things that happen when camping with kids

Let’s just start here: You will get approximately 1.7 hours of sleep per night.

Despite the fact that the floor of your tent is lined with a nice, foam camping mat, you will spend your evening in the 12 inch wide section that is NOT covered.  On a bed of rocks and sticks, on an incline, sucking face with the nylon wall of the tent, while the rest of your family sleeps soundly and comfortably on the foam mat.

There will be breakfast tacos, burgers, hot dogs, fajitas, sandwiches, queso, and fruit. The kids will feast on chips and Nutella sandwiches and juice boxes.

Your kids will enjoy an unprecedented amount of time outside.

And when they get bored you can encourage them to “explore!” and “go find some sticks!” and “dig in that dirt pile!” It’s like nature’s scavenger hunt.

You will make the trek to the bathroom approximately 84 times, or every 5 minutes.

Because your kids are careful NEVER to have to go at the same time.

You’ll teach them to pee in the lake.

You’ll teach them to pee in the woods.

Your daughter will refuse to poo in the public potty.

But she has no problem dropping trou a mere ten feet from your neighbor’s enormous camper, where you’ll find her pants around ankles and her business at her feet, calling for someone to wipe her rear.

So then you’ll have “the talk” about certain business which should be done in privacy, not where someone can have a clear view when they look up from their air conditioned game of Spades.

“Stay away from the fire.”

“You’re too close to the fire.”

“Don’t wave around the sticks that you just lit on fire.”

You will end up with burn holes in your camping chairs.

And probably your favorite t-shirt.

You’ll let your kids stay up later than usual because camping! S’mores! Beer! (For you, I mean.)

They will repay you by rising with the sun.

The sun which will rise earlier than it ever has in the history of the world.

And of course you have a clear view because a) you are already awake thanks to the cozy rock/stick bed, and b) tents don’t exactly come with blackout curtains.

And they’ll start whispering sweet nothings into your ear, like “WHERE IS EVERYONE?” and “CAN WE MAKE CINNAMON ROLLS?” and “I HAVE TO GO POTTY.”

You will start to shush them, but quickly give up, because fuck it, you’re camping. Welcome to Mother Nature, bitches.

Where are everyone’s shoes?


Between 4 families, You have 2 electric skillets, 1 crock pot, 1 griddle, 13 spatulas, 8 rolls of toilet paper, 72 juice boxes, and NO COFFEE MAKER.

But you find a Diet Pepsi to mainline for the time being.

So you’ll pull up a camping chair, take a hit of your caffeine laced aspartame, watch your kids enjoy some good, old fashioned dirt digging, and relax.

Until someone has to go to the potty.


Never go camping without your Ninja Turtles

Never go camping without your Ninja Turtles

...or your friendly neighborhood pyro.

…or your friendly neighborhood pyro.


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some stuff

I'm Going to BlogHer '14!
I’ll be at Blogher next week! Will you? Just a warning, I’m a hugger.


some stuff

Read this because I said so.

The 2014 Listen to Your Mother videos are here! Or go straight to the Austin playlist.

I find this story completely fascinating: From the Washington Post, This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps. “The reality of poverty can spring quickly while the psychological effects take longer to surface. When you lose a job, your first thought isn’t, “Oh my God, I’m poor. I’d better sell all my nice stuff!” It’s “I need another job. Now.” When you’re scrambling, you hang on to the things that work, that bring you some comfort. That Mercedes was the one reliable, trustworthy thing in our lives.”

My friend Sarah hit the nail on the head with this beautiful post about choosing to show the happy. Why I will continue sharing happy pictures of my family on Facebook.  “Go ahead and post an after baby’s bath cute photo or that sweet family bathroom selfie because those moments made you feel so good.”

I love this so hard.


me, elsewhere

Super excited that my piece on apologies was published on Huff Post Parents. I’d love it if you stopped by.

I’m helping Run or Dye promote their event in Austin coming up August 30. You can enter to win 2 admission codes OR you can sign up here and get $10 using the code BLOGAUSTIN.

