Sunday, December 30, 2007

Awards, memes and spanking oh my!

Okay, there's no question that my new Christmas shoes are great.

But look what else I got last week!

It's The Royal Banana, awarded for general blog yumminess and bestowed by Rachel over at one of the yummiest blogs I know - A Southern Fairytale. If you are familiar with her site you know that this girl knows good blog. This is the second year she has scoured the internets for her favorites and I am beyond honoured that Don Mills Diva is one of two Canadians that made her short list. Thanks Rachel - you rock!

And in one of those coincidences that proves the internets is really just a happy little coffee clatch, another one of Rachel's favorites (and mine too) is the witty and raw Lotus over at Sarcastic Mom and last week she tagged me for this Questions About Your Week meme.

Here goes:

What did you accomplish?
I actually made it onto my stairmaster for 30 minutes the last three days in a row!

Did anything not go as expected?
Actually no - things went pretty much as I anticipated. Christmas week was really busy - a little stressful - but as always a time to really enjoy my family and reflect on how lucky I am that they are all remarkably loving and sane.

What was the highlight?
I wish I could say that it was Graham opening his presents, but at barely two he just wasn't all that excited about the whole concept. Am I allowed to say it was when I left Graham with Grandma for a few hours and daddy and I snuck off and hit the ski slopes on Boxing Day and the sun was out and we drank wine on the patio between runs? Am I a bad mom if I say that?

Did anything exciting happen you did not expect?
Uh - did you not see my Royal Banana Award?

I'm hereby tagging:

Random Acts of Momness
Mighty Morphin' Mama

So anyway, on a more serious note I was also tagged by Buttermom - she of the Classy Chaos to reveal my approach to discipline when it comes to my child. Her own post on her brief flirtation with spanking is so touching and thought-provoking I'm sure it got a lot of people thinking. Here's what I think:

When it comes to spanking I think people think about it too much. I think if you take the time to consider whether spanking is a good or bad method of punishment for a child you're probably a good parent. Most parents I know debate spanking endlessly and the fact we are engaging in debate means we are striving to do best by our children. That striving, that care and consideration, is generally proof of loving and thoughtful parenting, whether or not spanking is used as a method of discipline.

I hit Graham a few months ago and the feelings I struggled with afterwards produced a post that some people described as my most poignant ever. I felt guilty. I felt angry. I turned myself inside and out in the aftermath before finally reaching the following conclusions:

1. I am a loving and conscientious mother
2. I don't think spanking is a good way to discipline children and it should be avoided
3. Being human, I will probably lose my temper periodically throughout Graham's childhood
4. That may sometimes result in a swat/ smack/ spanking
5. If it does I will try and use it as a teaching moment and move on

So there you have it - I'm sure this will not be the last time I revisit my feelings about spanking and discipline because, like you, I'm constantly striving to be the best parent I can be.

I would love to hear thoughts on spanking and discipline from:

Heidi at Viking Conquest / Family Adventure
Laura over at Walking Lunatic Fringe
My expectant mother friend over at A New Duck (I'm wondering if she's already articulated a philosophy before baby has even arrived)


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Friday, December 28, 2007

Slutty shoes and the spirit of Christmas

Every family has its unique holiday traditions; time-honored customs and rituals which mark the season and each year symbolize for its members the very spirit of whatever holiday they celebrate.

In some homes mothers and daughters trade Christmas recipes or craft ornaments. In my family, mom and I bond over the sacred, annual gifting of the slutty shoes.

If you want to check out the rest, click here and go to my column at Mommyblogstoronto - I got some good pictures over there!

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wonder who the car is for?

Everyone was pretty excited...

..but cousin Jordan couldn't even fit in it...

...and Cailey bulged out of it in a most unseemly manner... no one was really surprised...

...that Graham was a perfect fit!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

From my house to yours...

Have a beautiful Christmas full of love and happiness.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Beauty secrets

It's great fun to go and travel and ski and eat and drink and enjoy the nightlife.

