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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Highway to Hell

Just because I have a lot of kids, people assume I have a lot of kid-managing skills.  Not so.   In the last twelve years, I  have perfected really only two child-related talents:  ignoring screams, and buying spaghetti in bulk.  Other than that, I’m pretty much where I was at the beginning:  terrified, stymied, trying not to let them corner me.

How, for instance, do I deal with lots and lots and lots and lots of time in the car with four small children who have lots and lots and lots and lots of desire to be out of the car?  Haven’t figured that one out yet.  The reason this comes up is that, as part of my nefarious plan to erase all traces of labor, hardship and inconvenience from my life when we decided to send our oldest four children to a charter school, I have been spending an awful lot of time in the car.

Emphasis on the awful.

The four youngest children always come for the ride in the afternoon, and sometimes in the morning, too.  Sometimes they read or play with baby dolls during the ride; other times, they just sit there, quietly soaking their car seats.  Of course I know all about portable toys, books, snacks, window stickers, soothing or amusing music, “I spy,” and so on.  But some weeks, we spend so many hours in the car, it’s not a matter of passing the time.  We’re just living our lives, but in the car, you know?  We just do the things we always do, but we can’t get away from each other.

Here’s a little illustration. To comprehend the psychological freight inherent in the following drama, you have to know a few things:  first, that the three-year-old

is completely nuts, and likes nothing better than to start arguments about nothing at all; and second, the 18-month-old thinks the three-year-old is a god.

And one more thing:  it was raining.

3-year-old:  “It’s not raining.”
Little sister, parroting:  “Yainin’!”
3-year-old:  “No, it’s not raining!”
Little sister, blissfully playing along:  “Yeah, yainin’!”
3-year-old, in a rage:  “NO, it’s NOT raining, it’s NOT raining, it’s NOT raining!”
Little sister, joyfully agreeing with her idol:  “Yain-yain-yainin’!!!!!!!!!”
3-year-old, in a quivering ecstasy of fury:  “IT!  IS!  NOT!  RAI-AI-AI-AI-AI-AININNNNNNNNNNG!”
Little sister, transported with bliss at the wonderful camaraderie she was enjoying with her sister:  “YAAAAAAAAAAAININ’!”

And so on.

There was nothing that anyone could do.  The three-year-old had rocketed so far past the point of reason that she remained in her little orbit of hysteria for a good half hour; and when she came down, she was hungry.  And guess what?  I had forgotten to bring a snack.

Did I mention we were in the car for three hours that day?  I’m just glad we belong a religion that believes in the value of suffering.  Because, man, it’s only Tuesday . . .

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This post originally ran about three years ago.  This year, our house will be launching the following into an unsuspecting world:  Harry Potter, Aphrodite, a cat, the grim reaper, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,  a Pink Mummy Ghost (this is a costume which started off weird and gets more confusing each year), Ming Ming, and a confused and angry baby.

You can see by the preponderance of trademarked characters that, in the three years since I wrote this piece, my give-a-damn has broken.

Oh, Halloween!

If you are lucky enough to slide unharmed through the Scylla and Charybdis of the Wiccans’ Samhain and decent people’s All Saint’s Day, you will probably be thinking about Halloween costumes for your kids.

I started having kids pretty young, so I went directly from wearing costumes myself to making costumes for my kids. The type of costume changed, of course. When you’re a 19-year-old pseudo intellectual, it seems hilarious to dress up as Aristotle’s Incontinent Man; but for your kids, you really need to reign in the originality. It’s less scarring that way.

The more insane daily life is, the more prone I am to wildly ambitious homemade costume ideas. If I’m pregnant, teaching several kids at home, buying a new house, going to law school, and launching an organic chinchilla farm, that’s when it seems like a good idea to whip up a batch of papier-mache. How hard could it really be to dress any reasonably robust six-year-old as an Elizabethan headless horseman, with false legs, of course, so it looks like he’s really riding on the golden Sphinx part, when he’s actually walking? If I could get a little cooperation around here, I could get something done for a change.

But my goal in these days of relative calm (I’m not pregnant, we’re unpacked and not packing, no one has a new job, and all the pets are dead) is to dress the kids in such a way that it won’t make them cry.