Stop using that spray on sunscreen

Hilarious moms around the web – featuring some of my favorite funny ladies

Must-watch documentaries – because I am a true documentary nerd




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I do not come from an apologizing family. We reconcile, but we do not apologize. We sweep under the rug, but we don’t say the words.


The only time I ever remember apologizing to my mother for something I had done was because she forbade me to join my friends in our regular Friday night outing to the neighborhood skating rink. Holed up in my room, I crafted a saccharine sweet letter, and in that letter I apologized for my wicked teenage behavior. I decorated the edges with flowers and made lavish promises of extra chores, if only she would let me go out. I folded it into thirds, carefully printed her name on the front – MOM – and delivered it to her in the living room, where she sat watching TV. Then I scurried back to my bedroom so I wouldn’t have to watch her read it.


A few minutes later she opened my door. We weren’t a knocking family either. I knew she was calling my bluff. I wasn’t sorry for what I had done or the way I had acted. I was sorry I was being punished, sorry I was going to miss out on a fun night, and sorry I wasn’t going to get to see – not talk to, mind you, but see – the boy I had a crush on. I mean, the fate of my romantic future could have very well rested on this trip to the skating rink.


She relented, and I rushed off to join my friends, but the argument, and my pseudo attempt at a genuine apology letter, put a damper on the evening that no amount of laughter and gossiping could lift. I had cheated and won, but my winnings were bitter and left a bad taste in my mouth. The boy I so desperately wanted to see wasn’t even there that night. Perhaps he too was being punished for his own terrible teenage behavior. In the end, it was a waste of a good apology letter, and I was still stuck doing the extra chores.



Not long into our relationship, my husband let me know that my habit of not apologizing wasn’t going to fly.


“You can’t act like this this,” he would say, as I huffed and gave him the silent treatment if he so much as disagreed with which CD to play on a road trip. Sometimes I would walk away in my anger. One time I actually hopped in my car and drove off, only to return, because I didn’t really have anywhere to go.


With his help, and more often with his example, I learned to swallow my bitter-tasting pride and say those two, gut-wrenching words: “I’m sorry.” And I had to mean it. With time it got easier, and I learned that bucking up and acknowledging my fault felt much better than fuming and going to bed angry, the excruciating act of lying mere inches apart from one another, trying so hard not to touch. After almost twelve years of marriage, it’s almost second nature for one of us to relent and say “I’m sorry,” if only for the sake of agreeing to disagree.



Apologizing comes a little more naturally now, which is good, because as your typical flawed mother, I’ve been apologizing to my children pretty much since the day they were born.


I’m sorry my body wasn’t fit to carry you full term.


I’m sorry, I don’t know why you’re crying.


I’m sorry your sister inexplicably kneed you in the forehead. Maybe you shouldn’t keep your head so close to her knee next time.


It rolls off my tongue now, effortlessly. Maybe I really do say it that often. Sorry. Oops! There I go again.



Back when I was a perfect mother – you know, before I had kids – I swore that I wanted my children to be able to talk to me, to approach me. Confront me, apologize to me, and I to them. I didn’t want to raise a family of sweepers, those who don’t know how to admit their wrongs, or at least assuage a situation. I wanted no awkwardness, no pretending it didn’t happen.


Now that I do actually have children, I’m sadly no longer that perfect mother. I get the chance to apologize to my children a lot. Not just for things beyond my control, like my failing pregnancy health or the inconsolable wails of an infant or two. Now I have the chance to use my apologizing skills for a whole new set of fuck ups.


I’m sorry I yelled at you. I shouldn’t have reacted that way.


I’m sorry, but no I don’t know where you put your [insert favorite, minuscule little toy of the day here].


I’m sorry I forgot to pick you up from early release that time….and that other time.


I’m sorry. I’m not perfect. I’m trying my best.



My twins are six now and full of drama that I wasn’t prepared for at such an early age. One of them in particular often declares vast injustices in her life and takes to her bed. No amount of reconciling or reasoning with her will do. Voices are raised, and I often find myself staring after her in disbelief as she runs from the room, then checking my watch to make sure I have not fast forwarded 10 years. If you are the praying type, please pray for me in the upcoming teen years.


