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As much as I loved our vacation, it’s been so nice to be back. As we were driving through New Jersey and saw Manhattan’s skyline in the distance, I said to Jeff, “I still can’t believe we live there.” And it’s true. Just like I sometimes can’t believe that I am responsible for caring for the well-being of two to three people every day of my life, I sometimes can’t believe that I get to live in what I consider the greatest city on earth.

Was it nice to have a deck while we were in Avalon and to have so much space that we didn’t see the kids (but could still hear them and knew/guess they were safe)? Yes. But at this point in our lives I wouldn’t trade our lives for any of it. We’re so happy living in the city and all that it has to offer us on any given day. But the one thing I will say is that experiencing something so different from our urban existence really amplifies how beautiful nature is. One morning in Avalon, Jeff and I set our alarm and got up early to watch the sunrise on the beach. It was magnificent. The way the sun slowly rose and drenched the ocean and the sky orange and purple and red and blue – I’ll never forget it. Diving under powerful waves and digging our feet in the sand – so amazing.

But a week away from our city also amplifies its beauty. Yesterday morning we rode our bikes over the Brooklyn Bridge. Riding towards the Manhattan skyline with the wind in our faces and our Brooklyn home right behind us – that’s magic right there.

We spent yesterday doing city stuff. We took the boys to an amazing playground near Chelsea Piers.

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Then we walked the Highline. We met a friendly drummer named Arthur who gave the boys balloons. They chased them up and down the Highline.

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Until one popped. Holy drama.

Then the boys napped by the Hudson River.

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After naps we kept riding and stumbled upon more fun playgrounds.

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We rode down to the Battery and checked out the new “Underwater Carousel.” It looked so fun. But the one hour long wait did not. However, hot dogs and brats did.

Then we took the water taxi to Redhook. A total highlight for the boys who are way into boats right now.

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We played and ate shrimp and drank beer at Brooklyn Crab and returned home way past bedtime.

Today we stayed local and let the boys ride their bikes/scooters/whatnot.

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Then we ate bagels on our stoop and talked to our neighbors.

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Tomorrow it’s back to business and every day life. I’m looking forward to it.

It’s good to be home.

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Down the Shore

We spent last week in Avalon at the beach for our annual Weston beach vacation. It was a wonderful week with family.

Highlights included…

The Beach! Obviously.

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The boys loooooved the beach. The sand, the ocean, the waves, all of it. We went to the beach every day, except one, and didn’t get tired of it. Each day we dug holes and pools and tunnels for the kids – and one day Uncle Ray created sand bowling. So that was hours of entertainment right there.

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Family Time.

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I especially love watching all the cousins together. Julian and Ben, born 9 hours apart, are thick as thieves.

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Arthur fell in love with his big cousin Amelia and spent most of his day following her around. “Melia? Melia?”

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Wildwood.

It’s no secret that we love Coney Island. So naturally, Wildwood is right up our alley. The kids hit all the rides.

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And towards the end, right before cotton candy and funnel cake pushed us over the edge, we won huge donuts playing whack-a-mole.

Donuts.

These, and the edible kind as well.

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Lazy Mornings.

No one slept in, of course, ever. Because even though it’s a vacation and no matter how tired children are, they still get up at completely unreasonable hours. But we had lovely breakfasts every morning, lots of coffee, and crazy kids who entertained each other. And a deck to sit on.

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Dates. Jeff and I got to sneak out a couple of times. We went on a bike ride through Avalon, and one night we strolled around the neighboring town of Stone Harbor and had drinks at a bar by the beach. Total highlight was a walk on the beach in the dark with an almost full moon and lightning far away on the ocean, turning the sky orange every other minute or so. It was magical.

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Non-highlights included this guy getting car sick on our way to Avalon…

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…and whatever it was that happened to that guy. Bug bite? We will never know. But the Rocky references and the “You should have seen the other guy” comments did not get old. Or did they?

