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lenten discipline

Lent is coming to a close this week, and I wanted to share a few reflections on the season before I burst in tomorrow with a thousand shots of Easter sewing porn.

In our church we start out the season by thinking of a thing you want for yourself and some things you want for your friends. Then we commit to praying about those things every day. I wanted extra oomph to my prayers this year, so I decided to do a big fast. I fasted from sugar. Cane sugar, corn syrup, dextrose... you get the idea. No cookies or cakes, obviously, but also no ketchup, no soup, no tomato sauce, no cheerios. No Ritz crackers, or really any crackers besides Matzah. No beer because it's made with sugar. No chinese food. No barbeque. No muffins. No stop&shop chicken tenders that sometimes sneak in as covered by food stamps. No lots of things.

I did eat fruit because people who say fruit is sugar are crazy. And I okayed maple syrup and honey to be there in case of emergency. And on sundays I put equal in my coffee because the point is just to miss something, not to hate life entirely.

But still. It was kind of a big deal.

I had a big thing to ask God. I wanted a real relationship with Jesus. Not a theoretical relationship with the historical Jesus. I wanted to meet the guy.

Now, of course I had a relationship with Jesus before. I'm saved and all. But what it felt like was, I'm this prisoner and I have a big hot-shot lawyer in the best law firm in the country. But he's so busy that I never see him, I only sometimes get to talk to him on the phone. And mostly I don't even get to talk to him on the phone, he's so busy he never picks up, so I only write my notes on the margins of the legal briefs and pass them along and hope he reads them. I'd like to see him sometime if he gets the chance, but all the same he's a great lawyer and I'm really glad he's representing me.

Like that.

So I did this sugar fast thinking it'd help me get closer to Jesus. And I'm happy to say I don't think it had anything to do with the sugar. Jesus was more than happy to take a meeting.

Of course, the way I am, I think to change my life I have to change my diet. What a Jew I am. Perhaps I over-think things.

I am looking forward to the return of sugar this Sunday with some excitement. I really do miss ketchup (Oona, I know you're laughing at this if you read all the way to here). But there's also lots of trepidation. I don't miss walking into the kitchen when the kids are screaming and thinking, You know what would make this day go better? CHOCOLATE CHIPS!!!!! Maybe the next time that happens I should call my lawyer.

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from the mouth of babe

"Mama, you're a good worker!"

That's what Harvey said to me this morning when we were sitting in the office. I was sewing Zion's bunny and Harvey was working on a "sweater" made out of scraps of cloth and every single ribbon we own. "Mama, you're a good worker." I don't know why it came to him to say such a thing, but it was like he spoke directly to my soul. Tears started to well up there in the back of my eye sockets. It was like he was answering the secret prayer of my heart:
Her children arise and call her blessed. (proverbs 31:28)

I am feeling very emotional today. I also have an unquenchable desire to get my hair dreaded, but I'm going to wait to make a decision until after my period is over.

Here are some non-angelic things Harvey's said recently, to balance out this post:

"I don't like it when you talk to me, Mama. Only when you set up a show."

"Zion bonked his head on the ground. He just fell down on his own - I didn't push him."

"I made the gun for me and you for share, Zion!"

Easter crafting

We're probably not getting more baby chicks this year, so instead the boys are getting some more squeezable versions in their easter baskets.

pile of sewn baby chicks

dive on into a pile of chicks

I used a cashmere JCrew sweater that will no longer accommodate my post-baby body. Did I really ever wear a size small? It was a favorite sweater, though, so I was very conservative with the fabric. I made 10 baby chicks from just the two sleeves. There's still the entire body of the sweater left! Maybe I'll make a cashmere chicken sometime down the road...

Continuing with the bird theme, I ordered some white rubber duckies online and decorated them with sharpies. The "Joseph" duck is for Harvey and the zebra duck is for Zion.

painted rubber duckies

you're both the one

I washed them with soap and hot water after coloring, so I think they should be safe for both bath time and chewing on. It's a fun little project, although it's hard to keep colored fingerprints off the ducks while you're doing it, as evidenced by Joseph duck's head tattoo. I have 10 more for the kids to color at our easter party. Sharpies and Easter clothes? I don't know, I'll see how the other parents feel about it.

We are hosting an Easter party you see, for our small group and accompanying ten children. I wanted this to be the biggest egg hunt these kids have ever seen. It's the first one I'm making personally, so I'm just full of a converts zeal about it. I ordered a gross of easter eggs online and then when I had them in front of me decided that this was nowhere near enough. This is what it looked like in our living room when I stuffed 190 plastic eggs.

messy egg stuffing

Harvey, how many M&Ms have you already eaten?

In addition to candy, playdough, and plastic trinkets, I also made bunny finger puppets for each child.

bunny finger puppets

hippity hop

Sorry the shot is blurry, I took it in the midst of egg-stuffing madness. Yes, I put the bunnies in eggs because I thought they'd be fun to find, and I wanted a mix of hand-made stuff with the store-bought crap. Dan asked me, "How can we ensure one child won't find them all and hog them?" The answer is, I don't know. I mixed up all the eggs so that the bunnies won't be hidden close to one another. Beyond that? I'm relying on the resurrected Jesus to help me out. Also, their godly parents will probably make them share. If I have a few extra minutes before Sunday I might make another two bunnies to keep in my pocket just in case.

the boys' new Easter clothes hanging on the fence

formalwear for farmers

Of course, I don't anticipate many free minutes before Sunday afternoon. The boys outfits (as you can see from Dan's lovely photography) lack ties. I'll write more about the clothes next week when I get some good on-person shots. What I will say now is this: I get quicker every year at turning out these Easter clothes and yet.... For some reason I remain surprised that my idiotic refusal to make muslins results in stupid alterations to what should be finished garments. Whatever, I don't want to talk about the pants now. I'll talk about them in a later post. Now I have to find a bow-tie pattern for a one-year-old.

This is going to be the best Easter ever.