Her mood swings usually indicate that she’s tired or hungry. I know this, but she doesn’t. I know to give her some space, because we both need it. After some time has passed, one of us will relent. I’ll go curl up next to her in her bed, or she’ll seek me out in the kitchen. She’ll lean her head into my belly, stick her left thumb in her mouth, and grab my shirt with her remaining fingers, a stronghold to anchor her to me.


“I’m sorry, Mommy,” she’ll say. And she’ll mean it.


“I’m sorry too,” I reply. And I do too.



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run or dye. or walk. or win!

Disclaimer: Members of the Run or Dye blogging promotional team will receive compensation and admission to this event in exchange for this promotional post.


I’m just going to come right out and say it – I miss running.

Since I’ve been laid up with sciatica due to a herniated disc, I’ve been resigned to long walks around the neighborhood, which aren’t terrible, but when you’re used to running, going for a walk can be agonizing. But I plug in my earbuds, dial up a little This American Life podcast on my phone, and traverse the neighboring streets, hoping to catch a glimpse or two into a house that hasn’t closed up their blinds for the evening. Don’t mind me! Just checking out your paint color.

If I can’t run, the next best thing is trying to get other people to run. With so many different races these days, it’s super easy and fun to get involved in running. That’s why I teamed up with Run or Dye, the world’s most colorful 5k, to help promote their Austin race. Just a 5k! That’s only 3 miles. You can do that in your sleep. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Run or Dye is headed to the Travis County Expo Center on August 30, 2014. Everyone is invited to run this color-blasted 5k, where participants get showered in safe, eco-friendly, plant-based cornstarch dye every kilometer. Afterwards you and your friends can enjoy the world-famous Dye Festival in an ultimate celebration of life, friendship, fitness, and fun. And color. There will be color.

run or dye austin

Register for Run or Dye Austin through THIS LINK and use the code BLOGAUSTIN to save $10 off registration. (The code expires August 23rd!)

If you join a team, you can save another $5.


Also, see below because I’m giving away TWO codes for free admission!


But Leigh Ann, you say. I can’t run!  you say.

Look. Last year when I trained for a half marathon, I had tons of people tell me they couldn’t run. And that’s okay. Participants in Run or Dye are welcome to run OR walk. Or dance. Or skip. You can even bring the kids! Ages 6 and under get to participate for FREE! Maybe they can even pull you in a wagon.


Or maybe a giveaway will help?

Enter below for your chance to win two codes for free admission to Run or Dye in Austin, TX on August 30th, 2014. Giveaway ends 8/9/2014 at 11:59pm. Winner will be send the codes via email within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway.


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conversations from a marriage

The city has been repaving the roads in our neighborhood. Cheaply. They lay down some tar, then a layer of little black pebbles, and the pressure of the cars driving on the road is supposed to press the pebbles into the tar. I guess regular old cement is so 20th century.

The thing is, there are parts of the road, like corners and edges, where the cars weren’t able to do their job of pressing the pebbles into the road. Sidewalks and driveways end up littered with these little black pebbles, just waiting for a kid to wipe out on a bike or scooter. So on a walk, when we came to one of these corners that was littered with little black pebbles, Christian called a halt.

“Time to turn around!” he called, gesturing to lead his pack the other direction.

So I was like, “What? Why?”

And he said, “There’s rocks all over the sidewalk!”

And of course the kids had no shoes on, because we never really meant to go on a walk, but sometimes you’re just eating popsicles in your driveway and the next thing you know, you’re trekking across the neighborhood.

So I said, “Oh come on. It’s just a few harmless pebbles. You never walked around barefoot as a kid? Back in our day, we only put shoes on to go to church!” If even that! Okay, I lie. I grew up in Dallas, where we practically wore heels to bed.

And he was all, “Things are different now! More dangerous!”

And I kinda looked at him like he was kinda maybe getting a little irrational, “…Like the rocks are sharper?”

In the end, the kids traversed the perilous rock garden of 2014 with only minimal fanfare, and we all made it back home with our feet in tact. Sometimes Christian actually does have me partially convinced that he never a) went anywhere barefoot, b) played with dirt, or c) did anything gross or boyish or wretch-inducing.