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Until next time, Avalon.

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Potty talk, round two.

So. The one thing you need when you are

a) potty training a 2 year old,

b) a family of four,

c) sort of civilized and/or human

…. is …. TA-DA! A bathroom.

Well, we ended up not having one tonight. Our toilet broke this afternoon, which made the shower and bathroom sink useless as well, because they share a pipe yada-yada-yada plumber talk.

Or wait. The plumber actually didn’t show up, which is why we still don’t have a bathroom. Our usually a little less than super Super actually put in a super effort today and toiled away trying to fix the toilet situation. He did not succeed.

Bonus: a husband who will be stuck at work until late, late, late tonight. Extra bonus: We’re leaving on vacation tomorrow evening, so I have a lot of packing to do.

On the bright side, I have kids who couldn’t care less and are completely unfazed by a hole in the bathroom or having to pee on the tiny kiddie potty. Also, I have wonderful friends who met us for a pizza date and don’t mind the toilet talk.

For tonight, I have a kitchen sink that works and a half full bottle of wine. I think I’ll be ok?

Potty talk

If you asked me what’s been going on over the last week or so, I would probably reply, “I don’t want to talk about it.” But now that I’m sitting here with a glass of wine and BBQ chicken smell filling my house and everyone being peaceful, I feel like we’re out of the woods. And I can breathe again. Insert: Critical Arthur in underpants (more on those later).

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I was sick all weekend. I didn’t leave the house Saturday or Sunday and actually mostly stayed in bed. It was one of the least fun colds of my lifetime. Jeff was great and took the boys to a really fun playground at Chelsea Piers, so I was sad I missed it. The boys all took great care of me, and so far – most importantly – none of them caught my bug (which presumably came from the kids in the first place). I always worry about Arthur’s breathing when a cold is making the rounds.

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And because we weren’t busy enough this summer, I decided to potty train Arthur. He is exactly a year younger than Julian was, so I was slightly skeptical. But he showed all the signs of being ready, and I was encouraged by my friend who was potty training her son who is Arthur’s age. So…I won’t bore you with more potty talk, but I’m just going to say that it’s not necessarily a week I’d like revisit ever again.

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Potty training is a lot of work – and messy. Yuck. Anyway. Six days in and he’s been accident free for two days and is also dry during nap and at night (although he still wears a diaper when he sleeps). I feel good about the work we’ve put into it, and I’m proud of Arthur. But man, this right there is the reason why I will never have a third child. I mean, that and the fact we live in Brooklyn where anything larger than a closet is unaffordable. Anyway, who cares. More underpants pictures!

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Speaking of progress, Arthur finally started speech therapy this week. To say I love his therapist would be an understatement. She is amazing; young and energetic and fun. I’d like her to move in with us. And it brings me to tears to see Arthur flourish and get undivided attention (for 30 minutes 3x a week, let’s not get carried away). He is so smart. It makes me so happy to finally hear the stories and thoughts he has inside his head spill out.

Overall my patience has been stretched a bit thin this past week. We’ve been home a lot more because of holy potty training, plus I’ve not been feeling well, and I think we’ve all been missing our city adventures and feeling connected to each other.

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Today was a good day. We played in the water, had a picnic, and rode scooter and bike. But my personal highlights were sitting on the couch with Julian, his head in my lap, and talking about our day. And also Arthur’s therapy session and watching his little mind grow by the second.

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And on Friday we’re off to the beach for a week!

Long Island City

Today I can barely keep my head above water, so I’d rather think about yesterday – which was a lovely day.

The boys and I met up with some of our favorite friends and took the boat over to Long Island City.

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It was a beautiful day, and the kids were so happy to be on a boat and on an adventure.

We went to a playground and played for a bit.

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And then we just hung out by the water, looked at boats, and ate lunch. What a view, right?

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The kids are so fun together and so sweet. I just love all of them so much.

