Monday, June 30, 2008

Outside the box mothering

Before my sadness slump over the last couple weeks, I had been inspired to live a more creative life. A couple of books -- The Creative Family and First Art -- and blogs such as this one and this one as well as some personal goals and ideas led me to want to do fewer structured activities and more free form art and nature appreciation activities. I also wanted to spend less time writing and more time creating other things.

I've been trying since the very beginning to foster a great imagination and I see that progressing greatly in Jadyn and Liana. For a long time we've been eating imaginary things and those things recently have been jumping off the pages of our books, such as all the berries in Jamberry and the apples in The Giving Tree.

I practically lived an imaginary life during most of my childhood. While I didn't necessarily have one imaginary friend, I did have a whole gang of them.

I worry about what happens to our imagination and creativity as adults. Rules become so important; creation and ideas so much less.

Of course, I have all of this in my mind as a mother -- yes, even when a bit depressed about other things.

And so my slump did not, fortunately, mean I stopped following the creative path. I'm still on it, and trying to find my way back to those days of free-flowing art forms like oral storytelling and drawing for no reason.

In the past seven days, I filled my camera with photos of the girls doing various activities meant to foster their creativity and love of the world around them. Check back tomorrow for the ultimate toddler painting party. For now, here's a few free ways to nurture creativity with toddlers:

Letterboxing: This is a new activity for us but it's become quite the fun thing to do. First, we love going to parks and as part of the summer reading program we are searching for insect stamps at many local parks. I love how we get to explore, get exercise and do something with purpose. Of course, the stamps aren't just for the book. They get put all over the arms, legs and belly.Nature hikes/museums: If someone would have told me about a free museum with a great little trail that's perfect for toddlers, I might have pitched a tent and moved in two weeks ago. Seriously, it's a great find for those of us limited with what we can do with our toddlers. Here, we are visiting the museum's special reptile exhibit, and following the trail -- which includes going through a pretend rabbit hutch. How awesome is that??

Music, of course: I have tons of songs downloaded and we try to incorporate natural music elements into our days. We listen to a lot of folk since it has a natural tone and sound for toddlers. But, I try and change it up a lot, too. Here, we are just a few blocks from home listening to a local children's music band, The Stephen Courtney Band, that played for free this past weekend. I really enjoyed it, and I think the girls did as well -- at least for their first concert.

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A bloggable moment

A conversation yesterday in the car traveling to my grandmothers:

The Dad: I think I'm going to start a blog.
Me: Really! (I'd been encouraging this)
The Dad: Yeah, I'm going to call it ... Notes to my Daughters.
Me: Silence. Pause. Laughs hard.
The Dad: And, it's going to be really honest and ...
Me: I don't like it.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Walk With A View

Nature walking has proven to be magical. In fact, I cannot recommend this enough to any mother out there who is also struggling with poor self-esteem and isolation.

So, yeah, self-esteem. I hadn't mentioned that, had I?

I have a low one. It's a deceivingly low one. As long as I am setting goals and striving for them -- and making some here and there -- I am OK. But the second things don't go my way, I look in the mirror and start blaming. Myself. Others. Mother Earth. You name it.

Anyway, walking has become my time. I've even found a way to mix it in with errands so that I'm not wasting gas -- because I drive to my walking destination. Monday I walked before a moms night out dinner. Tonight I walked and then hit the grocery store that's along the route to the park.


Why didn't I do this sooner, I was wondering?

Easy. Life just was different. It's always different -- even when it's the same. The girls were born in the dead of winter. That spring and summer I worked outside the home. That fall, when I became a SAHM, I started freelancing and just relished my time with the girls. Winter came and went and my freelancing became my priority.

Essentially, I stopped thinking about me and only thought about my career as a writer.

A month ago, I stopped writing for money. At first it felt great. Then I was feeling inadequate. And now I'm trying to come to terms with this new life of not being a professional writer anymore. Just being a mom and a socially conscious woman who loves to write. I think this is who I wanted to be when I grew up. I'm letting these posts be whatever they are going to be now, too ... which is a mess, I realize, but my mind is a mess so it's all good.

Walking alone in a busy park -- preferably near really nice houses that appear perfect -- is my sweet spot. I like the longest trails I can find so I can't cut it short. I like a nice average walk, right now, because really I am in no hurry. If I lose some pounds walking I'll be happy but that's not my motivation.

My destination is also important. I walk all the time in our city. Walking has always been my sanity as a mother. In fact, I once walked the entire span of the west side one morning in search of yard sales that never existed. I am always the only mother walking her kids. I am always an outcast. I'm stared at because I am the mom with the really nice jogging stroller. Oh, and who has two girls who look very much alike and, oh, "Are they twins?"