Although he does have mighty soft feet.


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no camp for you!

Last summer we added up the cost of putting all three girls into a week-long summer camp, and then quietly closed our laptops and acted as if was perfectly normal for a sane, loving family to pay that much money for a week’s worth of activities.

Long story short, there was no camp last year.

It’s not that I want to get rid of my kids for a week. It’s just that we don’t often get to place them all in activities because the cost gets so high with three kids. And since summer gives us a break from paying for preschool, I figured it would be fun to give them SOMETHING to do besides hanging out with me all day. Every day.

Did I mention all day? And every day?

This summer, I was looking through the YMCA catalog and declared how inexpensive the camps were for members, which we are, because the pool is awesome and sometimes you just have to have somewhere to take your children for two hours while you exercise or read a book or do whatever it is you do with your spare time. I can’t judge because I’ve been known to look at the clock after my workout and say “Hey! I’ve still got 30 minutes!” and then sneak around to the vending machines for some important post-gym social media time. Luckily the kids love it in the daycare, where they take part in activities that they never get to do at home, like color and play with brightly colored plastic toys.

Anyway, I scoured the YMCA online catalog for camp weeks that a) had 2 spots available for the twins in Theme Camps, and had a spot available for Zoe in Kinder Camp, b) were held at schools in our area, and c) weren’t completely lame. Since the Theme Camp and Kinder Camp were in no way aligned with similar themes in the same weeks, I had Rachel and Claire heading to Art Camp! while Zoe would be attending Camp Snooze. Or Zoe could go to Swim Camp! while the twins went to Camp I Want to Go Home.

Honestly, they would have had fun no matter which theme we picked, so I bit the bullet and chose something that I thought they all would like, and I started the registration process, where I quickly learned that there would be a $30 registration fee. Per kid.

Why they don’t just tack on $30 to the camp fee, well that is one of life’s great mysteries. What does it all mean? $30 to print my kids’ name on a list? $30 to pay for your internet connection for the instantaneous delivery of my online forms? The registration process itself was just short of traumatizing, with all the invasive questions like “What is your child’s middle name?” and “What is your child’s birthday?” and so on and so forth. So I’d like to think that *I* should get $30 back in my pocket.

Once I got everyone’s camps and registration fees into the online cart and looked at the total, I figured I should just kind of give a little heads up of sorts to Christian that I was about to blow our monthly grocery budget so I could have a little alone time. I mean, you can’t exactly put a price on sanity, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

And he immediately nixed that idea, because well, we would rather spend that money on some weekend trips we have planned, and I supposed we do need groceries more than I need alone time.

So if you need me on any given day, I’ll be “on the treadmill,” which is code for hiding in the YMCA bathroom with my book.




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It took me a whole month, and I’ll be the first to admit that I struggled in the beginning, but I think we’ve finally hit our summer stride. The fighting has lessened, and I no longer get the shakes when I think about taking the kids anywhere. Next time I blink, school will be starting, and I’ll be crying the tears of missing my girls and having first graders and practically being an empty nester. But then, you know, quiet house for a few hours and all.

Here’s an extremely photo-heavy rewind into our June, if you’re the type who likes to live vicariously through other people’s somewhat average lives.

mortified ATX

Some friends and I went to see Mortified ATX, and it was amazing. Basically, people get up on stage and read from their adolescent and teenage journals. It was moving and hilarious, and really made me lament the fact that I didn’t keep consistent journals growing up. In fact, one of my goals this year was to journal more. Right under that, BUY JOURNAL. Seriously.

If you can’t catch a show in your area (they sell out!), then you MUST watch the documentary Mortified Nation on Netflix. Such an experience.


