I spread myself thinly across multiple, often conflicting responsibilities. Student John and Stay-At-Home-Dad are in a constant death match, each plotting against the other to undermine the otherwise phenomenal jobs they each perform. They let Writer John out of his crate roughly once a week, and as soon as that latch is lifted, Writer John careens through the door and sprints figure eights around the living room with the laptop, spouting mirthful gibberish like The Great Cornholio. But as soon as Writer John has flung his brainchild out into the tangled Interweb, he’s back in the holding cell, from which he shouts genius ideas for blogs, novels, and 3-D feature films, hoping against hope that the other Johns hear, but knowing deep down that a majority of them tragically will vanish into the ether, neglected and unwritten. While all of this goes on, Husband John–the unofficial fearless leader–watches from the couch. It’s been difficult for Husband John to get a word in as of late, with all of the demands the others have needed to handle, but at the last chapter meeting, he dropped a bomb on everyone.
“So has anyone had any thoughts about what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day?”
The room fell silent.
“You all forgot, didn’t you?”
Can you guess what John is thinking about today? That’s right–Elmo!
You know, Elmo!
John has been watching Sesame Street with John’s Twins for a few months now and John has learned a lot about Elmo, but John has noticed some things about Elmo that confuse John. Unlike Elmo, John has no self-aware drawers and doesn’t have a family of mimes lurking outside John’s window who are always waiting with a smile when “Shade” goes up, so John wondered how to find out more about Elmo’s Worldview.
Then, suddenly, John had a spectacular idea–John should write Elmo a letter!
Here is John’s letter to Elmo:
First of all, John wants to say that John is a huge fan of Elmo’s, and has been ever since John was just a little boy. John remembers when Elmo got his first big break on Sesame Street, starting with only a few special guest appearances, but look at Elmo now! Elmo is the star! Yaaaaay! Plus, whatever Elmo is doing to stay in shape must be working because Elmo doesn’t seem to have aged a day.
John knows that Elmo has haters who are angry about Elmo taking Sesame Street by storm, “stealing” the spotlight away from traditional Street Performers like Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, and especially Grover, who–as a result of Elmo’s coup de cutest–has retreated into an even more deluded version of his Super Grover alter-ego, trying way too hard to make himself relevant by unnecessarily upgrading his superhero uniform to “2.0” status and constantly asserting himself as “cute” in a futile, passive-aggressive attempt to dethrone Elmo’s natural, organic cuteness. John will even admit to agreeing with the Anti-Elmo League for a while, but now that John is a Loyal Viewer, John gets it.
Elmo is a natural born entertainer. Eternal optimism, a curious thirst for life, and genuine care for one’s fellow monster make Elmo hard NOT to love–so much so that people are even willing to overlook Elmo speaking exclusively in the third person and avoiding pronouns except the occasional “he” when talking about Elmoself, in order to avoid a rapid-fire, five-“Elmo” sentence. (Did Elmo notice John is doing the same thing in this letter? John wonders if John can get away with it.)
In fact, Elmo is so captivating that John DVRs Sesame Street every day because John often finds the one way John and John’s wife can afford 15 minutes to eat dinner without shrieking banshee interruptions is by putting on “Elmo’s World” for John’s loinfruits. John realizes the “World” is really intended for older viewers, but John’s Twins just adore Elmo and always kick their little feet when they hear the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
Which brings John to the reason for this letter.
John knows that Elmo and John are friends because Elmo has told John so in numerous grand, on-air gestures, so since Elmo and John are friends, John feels comfortable asking Elmo just a few earnest queries about the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
See, Elmo, John is sure you realize how unbelievably catchy the song is. It was a runaway success in its first incarnation as “Elmo’s Song,” and as “Elmo’s World” has become arguably the Street’s most popular segment, the ditty has become engrained–tattooed even–in the consciousness of parents and children everywhere. John wonders if–when Elmo was writing the song–he acquired government funding for a team of musically-inclined scientists to discover the most irresistibly infectious permutation of notes possible, or maybe had Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond ghost-write it, or even is hiding a resurrected John Lennon somewhere on the set (Oscar’s can?).
John will pause now for Elmo to imagine Neil Diamond singing “Elmo’s World.” Legendary.
