, I realized that I seemed to be hanging on to 10 extra pounds of pregnancy weight and it was starting to bother me. I started out my pregnancy with Tanner about 10 pounds over where I would have liked to be and I’ve been feeling a little “pudgy” or doughier than I’m used to feeling. I decided that I wasn’t interested in limiting what I eat, but that perhaps, just perhaps, the handfuls of chocolate chips per day could go. I stopped eating them in my oatmeal (switching to just vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar) and in the afternoon and…what do you know? Last week I reached my pre-pregnancy weight. That’s right. I went on a chocolate-chip diet and lost ten pounds in a little more than a month! 😉

Okay, so this “diet” could be pure coincidence. I also stopped eating dairy fairly recently because I’ve been struggling with discoid eczema on my arms and legs as well as the scalp psoriasis that I’ve dealt with for 20 years (and that a little voice inside me kept saying would get better if I would stop eating dairy). I’ve also kept up an awesome core yoga practice since the spring equinox that has done a really marvelous job of toning up my “mummy tummy.” Also, Tanner is nine months old now and I usually do hit my pre-pregnancy weight right around nine months. However, the connection between no chocolate chips and the magical disappearance of ten pounds seems like a possibility…

(I also learned how to make these awesome buttermints and make them every week, with lots of cocoa powder in them…)

Cahokia Mounds Mini Vacation

At the beginning of May, we took a family mini vacation to the St. Louis area. We like to take family adventures each year, but with our current car-hating baby, options are limited. So, we decided to explore some things relatively nearby that were still new for us. We stayed at a Drury Inn in St. Louis (Drury Inns for mini-vacays are our family’s tradition. We like the free breakfast and dinner and the adults enjoy the free tequila sunrises and wine!). We picked a suite this time as a sort of “treat,” but we quickly realized that our family is actually big enough that we need a suite, it isn’t just a novelty indulgence! We stopped at Laumeier Sculpture Park on the way into the city. The kids were pretty whiny about the sculptures and Mark and I finally had to concede that we also have differing expectations of what counts as art (sticking a huge tire halfway in the ground is what we would call “playground equipment” and not “Earthmover,” an art installation of such delicacy as to not allow climbing on it, lest we disturb its majesty…). After a fairly short time at the park, we headed to a friend’s house where we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon. It was really great and relaxing to have a “base” to retreat to like this, rather than hustling and bustling and having to live out of our car. I lounged on her couch nursing Tanner while our boys played, Alaina visited the many pets, and our friends made a taco buffet for lunch. It was a perfect day!

The whole time were were gone the weather was absolutely perfect. The following morning we headed to Cahokia Mounds in nearby Illinois. Cahokia Mounds is the site of the largest earthwork in the Americas and the largest, most complex “prehistoric” native site north of Mexico (and larger than London at that time). I have always felt a connection between my own sculptures and those of ancient people and I enjoyed spotting some familiar figurines in the museum.

After climbing to the top of Monks Mound while babywearing and breastfeeding and enjoying the view, we were ready for lunch. (We had a short time in which we were the only people on top of the Mound and it was really cool!) The kids are obsessed with Golden Corral after going with their grandparents on our last visit to the Chicago area. So, we went to the Golden Corral in Collinsville (I had a strategically planned birthday coupon for a free buffet too!) We were there at that terrible time for buffets—not lunchtime and not dinnertime—and so most of the food was on the cold and dessicated side, which was disappointing. The kids ate too much cotton candy and I ate a pile of mini steakburgers (after forcing the attendant’s hand by taking the very last dehydrated sad burger and thus forcing him to put out the sizzling new ones I spotted him hoarding on the grill). By the time we got back to the hotel, the last thing we had room for was hot dogs and tequila, but we ate them anyway!

The next morning we decided to go to the zoo, which was Alaina’s special wish. Unfortunately, we had a very difficult time getting there and parking due to road closures and full parking lots. We managed eventually, but didn’t have very much fun. I don’t like zoos at all, the boys were bored, and Alaina threw a screaming fit about wanting a stuffed monkey. We hit some highlights of the zoo and then left for Jilly’s Cupcake Bar. I got it into my head somehow recently that I needed a cupcake bar experience for my birthday (and for my 100 Things list this year). I looked for cupcake bars in St. Louis and amazingly enough there was a two-times winner of Cupcake Wars right there! This was one of the most exciting parts of our trip. 😉

After cupcakes for lunch, we decided to go to the American Girl store. I’ve been to the big store in Chicago and the small store in Overland Park, KS, but never to the one in St. Louis, so also as part of my birthday, I wanted to check it out. I had my eye on one of the new mini dolls. Unfortunately, we hit terrible traffic (it was 2:30, so we’re not totally sure why) and had to slog around for extreme amounts of time, some of which with a screaming baby (and a mother scrambling over seats and trying to nurse him in the car seat). We got off on a random off ramp and wandered until we got to the mall, which was much better than continuing to sit on the interstate.