Great Wolf Lodge 2.0. In our second year of what we hope to be an annual tradition around my niece’s birthday, we learned a few tricks about visiting this place. Like skip the dinner buffet, unless you enjoy being out $100 on mediocre food. And take a tip from the lady I saw in the arcade who was carrying a plastic cup around, and every so often would remove a can of beer from her bag and pour herself a cold one.

photo 2

I didn’t think much of it growing up, but my parents pretty much live in a perfect neighborhood. Huge trees, lush, green lawns, lots of newer families and 1970s tract houses that are now worth an amount that made me choke on my Starbucks.

photo 3

photo 1

Oh don’t worry. That ridiculously clean house isn’t mine.

photo 2

photo 4

photo 3

We had the chance to visit SeaWorld San Antonio as a family while I attended the AdventureCon Conference. It was a fantastic opportunity to get away, take part in some really fun activities, and learn a little. I didn’t meet nearly enough people there – always my weakness – but we all had a great time and got to see some cool behind the scenes stuff.

photo 2

Waiting for the Shamu “One Ocean” show. Splash zone ain’t no joke. And yes, that IS a white shirt I’m wearing.

photo 1

Snapped this one and quickly put the phone away, because I swear we were the second most heavily soaked section in the arena. Those poor souls in the most-soaked section, who floated by me on our way out of the place.

photo 4

So one of the many perks of this event was that while we were conferencing on Sunday morning, the families got to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium and get front row spots at Dolphin Cove. Kinda bummed I missed that!

photo 3

After the conference was done, we spent the rest of Sunday at Aquatica, SeaWorld’s water park. Among all the pools and slides, the best part by far was the stingray pool. Feeding them was so weird, as they sucked the fish out of your hand like a creepy little vacuum cleaner. Next time we’re going for the full on interaction, where you can actually get in the water with them.

And of course when we got home, the kids were still so fascinated about the stingrays, we had to research them on the internet and be all nerdy and stuff. Anything that encourages my kids to learn is fine with me.


photo 4

We checked out a museum on the UT campus, then paid a visit to the little turtle pond. I tried to explain that this was where mommy went to school, but not like kindergarten, but it’s called UNI-VER-SITY.

“Oh, just like Monsters University!”

Yes. Just like that.

photo 4

And, yeah. This is pretty much how I end every day. BEAT.

Hope your June treated equally well.

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you have 23 seconds

So I was formulating this post in my head, all about how summer is killing me, my house is a mess, and I have absolutely no free time, but I was like, Hey, wait. I’m going to sound like a whiny little snot, because I just wrote about summer the other day and how much it was exhausting me. And then I realized that that post I “just wrote” was THREE WEEKS AGO.

So yeah. Summer! *jazz hands*

I don’t know how to explain all of the complicated thoughts and feelings that go along with having my three children home with me all day, every day. I mean, I’ve done this before. But they’re all so loud, and need all of the things, all of the time. So mainly I think “HOW IN THE HEAVENS DID I DO THIS FOR 5 YEARS?”

About 2 weeks into summer, the girls finally learned to sleep past 6:12 am. They usually play in their room for a while, which lets me doze a bit. Sometimes they’ll come tell me they’re hungry and want breakfast (every day with the breakfast!), but if we have bananas, I can stretch that doze out another half hour or so. Basically I’m setting myself up for a very rude awakening once late August rolls around. Look, schools, if we can put “make your own breakfast without dumping Cheerios all over the floor and then crunching each and every one of them, and please don’t spill the milk, thank you very much,” on the curriculum, I would totally sign off on that shit.

Anyway, since this post seems to have a serious lack of direction, I’ll talk about my own serious lack of direction. AKA I can’t figure out how the hell to arrange my days so that I a) get all children fed, clothed, and maintain the appropriate balance of educational stimulation and brain rot, b) keep the house from imploding in a heap of haphazardly strewn couch pillows and mildewy beach towels, and c) get at least 5 minutes in which no one is touching me, calling for me, or even thinking about touching or calling for me in any form or fashion. Writing is at a minimum (it’s 11:24pm and I have an early doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so I hope you are enjoying this ridiculous post). By the end of the day it’s all I can do to stare blankly at Facebook or say, “Sure, honey. Let’s watch three episodes in a row of Breaking Bad.” And then I hit the sack and read a book or play Two Dots on my phone until the book or the phone hits me in the face, and then I turn the light out and fall asleep within 3 minutes.

So, I don’t know, if you have any fool proof methods for, you know, getting shit done when you can’t focus on anything for more than 23 seconds, well, I hope you can tell me in under 23 seconds. Otherwise, I may just see you in September.

