Archive for the 'Family' Category

Banana Avocado Baby Puree

The Dos Equis Man is now officially scared of Maurice Gamanho

I don’t always make my own baby food, but when I do…my kid usually spits it out. (Sorry if you have no idea why that silver-haired stallion is pictured above. Try googling “Dos Equis The Most Interesting Man in the World”.)

It’s got to be a texture thing. I mean, freshly steamed peas just have to taste better than “canned” peas, right? But, no matter how long I leave my processor spinning, I just can not achieve that perfectly smooth texture you squeeze out of those nifty little baby food pouches.

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This banana and avocado mash-up in an exception. Lennon will generally hang her mouth open and squeal for more. I love this because avocados and bananas are extremely nutritious and sometimes I have nothing planned for the random ripe avocado sitting on my counter and this is the perfect solution.

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Banana Avocado Baby Puree

1 Ripe avocado, pitted
1 Ripe banana, peeled
juice from 1/2 small lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
2-3 Tbsp runny prepared baby cereal (about 1 dry scoop)

Scoop out avocado flesh into small mixing bowl. Add banana, lemon juice and cereal. With a potato masher or a fork, mash ingredients until smooth. At this stage there will still be random lumps. If your baby is used to eating lumpier foods, you can stop here. If your baby prefers smoother textures like mine, force mixture through a fine mesh sieve.

This will make approximately two 4 ounce servings. I’ve had luck keeping the second serving for the next day in a small 4 ounce airtight container. The lemon juice helps prevent oxidation though you won’t avoid it entirely. If it bothers you, just skim off the brown layer from the top before feeding the leftovers to your baby. I do not recommend heating this puree. Serve it room temperature or cold.

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Review (and a Rant): Bringing Up Bebe

Behold Pamela Druckerman’s new book Bringing Up Bebe! Heard of it? If you’re a mother, surely you have. While some have interpreted the book is nothing but unfair America bashing, I argue the content is neither unfair nor is it bashing. What Druckerman has organized is very important and deserves your time.

The book is laid out in a rather objective manner. Druckerman is an American journalist living in France with her British journalist husband and three children. As a new mother in a foreign land, she noticed a pattern of different behaviors surrounding the upbringing of French children that was different from what she was used to in the United States. Like any good journalist, she decided to find out why. Through various interviews with French parents and doctors and American parents as well as an abundance of circumstantial and anecdotal evidence with some actual research thrown in, she comes up with a few ideas as to what the answer may be. Through her appealing, occasionally self-deprecating, and never condescending style, Druckerman tells her own personal story of learning to parent her children while presenting her conclusions to simple questions like “Why do French kids have such an adventurous palate?” “Why do most all French babies sleep through the night at 3 months?” and “Why do they play so well and independently on the playground?” While she often reinforces that her observations are indeed generalizations and that not every French kid is an angel and not every American kid is a brat, she couldn’t ignore a handful of consistent and distinctive cultural differences between the French and Americans when it came to family life and parenting.

Here’s a breakdown of a few of Druckerman’s main ideas.

  1. Observation: French kids are conditioned to wait almost immediately after they enter the world.  Conclusion: The skill of patience and self-distraction and delayed gratification makes it easier for them to cope in situations that would normally cause a kid to melt-down like a long restaurant meal, or wanting something while mom is busy talking on the phone.
  2. Observation: Kids everywhere prefer chicken nuggets and pizza, but the French culture prioritizes the cultivation of a varied palate. They don’t offer kids chicken nuggets and don’t assume they won’t like foie gras or escargot. Conclusion: Kid led menu planning leads to kids eating nothing but white food. Parent led menu planning leads to kids eating spinach, pate and Brie.
  3. Observation: French parents refuse to be martyrs. Mothers often make parenting decisions based off what is best for her and the family not just what the kid wants. Couples almost immediately revert to previous romantic and social activities after a child is born. The happiness and leisure of the adults is of high importance. Conclusion: There is less guilt and less resentment. Also, kids are taught right away that they aren’t the center of the universe and the family does not revolve around the kids’ desires.
  4. Observation: French parents are stingy with the praise. Conclusion: The idea behind resisting exaggerated positive reinforcement is that French children won’t become heavily dependent upon and addicted to their parents’ approval. They learn to be self-motivated and to develop their self-esteem on their own, independent from their parents’ attention.

Druckerman also discussed the French’s focus on a child’s need to develop autonomy and respect for the family and the community.  None of these ideas are particularly profound, but I can completely understand how Druckerman found these concepts refreshing enough to write a book for Americans about them, as they are practically unheard of in our culture.