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your dose of anarchist theory for Holy Saturday

Everyone would be an anarchist if they weren't trained to have a visceral reaction against the word as if it were something dirty like "social darwinism." Here's a lovely paragraph from one of my favorite blogs that I hardly read:

Gustav Landauer was one primary example of a constructive anarchist (and a mystical one at that!). Landauer reframed the classic anarchist question about the necessity of abolishing the state. Landauer wrote “The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.” The State only seems to be necessary because we presume it. In fact, the State is artificial and can be overcome by forming real relationships with “People”. The question of state or no-state is a false choice. “If the State is a relationship which can only be destroyed by entering into another relationship, then we shall always be helping destroy it to the extent that we do in fact enter into another.” Landauer advised the formation of alternative communities of real relationships that would not destroy the prevailing system by a frontal assault, but by withdrawing energy from it and rendering its institutions redundant. Landauer’s position didn’t require that everyone become an anarchist, nor did it force anyone to do so. It only forced those who desired to live differently to begin doing so immediately – to practice radical democracy.

According to Ric Hudgens at Jesus Radicals.

When I say I hardly read Jesus Radicals, it's only because of the length of the articles, and the PHD department writing style. Whenever I do understand something I'm pleasantly piqued. Go energy-sucking alternative communities!

wellspring of crazy

Sometimes I feel like I have this bubbler inside me... you know like a bubbler in a water cooler? But this bubbler is of crazy ideas. Thankfully these ideas bubble rather infrequently. But when they do? Watch out! Because there is nothing to turn the bubbler off save going through with the insanity. Six years ago it was about getting a dog. It was like my hunger for owning a dog was an all-consuming physical feeling. "Can we go to the shelter today?" I asked Dan. "Tomorrow? How about tomorrow? Come look at this puppy online. Does this puppy look cute? Dan, does this puppy look cute?" On and on every second until we finally drove down to Sterling and brought home our Rascal. I think it took like two weeks but to me it felt like FOREVER.

I was safe for a while, happy dog owner, but three years later the bubbler started up again. "When are we going to have a baby? Let's have a baby! Can we get pregnant NOW?"

Last year in the springtime I couldn't go to sleep for looking at pictures of different chicken breeds online. After we got our chickens, though, I was sure I was safe from the manic oppression of the bubbler. We can't have any more animals now, certainly, and two babies in diapers is enough for the time being.

And I WAS safe, for a whole twelve months or so. Then I saw this blog and something clicked into place. And that thing is the bubbler going "I HAVE to get dreadlocks."

Dan says, "Dear Lord, these episodes are coming closer and closer together!"
"Yes," I reply, "But of all the things I ask for, dreadlocks will require the smallest time commitment from YOU."

Now back up. I've thought about wanting dreads on and off since 2003, but I always dismissed the idea as too crazy for any number of good reasons. I was trying to get a job or I never wanted to go through a short hair grow out phase or I'm afraid my sensory integration issues will drive me batty if I can't wash and comb my hair every day. Then again, you'd think there are rational reasons why someone might not want to own a dog or chickens or two children in diapers, but something beyond ration drives those choices, and that something has turned on under the dreadlock issue for some reason. That's the only way I can explain why I'm spending every free moment watching dread maintenance videos on YouTube.

I've been praying a lot over the past few days whether I should move forward with this. Will my neighbors judge me more harshly and call the cops when my dog gets out? Will people in my Small Group stop taking me seriously? I prayed and prayed about it and today I heard God laughing, "LEAH! I JUST DON'T CARE!"

I mean, we're not talking about gender reassignment surgery or anything. This is a hairstyle.

The next step is seeing if I can save up a month's worth of babysitting money, given that I also need to pay the real estate tax this month, and also buy some meat to eat for God's sake, because Dan and I totally both have a protein deficiency; we're like mainlining peanuts after every meal. Something has to be done. I don't care if we're poor we need to allocate a greater percentage of our budget to eating animals. Seriously, our brains need protein to function. HEY! Do you think that's the source of the bubbler? Lack of brain fuel? Okay, so real estate tax first and a roasting chicken second and when there's enough money left over I'll call the hair salon and ask them about extensions.

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boys in the garden

Harvey playing in the garden wearing yellow rain boots and a yellow tie

gentleman farmer

Harvey and I enjoy playing in the garden, even if we don't get too much accomplished. Only he does it with a little more style than I manage, apparently. We haven't let him actually wear his Easter clothes out to play (though he totally would if he could), but yesterday the fitting for his tie required bringing out last year's model and of course we couldn't deny him the wearing of that. Not even while playing in the mud.

Of course, all mud around here is purely user-created at this point, since, while summer in March is now only a memory, we're still waiting for our April showers and things are pretty dry and dusty. So a watering can was just the thing for creating a pond, or perhaps a pool, which was then augmented with a selection of the "play wood" we have lying around the place. (We have "play bricks" too, but they're a little too heavy for any of our children. And both wood and bricks were put away in anticipation of our Easter party—might some parents not approve?—but he knew where they were and brought them out again.)

Zion was also outside for some of the action, but he wasn't wearing a tie so I didn't take a picture of him. He too was very content to amuse himself with what came to hand, though I do shudder a bit when he tries to use rocks as teething tools. Much like Harvey at a similar age he emerged with a little bit of dirt around his mouth, but I'm sure there was nothing like a peck involved.

All I managed was planting out a few seedlings that were suffering from too long in their containers, and then putting down a row cover to keep them from freezing to death. I'm all mixed up this crazy spring: I sowed a few "as soon as soil is workable" crops already, but everything stopped growing entirely over the last few chilly weeks. I've never seen anything like it: the radishes that sprouted on March 24 didn't get their first true leaves until yesterday, 12 days later by my probably inaccurate count. Kind of frustrating for a crop that should be half-way to maturity in that time span! On the other hand, it's been great for the daffodils and forsythias, which are headed towards their third week in bloom and still going strong. So I guess I can't complain—especially when I have the boys out there working right along with me.

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Easter Suits

Getting a collared shirt, bow-tie, and vest on Zion this morning was like trying to wrestle an alligator. An alligator who only wants to suck his thumb. For a moment I was convinced that "all is vanity." Why do I put myself and my children through this? Then Zion flailed towards me and I caught a glimpse of him, orange bow-tie, orange buttons, orange cheeks, and suddenly tears rushed to my eyes. My beautiful little boy! He's soooooo cute!

zion with easter egg

gentleman farmer

Harvey for his part likes getting dressed in lots of clothes, and together they made a striking pair.

