Sunday, January 31, 2010


I'm staring at a ring, spinning it around my finger, right now. It's mine, but it wasn't always. It belonged to my Grandma Doll. It's a ring that conjures up all kinds of thoughts for me. All kinds of memories. It's a beautiful piece, a remnant of a time when details and intricacy were far more cherished than the refined, clean lines of our times. Simply put, it's magnificent. It's not the size of the diamond. It's not the brilliance of the cut. It's not the purity of the metals used. There is something more to this ring. Something special.

It was given to her many years ago, I believe for an anniversary. Although, knowing my grandfather and his propensity for bringing home jewelry spontaneously on any average day, I can't be certain. It was to be an upgrade from her original wedding band, a modest engraved white gold ring. She wore it, of course, but kept her wedding band on too.

It was my grandmother's ring, and she gave it to me. More correctly, she gave it to us. To Tom and I. We were young college students, in love but without vast financial resources. She gave this set to us in case we didn't get together enough extra money to buy new rings. Tom was touched greatly by the gesture, but I think in some ways it strengthened his resolve to buy me a ring. And he did.

He bought me a modest wedding band set before we got married, and my grandmother's ring moved to my right hand. And for many years it stayed there. It stayed there until I received another ring. A beautiful claddaugh ring, something that I had always wanted. Tom got me one for my birthday a few years ago. And the ring, my grandmother's ring, was tucked safely into a jewelry box. The box that rests next to a clock. That clock is a story for another day.

I wear it occasionally. I usually wear it for special occasions. I have worn it for the Baptisms of all my children, and at the First Communion of my oldest child. On those days, I also wore a necklace. A necklace, which you may have guessed, is also a story for another day.

I am wearing my grandma's ring today. I am wearing it because the ring I usually wear needs to be repaired. My upgraded wedding set needs to be taken in. One of the prongs is loose on the center diamond, and until I can have it fixed, I can't wear it. I wore my original wedding ring for a while, but it gets too tight. One of the unfortunate side effects of the unfortunate fact that I now have high blood pressure (thanks genetics!) is that my hands swell. When my grandma's ring was moved to my right hand, I had to have it re sized, since my right hand is bigger. And it's for that reason that the ring now fits on my left. And until I can get my ring repaired, I will wear it.

Every time I look at my hands, I see it. I don't know about the rest of you, but I often find myself looking at my rings. And every time I look at this particular ring, I think about her. About my Pap. About the beauty not just of this ring, but also the beauty of their love. It was unwavering and complete, and it lasted, I can say with absolute certainly, long past the day he gave her this ring. Until death do you part, the promise made to each other. For them though, death did not part. A large piece of her went with him that day, maybe too large. She never really lived again after he was gone, I don't think. It wasn't until she passed too that they were brought back together, complete again.

Someday this ring, along with other pieces of her jewelry, will be passed down to my daughters. I will share my memories with them. I will tell them the stories. I will hope that they can find beauty in what she loved. And see the value, not in the item, but in what it means.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


For most people in this world, the days of the week on the calendar remain the same all year. Five weekdays in the middle, cushioned on the edges by the weekend. I don't have one of those calendars.

For most people, today is Saturday. A day off. A day of rest and relaxation. A day to spend time with your family and friends, go places, see people. Things like that. And last weekend, this day of the week was like that for me. For us. But not anymore.

Not for a while.

It's tax season. The time of year where Saturday mornings mean that the kids wake up every single week and ask me where Daddy is. They start to wonder why he is gone all the time. They are off school, he should be home too, right?

It's the time of year where birthdays and holidays, parties and celebrations must all be squeezed into one day a week. Ashley has never had a birthday party on a Saturday. If we make it to the St. Patrick's Day parade, that only means that he must work on Sunday. It's a good thing Easter already falls on a Sunday. Because if it didn't, we'd move it. We have to. There are no days off, it seems. Not now.

Friday, January 29, 2010


It's Tom's fault. Really, it is. He should know better than to ever say what he said a few days ago. He should know by now that there are certain things that you never acknowledge aloud. Certain things that you never point out with spoken words, or really even dare to think silently in your own head. For if you do, and the thought manifests, it will surely be proven wrong.

Life just works that way. You can't ever notice that the traffic is moving quickly, for around the next turn you will find yourself greeted with miles of brake lights. You can't ever think you've outsmarted the other people waiting in line at the store, thinking you scored the shortest or fastest line. Because the person just in front of you will inevitably have some kind of problem that involves turning on the flashing lane light and a manager's key.

As he was going through the mail a few days back, Tom came upon a statement from the doctor's office. We are far from paying them off from last year's battle with the swine flu, and still owe them a decent chunk of change. As he unfolded the statement, he noticed something. No one, not a single one of the six of us, had been to the doctor in the last month. Was that even possible? And then he did the unthinkable. He expressed joy, shouting almost from the rooftops, that there weren't any extra charges tacked on in the last billing cycle. I shook my head at the time, knowing full well what his words would mean.

Someone was going down.

Less than 24 hours later, AJ had spiked a 104 fever. It was so bad that I had to stack the tylenol and motrin for a few days. Some virus, waiting in the wings, had entered our lives. Sneaky little virus. It must have been hard sitting there, patiently, waiting for someone to take notice of the fact that no one had been sick in a while. But sit and wait, that virus, it did.

It waited, then it struck. It's a doozy. After days of a ridiculous fever, AJ woke up this morning without one. Thinking that he was better, and I wouldn't have to deal with remembering what time I gave him the last dose of medicine anymore, I picked him up out of his crib and went to get him dressed for the day. I took off his little footie pajamas, only to see the next phase of the virus. A rash. Huge splotchy patches, all over him. It didn't look like any rash I'd seen before, so I knew what I had to do. I had to call the doctor. And of course they wanted to see him.

As is often the case with kids, when you take them to the doctor, there isn't much that can be done. And it's the case today with AJ. She needed to see him, because she needed to see what it looked like. By the time I got him in there, the spots had changed. Some were raised, some had disappeared, and new ones were popping up all over him. She needed to rule out potential causes of the rash. Wanted to make sure it wasn't something treatable. Needed to make sure it wasn't strep, especially since my kids have a strange way of presenting with that particular illness. No new foods, no new laundry detergents. Well, then it is viral, and all that can be done is to treat the symptoms.