But it's even more fun when your heart, not just your belly, is full.

And that, I think, is what made my mini-vacation so wonderful. I have never before sat dressed to the nines, in an elegant bar in a faraway resort town, and smiled and tossed my hair and drank in the ambiance all the while thinking, I've got a secret.

You can't tell by looking at me, but it isn't the wine or the lights or the day on the slopes or even the admiring glance of my husband that is making me glow.

It's the love of my faraway little boy that flushes my cheeks and sparkles my eyes. And no matter how wonderful this all is (and it really, really is) I am smiling because I am thinking of how it will be when I open the door to my home and he rushes into my arms.

And you know what? Coming home was just as wonderful as I imagined going away would be.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

I am so freaking relaxed

I have a glass of wine in my hand.

My legs are aching after a hard but wonderful day of skiing. I just returned from a stint in the hot tub and am heading out for dinner soon.

Just wanted to share:

The view from our front window.

A shot taken on the chair lift

DMD in action on the slopes.

I've called home three times so far, though I'm going to call again in about five minutes. Graham? Apparently he's a perfect angel when I'm not around, except for one small incident in the mall yesterday involving a bunch of balloons and a high speed chase.

Yes, that's right. I go away for four days and my two-year-old is the subject of a security take-down in Sears.

Oh well, they can't say I didn't warn them.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Freedom 2007

I might already be out of the province by the time you read this.

I might already be drunk.

That’s because early Tuesday morning Rob and I are sneaking away to our rarely-used condo in Mont Tremblant, Quebec for fours days and three nights.

There will be skiing. There will be relaxing. There will be mangling of the French language. There will be eating (oh so much eating). There will be (we both dearly hope) reconnecting. There will be drinking (did I mention the drinking?) There will be sneaking into the fancy hotel next door and making use of its dreamy, heated outdoor pool.

There will not be Graham.

Graham is staying safely at home where Grandma and Oma will switch off on the cleaning, feeding and all-around doting duties.

I have left Graham overnight before a few times. I believe there is even photographic evidence involving me and a happy dance on my last Graham-free night at the end of the summer.

But this will be different. Four days. Three nights. It’s a short trip but a relatively long time without my boy. Small wonder that I have cooked up a storm in order to stock the kitchen with all his favorite foods and typed out two pages (single-spaced) of instructions regarding his routine, likes and dislikes.

Perhaps a more conscientious mother would feel anxious or guilty. But I don’t. Not a bit actually. I know he’s in wonderful hands and, truth be told, I’m more worried about neglecting this space and all my wonderful bloggy friends than I am about him.

So while I am taking my computer and will post a few photos during the week, I doubt I will be visiting any blogs in my feeder, as I think internet access comes with a long-distance bill on the mountain.

So check back for photos and I will catch up with all of you on the weekend. And wish me a happy, relaxing, stress-free mini-vacation.

Because I so need this.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tears, fears and gratitude

I read something this week that made me cry.

Something that brought back the fear – the cold, cold fear – that Rob and I faced the first few months of Graham’s life.

It was this exquisitely written post over at Blithely Babbling and it made me cry because I have been there. I have clutched my sweet baby to my chest, blinked back hot tears and thought, Let us alone, he is perfect just the way he is, even as insidious tentacles of doubt slid over the edges of my heart and squeezed.

From the moment my water broke the circumstances of Graham’s birth proved that fate laughs at probabilities. When he finally arrived it was with an irregularly-shaped head which protruded markedly out the back – like a football. We were told it would probably resolve itself in a few days and that the anomaly was commonly referred to as a prominent occiput.

Except a prominent occiput isn’t that common, not really. Not even for babies who spend the whole time in utero in the frank breech position like he did. Or babies who lose more than a pound in the days after their birth and fail to regain their birth weight for almost a month like he did.

At Graham’s three-week check-up the midwife weighed him and then examined his skull with a grim expression. He was probably fine, she said, except…

Except that his prominent occiput was unresolved. Except that Graham wasn’t gaining weight like he should be. Except these things could be symptomatic of something bad. Something very bad.

