New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

I think New Year’s Eve was more fun as a kid. It just seemed a little cooler. Like New Year’s Eve 1979 when I feel asleep watching Purdue and Tennessee in the Bluebonnet Bowl only to wake up after midnight and suddenly realize that it was 1980. As a kid, its pretty cool to walk around saying, “hey I went to sleep in 1979 and woke up in 1980.”

The girls get all jacked up to stay up until midnight even though they have yet to watch the ball drop live on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Who else remembers Frank Poncherello and Julie McCoy hosting the 1978 version with Chuck Mangione playing his horn?

I’m not really looking forward to four days at home with the girls though. We just endured five days at home with girls over Christmas. Got to see both The Princess and the Frog and Chipmunks 2. Princess and the Frog was pretty good. It was a vintage, traditional Disney princess story. No computer graphics which was cool and no social commentary which was cooler. But skip the Chipmunks. How you can have Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate all in the same movie and completely waste their talent? Have them voice chipmunks, that’s how.

Anyway, I was happy to get the girls back into daycare yesterday. Mostly because I was tired of hearing things like, “After you, your ugliness,” as the girls climbed past each other into the car. And although I appreciate Bailey’s creativity, I really don’t need to hear “Jingle Bells” sung in chicken.

Not kidding.

She sang “Jingle Bells” as we walked through the grocery store yesterday using only one word – “bawk.” That’s right. Go ahead and hum that to yourself.

If she had done it in pig or cow, I probably would have thought it was funny. In sheep it might even been enjoyable, but “Jingle Bells” in chicken, as we were ironically going past the eggs, had me ready to slam my face into a cinder block.

Oh and here’s a tip for next Christmas – if you put chocolate in the kids’ stockings, monitor their consumption levels. Especially if you’ve also put beef jerky in their stockings. Yeah, for some reason the girls wanted beef jerky in their stockings. Together, however, they don’t really get along. Like the Steelers and Raiders in the 70’s, like Cliff Barnes and the Ewings, like Gargamel and the Smurfs – they just don’t mix.

Riley had an emergency evacuation of all personnel on the stomach level about midnight Christmas night.

“Feel better kiddo?”

“Yeah, but this smells really bad, its gonna make me throw-up again!”

“Um…flush it.”

“Oh…thanks Dad.”

See experience is valuable.

Christmas Eve

Here’s a couple things I noticed at the 3:00 Mass at church.

1-I think if you have boys you just give up on having them wear anything other than sneakers. Kind of like if your team is owned by Daniel Snyder you just give up on hopes of winning games. Nearly every boy is wearing khakis along with some kid of Christmas sweater or sweater vest and their Nikes. The ones that somehow gave in to their Moms and wore the dress shoes look like Franco Harris in a Seahawks uniform.

2-Its difficult not to smile when you hear a whole choir of children sing “Away in a Manger.” Doesn’t have to be a big full smile, might be just that smirk using just half your face. But you can’t help it.

3-Little kids are just mesmerized by the Nativity scene. You can’t take a 3 year-old by it without them trying to see the baby Jesus or grab hold of a cow. If you try to usher them along to quickly they’ll act up. And there is no place to take them on Christmas Eve. Upon witnessing this, I immediately thanked the Dear Lord for not having babies anymore.

4-It doesn’t matter how many Catholics you pack into mass on Christmas Eve, we can go through the communion line faster than Brett Favre throws interceptions. You can add people, seating, change the traffic patterns, divide us up among three different rooms – doesn’t matter. We’ll line up in an orderly fashion, take communion and return to our seats faster than Harry Reid can bribe a Democrat from Nebraska.

5-Catholics are physically incapable of standing up and lifting the kneeler quietly. The Pope himself could be saying mass and it would still sound like kids jumping out of bunk beds.

Anyhow, Merry Christmas and thanks for reading this blog. I need to go and make sure the girls get out the kind of cookies Santa likes…

Christmas, etc.

A couple weekends ago we had the Christmas program at church. I distinctly remember my 7th grade Christmas program. We did The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I was Claude. I’m pretty sure that I’ll remember this year’s program too. Why? Well, its not because the \"boing\" kid was in the top row on the riser screwing around. Its because we made the mistake of putting the girls in the new velour dresses they got from Grandma at our first Christmas a couple weeks ago. Velour evidently doesn’t breathe well under the lights.