We will get a bill next month for an office visit. So much for the lack of new charges.

Told you it was Tom's fault.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I think that in this life, there are essentially two kinds of people. I'm not talking about men and women, positive and negative, Type A and B. I'm talking about something else, something entirely different. I think either you are the kind of person who needs to be rescued or you are the one doing the rescuing. Either you are sitting in the water waiting for someone to throw out that rope, or you're the one throwing it. Though there are certainly times that people can switch from one to the other, those are generally brief episodes, triggered by some event of huge significance. And people will revert back to their true personality with time.

I'm not one to be rescued. Never have been. I've spent my entire life being fine. Really. From the time I was a kid, I was the one helping other people get out of the situations they got themselves into. I've broken up fights. I've helped people work through tragedies. And I have even talked a couple out of suicide. When the earthquake happened, I was the first one back in the house. Gary's medicine was in there, and I dug through 4 feet of rubble in the kitchen to get it out. I'm just that person.

It's not to say that there haven't been times that I needed other people. I have. There really are only a few times in my life that I can think of when I truly needed help to get back up and keep going. And as I sit here and reflect on those times, I am realizing that in most of them, I helped myself get right more than anyone else did.

While I don't need others to help me, and I don't rely on them for that help, it is nice to know that there are people willing to offer it. People who truly care and want to help. I've learned, often the hard way, that most people aren't like that. At least not at their core. They may want to be. They may pretend to be. They just aren't. And I don't fault them for it, honestly.

You are who you are. It's a pretty hard thing to deny. So, which are you? Are you throwing that rope, or waiting for it to come?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


AJ was in the daycare at the gym for less than 20 minutes Monday. Not long enough for me to get in anywhere near the workout I was hoping for. But it was long enough for something else. In that brief period of time, he managed to pick up something from some other kid. Whatever it is, it seems like it's going to be fun. The runny nose isn't too bothersome, but both of us could do without the fever. He spiked 104 last night.

Who ever decided that going to the gym was good for your health anyway? Because clearly it isn't here.

The kids haven't really been sick since the whole H1N1/pneumonia incident. It's been a few months. I should have known it was about time. And I'm sure that he will share with his siblings. We had a good run. Let the games begin.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


We've officially reached the ugly part of winter. The time of year where all seems lifeless and desolate. When it snows so rarely that the earth beneath is revealed for all it is in the dead of winter. Brown. Dry. Ugly.

It's the time of year where you start to wish that it would snow. But it doesn't. The air is too dry and too cold. Even knowing that it won't melt quickly, even knowing that shoveling will be a necessity. You wish for it to snow. Just so that everything can be pretty again. Clean. New.

Green is months away, though it will come again. Until then, I'll wish for snow.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I hate the gym. Let's be honest. No one really likes it. And if they do, one of two things is happening. Either they are lying, or there is something really wrong with them. No one likes the gym. They might like the results they get. They might like the exercise high they get afterwards. They might enjoy the break from whatever else is going on in their lives. They might love to burn off their energy or take out their aggressions in a productive way. But they don't really like the gym.

Ah, the gym. It's full of sweaty people, there is a distinct odor about it, and this time of year it's really too crowded to get on any of the machines you'd ever want to use. In January, the gym is always full of people. Really ambitious people. They'll be gone soon, having given up on whatever form of self-torture they were committed to in the name of the new year. Until they do though, it's crowded. As a result, you are forced to spend time on a rowing machine or god forbid a stair master when what you really want is a bike or a treadmill or an elliptical. But I digress.

I hate the gym. And I'm pretty sure it hates me back.

There are many reasons that I hate the gym. The most pressing of which is the fact that my knees hate the gym. They aren't designed for exercise, and they hate it. They are sore and they hurt, and no amount of consistency in workouts or muscle toning will help. Trust me, I have tried. They just hurt, and if I push myself too hard, I can't walk. Not a good idea when I have four kids to chase around. As I write this, I am ignoring the fact that my left knee is so sore that it's throbbing.

I hate the people at the gym. It's actually a very interesting place to people watch. It wouldn't be so bad except that in order to laugh secretly inside your head at the people there, you have to go commingle with them. And they are everywhere. The cute little "I have 3% body fat, and don't I look hot in my tiny piece of spandex" girls. The sweaty, stinky guys who spend more time admiring themselves in the mirror than actually working out. The old guy who just sits on the bike, but never actually pedals. The triatheletes, annoyed by the presence of the rest of us in "their" space. The Jazzercisers crack me up, with their "WOOs" and booty shaking. A room full of middle aged women dancing to old music, accompanied by the obligatory creepy guy in the back.

What bugs me the most about the gym are the moms who can actually drop their kids off at the daycare and get in a work out without being paged. Clearly I am not one of them. I can honestly say that every single time I have tried to go to the gym with the kids alone, I've been paged. The sad thing is that they never do this when Tom takes them, or when we all go together. Then, they are fine. But if I take them, at some point within 20 minutes I will hear my name over the intercom. Being pronounced incorrectly, of course. So I have to be even more vigilant about listening than most people. If anything remotely resembling my name is called, it's usually me they want.

I didn't want to go to the gym today. My knees hurt and I'm tremendously lacking in the motivation department. But I went, because I was dragged there by a friend. And I got to work out for a whole 15 minutes. Which wouldn't be so bad, but I spent most of that time hoping the old guy would get off the bike or spandex girl would get off the elliptical. I finally got into a good rhythm on a treadmill when I heard that all-too-familiar call. "Kelly DeBry, please come to the day care room." And suddenly, my best intentions meant nothing. Back to reality.

It's the thought that counts, right?

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Through experiences in my life, I have learned many interesting things. Some that I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams. One comes to mind today, mostly because I drove past the inspiration for the lesson yesterday. As absolutely crazy as it may sound, I am convinced that there is magic in the most unlikely of all places. Taco Bell. Hidden deep within the layers of beans and cheese, wrapped carefully in a warm tortilla, is something mysterious. Who would have ever guessed that a burrito could have healing powers?

Burritos? Healing power? I told you it would sound crazy. And here you are, nodding your head in agreement. She's lost it. Kelly is nuts.

