Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Law According to ... Round 2

When we're young, we take risks because we do not know better. As we age, we stop taking those risks because we know better. Which is more important? To live freely, without worries or to be comfortable, but running the risk of complacency?

I am not able to take risks anymore, at least not physically. These days, a risk for me is starting a MySpace page, deciding to tear down wallpaper, or ordering a great piece of art for art's sake.

When I was young -- and Mom Mom, don't read this -- I didn't always follow the rules. I did things to my body -- both physically and emotionally -- that now, in hindsight, I realize were not particularly healthy or productive.

But, the people, those places, that lifestyle helped me become who I am now. It all led me here, to this place, this cozy, beautiful, chaotic life ...

Where I set the rules and watch them be broken a million times a day, often with a smile, usually with a smirk of hope. From me. From them.

I see it in them ... at almost 23 months, they understand the world around them. They know the rules, they like them even, but they test them. They walk right up into the rules faces and taunt them with their pumpkin preserve-covered lips and sticky hands. They pump their chests like little gorillas at the rules. They pull the rug right out from under the rules. They drag the rules all over the house.

And, 98 percent of the day, I let them.

****

The Great Writing Project -- Day Two

The newest entries for 10 Rules to Live By are listed at the top of this list. The others, below, are those I have already told you about here.

Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood has written a fantastic little list that will make you laugh and cheer. Happy Belated Birthday, Mama Zen!

Not to be confused with ...

Momma Zen's Zen in Ten, which is a powerful list, simply stated. What I love about this list, and everything Karen writes, is that it's just the obvious that somehow, some way, gets lost in our cluttered thoughts.

Sarah over at That's Life v. 2.0 finished her A to Z project, and is now tackling numbers. That's right, she's written a post on the Number 10.

New to the party, I'm proud to introduce Moanna from Desperately Seeking Serenity and her 10 Rules, which I found to be extremely humorous and right on. I, personally, love Number 2. And, she's dedicated to world peace ... how can you not visit her blog?

From Day One

Shelli of Mama of Letters

Bella

And, for Gary's list go here.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Law According to ... Round One

You might have noticed a new person taking my comments section to a whole new level the last couple of days. Gary is a new reader by way of Shannon's blog. Since she hasn't been posting a whole heck of a lot lately, he's pestering me. Thanks, girlfriend. And, as I've learned, he will fit right in here. We'll call him the token writer dad.

His LAWS were the first to arrive in my in-box. Down below, you can read his list, which coming from a dude, turned out to be incredibly insightful, overflowing with heart and full of wisdom. There's a little humor tossed in for comedic effect as well.

Also up on Day One is Shelli of Mama of Letters, who wrote a lovely list that includes the simple things in life like learning to love music, reading and drinking wine. OK, I used a little poetic justice there and mixed some things together because those are a few of my favorite things. Read her list of 10 Rules to live by and tomorrow will be a little brighter for you.

And, Bella ... Ah, Bella ... she has outdone herself once again. She is easily climbing the great big blogging ladder with her purity and grace in writing. Her list is soulful and poetic, but you have to read it to see just how beautiful it is. Grab a cozy chair and sit back for this one, as always. Then again, most of you have already!

Now, for Gary's list. You can learn more about Gary's private self by visiting his MySpace page, where you would need to be accepted as a friend to view his blog and writing.

The dreaded list

Ah, ‘tis the season for… the list. The dreaded list. As perhaps the only “not a mama” in the group, I would be remiss not to let you ladies in on a little secret that you may or may not already be aware of: as a general rule, men hate lists. Personally, I am not of that male persuasion, however, and I find that lists get me quite nicely where I want to go in life, whether it be a Honey-do list, a Gary-do list, or even my soon to be infamous how to become dictator of the world, starting with Fiji list. I’m most fond of that one, though it seems to be the most difficult one to check anything off of!

Oh, it’s not a matter of being forgetful, mind you, though I have unfortunately been a victim of that circumstance at various points in my life, too, but give me a list, and I’m one happy camper. There is just something about being able to draw a line through what you have accomplished in a day and experiencing the satisfaction that comes with seeing such a visible progression. Perhaps that is why I chose to become a carpenter. In fact, I’m sure that it is.

So, what are those things I would recommend as vital gear on this journey we call life? Well, since you ask, I would recommend that a person:

Believe in God. Even if you don’t know which version of his story to subscribe to, believe in God, first and above all. If you do, one day, the rest will come to you. Too, I have personally always found suspect, and never fully been able to trust the intentions of, a human being that had no greater recourse to accountability than that which lay no further than the flesh of their own skin or the cleverness of their own intellect. Unsold? Then, consider Pascal’s wager. (This one should piss a few people off, huh? Woo-hoo, look at me! I’m pissing folks off everywhere I go! I must be the president).

Be willing to break the rules. If someone asks you for a list of ten things, give them twelve, pressed down and shaken together for good measure. And, though what follows should be a matter of course, I think, I find that it rarely is: if you’re going to break the rules, you really ought to first learn what they are to begin with. So, learn the rules. This is the surest-fire way to alleviate yourself of undo criticism, and perhaps the real heart of my advice.

Subscribe to the irony of life. This is the reason God gave it to us. Realize that no matter how much your rational mind suggests a thing ought to behave this way or that, know that, often, it won’t. But, by letting yourself go to the wonderment of this anomaly, you’ll not only find life to be more entertaining, you’ll find, at the end of it, you’ve lived longer and died with less stress as a result.

Read the book. One of the most powerful marketing ploys of our day, and one to which I am too often a sucker, is an attractive cover. On some you might have a picture of nothing but a woman’s legs, on another, some beau-hunking stud-muffin baring his chest as he swoops down and rescues some maiden or another, but eventually, the cover wears off. Then, what are you left holding? So, read the book.

Never lie to your spouse. Lie to your employer, lie to your friends, lie to the world, even, but never, ever, ever, lie to your spouse. You share a bed with this person, and they can kill you in your sleep.