May 2015 152When we left the store, we hit more bad traffic on the way and were running out of gas (and I was being very critical of this fact). We were also starving and worried about missing our free dinner! However, Mark is a good, calm city driver and we made it back to the hotel with time to space and only a mildly further car-traumatized baby.

We all got into the hotel hot tub together every night which was fun (the boys also swam in both the indoor and outdoor pools) and binge-watched a Naked and Afraid marathon, which we’d never heard of before. The final morning of our trip we enjoyed the free breakfast one more time and then headed out of the city, stopping at a different friend’s house for a birthday lunch on our way home. Again, this was a nice, peaceful, relaxing way to travel–so nice to have a comfortable, welcoming space to visit in, rather than trying to coordinate going out to lunch or something (hard to have quality catching up time with a bunch of kids in a public place!).

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Happy Thanksgiving!

“Come into my lap and sit in the center of your soul. Drink the living waters of memory and give birth to yourself. What you unearth with stun you. You will paint the walls of this cave in thanksgiving.”

–Meinrad Craighead

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This year I’m thankful for my sweet new baby as well as for my other children, a husband who is home with us, the opportunity to pursue creative work together, my parents who live so close and who are so helpful, our first nephew who is so smiley and cute, my friendship with my sister-in-law, and our “tribe” and community of friends. This year has been a really formative year for us and one in which we have completed a lot of significant projects and focused our energy in building our creative business together.

Several years ago on Thanksgiving, I wrote a “top ten things I love about having a baby” post about Alaina. I need to write one about Tanner too, since he is a much younger baby on Thanksgiving than she was. I still identify with a lot of the points though:

10. Having a baby! Being one of the babymamas. Being a mamatoto. It just feels really right to have a baby on my hip and at my breast.

via Top Ten Things I Love About Having a Baby | Talk Birth.

It is my tradition to share my “Rest and Be Thankful Stage” post on Thanksgiving as well:

During my first labor, I experienced what Sheila Kitzinger calls the “rest and be thankful stage” after reaching full dilation and before I pushed out my baby. The “rest and be thankful stage” is the lull in labor that some women experience after full dilation and before feeling the physiological urge to push. While commonly described in Kitzinger’s writings and in some other sources, mention of this stage is absent from many birth resources and many women have not heard of it.

via The Rest and Be Thankful Stage | Talk Birth.

As a thank you to our Brigid’s Grove customers, we’re offering free shipping for United States customers in our etsy shop through December 1st. For our international customers, we have a thank you discount code for 10% off: SMALLBIZSATURDAY.

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Illinois Trip

Last Wednesday, we got up at 4:00 in the morning to leave for a trip to the Chicago area to visit Mark’s family. We haven’t seen them since 2011 and it was high time for a visit! We originally planned a longer (and more expensive) trip in July that included some sight-seeing (and American Girl shopping), but ended up re-scheduling that trip due to my being in Kansas for my nephew’s birth and because we’d made some foolish decisions in choosing the July dates for the trip in terms of the end of my school session with paper grading work, etc. Luckily, I’d gotten 100% refundable train tickets in July and all of our other reservations were easily cancelled too. This revised trip was solely for visiting relatives rather than rolling a mini-vacation into it. It turns out that train travel in September was only $250 for all five of us, rather than the $450 we’d paid in July! (Good to know for future travel dates.) We took Amtrak from St. Louis to Chicago and then walked to the Metra station which took us to Mark’s family’s town in the Chicago-area suburbs.  We opted to travel with backpacks only to make the walk and the train ride easier and it was a good choice that proved we could do backpack-only travel (we actually packed more than we needed and could have traveled even lighter!). I did end up buying a heavy sculpture at a cool store (Ginger Blossom) and things like new shoes for the boys at a $5 Below store and thus having to borrow a duffel to take home, however (this was optional though and I could have chosen not to buy them or shipped them to myself instead). We hadn’t realized when booking the trip that the Metra connection back to Chicago on a Sunday morning didn’t start until after we were supposed to be at Union Station and so we ended up needing my father-in-law drive us to the city on Sunday morning, which was a hassle for him and I felt bad for making him have to do it! However, in general, we are big fans of train travel and I’d recommend it to people with little kids (and husbands with back problems that make long drives really, really hard on him). I always feel very capable and adult when I successfully pull off a trip—especially when it includes walking with three kids for a mile in downtown Chicago!