And, to be brutally honest because that's my place right now, I am the only white, educated mom walking.

Basically, I'm a freak when I walk near my home. I've never fit in and will never fit in and that doesn't stop me from walking. In fact, I wore freakdom proudly yesterday as I donned a Maine Moose T-shirt -- just for my girls. Gawd, who knows who drove past! I never think about that until three days later someone at the grocery store says, "I saw you walking!"

So ... my purposeful walk in the suburbs is important for me. I love seeing the high school kids playing soccer and baseball, whole families riding bikes, newly married couples walking hand-in-hand and the aging walking their dogs or with their canes.

They all seem so normal. They aren't sitting on the curb, waiting for the homeless shelter to serve its next meal. They aren't standing on the corner looking suspicious. They aren't cursing across the street. They aren't smoking and carrying a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. They don't glare or even turn their head.

No, they smile. They say hello.

I had forgotten these images. I had forgotten the smell of trees. I had forgotten the sound of laughter. I had forgotten about the sound of a bicycle bell, and scooter wheels rolling on pavement. I had forgotten that whole families went out at dusk to get exercise.

These are not things I see and hear in my neighborhood. I see and hear many good things near my home, but lately those things haven't been enough for me. That sense of community is missing. Just another face in a sea of faces. Just another body in a crowd of thousands.

No wonder I've felt so alone.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

One day at a time

Wow, some really amazing women have shown up here this week. So many who I haven't met before. Some I've admired for a long time. Apparently, that last headline on my newspaper drew a crowd.

Thank you. Everyone. I really appreciate everyone's thoughts, ideas, well wishes, etc. I am still reading, re-reading and trying to respond to everyone personally as well. Because some of you were right there with me and you need to be heard, too.
Now that I'm a mostly functioning human being again ... let's see ... where to begin?

I am better. And, like always, I was able to do a lot of soul searching to get to the root of my problem. After all, I am, at heart, a problem-solver by nature.

In the past when I've felt down, I've had many resources to use to pull myself up and out of that dark place. I mean, that is why people drink, right? Unfortunately.

There I was, without a bottle of wine in the house, without using drugs or smoking cigarettes, without the ability to leave and go shopping, without even a dollar to my name due to some stupid extra expenses this month like when the heating unit in our house died just at the end of cool weather spring.

Food, shopping and wine. That's how I've been able to lift myself out of dark places in the past. Not more than a glass or two, a fatty cheeseburger or a sushi roll. Chinese. A new, crisp book off the shelf. These are the luxuries of life I have been missing because I know they are not needed; that diapers and food and saving for a new house or a new car is more important now. I never knew this in the past. I just spent. And spent. And spent.

No, we do not have any family close by to watch the two high energy toddlers. No, we really can't afford a sitter right now. However, a friend and I are swapping nights at each other's houses starting this Friday for us! Time out alone. And we don't even have to pay for a sitter. Awesome.

Anyway, yes, I need some me time. The funny thing is that I've known this and I've tried to do it every weekend, but I realized this past weekend that I wasn't doing it right.

Here's the three reasons why I fell into a bit of depression:

1. Stopped being goal-oriented: I actually decided to stop freelancing and just sit back and be a mom for two months -- until I start working. I honestly feel this might have been the biggest cause of my slump. I suddenly had no other purpose to my life and I felt it, instantly. OK, after a week of watching HGTV. Since Day One, I always had freelancing to occupy my time either with finding new work, making calls or writing. It filled my mornings, afternoons and nights. There was no time to just sit and think.

2. Engaged in bad behaviors for me-time: It's true. You do it, too, if you are here right now. Internet. Computer. Searching for coupons and good deals to save money. Reading blogs. (I do not feel that writing for a blog is a bad behavior, though). All of these things I had been doing -- including tearing down the wallpaper in two rooms -- wasn't about me. It was all a part of this great big journey that I've been on my entire life -- to finally find the next best whatever -- toddler recipe, printable coupon, bargain price, latest release, etc. (I hear Karen ringing her bells at me right now).

3. I'd gotten distracted: I've repeated this here before but my mind is truly a mess. I am an idea machine. A dreamer. A seeker. So many ideas pour through each day it's really, really hard to stay focused. While I do achieve many of the goals I set, there are many dozens more that never see any action more than being written down on a note pad. Even worse, many remain in my mind like little dust balls in the corner. Neglected yet staring at me all day long. Some of those dreams were unattainable at this point in my life -- like wanting to take yoga for exercise and mental clarity but not having any money or time. Like wanting to get out of the house but not wanting to spend any money doing so.