It's the truth. Taco Bell can heal. I can't be sure why. I don't know what they put in that stuff. All I know is that when Tom was sick, Taco Bell became an important part of my life. It became a necessary part of the daily routine. Every day after radiation, Tom had a one hour window of opportunity. While he was nauseous and sick almost all the time, he'd have about an hour in the afternoon where he could actually eat. He was hungry. And though I tried to get him to eat just about anything and everything I could think of, all he ever wanted was Taco Bell. Specifically, he wanted a bean burrito.

And so, every day, after leaving the oncologists office, we would head to the drive through. I rationalized it at the time, thinking that I should be grateful he was eating something. It was a decent source of protein, had lots of carbohydrates and a reasonable amount of fat. All in all, if you're eating only one thing a day, a bean burrito isn't really a bad choice. It kept him going. It helped him fight. It gave him strength when little else would. Ever since then, Taco Bell has held a special place in my heart.

It came as no great surprise to hear that my Dad now frequently requests Taco Bell. I really don't know what they put in that stuff. But, I'm telling you. It's magic. Don't underestimate the power of the burrito.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


People generally consider January, the beginning of the year, a new start. The end of January brings with it many things in our house. The start of tax season is one of them, yes. Soon that marathon will begin. Weekends will disappear and family time as we know it will depart the house for a few months. Tax season is something that we don't look forward to. But January means another season here. It's also the start of birthday season. Three of the kids have birthdays back to back. The seemingly never ending planning. The invitations. The locations. The guest lists. The if-she-is-invited-then-she-has-to-be-too syndrome.

Ashley is up first, and she really, really, really wanted to have an ice skating party this year. Until someone else beat her to it. Last year she really, really, really wanted to have a tea party, and someone beat her to that too. It takes the fun, and the novelty, out of a party like that when another friend does the same thing only a few weeks before you. We are trying to talk her into still having the ice skating party. We'll see. She has mentioned bowling as well, but I know she wants to skate more. We need to figure it out this weekend so I can start planning it.

I'm always a little leery of scheduling anything for Ashley's birthday. She has to hold some notorious record for being sick on her birthday. The last three years, she has been too sick on that day and her party has been postponed. She's missed her friends, opened family gifts with raging fevers and eaten two birthday cakes more than a few times. Let's all hope that she has paid her dues in that department. It would be nice for all of us if we didn't have to go through all the illness and replanning that seems to come in February. Last year, Ash was so sick that it took a long time to reschedule her party. I don't think it was until the end of March that she finally had it. By then, we had to hurry up and get it out of the way, so that the next party could be planned.

Ally had her first real birthday party last year. She's had them before, but this was the first time she had friends from school to invite. It was also the first time in the history of birthday parties in my life that every single person invited showed up. Usually, about 2/3 of the kids come. Not this time. Every single one came. And it was, of course, raining outside. All those kids were stuck in the house. I found my husband just shaking his head in disbelief more than once.

Ally has already decided what she wants to do this year. She wants a party at an indoor bounce place here in town. But that place just makes me cringe. It's expensive, it's dangerous, and it's infamous for being a place that parents drop their kids off at and run, often leaving uninvited siblings to play too. She might want a party there, but I don't see it happening. She's mentioned bowling too, but mostly I think that is because Ashley mentioned it. What we will actually do, I'm not sure. I'm glad I have another party to deal with before I have to cross that bridge.

After the craziness that was Ally's party last year, we encouraged Aidan to entertain other options. Ones which didn't involve a house full of people. He was game for a small party, but the pendulum swung too far for me. His party was so small that I wasn't even invited. Tom took Aidan and a few friends to see a movie. That was it. Aidan wants more this year. He wants an old fashioned birthday again. He wants to have it at home. He wants to invite his friends. He wants cheesy games and decorations.

Looks like I'll have my hands full for a few months. It is birthday season, after all.

Friday, January 22, 2010


As I'm sure you have noticed, I changed the blog again. I have a deep and long standing love of redecorating, one that obviously applies here as much as anywhere else. As much as I liked the last background, it was a little hard to read with the colors, and it was a little dark. I'm hoping that this one works better, is easier on the eyes, and greets me with happiness each day.

It was a strange coincidence that I changed the background yesterday, on the same day that I was reminded of something from my childhood. I changed the color scheme to green here, and later the same day, green was on my mind for other reasons.

I love green. Always have. Well, okay, maybe not always. As a little girl I loved pink and purple, as most little girls do. Those were my favorite colors until my parents made the mistake of telling me that there was a color in the universe called "Kelly green". That was it. From that point forward, I had a new favorite. I even made my parents paint my room that color.

My love affair with green might stem from another source though, one that is a little unusual. As a baby, I got a Kermit the Frog stuffed plush toy. The sun set and rose on that little felt frog. No idea why I was so attached to the strange little animal. But I was. Whenever people got me baby dolls, I always took the clothes off the doll and put them on Kermit. He went with me everywhere, all the time.

The most notorious Kermit appearance was at church. I had taken some of my brother's baby clothes and put them on Kermit, including shoes. If you've ever had a Kermit, you know full well that he doesn't actually have feet. Instead, he has flat felt webbed things sewn onto the bottom of his legs. Regardless, I insisted that he needed to wear shoes. At the front of the church, right after my parents had received communion, Kermit lost a shoe. And the congregation burst into laughter.

I left Kermit at my Grandma Doll's house once, and you would have thought the world had ended. After many tears and long days of waiting, he finally arrived home. Safely packed in a box, she had mailed him back to me. He had been shipped with snacks and the boxes was riddled with air holes.

With time, I outgrew Kermit. He went from being my constant companion, to being a thing stuffed under my bed, to being saved in the closet, then the attic. At some point, most likely when I was in high school, I dragged him back out. And he sat on a shelf for a while. Until it was time for me to grow up and leave home. Then, again, he went into a box. He's in a box today, though for different reasons. He's not there because I don't want to play with him or because I am embarrassed by having a toy or any of that. He's in that box because I still need him. And unlike the other stuffed animals that I brought from home and let the kids have over the years, he is mine. Just mine. And I want to keep him that way. I need to.