John thinks Elmo should get on the phone with Elmo’s agent and make that happen.
Anyway, Elmo, John’s point is the song is addictive. While home with the Twins, John finds himself involuntarily and spontaneously belting out “Elmo’s Song” as if under a spell, and even writing and performing John’s own off-the-cuff verses.
But that’s not even John’s real complaint.
Elmo, John has issue with the lyrics.
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
Elmo loves his goldfish,
His crayon, too.
That’s Elmo’s World.
John thinks it will help if John breaks it down.
La la la-la, la la la-la…
Okay, now this makes sense. Not only does this hearken back to the old, classic origin of the song; non-word, sung syllables have proven to be an excellent avenue to a solid hook, as they are easy to remember and facilitate sing-alongs. Look at the beginning of J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” and the climactic end of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” With this in mind, John is already singing along with Elmo after a single “La.”
Next, Elmo illuminates his Loyal Viewers as to what is happening. Elmo is inviting Elmo’s Loyal Viewers into “Elmo’s World.” Elmo will assumedly proceed to describe what the journey into “Elmo’s World” will be like. Elmo is doing a great job so far!
Elmo loves his goldfish,
According to Elmo’s argument, the first phenomenon to expect in “Elmo’s World” is the love of a pet goldfish. Elmo still has John’s attention here, because this lyric also fits. It is no secret that Elmo loves Dorothy, and rightly so. John is not a big fish guy, but would convert if John had a goldfish who could generate aquarium sculptures with her fish-mind powers, too.
Where did Elmo get Dorothy? Does Dorothy have any relatives that John could adopt? Now, John could point out the rare use of a pronoun in this line, but that’s not a big deal. It would disrupt the fluidity, anyway.
His crayon, too.
There it is, Elmo–the problematic line, the one that keeps John up at night, wondering WHY? It’s definitely apparent that Elmo is a crayon enthusiast. In fact, Elmo’s entire house seems to be constructed from them. But Elmo, John never sees you actually use the crayon. John assumes that possibly, at some point, the crayon was used more frequently, but seldom does Elmo incorporate the crayon into “Elmo’s World” nowadays.
Elmo has already said that Elmo loves his goldfish–why not issue a shout-out to other entities in “Elmo’s World” who help Elmo every day? What about Mr. Noodle, his brother Mr. Noodle, and his sister Ms. Noodle, who realize they are not very bright, but still, every episode, try to answer Elmo’s questions, only to be met with ridicule from voice-over children?
What about “Drawer” who always helps Elmo learn more about what Elmo is thinking about? (Maybe Drawer keeps knocking Elmo over because Drawer is indignant.)
Because it’s a theme song, Elmo only has a short amount of time to encapsulate “Elmo’s World,” and the crayon simply isn’t part of it.
Then, Elmo, the song just ends.
That’s Elmo’s World
No, Elmo, it isn’t. That’s not “Elmo’s World.” Elmo implies that Elmo has summarized the World, but Elmo has only scratched the surface and wasted limited song real estate on a nonessential element.
John hopes this doesn’t upset Elmo, but John just can’t wrap John’s head around it, and because John still busts the song around the house as if in a musical, John is faced with this dilemma every time John sings about that darn crayon.
Please, Elmo. Don’t leave John hanging like this. Why is that line in Elmo’s song?
John has a feeling Elmo understands and thanks Elmo for hearing John out. John looks forward to Elmo’s response.
Author & CEO, Twinfamy
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If not, John is still so happy to see you!
Six Sigma is a process in business management that strives to find the most efficient method for performing tasks, supported by thorough analysis and statistical findings. While it is said to work phenomenally in the business realm, I believe such critical task analysis can be just as helpful at home–after all, it’s my place of business.
As a stay-at-home parent of twins, I need to be efficient. Any way that I can streamline what I do literally makes things twice as easy and keeps me from enduring a meltdown duet, and I’m always searching for thrilling new ninja skills to apply on the domestic battlefield.
For the duration of my husbandly homemaking career, I have kept my methods under wraps, locked away in a heavily-guarded location that makes the Disney Vault look as secure as a wallet shoved all the way into the toe of a shoe on the beach. However, I have been given security clearance from the U. S. Department of Defense to share these secrets with you, as long as I do so gradually, in brief installments.