This is not as easy as it sounds, when you have kids who tend to cry when you do exactly what they specifically asked for, several times, with witnesses.

Also working against me is one three-year-old boy who gets angry when he’s having fun. You let him wear a cape and stay up late, and surround him with people who can’t believe how adorable he is, and who want to give him lots of candy . . . and it really rubs him the wrong way.  This is the same kid who steps outside into the golden sunshine, takes a look at the butterflies wafting over the heads of gentle daisies, and yells at the top of his lungs, “IT IS NOT A BOOTIFUL DAY!”

But my biggest handicap is, as usual, myself. I know it’s supposed to be a kids’ holiday, and I genuinely want the little termites to be happy.   But I’m sick. I have a disease which makes it seem important to stay up until dawn getting the tin foil details of Princess Leia’s belt exactly right, even though I know darn well that it’s going to be dark out, and no one without infrared vision could notice any flaw of authenticity, and no one with or without infrared vision would care.

Well, it’s a holiday, and that means it has to be someone’s turn to ruin things — might as well be me. But I’ll tell you the thing I really enjoy about Halloween: at least it’s not a religious holiday — I mean, Halloween as a “boo, eek, Kit-kat and Smartees, oh-how-cute” day, setting aside  the issue of saints and souls and praying and such, which is for a different day.

Halloween is not like Christmas, or Easter, or Thanksgiving — you’re not supposed to be making sure your kids aren’t missing the deeper meaning of it all, and not being too materialistic, and enjoying happy times with your family, while simultaneously performing the back-breaking labor of organizing a pleasant day.

So when I tear around the house with a hot glue gun, insisting that the toddler can make supper for herself because I’m busy, dammit . . . it’s just Halloween! I may be acting like a jerk, but at least it’s not blasphemy.


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You must remember this

I spend a lot of time thinking what it must be like to be one of my kids.  Before you say, “Oh, you’re such a good mommy!” it’s not really like that.  If anything, I’m all the more culpable for being so mean sometimes.  I actually can really, vividly imagine what it’s like to be, for instance, so so upset about someone saying that “Catsy Cootsy Tatsy Wootsy” is a stinky name for a robot — and yet I still say, “Oh, don’t be so silly, who cares?  You stop crying and clean up this room.”  Even though I remember what that’s like.

Anyway, I was thinking about those strange, stranded childhood memories that stay with us.  We say, “When I was little, we always used to sit under the lilac tree and play farm using fruit snacks for animals” when really that only happened one time.  Or our entire sixth year of life is represented by a memory of a maple seed helicopter that someone drew on with green marker and put in our hair.  Probably something else happened that year!  But that’s all we can remember, is the helicopter.

I just wonder how these memories stick.  Why?  I drive down the same country road four times a day, five days a week, with the four little ones strapped into their dank car seats.  Sometimes we chat, sometimes we listen to music, sometimes they yell and kick at each other, and fight over the last of the graham crackers.  But most of that time, they’re just looking out the window.

I glance back and see those dark, placid eyes drinking in the golden leaves, the endlessly unfurling stone walls, the occasional thrilling squirrel or cocker spaniel as we rattle down the road — that familiar landscape that ought to be so soothing and reassuring, and the perfect, idyllic setting for a whole year of comfortable childhood memories.  There’s even a funny plaster bull in somebody’s yard.  That would make a nice memory!

But I know perfectly well the strangeness inside a child’s head.  I remember that simmering stew of comfort and confusion, tedium and alarm, affection and sudden spikes of dread.  And I remember all the adults trotting along so callously, so bafflingly unaware of all the terrible dangers in the world, the savage mysteries that grown-ups pretend are nothing at all, just a shadow, just a plastic bag caught in the wind, just the sound of the house settling.

Some of my children are worriers and brooders, and I understand them.  I can tell them, “It’s all right — it’s all right.  You’ll grow up, and you’ll see that the world is not so terrible.  There is a way out of this dark hole, and there is so much to look forward to.  Just hang in there, and you will not always be a child!  You can do it.”  But that doesn’t help them now.  They don’t know what I mean, and they don’t realize that I understand.