Love. Wholeheartedly and without reservation, love. It is the investment in life that pays the greatest dividends. So, even if you’ve fallen off this horse a thousand times—and been kicked in the head on at least half of those—pick yourself up, get on the next one that comes along, and give everything you have to the effort. You will be crushed for doing so. You will be made a fool of. You will be terribly, dismally, irrevocably, horribly scarred for life—aw, aren’t I the hopeless romantic—but do it anyway. Sometimes, the ride will be quicker than others, sometimes you’ll be at the far side of the pasture before you hit the fence, but love anyway… until it sticks, because one day, it will. It always does. So, love. But… love yourself first, because you’ll never succeed with love of another human being until you do. Love.

Draw. Write. Paint. Whittle, even. But create something, even if your masterpiece is nothing more than your own children and the next burgeoning generation of young capitalists. Create something. This is the third highest endeavor of man, and one that will seldom leave you unrewarded.

Dream BIG. When you aim the arrows of your dreams at the moon, they may not reach it, but how much farther will they have traveled than if you had chosen a more terrestrial target than she. Want to write? Then write for a Pulitzer or the New York Times bestseller list. Want to build? Then build with your eyes set on subdivisions. You may not accomplish, either, but I bet you’ll go further than had you chosen to not to.

Confront your fears. Whatever they are, own them, because if you don’t, they will own you. Confront them, repeatedly, if necessary, until they have been over-come. Fear is the leading cause of failure in the United States, today, according to the Surgeon Corporal. So, own your fears, and remember that practice, practice, practice makes perfect.

Live unrepentantly. Make your share of mistakes, but learn from them when you do. To assist you, remember that everybody else is going to, too, and yours will rarely be the most egregious of embarrassments or errors. An unembarrassed life is an unexamined life. I have only ever heard of one man that was perfect, and his was still a life of embarrassment… over us.

Laugh. More importantly, still, learn to laugh at yourself—and often—because I promise you, the world is more than ready to laugh for you, and you will diffuse the power they have over you, if you’re the first to initiate the laughter. I spent the better part of my young adult life trying to be cool, and though it looked good, perhaps, I found it a most dissatisfying fit. Rather, letting go and learning to laugh at myself proved the infinitely more comfortable wear… and I don’t believe anyone that has worn both shoes will disagree with me.

Love. What? Have I already mentioned this one? Well, it bears repeating. Love. With all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might, love. Find a girl and be willing to make a fool of yourself over her. Love. Nothing you do will ever leave you as accomplished, and nothing you can do without it will ever leave you as fulfilled. Love.

These are the things in life that I struggle with most sometimes, but that are just as reciprocally the things I find that bring me the most success to me as a human being—the things that are worth the struggle that often comes from exacting them as a personal discipline. Who knows, give them a try. Maybe you will find them to be as cantankerous and fulfilling as I have. If not, at least I can laugh at you knowing you took anything I said to heart! So, feel free to enrich the life of your fellow man, you buggers! And a Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good life.



I've learned that my blog is showing an error at times so if you have experienced this please let me know because I do not have a clue as to what is happening.

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Twins and more twins

I had to laugh this morning watching the news, which is only a very new part of my morning routine since every other morning of the last two years has been chaos.

I sat, with my coffee cup in hand, listening to four sets of parents talk with The Today Show about the odd coincidence that four sets of twins were born in one 24-hour period. That's right, you heard me: four sets of parents with newborn twins that are only three days old were up early, dressed, and doing interviews on television with Matt Lauer. Of course, that's not the funny part, that's just the annoying part.

The funny part was as they described the miracle of it all, the amazement they had, the double blessings ... my twins were head-butting each other, pushing and fighting over breathing the same air or over the same speck of dust.

Twins certainly are miracles, aren't they? It's a wonder they live to see Age 3.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LTMD's Group Writing Project Take 2

With time ticking on my daily break which allows me to work, it's time to unveil the Next Great Writing Project.

I want this to be fun, or serious, or a little of both. It can be insightful. It can be political. It can be related to kids -- or not. I want it to reflect who you are as a person. I want it to reflect what you believe. Your passions. Your humor. Your pet-peeves, even. The topics are endless.

This project is open to everyone, even those without blogs. Just e-mail me your entries. There is no winner with this project. You will get nothing but links. Every other day or so I will link to all of the entries up to that point. The earlier you post, the more links you will get. Get it?

The rules: Have fun with it and be sure to link to this post in your post.

So, without further ado, here's your prompt:

The Law According to You
Make a list of “10 Rules to Live By” that are based on your own experiences, not someone else’s.

Once you have your entry posted, e-mail me your entry at ubertwins at gmail dot com. Last day to post will be Saturday. A final list will be published on Sunday. Please do not post your entry here.

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Raising daring girls

When my Mom decided to move to Georgia after living nearly 50 years in the same county in Maryland, it was quite a shock.

Daring, risk-taking, adventurous was just something she wasn't.

While she's never held me back for trying to take risks, she was definitely not actively teaching me to seek out adventure.

If anything, she taught me to be extra cautious, extra careful --- qualities that I still hold deeply to heart, especially now as a mother.

It truly is a fine line with wanting to give your daughters the world, but protect them, too.

Right now, my daughters are fearless in the most crazy, crowded places, yet cower between my legs in small, intimate situations.

I know I will struggle with pushing them to take risk, while holding them back from trouble and pain and getting hurt.

I know I want them to make their own mistakes, and learn from them. Yet, I feel, it's my job to at least warn them of the mistakes I made and how I learned from them or maybe even changed because of them.

Yes, raising girls -- daring ones, at that -- is a scary thought.

That's why when MotherTalk offered me a chance to review the new "The Daring Book for Girls," by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, I jumped at the chance. I knew enough about the boy version, "A Dangerous Book for Boys," to know that the girls version would be a great book to hold on to for Jadyn and Liana.

Inside, the pages are covered with amazing information that taught me interesting things. Some of my favorites:

1. Rules of the Game: Basketball: With a husband who is pretty into sports, and basketball in particular, I have always felt at a disadvantage for not knowing anything about the game. I love that now I'll have some insight to offer the girls when they get started in sports. Of course, their Da will teach them everything they need to know. He's already commenting on Liana's natural form and throw.