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And most of all it is so good to be around a friend (the adult one, not pictured!) who gets why I think my kids are ridiculous and annoying and wonderful at the same time.

I’m living the paradox – where things are beautiful and offensively difficult all at the same time. Bam!

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City kids, city fun

This summer is flying by! I only have four more weeks with the boys before school starts, and one of those weeks will be spent with family at the Jersey shore.

So we’re having as much fun as we can! Since it’s been a bit cooler (relatively speaking), we’ve been going on a few bike rides through Brooklyn Bridge Park and have spent hours playing at Pier 6. They have enormous slides, a fun water park, and a huge sand area. Julian found a rainbow and was blown away. It was pure magic.

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We eat lunch outside almost every day, and we see our friends. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Julian’s first best friend, Elliot. He and his family are moving away to the Middle East. So that’s totally sad. The kids are so adorable together.

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This weekend we had one super busy, crazy fun day, and one more relaxed day. On Saturday, Jeff’s mom, sister, and her three children met us for the day in Prospect Park. The kids played at Lakeside, went on the carousel, and we went to the zoo. They are so cute together; I can’t take it. They will love playing together at the beach this year! (This was last year…they were so tiny.)

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Oh, and we had the genius idea to rent this bike for them, but uphill was a bit rough…

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Then we went to Brooklyn Crab, which was packed on a Saturday night. I miss our lazy Friday afternoons there from earlier this summer. Dinner lasted forever, and we didn’t get home until 10pm. The boys never napped, so they were exhausted.

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Everyone slept in the next day until, you know, 7am. We lounged around on the couch for a couple of hours, ate pancakes and went for a walk around the neighborhood.

We stopped for bagels and blintzes at a Polish restaurant on our street…

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…and then took looooong naps.

We went to Soho in the afternoon and picked out new glasses for me. I’m so excited! The boys ran up and down the streets, pretending to be trains. All the little steps and stoops of Soho make for a perfect playground, apparently. Never mind us, sophisticated Soho crowd. It’s just a couple of boy trains coming through.

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We ate dinner at Bareburger and sat outside. The boys were wonderful. Everyone was happy. It was a lovely, relaxing end to a great week and weekend.

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On kids and foods

Lately, food has become really fun around here. All of a sudden I have children who request broccoli, salmon, shrimp – and watermelon. Watermelon, you say? Yes. Both of my boys have refused to touch it, look at it, or eat it. But then I just started buying it – because I am not crazy and love watermelon in the summer – and oh shock! The boys were intrigued, and now we buy fresh watermelon every day.

So this pretty much sums up all my feelings about food and kids. Just don’t stress, eat what you want, cook what you like, and they will eat it.

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It’s definitely been a learning curve. When Julian was a big baby/little toddler, I would occasionally make him a special dinner when I didn’t think he would like what Jeff and I were having. Arthur was never granted this luxury. From the get-go, he ate what we ate. Now we all eat the same thing. If someone doesn’t like something, they don’t have to eat it. But they have to try it. I will make an exception when I make something for dinner that I know one of the kids doesn’t like. For example, the other night I made a salad with shrimp for Jeff and me, and rice, shrimp and veggies for the kids. Julian has tried shrimp and doesn’t like them, so he was allowed to pick another fish and chose salmon. I just threw it in the same pan as the shrimp, so it was no extra effort at all.

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I don’t know if Arthur is a good eater because of how we eat, or because we just lucked out, but he is, and it is such a joy to see him eat. Julian went through a phase of not wanting to eat most vegetables (“Is it green? No thanks.”), but he always ate everything else: plenty of fruit, meet, dairy, grains. He got a good dose of veggies in smoothies, baked into pancakes and muffins, and hidden in sauce.