On that note, here is the first.
Six Sigma Parenting Tip #1: Snack While Peeing
Those of you Loyal Readers who are parents know that while caring for young children, a trip to the bathroom becomes less casual, leisurely, and spontaneous than in your distant past life. This is because using the facilities means putting yourself in a state where you cannot necessarily immediately respond to any urgent child matter at hand, particularly while mid-stream.
Thus, affording oneself an excretion opportunity typically involves the placing of children in cribs, Exersaucers, various harnessed baby furniture items, or simply bringing the child(ren) on a field trip to see Where the Magic Happens. It also often ends with a panicked flush and rushed hand-cleansing over a lavish score of screeches and whines, as the thirty seconds or so you’ve attempted to acquire for yourself are simply too long for your little ones to endure.
Another once-leisurely pastime that becomes a breakneck parenting dash is eating. Gone are the days of actually sitting down at a human-style table, imbibing your meal without interruption, especially during breakfast and lunch when you’re a trophy spouse like myself. Given the narrow window of both Twinfants being moderately distracted or even–*GASP*–asleep at the same time, it’s go time. I’m suddenly in college again, seeking out the food item with the smallest from-deciding-to-eat-it-to-putting-it-into-my-mouth time, and I can almost hear my fraternity brothers chanting “Chug! Chug! Chug!” as I perform near-kamikaze hydration.
Since these two necessary-to-life processes–eating and excreting–can become such hindrances to maintaining sweet radio silence from your babies, why not combine them?
Before you get all grossed out, just think about it.
If you’re already going to the bathroom, you’ve secured your children, and possibly any well-meaning canines that love to swallow baby socks, not because they taste good, but because it gains the ever-waning attention of their master. With your household dependents on lockdown, you plan on being occupied for a good 30 to 60 seconds anyway, so you might as well pick out a quick snack from the pantry.
I suggest granola bars. Not only are they scrumptious–they also take just about as long to eat as it does to exit bodily fluids.
NOTE: This Six Sigma Parenting Tip is designed exclusively for Waste Type #1 bathroom trips. I fully and literally subscribe to the folk notion of “not sh!tting where one eats,” so if you will be depositing a twosie, Twinfamy does NOT condone eating during the extraction. That’s just gross. (If this whole idea still makes your skin crawl, I’ve accounted for that, too. Check out Version 3 below.)
Depending on your personal preference/microbial outlook, I am providing procedures for three versions of this genius multitasking innovation.
Version 1: The Classic
Once you’re in the bathroom, assume your gender-fueled position. Whatever equipment you’re packing, you’re sure to have a free hand that you probably haven’t even used to touch anything that would make it too dirty to eat with. Use this hand to feed yourself.
Version 2: The Chug
If it is thirst-quenching you seek, this slight variation of The Classic involves any bottled beverage of your choosing (water, sports drinks, malt liquor, etc.). Simply position yourself, place the bottle in your mouth, and bottoms up. I recommend bottled versus open-lidded beverages as their narrow openings provide spill-free mouth delivery while taking care of business. This is an excellent way to stay hydrated, as you are replenishing liquids leaving your body.
Version 3: The Germaphobe
If it disgusts you to eat while performing this act, fear not! You can still rock this tip with a slight variation. Take your snack with you to the bathroom and complete all bathroom-oriented tasks first.
Then, on your way back, linger just outside the bathroom door, out of your loinfruits’ eyeshot, and chow down. In fact, if they are quiet and happy, I suggest hiding here until they are not, as it may be your only free moment of the day. If you bring your smartphone, you can even read Twinfamy from e-cover to e-cover.
Sure, you may hear the natives getting restless during any of these processes, but you, my friend, have killed two birds with one stone.
And that makes you a Six Sigma Parent.
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If not, wait here and watch Elmo for a minute. I’ll be right back.
I am thrilled, O Loyal Reader, to announce that the following Twincident was actually not written by me, but instead an Über-Special Guest Author. You’ve heard her thoughts on having more children, hydration and colored clutter. You’ve seen her catch vomit with her mouth, stick her chin in poo, and even put up with her husband’s suggestive innuendos while deathly ill. Now, for the first time, the floor is hers. Please welcome my wife, Bernie Pseudonymous!