So, what I have I done differently to pull myself up? Well, for one I wrote about it. That's always the first step. And, I cried about it. In the meantime, the people I needed to hear from did reach out and that made me feel better. And, I journaled for several pages.

But none of that is really what helped me.

I helped me. I always do. I spoke up and was heard. That was key.

And then I walked.

And walked and walked. Alone. Without burden or responsibility. Without lists of groceries to buy or coupons in my pocket.

Deep into the heart of this long walk, it dawned on me. I could be walking for free to accomplish so many of my personal goals of taking time for myself, feeling healthier and being more fit. It gets me out of the house!

So, I have started an exercise regimen -- with very specific goals -- that is free and will hopefully get me started in the right direction for my mind's sake but also my body's.

I'm a goal-oriented person. Without specific goals I am exactly who I was last week and the week before. That's exactly why I have lists of what I want to do today, tomorrow, next week. I always try my best to achieve them.

As happy as I am in this life -- and I'm very happy because I am the mother to two of the sweetest, cutest and silliest little girls in our block and possibly the world -- and as frustrating as they are right now, I have always realized how lucky I am to have them to push my buttons all darn day. No, it's not easy mothering twins. There is a constant heartbreak underway. Someone always has to be put down or put second and when they are so little and still not able to fully communicate that makes it even more complicated.

But, more on this twin thing later in the week.

Again, thank you. I'm better. Really. I told you it would happen.

Then again, it's Sunday night. Ask me how I am on Thursday since that seems to be the day of drama around here. And, I'm without car wheels one extra day this week.

Will the saga continue? I cannot say. I can only say that I do truly hope not.

Is this my longest post ever? I am so anti-long posts so sorry. As Jadyn says now when things get a bit out of hand, "e-Nuff."

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Keep going; nothing to see here

There's this saying among law enforcement that graffiti is the newspapers of the streets.

I'll add to that.

This blog is the newspaper to my heart.

And last week I wrote a dark post that really was a call for help, a yearn for someone to reach out to me.

That post was ignored by everyone real in my life. No one called to see if I was OK. No one even e-mailed, as much as I hate email these days.

It's not the first time. In fact, just about every time I've written about how I'd love to have some company, some help, some support, a caring shoulder to cry on, my headlines go unanswered.

Family is still too busy to make time for us. The only company we have are from my mom's club.

I've even gone as far as asking people for specific help around our house only to be ignored, shoved off or offered some vague not really helping kind of help.

Today, I questioned my mental outlook as I cried, again, on the way home from the park this morning. The girls wouldn't leave; ran in different directions leaving my heart to leap with worry and fear, which always puts me on the edge. I am not strong enough, fast enough, smart enough to outwit them anymore. I don't want to be the mean mommy. I don't want to cave in to their every want either.

Everything is a battle right now. This age, this stage. From the second we wake in the morning to the second we go to bed. When I walk through the door I am not who they want to see. When we walk downstairs, being home with me is not where they want to be. They argue over what book to read, what movie to watch, who gets what toy, chair, shirt, car seat and which way I should drive when turning out of the driveway.

They cry for daddy, for the park, for a car ride, for friends and family who we rarely see and won't be seeing for a long time.

I'm not sure if this is the terrible twos or if this is just what life is going to be like. It's hard to see past my own tears half the time.

They only miss me when I'm gone and I'm never gone. Ever. Who can leave when there's no one here to stay?

The responsibility of trying to keep them happy, entertained, uninjured by themselves and by each other is enormous. Much, much more than I ever dreamed.

I could handle all of this if it weren't for all the crying.

It's the crying that tears me up; that makes me want to run. Some days it's constant. There are some days when nothing I do works.

I wanted to be their life, but it's clear I am not. They want the world and half the time I can't even afford to buy them lunch.

I am trying so hard to be a good mom, a happy mom. I truly am. And I hate it when people tell me to cherish these days -- as if I'm not, as if I'm trying to rush past it all. I'm not. Not at all. I'm just trying to survive each day with some sense of knowing I did an OK job today. That I'm not ruining them for life, that they will be proud to tell stories of their childhood.

Dan is taking a day off today (Friday) to offer me some help. I hope it doesn't ruin his chances of getting the job he's trying to get. Just to help me. Then again, he hasn't taken a vacation day since, well, I do not know when. A year perhaps. Too long. Way too long.

I am going to try and mother myself for at least part of the day. Because, I think, ultimately that is really want I need, a mother for myself. Someone who actually thinks about me, my wants and needs, my hurting heart, struggling mind and wavering strength.

