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Literature is my Utopia. - Helen Keller

A place to contemplate books, life, and never ending peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Seize the Nanosecond!

Seize the Nanosecond!

It’s 3:45 p.m. I’ve needed a shower for approximately 1.5 days. Finally, Baby and Big Boy (3) are asleep and Little Miss (5) is happily coloring. For a blessed slice of this day, there are no urgent needs or tasks — no mess to wipe up, no crying baby, no squabbles to settle, no tummies to fill, just a tiny piece of silence.

“Seize the day!” I think. Except for it’s more like “Seize the nanosecond!”

Jump in the shower, jump out of the shower while nap time lasts! Grab the chicken to defrost before it’s too late in the day! It’s 6:30 a.m. and the baby is crying, hop out of bed and throw some clothes on before she wakes the big kids! Quick!

It’s craziness all the time, but when a minute of downtime comes my way, this fast and furious mindset doesn’t go away. I don’t breathe a sigh of relief and sit down. Instead, I think “seize the nanosecond!” Figure out what’s for dinner. Put the clothes in the dryer. Answer an email. Get something, anything done.

Why do I run around my house at a frantic and frenzied pace on most days of the week? How are there are one thousand items on my mental to-do list and all of them seem like they need to be done right now? I really don’t know how this happens, because I’m here at home more often than I’m not, and still feeling like it’s a gargantuan effort to get the breakfast dishes washed before dinner time.

It baffles me that Hectic lives right here at home with us. 

It baffles my husband, too. Sometimes when he’s home, he watches me and asks, “Why the big rush?” I don’t know how to explain that I’m running behind on laundry and dishes and dinners and it’s all a great big boa constrictor that’s got me up to my knees and is still swallowing. (Thank Shel Silverstein for that one).

It’s like what we tell that kicker on Saturdays: “You have one job! Make field goals!” Except it’s more like, “You have one job! Take care of everything!”

(Fact: I do not take care of everything around here, because I have the best husband in the universe. We both “take care of everything,” just not often at the same time).

I know where the problem lies. I start the day responding to needs and they keep coming all day long. That’s the nature of life with Littles. So when an opportunity to actually get something tangible accomplished presents itself, I’m all over it like ants on a melted popsicle. I’m grabbing that vacuum cleaner faster than you can say “dirt,” and no crying baby or coloring book is going to stop me, because the rugs are overdue for a cleaning by about three weeks.

“Seize the nanosecond!” is the mantra in my head on any given day.  I think I’m through with it, though. This frenetic way I go about the day is (a) exhausting and (b) basically ineffective. I get to the end of the day and ask myself if I actually got one thing done. If the answer is a surprising “yes,” that “something done” usually doesn’t involve the things I think are most important, like playing with my children or calling a friend. I don’t need a mantra, I need a method. And, much to my chagrin, I know what the method should be. It’s called Get-Up-Before-The-Kids.

Sigh.

When your nights are full of lots of things besides sleep — put the covers back on this kid, take this one to the bathroom, give this one some water so she can stop coughing, feed this one, soothe this one after a nightmare, give this one some Tylenol for ::fill in the blank:: — getting up before you absolutely have to is rough, right?

But spending all day getting swallowed by a boa constrictor is rough, too.

So I’m laying down my “seize the nanosecond!” mantra and setting my alarm instead. The experiment for this week is to get up just a bit earlier than my kids and get just three things done:

1. Shower/dress

2. Read and pray

3. Make a short to-do list

I know I should add a few other things, like exercise or prepare all our  meals for the day or lay out the kids’ clothes, and all that good stuff. But I need this to actually work, so I’m starting off with what I can fit in just twenty minutes. I know from experience that it’s a long road from having a baby to getting back into a morning routine. I’m just setting my feet on the path and hoping for the best.

If the Seize the Nanosecond mindset sounds familiar to you, maybe you would like to join me on my Twenty Minute Morning experiment? Or maybe you’d like to see if it actually works first? Check back next week and I’ll let you know. I doubt I’ll have defeated the boa constrictor for good, but maybe he’ll be only up to my ankles instead of my knees.

One can only hope.