I’ve been a mom for just a little over 3 years now. I know what kind of children I want to end up with, but I few ideas how to get there. Generally, I feel confused and tread through my days meekly and with little confidence or conviction in my parenting decisions. The one thing I am confident of is that I’m uncomfortable with the parenting trends that dominate the current generation of mothers and I’m also uncomfortable with the way I’m made to feel when I deviate from what is seen as the only loving and supportive way.

Why are we so nasty?

Americans have the habit of being nosy and judgmental. Ever visit a mommy online message board? American mothers can be ruthless, patronizing, and quick to tout their moral superiority and utter disgust that some people are even allowed to reproduce. There is very small thinking and little encouragement, just constant tearing down. Not to mention we don’t have much of a cultural legacy of parental framework to draw from. Our kids are being raised differently than we were, we were raised differently than our parents, and our parents were raised differently than theirs. It’s like we’re always trying to reinvent the wheel. From scratch. With each generation. We have no collective goals as a society, because well that wouldn’t be very American. America is all about the individual. The individual’s desires and their upward mobility and there is little value in the state of the community. Druckerman found that all of these parenting ideals seemed to be an intrinsic part of French societal thought. Every French parent agrees what’s important when it comes to raising a child without explicitly having to discuss it. The only thing parents have agreed upon in America is to disagree. There is no united front in raising our children.

What’s the result?

What is the natural result of this lack of unity? Competition. Unhealthy competition. Competition between mothers who create more between their kids. Parents end up considering their child as a special project. Filling their childhoods with tutor sessions, tennis lessons and horseback riding camp, instead of empty alone time for self-motivated discovery, or to, I don’t know, read a book. We push them to practice the piano every day so they’re the best. So we’re the best parents. Raising kids becomes a direct extension of the parents’ abilities to manage, to inspire, to push. American parents give it all towards this challenge. Mother’s give up their figure, their education, their jobs, their social life, their hobbies, their sleep “for the sake of the children”.  The problem, reported by Druckerman, is this actually makes no one happy. Not the children, not the parents. So why do we do it? So we can say, “well I gave everything I had! It can’t be my fault my kid’s not happy!”? Or is it to be free of the guilt? The guilt mongering from the disdainful looks we shoot at each other when the kids melt down at the grocery store, from the nastiness spewed all over the internet? Either way, we can’t seem to break free of it, and all the while Druckerman is pointing out is how effortless these alternative and basic child-rearing strategies are to the French.

Really when it comes down to it, I woefully concede that the French way would never work here in the United States. I don’t think the main ideas Druckerman presented in the book are unique to the French and I don’t think the French are better parents, per se, they’re just better at raising French kids and Americans are better raising American kids. That is, we’re exceptional at  producing coddled, uncompromising, self-centered, entitled consumers. We value those qualities. We must. We don’t teach our kids to wait, we give it to them now. We don’t expect our kids to understand how to and find value in eating good food, so of course they won’t. We cultivate egocentric personalities by placing the child’s needs before those of everyone that comes into contact with him. We want our kids to like us, we don’t consider whether they respect us. We give up our very last sliver of leisure time as a parent so we can drive our kid to, and then sit through a junior football game where we jump up and down and cheer emphatically when he oh so heroically catches.a.ball. That’s the American way.

“By sacrificing long-term happiness for short-term pleasure, we have cheated ourselves and our children, and have endangered their legacy.” – Hoyt Hilsman

Mother Mother

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It’s your birthday! We  gonna party like it’s yo birthday! Gonna sip Barcardi like it’s yo birthday!

You won’t get that reference, Mom. You have no care in the world who 50 Cent is, and that’s good. That’s a very good thing. It shows the world you do not hang out in bars. And because you never hung out in bars, mom, I never really liked hanging out in bars, either.

See, feminists in this country like to go on and on about how little girls are being damaged by the media’s unrealistic ideals of what a woman should be. They think that Barbie dolls are poison and that fashion magazines with freakishly photoshopped models are sending our daughters over the edge.

I argue – not true! Little girls don’t care about Barbie’s waist size. They certainly don’t compare the plastic doll’s proportions to their own, no more than they would a La La Loopsy doll’s. They don’t even look at fashion magazines. They look at the Toys R Us ads. What they do look at, very closely, is their mother. This never changes as they get older. Their first standard of what a woman should be is their mother.

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Now, I know my faults and actually flaunt them as a part of my self-deprecating style of humor, but I’m not ashamed of who I am. I think I turned out to be a decent woman, always with room for improvement though. And while my father may have had a hand on who I am as a person, mom you win the prize for who I am as a woman.