I wish I could choose their memories for them.  When I’m feeling up to it, I try and bulldoze them over with poignant, satisfying experiences, so that they’ll have something good for when they grow up.  And really, I know it’s not for their sake — it’s for mine.  It’s so they can tell me, “Remember when you used to sing that song you made up while we were waiting for the eggs to scramble?” and I can say, “Oh, yes, you were such a difficult child . . . but I made you happy, didn’t I?” and they will say, “Yes, Mama, and we appreciate that.  You were a good mother.”

Ridiculous.  That is not what will happen.  When they have their own kids, they’ll wonder why I couldn’t have been nicer, why I had to be so critical, so capricious, so impatient and embarrassing.  They will love me, but it will be love with exasperation, accomplished with fortitude.  I know that whoever my children will turn out to be, it will be because of their own experiences, their own personality, their own genetics, their own little portions of grace that God chooses for them.  So very, very little of who they are will come from me, even though I crack my brain trying to think of everything they will need.

And of that, they will remember – - what?  The time I yelled at them on their birthday; and maybe also the time I made kitten-shaped pancakes for lunch.  Maybe they’ll just remember me brushing their hair.

I hope the time they remember is the time I remembered to be gentle.

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Today’s post is a re-run from my old blog.  Why?  Because I’m too darn tired to write something new.  And so I present:

THE FIVE STAGES OF EXHAUSTION

Stage 1: You wake up feeling tired.
You stumble around the house all day, misplace your keys, and go to bed early.

Stage 2: You wake up feeling lousy.
You stumble around, maybe drop a few things, and find it hard to finish sentences. You go to bed early.

Stage 3: You wake up feeling dead.
You fall asleep on the baby while you’re changing her. You give the kids cereal for supper because you’re too weak to lift a pound of chop meat. You go to bed late, because if you don’t get caught up on the housework, someone is going to arrest you.

Stage 4: You don’t wake up.
You walk around the house, make meals, drive to the library, and answer the phone, but you’re not really awake. But you dream that you are, and in your dream, you’re very tired. You go to bed, probably. Whatever.

Stage 5: You wake up feeling great!
Some of your noses are a little numb, and you keep forgetting where your feet feet, but you seem to have outlasted the need for sleep! You’re a champion! There are only a few problems:

~You make a tuna noodle casserole (ingredients: tuna, noodles) and forget to put in the noodles. Your only clue that something is awry is a nagging feeling that supper looks awfully low today.

~You ask your husband to pick up some cereal bowls, and carefully explain that they are to be not ceramic, and not glass, but a particular sort of smooth, non-porous material that is rigid like unto glass, and yet not so breakable. And he says, “yeah, I’m familiar with plastic.”

~You wander around the house searching for AA batteries. You spot a book of matches, and think, “That’ll work!”

~Your husband comments that your new yard has enough space to keep a horse, and you reply, “What we really need is one of those horses with horns. That gives milk.”

~You ask your mother, “Can the kids sleep at your house, or are the rooms too full of cheese?”

Everything in this post is true.

Being tired may not kill me, but no one else is safe.

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Perfectly normal.

If I could go back in time, I’d tell new-mother self that this
is perfectly normal.  The mirror-writing stuff, I mean (and actually it makes perfect sense in this context, since the two guys are clearly zapping in opposite directions).  So, young mothers, don’t freak out — it doesn’t mean your child is dyslexic, autistic, schizophrenic, or has his heart on the wrong side of his body.  All of my kids did mirror-writing when they first started writing, and now they all . . . well, that is to say, some of them still write like non-hominids recovering from recent thumb surgery, but they do all write forwards.
This, on the other hand, is not normal:

Yes, that is a gun-wielding butt you see before you.

Or if it is, I wish I knew how to make it stop.

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Morning Prayer

Good bye, guys, good bye! Have a good day — have  a good hike!  It’s gonna feel so good to get to the top of that mountain!  I got you those peanut packs, did you– okay, okay.  Good bye, I love you!

