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“Only two stuffies!” I said in my sternest mom voice. Someday, I won’t have to spend days packing for an entire family—including all of the presents we bought—and I’ll miss it. No really, I’m sure I will. That’s what empty nesters always tell you right?

I could see Evie was already plotting a loophole in this two-stuffy rule. Indeed, two extra mouseys would stow away in my purse later that day. But Eli wants to negotiate the rules, not bend them. There’s a difference.

“But I want to take all my organs!” he lamented.

Eli’s favorite possessions are his “I Heart Guts” stuffies. He is making some glasses for Brain, gives Stomach extra bites of things at meals, and spends extra time hugging Heart. For some reason Liver helps with his homework. Tooth is terrified of the Tooth Fairy. He avoids pillows in fear that he’ll get taken in exchange for $5.

Taking these stuffies everywhere is cumbersome and leads to strange misunderstandings. Yesterday, my mom asked if Evie had rolled off her bed at night and my dad said, “No, only her Stomach did.” Or talking about our “suitcase full of Organs” at the airport. It might help if they had regular names like “Sallie Stomach” or “Larry Liver.” But Eli is far too clinical for that.  

“I can’t possibly decide between which of my organs to take on vacation,” he said. “I need to take my Brain because we’re going to no-go Novel (a bookstore he loves) and I want him to be able to see all the books. And I need to take my Heart, because I love everyone in Memphis.”

His face lit up. “Wait a minute, you said everyone in the family gets two stuffies! So you can take Lungs, because yours are so bad, and you can take stomach because you love to eat in Memphis!”

Loophole found. I am a sucker for my kids arguing their way to what they want, so I caved and packed our suitcase full of six organs. (Evie picked Tooth and Uterus. A five-year-old screaming about her Uterus on a plane was amazing.)

Back in San Francisco, Pancreas, Eyeball, and two Gallbladders are under the tree. Paul and I had a miscommunication about Gallbladders. So now everyone gets Gallbladders for Christmas.

I guess that’s appropriate, because we are in Memphis eating our fill of fatty foods. I have zero expectation that I won’t have BBQ, fried chicken and everything else I love here. So my option if I don’t want to undo all my work hard dieting and exercising this year is burning as many calories as I can find. This was easier when my kids were younger, and I was physically chasing them more. Fortunately, I can sit and watch them at a park now. Making matters worse, I walk everywhere in San Francisco and drive everywhere here. So somehow, even though I feel more exhausted, I am moving less.

Yesterday, I did an Orange Theory Fitness class. (Yay! For franchises!) This morning Paul got up early (this NEVER HAPPENS) and ferreted out a Soul Cycle copycat in the suburbs. When he gets home, I’m going on a run. And later when the kids are baking with cousins, we are both headed back to Orange Theory Fitness for a second workout of the day.

If Eli made me bring Stomach, it’s a good thing he also made me bring Lungs.

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