2. Building a Campfire: It's not enough to just sit back and enjoy the campfire. A girl needs to know how to build it, and sustain it. This book gives that information.

3. What is the Bill of Rights: Much more than the fact that I want to raise daring girls, I want to raise politically smart women who aren't afraid to question what is happening in their government and speak their minds about it.

4. Finance: Interest, Stocks and Bonds: This section of the book could be longer and more detailed, but what is provided is good. I believe this kind of information needs to be taught to young girls as early as possible. It's not enough to use just a savings account anymore.

By the time I finished reading this book, I felt satisfied and plan to buy a copy for my niece, who is a tween. My biggest problem with this book is not knowing what age group it is best for. An eight-year-old might have fun learning some of the more basic things in the book, while a teenager might have interest in the more advanced. And yet it would be perfectly fine for a 30-year-old or an 80-year-old woman.

I guess it's a book that a girl can grow into as she reaches each stage in life.

Regardless, "The Daring Book for Girls" should be sitting on her bedside table, and parents should be reading along, too. Especially about the Bill of Rights, part.

Stay tuned: The LTMD Group Writing Project topic will be announced today. Get your keyboards ready!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Monitordropping

"Man, you guys are relentless when it comes to peeing," Da! said as I listened over the monitor. He's just given them a bath.

"If you have to go that's what the potty is for," he said. (me smirking)

"Wait, I have to clean up your puddle.

three seconds later

"Liana! I have to give you the same lecture as your sister. If you have to go to the potty ..."

Smirk.


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A birthday tribute

If you were to read my journal from fourth grade, you would see that every other entry, at least, mentions my Mom Mom.

"Spent the night at Mom Mom's house," I wrote.

"I can't wait to go to Mom Mom's house tomorrow."

The entries continue much like that through the whole year.

To explain what this woman has meant to me is very hard to put into words.

She is the sun.
She is the moon.
She is the stars.

Today, she celebrates her 75th birthday.

My grandmother -- and grandfather -- have helped make me who I am. We lived with them for a few years after my parents' divorce. Beyond that, they whisked me away every summer for several years for two weeks of road trips and camping across the east and south coasts.

Because of them I saw states like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and all of New England. I even bartered for goods in Mexico with them. They've taken me to see mountains, the coast, the South of the Border and to Lake Champlain, where I learned about Champ, the mythical aquatic monster that supposedly lives there.

But, my grandmother gave me the world at home, too. She played dress up with me. Serious dress up, too. She kindly let me put make-up on her, too. She went all out for tea parties with nasty fruit cake that no one wanted and all of my dolls and stuffed animals.

Jadyn and Liana are already starting to get her. She's easy to get. She still has the gumption to pick them up when they ask, carry them to the window to peek outside when they ask, to play games with them.

She, who lives roughly 65 miles away, sees them less than she'd like, but they know her.

I realize I am lucky, to have a grandmother in my life and for her to be so special. I am even luckier to see my daughters learn to love her as much as I do.

I am sorry that this blog post may make her cry on her birthday. It's bringing me to tears to write it. But, all of this needed to be said. In fact, I could write three days' of posts just about her.

Funny, I didn't even know how young she turns today until I asked my Mom. To me, she will always be ageless, cracking jokes and answering questions with, "I don't think that's any of your business." She will always be the Mom Mom who got up early and stood in line to buy me one of the very first Cabbage Patch dolls.

She will always be the one who never visits without something in hand to offer:


Her house will always be home:


Happy Birthday, Mom Mom!


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The evolution of language

I remember the days when I would sit at my computer in the morning, listening to the monitor, as the girls woke up.

"Da!" they would say for everything.

One would say Da, the other would respond with Da.

Now, words -- intelligible, wonderful, glorious words -- come out of their mouths as they sit in waiting for their Mama.

"Hi," they say in whispy voices to each other.

"Mamadadamamadadamamadada," follows, probably with some sign language intermixed as well.

Sometimes they say Dodo, which for you laymen means dog.

Sometimes it's wawa, which means water.

And, the latest, which happens to be my favorite.

"Elmo."

Let the fun begin.

Thank goodness for the English Language and the creation of the word Elmo.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Martinis and canapes for all!

I've been waiting for the perfect moment to hand out some awards, and today seems like a great day.

I plan to go back to my archives to see just how long MPJ has been hanging around my blog. It's been a long while, and she was one of my very first avid readers. It's funny how I just don't know how we came upon each other's blogs. That's just the way the blogging weave is wove, I suppose.

Anyway, MPJ at A Room of Mama's Own awarded me with some very nice awards about a week or so ago. First, she gave me a Be the Blog Award, which is "for bloggers who "make [a blog] their own, stay with it, are interactive with their readers, and just plain have fun."

She also gave me a Nice Matters Award, which was given to me a while back by Kasie, but I never did anything with it. I'm sorry, sometimes I just forget things. Sometimes I just don't know what to do. I've been mixed about what to do with awards, and how to hand them out without hurting anyone's feelings.

Also, about a week ago, Momma Bean gave me an Excellent Blog award. Thanks, Jean!

So, now it's my turn to spread the link love.

My picks for Be The Blog Awards are ...

That's Life v 2.0: If you haven't been reading In the Fast Lane's A to Z list of thanks this month, you're missing out. She is really going all out with thoughtful topics and well-written posts.

Momma Bean: Momma Bean always has something quirky and fun going on at her place. Her twin daughters are just adorable, too.


And, Excellent Blog awards go to ...

The Whole Self: I just love reading Nina's words and about her life. She always has great ideas, great insight and great inspiration to offer.

Beyond the Map: Bella's blog is just, well, you all know ... perfect. Enough said.

Mama of Letters: Shelli and I are newly acquainted in the world of blogging, but her blog has become a top read on my list. We share that love of writing and mothering.