Now, to the coincidence. After changing things here, making them green, and in my world, happy, Kermit showed up in the most unlikely of places. Facebook. My husband took a quiz, one that told him which of the Muppets he was the most like. And the answer, by now, must not be a surprise. He is Kermit. And it's only fitting that he is. I've been in love with the guy for as long as I can remember. And I'll love him for the rest of my life. It may not be easy being green, but it sure is appealing to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


There are a great many things on my mind this morning, most of which revolve around the fact that people I love are hurting. The things that happen to us on this journey through life are not always fun. They are not always fair. I find myself questioning why things happen the way that they do.

I keep reminding myself that things always happen for a reason. One which is divinely guided and that we have no control over. And that we have no power to change. I keep trying to remind myself of it anyway. I struggle with believing it. I need a little help with that this morning.

I cannot comprehend why people with the purest of souls, the best of intentions and with more love to give than anyone else does are left wanting. And why others, with no rhyme or reason, are blessed with gifts that they don't appreciate. That they don't want. That they don't care for. Help me to understand.

I cannot comprehend how it's possible for our bodies to turn inward and attack. I understand the science of it all, for sure. I just don't get why. If we are truly created in the image of something greater, then why are we so terribly flawed? Help me to understand.

There are times, like today, when I am almost envious of those who are blindly faithful. Who don't need help to see the reasons. Who are content to go on, believing that these are things we are not to know. And that find peace in not knowing. I'm simply not that way.

It's not that I am a non-believer. It's not that I have no faith. I do. I just wonder why sometimes there seems to be such a great inequality in the woes of the world. Why the struggles always seem to rest a little more squarely on the shoulders of a few. If there is an answer for that, I would venture a guess as to why. It's because there is some truth to the saying that God will never give you more than you can handle. I guess I just wish he didn't always feel so compelled to test me, to test those I love.

I know that I will never receive an answer for my questions, at least not while I am in this life. I know that someday it will all make sense. I just need to have a little more faith.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Skirts, skirts, skirts. On my mind. You read it right. Skirts. You know, the item of clothing. Perhaps it is because I spent the better part of the morning in pursuit of a skirt, perhaps because I am admiring one now, perhaps because I know just how very much that combination of cotton and elastic will complete the universe of a little girl I know.

One of the things that got to come home with me in my suitcase was a skirt. I found a little purple twirly skirt, just Ally's size, and knew instantly that it would perfectly complete any outfit that she chose to wear with her purple sparkle shoes. She has a huge twirly pettiskirt already, but that one doesn't get to leave the house. It's simply too fabulous. This one is like a fun sized version. Portable enough to wear to school or to bed. Needless to say, she's had it on just about constantly since it peeked out of my suitcase for the first time yesterday morning. And I was right, it matches the shoes perfectly.

As adorable as this particular skirt is, it's not even the one that I am thinking about this afternoon. That one is sitting in a bag, neatly folded on the counter. Waiting for it's new owner to arrive home from school and squeal with giddy delight. I told Ashley yesterday morning that it was time for her to get some clothes that fit. She's been growing like a weed lately, and has outgrown almost all the clothes in her closet. She has three pairs of pants that actually fit her as intended. I asked her if she wanted to pick stuff out, and she said yes. I told her I would take her after school.

Taking kids clothes shopping is a challenge, requiring constant negotiations for sure. Taking all four is another matter entirely. Aidan was hungry, but isn't he always? Ally was not comprehending why she wasn't getting the new clothes, when really, the girl has more clothes than she could ever dream to wear. AJ was just not wanting to sit still or be quiet. And Ashley wanted to shop. I was hoping for a quick in and out excursion, but what happened was just about the furthest thing from that possible.

We walked in the store, and Aidan and Ally went to watch the kids tv in the back. Ashley started looking, and AJ tried to grab whatever he could get his little hands on from the confines of the stroller. Within seconds, it seems, Ally had to go to the bathroom. And Aidan was hungry. Ashley found a few outfits right away, including the one that she wanted the very most. Knowing better than to just buy her clothes, I told her she had to try them on. The skirt that she had her heart set on, the one that she needed to have just so that the world could keep spinning, was the first thing she tried on. It didn't fit. She needed a 7 and they only had a 6.

That, I should have known, was the beginning of the end. If you've never wanted to believe that a child could hyperventilate over a piece of clothing at the age of 6, I can attest to it. It happens. And it did. The rest of the shopping trip was a nightmare, and we ended up taking home a different skirt. One that she didn't love and that didn't really match right, but we needed to get out of the store. The shopping trip was a failure...even though she had picked out 4 outfits that fit her. They were just clothes. They weren't the skirt.

When Tom got home, she tried on the clothes to show him, and he made the same face that she did about the skirt. The replacement skirt. Now, I can't be sure that he's never cried about clothing, but if he has, that's where she gets this face from.

And so, this morning, I ventured out. In search of the skirt. The right skirt. And I found it, of course. The Earth may resume rotation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I'm going back to Cali. For a few days anyway. I'll be out there alone, away from all my kids and my husband for a while. I've got a list of things I need to get done while I am there. A longer list of things I'd like to do. And a list still of people that I would like to see. Whether I can squeeze it all into the time I am there remains to be seen.

I'm more than a little nervous about leaving them all. Four kids is a lot, even for me, and I'm used to it. Let's hope that the house is still standing when I get home, that no trips to urgent care are required and I'm not forbidden from ever leaving again.

I'll see you in a few days. Wish me luck. But more than that, wish Tom luck. He's going to need it.


Being a parent is hard. Really hard. It's especially hard when something bad happens and you find yourself entrenched in an inner struggle. What kind of parent am I? What kind of parent do I want to be? Should I be?

Bad things happen. Terrible ones too. And even some unimaginable ones. These things don't happen only to adults. They happen to children. There are sides of our world that are dark and evil. Places that no person should ever find themselves in, that no child should ever be subjected to. Sometimes these things can happen truly with no warning. Sometimes there are pure tragedies, wholly unpreventable. But how many of the tragedies that occur were truly without warning?

A convicted sex offender was just released in an adjacent neighborhood. A violent one. One that has already been judged likely to reoffend. He's served his time, and he's out. No restrictions on his activities. No prohibitions. He can hang out in school parking lots, in parks, wherever he wants to go.

The police department held an information meeting for parents here, and though I was unable to go, I wanted to. I would like to know what he did, and to whom. How much of a threat he poses in my life, and in the lives of my children. I know what he looks like. I know where he lives. I know what his usual victim is like. But do I really know? Of course not. I won't kid myself into thinking that I can really know anything about this guy. I can't. And I'd rather not, to be honest.