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Now Julian eats everything. I think it’s because he’s older, we’ve continuously encouraged him to try new foods, and he sees the rest of us (especially his baby brother) eat veggies and enjoy them. He declares one thing or another his new favorite veggie almost every week: peas, broccoli, spinach salad. And the most wonderful thing of all is that he is open to trying something new (watermelon!). Sometimes he thinks vegetables make his legs and arms grow longer, and he’s showing me the progress his limbs have made. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but I’m fine with it.

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Here are the top 5 things I would tell parents of toddlers who may not always eat everything:

  • Don’t stress. No kid will starve if they don’t eat a meal, or if they only eat certain foods for a few days. Also, no one other than our generation of parents ever even thought about food and kids the way we do, and we all grew up fine (I think). I’m pretty sure I was raised on orange juice and vienna sausages, and I turned out all right.
  • Give healthy options. I love the boys’ lunch boxes and plates with different compartments. Arthur, for example, definitely prefers his food to not be mixed (for example, I don’t mix his yogurt and granola but rather put them next to each other). Options also make the kid feel empowered, and who doesn’t like the power to choose?

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  • Don’t overload on snacks. The boys get one snack between breakfast and lunch, and sometimes another one before dinner, but nothing too close to dinner. Except of course the many pints of ice cream we have consumed all summer long.
  • Involve the kids! Julian has been so into shopping, and lately I’ve allowed him to pick certain foods that we prepare later. It gets him so excited.
  • Make dinner joyous. Sit at the dinner table, talk about your days, make dinner a happy occasion. Sometimes when we linger at the table, the boys keep picking at their food and it just disappears. And if not, who cares? You had a good time hanging out with your family.

Sandy Hook

When Jeff and I were dating, before the kids and our life together in Brooklyn, we had a happy place. It’s called Sandy Hook.

We would get up early on a weekend morning, take the ferry to Sandy Hook (Bloody Marys in hand), ride our bikes around and spend the day on the beach.

We haven’t been to Sandy Hook since 2010, but now that we are pros at packing everything we need for a day at the beach on our bikes, we decided to give it a shot. We had to leave the house at 7:15am to have enough time to pack the bikes and ride over the Brooklyn Bridge and to Pier 11 to catch the 8:15am ferry.

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The boys were beyond excited because a) bike riding b) the prospect of a boat ride and c) a day at the beach!

We had muffins, croissants, and bananas, and possibly Bloody Marys on the boat. Here is Arthur looking cool:

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We brought blankets, towels, two umbrellas, a cooler with beer, lots of food and snacks and beach toys. Oh, and two children. Our bikes seriously are like a mini van. A small mini van.

Everything was perfect. The ride to the beach in Sandy Hook was lovely. We heard a million crickets and looked at rockets still displayed at Fort Hancock. The boys were in heaven.

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We played on the beach all day.

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We had lunch, played some more, and then we all napped. Beach naps are the best. One of my earliest memories as a child is the feeling of pure exhaustion and falling asleep to the sound of the waves, feeling all sandy and salty and warm from the sun. I’m so happy that I can give my boys the same memories.

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Before catching the 5:45pm ferry back to Manhattan, we stopped for ice cream.

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We ended the night at Smorgasburg at South Street Seaport, where we were quite likely the only non-tourists. We had grilled cheeses, pulled pork sandwiches, lemonade, and beer – and it’s pretty safe to say we were all exhausted on our ride home.

It was such a great day. Jeff and I have such fond memories of our summer days spent in Sandy Hook, young and falling in love with not a care in the world.

We definitely came with more baggage this time around, but also with much fuller hearts.

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Mid-Summer Nostalgia

Lately, almost every night after the boys have gone to bed, I am hit with a wave of melancholy…huh. That sounds like a disease.

Anyway, I just get a little nostalgic – perhaps that’s a better word. There is no more baby left in either of my children, and a part of me is a little sad.

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The other day Arthur accidentally bumped into another boy on the playground, and after we made amends the mother picked up her son and said, “Oh, did that big boy bump into you?” Turns out Arthur was a good 6 months younger than the other little boy. But that’s just what it is. He secretly thinks he’s 5, and he acts accordingly.