(Yes, that’s right, her name is Bernie. Please withhold your Weekend at Bernie’s jokes. You may think you’re being original, but we’ve heard them all and none of them are funny. Not even yours.)
This story starts like most other stories in my life lately. “My husband and I were feeling a little adventurous, so…” we decided that a weekend getaway to San Diego (5 hours by car) was totally doable and should be in our immediate future. The main motivation behind this quest was a five-generation picture that I wanted to get with our five-and-a-half-month-old twins and their great-great grandmother who was able to come down to San Diego with my grandmother so we could capture this rare twincident (if you will) on film. Plus, getting out of the 100-plus Arizona heat sounded very appealing and I wanted to prove to myself that it COULD be done. We knew that the twins could handle this adventure if we planned it right.
So we started preparing about three weeks prior to the Fourth of July weekend, talking to friends and scouring these internets for twinfant travel tips. The plan was to leave after we fed the twins dinner and a bottle hoping the baby food coma would keep the kids asleep the whole way. To me this seemed like a solid plan but the actual car ride, not so solid.
Pretty much every night our daughter falls asleep after dinner and stays asleep for the night. She can’t take a nap worth a damn, but at night she recoups. Our son is a little different. He goes down for naps relatively easy all day but also wakes up relatively easy and usually to the sound of our dog alerting us a car has gone by or some other annoying sound like thunder. So this applies to our car adventure because he was unable to fall asleep right away and the loud swooshing of wind flying by the car kept him awake. And unhappy. He cried for about 45 minutes, but then fell asleep until we reached a halfway mark where I could change him as the sky finally darkened, allowing his brain to recognize that sleep was in fact a good idea. (He did this on the way home, too but that time our daughter woke up, so Mom ninja-ed her way into the back seat and performed Mommy Sleep Magic on them both. Not ideal, but not terrible either.)
We arrived in San Diego at 10:30 pm at which point I had to wait 20 minutes for my sleeping mother (who goes by “Nani” instead of “Grandma”) to come down to the lobby to tell us where our room was. As an added bonus, my 14-year-old brother had fallen asleep in our room (why he was in there in the first place…?) and Nani needed to get an extra key from the front desk to open it. All this commotion woke the bambinos up and UP they were for the next two hours. Once everyone settled we all slept until 5 am, but thankfully we handed the kids off to Nani at 6:30 after they ate and Mom and Dad got to sleep until 9. It was our first time sleeping that late in months, and It. Was. Awesome.
Most of our trip was spent swapping babies between my husband, Nani, my sister, brother and me so naps could be achieved and meals could be eaten. It was not a bad system. Later that afternoon I was so excited to take my kids on a non-100-plus-degree walk that I just threw them in the stroller and we left not knowing we’d be taking a three-mile walk and not putting sunscreen on. Needless to say, the adults got burnt but the kids were unscathed and loved the walk. We performed some voodoo on the kids upon our return and got everyone to take a nap, refreshing us all.
After our nap we decided we needed to take the five-generation photos, as postponement might result in whiny twin/great-great-grandma syndrome. I can happily report that said photos turned out perfectly and I am so thrilled to be able to share these with my kids. After the pictures we ate dinner on the patio and had drinks with the whole family, great and great-great grandma included. Some fond memories were created. The kids’ great-great grandma is sharp. She was telling jokes and totally chatting us up. Definitely worth the 45 minutes of crying…both ways.
The next day came too quickly and we were off that night to return home. This was a trial vacation but I know the kids can handle longer and I can’t wait for the next time. In the end, the trip was quite a success.
Here are a few things Mom learned along the way:
- Both my parents and my husband’s parents gave us crap for the three suitcases, two travel co-pods, stroller, two diaper bags, backpack, fleet of bottles, high chairs covers and portable bath tub that we packed BUT there was only one item we didn’t use—a portable jumper—and that’s only because the door frame wouldn’t allow it.
- In a choice between a car with space and a car that is super quiet, the quiet one wins. My poor son scared himself too many times in the loud sport utility vehicle we swapped with Nani to take to San Diego, but luckily we swapped cars back and drove our own, much quieter four-door sedan home.