While I may not have always understood you, and thus heavily criticized what I never understood, a few things happened in the past several years that have given me a whole other perspective.

Mainly this:

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And a couple of these:

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I’d like to say, very publically, I’m sorry for being a mean and nasty teenage girl. I used to secretly hate that you let me get away with saying the things to you that I did. I wish you would’ve kicked my butt. Now I understand that you’re just as sensitive as I am, and all the mean stuff your dipshit daughter flung at you hurt and you never knew how to deflect that negativity. I’m sorry.

But more importantly, there are a few things I’d like to thank you for, because decades have passed and I’m pretty sure “thank you” are words you haven’t heard enough.

    • Thank you for not hanging out in bars. I mean, that may seem like not a huge accomplishment and maybe it really isn’t, but I think that the fact that always being home and reliable every night 365 days a year like you were is something a kid never really realizes is quite a selfless gift from their mother. I realize it now.
    • Thank you for making eating at home at the dining room table normal and pleasurable. You cooked 5 nights a week every week for decades. You didn’t cook crap either. Your food was and still is good. You came home from working an 8 hour day and spent another hour making delicious food for your family. You didn’t have to do that. You really didn’t, as most women don’t. But you did and now I do. Jeff thanks you, too.

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  • Thanks for having a positive self-image. Not even once have I ever heard you say anything negative about your appearance. You never complained about feeling fat (it probably helps that you’ve never been fat). You never went on a diet. You’ve never done anything silly like counted calories or deprived yourself of dessert or complained about wrinkles or obsessed over your flaws. You have always taken pride in your appearance. Carefully coifing your hair and applying tasteful make-up every day. You look great mom, and you always have. Thanks for not nitpicking at yourself.
  • Thanks for still taking care of me. You keep my kids clothed. You come and clean my house and do my laundry. You still feed me and my family. You don’t have to do any of this stuff, but you do. I’m glad you do.
  • Thank you for having good taste. Good taste isn’t common. You’ve got it and you’ve given it to your daughters. You know how to make a home look lovely. You know how to make beautiful things. You dressed Sara and me in very attractive clothing when we were kids, and my kids look great because of you, too.
  • Thank you for caring. Too much sometimes. I don’t know how anyone can look at how hard you’ve worked the past 30 years and not know that you care about your family. A lot. Being a mom is hard. Being a working mom is surely harder. You’ve never settled for anything but the best arrangements for us. And quite frankly, now I don’t even care if you complained about stuff. You were thanklessly working your ass off for a couple of spoiled brats. I get it now mom. Thanks.
  • Thanks for picking and sticking with someone who is a good father to his daughters. Sara and I needed you both growing up.

I’m not gonna lie, just like every other woman, when I catch myself saying something or reacting a certain way or doing something that is exactly like you, I cringe. But it happens, more and more every day now. “Over my dead body will I become my mother!”  I think. But mom, I know I will probably be a very similar mother and wife that you are and have been. And you know, it doesn’t scare me too much. Love you.

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Giving Birth is Expensive, Babies Don’t Have To Be

If you couldn’t tell by now, or if you know me personally, you know I’m generally and easily irritated by the world. This probably irritates you. I’m sorry for that. I mean well.

Since having a baby 2 years ago, I’ve become intensely fascinated with the world of prenatal care, childbirth and postnatal care and have found a number of things irritating about the industry. It’s one of my favorite topics to read about and discuss with other mothers. It really all began with the book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy. Since educating myself and evaluating my own experience, I’ve formed some strong opinions. They can be narrowed down to these two main points.

1. Moms-to-be, you don’t want a c-section. Do everything, absolutely everything you can to push that baby out of you the way nature intended. I know that doctors decide for many moms in the middle of an intense labor that they need a c-section. For some cases, the surgery is absolutely hands down necessary. For many others, though, it is not necessary for the mother, but convenient for the doctor. And furthermore, elective c-sections thoroughly disgust me. We’re talking major surgery here, not removing a mole. It’s in your best interest to avoid it if you can, not choose to have one because your afraid of vaginal delivery for one reason or another. How about someone cutting into your gut and stuffing their hands in elbow deep. Doesn’t that scare you?