Why didn't I get the memo? Why didn't anyone tell me how hard being a mom is? Why did everyone pretend it's so easy and perfect and wonderful? I might have been more prepared.

But, go ahead, keep walking. Nothing to see here. Really.

Just everything.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Happy motherly moments

It's no secret that 2 has been kicking my ass.
In fact, that might be an understatement.

However, in an effort to pretend that everything is perfect and sunshiny I am focusing on the positive moments today. This week. Maybe it will be a list to incorporate every week from here on out. At least until this phase of obstinacy moves past us.

Here are some happy motherhood moments sticking in my mind lately.

  1. Watching the girls eyes go wide as they went down the big slides at their first carnivals with their daddy -- twice in one weekend.
  2. Hearing the words: More ice keem; no likey; i sorry, mommy; Nana, look! Fire truck!; bun (which means fun); and, I wuv u whispered in my ear as a secret.
  3. Seeing the two of them learn to really play and mimic with their dolls. Watching them feed them cereal or "lunch" with a spoon, give bottles, wrap them, unwrap them in blankets, push them in shopping carts, put them down to sleep only to wake them back up in seconds. The way they hold them and nurture them shows me that I've done my job even if it doesn't feel that way most of the time anymore.
  4. Helping them make a tall stack of blocks just so they can knock them over and hear them crash.
  5. And, finally, wanting to twirl along with them as they spin and spin and spin in the prettiest dresses in all of the land during music class.

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For those with young children

I've reviewed Baby Bug Magazine and you should check it out if you have a toddler or three at your house. Baby Bug is not to be missed.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The sun came out today

Who knew?

And, I think I've figured out a few things ... I'm a mom of twins.

Enough said.

See you Monday.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Swollen eyes, hurting heart

It's the kind of day that I could easily spend it in bed, under covers, crying. Ask what's wrong and I'll just nod and shew you away.

Everything. Nothing.

It's the kind of day that if I weren't a mother in charge of two human beings I would take a long drive -- to the beach, maybe -- and sulk in the wonders of nature.

All of it.

It's the kind of day I want to give up, pack up bags and go away and forget people's names and faces.

Including my own.

It's the kind of day when I feel paper-thin, fragile, so transparent that I'm invisible to the naked eye.

But no one is watching.

It's the kind of day when I feel like I could stop breathing and no one would know.

The phone never rings. The door never knocks.

It's the kind of day when everything is dark. And I'm not home. And, I'm tired.

So very tired.

I've been here before. I will bounce back. I have before.

But, a little Between the Lines hiatus is in order. Will be back next week sometime.

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You may find me elsewhere

I'm excited to announce that I'll be posting each Thursday on the topic of twins on the fairly new and very good multiple moms blog, How Do You Do it?. Please check it out, especially if you have twins. Because many of my readers are not twin moms, I don't always talk about the twin aspect of mothering on this blog so this will a fun adventure for me. Plus, it will help me continue my quest in writing a book about raising twins that is already under way.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mom I am Not

I am not an amusement park Mama. My mother wasn't and since I wasn't big on those kinds of parks as a kid either, it's no wonder that I am not cut out for them as the mother of two toddlers.

And yet ... and yet two Sundays ago I was one for one day.

Read that story and a review of Sesame Place here.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Letter to my Daughters

Dear Jadyn and Liana:

I'm glad you were sleeping Saturday afternoon. I'm glad your little eyes were closed shut and your breathing was slow and deep and restful. I'm glad.

Because just one floor below, I couldn't keep it together. As Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke about being a woman, who ran for president, and lost the bid and cracking the glass ceiling, I was a blubbering mess.

Because of you.

It stopped being about me long ago.

All too soon you will learn what it is like to walk around this country -- this earth -- as a young woman. This is no small endeavor. There will be obstacles. You will find yourself in predicaments. You must be smart.

We must stick together. We must stand up for each other. We must try and stick together. We must cheer for each other.

And, strong women, my girls, stand alone. You must know this. You must be prepared. You must stand strong. And never falter. Ever.

Mrs. Clinton said it best:

Now, on a personal note, when I was asked what it means to be a woman running for president, I always gave the same answer, that I was proud to be running as a woman, but I was running because I thought I'd be the best president. But...

But I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us.

I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter's future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows.

To build that future I see, we must make sure that women and men alike understand the struggles of their grandmothers and their mothers, and that women enjoy equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal respect.

Let us ... Let us resolve and work toward achieving very simple propositions: There are no acceptable limits, and there are no acceptable prejudices in the 21st century in our country.

You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories ... unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. And that is truly remarkable, my friends.

