Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 324: Sewer - odour

Exile #2 has been sewing again today and has finished Exile #4's curtains. The last stage once again involved bashing the grommets. This time the sewer did it herself, shunning the mallet that I used and first using a hammer and then a crowbar - I wish I had a picture of that! I'll share my mental image though.

This evening we went to a parade and tree-lighting with Albaniana and family. Santa put in an appearance - arriving not by sleigh, but by fairy-light adorned fire-truck. You can just make him out in the picture. The parade was not quite like the last one. However, there was still one surprise in amongst the decorated trucks and trolleys. An unadorned SEWERODER - well, you can't be too careful. I assumed they were going for eroder rather than odour, but then again, maybe not. They do spell it without a 'u' here after all.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 323: Bumper grind

The other day I saw this broken down car being collected by a tow truck. The only problem was the tow truck was already carrying what looked like a nice new car, so he hitched the other one on the back - the precarious angle meant that the rear bumper bounced very close to the road as it was towed over the bumps in the road. I wonder if it made it in one piece and if the owner got a discount for the less-than-top-notch towing service. I'm glad that when my car was towed last month it was up on top of the truck.

Exile #3 is currently showing some more up-sides of a later-start to formal education by suddenly wanting to read and write. It's quite exciting to see especially after her term of Reception in the UK. To be fair, she did do quite a bit of reading then (a year ago) and quite enjoyed it, but any writing work was only done under severe duress. I'm sure she's well behind with these things relative to her UK classmates, but I'm very happy with how her US education is working out for her so far. I know just what you need girl.

Well, we're on a roll, so here's pop pun #39 for title watchers - a backlog of pretty easy ones is forming. I don't see nothing wrong (with that).
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 322: Strike oppose

One of the many linguistic issues we've had over the last 322 days first surfaced on Day 17, but since I had other things to write about then...

At the lake that day, there was a man with a dog sled. The girls had a ride, but first S, who we were there with, was quite excited to meet the huskies. Her conversation with Husky Man went something like this:

S: Do you mind if I stroke the dog?
HM: Sorry, what?
S: Can I stroke the dog?
HM:You wanna strike my dog??!
S: No, no, ...

They say 'pet' here.

Not that all that has anything to do with this cute picture of E5N1 I took on Sunday. The link would be pop pun (#38) for title watchers and the next line is what we did later (after he got food all over them). You're makin' me laugh out.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 321: Does tea bean?

Does coffee leaf?

Do vines wind?

It was back to school day today which seems to have gone OK. On my way home today Exile #2 called to say that Exile #4 was stuck in the downstairs 'bathroom' and the door was locked. I told her how to get in but I never got to the bottom of how Exile #4 had got stuck (it wasn't related to unlocking the door). This evening Exile #2 had a migraine and so missed out on a good church core team meeting.

The picture is from Peebles Island at the weekend - we were impressed by this very twisty vine although I suspect the tree may be less impressed.

It's a non-pop pun for title watchers by the way. Can you count on your fingers?
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 320: Certain curtains

Yesterday evening Exile #2 finished sewing these curtains for E5N1's end of the room he shares with Exile #4 (she has been telling everyone why Exile #3 moved out: "she needed a bit of space"). The last task was to fix the grommets which run on the poll through holes in the fabric. These ones are made of metal and are bent into position by a special tool which has to be hit very hard with a mallet. So last night found me kneeling down by the fireplace (where we have some hard flooring) swinging at these pieces of metal like a miniature fairground strength test.

Anyway, since I managed to get them all fitted and I had put up the poles at the weekend, Exile #2 was so excited to see them up that I went in, while Exile #4 was sleeping and E5N1 was having his am-I-meant-to-give-this-up? late-night feed, in the dark to put them up. Very nice they look too. Now for Exile #4's curtains...
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Day 319: Still life in orange*

We were at church this morning enjoying time with friends new and old. The girls now have a little two-year-old sidekick so they are no doubt enjoying contributing to his 'education'. Exile #2 and I did some worship music with J on the very low-volume electric drum kit and we had a good discussion.

When we got home Exile #4 went off to bed and E5N1 followed after some lunch. In order to make the most of the day, Exile #2 and Exile #3 decided to walk to the library. They found a variant on the route and seem to have had a nice time. Around dusk, I was just starting to get concerned about them walking on the streets after dark when they arrived back. I was immediately set to work reading the books that Exile #3 had chosen. Fortunately they had chosen a Dr Seuss book, which will always keep me happy - it's On Beyond Zebra!
They're afraid to stay THERE. They're afraid to stay HERE.
They think THERE is too FAR. They think HERE is too NEAR.
And since HERE is too NEAR and out THERE is too FAR
They are too scared to roost where-so-ever they are.
To be honest I think the girls listen mostly to humour me.