Riley gets off the stage and says, “Oh man Dad, it was hot up there. I’m all sweaty, feel my pits.”

I declined.

Anyway, I was home yesterday with the girls. And I was home today with them too. Let me know if you heard any of this over the last 48 hours.

“Dad, what’s in peas? Green mashed potatoes?”

“You smell like oatmeal.”

“Teenage boys are weird. They pull their pants down really low and their underwear shows.”

Somehow from that we transitioned into a discussion about kissing. As in, “Dad, did you kiss Mommy before you were married?”

It instantly occurred to me that my answer here would be lasting and have an effect. Most of the time when I face these kinds of situations I just tell the girls to stay away from boys because they are gross and smell like feet. With one in kindergarten and one in second grade, that’s usually good enough. But Riley is 10. She’s in 4th grade. So I need to start with some type of logic.

“Yes, people can kiss each other before they are married. “

Bailey, not unexpectedly, has a comment. Bailey is just 6 years old and we’re already sure that at some point during her high school years we’ll get a call or two from local law enforcement regarding her whereabouts.

“That’s why being a teenager is so cool, they get to kiss. And have phones.”

Have I mentioned I’m dreading the teenage years?

Published in: on December 24, 2009 at 7:23 pm  Comments (3)  
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Christmas Confusion

It’s a Wonderful Life is my second favorite movie of all time – right between Hoosiers and Patton. Ever since NBC got the rights to it 16 years ago, you have to make sure you don’t miss it. It’s on Christmas Eve. Has anybody else noticed that there are at least five actors in It’s a Wonderful Life that are also in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?

No? Well, have you noticed that several of the Christmas classics aren’t all about goodness and light? It’s a Wonderful Life is really kind of a dark movie. George is about to commit suicide before Clarence Oddbody, Angel Second Class (AS2) saves him. Suicide. On Christmas Eve. That’s cheery.

What about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Santa isn’t exactly the jolly old fat man with the snowy white beard when he gives Donner the beat down about his kid having that unacceptable physical deformity. How about Coment telling Rudolph’s pals that since he looks different he can’t play any games with them? None of that however compares to the toys Santa leaves on an isolated island hidden north of the Arctic Circle. Toys that have been rejected by children around the world and then herded up and locked away in an internment camp. Not all comfy cozy is it?

Rankin-Bass has some others that are weird too – Santa Claus is Coming to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Santa Claus is Coming to Town tells the story of how Santa became Santa. His folks leave him on a doorstep when he’s just a baby. Instantly, you’re forced to explain abandonment to your kids. Which is not a subject I’m especially fond of explaining around Christmas. Although it is a little easier now that you can use what Congress is doing to the Constitution as an example.

Anyway, Santa is raised by an elf family luckily named Kringle. Evidently, the Kringles have the same powers that Snow White and Dr. Doolittle have since baby Santa is brought to them by the animals through the forest of the Whispering Winds. Which really sounds like an exclusive golf course. The Winter Warlock, bearing a striking resemblence to Judge Smails in a wizard costume, is evidently the honcho who rules the forest and all the animals live in fear of him. Which is what is going on in the nearby town where the baby Santa was left on a doorstep. Rankin-Bass developed this special in 1970 which is only 25 years after WW 2. Which might explain the anti-German bias in there. How else can you explain the Burgermeisters? Why are the Germans cast as the villans anyway? They don’t hate Christmas. They aren’t fun-loathers. They invented Octoberfest for cripes-sake!

Anyhow, Santa not only befriends the Winter Warlock and melts his icy heart but he outwits the Burgermeisters as they do everything they can to stop him from delivering toys to the children. Many of their efforts lead to explanations as to why we have stockings, why Santa comes down the chimney, why he grew his beard, why Santa lives at the North Pole and why reindeer fly. Its all pretty logical and easy for kids to understand. Except for the parts where the Burgermeisters capture Santa, throw him in jail and burn all toys he’s delivered to the children. I use that as a lesson to the girls about what happens when you put a San Francisco liberal in charge of banks.