The kids got to meet two cousins for the first time—Mark’s sister’s son and Mark’s cousin’s little daughter. It was funny to see how much our little nephew looked like Lann when he was little! And, he has the same face shape and smile Mark had when he was a little boy. No one took any pictures that had me in it, so it looks like I wasn’t even there! This is one of those in-lieu-of-scrapbooking posts and so below is a brief gallery of pictures from the trip. If you click one, it will open up larger and you can see the captions.

I am leaving again in ten days to go to Kansas for the Gaea Goddess Gathering. I really don’t like the revved up/gotta catch up feeling of getting home from a trip (and getting ready to leave on another one). Today I have been snappy, irritable, and tense and my mind is racing with various to-dos. It is hard to feel fast-forwarded through the first part of September, when there are so many things to take care of at home, for my classes, and inventory to prepare for my booth at GGG.

I’m 33 weeks pregnant today and feeling kind of physically “weighted down.” I don’t know how much I actually weigh anymore because I kind of don’t want to check! It is hard to get up and down and I keep sleeping on my back involuntarily and waking up with a seized up feeling in my sacrum as well as round ligament pain. I feel like I’m having trouble eating enough of the right foods at the right times. It is something that I neglect until I am low-blood-sugared out and crabby and headachy. I have this issue when I’m not pregnant too, but I feel like this pregnancy has been the most difficult for me in terms of getting enough to eat at the appropriate time, rather than when I’m desperate and kind of freaking out. I have loads of practice contractions, I swear every 15-20 minutes all day long, and the baby has been doing short stints of practice breathing as well as lots of bumping and jumping. I still occasionally feel like it could possibly be twins (why do I continue to have this weird neurosis, I wonder?), because of a couple of things that feel unusual about his movements—like hiccups being in two different places or dramatic movements/”rolling” limbs sort of sensations—as well as how lumbering I feel in general. Only one baby though!

I miss my Sacred Pregnancy class, because it was the thing I was doing to connect to the baby and to being pregnant. Now, I’m back to feeling more like he is a “deadline” than a new person! It is unbelievable how many things there are still left to do and take care of before he is born. Today, I found myself ordering birthday presents, planning Lann’s 11th birthday party and trying to squeeze the party in somehow between my GGG trip, my mother blessing ceremony, and my aunt, cousin, brother, and sister-in-law’s visit at the end of the month. These are all good things, but I kind of just want to run away into the woods and sit on a rock. Other than our fall women’s retreat, the end of my classes, and a work party at our house, I have most of October blocked out as rest time and primarily unscheduled for anything much else. I have had to work hard to maintain this boundary and say no to other potential scheduled activities in October-December. And, handily, I’m almost completely done with Christmas shopping already!

Time to pick back up our work on new and ongoing projects and also getting inventory prepared for our upcoming booth…

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Magic House Day Trip

This is one of those posts that is in lieu of keeping a scrapbook!

As one of their prizes for the summer reading program at the library, the kids got free tickets to Magic House, a children’s museum in St. Louis,. In an unusual stroke of convenience, three of our St. Louis area friends (two of which have Magic House memberships already) were all available to meet us there on the same day at the same time (when does this ever happen without major machinations?!). And, the kids’ best friends from our own town were also able to go and met us there. It is a chaotic, loud, and crazy place to meet if you think you are going to get any quality friend visiting in, but it was a lot of fun for everyone and I’m still a little in shock that it worked out so well to meet everyone! I’ve never been there before (our kids went with Mark a couple of years ago), so I staggered around in kind of a sensory overload daze looking at everything. Thank goodness my friends were familiar with the place and could steer me around when I stood still for too long. I expected that our families would end up getting separated from each other at some points–too many people to coordinate all walking around together–but I didn’t expect to divide by age more than family. So, I ended up following Alaina around to the sections she wanted to go to with my two friends who also have little children and Mark ended up taking the boys around to the parts they wanted to go to with our two friends that have bigger children and sometimes we all overlapped!