Finally, Nice Matters (and everyone who visits my blog daily deserves a Nice Award)

Bastet at Parenting Tales - for being a great reader here and at my OTHER blog.

Shannon at A Writer's Journey: Well, you see her comments here all the time, but what you don't know is what a great friend she has become as we travel the toddler twin road together.

Laura from Laura's Mommy Journal: Because she always has thoughtful things to say and did you read how giving she and her family are each Christmas in the comments of my traditions post? Wow. That's nice!

Candace from And then What!? because she needs to know that she is nice and deserves something very special every day -- even when it doesn't seem like it.


Many of the readers on my list are moms who write and I'm so grateful to have such an awesome blogging family. So thanks to all of you.

In honor of that, let's gear up for the Second Letters to my Daughters Group Writing Project, ya'll! Stay tuned for the topic, but it will be a lot of fun. It will begin Tuesday, Nov. 27 and continue until Dec. 1. This time, however, I will post the links to your entries every couple days instead of all at once at the end to help build awareness.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Unhappy Holiday Moments

I'd like to lie and say that our Thanksgiving was perfect -- storybook perfect. And, yet, the climax of the day -- the middle of the book -- was much like that, with a game of tossing acorns in the air and running to catch slippery, evasive leaves in the windy air. That part of the story includes a lovely dinner with wonderful relatives, and many happy moments while at my daughters' great-grandparent's house.

And yet ...

There have been some brutal moments, too. Like endless crying, a toddler wanting only Da, then me, then Da, then me. Food refusals. Lots of food refusals. Bedtime disasters. Early rising. Lack of interest in anything but being held. Me losing my temper. A fight. Guilt. Lots and lots of guilt. Making up. A messy, chaotic house. A headache. Shopping nightmares both without a stroller, with a stroller and in a cart.

But, we all love cheesecake, and that seems to make us all a little happier.

Here's to hoping that this Thanksgiving becomes the Year of Cheesecake, and storybook endings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When it's OK to steal ideas

I love reading about other family's traditions. Here are a few great reads along that idea. Enjoy.

Family Fun Magazine

Family Fun Traditions blog


Cafe Traditions
(I really like the idea of the Family Gratitude Journal for Thanksgiving, which relieves bashful people from speaking their thanks aloud.)


If you know of a better link, please leave it in the comments. If you decide to do one, let us know.

Or, if you are bored with this topic, go here instead and watch this video, again. It speaks to my humanitarian heart that I'm still thankful for despite feeling a little jaded lately.

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Traditions -- from scratch

Part of the beauty of blogging is the conversations I have with so many of you who I am able to e-mail in response to your comments (If you don't know about this; you change your email setting preferences in blogger). I love visiting your blogs, yes, but I also love learning a little more behind the scenes.

The past week or so has been enlightening as we correspond about the spirit of the holidays and our take on what family and celebrating means. As it turns out, I am not alone in trying to figure out how to give more meaning to this season.

For the better part of my life, I always spent Christmas Eve at my mother's house and Tommy and I, once he was born, would get up early to open presents. My grandparents would arrive not long after. Breakfast became a ritual, too, with egg casserole and fruit salad. Tommy and I would play the rest of the morning.

Sure, the presents were great, but the spirit of it all is what makes Christmas, or any of the holidays you celebrate.

But, all of this is different now that I'm the mom, that my Mom doesn't live close enough for us to drop in for an early morning breakfast, that everyone wants to be at their house -- not ours -- for Christmas, unlike when I was a child.

For the last two years, I didn't even see my family on Christmas Day. Our celebration happened the day before and, while nice, it wasn't the same for me and I've been mourning the season as I knew it as a child and young woman.

Since I do not work, and now Da's company holds after Christmas parties, which I think are ridiculous, we don't even have any party invitations this year. In fact, as soon as we became parents of twins I swear all of our invitations to everything stopped coming in the mail.

Also in past years, we had a little -- not much more -- money to put into gifts and glam, especially to throw parties ourselves. This year, many of our gifts will be homemade and parties are just out of the question.

The hand-made gifts will be thoughtful and cute and sweet. I love the idea, actually, and yet ...

It's all new to me and I'm trying to feel my way as we start to build memories for Jadyn and Liana. They, of course, are still too young to understand any of this, but I'm sure they will have a blast regardless.

I've been busy thinking hard about what traditions I want to start from scratch since we have this unique vantage point of being a blank slate.

I'm looking forward to finding resourceful, unique ways to enjoy the whole season and not just one day with my daughters and with my husband, and with some close friends who also want to share the spirit with us. We even bought a book last year on this topic and got some great ideas.

So, right here, right now I'm unveiling our two new-to-me traditions.

The first is an advent of books. Each day will offer one book to be unwrapped and read. Most will be holiday-related; many will offer glimpses of traditions around the world. As the girls grow, those books will be the start of that day's meal -- perhaps Mexican or French, and discussions. I never want them to feel as if American traditions are the only traditions.

The second will be a moms and kids holiday party. This year, and probably years to come, will be a cookie decorating party. The cookies my girls make will be given as gifts this year.

I know that as Jadyn and Liana get older, finding new ways to make Christmas and Thanksgiving and any other holiday our own will get easier.

In the meantime, these ideas will have to do.

How about you? Care to share a unique tradition that you've come up with on your own either to celebrate with your children or your special person?



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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Seventeen years younger ... and, yet

Dear Tommy,

I was just 17 and preparing for the prom with my senior boyfriend the day you came home from the hospital with mom.

For all those years, I had never had a sibling, never had a playmate and suddenly I was a teen-age mother-like person. Of course, I had no real responsibility over you other than to entertain you. I can share this with you now. This does not mean I didn't suffer growing pains watching you grow up.

You were the first person to show me what unconditional love feels like. When you hurt -- like the time you fell in the basement and got a goose egg bump on your head or when you got that raging fever at the beach -- I hurt. When you cried, I cried. It was common for me to play with you on the floor or outside when you were a baby and a young toddler. I remember teaching you to say, "Play ball!" I can still hear your sweet, innocent baby voice perfectly.