November 17, 20141 commentRead More
Put Down The Scissors

Put Down The Scissors

It’s inevitable. About the time when a child learns to use scissors, age three around here, something disastrous happens. I know, I know, why am I surprised? You’re right, I was kind of prepared for this, the dread fascination with cutting things just by moving your fingers.

What I wasn’t prepared for is what would get cut. A shirt they don’t really like maybe. An important document, sure. A doll’s hair, or even their own hair. Everyone does the hair thing, right?

But I am baffled by my children. At age three, they inevitably take scissors to the thing they love most in the world.

When Ella was three, we got a tip that a local thrift store had some great deals on really nice shirts. I marvel at how easy it was to just get in the car and go, because that’s what we did. Sadly, we didn’t find any shirts. The trip was worth it, though, because Ella spotted an adorable dress. If you have little girls, you know princess dresses are everywhere and that most are poorly made. This one was not by Disney, though. It was cotton on top, with a full length tulle skirt, and laced up in the back. We were both  smitten by it, and it was only five dollars. Sold.

2013iPhonephotos 017On the way home, Ella said, “Why don’t we go somewhere fancy tonight?” So we did. Dinner at a pizza place is fancy if you have the right dress. This dress made every day fancy, and Ella loved it.

Then one morning I was getting ready to do some errands and walked in Ella’s bedroom to hear “snip, snip, snip.”  I was aghast. “Ella, why are you cutting your dress?!?”

“I don’t know.” She looked at me, her face red, scared of the trouble she was in.

“You love that dress!”

No answer.

The two top layers of the tulle were in tatters, but Aunt Destiny came to the rescue and made it look decent again, thought it will never be the same. And Ella never showed the least bit of remorse for the (bad) alterations she made to her favorite possession. “It looks like a fairy!” She was optimistic, and I was way more upset than she was.

And she never cut anything she wasn’t supposed to cut again.

But then it was Isaac’s turn. All week, Isaac brought his helicopter with him everywhere. It is a rescue helicopter with a line and a hook that can actually pull things up into the cockpit. My husband saw it one night in a bookstore and it was so clearly perfect for Isaac, he bought it right there and then. Isaac has loved this toy for months and his attachment to it was at an all time high this week. So I was a little surprised to hear Ella ask him on Saturday morning, “Isaac! did you cut the hook off your helicopter?”

Isaac denied it.

80367C0B-F663-4032-BA32-70613E48EE21“Mommy, did you cut the hook off of Isaac’s helicopter?”

“What? I would never cut the hook of his helicopter!” I was horrified.

Isaac quickly picked up on that line. “No, I would never cut the hook of my helicopter.”

Then we found the scissor and the hook in his room.

Stunned again. A favorite toy, destroyed at the hands of its owner for no apparent reason other than the desire to cut something. But why the favorite thing? And once again, no remorse! Boy, I was mad.

I wasn’t upset about the money these items cost. I wasn’t even mad that the scissors were used inappropriately. I was sad and mad for my children’s sake. Their beloved objects were ruined by their own hands. Surely they would feel the effects. They must be just hiding the guilt and heartbroken pangs.

But then. Then it was my turn.

I didn’t have any scissors. I’m not three years old. But I did the exact same thing. In fact, I do it all the time.

I tell my exuberant, cheery, affectionate boy, “Would you please calm down and stop jumping on me!” when really he just wants to lavish hugs on his mother and be hugged in return.

I tell my precise, careful, beauty-loving daughter, “It’s okay if the butterfly’s wings are not the same size on your drawing. It’s pretty and we don’t have time to fix it right now,” when all she really wants is to do her very best and create a beautiful card for her great, great aunt.

I whisper to my three-month-old baby girl, “Please, would you just fall asleep without me holding you for half an hour tonight?” when she just needs the comfort of her mama because her dadgum first tooth will just not come through and be done with it, and anyway, who does not want a snugly baby?

I take my scissors and I try to change my favorite, favorite, favoritest things in the world: my children.

There are plenty of areas I need to train my children in, plenty of ways I need to mold and shape and sand down some rough edges. We are all flawed and need saving from ourselves. But the beautiful things in their nature that God wants me to foster and cherish should not be the things I try to squelch or cut out willy nilly when some part of these characteristics is inconvenient for me. I need to put down my scissors.