Because I was mostly with Alaina, I don’t have many pictures of the boys doing cool stuff, but here is a gallery of the few pictures I did get from our expedition:

After using our free tickets for Magic House, we then took a quick trip to Hobby Lobby (despite wishing to boycott, they were right on our way and we had things we needed to get!) and unashamedly went through the line as five separate transactions thus getting five 40% off coupon purchases. The kids have never been to an IHOP and there was one right there, so we decided to go there for dinner before leaving the city. Handily, kids eat free at IHOP from 4-10. I had no idea, so that was a nice surprise! However, the power went out shortly after we placed our order and resultant delay in getting our food meant that we got five dinners, plus bonus plates of toast, happy face pancake, and lemonades for the road for $7 total. I think this was officially the cheapest little day trip we’ve ever been on! (The waitress said the lemonades were because we were the only people who were nice to her about the wait.)

Me to kids while waiting at IHOP as they were getting antsy and writhing around: “this is what is called a public place.”

Alaina, loudly: “no, this is called a BUTT place.”

Apparently, many of hours of fun at Magic House do not contribute to beautifully behaved three-year-olds, because after this incident, she also peeked over at other diners and stuck her tongue out at them when they waved nicely to her. At least she was useful in getting 40% off by going through the line with her little handful of money at Hobby Lobby. 😉

Year in Review (according to Facebook anyway!)

From Facebook’s year in review feature, here were my top 20 moments of 2013. Some of them are pretty right on, others are unintentionally hilarious…

January

Working on her own birthday cake!

Photo: Working on her own birthday cake! :)

February

15 years ago today, my sweetie asked me to marry him! I love the life, home, and family we’ve built together.Photo: 15 years ago today, my sweetie asked me to marry him! I love the life, home, and family we've built together, Mark Remer! <3

March

Today marks my eighth anniversary as an LLL Leader and it feels fitting that this month LLL of Rolla welcomed a new Leader! I never thought I’d see the day when we actually had THREE co-Leaders here in town. I’m so excited! When I began, I didn’t how long I’d keep doing it and I’ve had a lot of discouraging rough patches where I felt like giving up, but now I suspect I might end up as a “lifer.” I’ve logged over 1200 contacts since my accreditation, I’ve learned so much from the mothers I’ve worked with, and I continue learning new things all the time. I’d hoped to have a chance to finish a blog post today in honor of the occasion, but I’m bogged down with end of the session work instead. So, here’s to all the amazing women I’ve had a chance to meet, help, become friends with, and learn from!

(really close to 2000 contacts since accreditation now)

March

I was asked to be a permanent contributor on the Feminism and Religion blog and I feel pretty proud of myself about that.

March

My blog hit 400,000 hits today and my FB page hit 1700 “fans” (up from just 1300 in November!) Those both make me happy.

(now almost 600,000 and 2200)

(not sure why so many “big events” for March)

April 5

At Columbia College Main Campus for a faculty conference. Had to get a photo by iconic Rogers Gate in front of St. Clair Hall to post in my class!

Photo: At Columbia College Main Campus for a faculty conference. Had to get a photo by iconic Rogers Gate in front of St. Clair Hall to post in my class! :)

April

First day of Shannondale Craft Camp felt like a success! We did it anyway.

(this was immediately after my grandma died. It is an event we work all year on and we proceeded with it anyway, while my mom was still in California)

April 29
Today, Alaina went to the Dr for the first time ever to have a pre-op checkup (for her tooth work on May 14). When we left, she kept repeating the doctor’s verdict over and over and it was adorable! 🙂 (click for video via FB)


May 

Happy Mother’s Day!
Photo: Happy Mother's Day! :)

(this one is only hilarious if you know how hard we had to work to prop up my iphone to take this picture! This was actually taken after our small family home memorial service for my grandma before we went to California for the large one)

May 

I guess it wasn’t so “little” of a story about my class–just found out it was front page news! The Columbia College PR rep also emailed me about it!

June
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June

Woohoo! Now, THAT’S what I’m talking about. Tonight’s wild raspberry adventure was pretty productive!
Photo: Woohoo! Now, THAT'S what I'm talking about. Tonight's wild raspberry adventure was pretty productive!

July
Not sure what exactly I’m thinking after our big CA trip this year, but I just booked a room for a mini-vacation to Arcadia for our 15th wedding anniversary on the 25th! The last time we went to Elephant Rocks was when I was pregnant with Lann–time to go back and this time bring THREE kids with us! Rather than go with a chain motel, I reserved a “third floor apartment” at the historical Arcadia Academy. I think it is going to be super fun!

July 

Fifteen years ago today we got married in the rain! Today, we got home from our mini vacation to Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut Ins.
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August 

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Screen shot just from this weekend. 😉

After 18 years with Mark and almost ten years of boy-momming, they’ve finally rubbed off on me–just now I danced around the kitchen in genuine triumph and excitement because I beat Nerezza the Assassin in Knights and Dragons. ;-D

(side note: Facebook is correct that this was a pivotal life event, because I’m still playing this game—indeed, I’m over level 100 now and the Guild Master of my guild!)