He could be fine, she said. But if not - if not - I would need to learn to manage it as soon as possible.

I left in a cloudy haze of tears, clutching a referral for a pediatrician specializing in neurology and leaning on my mother who could only hiss indignantly: There is nothing wrong with this baby!

Oh how I wanted to believe her. We went home and I remember crawling into bed with Graham and sleeping for hours, waking only occasionally to nurse and weep, my tears falling one after another onto that dear, misshapen head.

The next few weeks were among the most difficult of my life. After swearing mom to secrecy, Rob and I decided not to tell anyone else in our family. It seemed selfish to burden others with our worry and we couldn’t imagine fielding questions when we could barely function under the weight of our own fear.

Graham thrived over the next few weeks. He smiled. He started to gain weight. I actually looked forward to our appointment with the specialist, sure that it would be our last.

But it wasn’t. Graham could be fine, the specialist said. Was probably fine even, except…

Except his prominent occiput was still very, very prominent. Except he was still very small. Except these things were sometimes, rarely but sometimes, symptomatic of a severe disability.

We were given an appointment for an exam at Toronto Sick Kid’s Hospital – one of the best in the world. I was sent home again to wait and worry and keep the blackness at bay the only way I knew how: by loving my baby ferociously and praying to every God in existence.

The next few weeks were spent in constant negotiations with fate: my heart and mind hourly brokering deals, making promises, swearing vows. I experimented with ways to cope. I remember wondering if I could distance myself, try not to love him so much in order to lessen my own anxiety. I remember being flooded with guilt just a moment later that I even considered trying to withhold my love when he so obviously needed it.

When Graham was two and a half months he was examined by a pediatric neurosurgeon at Sick Kids Hospital. In less than 10 minutes the doctor delivered his verdict: Graham had a funny-shaped head.

It’ll probably get better, he added casually, but if not he’s got great hair.

And just like that someone confirmed what my heart had been telling me all along – that my son was perfect.

I do not pretend to begin to know what it is like for other mothers who are denied the good news that their very soul longs to hear. I have only dipped a tiny toe in the swirling waters where daily, parents of special needs children must battle upstream.

But I like to think my experience has left me just a little bit more empathetic. And I like to believe it has left me just a little bit more grateful.

If that’s possible.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Yes, I know it's Thursday. It's the Christmas season: I'm behind on everything.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fighting my inner wimp

Motherhood is not for wimps.

And aging is not for sissies. Or something like that. You know what I mean. We’ve all heard variations of this sentiment many times and I admire the message: defiant, strong, and powerful.

I’m just not sure that I agree.

In fact, I think in my case aging, and maybe even motherhood, has made me more reticent, more cautious, more worried.


And I don’t like it. Not one little bit. But I’m not exactly sure how to combat this steady loss of nerve, this diminishing of fire that I feel just as keenly as the aches and pains that now accompany the everyday exertions that once invigorated, rather than exhausted me.

I’m been thinking about this since last night when, at a pub night for this terrific group of writers, I struck up a conversation with this woman, a blogger I have long admired as funny, edgy and fearless.

She said that she had always been a huge horror movie fan, but right after her daughter was born she sat down to watch one and found it no longer appealing.

“I don’t know if it was because all of a sudden I had this little person that I was supposed to protect,” she said. “But it just didn’t seem as entertaining.”

I hear that. Horror movies lost their appeal for me even before I had Graham. Once I emerged from my teen-aged years and realized that there was enough real-life horror in the world, I no longer sought it out as entertainment.

And it’s not just horror movies that aren’t appealing anymore.

I used to think it would be thrilling to skydive one day. Now? I just don’t want to. Ever. I used to boldly traipse across the city from late night party to late night party. Last night I felt a little (just a tiny bit) nervous coming home on the subway by myself at midnight.