Instead, I will teach my children how to stay safe. I will know their friends, and the families of their friends. I will know their teachers and coaches and other adults in their lives. I will teach them to recognize times when that safety might be in jeopardy. And as much as is possible, I will protect them from harm. However I need to do that, I will.

I didn't go to that meeting, but not because it wasn't important to me. Far more parents chose not to go for another reason. They assumed that he was a boyfriend, and the charges were pressed by a reluctant girlfriend at the behest of her parents. It's easier to think that. It's easier to want to believe that this man was forced to pay the price for a stupid, but consensual, choice. Because when you believe that, you can sleep easier at night. You can let your children roam the neighborhood without limitations. You can let them walk home from school, assuming that they will get home unscathed. You can send your children to slumber parties at the homes of their friends. Because they will be fine. Too bad one of his victims was a friend of his sister, and was at one of those slumber parties. She wasn't safe. And he's out.

There are scary people in this world, in my town. People like him.

Finding a balance between being too relaxed and too paranoid is a hard one. Finding some place in between, some place where concerns are legitimate, limits are reasonable, freedoms permitted. You can't live your life in fear of what might happen. But you can't stick your head in the sand either. It may be easier to believe that danger doesn't lurk out there, but it does. And living in denial of it only places your children at risk.

One of the things we are charged with as parents is the safety of our children. Even if it puts you on edge. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if you don't want to think that these things could happen to you, to your kids, they can. Give them the tools to be safe. Protect them. And don't kid yourself. He's out there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I grew up watching The Tonight Show. Even as a kid, I was always a night owl. My parents gave me a television in second grade, one for my very own room. I was never a huge tv watcher, but I do have fond memories of that 13 inch black and white screen. One of the very first things I watched on it was the last episode of M*A*S*H, when my parents thought I had gone to bed. Yes, I was 6 and watched M*A*S*H. What can I say, I was a strange child. And I watched Johnny almost every night.

I remember watching the last show Johnny hosted, and I remember being skeptical about the new guy. Jay. I vaguely remember the drama involving David Letterman, but I didn't pay too much attention to it at the time. With time, Jay grew on me. Until I got to college and started watching other late night shows. Jay started to seem too mellow, too self-important, too blah. The other guys were just funnier. And Conan was one of them.

We continued watching the Tonight Show for years, mostly because we liked Jay better than Dave. He just seemed too East Coast, and we didn't get a lot of the jokes since we'd never lived there. There's not too much else on in that time slot, the better shows were on later. Conan and Craig. Weirder. Edgier. Funnier.

I was pretty glad when they announced that Jay was leaving and Conan taking over the show. I've always liked Conan, and felt that he had more than paid his dues over the years. He had played second fiddle for a long, long time. And finally, it was his turn. Sure, some people would be upset about the change. They would lose some fans, especially in the transition stages, but that was to be expected, right?

Turns out that Jay wasn't really done. He wanted back in, but his new show flopped. NBC decided in the last few days to push Conan back and give Jay back the coveted post-nightly news spot. Conan decided today that he wasn't going back to playing second fiddle. And I can't help but admire the guy.

Maybe it's just a topic that is a little close to home right now. Working for years towards a goal, paying the proverbial dues. Only to have that goal pushed back and delayed. And you can't help but feel like you worked your ass off for all those years for nothing. When your fate is controlled by someone else, the powers that be, it's hard to keep reaching toward a goal that seems always, perpetually, out of reach. At some point, any rational person would say "enough". Conan did. As for the issue in my own universe, only time will tell. It's not a choice I have to make. It's not my call.

It's easier, I suppose, not to want it in the first place. To be content with mediocrity. To just have a job. But when what you want is more than that, and when you work towards something more for so long, it's hard to just let it go. And it's hard not to see all that time as a waste.

Conan paid his dues. I can only assume that some other network will pick up his show, and that the story will end happily for him. I would think that someday, somewhere, he will be appreciated. I can only hope so anyway. And I can only hope for the same for everyone else who has paid their dues.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Children are not born with an innate sense of ownership. They aren't automatically aware of the fact that things belong to particular people, and not to others. In fact, as babies turn into toddlers, they are pretty sure that the entire world is theirs to explore, to play with, to throw, to chew on and drool on. But such is not the case.

Trying to teach children about ownership is an interesting journey. It's a hard one to teach without simultaneously teaching them about selfishness. And it is often wholly incompatible with the teachings on sharing. We spend so much time as parents teaching them to share that they have a hard time grasping the idea that something could possibly belong to just one person. But wait, they seem to say, what about what you just said? I had to share this, why don't you have to share that?

But there are things that must not be shared. Things that do in fact belong very much so to one person, and to one person only. Things that are not to be touched by others. Many of those things, many of my things, reside in my purse.

Over the summer, for whatever reason, I was actually in possession of cash. Cold hard cash. Something that very rarely is in my possession. I don't generally have any, nor do I really need to since the vast majority of the world functions just fine with a debit card. But I digress. I had cash. And a decent amount of it. And it was in my purse.

Aidan had practice for swim team every morning during the summer, and the girls took swim lessons off and on. As a result, my car was always crammed full of swim bags and changes of clothes and towels and goggles. At some point, Ally took it upon herself to start packing her own swim bag, which was fine with me. I encourage such independence, even if it is something that makes my job harder rather than easier. The thing about kids is that they never really do anything on their own, at least not at first. Her wanting to pack her own bag meant that I had to pry it out of her hands every morning, check the contents and negotiate the removal of the other things she always wanted to bring with her.

After she had been packing her own bag for a few days, I let it go one morning without checking it. I figured she probably had it down by then, and we were running late already. We got the the pool, and she insisted on going into the dressing room with Ashley to change. Fine, I said, agreeing only because a teenage daughter of a friend was there with them. I went out to find a place to sit. A few minutes later, the girls emerged, suits on. Ally was carrying something though, and as she got closer, I realized what it was. Money. Cash. The girl was carrying a $10 bill.