While the others were out, Exile #4 and I had some creative time. She created a line of steam engines, and this is my effort. I was pleased and relieved that Exile #3 was able to correctly identify it and all its constituent parts. Then again, as you've already gathered I am easy to please.

* I called it 'still life' although when it comes to most of the classics I think that the romance languages' version: 'dead nature' always seems more appropriate.
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 318: All yule need

We went to our local DIY emporium today to find that Christmas has arrived in anger. Sorry! the holidays have arrived in anger. I wouldn't be surprised if even the inflatable Nativity scenes are called "Holiday family and animals" on the tickets. Ah well, as I have said before, I am not uptight about the secular festival of Xmas or 'the holidays', although I hope that Christmas will break through into our lives when the time comes around.

Our trip was successful in that I have solved a few niggling jobs around the house and we also popped into Staples and I've since put a cork noticeboard up in the kitchen to relieve the stress on the fridge magnets.

Afterwards we had a sandwich - in fact Exile #2 and I went for the classic US combination of soup + a half-sandwich. Exile #4's eclectic tastes showed with several stolen spoonfuls of Broccoli and Cheddar and (my choice) a spicy Black Bean soup. At some point every else was sitting on the other side of the table from me and I can't afford to miss these photo opportunities these days - even when only armed with my mobile phone.
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Day 317: Island on my feet

Whenever I fall.

This morning we managed to get ourselves up and out of the house, not in time for 4 or 5 am openings at the Black Friday sales, but mid-morning for a walk. We returned to Peebles Island, where Exile #4, my parents and myself had a very uncomfortable walk in the sweltering heat on Day 240 (Exile #2 turned back with E5N1 due to the temperature). Today was rather different as you can tell from our clothing. In fact, the same exposed spots on the walk that caused us difficulties then because of the heat did today because of the bitter wind, and we turned back along the more direct and more sheltered middle-of-the-island path today just as we did then.

The views have changed a fair amount, there was much more water in the rivers and very few leaves on the trees.

At home, we have lost most of our leaves now too - of course that meant more raking this afternoon, followed by a coughing fit and a restful hour or so. I stayed conscious though. This evening we had some of our church friends round for craft/DDR/Halo 3/pizza evening. We had a lot of fun and since we chose to set the four dance mats up in the front room, hopefully entertained the neighbours a bit too.

So, by special request here's pop pun #37 for title watchers (not the right era for the requester though - sorry). Mark the spot you hate with an 'X', then shoot your bow and arrow.
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 316: Thanks for Thanksgiving

At about 7 pm we bundled the kids back into the car to drive home.

The early part of the day was the normal stuff of life tempered by my still far from 100% health - I fell asleep for a couple of hours after breakfast this morning. The girls messed up the tidy house and then we tidied it again.

At 2.30 pm we set off to celebrate Thanksgiving with our co-church planters J, T, A, J, J & V. Albaniana and family also came and we had a thoroughly nice time. A big relaxed meal followed by a multitude of pies and an extraordinarily silly card game. The kids mostly entertained themselves and each other and made it easy for the rest of us to relax.

I'm not sure I'm really any closer to understanding what Thanksgiving is about for modern Americans, but it seems that sharing a meal with family and friends is the centrepiece, and we certainly shared in that today.

Thank you.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 315: Camera trickery?

magic van

It isn't trickery though - the van really has got rotating advertising on its sides, not that I am affected by advertising of course.

We were interviewed this morning for a magazine (with I suspect very low local-only circulation) who are doing an article about my company's move. The article will of course include our names and the name of the company and therefore joins the ranks of real-me activities that cannot be referred to here except euphemistically. So I lead a double life, one of real places and real people, and one of pseudonyms and vagueness (albeit entertaining I hope). Most of my readers of course know who I am, so why keep up this strange separation? Habit maybe, or pride - I've done it this long, I can see it through. Or fear of random strangers knowing who I am and who my kids are and where we live - but then again an article in a magazine and a phone book would be a much simpler way to find me and I haven't avoided that. Maybe I just like to believe I am an international man of mystery.

So, I am like this van - all beer, no - web services, no - radio, no - beer, no - the_exile, no - Joseph*, no - the_exile, no - ...

PS Actually I fancy a beer now, maybe a Miller Lite would be nice.