When you and mom moved away last year, I was devastated for a trillion reasons; the loss of you being the biggest.

You've changed a lot since the days when you used to stay the night at my house and watch movies and eat good food.

It takes roughly 12 hours for regular folks to get to your house in Georgia from Pennsylvania. But, for my family, with two toddlers, it might as well be 12 days. Just going to the grocery store seems to take an eternity, and yet the time and the money never seem to fall on our side to make a visit work out.

But, when we do you'll be close to 17 years old and this is what I'll find ... A very tall boy who is 17 years younger than I and who still fills my heart with great joy.



I'm so grateful you entered my life, Tommy.

Love,

Sissy







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How NOT to buy a house

Dear Prospective Home Buyers:

As you glide from room to room, taking in all of our cheap furniture and hand-me-down accessories, please consider that despite everything it is our home, that we feel comfortable in these four walls, that we have given everything we could to it. No, it doesn't have top dollar anything. We never gathered enough Top Dollar to give it anything more than what it had already save for that bathroom faucet and the stainless steel refrigerator.

Please understand that our motivations were simple.

We chose this house for its walkable destinations, which at the time included a growing number of retail shops and restaurants that have since closed their doors.

We chose this house because of the richness in racial and ethnic diversity in its neighborhood, but that decision didn't reap the lasting friendships we had hoped for. In fact, all we've ever been is the white family in the nice house. Perhaps you can be more than that.

We chose this house for the active neighborhood association that appeared to be full of warmth and love for a city struggling to find its identity. Little did we know that most of the neighbors would be anything but warm and kind. In fact, it's taken four years for some of them to even talk to us.

We chose this house because research and statistics showed that violent crime rarely, if ever, happened outside its four walls. We honestly didn't realize that that meant other things wouldn't occur nearby like Just Plain Dumb People who know how to push my buttons.

We chose this house because it was the right thing to do, because we were young professionals and small cities like this need people like us.

The mistake we made -- the only mistake we made -- was thinking we could make a difference. Maybe we did. It's hard to tell. Our eyes are fogged over with the pitter-patter of tiny feet running across these hard wood floors.

It takes more than just one person or one family to make a difference. Every one must work together to save urban cores. State officials around the country need to find ways to change the vicious cycle of high taxes, poor school systems and economically challenged students who don't even get to take home text books to study for math tests. It is no wonder that the life of crime on the streets draws them in; its easier than learning algebra equations.

Someone -- maybe you? -- needs to have time to devote to turning the poverty rate around, to revitalizing blocks, to helping young women realize that there is something better beyond the life they've known.

It will take all of you and many more people after us to make a substantial difference.

We are un-choosing this house not because we have given up, though, perhaps we have, but because we sincerely can't do our share any longer. To live in a city like this, you must be able to put forth a great deal of effort -- effort that we no longer have time or energy or money for.

Hope is not lost. It continues with you.

Consider this a passing of the torch ... it's your turn. Just choose it for your own reasons, not ours.

Sincerely,

The Seller

P.S. Please realize that we are grateful for everything this house has offered; the glimpses into a life and reality that many people couldn't dream up in a fiction novel, the fresh, local produce that is just a short or even shorter walk from our doorstep, the smells of heritage mixing in the Sunday air and, of course, the family we created here.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Say ... duck!

I had heard horror stories. Just awful stories.

OK, not really horror stories. But, rather, complaints about photographers not being very good with their young twins.

So, I pretty much avoided having them done. Between that and the mere fact that it is nearly impossible to get two of them in a decent mood, dressed cute and out the door on time for anything.

But, we did it today thanks to our Unitarian Universalist Congregation who scheduled the days for members to have their family photos taken.

And it went off without meltdowns.

Everyone, including me, smiled. The photographer, and his stuffed duck, were very good.

It was beautiful.

I'm no longer afraid of professional photographers. Just the opposite, actually, I might be a tad addicted after seeing just how cute the pictures turned out.

Sure, we spent too much money, and we could have probably gotten a better deal and cuter pictures elsewhere, but can you say, "Christmas presents?"

Just wait until you see them.

I'm one Grateful Mama today.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Yes!!!!!!!




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Thursday, November 15, 2007

A feminist housewife

Dear Jadyn and Liana,

"What will you do?" your Da! asked me one day, not long ago.
"You know, when they start school?" he continued, with caution and perfect-Da! thoughtfulness.
I will continue writing, I immediately snapped.
It is my mission to never have to return to another office-like setting again unless it's my own business.
It is my purpose to make sure that I will always be home when you get home from school.
Just because these early years pass too fast and I don't want to miss them doesn't mean I want to miss any of the rest.
Just the opposite.
I want to be there when you get home to offer you a snack, to help you with your homework, to find some form of physical activity to engage in.
Perhaps more than anything, those days will be most important to me of all.

****

As you grow into girls and then adolescents and then into teenagers, I want you both to take a hard look at what makes you most happy.
It could be that, at this moment, a boy makes you happy.
That is fine.
Follow your dreams.
But, never give up on the fact that you might change your mind, you might discover something bigger, brighter or more heavenly just ahead, around the curve.
And when you see it just stop and enjoy it.
Find the peace in that moment.
You will know when it's time to move on.

****

I hope as you read these blog posts on some crazy archiving machine in your college library that you aren't hurt or sad by my words, that you don't pity me for becoming Just a Mom.
Rather, I hope that you will take the time to search through that same machine all the words that I typed over the years as a writer and journalist.
Sure, I cooked your meals, brushed your hair and helped you make crafts.
Now and then, I even folded your clothes or baked cookies.
Those are just jobs that all moms do and much better than I.
Just like you, I followed my career dreams. I lived that world -- and it still feels like I spent a lifetime doing so.
All along I was dreaming of you, though.
When my career-life was over, just like a great novel, I just knew it was complete, for me.
Perhaps you will find a profession that will lead you all over the world. One that will bring you satisfaction and peace.
In the end, you may decide to become Just a Mom yourself.
Or not.
That's the beauty of being an American woman.
The choices.
They are yours to make over and over.