- Rest areas, hotels, and some fast food joints do not have diaper-changing stations in their bathrooms. They will pay someday. I don’t know how, but they will pay.
- Our car stereo has a fade option allowing us to turn down the speakers next to the kids. Had no idea. My husband thought I was crazy for not knowing this information. Guess I’ve never had to fade the sound to the front so my kids won’t wake up before.
- The second you get in the car for a long ride, your twins will poop. Mine did both ways.
- The white noise Sound Machines (that my husband believes are from Miami) are lifesavers when staying in a hotel. The constant slamming of doors is less annoying if not projected through hallways full of paper-thin walls.
- A family trip with five-month-old twins and an 88-year-old great-great grandma is actually a good idea since they are on the same nap and nighttime schedule.
- Food at a hotel is WAY too expensive, but it’s the closest spot to get some food in your belly that doesn’t require the Twin Car Shuffle, so it will do.
- Going on vacation with my husband, my mom, my grandma, my sister and brother was genius. There was always someone to help with the kids. I believe all vacations with my kids should require other family members.
- Caffeine is such a great friend. It never lets you down when you need it most. Even if you have to dump 10 packs of sugar in it to be drinkable.
- Stroller naps are just fine. So are naps anywhere else.
- My daughter is a great traveler. My son’s not.
- Mommy can and did squeeze her tush between the car seats in the backseat of our four-door sedan. When two kids are screaming like wild banshees, it can be done.
- Twins are a novelty in California as well as Arizona, as are idiots who believe they are entitled to touching our twins even though they are complete strangers.
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If not, I’ll turn this car right around and go back home. Is that what you want?
The moment I get both twins down for a nap is one of victory, invariably punctuated by a touchdown dance I’ve developed during my six-week career as starting Cry Receiver. It begins with the Running Man at a safe distance from 2nd (kid) Down, erupting into a Super Mario Brothers Fist-Raised Leap as I cross into the End Zone/Kitchen–during which I bump the ceiling, triggering a shower of Gilded Pacifiers–followed by the spike of a full baby bottle on the floor (empty ones don’t thud or bounce quite as badassly). I Raise the Roof with legs of Jell-O while willing myself not to White-Man’s-Overbite, and then, as I go into a little soft-shoe routine, die-hard face-painted fans, animal mascots, and cheerleaders emerge from drawers, cabinets, and Crock Pots, all remarkably donning the color of whatever spit-up-stained t-shirt I happen to be wearing. I sign the bottle with a Sharpie, fling it into the masses–who will argue for the ensuing two hours about who had it first–and launch myself into the Dawg Pound, crowd-surfing my way through high-fives.
Yeah, it’s a work in progress.
The “Holy Crap, a Nap Overlap!” Shuffle (working title) may seem a tad extravagant, but that’s because rarely does this occasion occur. Unlike many modern technologies, you cannot set twinfants to automatically synchronize. People often assume twins are uncannily in-tune. I definitely see yin and yang dynamics emerging, but my experience has shown that–as fraternal, boy/girl twins–they truly are two unique people, and with that comes unique sleep patterns. (I’ve heard identical twins tend more towards similar sleep habits but won’t at all claim to be an expert on that.)
It goes like this. My son, the Reigning Naptime Champion, usually conks right out, often even collapsing in his jumper or drifting off mid-teething-ring gnaw. My daughter, on the other hand, will show signs of tiredness, but will resist the falling asleep part at all costs. So after soothing, rocking, defiant de-socking, carrying, pacing, wide-awake goofy-facing, singing, swinging, pacifier flinging, and even laying her down to self-sooth until she’s so loud she’s about to wake her brother resulting in an fiery inferno of dual banshee shrieks, by the time I finally get her to sleep, I’ll often hear him waking from a 45-minute nap before I can even Mario Jump.
However, against these insurmountable odds, I usually manage to get them down at the same time once a day. This magical phenomenon, Daddy’s Time, allows me to do. Whatever. I. Want. It feels strangely similar to my parents letting me stay home alone while they ran errands, leaving my ecstatic mind reeling with unfathomable possibilities. Should I go through drawers? Blow out the stereo speakers? Snoop for Christmas presents?
So, once the crowd returns to their hiding places in appliances and cabinets, I am left alone with my thoughts, the most common of which are the following, in this order.