I knew that there was no way this money belonged to her. She has a piggy bank, but not paper money. I asked her where she got it from. She told me she was going to the snack bar. I told her that no, she wasn't going to the snack bar. Then I repeated my question. Where did you get it? She said she got it from her wallet. Then she said she'd go get her wallet and show me. Before I could even process what she said, she was gone and back with her wallet. You know, the thing I would have removed from her swim bag had I checked it that morning.

I opened the wallet only to find more money. Tucked in there, she had not one, but two $20 bills. The girl was walking around with $50 cash in her Minnie Mouse wallet. Again, I asked her where she got them from. Finally she confessed. She took them out of my wallet, but she only took 3 monies, holding up three fingers. Never mind that the three dollar bills she grabbed weren't dollar bills at all, but much more.

We had to have a conversation about money that day, and about how it is not okay to go into other people's wallets. That it doesn't belong to everyone. It belongs to the person who owns the wallet. And it wouldn't have mattered if she took $3 or $50, she took something that didn't belong to her. And she didn't take money again. Until today.

Last weekend, for the first time, I won a little money at bunco. Not much, and mostly ones, but hey - it was better than nothing. I had the money rolled up and tucked next to my makeup in the bathroom. Not in my wallet, which is where it should have been. After going to an appointment for her ears, I drove home to get the money so I could take Ally to lunch. I told her to go up and grab the money on my bathroom counter. She came back out to the car a minute later, and handed me the stack, or most of it. Missing from the pile was $10. Two five dollar bills were gone. Immediately, I asked her where they were.

Mommy, they are in my wallet, she said. And in her wallet they were. I guess we need to have another conversation about money. And I guess I need to make sure I always put my cash away, at least before she does.

Monday, January 11, 2010


In my life, I get about an hour a week of quiet. A whole hour. Monday is the day that Papa picks up Ally from preschool and takes her out to lunch. They get to hang out and bond, I get a few precious minutes of peace. Assuming of course that AJ takes a nap, that is. And at this very moment, he is.

It's amazing how quiet the house can be. And it is even more amazing how content I am to sit and do absolutely nothing for that time. Sure, there are clothes to wash, dishes to put away. But it's quiet. And I like it this way.


Sunday, January 10, 2010


There are many things that I do that drive me crazy. That I wish I could stop myself from doing. The one that comes to mind this morning is that I judge people. And I judge them far before they have had a fair and ample opportunity to do anything that would justify the judgment.

I have a wickedly accurate sense of intuition about people. I can tell almost instantly from the first moment I meet someone new whether I am going to like them or not. Most people pass the sniff test. And it has never been the case that someone who passed that sniff test became a person I didn't like. Sure, there are times that I might have disagreements with people or question why they do or say something, but there are never the times when I doubt my ability and desire to truly be their friend.

Some people don't even get through the initial screening. They fail the sniff test. There are occasionally people that I just have a sneaking suspicion that I am not going to like at some point. There is no rhyme or reason to it. Not attached to anything they do or say. Just a hunch. Trouble is, at some point, whether it is in days or weeks or months or years, those hunches are right.

I can't even tell you how many times it has happened. It's never been wrong. And even though it hasn't ever failed me, I question it. Every time I get that feeling about someone, I try to dismiss it. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I try to convince myself that my intuition is wrong. That my radar was just a little too sensitive when I first met this person. But eventually, my intuition is proven accurate. Again and again.

And again, just recently, my hunches were dead on. Maybe someday I'll just learn to listen to them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I've had to readjust to living with a toddler boy in the house again. I've been through it before, but really, nothing could have possibly prepared me for what I would have to deal with this time around. Suffice to say that AJ is a handful.

The older he gets, the more apparent it becomes. He is going to be a challenge for many years to come. He is still tiny, for sure. He officially fell off the growth chart for his weight the last time we were at the doctor. He might be twenty pounds now. Might. He is about the size now that his older brother was around 7 months old. Except he is more than twice that. Though he is small, his size is no obstacle to him. In fact, it's probably a good thing that he isn't any bigger than he is.

The last week has been one filled with a great many discoveries for him. Things he has learned to do, much to the dismay of his mother. Things added to his already expansive repertoire. A few weeks ago, he figured out how to open the dishwasher. None of his siblings ever figured that one out. It would be bad enough for him to do it any time, but his favorite time to open it is when it is running. Once it's open, he must climb inside. And dance. Really.

The seat belt on the highchair is so tight that he can hardly breathe. You'd think that it would serve as an effective containment device, but such is not the case. He can escape from it in less than 10 seconds. He can get out of the stroller even faster - even with a five-point harness. The seat belts on the carts in the store are a joke. When I had him at the store this week, in the time it took me to turn around, grab something off a shelf and turn back around, he had escaped from the seat belt, was standing up, and was throwing stuff out of the basket.

For as long as we have had little kids, we have had a kid sized table and chair set. It's been banished to the basement, because AJ figured out that he could push the table and chairs around the house and use them to climb on just about anything and everything. In doing so, he also figured out that if he pushed the chair to the pantry and hung on the pantry doorknob long enough, it would open.

He has figured out most of the baby locks in the kitchen, popping one of them off right in front of his father, the installer, a few days ago. Even with a lock, his arms are so small that he can cram them in the drawers and pull stuff out. Anything in the front half of the drawer is fair game. He climbs the baby gates. If he gets high enough on one and shakes hard enough, he can knock the entire thing down.

He can launch himself through the dog doors. He climbs on the couch and jumps off it. He hangs from the kitchen table and swings like a monkey. He can unroll an entire roll of toilet paper in mere seconds. As we were almost set to walk out the door for school one morning this week, he pulled a full bowl of cereal off the table. Yesterday, he learned how to squirt the contents of his bottle clear across the kitchen by cramming his hand in the bottom and squeezing hard.

Most people attribute his "abilities" to the fact that he has older siblings. He could watch and learn from them, they think. Trouble is, most of the things he gets into are not things that the other kids ever did. He's different, just a wee bit more mischievous than the rest of them, combined. He's not even 18 months old yet. And he is still tiny. I'll be watching him like a hawk for years to come. I don't have a choice. He's a miniature Houdini, and he's on a mission.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I'm not quite sure who first penned the phrase that men are from Mars and women from Venus. I'm sure it was long ago, and I'm sure that whoever it was happened to be an astute observer of human behavior. Men and women are certainly different. In fact, it is mind boggling sometimes that all that separates us from one another is a single chromosome.