Okay, little ones, now back home.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Give me patience, give me supernatural patience, not like yesterday.  Blessed art thou among women, help L. know I love her, yesterday was so awful, but you know I love her . . .

Yes, I saw that doggie!  What a big tail he had.  Did you see his big tail?

Hail Mary, full of grace, intercede for D., and don’t let the other girls draw her into anything foolish, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou

I told you to put your feet down.  Down means down, not on the baby.

Blessed art thou among women

I said down!  Thank you.

Now and at the hour of our death.  Hail Mary, C. is so little, she’s trying so hard.  Be a mother to her when I’m not there.  Blessed art thou among women

The zoo?  That would be nice.  Do you remember last time we went, with the flamingos and the giraffes?  Yes, E., we all remember what the gorilla did.  Yes, yes.  No, that’s disgusting!  All he did was — hee hee — he scratched his bottom, and then he smelled his finger.  No!  You stop that, E.

What was I — oh, for M.  Okay,  holy Mary, mother of God, he’s such a good boy, let him always be this happy, keep that biting kid away from him today, where are his parents, pray for us sinners–

Listen, she’s just a baby, so let her say what she wants to say, okay?  You know what town we’re in, right?  So be a big boy and let her say what she wants to say — it doesn’t matter.  Oh, look, horses!  That side, that side, look where I’m pointing!

That’s okay, you’ll see them next time.  Blessed is the fruit of thy womb. Please stop doing that.  You know it makes her scream.  I swear, I’m gonna–

Okay, so now E.  Hail Mary, full of grace, what do you think?  Is he going to be okay?  The Lord is with thee . . .

Hang on baby, we’re almost home.  I know, “Me out, me out.”  You want to get out, we’re allllmost there . . .

. . and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary–

Yes, that tree is all red!  Isn’t it pretty?  What other colors do you–  HEY, nice driving, JERK!  Why don’t you kiss my– okay, okay, we’re fine.  Okay.

Mother of God, sorry, pray for us sinners, now and don’t forget forget little S., I don’t know what’s bothering her these days.  Help me not to forget her when she’s quiet.

We’re almost there, guys.  Who wants eggs when we get home?  You want eggs!  Yes, eggs, eggs!  You are such a smart baby, oh you sweet baby girl!

Blessed art thou among women.  Did you see little L. sleeping with her bottom up in the air?  Thank you for this little one.  Those beautiful eyes.  Protect her.  Now and at the hour of

Can you hold it until we get home?  Good boy.  Girls, when we get home, you let E. go first, okay?  I’m serious, let him go first.

E., feet down.

Sweet baby, so many little ones hurt and no one to take care of them.  That little one in the news . . . Holy Mary, mother of God, take care of my baby and all the poor babies Pray for us sinners, pray for I., give me patience, let them know I love them, help me remember I love them, especially when I’m making supper…

Yay, we’re home!  Hey, who brought library books in the car?  You know you’re not supposed to.  All right, all right, let’s just get inside.

Now, who wants eggs?

Amen.

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A few years ago, I declared that my new motto was “Praise God and cut corners.”  Pretty good, eh?  Although these days I’m only managing about a 50% success rate (guess which half).

My poor husband has been working long, long hours as he covers a murder trial, and we have four kids at home, three in one school, and one in another, and I somehow scheduled four doctor’s visits, two dentist and one orthodontist visit, and two parent-teacher meetings this week.   And I scored a writing gig from a -gasp- secular website!

Whine, whine, whine.  Don’t hate me, mothers who hold down full-time jobs, or military wives.  I am just not used to being this busy!  I’m spending three hours or more in the car every day, and the other things that I Absolutely Have To Do just get crammed in during the brief visits we  make to our actual house.

So it’s either make a lifestyle change involving a plane ticket to the Yucatan Peninsula and a forged death certificate . . . or cut corners.  Here’s how:

1.  Gotta read to the kids? Children’s books are horribly repetitious.  Yeah, yeah, it’s good for their brain development, it makes them feel secure, whatever.  Just cut out all that dead wood, and you get to the end a lot faster.  Try this:

“Would you eat them
in a box?
Would you eat them
with a fox?”

“No.”

