October 28, 2014

Show Off

by Decemberbaby

It’s been a while since I showed you any of my creative work. I did some sewing last year, while I was off the blog, and have finally gotten around to uploading the photos from my camera. So, without further ado, I give you:

Gumdrops Quilt for K

K moved to a big-kid bed last year, and she needed a quilt or blanket for it. Setting a precedent for the rest of my children, I went ahead and made her a quilt to keep her warm and to mark this big step for her. She requested pink and purple, and so I gleefully dug into my scraps (I have WAY too much fabric) and found enough of them to make this:

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It’s a design called Gumdrops from the book Sunday Morning Quilts. The background is Kona White, the colours are scraps from previous projects, and the backing is…

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Well, it’s not anything quilters would recognize. You see, when we were vacationing on our island in the sun last winter, I discovered that a decent number of people on the island still sew their own clothes, sheets, and everything else. The fabric store I happened to walk into (a chain store with a presence in the nearby mall) had tons of fabrics at very low prices. They even had zippers for $1.25 U.S. each, which any seamstress up here will tell you is crazy cheap. I actually came back with a suitcase full of fabric. But I digress.

The backing is 100% cotton sheeting, which in practical terms means that it’s wide enough to make sheets for a double bed without having to make seams. K fell in love with the colours and the design and although her quilt was not on my design board yet, I agreed it would make a great quilt backing. As you can see from the photo above, both K and her stuffed cheetah agree.

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As you can see from the binding, once I got started using scraps I couldn’t stop. There are about 10 different fabrics that make up the binding, and I’m very pleased with how it looks.

As for quilting, I had some fun with my sewing machine’s embroidery foot and free-motion quilted the whole thing. At this point I realized that this quilt is a great design to “quilt as you go.” I’ll remember that for next time. Anyhow, I did a stippling pattern on the white background and quilted just inside the edge of each gumdrop shape for a raw-edge applique look. After repeated washings, I can tell you that the quilting has held up beautifully and the gumdrops’ edges are very attractively frayed. But I digress. Here’s the quilting from the back, which gives you a much better view:

 

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Of course, no quilt would be complete without a label. It’s the last thing I sew on every quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The quilt now resides on K’s big-girl bed. She takes great pride in spreading it flat in the mornings, and snuggles under it every night. A few nights ago at bedtime she hugged me and said, “‘Night, Eema. Thank you for my snuggly quilt.”

October 5, 2014

I brought this on myself.

by Decemberbaby

You know how sometimes you get just a little too hooked on a computer game (the brainless or mostly brainless kind, generally) and play it for hours and hours? And then you suddenly notice that it’s 2 a.m.? I do that. I suspect it’s genetic, because my mum does it too, and I’ve tried very hard to limit my game-playing and to be stricter about my own bedtime.

And yet, last night found me playing Ores until the wee hours of the morning. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this morning I woke up with my index finger (you know, the one I click the mouse with) all swollen, stiff, and sore. There went my plans for the day. Couldn’t build the sukkah, since the index finger is my trigger finger on the cordless drill. Couldn’t work on reupholstering the dining room chairs, since that knuckle hurt every time I used the scissors.

How frustrating, to have a beautiful, sunny day and the motivation to get things done… and to be prevented from doing things by a totally preventable injury I caused myself.

At least I may be cured of playing that stupid game.

September 18, 2014

Evenings chez nous

by Decemberbaby

I was all poised to write something profound, but my brain is in “irritated” mode and I just can’t be thoughtful. So instead, a glimpse into my life at dinnertime and beyond:

6:15 – everybody sits down at the dinner table

6:16 – somebody comments that they need a spoon for their peas. I get up and get them a spoon.

6:17 – I start a nice conversation with Mr. December about his day.

6:18 – somebody spills an entire jug of water. I jump up and get the kid a towel so they can clean up the spill.

6:19 – I have to remind said child that the spill isn’t cleaned up until there’s absolutely no more water on the table, floor, or chairs.

6:20 – “Yes, the floor under your sister’s chair counts.”

6:22 – everyone is eating nicely together…

6:28 – … until they’re not. The spoons are not drumsticks and the table is not a drum.