In The Year Without a Santa Claus, Santa gets sick and is told to take a break as not many people still believe in him anyway. So two of his elves, Jingle and Jangle, who we’ve never heard of before or since, travel to America to find some folks who still believe. They go south and avoid the northeast because, unless its subsidized by the government, they don’t believe in anything out there. But this story does takes place in the 20’s when America was still America and wasn’t beaten down by 90 years of the income tax and other subtle forms of wealth redistribution. But Jingle and Jangle screw up and lose Vixen who ends up in the dog pound in a place called Southtown. This, I tell the girls, is why we don’t have a dog. The mayor of Southtown goes all Ray Nagin and says he doesn’t believe in Santa or Christmas and it never ever snows in Southtown anyway. But if the elves can make it snow, he’ll free Vixen. Which means during a Christmas special intended for children you have an elected official clearly violating the basic rights of Vixen and engaging in blackmail.

So the bumbling elves go to Mrs. Claus for help. She turns to Heat Miser, who bears a striking resemblance to Dan Rostenkowski, and Snow Miser. Turns out for it to snow in Southtown, Heat Miser has to allow it. He says no deal unless he can get some of that action Ben Nelson got to vote for the health care bill. Result?

Gridlock.

So Mrs. Claus, in a nod to 70’s environmentalism, asks their Mom, Mother Nature, to lay the smack down. At this point, Santa has had it with the Pelosi-like pace of his health care and sheds the Santa gear and goes to Southtown to get Vixen himself. While he’s there, he discovers that people do still believe in him and in Christmas. In fact, the children get together and decide if Santa needs a break, well that’s just fine and they’ll make presents for him this year. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is the plot to the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Special too. Well, Santa decides he’s fine, flies to Southtown and makes a rare public appearance in what is now a snow covered Southtown. Then Al Gore verbally accosts Santa for speeding up global climate change through this unprecedented snowfall in Southtown, berates the townsfolk for having faith in something other than Mother Earth and then starts waving around his Oscar statue.

Or something like that.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to watching It’s a Wonderful Life Thursday evening. Mixed messages or not.

PJ Day

You know what call I dread receiving? I mean aside from the one I get from my buddy after a Cyclone loss where he blames everything from a low completion percentage to the failure of Operation Market Garden in September of 1944 on Iowa State’s quarterback.

I dread the one I get about 5 minutes after Mom leaves to take the girls to day care before school.

Why?

Because it means we forgot something important to the girls that has them in a panic resembling Tom Brokaw’s reaction when he realized Florida didn’t go to Al Gore on election night 2000. This morning I received that call.

“Hey its PJ and blanket day for Kinsey. Can you grab some jammies and her blanket and run them up to daycare?”

I hate PJ day. In fact, I think it sucks. That’s right – sucks. I said it. Its not like I don’t already have to remember to sign three permission slips so the kids can go see The Nutcracker or that Riley has violin on Mondays, and that Kinsey has to bring a sack lunch on Tuesday and that Bailey has some some weird art day on Wednesday. Add some random unscheduled activities that significantly change our morning routine. And make sure that those random activities involve some type of wardrobe modifications or lunch adjustments so it is widely apparent to the rest of the kids in class who the few are who forgot about it. Sure, no problem. While you’re at it how about Celtic Dance Day? Or dress like a Viking Day? Scandinavian armor is easy to find.

And do it during the last few days before Christmas, excuse me I mean “winter,” vacation. I mean its not like there isn’t anything else going on this time of year. Its not like I am already mad because the Direct TV guy won’t get on the roof to install my HD so I can watch the college football bowl games. Stupid snow. Plus its not like we don’t have a lot going on this weekend like a rehearsal dinner tonight, a wedding tomorrow and Christmas with Mom’s family on Saturday. Plus the only organization on a longer losing streak than the Steelers is the French Army.

Hey, but its cool. No problem. I can remember freaking PJ day…

Slumber Parties and Santa

We ended up with six 4th graders for the slumber party Friday night. But one couldn’t sleep over, so only five actually stayed overnight. It went smoothly. Loudly but smoothly. Is there something genetic that happens to 4th grade girls when you put a small group of them in close proximity that they are forced to speed up their rate of speech? Then does that increased rate of speech actually fuel their energy levels? We could have powered most of the upper Midwest with the energy produced in our house Friday night. We may have fractured a few noise ordinances too. Not to mention they lose their ability to sit. And if they do, they can’t sit on the parts of the couch that are meant for sitting. I look over into the family room and four of them are lined up sitting on the back of the couch leaning against the wall. Speaking rapidly.