Harvey and Zion posing in their Easter suits below the flower tree

still presentable after church and party

The sewing details are as follows: The pants are the Little Heartbreaker pattern from the book Sewing for Boys. A good pattern, even though it is long and exacting. Nothing too hard, just a lot of steps with the pleats and the pockets and the edge stitching every which way. Still, I really like the look, if you can make it in the right size. I made Harvey's in size 4/5 and that was a big mistake. He normally wears a size 4, but the pattern came out way too big and I needed to take in an inch on either side. Even so the pants were falling down throughout the day, and I had to make some impromptu pleats in the back with safety pins. So he won't get much wear out of this pair, but I'm thinking of making some jeans for him in the 2/3 size. He really does like those pockets.

zion standing in his easter suit

serious duds for a serious baby

The vests are based on a free Burda Style pattern that Dan helped me size up for Harvey and down for Zion. They go together really easy for a big presentation value. I got some great compliments at church along the lines of "Where did you FIND those outfits?!! Gasp! You made those?" (Yeah, that's totally why I do this, ego pet pet.) Unfortunately, our best guess at the pattern drafting wasn't quite wide enough for Zion's ball-shaped body, so I used elastic closures around the buttons instead of button holes. It ended up looking really cute, and gave him a lot more room to maneuver his pudgy little torso. And it was easier for me than making another entire vest. Drafting is not really my strong suit. One day I'll learn my lesson and make a stupid muslin.

Dan came up with the idea of bow-tie for Zion / tie for Harvey, and as always he was spot-on with his fashion sense. Both come from internet tutorials that I altered so much it will not serve you to see the original links. If you want the accessories like the ones you see here you can come to my house and copy my pattern. Or you can buy some from my etsy shop... when I get around to creating one.

kids playing by fence in easter suits

It's nice when have boys clothes have a pop of color

Harvey is so lovely to sew for. What an appreciative little child. In every fitting he just gushed over the pants. "Beautiful beautiful pants you made, Mama!" "Can I try on my Easter pants again?" And when he knows I'm making something for him he's so excited about it. "Is my tie ready?" "Can I wear my tie tomorrow?" What a doll. I sure do have a nice family.

the four of us in Easter clothes in front of the flower tree

looking mostly presentable

But what is Easter really about? Photos? Presents? Bragging about my sewing and my stunningly cute children? No, Harvey said it best when he was playing on the floor this evening: "Life is risen! He's risen indeed!"

Happy Easter everybody!

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Easter report 2012

So the clothes and crafts were the important things, but we did also celebrate Easter here at the squibix household. Did we ever celebrate!

First, we went to church. Our start date of quarter past eight for child preparation was just right to get us there in time for the 9:30 service. In our defense, we did have a little further to travel than on past Easters: in a break with precedent we abandoned our usual holiday allegiance to my childhood church and went to the Greater Boston Vineyard—which is fair since we're there all the other Sundays of the year. The boys like it because there are bagels.

Harvey and Zion eating bagels on the multi-purpose room steps

chocolate chip for H, whole-wheat for Z

Then it was on to the party, the focus of all our activity for the last two weeks. The egg hunt went off wonderfully, though Harvey was too distraught (at life in general) to take part. Also I didn't take any pictures, which is a shame, but you can imagine how festive it was to watch the kids in their Easter finery scurrying around to find each of Leah's 170 lovingly prepared plastic eggs.

Our other prepared activity—I say our, but it was all Leah's doing—was decorating white rubber duckies with sharpies. The combination of permanent markers and Easter clothes was a tricky one, but luckily we had plenty of smocks in the house: that's what happens when you let it be known that you'll accept no-longer-needed t-shirts from family, friends, and distant acquaintances.

kids in big t-shirts coloring ducks with sharpies

bright Easter colors

There was also a lot of food. We all ate a considerably amount—perhaps more than we should have, even if Harvey was the only one to actually vomit from overeating. I don't think he really felt sick, it was just that there was too much food in his stomach so at some point the extra needed to be expelled more expeditiously than we would have preferred. It was probably for the best, actually.

All in all it was a great day. Let's do it again next year.

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shared enthusiasm

As I try and indicate on my poorly maintained "home page", two of my five interests are cycling and gardening. Like anyone else, I like chatting about the things I enjoy, so how pleasant is it this year to have several friends at work with whom I can share my obsessions. Aside from pointing folks to the seed supplier I patronize I can take no credit for the new gardens being planned this spring among my co-workers, but I like to think I'm at least positive example. If I can do it, anyone should be able to, right? Similarly with the bicycle: at least two other people have told me recently that they'd like to start cycling to work. Awesome!

Now all I have to do is pressure them into going through with it. The weather's getting nicer! If you want a start date, bike to Work Week is May 14-18! I may not ever make it as a missionary, but I guess this is the next-best thing.

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outing to sunny up our thoughts

This afternoon I set out to walk the dog and the children under a painting-perfect blue sky with white fluffy clouds. Halfway down the block it started to rain. And rain harder. And rain and rain and rain. And yet I kept walking forward because why was this possible? Why was it raining on me from a clear blue sky? Why does everything look so lovely and yet I am getting totally wet?

This is a metaphor for my life right now.

I mean, it's not really a metaphor; it actually happened that way, I did get caught in a sun shower. What I mean to say is this: it FEELS like stuff should be great right now, but it FEELS like I'm getting rained on. Like life looks generally sunny, and yet I'm stuck below this invisible cloud.

Dan's job is crapifying its health insurance options, which means that we'll need to leave our current pediatrician and drive to Burlington or Billerica instead of just walking around the corner when the kids are sick. It was enough to make me put my head down on the kitchen table and cry. Then I told Dan he should switch to a long-term sub job so that we could get on Mass Health, because our doctor takes that insurance. Naysayers who think government-run health care would LIMIT consumer choice should consider how much the current health care situation limit's EMPLOYMENT choices. Anyway...