“Say!
In the dark?
Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?”

“No.”

2.  Gotta feed them? Try making all the meals at once.  At lunch time, try to be also cooking supper, baking a treat for the classroom, toasting some granola for the upcoming hike, and packing tomorrow’s lunches, while making a shopping list of high-protein breakfast foods to alleviate that “Your child weeps her way through math every day” problem.  By the time you’re ready to dish up, the kids will be so disoriented, they won’t even realize that you’ve weaned them down to two meals a day.

3.  Gotta teach some school? Take a leaf from the educational fad of my childhood:  it’s called “spiral education” and it means you only actually have to teach them something every three years or so.  The rest of it is “enrichment through incremental exposure,” which is educatorese for “endless reveiw.”   Like this:  “Look, everyone, a cloud!  You remember clouds!  Who can tell me about clouds?”  They’re certainly not learning anything, but this type of conversation will give them that same nervous, alert feeling that signals True Education.

4.  Gotta get some time alone with your husband? Try the “surprise reward” strategy:  “You know, I’ve been watching you, and you guys did SUCH A GOOD JOB with that, that thing you were doing today that Daddy and I think you deserve a movie.  A nice, lo-o-o-ong movie.”

5.  Gotta write? Try this handy phrase:  “Several of my readers have requested [or would, if I asked them to] a re-run of a very popular post from a few years ago, so here it is.”

6.  Gotta pray? Remember that God is very, very smart, and can figure out what you mean by, “Hello!  The thing!  And all.  Would You?  I need!  Amen.”

7.  Gotta finish seven quick takes? New rule:  six is the new seven.

Conversion Diary!  Linky! List!  Skip pic!  Done.

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My nice kids

I usually try and have a point,  a theme, or at least a joke when I sit down to write.  Today, though, I think I just want to talk about my kids.  They are so nice and good, and I know I don’t say that enough.  I can be a regular old mommy blogger from time to time, can’t I?

Yesterday, we had one of those mornings where you fall out of bed and just start running.  Up!  Up!  Eat, eat, wash your face, find your shoes, grab your lunch and go! Get the birthday brownies into the car!  Stuff your history costume in a bag!  Run in to beg the teacher for leniency for kid #1, who just got braces and thinks she is a monster now!  Run, run–zip back home, wash and brush and feed the rest of the kids, and then leap back into the car for everyone’s doctor appointment.  No you cannot have toast, go go go!

For three hours this morning, I did very little besides buckle and unbuckle carseats, and drive.  I also did some singing (“Hear the lively song of the frogs in yonder pond”), which miraculously still calms my 3-year-old when she gets in a hysterical rage over not having a long enough turn looking at the insert that came with the plastic owl her brother got from Burger King.

You may think that a hysterical rage would sort of quash my enthusiasm about how good my kids are, but she’s not actually really like that.  She’s a very happy person, but is going through one of those brain growth spurts, which makes her kind of unpredictably horrible from time to time.  I know she doesn’t want to be that way, because when she’s being awful, I say, “Do you want to be a good girl or a bad girl?” and she always chooses good — and actually does the thing that I tell her good girls do.  She just needs a little help remembering that she has a choice!

They were really being good.  It is no damn fun to be driven back and forth, back and forth, when none of it is about you, and there’s really nothing to look forward to but a possible Rugrats sticker after your shots.  Maybe we’ll see a turtle on the rock in yonder pond by the highway, but probably not. Maybe the crane on the construction site will be doing something cool, but probably not.  Red light means stop, green light means go.  No turtle today.

Then we got to the doctor.  My six-year-old watched the baby and the 3-year-old as I took the 4-year-old to the bathroom.  They ate some chalk and played with the bead maze toys, and waited some more.  Then, when we got to the doctor, everyone else had to go to the bathroom.  “Wow,” says the three-year-old, “That is a STRONNNNNG toiyet!”  I don’t know what that means, but she seemed impressed.