6:30 – the children claim to be done and run away from the table. I get up, hunt them down, and bring them back to the table. In this house, you’re not done dinner until you’ve taken your plate to the kitchen sink – and I’ll return you to your seat at the table as many times as necessary until you actually show me that you’re done.

6:35 – I sit down at the now-empty table and eat the rest of my meal. If I’m lucky, the children are playing with Mr. December. If not, they’re whining while he gets ready to leave for a volunteer meeting.

6:40 – I finish eating and ask the children to get their pajamas on so we can read together.

6:42 – I ask the children to get their pajamas on so we can read together.

6:47 – I remind the children that if they waste all their time goofing off, they won’t get any reading time. I disappear into the kitchen to clean up from dinner.

7:00 – “Are you guys wearing pajamas?” No, of course not. In fact, they’re not human anymore. Staring at me from inside a cardboard box are a lion, a cheetah, and a bunny. Not one of them has brushed their teeth.

7:10 – “Eema, will you read us a book?” Three expectant, smiling faces peer over the back of the couch. A small hand proffers a paperback copy of Flat Stanley.

7:11 – They emerge from behind the couch. The costumes have been discarded. I suppose this is progress, although “naked” is not a synonym for “pajama-clad.”

7:14 – “Put on pajamas, or NO READING TIME.”

7:15 – They would, but they have to poop. All three of them. At the same time.

7:30 – I am finally done wiping bums. I send the children to put on their pajamas.

7:35 – Three children emerge in underwear, assuring me that this is all they want to wear to bed. We settle on the couch and read four chapters of Flat Stanley.

7:50 – They want more chapters. I know the feeling, but no.

8:00 – Everyone is tucked into bed.

8:05 – Everyone is back out of bed, either to pee or to drink, or possibly to drink and then pee (or maybe the other way around.)

8:08 – N asks me to tuck him in. “I’ll tell you when I’m ready, Eema. I just have to get my guys organized.”

8:11 – Sartre was wrong; hell isn’t other people. Hell is being forbidden to move from your child’s side while he arranges and re-arranges his stuffed animals according to size, genus, species, softness, and (I suspect) astrological sign.

8:15 – I finally tuck in the boy, followed by the girls. A gentle kiss followed by, “if anybody gets out of their bed for a non-emergency, there will be CONSEQUENCES. Do you understand? Good. I love you!”

8:18 – I can hear them talking, which I guess isn’t that bad.

8:21 – I hear them arguing, which is pretty normal, if not ideal.

8:34 – I hear crying. I evaluate it for pitch, intensity, and duration, and decide that it’s not serious. I ignore it.

8:43 – “Eema, my lemur is wet.” Whatever, kid. Just go to sleep.

8:45 – It hits me that if a lemur is wet, who knows what else has been drenched?

8:46 – There is a puddle on the floor of the bedroom with a water cup lying on its side nearby. No sleuthing required – I throw a towel at the floor and bark, “mop it up.”

8:47 – “Eema, I got hurt.”

8:48 – I lose it. “I don’t care. You wouldn’t get hurt if you’d all just stay in your OWN beds and go to SLEEP.”

8:50 – They’re talking again. And arguing… something about a lemur.

8:52 – I give up on thinking of a profound topic for this week’s blog post. Seriously, this post writes itself!

8:59 – I hear crying. Again. The three-year-old emerges, clutching her stuffed lemur and whining, “I need you.”

9:00 – The boy comes to the living room with an alphabet puzzle and says, “Eema, can you tell me what all these letters are?”

9:01 – “NO!”

9:02 – “Eema?” “GO TO SLEEP!”

9:03 – “But eema?” “GO TO SLEEP!

9:04 – “Eema?” “GO. TO. SLEEP.”

9:05 – Maybe I should just lead by example. I’ll hit “publish” on this blog post and then go to sleep.

9:06 – …right after I finish the next chapter in my book. And get a drink. And go pee…

http://thumbs3.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mG-TqMEh3zwRkhV8Wg-mmNA.jpg

This post has been brought to you by three plush lemurs, and by the letters N and O.

September 10, 2014

Getting hurt.

by Decemberbaby

We were at the park. K climbed onto a trampoline-like apparatus and started jumping. Immediately, two children (aged 4 and 5, perhaps,) began whining: “No! Stop jumping! You’re not supposed to jump on this thing!”