Maybe I worry about nothing. I fly small planes after all, something most people consider a rather gutsy endeavor. But I do worry. Because I know I have changed. I have softened. I have shrunk. I have retreated from that edge where I was once convinced the very best parts of me could be found.

What happened to that bold, confident young woman who itched to kick the world’s ass? Would she still exist if I hadn’t moved out of downtown? Hadn’t stayed for 11 years in the same job. Hadn’t gotten married? Hadn’t had a child?

I guess I’ll never know. Ultimately I do not regret my choices, even if each one has brought me closer to the very model of conformity I once disdained and further from the risk and excitement of my younger days.

I love my house and its large ravine lot. I love my job and the people I work with. I adore my husband and the freedom that his love has given me. My son is my heart.

But every once in a while I mourn the pure power, the fearlessness, that age and time seem to have stolen from me.

And on days like that – days like today - I know that I must, absolutely must, force myself outside my comfort zone more often.

Because life is not for wimps.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The post where I eat humble pie

Dear everyone in the world who became a parent before me,

I just want to say that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I thought you were all hypochondriacs.

I’m sorry that I secretly suspected you were getting sick all the time largely because you let yourself get run down and out of shape when you had kids. I’m sorry that I smugly assumed that good eating habits and regular exercise would somehow grant me immunity from my child/ walking germ factory, who I now know is but a foot soldier in an international army bent on biological warfare.

I'm an idiot.

And if it makes you feel any better, I’m an idiot who has been sharing the same cold with my husband for nearly two weeks now.

Consider my ass well and truly kicked.


Don Mills Diva

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Learning to face the music

A few weeks ago I did something that would have mortified my teen-aged self.

I listed as one of my favorites, a song performed by a *gasp* country music group.

It was in this post in which I responded to a Crazy Eights meme by revealing eight songs I could listen to over and over. One of them: Landslide by the Dixie Chicks.

Now that might not seem like a shocking or mortifying admission to you, but for me it was a big deal indeed. It meant I was finally free of the notion that my social status and my very worth as a human being was inextricably linked to the genre of music to which I listened: yes, aging does have its advantages.

I grew up in a tiny village north of Toronto where many teenagers, including me, spent their formative years dreaming of bright lights and the big city. In our eyes, the more you disdained small town life, the more likely you were destined for something better. And in our small town country music ruled, therefore hatred of it was automatic and unwavering.

No matter where you grew up you'll probably agree that the genre of music you listened to during high school and the years following was a powerful way to establish your identity. Professing a love of a certain type of music and becoming knowledgable about it was like slipping on a pre-fabricated identity that clearly said to others: this is what I value, this is whom I am.

For a lot of high school I adopted a hyper-preppy persona in honour of a girl a few years older than me who I thought was the coolest thing to walk the planet. ( Echo and the Bunnymen or Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, anyone?). In my senior years, I became more comfortable in my own skin, settling into an image of myself as a rebel, rocker chick who naturally favored Led Zeppelin and Ozzy Osbourne.

When I set off for university I hit the road for a city five hours distant with a massive beat-up pickup truck and a finely-honed rocker babe persona. I blasted Guns and Roses and Metallica all the way there and my arrival caused a minor sensation among the girls I was rooming with.

Even into my 20s music continued to define me and the people I surrounded myself with. The coolest of the cool guys were always up on the hottest indie bands and their preferred mode of seduction was an invitation back to their place to hear the obscure Icelandic export they had excavated from some dingy, alternative record shop off Yonge Street.

I'm not exactly sure when the music itself started to become more important than what the music represented. I remember having a revelation about seven years ago when Rob and I crowded into a small downtown club during the North by North East music festival. It had been a while since we'd made an effort to check out the latest thing and I had it on good authority that the band playing that night had the hipster stamp of approval.

We had a few years on most of the brooding, street-wise crowd in the dark, smoke-filled room (yes, you could still smoke in bars back then) but I was flush with excitement and convinced we fit in just fine.

Until the music started.