Maybe I wouldn’t have ever even noticed my tendency to do this if I hadn’t agonized over why my children cut their favorite things. I should probably thank them for being small packages of pure human nature that I get to learn from every day. I am thankful for what they unknowingly teach me.

But my goodness, I’m still going to hide their scissors! And it’s time to hide my own scissors, too.

Like this post? Find more like this here at miathereader.com:

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November 10, 20143 commentsRead More
Dragon Fever: Friday Favorites, Ed. 5

Dragon Fever: Friday Favorites, Ed. 5

“Mommy! It’s MORNING! Can we read the dragon books?”

Isaac, my energetic three-year-old, wakes up every morning at the same time – 6:45. He may actually wake up sooner than that, but he has to wait until his bunny clock wakes up to get out of bed. That clock is a lifesaver. To all you mothers with early birds, I feel you. For those of you who have children who sleep til 8:00 or 9:00 (or even 7:00!), I envy you.

If I’m forced to admit it, though, we’ve had some pretty sweet times with just Isaac. Being the second child, he doesn’t get as much one-on-one time as he may need. So even though I’ve been up on and off all night with the baby, and probably an older child once or twice, too, I smile a tired smile as I try my hardest to lift my head off the pillow when Isaac comes bounding in, enthusiastic about the day and about “the dragon books.”

“The dragon books” are very specific. (Actually, one of them is about an alligator. But whatever.) I picked them out last week at the library and I am pretty much sick of them. (You would be, too, if you read them three times a day.) But even now, I can honestly say they are great books for little boys. I’m not sure what we’re going to do when we have to return them to the library. Probably put them on his Christmas wish list.

A Cold Winter’s Good KnightA Cold Winter's Good Knight is another fun book in the Good Knight series by Shelly Moore Thomas. We love them. They are so fun, and a great opportunity to talk about silent K’s with a kindergartner. This particular book is also a good one for a discussion on manners, as the Good Knight’s little dragon friends attend a ball in the King’s Castle and get into all sorts of mischief as they try to figure out what exactly manners are.

King Jack and the DragonKing Jack and the Dragon is one of the most perfect books for preschool boys that I’ve ever seen. I hope my little boy will grow in bravery as he grows in stature, and I think introducing him to gentle ideas of bravery are a challenge. This book does a great job of it, though. The illustrations by Helen Oxenbury truly help little eyes imagine what Jack and his friends are pretending to see, and the rhyming words make it easy for children to memorize. Memorization isn’t required, of course, but Isaac has memorized almost the whole thing already and he is so proud of himself. =)

There's an Alligator under My BedFinally, the dragon book that isn’t a dragon book is There’s An Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer. I’ve seen this book mentioned on many reading lists for kids through the last few years, but I always stayed away from it. I guess I worried it would make my children begin the timeless tradition of imagining that scary monsters live under the bed. But I shouldn’t have worried. The book actually brings to light how ridiculous it is to believe an alligator lives under your bed, without being “preachy” or making fun of children. Besides that, it’s just fun.

So that’s what we’ve been reading this week, along with a few Berenstein Bears books.  We’re looking forward to reading some Thanksgiving themed books in the coming weeks as we approach the best and most under-celebrated holiday in America. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

If you liked this post, check out these!

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October 31, 20140 commentsRead More
Saturday Mornings With Kids

Saturday Mornings With Kids

Saturday Morning With A Baby

You wake up to feed Baby at 5:30. It’s too early, but your baby is so sweet. You feed the baby, then spend an hour patiently rocking and pacing with the baby, enjoying the warmth of her tiny little body and the knowledge that once she goes back to sleep, you will, too. Yes, you must will yourself to ignore that basket of unfolded laundry as you get back in bed. But you’ll fold it later, maybe as you watch some football while the baby takes another nap. You might even have time for a nap later, too. Saturdays are the best.

Saturday Morning With A Baby, A Three-year-old, and A Five-year-old

You wake up to feed Baby at 5:30. It’s too early, but that hardly registers because you’ve already been up five times in the last three hours with another kid who can’t breathe through his nose. You stumble into the baby’s room, feed the baby, and sink into a pit of agony when you realize she’s not going straight back to sleep. You rock for five minutes, pace for five minutes, all the while watching the clock tick closer and closer to the time when your other children will get up (6:30), whether they’re still tired or not.