****

The day may come for me when I wonder why I chose a life that keeps me more housebound than ever. I may suddenly miss being that working woman who gets coffee breaks and chats with co-workers.
I may keep wondering that. I may always reevaluate the decision.
But, for now I am truly at peace with believing that the family unit needs to be protected. That it is, indeed, a dying art form that even our stupid government can't protect with dumb laws.
Family meals, discovering traditions, gatherings of relatives -- these are things I value more than a paycheck, more than whose car is bigger or who has the nicer title.
I don't even care about a Pulitzer. Not that much, anyway.
The truth is I hardly do laundry. Your father does it.
I don't see myself as a housewife or a housekeeper.
Just a Mom.
With a purpose.
And that purpose is you.
The two of you.
That's my choice.

Thank you. Thank you so very much.





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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Powerful Choice

I recall fondly of a span of about 20 minutes last November. Newly home with my girls, my writing work was piling up as editors learned I had a little more time for freelancing.

The hardest part of my work is fitting in phone interviews during the day so that clients or sources do not hear screaming toddlers in the background. This was super easy when they napped twice a day, which was the case last Fall. But, that particular day, one interview just could not be done in that time span.

So there I was, holding the phone and taking notes and asking questions all while feeding my infant babies baby food in their high chairs.

Work-at-home mothers prove every day that it is possible to spend time with their children and earn an income. Of course, the more income the less time being spent with children. There are always going to be trade-offs, compromises and some level of guilt.

If anything, I am even more efficient at my work than ever before because time is that much more limited. I cannot put off deadlines for no reason because I only have -- if I'm lucky -- a two-hour period to work each day. This does not count mornings and evenings.

But, working at home while taking care of two toddlers full-time takes an immense amount of motivation that even I, some days, can barely muster up for anything in the world.

I'm still learning the ropes, but here are a few things I've learned to make the Work-at-Home Option easier and more fruitful.

1. Schedule precisely: My best days are those when I know exactly who I will call and what I will do in 10 to 20 minute time slots. I also like to write to-do lists for the rest of the day as well.

2. Squeeze in time: I create call lists with phone numbers, a to-do list and research first thing each morning. I can take my lists on the road to play in the yard or while driving. I also send out e-mails for future projects so that the naps are spent mostly fielding calls, researching or writing.

3. Take a day off: I'm still beating my head against the wall about this one. Constant deadlines and short periods to work, for me, make this very challenging. But, it is the most important thing I can do for everyone, especially myself.

4. Be professional, but confident: I have caught myself a few times apologizing to sources for not being available at, say, lunch time or dinner time. Why? If I were in an office setting, I would still have meetings, a lunch and other reasons for not being available. So, why should I apologize for needing to feed my daughters? Now, I just say, I'm not available at that time, I'm sorry.

5. Managing the mother load: The dishes, the cleaning, the messes all add up in a day as do the assignments and new projects. I have learned what I can handle, and what I cannot. I try to get deadlines moved back or only take on what I can handle with little stress. It's hard to say no when we need the money so this is another hard one for me to manage. But, ultimately, my job is being Mama and some days Mama just can't do it all.

I keep waiting for the big contract, the big assignment, the big paying gig to hire a sitter, finally. I'm not sure when that will happen, but when it does, I'll be happy to have the ability to be on site to still visit with my girls when I have a free moment and, of course, be around to keep watch over the sitter. I'll still be the boss.

I'm so thankful to the many mothers of previous generations who paved the way for a Mama like me to have this choice.

Tomorrow, I will explore the topic of being a Feminist Housewife.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Staying home -- is it worth it?

A writer friend of mine recently asked me if I like staying home with my girls.

Kelby is a career-driven mom of twins plus one more herself, and I'm sure she wonders what it would be like to give all that up to spend time with children. One of her great ventures is an online Wiki site for moms. Check it out here.

I told her I would blog about this because I do love staying home and I am very grateful to have this opportunity. Here's why I love being a stay/work-at-home Mama:

1. Schedule is perfect: No more rushing to get ready, passing babies off to caregivers and then rushing back to them at the end of the day. The days are much less stressful and hectic. I always felt like the chauffeur, not the Mama.

2. Less worries: When my girls were in day care from 4 months old to 10 months old, I was a mess with constant worries and wonders about them. I imagine it would be the same way even now as they approach Age 2. The minute I stopped working and started staying home with them, I was a better mother.

3. Style of play and learning: It gives me great joy to know that I am shaping my daughters' futures by showing them new things and new ways to play every day. There is no way that being stuck in one room or one building every single day for months or years on end is as good for a child as discovering the world. Our day care did get them out for walks once a week when the weather was nice, but that's not enough. They grew up taking walks daily as soon as I was up to it. Even in the winter. For me, variety is the spice of life. I cannot do the same thing every single day. Oh, wait ... that's what motherhood is all about so never mind that. Still, I have the power to arrange where we will go today and what we will discuss and learn. I love that.

4. I'm the Mama: I hope I do not offend anyone here. But, it was heart wrenchingly difficult for me as a new mother to hand my infant girls over to other women to care for all day. Each day that I did it, it felt more and more wrong. I am the Mama. I need to be the one to take care of them. That's my responsibility.

5. Workplace drama begone: I'm a bit of a rebellious soul. I do not like to be told what to do. I always out performed other workers, yet was never appreciated. I hardly received any decent raises or bonuses. The hours weren't great. People can be annoying. All of these things added up and in the end I do not miss any of it. Sure, I still work for nothing, get no days off and am not appreciated that much -- but staying home offers much better benefits in the long run. I work much better on my own, as my own boss.

Still, this decision isn't for everyone. It was a no-brainer for me. If you are the type of person who doesn't want to be down on the floor playing most of the day, then it might not work for you.

But, if you are driven and highly motivated then you can make the best of both worlds by working from home. Return here tomorrow because I'll have some tips for Work-at-home Mamas.