(Here I must interrupt myself to point out that I don’t usually get involved at all in playground disagreements, but their objections were so absurd that I just couldn’t help myself.)

“Why not?” I asked them. “Looks to me like this thing was made for jumping.”

The five-year-old boy set me straight: “But it’s Dangerous!”

I looked around. The ground was paved with rubber. The apparatus itself seemed to be made of rubber and very sturdy ropes that were close enough together that no child could possibly fall off. Where the ropes intersected, the joint was encased in a rubber ball. Dangerous? I couldn’t see how.

Fortunately, the five-year old decided to enlighten me further by saying, “Last time someone jumped on this, I fell down!

No scars, no bruise, no “I fell down and broke something.” No. He fell down, an act by which he proved that the apparatus was unsafe.

Readers, you’ll be proud to know that I didn’t just outright laugh in this child’s face. I certainly wanted to at first, until I realized that this child was being allowed to grow up with a ridiculous level of fear.

****

K has been learning to ride a two-wheeled bike (no training wheels) for the last few weeks. She could have made faster progress, I felt, had she not been so scared of falling and getting hurt. I was patient, though. I bit my tongue and sat on my hands. “See, Eema,” K told me, “this way I can make sure I don’t fall down and get hurt!”

Sure, kid. But you’re also making sure you don’t get to feel the wind in your face.

****

In my 34 years of life, I’ve been hurt many, many times. I’ve also been sick, both acutely and chronically. And every time, I have recovered.

Why does this matter? Because lately I’ve noticed a train of thought in my own mind that goes something like this: “What’s the worst that can happen? I get hurt? It’ll hurt like hell, but only for little while, and then I’ll be okay. That’s not so bad.” It seems that having experienced injuries and the healing process has given me a degree of courage, or maybe just a better perspective on risk. On balance, I’d say my past injuries were valuable and ultimately empowering experiences.

That’s why it makes me sad to see children who are convinced that getting hurt is the worst possible thing in the world, and that injuries only result from unsafe activities (should I tell the story about the ceiling that fell down on Mr. December’s bed? He wasn’t in it at the time, thank God.) I’m saddened to think of all the fun these children will miss out on, not to mention the sense of accomplishment they would get from doing something difficult and possibly risky. Most of all, I’m saddened to think that it didn’t have to be this way.

We are currently raising children in a culture and a time where any level of danger is unacceptable; where not obsessively baby-proofing your home is seen as foolhardy; where sitting on a park bench and watching as your child attempts a tricky climb, falls, cries, and tries again is tantamount to neglect. We are inundated with “what-ifs”: what if your child is biking to the park alone and falls and gets cut and bleeds and cries? What if he slips on one of the steps and slides right down to the bottom of the basement stairs? What if the baby bangs his head on the corner of the coffee table and gets a bruise?

Well, what if those things happened?

Look, I get that there’s always a freak occurrence that nobody could predict (so why do we try so hard to predict it?) and that we just want our children to be safe. But is that really what we want for our children? Have we been so inundated with the slogan “Safety First!” that we’ve forgotten there are things more important than safety? If “safety first” was really true, nobody would use power tools, or play professional sports, or get into a car and drive somewhere. There is a level at which enjoyment and convenience can, and should, gently nudge safety aside just a little.

The truth is that our children are safer than probably any children at any time or place in human history. Vaccines, trained birth attendants (whether doctors or midwives,) car seats, and the general decline in violent crime have made infant and child mortality so rare that our culture has to think of new dangers to fear, much like how our immune systems supposedly attack allergens because they face no “real” threat from diseases that used to fell healthy people. Bad things just don’t happen to children anymore. If they do, it’s someone’s fault. Someone wasn’t safe enough, wasn’t vigilant enough, wasn’t a good enough caregiver. Someone must be blamed. There is, in effect, no such thing as an “accident” when it comes to children.