And then finally it was our turn.  The three oldest kids were the ones with appointments, but of course it was the baby (almost 18 months) who ran the show.  She stripped off her clothes and picked out a johnny gown from the drawer, since that’s what everyone else was doing.  (For the first time in my life, I wished I had a phone with a camera on it.)  She weighed herself.  She got a sticker, and even a picture book — and not just any picture book!  The doctor first showed her a board book, and she gave it a look of such withering disdain that the doctor laughed herself silly.  Then she found another, more mature book for the baby, who said, “Day,” (thanks) and trotted back to the exam room with her loot.

Then the three-year-old had to go to the bathroom again.

I had a moment’s consternation when my six-year-old son said he didn’t know the letters on the eye chart — but it turned out he thought they were supposed to spell something, and his phonics didn’t take him as far as sounding out “ROXCSTKNDT.”  Sort of reminds me of my sister’s story about her son, who claimed not to know the color of a crayon the nurse was holding up — oh, never mind, I’ll let her tell it in the comments.

Well, isn’t that cute?  That’s all I wanted to say.  I like having my kids around.

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Simple School

Okay, for real this time:  come see what I wrote for Faith and Family Live.  It’s about how, even though I have abandoned four of my children to the netherworld of not-homeschooling, I still have four kids at home, and I still know a thing or two about a thing or two.

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In our recent discussion about the dubious heroism of Columbus, Lincoln, and Joel Hodgson (well, somebody should have said Joel), The Jerk did his job as peacemaker, and poured soothing oils on the stormy waters of our dialogue by bringing up the subject of fluoridation.

For readers who are not familiar with The Jerk, he is this guy who writes for my blog, and he is a jerk.  What’s the matter, The Jerk — sick and tired of having a friendly chat with strangers online about vaccines, maybe, or circumcision?

I had actually completely forgotten that people get upset about fluoride.  But now that I remember, I can’t stop thinking about Dr. Strangelove, and how I wish my kids were old enough to watch it.

It got me to thinking about other movies that I’d like to show my kids, and which I think they would mostly enjoy — but there’s just a few scenes in there (or maybe more than a few) that make these movies out of the question for another couple of years.  Here’s the rest of the list:

–2–

Jaws

I’m halfway afraid that they won’t be terrified by this movie.  And that they won’t recognize the perfect story arc.  And that they won’t get the big deal about this scene:

–3–

Blazing Saddles

I campaign for this one regularly, and my husband always nixes it with this simple argument:  “Simmy, it’s one long d**k joke!”  Humph.  If I had known he was such a prude, I never would have — oh, never mind.

Well, it turns out he actually said that about

–4–

Young Frankenstein, another of my favorites.

Super dooper!  I don’t mean to lean too heavily on Mel Brooks, but I do feel that my children are only living partial lives until they understand what we mean by “Nice hopping.”

–5–

For a change of pace, how about Unbreakable?

This is one of my favorite movies of the decade — it’s so much more than a comic book movie.   Where Watchmen seethes with ludicrous self-importance, Unbreakable tells a plain and strange story of good and evil.  I wish people would give this movie a second look–it’s so delicately, movingly, and thrillingly done, and is full of hidden symbols.

–6–

Oh, wait, here we go: The Mummy

Here is the movie for which the word “awesome” was invented.  I can’t quite get myself to use this word in public yet, but I have to admit, this movie is indisputably awesome.

Besides being terrifying and genuinely funny, this is one of the very few action movies with an appealing heroine (and impeccable casting in general).  I didn’t realize how good Rachel Weisz is as Evy until we saw part 3 (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), which, among its many grave problems, had a different actress in the role – and it really wasn’t worth watching.

–7–

And of course my children’s cultural education won’t be complete until they see Army of Darkness

Everything’s cool!  I said the words.  I did!

Well, what’s on your list of cinematic genius that you’re dying to bequeath to the next generation?  Leave your list in the comment box, or do your own Seven Quick Takes (doesn’t have to be movies — most people just list seven random tidbits, which I find much harder than making a list), and leave a link to yours at Conversion Diary, where Jen hosts lists of links every Friday.  Don’t forget to link back to Jen if you do your own Seven Quick Takes.

Happy Friday!

(Cross-posted at the poor The Anchoress, who probably hoped for more than, “Ha ha, here’s my favorite fart scene!”)

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