Finally, you put the baby into her crib still awake, hoping she can squirm it out instead of cry it out so the kids won’t get woken up a nanosecond too soon. Your hope in the squirm-it-out-method is pretty weak, though, so you lay down on the floor next to the crib. The baby keeps squirming, getting more agitated. But this carpet is surprisingly soft. Oh, maybe she’s actually falling asleep. She is! It’s a miracle! You could get back in bed, but then you’d have to navigate around the five baskets of unfolded laundry that you have successfully ignored for three days. You’re so good at ignoring laundry, you only think about it when (a) it’s in the way or (b) someone runs out of underwear. And anyway, this carpet is really not so bad. You feel yourself drifting into sweet, sweet sleep, which is a darn good thing because there’s no hope of a nap for the rest of this busy day.

Then you hear the pitter-patter/running of the bulls coming down the hall.

“Can we have ORANGE juice????”

It’s morning.

And Saturday is just another normal, crazy, beautiful, wonderful day of the week.

As long as there’s caffeine.

October 25, 20140 commentsRead More
All The Words! Friday Favorites, Ed. 4

All The Words! Friday Favorites, Ed. 4

A few weeks ago, I had an exciting day. I got a whole bunch of awesome books.

bookboom

They’re all great, but Isaac (3) has seized on The Giraffe That Walked to Paris as his current favorite. I thought it was a delightful book…the first time I read it. And the second time, it was pretty good, too. But each page looks like this:

allthewords

Look at all those words! Reading aloud to my children is one of my absolute favorite things to do, but a few days after we brought this one home, I had to start telling Isaac to pick a different book. Like, how about War and Peace?

Still, we read this one pretty often. It’s one of those that’s not my favorite even if it is my child’s. However, I am quite glad that Isaac has the capacity and desire to sit still and listen for a good fifteen minutes at a time. In every other setting, he is a ball of energy. My husband and I were joking yesterday about how many photos we have of our girls, but we have so few of Isaac, even though he is one of the cutest things that ever breathed. He’s also one of the fastest! Too quick for a camera.

Aside from The Giraffe, we also started Charlotte’s Web this week. We’re three chapters in and everyone loves it so far. I’m a little afraid of when we get to the end, though! I think it will be the first book we’ve read that ends on a bit of a sad note.

So that’s what the kids are reading this week! For more Friday Favorites, go here. I am loving writing this series, and I’d love any feedback you have to give! And for a great podcast on instilling a love of reading in your kids, check out the Inspired to Action Podcast! The latest one features Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival.

October 17, 20140 commentsRead More
Fall Reading List – Fiction Update

Fall Reading List – Fiction Update

So I know all the people on the internet have been holding their breath, waiting to see how the Fall Reading List is turning out. Wait no more! Today I’ll tell you my thoughts on the three novels I’ve read so far.

First, I read Rosie by Ann Lamott. I really wish I had done some more research and asked around about what Lamott book I should start with. My whole purpose was to get a taste of this writer whom so many of my friends admire. I picked one of her earlier novels, and that was a mistake. The characters were so unlikable! Except for Rosie, of course, who was not featured in the book as much as she should have been. Her mother Elizabeth was the main character, and she was a pretty miserable individual. Rosie featured some very dark themes, such as alcoholism, child abuse, sexual immorality, and drug abuse, without offering much hope. On the flip side, I’m looking forward to reading some of Lamott’s books she wrote after converting to  Christianity. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year looks intriguing. I admire Lamott’s writing style.

Next up was The Grapes of Wrath. I chose that American classic because I’m a student of literature and I thought I should finally be acquainted with the infamous Joads. From a literary perspective, it’s clearly a great book. As for whether or not I enjoyed it, I didn’t really. It was raw. I guess that’s what a lot of American Literature is, and that’s why I’m not a big fan. Our country is relatively young and the harsh, hard landscape of American life for the first two centuries makes the literature produced by it pretty rough sometimes. I’m too squeamish for some of it.