To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all of the way, especially the young people who put so much into this campaign, it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours.

Always aim high, work hard and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you're knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can't or shouldn't go on.

As we gather here today in this historic, magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House.

Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it ... and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.

This is not the scrapbook I wanted to keep for you, dear daughters. But, nonetheless, you will have a scrapbook from this very historic election. Just be sure that it will include a little more than his-story. Her-story will be equally covered.

And, I hope it all leads to your own stories to cherish forever.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Go ahead, love your library

Love books? No money? No time?
Check out this latest post on The Chunky Purse.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Settling in to life

I've been a full-time mom for a week now. I have no other purpose in life besides that job. Well, no other paying purpose, I should clarify.

It's both scary and exciting all at once, knowing that my time is (somewhat) mine again -- at least naps are, knowing that I can stay on the Internet and surf around for fun, and not feel any guilt.

I do feel a bit guilty about not picking up in the housekeeping department, but I'm giving myself a full week to just splurge with my time. And since I'm not very good at staying still that now means I have taken on a house project (or two) this week.

I have been giving a lot of thought to what makes a house a home and the thought of nesting. It could be that I've been watching too much HGTV, again. But, after picking a very wrong agent to sell our house, taking a job that will be just down the street and knowing that a change may be coming down the pike for my better half, we have taken our house off the market to let life settle. It's a decision that is both comforting and disappointing. The upside, because there always is one in most situations, is that I'm free to decorate, again. There are so many ideas spinning in my head -- none of which are even feasible since we will be selling this house one way or another.

So now with a little extra time since the girls are easier to deal with, and come August a little extra money ... what makes a home? Here's my list so far. Please feel free to add to it with your own thoughts.

  1. Textures: I love seeing fabrics, metal and wood in a room. Rustic. Woodsy. Soft, like wrapping in a blanket. I'd like to incorporate more of this into our living spaces in the next few months. Bella's talked a lot about her home, and blankets.
  2. Colors: Personal colors, vivid, earthy colors. I have a very strong lean toward oranges and browns. I'm going to do our kitchen in various brownish reds. It's partly there. In fact, I might be spending a great chunk of summer tearing down wallpaper and painting the four rooms left bearing the old stuff.
  3. Creative spaces: I think our house has great flow, but there is a creative block I am sure. I am no feng shui expert, but I know how I feel. That said, we need more visuals on the walls that inspire more than the desire to head to the local art store.
  4. Plenty of light, but privacy, too: This is a hard one to achieve in the city. I think our house has a good amount of light and privacy -- at least the inside does. But, I could do better with some of the window treatments and that is a goal of mine. Good, beautiful shades or curtains in all the rooms. I, personally, also feel that good blinds or shutters add to a home. Not sure this is in the cards for this old house.
  5. A place to gather: We do not really have this space. I've never really had this space so I guess it's no big loss. Our backyard is about the best we have for a group to sit around and chat. I've worked on our living room being this central point but I'm not sure it's working.
Tip of the day: Twin toddlers make great wallpaper removers. Free workers except they ask for a lot of juice and Cheerios in return.

How about you? What makes your home?

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Monday, June 2, 2008

What's that chirping sound?

As I make my way toward this whole working thing, I'm still trying to figure out how this blog will fit into that new life of mine, or how that new life of mine will fit into my blog. My silence about the new gig -- which does not start until late August -- is definitely intentional.

I have privacy issues to consider -- both my family's as well as myself since it's a more public job. I'm used to public jobs, but I haven't had one in a while. Not that any of you would sabotage my career! I'm thinking more on a local level.

So, one of my thoughts is to move to the Twitter medium. I've been practicing and I'd like you to join me. I will be focused a lot on the mental anguish over everything from picking out something to wear to work (always dreadful) to leaving the girls at the door of day care and crying about it.

I'll still blog, of course, but it will not be as frequently, I'm sure.

If you haven't checked out Twitter, it's the new best thing and it's growing on me. But, I need followers or I feel like I'm talking to myself out there.

Before you get on your soap box, consider these facts: Twitter takes five minutes tops to update, less time than that to read what your favorite mom bloggers or friends are talking about and makes responding and commenting easier than ever. There are some downsides as well but you'll figure those out for yourselves.

So, sign up and start following my random thoughts of the day here.

Better yet, start tweeting yourself and let me know so I can follow you, too.

EDITED TO ADD: If you need a quick lesson in brevity in your writing, Twitter is the bomb for that. It teaches you to say volumes in just 140 characters -- that includes spaces, punctuation and words, of course. It's a great writer's lesson every time you Tweet.

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