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Monday, November 12, 2007

25 Tips to Save Money

When child care took a turn last summer and knocked us down, the choices were difficult -- all leading back to stay home, stay home, stay home.

It all came down to selling one car. That was the difference.

Despite all the Go Green! headlines today, rarely do you see much on how to live with just one car. Never do you see how having just one car with a major commute involved impacts a family. (More on this tomorrow.)

One month after we sold the car, and used the extra money to pay off the other one, we felt very good about our decision to take Jadyn and Liana out of child care. But then the news came -- another tax hike in this Glorious City of ours. Our mortgage went up by another $100 a month.

What looked like it would be pretty easy, wasn't and ever since it's been a very tight squeeze of living month-to-month. Despite the pressures, and the tears some weeks, it's worth it, and I'm grateful. After all, I have my girls all to myself all week instead of passing them off to caregivers. I guess in the end, it was a priceless decision.

And, it's been a very green living decision as well. Now, we wait our turn to downsize and reduce the commute, which are our only other chances to trim our very lean budget.

We are awaiting the next tax bill, and we know it won't be pretty.

Here are 25 ways we have saved money in the last year -- please share your own as well.

1. sold one car
2. paid off the other vehicle
3. cut down or turned off cable (unless there are specials)
4. buy fresh, local meats and produce and walkable farmer's markets
5. meal plan for every meal, every week (I've slacked on this)
6. buy in bulk for items we use a lot to save on trips to the store
7. stopped mis-using paper towels and started using cloth instead
8. cut out most unnecessary items like eating out
9. walk to the closest grocery store in good weather (roughly 10 blocks)
10. clip coupons and use them ONLY with store sales
11. stopped clipping useless coupons
12. stopped subscribing to newspapers and only read online
13. sell unneeded items on eBay or Craigslist or Half.com for extra cash
14. buy used toys at yard sales and thrift stores
15. use the library for books
16. blogging has helped me win me free books, a free Netflix subscription and now gift certificates for Amazon.
17. we rarely go out so we avoid babysitting costs.
18. we avoid professional photographers and just use our own (more fun)
19. Da! takes a commuter bus to work and he walks to catch that bus
20. i avoid buying too many beauty products and just stick to the necessary
21. we have bought bread at a bread outlet when they are open and make our own pizza
22. we have used mostly vinegar and water to clean (not doing this while selling)
23. we've started changing all light bulbs to CFL
24. we avoid touristy destinations and stick to more cultural, less expensive events
25. we are in the process of going paperless with our bills to save stamps and time.


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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jammies, wine and giggles- -- oh, my!



My circle of twin mom friends met last night like we do every so often, but this time at my house for a Girls' Night In. The great thing is that because we were more relaxed than we are in crowded, busy restaurants we learned some amazing things about each other. We even shared stalker stories!

Here are five tips to host a great night in.

1. Order take out: No one has to cook, and the host isn't left with too many dishes to clean at 1 a.m. (Yikes!)

2. Lots of chocolate: Brownies, cookies, straight chocolate ... all are complete musts to nosh through the hours of stories.

3. Play soft music: It wasn't my plan, but it's what was on and it was just loud enough to be relaxing, but because there were no lyrics there was plenty of space for everyone to talk.


4. Dress casually:
Pajamas, yoga clothes, active wear ... something soft and smooth so you can curl up and just talk or listen.

5. Bring something: Have each person bring something that brings them comfort -- a bottle of wine, a dessert, a massaging tool or a candle, even. We didn't use any of it -- well, except the wine. But we didn't even watch any of my Sex and the City DVDs, which I thought would have been perfect.

The point was that we were ready for anything, but the gift was already among us -- the conversation, the camaraderie, the laughter and the relating.

That is what Girls Night In is all about.

I'm grateful to have these women in my life.





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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The sun has set not long ago


If a Mama could marry a woman, she just might marry children's author Sandra Boynton. I don't care what anyone says, she KNOWS babies and young toddlers.
Even I could read these books over and over without complaint. Oh, wait. I already do!
Still, if you have another favorite please share below ... You know I love to read what you have to say.


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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Writing tips for busy parents

I write every day. I write personal stuff like this blog to express my self as a mother who is in the trenches with two toddlers with very little support, aside from my glorious grandmother who you will learn about later this month and who reads this blog faithfully.

I also write non-fiction news and feature articles for regional publications averaging about one or two deadlines each week. I do not use a babysitter. I do not stay up all night. Writing is as much a part of my day as going up and down the stairs a hundred times. And, I'm so grateful to have this skill intersecting with my life as a Mama.

Here are my Top Five tips to stay connected to the Art of Writing:


1. Think about writing: Breathe it, smell it, witness it, eavesdrop on it. Picture it in your head as you see spectacular events unfolding, even if they are scary or overwhelming. Make specific notes in your mind about the most important things you don't want to forget.

2. Keep a notebook: I have a creative journal that is just for ideas and lists. I use it when walking as it fits neatly in the stroller pocket or my jacket pocket. I always have a pen handy as well. Small is important because this is just for notes and ideas ... not the full-blown piece. If your idea book starts to get dusty, crack it out again on a cool crisp Fall morning and just list your life until the thoughts flow.

3. Leave the house
: It's amazing what a walk, a drive or a drive to a place where you can walk can do for a writer's soul. Julia Cameron talks about "Artists Dates" in her masterpiece, "The Artist's Way" and walking in "Walking in this World." I can't stress enough how awesome they are for the writing soul, and I wish I did this more. As moms, especially, we need space to let go of the daily worries and just remember what it is like to live mostly carefree in this world.

4. Stay awake
: Of course, this is my No. 1 parenting tip, too, but it is essential for writers, especially writers who are primary caregivers of children or aging parents. Use middle of the night chaos to your advantage. (smirk) Listen and watch. Smell and touch. Take it all in, minute by minute, without looking to the past or the future. Just really pay attention. The words, the ideas will flow.

5. Write
: On the bus, in the car, during naps, in the morning, after they are asleep, when you have a break, when you don't have a break. Start something when you feel fresh, finish it later if you must. But, start. Don't wait. Just do it without ego, without worries, without fears.