A few minutes passed before we realized it wasn't a sound check we were hearing. When the singer started shrieking the third song in atonal Japanese we exchanged a long glance.

"Let's get the hell outta here," Rob said. "This is crap."

Ten-dollar cover charge be damned, we headed for the door where the oh-so-young and stylin' guy at the door smirked dismissively. Rob looked him right in the eye.

"Buddy," he said. "I know music. This is just crap."

As good as it felt to walk out that door, I felt a little sad later. I felt sad because I knew I was walking away from a crutch that I had relied on almost all my life. In saying that I was mature enough to discern whether I actually enjoyed the music the cool kids were listening to, I was walking away from that gloriously, youthful part of myself that would happily be swept up in the excitement of the next big thing.

I am now officially too old to be swept unthinkingly away by music or anything else just because I aspire to be the type of person associated with it.

In fact, very little can sweep me away these days - I'm too strong. I have roots and a foundation. Perspective. A unapologetic sense of what I like and what I don't.

I like the Dixie Chicks. I love the White Stripes. I also like Jamiriqui, Jimmy Buffet, Eminem, Stevie Wonder, Blink 182, Green Day, the Dance Hall Crashers and a hundred other great musicians and bands from every genre.

But I do not like atonal Japanese poseurs. That's just crap.

*Cross-posted in Shooting for Hip at Mommyblogstoronto. Have you checked out that site yet? It's got tons of great stuff. Go look. Go on - Git!*

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Is doctor-kicking an Olympic sport yet?

You know the movie currently in theatres – Awake – about a man who is conscious during his surgery and hears that his doctors have a diabolical plot to murder him?

I’m thinking Graham snuck out to see that movie when I wasn’t paying attention.

How else to explain a doctor’s visit today that made this one seem like a veritable love-in? The boy obviously has a deep-seated mistrust (okay hatred) of doctors and I am starting to worry it may affect him being awarded that full scholarship to Harvard Medical School on which I’m counting.

But I digress.

Today was the day Graham saw an orthopedic specialist on account of his tendency to turn his toes inwards when he walks. Pigeon-toed he is and not just a little bit – a fact that endears him to me all the more (if that’s possible) but also makes me fret about his future as a potential target of playground bullies.

Well, after much (so, so much) screaming and crying and kicking the doctor in the head I was advised that his hips have a tendency to turn inwards (and therefore his legs and toes) and there is nothing we can do about it.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Okay, well, we can try and get him out of the habit of resting on his knees with his legs splayed out behind him (which I’m sad about because that pose is so very, very cute). And we can get him into skating and/ or skiing at an early age to help train him to keep his legs straight.

Also we can nag him about keeping his legs straight when he gets old enough for that kind of thing to be effective (exactly how old is that again?).

But there are no special shoes or exercises that will make a bit of difference apparently, so we are stuck hoping he’ll grow out of it and nagging him if he doesn’t.

And putting him in ski school. This, at least, is good news. Rob and I are avid skiers and we were wondering if this winter was too early to put Graham on skis.

Guess not.

Looks like Graham is going to get an early start on the slopes. And that’s a good thing – maybe an Olympic gold medal in skiing will cancel out a history of doctor-bashing on his Harvard med school application.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Face

This is the face of a boy coughing. With a cold.
A boy who has woken screaming throughout the night.
For the last three nights.

The face of a boy who feels sick. Angry and frustrated.

This is the face of a boy who today threw a temper tantrum to rival this one.
A boy who bit mommy. Hard. Again.
A boy who threw up on mommy. Twice.

And yet.

This is the face of a boy who makes my breath catch in my throat.
And reminds me of how fortunate I am to have had such a terrible day.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Make mommy love, not war

Yes I am a mommy.

But I am not now, nor have I ever been, at war.

In fact, I’m not convinced that the much-ballyhooed Mommy Wars – which pit working moms against those who stay at home - even exist outside the pages of books, media and the minds of people I fear are secretly thrilled, titillated even, at the notion of women at each other’s throats.