Also, Harvey's been waking up every night to vomit and Zion's been waking up every half hour to scream. I probably shouldn't look any further than this for the source of my problems.

I had a lot already scheduled yesterday, but I decided we needed to get out into nature pour changer des idees. I often forget that Minuteman National Park is just down the road. So quiet, so sprawling, so nice to get out into the simple revolutionary-war-era pasture.

harvey in the pasture

grazing

We spent most of our time playing around the house that burned down. ("Why'd it burn down?" "You see that big fireplace in the middle Harvey? Well the fire from the fireplace went onto some of the wood by mistake, and it made the house catch on fire and burn down." Two minutes later: "Why'd it burn down?" "Because the fire escaped the fireplace and got onto the wood and that made the wood burn." Two minutes later, "Why'd it burn down." "Because it caught on fire, Harvey." One minute later, "Why'd it burn down?" "Fire, Harvey. Fire.")

boys playing in a sand pit

burned out house has sand to play in

We also took a long walk behind the Hartwell Tavern and looked at some now-uninhabited chicken coops with sticks over the window as bars. I wonder if that was ever really raccoon proof? Maybe raccoons had more wild prey in 1775.

retro chicken coop at minuteman national park

retro!

They probobly didn't have mesh flooring in 1775. I wonder when they put that in, and if the historical society every kept chickens back here.

Then we played in the sheep pasture. This space is really wasted without animals. We need some intrepid young farmer to propose raising sheep on the national park land... it would really up the authenticity of the place, especially if the shepherd dressed in colonial garb and brought in heritage breeds.

gate to the sheep pasture

I am the gate for the sheep

Zion found a bucket in the sheep pen and exercised his love of containers. You can see why his mother took up baskets weaving for him.

zion playing with bucket

anything in here?

All in all, we spent a lovely morning with the park to ourselves. It turns out I have great boys, and they act great when I let them explore someplace new, rather then letting them turn the living room into the site of a cage match while I desperately try to fold laundry. I don't think field trips are the only solution to my personal rain-cloud... paying some bills and eating some protein and getting some sleep would probably help to. But outings are a good start.

zion and mama at minuteman national part

Junior Explorer

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the dreadlock question

So I am thinking kind of intently about getting dreadlocks in my hair. For those of you tracking this decision of mine with great excitement and impatience, I've written this blog post to detail my decision making process so far.

Logistics

It seems like there are two ways to dread your hair when you're a white person. One, you can roll them yourself and gradually let them dread over the course of a year. This is the more messy route, and your hair is kind of a long-term project you're working on. The other ways is to pay a professional to backcomb and seriously break apart your hair. It costs something like $300, but then you have the basic shape of dreads in a day, with them looking more like normal tight dreads in 6 weeks.

I'm not a real hippy, so I'd get salon dreads. I hate gradual change.

The other logistical decision is whether to add fake hair extensions in there. The extensions would make the finished hairstyle look fuller, and they'd also enable me to get smaller dreads. White people often have big thick dreads and few of them. I would love thinner dreads and more of them, but it would require the addition of plastic hair. I was really set on getting extensions before I saw them today at the beauty shop. Then all of a sudden I had second thoughts about both the look and the weight of the plastic on my head. Still, I want to look more like Shakira and less like Buckwheat. I don't know, jury's still out.

Why do you want dreads?

There are very few hairstyles you need to defend with an ideological argument, but dreadlocks is one of them. I'd start by saying that first and foremost I think dreadlocks look pretty. I think I would look pretty in dreadlocks. Hairstyles are about vanity foremost, and I wouldn't do something to my hair if I didn't think it would look better than many other alternatives.

But of course that isn't sufficient. Dreadlocks are an identity statement, for good and for ill. I am excited that strangers just meeting a me with dreadlocks might assume some of the following things:

I am more poor than rich. This is true.

I hold liberal to extreme political views. This is also true.

I am a calm person who enjoys chilling out. This is not true, though I wish it was.

They might also assume the following negative things:

I do drugs. This could not be any more untrue. I have nothing against drugs, I just have no desire to spend my time that way. See above re: inability to chill out.

I am dirty. This is sometimes true. I do spend a lot of time with poo-producing children and animals. But mostly I shower, and even with dreads I would wash my head with soap.

To conclude this point, I think dreads are prettier then my normal Fran Drescher looking hair, and the messages they impute are more positive to me than negative.

Yeah, but then you couldn't get a job.

I am not on a professional career track right now. Indeed, I've gone in and out of wanting dreads for almost a decade, but I've never seriously considered doing it because I was, like, trying to get hired or keep a job or whatever. Now that I am raising children and out of the workforce I feel that dreads would be a better expression of my personality then curly hair perpetually pulled back into a ponytail. I don't think I'll have dreads forever; if and when I want to go back to work I'll cut them off and have short hair for a while.

There are more questions this raises, however, because dreads might bring greater public scrutiny to certain choices we've made regarding our financial situation. It's a complicated issue, but I'll try to touch on it quickly. Even though we face pretty big financial challenges, Dan and I still think it's best for me to stay home with the kids rather than trying to return to work. Our ideal situation would be for Dan to get a slightly higher paying job so we could make ends meet with me staying home. Because his current job isn't ideal, we accept assistance to make our bills work out, both from the government in the form of food stamps and heating assistance, and from private charity at our local food pantry. There's this sort of stance one expects from someone taking charity: "Of course I would help myself out of this situation if I could, but I lost my job and then I just keep getting knocked up..." At least, I feel sometimes that I have to justify myself, give a reasonable reason why I'm poor that people would believe (that I don't know how to use birth control) rather than a rationed explanation why I've make certain choices that keep me poor (that I believe raising children in the absence of money is preferable to raising children in the absence of me during the daytime). If you come into a food pantry as a white girl with dreadlocks then it's something different though; you're willfully flying in the face of people who diligently try to find employment. I don't think that's necessarily bad... it's true after all. It's just, I've made a decision to be out of the workforce for the time being, and I wouldn't be able to hide that decision anymore. Dreadlocks would mean that I'm wearing my choices in a way that I can't pretend away. Is that good or bad? I don't know. It's challenging.