But back to my “what if?” question: What if a child bikes alone to the park, falls down and bleeds, and cries? Well, the child won’t cry forever. A passer-by, or another child, or a parent at the park, will offer assistance. More likely, the child will stop crying, get back on the bike (or walk beside it,) and either continue to the park or go home for a band-aid. What if your child slips or trips and falls down the stairs? Well, many of us have done that and lived to tell the tale. So will your child. What if the baby bangs her head on the corner of the coffee table? As I’ve said since I refused to childproof the house for K, “she’ll get hurt, she’ll cry, and she’ll learn not to play near the coffee table.” And in all three circumstances, the child will learn that getting hurt was not the end of the world.

There’s an odd juxtaposition in our culture. On one hand we celebrate the risk-takers, the visionaries, the pioneers. On the other hand, we do our best to scare parents and children away from developing those traits. Do we want risk-takers, or not? Do we want creative thinkers, or not? Do we want our children to grow up, or not? Ah, there’s the question, that last one.

Let’s let our children get hurt. Let’s encourage them to do difficult, challenging, scary things. Let’s give them a gift: the knowledge that an injury or a setback is temporary, and that human beings – ourselves and our children included – have an amazing capacity to heal, recover, and grow. Maybe then the children won’t be scared to get on an ultra-safe trampoline and just enjoy jumping.

In the meantime, wimpy kids, get off the trampoline. It’s for jumping, and my kid wants to jump. And she will.

September 3, 2014

Is this thing on?

by Decemberbaby

*tap**tap* *feedback noise*

So… it’s been a while. How’s it going?

The past year has just been so full of everything, good and bad, that it’s hard to know where to begin. I offer no excuses for my absence, and I would like to thank both of my loyal readers for sticking around.

Anyway, for those of you who are here because you like hearing about my life, here’s the update (in no particular order):

  • The children are now ages 6.5, 4, and almost 3. K (girl, 6.5) has lost four teeth and is currently sporting the adorable gap-toothed look. N is as sweet as ever. R just started potty training and has now gone 26 hours with no accidents.
  • Mr. December is pretty much the same, although this past year he started a very demanding volunteer position, which I’m tempted to blame for at least some of my blogging hiatus. For the record, I’m very proud of the work he’s done (even though I won’t be blogging about it.)
  • We still live in our little house, although we’re slowly putting together plans for a second-storey addition. I’m getting to the point where I’d really like to have my own bathroom (separate from the kids, anyhow,) not to mention the fact that we’re going to run out of room sooner or later because:
  • I’m pregnant. Once again, I’ve lost all my infertility cred. Come January, God willing, we’ll have four children.
  • Depression still looms large in my life, though I’ve finally gotten the hang of treating it like any other chronic illness.
  • I still sew, but I’ve found that I have less and less time for it. You’d think that evenings (after kids’ bedtime) would be a good time, but I’m usually too tired to contemplate going downstairs and starting to sew. Instead I stay up way too late on Facebook, arguing for common sense in the face of hysterical helicopter parenting.
  • I still bike, although I haven’t done any really serious biking in almost a year, and it looks like I won’t be biking any significant distances until maybe March or April, or whenever the ice melts around here.

In short, life is good. I am well. And I plan to pick up blogging again, even though at times I am, as Elizabeth Bennet says in P&P, “unwilling to speak, unless [I] expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.”

And on that note, I’m off to bed. ‘Night!

September 29, 2013

Oh, the irony is delicious…

by Decemberbaby

Whew. That was a long month… my kids had exactly 9 days of school in September, and too many days off to count without actually using my brain. I’m all holidayed out. Thank God, we’re done with holidays until Chanukah.

It figures that the thing to finally bring me out of the latest blogging hiatus would be my lovely tendency to ridicule and mock… but really, isn’t this too ironic?

Image

Kinda makes me want to buy it and then use a sharpie to add: (… except this pillow.)

I mean, for $39.95 at Indigo you can have a tangible reminder of the fact that you shouldn’t be spending $40 on stuff like this. I suppose it’s the only way for retailers to jump on the latest decluttering and minimalism bandwagons. Right?

 

September 7, 2013

Gratitude, not Attitude.

by Decemberbaby

Those of you keeping track might remember that K is now five and a half years old. She’s got a wonderful neshama (soul) – she can be mature, thoughtful, gentle, and kind. She also feels things deeply. When she’s happy, you can feel the joy she radiates. When she’s angry… well, do you remember the old nursery rhyme? The one that goes:

There was a little girlwith a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
she was very, very good;
and when she was bad,
she was horrid.