So it was with great sadness that I read this post over at Girl’s Gone Child in which Rebecca Woolf - a writer I adore - says that becoming a mother has magnified her distrust of women ten-fold. The post doesn’t talk directly about the so-called Mommy Wars, but rather about their root cause; what she perceives to be the viscious tendency of women – particularly women in groups – to turn on and tear down other women.

Again, I am not now, nor have I ever been, at war with other women.

And even though I do not for one second doubt Rebecca’s sincerity, it just makes me sad and weary to hear perpetuated the stereotype that women are, at their core, jealous, manipulative, catty creatures who are all too eager to judge and betray each other.

That simply has not been my experience, especially not since I have become a mother.

Have I encountered bitchy women? Of course I have. Sometimes in the mirror. I have also encountered men who are sexist jerks, children who are precocious brats and old people who are cantankerous curmudgeons.

We have all at one time or another encountered every stereotype in existence, but does it not behoove us to resist the urge to let age-old stereotypes shape our views of specific groups of people?

I belong to a mom’s group that pretty much saved my sanity in the early days after Graham’s birth. And I am ashamed to say that I nearly blew off these women, these incredible women, because I was afraid of a stereotype that, quite frankly, has never even been personally demonstrated to me outside the halls of high school.

The women in this group include working, stay-at-home and work-from-home mothers and there has never been a hint of dissension among us based on our personal choices.

And it’s not just within my mom’s group that I have encountered strong, supportive and remarkable women.

I work in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field for a female boss who is whip-smart and widely respected. She has been a friend and a mentor and she has never failed to credit me for my small role in her success.

I have a mother-in-law who survived Nazi occupation, a mother who worked full-time and still went to the ends of the earth for her children and a dynamic, diverse gaggle of female cousins.

I have a large group of funny, brilliant, quirky female friends, some working, some not, some mothers, some not, who have always been there for me in good and bad times.

Every day on this blog and dozens of others I read positive, supportive comments from women who trip over themselves to relate similar experiences or at least politely empathize when they don’t agree with what has been written.

In the two years since Graham’s birth I have been the recipient of hundreds of shared smiles and knowing looks from women struggling with their own children. Discovering this sense of camaraderie has been a pleasant and unexpected side effect to motherhood.

I know I am fortunate to have so much female support in my life. Possibly I’ve been far more fortunate than most people. Perhaps your experiences have been different… darker.

But I will continue to feel that the best way to build a female support system is for women to take chances on each other and not let misogynistic stereotypes keep them apart.

Because becoming a mother has magnified my admiration of women ten-fold. It has demonstrated just how hard it is to be a woman: to balance work and family and self, all the while worrying that if you voice your needs or opinions too loudly, you’ll be labeled a bitch and become an unwitting conscript in the Mommy Wars.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bringing the magic

You probably don’t give much thought to the people who work behind the scenes of your favorite films and television shows.

They are the men and women toiling in the shadows producing the magical sets, glorious costumes and brilliant special effects that light up the screen.

They style the hair and apply the dashing scars that make you swoon. They hang scaffolding and position lights to create the shadows that beguile you. They mic actors and record the dialogue that brings tears to your eyes. They drive trucks and hammer nails and paint flats and take care of a million small details that all come together for your pleasure and someone else’s glory.

This is the world in which my husband and I work. It is a freelance world often marked by back-breaking labour, impossible deadlines, uncertainty and frustration.

On Saturday these people; these drivers, carpenters, painters, labourers, electrics, grips, prop masters, set dressers, greens technicians, wardrobe stylists, hair dressers, makeup artists, special effects technicians, sound mixers, boom operators and script supervisors came together and produced a massive children’s Christmas party.

It was a luminous affair, this winter wonderland that rose out of a previously dark and barren studio. It was born of tireless work ethics, a strong sense of family and brilliant creative spirit.

And once again what these people created was magic. Only this time it was for the people who truly love and appreciate them the most.

Thanks guys.

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