October

Lann’s bday choices courtesy of Skyler, Jenny, Shasta, and Sean arrived this afternoon! A small cotton candy machine and a blue morph suit (for making movies and using himself as a blue screen). We’ve made cotton candy with Werther’s and peppermints so far!

Photo: Lann's bday choices courtesy of Skyler, Jenny, Shasta, and Sean arrived this afternoon! A small cotton candy machine and a blue morph suit (for making movies and using himself as a blue screen). We've made cotton candy with Werther's and peppermints so far! :)

October

Zander is a playdough master!
Photo: Zander is a playdough master!
November

We’ve spent ALL day on a major household reorganizing project converting our extra bedroom into Alaina’s room!!!
Photo: We've spent ALL day on a major household reorganizing project converting our extra bedroom into Alaina's room!!! :)
November

All my kids skated for the first time ever at playgroup at the skating rink today! (We’ve been going to said rink for playgroup once a month for about 7 years, so this is a big deal!)

Photo: All my kids skated for the first time ever at playgroup at the skating rink today! (We've been going to said rink for playgroup once a month for about 7 years, so this is a big deal!)

(they all got skates for Christmas and skate all over the house now)

November

My sister already outed my Thanksgiving shame, so I might as well too. Several hours in to our family gathering yesterday, I noticed my shirt was on backwards. (The “shame” being that Mark had already expressed puzzlement over me having had my pj shirt on backwards on two different occasions this week and also gone to class with inside-out undies on.) Then, as I was switching the shirt around in prep for family photo op, she came running in to show me…the tag sticking out of the front of her own shirt! What would Thanksgiving be without an opportunity for fun family ridicule as well as thanks?! ;-D

(this moment making the final slot on my FB “top 20 moments from 2013” auto-generated list was the icing on my shame-cake!)

It is funny to me how many of these moments did not make it into blog posts and for that I feel grateful for Facebook (I guess). I’m a personal archivist at heart. I love the opportunity to remember, to not forget things, and to capture slices of my life and world.

I also wanted to mention the cool video slideshow year-end tribute that our friends made of all of our work party projects over the past two years. Pretty incredible: Work Party Tribute | Our Hand-Built Home.

(clicking the screengrab below should take you to the video too)

None of our pewter-casting pix or updates made FB’s list, but that was a pretty great part of 2013. My husband quit his regular job in July and we’ve been enjoying our home-based life ever since. Our sculpture and pewter-casting collaboration has been very fun and rewarding. This year as a whole has been a creativity-rich one.

Notably absent from my FB moments too are any mentions of my own classes (either those I teach or take) or of the women’s rituals/ceremonies I priestessed (I guess because that concentrates in my other blog) or birth-related stuff in general (because that’s all on this blog).

And, on Thanksgiving this year my brother and his wife announced that they’re having a baby! This is probably the best moment of 2013! More about this soon…

Happy New Year!

Oh, and after getting this post ready and scheduled, I got a year-end summary from WordPress also…

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 220,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 9 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The 12 Days of X-Files Christmas

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Dressed up as Scully on Halloween, 2010

I’ve already shared my 12 Days of Birth Activist Christmas, but I also have a lesser-known masterpiece to treat you with today. Once upon a time, many years ago Mark and I collaborated with my parents to come up with a lovely rendition of The 12 Days of X-Files Christmas. (We both used to be huge X-Philes, to the extent that in my pre-kid life I lovingly handcrafted a diorama of Mulder’s apartment, complete with tiny made-from-craft-foam porn videos, for which I printed small, smutty covers via the internet. Oh, and a fish tank.)

Sing it…

12 Days of X-Files Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Some parts from a dead body (or: a government conspiracy)

On the second day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Two UFOs and some parts from a dead body

On the third day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Three Lone Gunmen, two UFOs…

On the fourth day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Four abductees, three Lone Gunmen…

On the fifth day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Five cell-phone rings, four abductees…

On the sixth day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Six Chaco chickens, five cell-phone rings…

On the seventh day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Seven swarms of bees, six Chaco chickens…

On the eighth day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Eight Syndicate members, seven swarms of bees…

On the ninth day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Nine black oil victims, eight syndicate members…

On the tenth day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Ten little green men, nine black oil victims…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Eleven gross autopsies, ten little green men…

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Mulder gave Scully
Twelve reprimands from Skinner (or: twelve nice big kisses)…

Totally off-topic? Yes. And that’s okay. 😉