Luckily, at least it appeared to be lucky at the time, Mom suggested that I take Kinsey and Bailey out to dinner to get them out of the way of the older girls. So not only do I avoid discussions about who is the smelliest boy in class but I also get to have nachos.

Kinz and Bails, however were not as excited as I was to leave the house. I’m not real sure why though. Rye was armed with a whole bandolier full of “go away’s” and “leave us alone’s” and was fully prepared to fire them off faster than Jesse Ventura and his mini-gun in Predator. Rye didn’t want them “ruining her slumber party.” And she said so with such conviction that you’d have thought the two little girls had some sort of detailed Kevin McCallister-esque plan to destroy the party.

On the way to the restaurant Kinsey confidently tells me that when she has her own slumber party, she won’t be mean to Bailey like Riley is being to the two of them. She’ll let Bailey play with her friends the whole time. I smiled the grizzled smile of experience. Then I quickly noted the date, time and location and had Kinsey repeat it into a digital voice recorder.

We get to the restaurant and Kinsey, realizing that she’s the biggest sister at the table, tells me that she’ll sit by herself on one side while Bailey and I can sit on the other. Hmm, this is a good sign. Normally they disagree on seating faster than Bo and Luke disagree on which dirt road to take to lose Roscoe.

They transition to debriefing me on some last minute additions to their Christmas lists. Typical stuff: webkinz, barbies, shoes. Again, no Steelers gear. But I rectified that issue by calling Santa up on my cell phone right there at the table and telling him that the girls could use some new Steelers t-shirts.

Kinsey asks, “Did you just talk to Santa!?”

“No, he was too busy, I got some middle manager in the sports merchandise section. Said he was a Master Elf Second Class. Whatever that means. But he added the Steelers stuff to your list so we’ll have to wait until Christmas to see if you get it.”

“Wow,” says Kinsey barely able to form words through her smile.

“So you talked to an elf?” asks Bailey in a slightly puzzled tone.

“Yup.”

“Was his voice squeaky?”

“A little bit and it was really noisy. Sounds like they are really busy.”

“Oh man, Christmas is so awesome.”

Anyway, Kinz ordered a hamburger and fries. Bails ordered a pizza which she gets to make herself. The restaurant lets the kids spread the sauce and cheese and then individually place the pepperonis. Bails gives the pepperonis to her sisters because she likes cheese pizza.

Usually when we’re at the restaurant we let Rye take the other two to the bathroom. But I didn’t have Rye. So they went by themselves. Aside from them racing each other back to the table which included Bails using the Henry Hudson searching for the northwest passage strategy of navigating her way through the bar and then back to the table, we didn’t have any issues.

Well, I mean except for the fact that they made Kinz a cheeseburger instead of a hamburger and they lost Bails’ pizza and had to make her a new one. Importance? Kinz evidently doesn’t like cheeseburgers. And Bails doesn’t like pepperonis. Oh and it added an extra 30 minutes to our normal 60 minute restaurant time limit. The girls begin losing access to their behavioral systems controls at about 65 minutes and completely lose volume and motor control at 75 minutes. At 80 minutes something happens to the neural transmitters that communicate the ability to sit on any kind of chair.

Most parents have several strategies to deal with a restaurant screwing up your kid’s food. The first thing to avoid is any sign of panic or distress. You need to be like Marino on 4th down with :42 left in the ’82 Sugar Bowl. Steely eyed and focused.

And lucky. Turns out that while Bailey doesn’t like pepperoni on or near her pizza, she likes cheeseburgers. And while Kinsey doesn’t like cheese on her burgers, she likes pepperoni on her pizza.

Could I really be this lucky?

No.

See even though a logical and simple resolution to our dilemma had presented itself, this resolution involved something known as “sharing.”

So faster than MacGyver can build a hang-glider out of toothpicks and turkey baster, I cut the cheeseburger in half and scraped the cheese off one half and handed to Kinz and gave the other half to Bails. I grabbed all the pizza with pepperoni and gave it to Kinz and left the rest for Bails.