There are other little things to consider. Would normal people stop being friends with me? What would the neighbors think? Will Dan ever totally get behind this decision?

Anyway, I think that covers my thought process up to this point. I'm mostly doing this to be pretty and because I want to change my hair, but there's a lot of background stuff to consider. Anyone else have an opinion on this?

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Thank you to old readers and new ones

At the Patriot's day parade today I ran into an old high school chum who kindly mentioned that he sometimes visit the blog (Hi Derek!) I am always overjoyed when I hear that people are reading. My desire is for everyone I know to follow this blog, and then I won't ever have to talk to people. No, just kidding. I'd talk to MORE people because old friends will be like, "Hey, I'm into that stuff too" and then they'd email me and we'd make a date to hang out. Or something like that in my little lonely fantasy land.

I does give me pause sometimes to think about the things I write about and the people who could be reading them. I believe there's value in being transparent, but I do wince sometimes to think that an ex boyfriend will find out that I'm living in poverty, or that I only ever had sex with my husband twice and I got pregnant both times. (Well, that's an exaggeration.... that I plan to tell my children when they reach puberty.)

I hope everyone follows the blog on an RSS reader, because if you don't that stresses me out that I should be putting up new content every day. And also we put all the content into the RSS, and we don't serve ads there or anywhere, so there's no excuse for you. Download NetNewsWire and stop wasting so much of your time seeing if your favorite blogs posted new content. I'm only saying this for your own good.

Anyway, if you want to start reading this blog but haven't ever before, here's the rundown:

I (Leah) am a stay at home mom of two lovely boys, Harvey who is almost 3 and Zion who is almost 1. Dan works in the public schools. We live at around the poverty line, and sometimes we write about how we have no money. I do a lot of crafting and sometimes I pretend like this is a craft blog and put up photos and talk in lingo that no one understands. Dan is an awesome gardener and sometimes writes about that, as well as about biking at which he also smokes the competition. We have four chickens and a dog but they're not allowed to hang out together.

We are also people of faith and sometimes we write about that. I hope in a way that isn't too off-putting, but I don't try hard enough to not put folks off. We also sometimes talk about politics, and I'm SURE we're off putting when we do that.

If you want a blog that is both beautiful and sexy, you should read my cousin Helen's blog. If you want to read about my hair and cute things my kids say, you're in the right place.

Thank you everybody who reads our blog! You are always welcome to come over and hang out and take home some eggs. Just email me and give me a little warning so I can pretend like I keep a clean house.

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oh my goodness, another blog post about my hair

Thank you to everyone who weighed in a about my proposed hairstyle change. I've been thinking in these past few days (are you ready for a deep thought?) that hairstyle is an identity issue. The intersection of how I see myself with how I present myself to society. As such there seems to be a lot at stake when the presentation changes. Will everyone accept me in the same way they did before? if not, is there an asymmetry between the person I think I am and the way my friends view me?

The answer seems to be Yes and No. The people I've told in person "Hey, I'm going to dread my hair" have all pretty much shrugged their shoulders and been like, "Yeah okay. I get that that's something you would do." Which makes me feel pretty good about the way I currently present myself. Which is to say, I feel like a crazy hippy in my mind, so it's nice that my friends see that. It's the friends on facebook that have been more like, "Wait, OMG what?"

Here's another banal deep thought coming your way. It's hard for me to reconcile my current sense of self with the person my facebook friends knew ten years ago. Of course, the Leah who goes to reunions is the same person: I certainly present the same combination of fake-outgoing anxious over-sharing bubbly exhaustion that I did in high school. That's just the way I talk. But from a values perspective there are few things I cared about ten years ago that I still care about now. (Of course how banal again. I had kids in that interim and that changes everything; I'm not saying anything that everyone else hasn't figured out, and yet and yet...)

The person that I was ten years ago, overanxious and striving and wicked concerned about my appearance, that person died (theology alert!) and was buried in the waters of baptism. Yes, I know the way I appear in this blog post is overanxious about my appearance, but, er, it feels different and I swear I'm a different person. And theologically speaking I can be both that person and a different person; we are resurrected both in the "now" and the "not yet."

Dot dot dot. I feel like I started to write this post with an air of "You guys don't get me" and now that I've written it I find the whole thing kind of bitchy.

Dot dot dot. I've left this post and come back and I've completely changed my mind. Of course I am the same person I was ten years ago, extremely anxious over how other people view me and whether they accept me. If not, why would I vomit so many words about whether people like or dislike a hairstyle that I haven't even gotten yet?

No. The Leah I was at 6 and at 16 (theology alert!) is the Leah that God created, the same Leah that lives today saying every stupid joke that comes into my head and being more exuberant than the social situation warrants and having my heart break into pieces every time I see a fuzzy animal. But. (one last theology alert and then I'm done.) The Leah at 16 did not live in freedom, and I do. On account of Jesus, yes. Primarily so. But also on account of pursuing a life of freedom. Living freely sometimes feels very easy (thank you Jesus) and sometimes very difficult (thank you facebook). But that's the struggle that we've set ourselves to, and I hope that's what my friends see in me when they look at me and see a crazy person.

Okay, enough on this already. Hair is going into dreads on Thursday. I'm not going to talk about it again until I have photos.

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sometimes we're Patriotic

Zion on the grass with his free flag

barefoot patriot

I feel obliged to post about Patriots' Day every year, because it's awesome and also because I'm aware that everyone outside of Massachusetts and Maine doesn't know anything about it. You're totally missing out! (Since my core competency after eight PM is more posting photos than explaining historical holidays I'll leave it to wikipedia to get you up to speed.) We were joined this year by the VB family; while we beat them to the parade route they were rather more prompt with the blogging. Clearly they've got their priorities straight.

a few from the Middlesex fife and drum corp

parades are serious business

Bands, reenactors, trucks, baton girls, clowns: all were well represented. The fife and drum corps were my favorite this year.

the William Diamond fife and drummers

I know that flag-bearer

Zion was thrilled to be out and about, and I took many cute pictures of him engaged in a variety of endeavors; it was a struggle to pick just one to publish. I chose the one leading off this post because of it's resemblance, loosely, to other parade photos of yore (they wear hats and wave flags). Harvey also enjoyed himself but less demonstratively, and he spent more time eating and sleeping. I have photos of him doing both, but he's more comely in the former case.