* not my real name of course :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 314: Boots up

Today was the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break and it was a day when the kids invite a grandparent or a friend to come and see the school, they put on an assembly (well a mini concert really) and show off their work. Here is Exile #4 singing about the water cycle with a Native American twist (I think). As to why she is wearing snow-boots on stage - I'd like to pretend it was a piece of costume, but really it was because I took her to school in her boots with no change of footwear. Exile #3 also performed with her own class of Kindergarten and 1st Graders and the 2nd/3rd Grade class. I'm still singing I like the colors of the Fall... In fact the whole school was involved from the three year olds to fourteen year-old 8th graders. It was a real feel-good event.

As for feeling good, I'm still doing a bit better, but could do still a bit better.
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 313: Patched up

I saw this car and its duct tape patches the other day. Fortunately 'the ultimate engineering material' comes in a variety of colours, so it is not restricted to silver/grey/gray cars.

It may not show, but I'm feeling much better today, I went to bed feeling human, slept well and woke up feeling human - for the first time in a week. I managed a fairly normal day of work too, although it was a frustratingly fragmented day.

Tomorrow and Wednesday look set to go the same way, and then we get the share in our first Thanksgiving and our first Black Friday. It looks like we will have the pleasure of having a traditional Thanksgiving meal with a real American family, which is really cool. Whether we will engage in the excessive consumerism of Black Friday (UK readers: think Christmas shopping Saturday + first day of January sales rolled into one and supersized) remains to be seen, but I think we will manage to resist.
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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 312: Berry peculiar

After I dragged myself out of bed this morning - no mean feat let me tell you - Exile #3 and I went to church while Exile #2 remained (with E5N1) to take Exile #4 to the 3rd birthday party of one of her classmates. She seemed a little confused about why she was taking a birthday present though: "Her mum has forgotten to get her a birthday present, so we are taking one instead!" she insisted.

This afternoon we had a rest and went out for a meal for the first time in a while - it worked out quite well. We'd last seen the waitress when she was heavily pregnant and she now has a daughter almost exactly the same age as E5N1. We shared tales of weaning and teething with her.

This evening we were watching the local news station which occasionally opens up to "And from beyond the Capital Region". Today a report about Manchester, England. It included such gems as, "Manchester begs comparisons with London, but visitors may be disappointed if they don't allow it to stand on its own." "The IRA bombing 10 years ago provided a cultural catharsis and opportunity to redevelop" and what's more, it thrives on "gritty spunk".

Here are two pictures from our walk yesterday. Firstly one to reassure you that we are having fun when my energy levels allow and the other one of these strange yellow berries that open up revealing a red berry inside. Does anyone know what they are?

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 311: Still ill

"Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body? I dunno". Nor me Morrissey. Nor me.

We woke up to snow as you can see. Later we managed a short walk. For once everyone else had more stamina for it than me. This is really starting to get frustrating now.
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Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 310: Fizzy shun

"Let me have a look in here, just look straight ahead.
"Now, say 'Ah'
"That's good."

"Am I going to be OK then Dr E5N1"

"Of course you are. Just take a day at home and a restful weekend and all should be fine again."

"But will she have the energy to torment me doctor?"

"Oh yes, I'm sure she will."

"And will Daddy have the energy to write an interesting post for Day 310?"

"Ah, now that's a different matter, maybe I can help. Daddy would you like some Diet Coke?"

No thanks.
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 309: Last man standing

It seems we're all sick now. Except Exile #4 (pictured here by Exile #3 on Tuesday) and E5N1, who can't actually stand yet.

OK, so Exile #4 isn't a man, but cut me slack here I'm not well.

I did manage to do a day at work today, and it wasn't too bad, but this evening I'm feeling very rough again. Exile #2 had a morning with a migraine and an evening with 'just' a headache and Exile #3 did a day at school, got off the bus and into the house and promptly threw up. Great.

Funnily enough, the two youngest members of the family seem to be on especially good form. E5N1 is very chatty and smiley and Exile #4 seems to put on a show at every opportunity (in fact, even in the absence of opportunity). Today we got a little snippet of a song - I imagine there must be a performance of some sort coming up. Hopefully they can keep up their good form and avoid taking their turn with the lurgy.