2. I’m going to go here, too: why the hell not just try to breastfeed your baby. Even if you’re going back to work in 3 weeks, then how about trying to breastfeed your baby for 3 weeks? I understand and acknowledge that not every woman is successful at producing milk and I believe that babies can thrive on formula. I am living proof, as are probably most of you reading this. However, there is a steady stream of evidence that reveals how beneficial breastfeeding is to the mother‘s health. It lowers your risk of breast cancer, it stabilizes your insulin levels and metabolism, it helps you lose belly fat. Why why why wouldn’t you want that for yourself? I will concede, breastfeeding is not always easy. I thought about giving up every single day for the first 5 months. But I didn’t, because my reasons (it’s cumbersome, painful at times, inconvenient and even laborious) weren’t good enough to counteract the benefits to both me and my baby’s health. I’m not saying you should feel guilty or a failure for trying but not succeeding or eventually choosing otherwise due to your specific situation. Not at all; not even close. I am saying I don’t understand why one wouldn’t even consider breastfeeding their baby for at least a day. Meaning the mothers that go to the hospital to deliver and check the box “bottle feeding” without even trying the breast. Go ahead with the nasty comments (it’s your right to choose, it’s your body, you don’t want saggy boobs, blah blah blah).

But that’s not where I wanted to go today.

Today, one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love, published a very useful posting on how they as a new mommy and daddy penny pinch with their newborn daughter Clara. Finding the advice relevant and relatable, I thought I’d share them here with a few of my own. Don’t let rich people (or people who appear rich but really just have a credit card), baby magazines, or the sales rep at Babies R Us tell you what you need. You’re better off asking your mother or your grandmother, or following these tips I found worthwhile from Young House Love.

1. Don’t Waste Money on Baby Clothes I like clothes as much as the next woman, but remember your child is not a doll, but other people will think she is. You will get gifts. Lots of gifts. Your friends and family will not be able to resist buying that absolutely charming baby t-shirt. They’re glad you exist so they have a reason to buy it, and they will. Even the most practical of people can’t resist walking through the clothing department at Target without clinging to that cute OshKosh dress. And even if this isn’t the case for you, during the first few months of life, your baby needs very little. Onesies, socks and a blanket should do it. As they grow up, they essentially need a few t-shirts and pants, a jacket, and 1 or 2 pairs of shoes. They will wear their clothes for mere months and will destroy them in that time. Remember that when looking at price tags.

2. Don’t Snub Hand-Me-Downs Embrace them. Get down and kiss the feet of those that have unloaded their baby crap onto you. It’s FREE. We haven’t had to buy a carseat for Marlo until a few months ago thanks to loans and hand-me-downs. (A word of caution about carseats – know very well who you’re taking them from and be certain the carseat has never been in a car accident.) Your friends and family are doing you a favor by saving you the expense, and you’re doing them a favor by freeing some space in their basement. So say yes to that swing, the pack-n-play, and the over-washed t-shirts.

3. Be Skeptical of the Necessity of Baby Gear You do not need an $800 stroller, and I don’t care if you can afford one. The floor makes a wonderful changing table and even diaper pails stink – just throw the dirty dipes in the trash (my father said he would always drop the poo in the toilet then threw away the diaper). If you have a baby, you take the trash out everyday anyway.

4. Cut Down on the Toys If you want an overstimulated, frustrated baby – buy them a boatload of newfangled toys every week. I’ve purchased 4 toys for Marlo – a walk-behind stroller ($25), blocks ($10), mr. potato head ($7), and a Barbie ($6). She’s received many great quality toys from friends and family, and they have indeed entertained her for hours (notably the exersaucer, the playmat, and her new kitchen), but do you know what she plays with most consistently and has for most of her life? Blocks/legos, books, and crayons with coloring books, oh, and stickers. These things are essential to her and she would probably forgo all else to keep them. Best of all, they don’t make any noise and require no batteries. Also, another place to cut down on toys is in the tub. There’s really nothing worse than having to squeeze out and collect a million (probably moldy) bath toys after you’re done washing your baby up. Marlo’s current favorite bath toys: the water, a plastic cup, her wash cloth, and a rubber ducky.

5. Most Mom-Gear is Unnecessary, Too One thing I’ve learned: you know what makes a bag a diaper bag – diapers, wipes and a changing pad stuffed in any bag big enough to hold it. Also, aside from the hospital rental, the best breast pump I’ve used is a $25 Lansinoh manual (best thing about it – you can pump in a car or anywhere you want quietly and without power). And I never really got the whole “nursing clothes” bit,  just buy or make (a blanket) a nursing cover and lift up your shirt for crying out loud!