Harvey dipping fries in ketchup at the parade

parade food

Lemonade, slush, fried dough, hot dog, and french fries—all consumed in addition to the actual lunch we packed for him and brought from home—were at least as interesting to him as the parade. I guess he's blasé about the whole thing—it was his third Patriots' Day parade, after all. Not so for Zion and his friend Nathan, who wasn't sure what he thought about all the commotion.

Nathan looking uncertain about the procedings

"do I like this?"

And then there was this big boot thing, which amusingly enough came by right as Zion was diverting himself with unlacing my shoes. I was happy to distract him with the plus size model.

a boot car

big shoe to fill

For the sake of the historical record I need to add that the day was quite unpleasantly hot this year, which is why the pictures show us reclining in the grass rather than out there on the curb as usual. We reserved our spot with a quilt but quickly decided that we'd be better off with a slightly obstructed view from under what shade could be provided by a budding maple tree. Also note that we traveled by bicycle, which is quite the way to do it. For some reason traffic is a little heavy around parade routes.

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Free to love

We recently got into reading a blog called Sparkling Adventures. The family seems really cool and similar to us in many respects. They're alternative seeking Christians. They parent free range. They hate wearing shoes.

Of course, they live in a traveling bus and let their children call them by their first names, so it's not exactly like we're twinsies.

Still, I was feeling inspired by the biblical hippiness. Find community wherever you go! Screw money! Rock on! Then the other day Lauren who writes the blog dropped a bit of a bomb. Because of the freedom afforded them through their walk with God, her husband is gonna start sleeping with other people. Well, it's kind of unclear... Maybe just one person. Or maybe she's just okayed him to start looking for a person to sleep with. There are really an unfair amount of details left out of her blog post.

Now. These are not the first Christians to conclude that their liberation from sin plus their love in Christ for every man equal open hunting season for hippy booty. (Has anyone used the phrase "patchouli booty" before? They should.) We talked about this in bible study last night in fact... Why should we stand agape at an open marriage and not, say premarital sex or driving on the sabbath or wearing garments made of mixed fibers. I mean, Jesus invalidated lots of laws. Isn't where we draw the line only based on our moral relativism?

By the way, if your bible study doesn't discuss free love when you read Revelation then I feel bad for you. I'd be happy to sign on as a consultant...

But back to the topic at hand. I have often found myself defending polygamy. Polygamy solves a lot of problems... the need for extra help and companionship in chores and childbearing, the need for someone else to have sex with your husband when you're recovering from giving birth.... for 13 months. Of corse societal polygamy causes problems too, notably the need to purge a large number of boys from the fold every generation, but I then there are drawbacks to everything.

I confess, however, that sometimes I fantasize TOO MUCH about polygamy. I would just love it if someone else could jump in and solve all the challenges that being married presents. I can even concoct very loving looking orgy fantasies. But they're not really biblical. "An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife..." (Titus 1:6) I have a tough time arguing that Jesus's death invalidated laws written in the New Testament.

Dan's conclusion last night in BStudy is that whether or not free love works for the Sparkling family, blogging about it risks putting a stumbling block in front of those who are struggling with promiscuity and its negative effects. I think that's a nice counterpoint to a theology of complete freedom.

And hey, there's another lesson to be learned from this: If you want to increase loyalty in your readership base, announce something sexy on your blog. I just can't wait to hear what happens next.

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coffee theory

A week from today our friend Luke is leaving for Ethiopia on a top-secret mission. All I can tell you is that involves coffee. Oh wait, it's not actually top-secret: you can hear all about it at coffeetheory.org. I still can't tell you any more than that it involves coffee, though (well, coffee and international travel) because the endeavor is still very much a work in progress. Here's what Luke has to say about it:

I believe that we’ll be able to find a way to bring a sustainable, profitable, coffee business into Addis Ababa, which will provide employment and empowerment to some families there.

There's more to it than that, of course—Luke hadn't written anything for the internet in a while so he saved up a lot of words. But the key point is that he's going to do something with coffee and maybe bicycles that'll help poor people in Africa. What could be finer?

If you want to help out or just keep up with the goings-on, you can get hooked up with the coffeetheory.org RSS feed, or subscribe by email, or follow Coffee Theory on Twitter. Check it out!

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dreads, day 1

The other day I wrote about the spiritual concept of "the now and the not yet." I'd like you to think that way in terms of my hair.

I got my hair dreaded last night, but it'll take about six weeks to look like cute tight normal dreads. So there is the finished look I'm going for, that's the "not yet" part," and then there's the "now" part which has things to celebrate while still not being the exact finished thing. Got it? Okay, I guess I'm just trying to set your expectations low. Here's the day-one pic:

dreadlocks, day 1

not trying to look high in this picture on purpose... the sun was really bright and I was squinting.

And here's how I'll wear it until it tightens up and looks less messy in the front

dreads from the side with a headwrap

looking all demure for having a humongous head

I actually think the wrap looks pretty cute! I have like an imperative to accessorize now.

dreads from the front with a headwrap

wrapped up and ready to go

I've had some moments of "Oh Lord, what did I do to my hair??!" in equal measure with "Oh my God this looks so adorable!!!" My curly hair was lovely, but I needed a change and a reprieve from the way the curls pulled at each other and hurt all over. I'm happy to report the dreads feel feather light, as if there's nothing on my head at all. Not to say that I dreaded my hair to help my sensory integration issues, but it's definitely a plus.. All in all I'm enjoying the feeling that this hairstyle, while feeling major in a way, is actually a rather low stakes life change. If I don't like it I can have really short hair in a few months. Is that really such a big deal? Anyway, for now I feel good, and I'm excited to see how the dreads will cinch up and get thinner in the coming weeks.

I want to make a cute funny joke here, but I stayed up past midnight with the hairdresser and Harvey woke me up at 5:30. So, um, yeah. Dreads. Yipee!