Finally, and worst of all, was The Signature of All Things. Elizabeth Gilbert became famous for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. One of the reasons I read at all is to understand what the people around me relate to and what makes them tick. So many people loved that memoir, I had to pick it up and see what it was about. While I found Gilbert’s search for meaning to be pretty empty, I did like her writing style. The Signature of All Things is Gilbert’s first novel since Eat, Pray, Love. It’s about a botanist named Alma, born in 1800, to a flamboyant scoundrel who becomes rich on botanical medicines, and a Dutch mother. None of these characters are very endearing. What’s worse, the confused, garbled, search for meaning theme from Eat, Pray, Love continues with even less clarity. There is a Creator, there is mysticism, there is evolution, there is harsh Quakerism, and it all makes very little sense to me. What’s worse, the novel drags on for 500 pages (on my Nook) and spends a lot of time on the qualities of moss. I am sure that there is a lot going on under the surface in this novel, but I didn’t find it a worthwhile pursuit.

In conclusion, the novels have been a let down so far. But the nonfiction has been great! So look for some rave reviews on that in the next few days.

 

 

October 14, 20140 commentsRead More
Saturday Cooking, Pumpkin Free Edition

Saturday Cooking, Pumpkin Free Edition

Fall is technically here, though our only clue in these parts is the temps below 70 degrees at night. So it’s time for my three favorite fall recipes.

First, I gotta say, I had no idea that the ENTIRE AMERICAN POPULATION loved all things pumpkin. I mean, I’ve noticed the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks in the last few years. But then the recipes started popping up everywhere on Facebook and Pinterest and all the cooking shows and websites. Pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, even pumpkin brownies (!)(I’m sorry, but if you handed me a brownie without chocolate in it, I would probably not hand it back to you because my parents raised me right, but I would shed a few secret tears).

Pumpkin, you are the darling of the season. How sweet.

If only I liked you.

Recipe 1: Cranberry Bread

Cranberry ThanksgivingI had someone ask me recently after learning I don’t like pumpkin all that much, “So, what flavor do you love in the Fall?” I can’t say I’ve ever considered that question before. I didn’t know Favorite Fall Flavors were a requirement. But I have lately been encouraged to “embrace autumn” and I thought it was good advice. So I gave it some thought and here’s the answer: cranberry. I love cranberry. Cranberry bread, cranberry muffins, cranberry juice, all of it. Well, not so much the cranberry sauce from a can. Ick. But all other things cranberry, I love.

It so happens that my favorite cranberry recipe is from a book. It’s called Cranberry Thanksgiving, and the story is great, but the recipe at the back for “Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread” is even better. I can’t give it to you here because that would be copyright infringement, but you should definitely make it! Just be sure to label it if you give it to someone or else that someone might thank you for “the fruitcake,” which is just a big insult to any bread, especially one this good.

Recipe 2: Apple Dumplings

076A close runner up to cranberry goods in my Fall Flavor Guide is apple. (I am having way too much fun here). My favorite apple recipe is absolutely dripping with butter and even contains a can of Mountain Dew. It’s definitely a once a year treat. The Pioneer Woman recommends serving it with ice cream, but I find it challenging to actually get the stuff on a plate. Ijustwanttoeatit! Now. Straight out of the pan. So yeah, it’s kind of good. [….goes to kitchen and starts slicing apples…]

Recipe 3: Butternut Squash Soup

Finally, if there’s one recipe I only make in Fall, it’s Butternut Squash Soup. Oh, it is divine. Unfortunately, my entire family hates it. I plan to make a batch and eat it for lunch for an entire week. Once the midday temps are below 80 degrees. For now, we’re still enjoying our afternoon popsicles on the porch.

Happy Fall!

October 11, 20140 commentsRead More
Friday Favorites, Edition 3

Friday Favorites, Edition 3

It’s been a bit of a rough week on the home front, so we had to shed some tears and drop all our library books into the book drop without going in. My kids (and I) hate doing that. But there’s good that comes of it. We actually read our own books!

The Courage of Sarah NobleThere are some gems on our own shelves that I’ve collected at library books sales over the years. I’ve been looking forward to reading The Courage of Sarah Noblwith Ella (5), but I had no idea that Isaac (3) would also be enraptured by the story. They both sat completely still and listened to the tale of the eight-year-old Sarah who went on the long journey into Connecticut with her father to build a new farm there. Children love heroes, especially ones close to their own age. I’m searching for another chapter book they’ll both like now. I am totally enamored by the joy of that time when we’re all sitting together, taking in a story that is both beautifully told and meaningful for character building. Give me all your suggestions!