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Over the last couple of months or so he has exploded with language. He still has not yet had a speech therapy lesson, and now I am not even sure he needs them anymore. He just copies everything and expresses opinions left and right. All of a sudden I have a dinner table where four people try to speak at once. It’s all I ever wanted in life.

So now I have a two year old who pushes my hand away when I try to protect him and who tells me what he wants and “now, mama.”

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Still I get the hugs. I get the hugs all day long. Right now, they are sweaty summertime hugs that sometimes taste of ice cream and lemonade. On the good days. Arthur is the most loving and intuitive child. Just like his brother. I am so lucky.

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Julian is pretty much 25. He holds doors, helps me navigate the subway system, makes sandwiches, carries home groceries, chews gum, and has meaningful, insightful conversations. He makes up jokes, puts on performances, and gets lost in wonderful play. He is kind and loving and so so smart. Over the last month or so he’s really overcome many of the emotional outbursts that we’ve had to deal with. When I ask him to clean up or get dressed or brush his teeth, he usually says, “Okay, mama.” It makes 99% of my day with him so much more pleasant.

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I didn’t know how the summer would go. Last summer I remember I was a little nervous to have Julian home all day every day, along with my then 14 month old Arthur. This year I was pretty much just excited. And the summer has not let us down. We’ve been having so much fun – and secretly I am dreading the beginning of school in September. Julian will go three days, and Arthur two. I know they will be so happy and love every minute of it. And it is so good for them, and we will find a new groove.

But man do I love packing up the bike in the morning and heading to the pool. Or going for walks without knowing where we end up. Or not saying no to ice cream, usually. I love their blond, messy hair and sticky hands and dirty shirts and skinned knees. This summer is my favorite summer yet.

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Sometimes I totally want to pinch myself because I feel so lucky, but then a trip to the grocery store with two tired, hungry children grounds me right away.

I wouldn’t change any of it, and I hope I remember these days when I’m 80. I hope I can still hear my boys’ chatter and songs in my ear, feel their kisses on my cheek, their hands resting in mine. I hope I can taste the pretend ice cream they sell me all day, hear them argue over which toy train will leave the station first, and chase each other up and down our apartment with space ships in their hands.

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I want to bottle all these moments up just in case I need them later. I hope these words will help me remember.

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Busy bees

It’s been a busy week! The main thing that I was really anticipating was Arthur’s annual check-up with the allergist. For the first time ever I had to take both boys, so after nap time in blazing 95 degree weather we headed uptown to the Mount Sinai pediatric allergy center.

If my boys didn’t love trains so much, all of these trips would be so much more work. This way they truly enjoy the train ride. And once we got off they got to see Metro North on the tracks on the Upper East Side. So all of that was amazing. Bonus: city busses! They were super stoked and very patient throughout the entire doctor’s appointment. Arthur was re-tested for all of his allergies.

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We got some good news and some not so good news, but overall some of Arthur’s allergies are improving while the two worst offenders, walnuts and sesame, got worse and are still very bad and dangerous for him.

The train ride home was exhausting. Rush hour traffic, no one got a seat, people were bitching about a stroller on the subway, and then – as luck would have it – there was some sort of incident and no trains were going into Brooklyn from Bowling Green. It took us 2 hours to get home, but when we got there Jeff had ordered pizza and poured wine, and all was good in the world. The boys not once complained. We were all so tired (and out of snacks!), but Julian literally said to me, “We’re on such a cool train adventure!” as we were trying to make our way through an overcrowded platform with hundreds of straphangers. I have a pair of cool city boys.

Other than that we’ve been having some fun.

Water fun…

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Fun on the bike and at the pool…

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Fun with friends…

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And lots of playing and building of things…

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It’s been a busy, hot week – but we definitely squeezed in some good times.

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