I spent the better part of the morning one day this week performing the most hated of all household chores. Cleaning the walls and the baseboards. I only got about 2/3 of the downstairs done, but got the entire banister done as well. It took hours, used up 3 entire Magic Erasers and more than a few fingernails were sacrificed for the cause. The walls and the baseboards look good to me now, at least as good as they can. I need to paint them, really. Getting and keeping them clean when they are only covered with flat paint is next to impossible.

You can imagine my surprise (okay, so I know you won't be surprised....but humor me a little) when my dear husband arrived home from work that evening and didn't notice. He didn't notice that the walls were again the off-white color they were intended to be, no longer streaked with marker, crayon and fingerprints. He didn't notice that the baseboards were white again, no longer covered with scuffs and layers of goo. He didn't notice.

Why didn't he notice, you might ask? Most likely because it had never occurred to him that they were dirty in the first place. And why hadn't it occurred to him? One reason, a simple one really. He's a guy. And guys don't care. Never noticed that it was dirty, and he's not going to notice that it's clean.

I suppose that I shouldn't mind all that much. It would be far more exhausting to live with a man if he did actually notice every stray mark on the walls, every dust bunny tucked under a cabinet, the second the toilet went from clean to gross. I notice these things, sure. But do I get to them instantly? Of course not. There is no way that I could keep this house spotless all the time, and the last thing I need is to have someone else point that out constantly. Unless that someone else is willing to help, that is. And clearly, such is not the case in my house.

When I wonder aloud why I bother cleaning, he smirks. He knows as well as I do that I clean for one reason - my sanity. I need to feel like I am somewhat capable of keeping on top of the chaos. I need to occasionally feel like I could actually eat off my floor if given no other option. And yes, I need to clean the baseboards. Even if the only person who ever notices is me.

I guarantee Venus is a much cleaner place than Mars.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tiny Sandwiches

Yesterday, to celebrate the last day of the break, the kids asked if we could have a tea party. They don't ask often, but they know that when they ask, I will always say yes. I love tea parties. There is just something about a sandwich that tastes infinitely better when it's cut into tiny pieces.

The girls dressed up fancy. Aidan drew a bow tie and vest on one of his white undershirts. Grandma Kathi was cordially invited, and graciously accepted. It was quite proper, mostly anyway. Aside from that one cup of tea that mysteriously was emptied of it's contents at the end of the meal, we had a fantastic time.

My reliable tea sandwiches include the following: cinnamon toast points, grilled cheese and grilled peanut butter and jelly. The kids love them, but I wanted a bit more variety. I used some gourmet blueberry jam for the peanut butter sandwiches this time around, and they were just a bit more divine than your run of the mill PB&J.

Rather than just made regular grilled cheese, I changed it up. Never content to leave well enough alone, I guess. It was a hit, even the kids seemed to love it. If you are anything like me, and truly believe that sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them, then thrust this recipe into the hands of another if you must. It's that good.

Grilled Cheese Heaven Sandwiches

- 8 pieces wheat bread
- butter for toasting
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 8 pieces bacon
- 1 large tomato, thinly sliced

Spread Mixture
- 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp course ground prepared mustard
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp parsley

Combine mayo, mustard, garlic powder and parsley in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. Cook bacon, preferably on a griddle that can be used for cooking sandwiches as well. Drain on paper towels and remove most of the grease from the griddle, leaving a little for cooking the sandwiches.

Lightly butter the outside of 4 pieces of the bread, placing butter side down on griddle. Generously smother spread mixture on bread. Top each piece of bread with two pieces bacon, broken into smaller pieces to fit. Layer tomatoes, then 1/4 cup cheese per sandwich. Before placing top layer of bread on the sandwich, coat inner side with spread, outer side with light butter.

Toast both sides until golden brown, cooking until cheese is melted, pressing down evenly to squish the sandwich a bit. Ideally, you would have a panini maker to create this sandwich.

Cut sandwich into desired number of pieces. I usually quarter them when we have tea parties, because they are just better that way.

I'm telling you, this sandwich is that good. I've got to stop cooking or my life of eating out will forever be ruined. This is better than any sandwich I've ever paid for.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Someone at the school district, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the holiday break needed to be an extra three days longer this year than normal. I'm not quite sure what the motivation was for the extension. All I know is that the kids really, really, really need to go back to school. Or maybe I just need them to.

I wish that the district would have consulted me about the calendar - that isn't too much to ask, is it? If it were up to me, I'd add the extra days to the Spring Break, since that is the time of year that people really want to go somewhere. That I am already planning to go somewhere. Being the brave (or crazy) mother I am, I am planning to drive to California with all the kids alone.

The kids grow antsy being here for Spring Break, since there isn't anything we can really do. Last year, it snowed the entire time. And it's still tax season during that break, so Tom is MIA. Plus,by Spring Break this year, I'll be an auntie - and it's about time for a baby fix. Though it will be a short trip, the kids only have a week off, we will go. I'd like a few more days then, and I'd really rather give these ones back. Thank you very much.

I am craving my normal routine. I am craving the hours, however short they may be, when three of the four of them at off learning and playing. I am craving some alone time with my little man. And I desperately need to clean my house. But I need to clean it without helpers, and without simultaneous destruction taking place in the next room.

Today is the last day of their break. And wouldn't you know, it is snowing. And these antsy kids are stuck inside. It's okay though. Life as normal resumes tomorrow. I'm looking forward to setting my alarm tonight.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I have spent a lot of time crying lately, that's for sure. But in the last couple of days, there have been far more tears of gratitude than of any other emotion. In the matter of a few days, people from all parts of my past have come out of the woodwork, emerging to offer their concern and volunteering to help in any way they can.

People I have known practically since birth. People I have known only for what seems like seconds in the overall scheme of things. The children of people I have known since we were children. Friends of friends. Spouses, siblings. And even people I've never met.

Many of these people have never met my Dad, but it doesn't matter. They still want to help. For many others, it's been years since they have seen him. But that doesn't matter either. Former neighbors. Prom dates. Lab partners. Roommates. One of my friends in particular used to drive my Dad crazy - he used to teepee my house on a fairly regular basis when we were in junior high together. When I told Dad he was coming out to the blood drive too, he laughed. He figures he owes him for that roll of toilet paper stuck in the highest branches of the tree for months.