For more Friday Favorites, go here.

October 10, 20140 commentsRead More
Friday Favorites, Frog and Toad Edition

Friday Favorites, Frog and Toad Edition

It’s Friday! And it’s the third edition of Friday Favorites! Each week on this blog, I feature our favorite children’s books of the week.

Adventures of Frog and ToadThis week, my children have been “reading” Frog and Toad stories to each other. Neither of them actually read yet (though Ella is very close), but they have certain favorites memorized and they are almost unbearably cute, reciting the story as best they remember it.

I didn’t grow up with Frog and Toad, those wonderful characters created by Arnold Lobel, but I love them now. The story “Tomorrow’ is my favorite! It’s from Days with Frog and Toad I heard it for the first time a couple of years ago. It was bedtime. It had been a crazy day, a day when I felt like A Seagull in a Parking Lot, lost and unable to get anything of “real value” done. Then my husband started reading the story to my children. It opens like this:

“Toad woke up.

‘Drat!’ he said. This is house is a mess.

I have so much work to do.'”

My ears perked up. This Toad sounds just like me! From that point on, I was laughing, kind of hysterically, in the literal sense of the term “hysterical.” I was a little bit crazed and I was finding solidarity in a story about amphibians. Every time Frog points out a mess that needs cleaning, Toad answers “Tomorrow!” It has become my favorite line to quote to my family. Dishes piling up? “Tomorrow!” No food in the cupboards? Tomorrow! Said jokingly of course! Mostly jokingly.

My children love the story “Cookies,” which is also pretty easy for adults to relate to, as Frog and Toad struggle for self control against eating all the cookies. It’s amazing how these simple stories can dig into deeper themes, like being overly competitive with friends, or trying to be brave when you know you’re not. We bought the Adventures of Frog and Toad treasury when our local bookstore closed and it was worth every penny and more. It’s always awesome when my kids’ favorite books are mine, too!

Honorable mentions this week go to Oliver and Harry and the Lady Next Door. Thanks to Uncle Jordan, those books have become favorites at our house, as well.

Until next week, happy reading!

October 3, 20142 commentsRead More
Welcome to Friday Favorites!

Welcome to Friday Favorites!

Welcome to the first edition of Friday Favorites! In this series, the blog will feature our favorite children’s books from the week. If you’re looking for more great children’s books, check out the 31 Days of Picture Books series, or click on the category for children’s books on the left of your screen.

And now, let’s jump right in!

Rosie's Magic HorseOur favorite books this week are by different authors and illustrators, but have a similar look and feel. The first is Rosie’s Magic Horse. It is by the famous writer Russell Hoban of the Frances books, and illustrated by Quentin Blake, better known for his collaboration with Roald Dahl. Rosie’s Magic Horse is the fanciful tale of a girl named Rosie and a box of popsicle sticks with ambition. Yes, it sounds totally strange, but it’s just plain fun. After reading it about ten times, my five-year-old daughter decided to make a “cigar box” by taping together pieces of cardboard and decorating it. It’s currently full of about 15 popsicle sticks. She keeps it by her bed. I have no idea why it’s so special to her, but it makes me smile. Maybe she’s dreaming those popsicle sticks are turning into all kinds of things while she sleeps.

4215399Apparently we’re into magic books this week, because my three-year-old son Isaac’s favorite is The Magic Bedby John Burningham. I have mixed feelings about this book, because I can’t figure the family structure and the adults in it are rather lame. Being an adult myself, I prefer not to be painted in such a light, but I don’t think Isaac is too concerned about it at this point. He just likes the adventure of getting into a bed, figuring out a magic word, and soaring off to fight pirates and rescue lost baby tigers.

Both of our favorite books of this week are on the zany, fantastical side, but my children sure do love them and we will definitely balance them out with books more rooted in reality as we go along.

We sure do enjoy children’s books around here. Stay tuned for more as Friday Favorites continues each week!

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September 26, 20140 commentsRead More