“There. Problem solved. Now eat.”

“Dad, can we have some of your nachos?”

Grrrr…

Incredible Pizza

So we have this place out here called Incredible Pizza. It’s a chain so you might have one too. It’s pretty cool. But I probably wouldn’t describe the place nor the pizza as incredible however. If they were being honest, they call it “Decent Pizza.” We’d never been there before but since we added another 7 year old to the house last week when my side of family visited, we decided this might be a good place to eat. And have the kids burn has much energy as recklessly possible.

Last year when we went out to Colorado and I was ready to duct tape all four of the kids together and then hang them off the balcony of my sister’s condo.

Anyway, Incredible Pizza has a buffet. Four different themed dining rooms to eat. Video games, go-carts, glow golf, mini-bowling and then all those sweet games like ski-ball, whack-a-liberal (I mean mole), and air hockey. Kinsey beat me at air hockey 6-3. And she was crying most of the way through because she smashed her finger. So that made me feel pretty manly. Nothing like losing to a blubbering 7 year old.

They did have guitar hero. Even Mom played. She’s a Juke Box Hero. Stars in her eyes. Rock and Roll All Night is good song to demonstrate your ability to wield the axe to your kids should you decide axe wielding is something that appeals to you.

Mom and Bailey won the go-cart race. But they cheated. The instructions relayed to us at the beginning of the race distinctly outlined that you are not allowed to bump other cars out of the way. First time you get a verbal warning, second time you’re out of the race. Mom and Bails passed Riley and took out my sister and her boy. Kinsey and I managed to pass Riley too but adhering to the rules prevented us from getting second place. But its good to know that Mom is willing to make a calculated decision to break the rules if it helps her win. She’d fit right in the SEC. And they got a trophy. Bails has been carrying it around with her since last Friday. She even took it to school this week.

Spent a fair amount of time playing Galaga. It remains as cool today as it was in 1981. Plus after the air hockey beating, I needed a boost to the ego. Having your 4th grader watch you blast your way through a few Challenging Stages with absolute stunned wonderment helps out.

Rye nailed a hole in one on Hole Number 4 in Glow Golf, Smacked it right through the barn off two walls and into the hole. Got a little cocky after that.

My nephew got 32,000 on ski ball and something 250 tickets which enabled him to get this spring loaded gun that shoots a foam rubber stealth bomber. He decided to shoot at me for a good portion of the rest of day. That was nice.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, we had an early Christmas. Got my younger sister these two t-shirts.

Anyway, Riley is having a slumber party Friday night. Seven 4th graders including her. Same night as the Iowa State-Iowa basketball game. So that should be great.

Blizzard ’09

So good news and bad news today.

Bad news – we got about 15 inches of snow followed by 40 mph winds. Mom and I shoveled the driveway and sidewalk 5 times in the last 36 hours. Had to go back on the deck because the drifts were about 4 feet high. Snow plow came down our street about 6:00 tonight. That’s only noteworthy because it started snowing yesterday morning. We all had snows days today. No school, no work.

Good news – Patton was on this morning on AMC and Mom made some banana bread.

Bad News – Aside from the shoveling, we were trapped inside with the girls all day. Plus their friend next door came over too. And they put on at least 4 plays for us. There was “The Princess and The Witch,” followed by “The Witch and The Cat.” There was another one in there where they essentially argued about shoes. Then a ballet routine that was kind of like interpretive dance. Choreographed by Riley of course.

Good News – Democrats in Congress solved health care! Whew! That was close. They dropped the public option and instead chose to expand Medicare to the size of the Galactic Empire. Which means they are dropping the public option in order to expand the public option. C’mon man, that’s like telling me Turner & Hooch and K-9 were really different movies.

Here’s a pic of the snow today.

First Christmas

My side of the family does everything early. We get together for Christmas the first weekend in December. Which, if you have a calendar handy, is right now. They arrive Thursday afternoon. Last year we drove out to Colorado. The coolest thing so far about Christmas, I mean aside from Mom’s employer sponsoring Christmas music 24/7 on one of the local radio stations, is that we don’t have to travel anywhere for Christmas. This is the first time this has happened to me since Reagan and Gorbachev were hanging at the White House in December of 1987.