Bedtime. Now where did I put the eggnog?
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 308: Bloggin' the Nog

Seven years ago I was in Vancouver round about this time of year and was bemused to hear some locals saying how exciting it was that Starbucks would soon be serving their Eggnog Latte. Really? Starbucks have a seasonal menu - and it includes eggnog? It turns out that seasonal products are very big here. Pumpkin lattes and muffins feature during the Fall/Halloween season, and now that Christmas has arrived (in the stores at least) it's eggnog time. Now I must point out that eggnog is a non-alcoholic dairy beverage here. I'm sure some people mix it with 'liquor' and warm it up, but other people just drink it from the fridge (or mix it with coffee). The first time I encountered it this winter it was a snatch of a conversation in Stewarts. Ah yes Stewarts - quickly identified when we arrived as like a petrol-station shop, but without the petrol station, then we discovered that some of them do also have gas pumps outside. Anyway it went like this:

Young man holding 12 oz bottle of eggnog: Eggnog! I've gotta get this.
Girlfriend or wife: That's like 500 Calories!
Ymh12ozboe: This is gonna make me so happy.

Anyway, all of this is of only academic interest to me being allergic to cow's milk and its products. Until Exile #2 came home from the store yesterday with a bottle of "Nog", dairy, egg and cholesterol free. So today, seven years on, I made myself a 'nog latte.

It was OK. I really like my coffee black and sugar-less (although when the mood takes me I do occasionally have a soy-latte or a sweetened coffee-drink - especially in the summer when iced coffee started to loom large in my diet).

The 'Nog' itself tastes pretty good - sweet and creamy and a bit spicy. Maybe I need to heat some up, put a shot of something in it and see if it will help me shake off this cold.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 307: Call 9-9-1-1?

I've been off work today, dosed up on Acetominophen (Paracetamol to the rest of the world) and mostly sleeping. Mid-morning I was up for a while while Exile #2 did some shopping. The girls were off school today too - Exile #3 was up in the night presumably suffering from the same malady as me, but I have avoided the more dramatic symptoms and the apparently dramatic recovery. Anyway, this is how they appeared, in their improvised uniforms, telling me to call 9-9-1 (somewhere between the UK 999 and US 911) then realising it was wrong they went out and tried again 9-9-1-1. Third time they got it right.

In fact it seems that if we were to call 911, even for a completely non-fire-fightery emergency, the fire fighters would likely turn up - as I understand that they are the designated 'first-responders'. So maybe the girls suspected my health had taken a turn for the worse.

In fact I'm feeling a little more human now, albeit a bit unstable apparently having just lost my temper at the DVR for messing up the latest episode of 'House'. Time to dose up again and try to get a good night's sleep.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 306: Sit up and beg?

"Spare a citris froot guv'na - ya woodnt wan' a li'l fella to get the scurrrvee wood-ya?"

Glad that's out of my system. The picture doesn't really do justice to how well E5N1 us getting on with sitting up. Locomotion continues to be a frustration for him, although his normal tactic of lying on his front on the floor with his hands and feet in the air was temporarily replaced by pushing up onto his knees with his bottom in the air today, so maybe he'll work it out in the end. It can't come too soon for the frustrated parents or too late for the terrified-about-childproofing home-owners.

It was a normal work-day for me today, but a holiday (Veterans Day) for the girls. They seem to have had a fun day, painting and doing puzzles from a lots-of-things-to-do-on-a-rainy-day activity set they had for Christmas last year. It was cold and dry for most of today, but it's raining now, so we can call it a rainy day. There seems to be a reasonable chance that we might see a bit of snow in the next week, but it may turn out to be rain here and in any case doesn't look likely to be enough (or sufficiently long-lasting) to interfere with the leaf-pile collecting. This is a good thing especially as I haven't planned my snow-clearing strategy or purchased the tools required (either a shovel or a shovel and a snow-thrower) yet. Last winter there was no significant snow until February, so there's no hurry right? Right?
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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 305: Exile #2 by Exile #3

After a really good church meeting this morning we stayed chatting for a while - finally leaving when the non-snackers (Exile #2 and me) couldn't wait for lunch any longer. The kids all fell asleep in the car on the way home, Exile #4 was carried to bed where she slept for 2.5 hours and we put a blanket over Exile #3 and left her in the car in the garage, where she stayed for an hour or so while Exile #2, E5N1 and myself had some lunch. Later Exile #3 made this rather fantastic portrait of her 'mom' in front of a very successful and much-appreciated fire.

It's been a good weekend although I spent a lot of it hoping to get out for a nice walk in the (cold) sunshine and never did. It has been nice to have some quiet time at home too.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 304: Cold, feet and hot water

It's been a chilly day today and we've been doing chores. This morning we took Exile #3 and Exile #4 to the shoe shop as Exile #3 had been complaining that her shoes don't fit. Both of them now have new sneakers. Our other purchase was a new kettle. We bought the largest and most powerful one available - still although it runs at 13 A, it's less than 2 kW thanks to the lower voltage mains electricity, so it's not fast by UK standards.