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Two-fers are the best!



From the beginning, I just knew it wasn't going to be easy to get pregnant. Everyone -- and I mean every single human being -- that knew it was off to a rough start told me, just relax, it will be OK.

Da! knows that the last thing anyone should ever say to me is relax (or take a deep breath or chill or anything of that nature) when I'm stewing over something.

Thinking that you can't get pregnant and have a baby is the worst feeling in the world. Much more worse than slaving over the hot stove for an hour just to have that food chewed and spit out of their little mouths.

After a couple months of Big Fat Negatives, I did begin to worry. We had already bought this house, a lovely 4 bedroom, 2 bath Colonial with a dingy white picket fence and a fabulous backyard for said children to run in.

A year later, I was a mess. It's never going to happen, I told him. He consoled. He said all the right things.

One treatment led to another treatment and as our bank account savings dwindled, so did our hopes.

One last try, we said.

Then the waiting from hell begins. Two weeks. Fourteen stinking days of wondering, waiting.

But, I just knew. About a week in, I started feeling different. Something was VERY different.

"I have this feeling I am," I told Da! over the best chips and salsa we know. "I can't explain it, but I just feel something."

"You're pregnant," she said on that quintessential 14th day.

*****

The room was cold, and I was nervous. I didn't want sextuplets. I didn't even want triplets. I wanted one healthy baby, but we discussed it and we would gladly accept no more than three.
"How do you feel about two?" she said.
Staring at images of two kidney beans, I cried for the first time since I learned that I was going to become a Mama.

*****

"You wanted this," I remember my mom telling me over the phone as I cried to her about how hard it was for me as a new mother.
"You should be happy," she said.
I never felt more guilt in all my life. I vowed to never complain about it again.
Because she was right.
Why wasn't I more happy? Why wasn't I good at this mothering thing? Why couldn't I just smile? Why couldn't I get them to stop crying?
I should be happy.

*****

I'm grateful for having twins. I would have been a different mother to just one.

I would still be working and juggling and watching the time pass all too quickly.

I would watch a lot of television instead of sitting on the floor, as I do often, managing the fights, the squabbles, and the toys that seem innocent, but can easily be used as weapons.

I would stay on the computer more as the child played instead of limiting that time to before they wake and while they are asleep.

I would spend more money because getting to the car, and driving to stores and navigating the mall with a single stroller would be easy. I'd never be home, actually.

I would assume that the picky eater is just picky because of the food I made instead of knowing that it's not that at all.

I would think that the child who throws temper tantrums every other minute is frustrated with me instead of realizing that is just her nature. She was born that way.

I would think that the quiet, more reserved child was ruined for life by me, an overwhelmed Mama -- because I didn't get her out of the house enough when really she was just born that way.

Mostly, though.

Mostly.

I wouldn't hear the sweet babbles of two babies saying, "Mama. Mama. Mama."

I could go on, but I won't.

I'm grateful to know that in a minute they will wake and we will have a great day.

I just know we will.



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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Right Words

I had been mentoring Vivian for roughly three years. She is an extremely quiet girl despite her life experiences after just 17 -- soon to be 18 -- years. I enjoyed being with her despite the fact that talking with her, sometimes, felt like the world's hardest interview. As a journalist, that is not a compliment. I would craft my open-ended questions and she would still manage a yes, no, or I don't know reply most of the time.

Nonetheless, there was something that kept her coming back for more with me, and I with her. We lasted. We weren't a mentoring statistic. We were real, as real as a middle class white woman can be when paired with a Hispanic teenager and rape survivor.

Sure, I had thought about quitting on her. Eventually, I kind of did.

But, one time, just as I thought I had no impact on her, she came out of her shell and read me a poem while we were in the car.

The poem, which she found in a book, that I wish I could find, but cannot. But, it could have been written by her. It talked about how people think she is strong and tough, but she is not. She just wants to be loved.

Those words, as she read them, forced me to wipe tears from my eyes as I drove. I didn't want her to see. I asked for a copy of the poem and I know it's around.

I didn't quit on her then. I knew I couldn't. Ever.

******

The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2, by Marlo Thomas and Friends is one of those books that can bring lessons to you where ever you are.

The book is a collection of essays on topics grouped into topics such as The Simple Stuff, Taking Chances and Finding Yourself.

If you like books like Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul (just an example because this book isn't about writing) then you will probably like this one.

I was particularly moved by the essay, "Zen and the Art of Trying," despite the overused play on the title. The author spent just a day and a half in a Buddhist monastery in Japan. In the midst of the hard work of chores, she exclaims that she isn't doing a good job.

"There is no good. And there is no bad. All that matters is how much you try," the resident nun told her.

I don't know about you, but I could hear these words a hundred times a day.

There's much more in the way of lessons and inspiration, too. To find out more about this book, go to MotherTalk.

I'm grateful to be a part of a community that allows me to read books and give reviews because when you're just a mom things like this give you purpose beyond fixing meals that aren't eaten and changing diapers.


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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

All or nothing



It just occurred to me that the past six to eight weeks had been filled with social activity unlike no other since I became a Mama. The writing class, the yoga class and story time at the library. I've been busy, apparently.

In fact, I've been so busy enjoying it all that I just now realized that it's all over. Every last bit of it ended in a matter of three days. Gone like the wind. Gone like that bag of chocolate truffles Da! brings home now and again. (hint hint)

Now, it's just me, two restless toddlers and some rainy, cold weather.

And, I'm supposed to find something to be thankful for here, right this second?

How about the fact that since I'll be at home more, again, I'll be able to get more writing done? I'm thankful for that. And, maybe I'll earn some extra arm chair money.

How about the fact that my girls have been freely demonstrating some sweet affection toward their Mama with kisses and hugs and snuggles in between their tantrums? That's progress, right?

How about the fact that today I didn't get a rejection letter from a national publication? I wasn't ignored, either. I was put on hold until later in the month. I'll take it!


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