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signs of love

I don’t do many sponsored posts here, but every once in a while I come across a company that allows me to make sponsored posts fun. Thank you to easybanners.com for sponsoring this post. And thank you for supporting the sponsors that help make this blog possible.


The great thing about kindergarten is that they teach your kids to read and write. We’re in this strange reading limbo, where now they realize that this crazy symbols they’ve been seeing everywhere actually mean something, and I can no longer tell them that the sign says “DON’T TOUCH! NOT FOR KIDS!” when in reality it screams “FREE CANDY!”

We worked all year on writing and sounding out words. I relaxed my type A neuroticism on spelling and allowed them to spell phonetically, which is entertaining and anxiety inducing. Ninja becomes “nenga.” Apple becomes “apul.” But wuns yu get the hang uf it, it’s kindu freeng, yu no?

And then they started making signs.

This parenting milestone kind of snuck up on me. I remember making these types of notices and sticking them on my door. But somehow they left this out of What to Expect When You’re Raising 3 Kids Less Than 2 Years Apart. Because the signs are not exactly of the “welcome” variety.

signs banners kids


The sign that started it all. I’m impressed by her fortitude to tell us she needs some alone time, perplexed by the “be positive” stationary, and cracking up at the spelling.


signs banners kids


Because I asked that they NOT paint their faces in the fashion of Native Americans with Hello Kitty nail polish.


signs banners kids


Because her sisters kept getting ahead of her while riding scooters around the block. Totally my fault.


signs banners kids easybanners.com


“Do not cum in Claire you ar ating like a sad (?) baby.”  I’d just be a bad parent if I didn’t keep this for posterity, right?


signs banners kids easybanners.com

This one’s probably my favorite. “You do not at like a mom. Love, Rachel.” Because I wouldn’t let her watch Netflix 5 minutes after walking in the door from a 2 hour movie at the theater. I don’t know if it’s the “Love, Rachel,” or the white picket fence, but she doesn’t seem too strong in her convictions here.

But more often than not, I find piles and piles of drawings of little girls (them) and an enormous figure (me, obvs), adorned with “I love you, Mommy,” and “You are so nis and prete.” Each one makes my day and gives me hope that I may actually be doing something right around here.

signs banners kids easybanners.com

Let’s just pretend that someone didn’t go back and scribble out “I love Momey” when I wouldn’t let them spray the cat with OFF.

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some stuff

Oren Miller of A Blogger and a Father writes openly and beautifully about his recent shocking diagnosis with stage 4 lung cancer. I’ve read Oren’s blog on and off, and we’ve communicated via social media the way bloggers sometimes do. And since the world is much smaller than we think it is, it so happens that Oren’s cousin Ilene is a friend of mine here in Austin, a blogger, and creator of BlogathonATX.

Sadness is inevitable–I’m only human, and trying too hard to rise above it only hurts more. But I do accept. I accept that life is finite, and I accept that my time will come soon. I accept that my life had been and still is a gift, and I accept the likely possibility that I won’t see my kids grow older.

There’s a Give Forward page set up for friends and loved ones to donate to the Miller family. And to show how awesome the blogging community really is, within just a few days the page had raised over $9,500 of its $10k goal. I refreshed the page a few hours later, and the amount raised exceeded $14k. Seriously, y’all. Awesome.

If you’d like to help support the Miller family, you can visit their Give Forward page here. If you want to stick to prayers, good thoughts, and support, that’s wonderful too. Really, anything is needed and appreciated. I’m finding out just how easy it is to hurt for someone I’ve never actually met in person.

And this is why I don’t think I could ever step away from the blogging community.

some links

Libraries Now: A Day in the Life

On having to write

I’m obsessed with NPR Tiny Desk Concerts.

My parents are dead, and my sister is disabled.

This awesome performance:

Eye candy lawn service - Oh, Austin.

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at what you love.”

Finally, I just cannot get enough of this song by The War on Drugs. It makes me so damn happy. Naturally, when I play it, Claire orders me to turn it off because “it’s making her angry.”


Happy weekend!




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