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now we're cooking with gas!

A couple weeks ago we decided our oven was broken. We were forced to this conclusion by the fact that it couldn't get hot enough to cook anything. Warming, sure: with a good half-hour of preheating it could manage to reach as high as 200 or even 250°F. But bread was assuredly not being baked, nor vegetables roasted. The conclusion wasn't precipitous on our part; for the last few months we've felt like we're living in the pioneer days as we stick our hands in to see if we've made it up to a moderately slow oven. What on earth could we do, when faced with this calamitous situation?! We agonized for quite a while, and then on Wednesday Leah called an oven repairman—and everything was fixed up as good as new within an hour.

That's a pretty amazing turnaround, especially considering how long we waited to do anything about the problem. Now that the thing is once again working as it should we can see how far our standards slipped as it took its slow decline. It heats up to 350° in less than 10 minutes! I've got to break my habit of turning it on to preheat as I start making cookies—or as soon as I think about maybe wanting to make them. On Easter, the last day that it kind of worked before the repairs, I turned it on first thing in the morning: that was the only way to get any kind of useable heat.

But that's all done with now! And the very kind repair guy tells us that, with our new igniter, we should be good for another five to ten years. To celebrate, I baked bread (Harvey was pulling for chocolate-chip cookies—sorry boy, practicality wins out).

a loaf of bread on the kitchen table

bread

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Sunday baseball special

I haven't listened to more than a couple hours of Red Sox baseball so far this season, so it took a (re)tweet from Luke to alert me to the current poor state of the team:

If Rodan swooped from the skies and devoured every #RedSox player on the field right now it wouldn't surprise me. Might even salvage the day[.]

(The sentiments originally belonged to @SurvivingGrady, clearly a long suffering fan still pining for the glory days of Butch Hobson. This is Rodan.)

Clearly things were bad last night, and indeed, checking up on the news I found on the Google News front page an editorial entitled "Enough Is Enough: Boston Red Sox Do Not Deserve Your Support". The piece quotes another blogger as complaining, "are there any teams that have made such an art of hurting their fans [like the Red Sox have]?"

Guess what: that was stupid before the Sox won their first championship, and it's even stupider now. How many other clubs have won two World Series in the last ten years!? To quote Wikipedia, "[s]ince 2003, the Red Sox have been perennial playoff contenders and have won two World Series, emerging as one of the most successful MLB teams of the last decade." The problem isn't that the team is bad, it's that the fans are whiners. No, even worse: it's that the fans have winning—winning all the time—as the only metric for an enjoyable baseball season.

"Who is to blame?" the article asks. To even talk about "blame" is to assume that someone is deliberately sabotaging the team's efforts, or at least acting with complete incompetence, but that's probably not the case; I think everyone in the organization is doing their best to win games but without much luck. We do have to remember that the other teams are trying to win, too. And it's questions of blame and responsibility that lead to things like manager changes, because clearly a manager who's never won a championship is going to do better than one who's won a pair of them, and has a better lifetime win-loss record to boot.

I think maybe the secret is that these folks enjoy being miserable. After talking about the absolutely disgusting extent of last night's collapse, the author moans, "All of this, and they still played 'Sweet Caroline' in the eighth inning. And people sang along." Good heavens. Can you believe that folks—watching a baseball game on a beautiful evening in April, a game which they paid a fair amount of money to attend—had the nerve to enjoy themselves while the home team was losing? How dare they.

Sure, I can understand not wanting to watch a team that never wins. How about the Cleveland Indians and the 30-year slump? But that's not hatred, then, it's just indifference. No one is going to stop supporting the Sox, per the article, because they, I don't know, don't try hard enough or something.

Bottom line: until this team shows that it's serious about righting the ship, you shouldn't give them your money. Whether it's buying tickets or merchandise, or even watching a game on television, this baseball team isn't worth a minute of your time. Right now, it's all about the money. As long as fans keep piling into the ballpark, buying commemorative bricks and singing "Sweet Caroline" in the eighth, everything is still fine in their eyes. Take away the money, and things will change.

Yeah, sure: if people stop coming to games, the players will realize they're supposed to be winning and totally turn the season around!

To turn from this obviously ridiculous rant to a more general observation, life isn't all about winning. I'm as competitive as the next guy (more, probably—you should watch me and Leah at the mini-golf!) but I'm also able to recognize that baseball is the nation's past-time, not it's desperate life-or-death cage-match. Mostly baseball is nice for whiling away summer afternoons and evenings, caught up in the exciting moments and ignoring the boring ones, admiring the skill displayed, and relaxing. Beer may be involved.

So if you're rich or like to stay up late, follow the Red Sox and know that they're probably a fairly good team despite the early-season missteps; and even if they lose 100 games you'll still be watching baseball. Or for variety, check out the Lexington Blue Sox of the Intercity League. Free amateur ball starting at reasonable hours! And if you like the winning, the Blue Sox have won the league title in each of the last five years...

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vacation voyaging

a view from River Road down the valley to the Concord River

on the open road

I had last week off, and though I'm back to work now I wanted to share an enjoyable bicycle ride we took on Thursday, before Leah had her hair done.

Sorry for the shaky camera-work: it's hard to hold the thing steady, especially when Harvey is squirming around behind me. I do think it conveys the general impression of the trip well enough.

The commotion you see at the Old North Bridge was an annual commemoration by the Sudbury Minutemen, which was a pleasant surprise to us; we heard the drums from across the river as we enjoyed our picnic lunch, so we stuck around to see what was going to happen.

Sudbury Minutemen firing a volley from the Concord Bridge

make ready... elevate... fire!

Besides that excitement, we also saw geese, ducks, and a frog who on escaping (I was trying to get him with a macro lens) hopped right through Harvey's legs.

a green-and-brown frog in the grass

ribbit

Now that's old-timey fun!

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more baskets

I have some more baskets to share. I've been kind of running low on creative juices following the Easter craft-a-ganza, so I'm just gonna share a bunch of projects I made in March and let you think that I'm a supermom when in reality I'm just, like, a lazy blogger. Okay, full disclosure out of the way, then. Baskets!