6. Boob Milk is, Mostly, Free. YHL reported that formula can cost up to $140/month. You can get all you need to comfortably breast feed for a year for that. Really, all you technically need are boobs full of milk, but these things make the process much easier: 3 bottles, a manual breast pump (so dad/babysitter can help), 2 nursing bras, milk storage bags, a Boppy and an optional nursing cover (I say optional because a blanket works just fine). That’s it, and patience which is expensive in other ways.

The baby industry thrives off of guilting mothers, particularly new mothers, into thinking they NEED to buy x,y, and z or they are a bad, careless and unfit parent.  Don’t read parenting magazines, as they’re all just a giant book of ads. Don’t be a sucker. Talk to fellow mothers; talk to your mother. They know best, as they have tried, failed and succeeded a million times already. Be confident in yourself! And put your damn credit card AWAY.

Indiana State Fair

No, I don’t want to go to the State Fair.

Gross.

Why? Because I’m a snob. I don’t like muddy dirt paths covered in animal crap. I don’t want a Donut Burger or a Hot Beef Sundae. I’m not in the mood to inhale second hand smoke. I no longer ride rickety, death-trap Ferris wheels. I’m a mother. I don’t want a sunburn.

Thank goodness everyone ignored me.

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See, I’m smiling. I had a good time. I think everyone did. Everyone being me, Jeff, Marlo and our friends from Chicago Mike, Andrea and Mira. Surely this was largely due to the paved paths void of manure (for the most part).

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I gathered that the theme for the fair was “The Year of the Pig”. I could be wrong, but they were selling pork something or other every 10 steps and there was an enormous building filled with pigs.

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I like pigs, and I actually miss eating them. Is that a twisted comment to make right now? Sorry. (mmmm bacon)

And what is it with girls and horses? Marlo was fascinated.

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I can’t say I have a history with horses. I mean, I’ve ridden one once or twice but it’s not like it was a romantic bare-back on the beach experience. But I immediately fell in love with these beasts. I didn’t really want to leave the horse barn, unless it was on the back of one. I’m pretty sure I said I could be Amish as we walked out through the doors. This was me fantasizing about giving up electricity for a horse. Powerful voodoo.

The girls sat on a tractor. Obviously.

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That was cute. Obviously.

The Goat Mountain exhibit reminded me that I’ve always wanted a backyard full of goats. Not big goats like this one, but the little dwarf ones that frolic around like puppies. Those kinds.

I think it’s important to note here that I don’t like goat cheese.

Here’s Jeff teaching Marlo about the crop that rules the world.

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If you asked Marlo what her favorite part of the State Fair was, she would most certainly say “choo choo train”. And by that she means the shuttle train pulled by an enormous tractor that looped around the fairgrounds. But besides that, she would definitely try to tell you about the pony ride. She giggled the whole way around. We did too.

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Yes, I will eat my words. Yes, I will go to the fair next year, too. Marlo’s giggles were totally worth my sunburned shoulders.

Weekend Adventure

Real conversation:

Marlo: Dad. Hi. Please don’t go to work today.

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Marlo: Can we do something that involves leaving the house? Look I’m all dressed, and it’s sunny outside.

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Marlo: Will you look up an apple orchard? Some of my friends went to one, and said it was the best time they ever had in their life. Okay?

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Dad: Okay

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Anderson’s Apple Orchard – a real American experience.

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Drive in, grab a bag, pull the apples off the tree, put ’em in the bag, pay an incredibly fair price, go on your merry way.

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What’s nice is that you can actually try the apples before you commit. This results in a lot of half eaten apples on the ground. Jeff and I wondered how they kept the animals out at night. I imagined the place being like a Golden Corral, all you can eat buffet for all the nocturnal scavengers.

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Jeff recommends the Cortland variety.

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Marlo tried really hard to pull the apples off the tree, but ended up just getting frustrated and smacking them around like piñatas.

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Even though she’s no Johnny Appleseed, Marlo really enjoyed herself. In fact, she may have had the best time of her life.

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We had a pretty good time, too.

Another real conversation:

Mom & Dad: Hey Marlo, what was your favorite part?

Marlo: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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Busy

Hi.

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You’ve reached Marlo’s answering machine. I can’t come to the phone right now. I’m busy.

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Busy meeting baby puppies..

and busy reorganizing Grandpa’s CD cabinet…

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and Grandma’s pantry…

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and Grammie’s tupperware.

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I’ve been busy getting ready for winter…

and especially busy being an elephant.

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Particularly busy being an elephant that eats fiddlesticks…

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and teases the cat with fiddlesticks…

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Please leave a message after the beep. I’ll get back with you as soon as I’m done watching the neighbor’s dog.

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