Thanks in large part to Facebook, all these people from my past are suddenly back in my life. They have joined the people in my present. And they all want to help. And I love them for that. Thank you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Just Dance

As I write this morning, I am listening to a live radio broadcast from California. A good friend of mine from way back in the day is the new morning DJ, finally on a station big enough to carry a live streaming feed online. Congrats, Spence. You went and done good.

Sitting here I can't help but be in a good mood listening to the music. I'm insanely happy for the guy. But it's not just that. It's the music itself. It's amazing how much a combination of notes and lyrics can change your perspective. How much it can distract you from everything else instantly. And how it's hard to do anything but start dancing when Lady Gaga sings.

As she says, Just Dance. Gonna be okay.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


By far one of the most fun things about living with children is that they are bound to be unintentionally funny. There are times that I struggle to keep a straight face, and there are times that I know I will fail miserably at it and so I don't even try.

Last night, we were getting ready to play a Disney board game with the kids. As almost always seems to be the case, the girls both wanted to use the same Minnie Mouse playing piece. Rather than get between them and give it to one or the other, Tom thought it would be better if they played Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who would get the piece. It's a simple enough game, one which they both can comprehend.

They started to play, both chanting "Rock, Paper, Scissors" in unison, then Ally screamed, "Shit!". What she obviously meant to say was, "Shoot!", but it didn't come out that way. We all started to laugh hysterically, and we kept laughing for a good long time about it. Even AJ figured out something was funny, and he was laughing right along with the rest of us.

After we managed to compose ourselves, the girls started to play again, only to be interrupted by me. Ashley was cheating, waiting for Ally to show her hand before she would show hers. Curiously, she would have beaten her little sister every time. Ally just kept asking to play again, not realizing what her big sister was doing. When I called Ashley on it, she just smiled and handed Ally the tiny Minnie Mouse. She'd been caught, and really her little sister had already earned the right to it anyway.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Today is the day to take it all down. All the sparkle and the cheer. All the trinkets collected over the years of my life. All the special sentimental things, those placed on display only for the holidays. It's time for the house to go back to just being a house, not the bedazzled version it currently is.

I didn't put all the decorations out this year. Not even close. They weren't up for very long, as it took me quite a while to find the motivation to do it in the first place. I managed to get almost all of it done in the time it took AJ to take a nap one day. Those brief hours I spent running around the house like a lunatic, feverishly unwrapping and unbubbling the delicate angels and snowmen.

It's time to put it away. It will inevitably take longer to put away than it took to put it out. It will take longer because I will have helpers. The kind of helpers that make things take longer. That make everything take longer. The kids. They will ask me questions. Where was this from? Who gave this to you? Was this mine when I was a baby?

They will beg to leave things out. Can't we just have this one out all year, Mommy? A few years ago, the girls wanted the Barbie ornaments left out. Aidan's lobbied for the Grinch. Last year it was the Nutcrackers they advocated for. If I had to venture a guess as to what it will be this year, I'm fairly confident it will be a book.

A book. Not just any book. This isn't a typical Christmas book, though it contains the most typical of all Christmas stories. The Night Before Christmas. The story that we have read to the kids on Christmas Eve since Aidan was a baby. What makes this particular book so special is that it is narrated with the sound of their Grandpa's voice. This gift was tucked into a suitcase on the way back from California. Something that they instantly realized was special. I knew about the book. I was with my mom when she bought it, so it wasn't a surprise. I made myself a promise though, that I wouldn't listen to it until Christmas Eve. And I waited.

On turning the first page, fully expecting one of us to read it to them, they heard the voice. And their eyes lit up. They sat and they listened that night, and they have sat and listened countless times since then. I have a feeling this will be the thing they beg to let stay out all year. And I have a feeling that I will be just fine with it.

Friday, January 1, 2010


This time of year is filled with traditions. The parties, the football games, the parades. Oh the parades. The biggest of them all is the Tournament of Roses Parade. Every year, we wake up on the first morning of the new year to gather around the tv and watch it with the kids. It's a parade that we have a little history with. One year, we helped decorate a float. And another year, we went to see it.

Tom and I decided to go watch the parade in person. I'm not quite sure what we were thinking, but we sure thought it was a good idea at the time. We ended up taking other people along too, those who thought it would be fun too - both his brothers and his best friend Paul. Here we were, a car full of teenagers, actually intending to sleep on the sidewalk overnight.

We got there and found a place to park, then walked for blocks before we found a piece of concrete not already claimed by sleeping bags and blankets. We set up camp for the night, and suddenly we felt terribly responsible for the safety and well being of TJ and Tim. It was, after all, back in the old days, long before any of us had cell phones. And we were sleeping on the side of the road.

It was cold and it was boring. After a few hours, Paul got too bored and decided he needed to go somewhere to do something - I'm not even sure where he went or what he did. All I know is that he took the car and didn't come back for a really long time. So now we were there, on the side of the road with two younger siblings, no phone and no car. Luckily for us, both Tim and TJ didn't seem phased by it and were able to just curl up in their sleeping bags and go to sleep. At least someone slept.

I don't think either one of us slept hardly at all that night. Paul showed back up at some point, and though Tom was annoyed that he'd been gone for so long, he was also glad the car was back. He was even more relieved that Paul was back.

After what seemed like forever, the sky started to lighten a bit and the sun finally rose. It was morning. We scooted over to watch the parade, only to have other people shove their way in front of us. Apparently, sleeping on the side of the street to see the parade means nothing to those who show up at the last minute. But by that point, we were too tired to care. We saw the parade, with an obstructed view of course, but we saw it.

On the way home that morning, I knew that Tom was going to be a good father someday. He had slept less than I had. He was worried about the car being gone, but he was worried about his friend more. And he was nervous about being responsible for his brothers out there.

What we originally thought would just be a fun thing to do - something that we could always say we had done - turned out to be a source of many good life lessons. Nights can last forever when you are worried about someone. Being accountable for other people is scary. Time spent waiting means nothing to rude people. And it's definitely worth it to buy tickets for the bleachers if we ever go see the parade again.

It was quite an adventure to see that parade all those years ago. But I didn't just see bands and floats that morning. I saw more. Much more.

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