The other main activity of the day has been raking. Exile #2 has let me commandeer a sheet which I used to move the small leaf piles in the back yard onto the main pile by the road. We now have a quite large pile you can see the edge of the lawn at the back - when I went out it was impossible to determine where the grass ended thanks to the thick layer of fallen leaves. Still several trees seem to have dropped only a few, so there will be more to do. According to the neighbours, the fall has been late and spread-out this year. They also said that some years they have piled up their leaves at around Thanksgiving and they have sat by the road covered in a thick layer of snow for the whole winter. We're not quite ready for all that yet.

E5N1 has continued to pile weight on despite showing every sign of being a fussy eater. He is quite decided in his opinions, if he doesn't like something, he doesn't eat it; and when he does like something he likes to be in control of the spoon, with interesting results.
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Day 303: The postman

Here I am writing this post at the end of the day. It was a good day. There was no school because of parent-teacher conferences, so after a morning of meetings I left work to meet up with the rest of the family at school. The girls went to play with their friends while we went to see Exile #4's teacher, then Exile #3 went for a playdate with one of her 'new friends' while we saw her teachers, then Exile #2 took Exile #4 and E5N1 home while I went back to work, then I picked up Exile #3 from her playdate while Exile #2 and Exile #4 and E5N1 were having tea, then I had some tea with Exile #3 while Exile #4 was in the bath, then Exile #3 got in the bath while I cleared up ready for our church friends to visit for a craft and video-games evening which was fun.

The girls' teachers report that they are both doing well by the way.

It's late - can you tell?
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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 302: Meeting Mr Thirsty

The girls visited the dentist today. She saw Exile #3 first and told of her future of orthodontic woes - "In a year or so you should think about starting work to stretch her jaw." Wow. Then she saw Exile #4 - she's even worse apparently. The healthcare industry here, with its decoupled provider/patient/payer structure, really loves to do stuff to you.

The rest of the time they were there was spent with (as far as I can work out) two separate hygienists. Exile #3 had a full clean - I think the first time I had one of those I was at least 30 - and they were both introduced to the sucky-tube-thingy. This was how Exile #4's explained to me about 'Mr Thirsty'. He is thirsty, and he has not had a drink so he is very thirsty and he drunk some water from in my mouth.

It seems that despite all the comings and goings, no-one examined E5N1's first tooth which has been with us for a couple of weeks. I can report that it feels quite sharp - especially when he uses my finger as a teething-toy.

The girls were also both very excited because they came away with new toothbrushes, an egg timer for timing their brushing and - most excitingly for me - some sparkly blue toothpaste that they claim to like - readers of old may recall that finding such a product has been problematic. Maybe we can call-off our small scale import business at last.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 301: Karaoke

This evening we went to the garage to pick the car up and drove it home. The whole thing has cost less than the the most optimistic estimate that we had in front of us when we went to take our driving tests last week. Not that all is necessarily well - the repair was not exactly cheap and has a health warning -the engine may be damaged - but it seems to be running fine, so we hope it is actually healthy and not just biding its time.

The rest of the evening was spent with most of our church-planting core team. We had a really good time and I think turned a corner in our mutual understanding. One of the issues that we discussed was dualism - how we allow things to be labelled as sacred/holy/religious and other things secular/profane and how that plays out. I want a faith that is relevant to my everyday life and a life that is informed by my faith in every part - not to become like the Fast Show character at a party who turns 'How's the wine?' into 'You know that reminds me of the blood of Our Lord Jesus...' but more like Ryan in The Cobalt Season's "Help me out here" who, tired-out by saying one thing and living another, launches into a tirade about love and consistency in personal and world affairs that ends with this:

Still we choose to tell each other lies / That the kingdom could never be realised / The master never could have meant the words he said / I'm getting tired...would you help me out here?

Just maybe church could be a place where we believe that Jesus did mean the words he said and where we help each other out when we're getting tired. I like that idea.

Oh yes - second consecutive cheap pun post title...would you help me out here?
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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 300: See sea? Ci!

Another picture from Saturday's walk - proof that E5N1 and I were there too.

Yesterday morning Exile #4 came into our bedroom in the morning and made something resembling a burrow out of bedclothes at the foot of our bed. "Only for ..." she kept saying, but I couldn't make out the last word.

Finally I got it, "Squirrels!"

Actually I hadn't got it. She was saying, "girls", but pronouncing it, "girrels". People do talk funny round here - even my own daughters.

The picture is revenge - just the bwize.
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