It’s like that. I imagine that, were she an optimist by nature, this wouldn’t be as big an issue as it’s become. The fact is, however, that K can be a real complainypants.

I’ve tried to instil in her the Jewish principle of hakarat hatov – recognizing the good – in an attempt to minimize the number of complaints I hear. If you passed us a few months ago at the local shul, it would have sounded like this:

K: No fair! I only got one candy and those kids got three!
Me: Let’s try that again. Isn’t it wonderful that we get to go to a shul where there are grownups who give out candy to the kids just because they want to?
K: But they got more than me!
Me: But look! You got candy! And it’s purple – that’s your favourite! And it’s so yummy!

… and so on.

I’ve made this a priority with K right now. I know that what we do becomes who we are, and I don’t want her to go through life complaining about every minor injustice. Gratitude leads to happiness, and all that. What I really want to do is make gratitude and hakarat hatov habitual for her. I can’t change her personality, but I can help her change her default behaviour (can’t I?).

So a couple of weeks ago I went to Dollarama and brought home this:

journal

It’s a fuzzy journal. You know, for all the things that give her a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s her hakarat hatov book, and we write in it every night. K chooses one good thing about the day, that she’s thankful for, and we also write down one Mitzvah or Chesed (kindness) she did during the day.

So far it’s slow and painful going. Every night I ask what she’s grateful for that day, and every night she says, “I don’t know… I don’t remember!” I list all of her activities that day and she still doesn’t know, or she’ll say, “Yeah, that one.” as if she’s too lazy to repeat the words I’ve just said. I insist that she says the words herself (“I’m thankful for the tooth fairy.”) As for naming a mitzvah she’s done that day, right now I’m telling her what I noticed. Maybe in future she’ll identify those for herself. Right now I’d settle for her telling me – the first time I ask – what she was most thankful for.

I hope that gratitude is like a muscle, and that K’s will grow stronger with this exercise. For the time being I’m grateful for the opportunity to help her build character.

August 22, 2013

On knowing your limits.

by Decemberbaby

“I could never do that.” I hear it all the time. From friends and family commenting on my new spice pantry to random passersby admiring my cargo bike laden with three kids, people seem absolutely positive about what they can’t do. Sure, it’s good to know your limits… but I’ve come to believe that most of us don’t know our limits at all, because most of us don’t push them.

We have a concrete walkway from the street to our front porch. It’s been there for as long as the house has, and it shows. One square in particular was all cracked and uneven because of the massive tree roots that grew directly under it. It was a serious tripping hazard, and it needed to be fixed.

Our recent foray into living frugally led me to wonder how hard it could possibly be to break up about 6 square feet of concrete and pour some cement into the resulting hole. Seemed like it would be worth $200 to do it myself rather than hiring someone to do it. And so off to Home Depot I went in search of a rental jackhammer. I was thinking of something smallish, like this:

small jackhammer

Instead, what I got was this:

concrete breaker

The thing was so large it needed a wheeled stand for transport. I couldn’t even lift the thing. I got it home, installed the humungous drill bit (bruising my palm in the process,) and dragged it over to where I needed it. I pressed the button and pushed down on the handles. The bit skittered across the concrete and lodged itself in the lawn. I tried starting on an existing crack. It was better right up until the bit got stuck and I couldn’t pull the breaker out. The neighbours were stopping to watch. One came forward and offered to play with R while I solved my problem. In the end, the handyman who was working next door came out and helped me sledgehammer away some concrete so I could remove the breaker bit and start all over again.

After an hour and a half of inept fumbling, and with childcare provided by Sesame Street, I had finally, finally broken up the concrete into pieces the size of half a cinder block each. My arms were shaking as I dragged the tool back to the car and heaved it into the trunk. My hands were too weak to remove the bit, so I coiled up the power cord and hoped that I hadn’t caused any permanent damage to the machine. Or, you know, myself. We took the breaker back to Home Depot and then the kids and I celebrated my triumph over the concrete with frozen lemonade and cookies.

On a side note, I used a sledgehammer at various points along the way, and afterwards a contractor who was working a few houses down complimented me on my sledge technique. That just about made my day.