Other things that haven’t happened to me since then: rolling the pant legs of my acid wash Guess jeans and detention.

Yes, the no traveling part of Christmaspalooza ’09 is freaking sweet. No packing. No making sure we bring all the gifts. No meltdowns over which blankets and pillows and stuffed animals and baby dolls the girls can bring with them. No whining about watching DVD’s in the car. None of that. Best of all is that we don’t have to repeat the vicious cycle of family travel that befalls us every time we get in the car for a trip. Usually around the 35 minute mark Bails decides she needs to sing. Loudly. This annoys all of us. But no one more so than Kinsey. Why? Because she’s usually in the middle of telling Riley something while Riley ignores her. So you have one kindergartener loudly singing butchered lyrics to some Hannah Montana song, a 2nd grader telling a 4th grader something that the 2nd grader believes is of vital importance while the 4th grader pretends not only to not hear her but also that she is invisible.

But two things have already happened because we have an early Dad family Christmas. The made their own lists this year and we’ve made a batch of Christmas cookies. Mom and the girls are making the cookies Sunday afternoon and Kinsey is really proud of her work. Here’s one in which she took particular pride.

Then she made one with a happy face. To which Bailey asked, “Why don’t you make one with a sad face.”

Kinsey replied, “I can’t make a sad face, Christmas is too awesome!”

Anyway the girls put their lists together and I got them out to my sisters and my parents. We’re usually last in the list distribution race. My little sister usually has hers emailed out to us about Labor Day. So the girls wrote down their own stuff. Worked well for Riley and Kinsey. Except for the $350 American Girl Doll Cabinet Riley wrote down. Yeah, it’s a $350 cabinet for doll clothes. Unless that cabinet has a LCD HD TV and a mini-fridge, I’m not buying it. Next thing you know somebody will tell they us the government can take over health care, guarantee it to everybody and it won’t add a cent to the federal deficit.

Only issue was that Bailey wrote her list in cursive. She’s in kindergarten. And she doesn’t know how to write in cursive. Or spell. So it wasn’t really all that useful. But I managed to sit down with her and hammer out a list from a few of the Toys R Us inserts in the paper.

I feel a little bad for the girls. The Toys R Us insert is nothing compared to the JCPenny Christmas Catalog from the late 70’s and early 80’s. Do you remember getting that in the mail? Man, it was like a book of pure awesome. I’d go right to the section with NFL jerseys. And plastic M-16 rifles.

Back to the girls’ lists though. I used my parental editorial power to axe the talking camper or RV that gives the kids pointers on how to protect the environment. If I wanted to raise a trio of weather hippies I’d just have them watch “The Day After Tomorrow” about 50 times.

I was disappointed to learn that none of the girls put any Pittsburgh Steelers gear on their lists. I assumed this was an oversight and a reaction to their disappointing 6-5 record and therefore used the latitude granted to me in the various parental compacts and accords to add it in there. Now if I could just get the NFL to start manufacturing children’s throwback jerseys for Terry, Franco and Rocky. Brings a tear to the eye picturing #12, #32 and #20 running over to the tree on Christmas morning.

Somewhat related Top Three of Day – My Favorite Christmas Songs
Silver Bells
It’s Christmas time in the city… C’mon who doesn’t sing along, smiling and swaying to and fro? Just me? Okay, nevermind.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
It’s cheesy and corny but its true. It is the most wonderful time of year. NFL football in December plus Christmas is pretty tough to beat. Christmas is the one holiday that lasts a full month. Thanksgiving is awesome but it’s only one day, two at the most. Halloween is great but even though it has a pretty decent buildup, it is nothing like the countdown to Christmas. Plus Christmas is so powerful it lasts for a week after its over!

O Come All Ye Faithful
Silent Night and Joy to the World are great songs too. Especially when you hear them in church sung by a really good choir. But my favorite is O Come All Ye Faithful. For whatever reason it is the most nostalgically powerful Christmas song in the hymnal. Everytime I hear it in church it feels I’m back in the basement at St. Margaret’s under the watchful gaze of Sister Beverly Jean.

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm  Comments (4)  
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