First the ugly.

ugly basket

holding ugliness, among other things

After I got this book in the mail I thought I would start from first principles, so I made the "basic basket." Only I thought it would look nifty if I alternated oval weavers with flat ones and turned out this messy looking mess. Not hideous, just not something I want to look at every day in my home. So I have an extra gift basket come Christmas. I already told Dan he needs to build more basket storage in the basement.

Then I made this one for Dan which I LOVE.

muffin basket

for muffins or eggs, as you like it

This is everything a basket should be, in my opinion. Simple, baskety, with a functional handle that doesn't require adding additional pieces at the end. It's called a muffin basket in the book, but we use it to gather eggs at the end of the day. Maybe I'll make more of these if we want to give away muffins in the future.

Now here's one I actually made recently. When my bestie Oona called to say she's getting married (!!!) I knew I had to make her a special engagement present. Indeed, I blurted out over the phone, "I'm going to make you something. It might be like... a basket filled with soap."

oonas fancy basket

a big basket for big news

I wanted to make a basket that would be useful in the married home, so I decided to make something kind of massively big. This one looked big enough to store all of our Thomas tracks and trains, so theoretically it could store towels, or linens, or sex toys or whatever it is that childless people keep in their homes. Really I don't know.

It's also the first basket I made with a filled-in bottom.

inside of big basket

sturdy bottom

I love the way the handles look wrapped in the sea grass. I went a little overboard securing them with hot glue, but I wanted to make sure the thing would be super strong for lugging a heavy load of sex toys. God forbid a handle pop off in mid flight and then Oona blame me for breaking all her expensive sex toys. Also the embroidery is made of seagrass too.

What, too much about the sex toys? Well that's what Oona gets for making me a bachelorette party packed with penis paraphanalia.

And yes, I did fill the basket with soap, and jam and relish and a jillion packing peanuts. In the future I'll be a bit more aware of standard package sizes before I start weaving... I had to cast about for an applieance box to send this thing to Seattle.

That's all the baskets I have to share for now. I'm slowing down a bit on the baskets since I realized they cost me at least $10 a piece in materials, which is kind of a lot to be throwing around when there's a lack of basement storage and no one really asking me for baskets. The kids ARE asking me for t-shirts, but I can't figure out what's wrong with my serger and it doesn't help that I want to punch it every time I turn it on. Maybe I'll just order some more reed on Amazon...

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religion exception

This made me laugh:

Now the Vatican says that nuns are too interested in “the social Gospel” (which is the Gospel), when they should be more interested in Gospel teachings about abortion and contraception (which do not exist).

Garry Wills, NYR Blog.

I was trying to explain to someone that I go to an evangelical church. I always find this hard to say without expecting I will immediately need to perform an exorcism; whomever I'm addressing invariably starts spitting as his/her eyes roll back in his/her head. I feel more comfortable saying our church is Charismatic and when they ask what that means I say, "You know, snake handlers and stuff. It's a good time. You should come by!"

But seriously, religious people, stop hurting America.

stow aways

Yesterday the boys and I visited the lovely Lauren at her new home in Stow. It's just beautiful out there! A few minutes drive west and it's like you're in New Hampshire or the Cape or some combination thereof.

We took a short walk around a flood plane. Who's that we see in the distance?

horsey in the distance

who's over there?

A group of horses and hounds coming in from a faux fox hunt.

horse and hounds

hey, where's the fox?

The cowboy we talked to made sure to point out that the riders were wearing their "casual" riding attire.

riders in attire

sittin pretty

Now WE were actually wearing casual attire.

harvey by water

can we put our feet in the water? can we put or feet in the water? mama can we put our feet in the water?!?

Harvey got his way convincing us that it was time to put feet in the water. Even mama and Zion got in on it, even though it was pretty cold.

zion dipping feet in the water

this doesn't feel like a bath...

While we had Lauren engaged as photographer I tried to convince Harvey to take a family photo. He could not be enticed.

mama and boys

yeah, that's pretty much what we look like.

All in all a very pleasant outing. The boys didn't fuss until it was time to go, and even then they fell asleep in the car pretty quickly. Then on the quiet drive home I found myself wishing Stow was a little FARTHER away...

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Dread update, 1 week in

The dreads are starting to tighten up and lose some of the overall poofiness. At the same time, I'm coming to terms with the fact that messiness is just part of this hairstyle. I think you can fight messiness in dreads the same way you can fight germs touching children. It's possible, but one quickly learns that the easier route is the route of acceptance.

dreads week 1

less side-show Bob, still not ready for the main show.

I'm getting more comfortable wearing them down (even out of the house!), but it's still not my favorite look. Mostly I wear them up in a wrap and I'm rather captivated by how darling that looks. You can see the end of yesterday's post for some shots. You may not think it looks darling, but you know that's how taste works. It's subjective.

I've also found that since the front hasn't dreaded up yet I can pull it back in a ponytail and it looks just like regular curly mess.

dread ponitail

early morning mess

Which is nice for just walking the dog first thing in the morning. I was wearing them down the other day and a neighbor gawked at me like I was giving birth on her front lawn. I don't mean anything bad about her, she was just very surprised by the new look. Probably she was rethinking our relationship: "The young lady with the babies... I've talked to her before... could it be she's NOT a Republican???"

So that's where they are after a week. The initial shock is gone and I'm pretty glad I did it. I like the overall look, if not how much I should be maintaining them. As clearly evidenced by the second photo. I should add, they do look more segmented on top after I roll them out for a half hour, but I can't be bothered to do that first thing in the morning. I didn't get dreads so I could wake up and style my hair.

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exhaustion

We had a busy busy weekend, filled with friends, food, and rebuilding the front porch. It was Leah's birthday yesterday (Happy Birthday Mama!) and we celebrated with a couple of parties; Saturday saw a gourmet lunch at Ashley and Jim's house. This afternoon I was tired like I had pulled an all-nighter, and I even slept decently last night. And it doesn't stop: Leah, as tired as I am (and in bed all ready, lucky!) is hosting a friend for lunch tomorrow, and we're already in heavy preparations for Zion's birthday party next weekend. Oh, it's hard being social successes!

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