So now there’s a pile of rubble where a concrete slab used to be, and as soon as I can lift my arms again Mr. December and I will clear it out so I can pour the new concrete.

While I was wrestling with the stuck machine, the neighbours came over and started talking about all the former neighbours who tried to remove a concrete walkway by themselves. Apparently none of them succeeded, and the implication, of course, was that I would fail as well. My mother’s response when she heard about my adventure was, “why didn’t you hire someone? You shouldn’t do that kind of thing yourself!” But why not? Because most people don’t? Because I’m not a hugely muscular male? Because everyone imagined I couldn’t?

I could. I did. And I never would have known had I not tried. It’s reminiscent of how I thought I’d never be able to bike the kids all the way to school and all the way home without being red in the face and wishing my legs would just fall off already, and now I can comfortably bike 20 kilometres in a day and wish I had somewhere else to cycle off to. There’s no mystique to using a jackhammer or cycling a cargo bike or building a pantry inside a wall – the trick is to go and do it.

I don’t know what my limit is. I can bike 200 pounds of bike and kids (plus myself,) I can demolish a sidewalk, I can sew a quilt. I haven’t yet failed completely in anything I’ve tried. Practicality may win out in the end, and I may never truly know my limit, but I know that I haven’t hit it yet.

As the Jewish New Year approaches I’ve been more introspective than usual, and I wonder where my spiritual limits are. I feel like I’ve gotten spiritually lazy and started saying “I could never do that” rather than trying and then deciding whether I want to “do that.” It behooves me to be as brave spiritually as I’ve been physically, and start trying.

Which of your limits would you like to push?

 

August 15, 2013

Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

by Decemberbaby

According to the statistics collected by WordPress, people are still reading this blog. Amazing. I haven’t posted in two months. Before that, my posting was down to once every three weeks or so. And yet WordPress maintains that I’m getting about 20 unique visitors to my blog every day. Are you really checking up on me that often, or is my content so amazing that people land here from google searches?

Anyhow, I wanted to reassure you that life is good – really, really good – and I’m okay. The kids are wonderful. It’s just that I’m so mentally exhausted by the end of the day that I can’t make myself sit down and write anything. Believe me, I’ve got plenty of thoughts, rants, ideas, projects… I just haven’t been writing about them. But I will.

So if you’re still here, thanks for sticking with me. And if you’re not, come back sometime. I do miss my bloggy friends.

June 12, 2013

Afraid of the iPhone…

by Decemberbaby

I have a dumbphone. I use it to phone people. That’s all. The technological high point of my cellphone use was when I enabled bluetooth and linked it to our minivan’s computer. I don’t text, I don’t browse, I don’t even keep people’s numbers programmed into my phone. Dumb, right?

About a year back I bought myself an iPod touch, to see if I could use it to get more organized. Now I’ve been using it for alarms, reminders, “to do” lists and my calendar, and I like it.

So maybe I should get an iPhone, right? That’s what I’m thinking… but I’m scared.

Of what, you ask? Well, aren’t you the nosy one.

I’m scared of lifestyle inflation.

One minute I’m paying a total of $25 a month for voice calls and using an iPod touch with no data plan – its access to the internet is only through WiFi – and the next I’ll have an expensive iPhone, I’ll be paying $45 a month for a data plan, and suddenly I won’t be able to imagine life without it. I won’t survive a day out without checking email and facebook. I won’t have a conversation without looking up some trivial point of interest. And I won’t want to.

This is my nightmare.

Right now I’m very happy not being connected all the time. Sure, maybe once every 5 days I think, “hmmm, this day would work so much more smoothly if I had a smartphone right now,” but I get over it pretty quickly. Many days I leave the house without my dumbphone and, though mildly annoying, it’s not a disaster. So… why mess with a good thing?

The major upside (aside from mobile internet capability) is that I’d only have to remember one device instead of two. It seems that one is the most I can keep track of consistently, and I use my telephone so infrequently that it gets forgotten most often. Then again, if I use it so infrequently then why do I need an expensive iPhone? Why not just carry the iPod around all the time like I already do?

And so it swirls round in my head. I’ve already wasted way too much time debating this, so I’m turning it over to you, the internets. Please comment and tell me what you think. I need to hear from voices outside my head for a change.

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