I first must harness the butterflies and giggling pink unicorns in my head and decide what I will do, because the clock is already ticking. A quick survey of the towering pile of dirty baby bottles, nipples and pacifiers in the sink, the full laundry hamper, and the labyrinth of play gyms on the floor reminds me that I simply must work on my next blog post because the idea is genius and will surely be the one to gain the attention of a publisher who will commission Twinfamy: The Book which will be optioned for Twinfamy: The Movie or possibly The HBO Series, which will in turn surely win a record-breaking amount of awards and acclaim, and I will be so wealthy that I can pay someone else to do the damn dishes, laundry, and tidying.
2. Oh, no! Don’t wake up yet!
Too often, I’ve begun The Shuffle prematurely. I’ll hear a youthful groan and an absolute hush falls across the stadium as we all spin towards the JumboTron to watch the baby monitor video feed. You could hear a grain of rice cereal drop as we await the child’s decision, willing him or her to drift back off.
Other times, I’ll be in the middle of something crucial, such as finally finishing the episode of Futurama I’ve been trying to watch during Daddy’s Time all week (since my wife dislikes cartoons, even stellar grown-up ones), or again, penning that all-important next post, but as I finally hog-tie a muse and the ideas come oinking out, I’ll hear a rustling. Oh, no, please God, just give me five more minutes…Or if you’re having a good day, twenty works for me, too…
It’s also at about this point in the day when my dog realizes she has the floor. “Hey! Wait a minute! Those little upstaging bastards are asleep! It’s my turn!” She’ll make a dog-beeline for the closet and return on a unicycle, juggling rawhide bones, and wearing a scrolling LED belt buckle that reads: “Come on, Dad! Let’s play fetch, and then you can rub my tummy, and then…” And so, once I see her enormous black eyes glimmer expectantly, I have about three seconds to stop her from whining, barking, or howling Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and waking the kids. Having given my poor, outshone-by-Twinfants canine some attention, I will then return to chores and/or Awesome Things. She’s usually fine with this until any sound whatsoever breaks the silence, prompting her to alert me via bark messaging that the air conditioning just clicked on, or the garbage truck has arrived, or that I have just closed the microwave, which brings me to…
4. How badly do I want to close this microwave?
Whether I’m finally nuking my first meal of the day or washing and steaming the aforementioned baby apparatus in our microwave sterilizer (neither of which I usually get around to until Nap Overlap), the microwave is a staple of Daddy’s Time. The problem, of course, it that it is impossible to close a microwave quietly. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, try. I’ll wait.
See? Told you. (My apologies if you’ve woken up napping children during Your Time.)
Even when I try to soften the blow with my fingertip as a silencer, I’m left with the same deafening bang and a sore finger. If this predicament were a movie trailer, it would go something like this:
In a world…
where silence MUST prevail…
on every slam.
Can YOU take the heat?
In theaters this Summer.
5. Did I brush my teeth today?
Now, before you get all grossed out, let me explain. I take morning coffee seriously, and carefully select blends I find to be delicious. However, the Tooth-Brushing/Coffee-Drinking Paradox dictates that brushing when I wake up causes the paste taste to linger and infiltrate my morning mug. I endured Minty Baking Soda Mochas for years via travel mug on my way to work, but can savor coffee with a clean palate now that I stay home.
The only caveat is the all-consuming nature of my “dayjob” sometimes causes me to forget to brush once the coffee’s done. All hail Daddy’s Time.
6. What did my wife tell me not to forget to do?
I knew it was something, and it must have been important, otherwise she wouldn’t have made a point to tell me. I think it had a “W” in it. I could ask her, but then she’ll know I forgot. Dammit.
Additonal Twinformation for New Parents
A 500-Disc DVD Special Edition Bonus Feature
My wife and I consider the microwave sterilizer I mentioned in Thought Number Four one of our best new-parent purchases. After a quick scrub and rinse in the sink, we throw them in this badboy, heat for 2 minutes, and play a Ring Toss/Horseshoes-style game to get them on the drying rack. I highly recommend this fine piece of equipment, especially over those disposable bags that burn the hell out of you every damn time and aren’t “effective” after X amount of uses.
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If not, that’s fine. Just please don’t wake up my kids.