Tag Archives: microapartments

Location, Location . . . something.

As we contemplate leaving the Fun Apartment for a newer, Funner Apartment, The Mister and I have begun to prepare for a transplant. We have responded in different ways to this impending event. He has made a lot of complicated spreadsheets. I have started work on several craft projects. Hey, these dinosaurs aren’t going to knit themselves!

I have also had to resign myself to contact with the world of people who care about real estate. This is not a natural fit for me, despite the fact that this entire blog is dedicated to small space living and other mistakes I have made. Yes, I do know rather a lot about ONE apartment, but this experience, hopefully, will not translate, as our next apartment, I’m certain, will be nothing short of palatial.

However, did you know? It turns out that moving involves shopping around for a new place to live. Apparently, one has to go out to places and actually examine them to see if they could possibly contain all the fun you are planning to put into them!

For some people, this is pure bliss. People who care about real estate, bless you if you are one of them, seem to constitute rather a large percent of the population if HGTV’s popularity is any indicator. For me, it is nothing short of bloodsport. Looking at, shopping for, flipping, renovating or otherwise changing a home is torturous enough when it’s you doing it–watching other people do it seems like pure sadism. But people are into it.

You see, as far as apartments go, I’m really not that picky. As proven by our seven years living inside this Faberge Egg, I can be happy literally anywhere. So I’m not fussed about the details, beyond my list of demands. Would you like to know my must-haves for the Funner apartment? They are simple but they are not negotiable.

  1. TWO Bedrooms. With doors that close properly. And without a giant window negating the purpose of having a wall.
  2. A dishwasher.
  3. Laundry that happens at the same address as the apartment.

Beyond those items, I honestly don’t care about anything else inside.

But I still have to go look at places anyway. And so do the kids. We’ve begun a search for a neighborhood that might suit us. There are many to choose from, but we’ve polled the natives to narrow it down. Results are as follows:

  • Inwood: 2
  • Green Bay: 1
  • Weirdo Face Town: 1
  • Chicago: 148

While we are still waiting for election officials to certify these results, my best friend from high school is appalled by your suspicions that he may have abused the super delegate system to swing the election his way. However, questions of frequency and residency requirements remain unanswered as of press time.

Neighborhood aside, we had always assumed that in order to sell our beloved Fun Apartment, at least three of us would need to move out of it, and it would have to be the right three. I can assure you that NO ONE would walk in here now and express their fervent wish to overpay for this place.

So Plan A has always been to move out, rent some apartment somewhere, sell the Fun Apartment, count our money, and go shopping for the Funner Apartment.

So the search for an apartment to rent began. It involved outright bribery of the children. They complained loudly at the thought of another viewing. But, despite the protests, they are actually fairly good at it. Upon entering, they tear through a carefully-staged home by opening every door they can find, flopping down on any flat surface, and demanding to use the bathroom. Then, they declare each apartment to be the home of their dreams and immediately lay claim to the master bedroom. They are positively colonial. These decisive lads are very put out when we suggest we might look at another apartment and I can’t much blame them. After all, they’ve already found the dishwasher and counted the bedrooms. What more would one need, after one has seen the onsite laundry room? They are not interested in apartments that get great light. Light is free, people.

But Mr. Fun Apartment is an architect. This is really all in his wheelhouse and once my demands are met, he can bother with all the other business like closets, load-bearing walls, and mysterious things called risers.

This division of labor is not infallible, however. Recently Mr. Fun Apartment fell hard for a combined apartment 200 blocks north of all the current fun. Unfortunately he failed to notice that the floor sloped dramatically. If we end up living there, all of our stuff will ultimately end up piled against the eastern wall.

I do not begrudge him an apartment crush. This is not his first. One time his flirtation with a Russian Church almost cost us our marriage. But I learned to avert my eyes with the skill of an English Queen, and go off to find a bar to wait for him in. And I have my vices, too. I have had a thing for Enyclopedia Brown since grade school and the Mister hardly ever teases me about it.

Slope aside, the Mister is so enamored of this place that he wants to try subverting the dominant paradigm by buying first, selling later. His plan B is borrow a lot of money, buy his mistress apartment, move into it, sell the Fun Apartment, and pay back the money. It’s a little unexpected–he’s not usually the rebellious type, but it has been surprisingly easy to convince banks to go along with this wild scheme.

He’s working on convincing me. After all, his apartment crush does tick all (three of) the boxes. It as a dishwasher, a laundry room and TWO bedrooms with TWO doors. It will fit all our current amounts of fun plus a little extra. It is next door to a football field. What more do we need?

I try not to raise my hopes. After all, I’m told this process is not quite as fast as HGTV would have us believe. Apparently it can take somewhat longer than one fast-forward montage with uptempo music. Ah well, we will be patient.

But we will not be on Househunters.

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Ready to Throw in the Towel

Every time I climb out of the shower I curse my own indecisiveness. Then I apologize to the towels.

Once, our towels were new. I got them when we moved into our home in Philadelphia, roughly the size of the Palace of Versailles. I remember thinking “Look how much money I just spent on towels! I must be a real grown up now!”

But now, those towels, much like my illusive adulthood, are ragged and worn. They are stripping off at the sides. Drying oneself off with them leaves you covered in scraps orange string. These once plush towels even jump off their hooks by themselves as if trying to end their own agony. “Just a little longer,” I urge them.

Why don’t I just go and buy new towels, you ask? The reason is this: I am not buying new towels for an old apartment. We need to buy a new apartment—not new towels. Until we can organize ourselves to tackle this momentous task, we are not entitled to new towels.

The Man of My Dreams, it seems, is having a similar moment. A few weeks ago, a nearby fancy furniture store was closing, promising slashed prices on their inventory. “Ooh, we could do with a new couch,” I thought dreamily. Our previous couch, is starting to sag in an uncomfortable and noticeable way. We’re practically sitting in the lego trays. (To be fair, we dragged it over from our neighbors’ apartment after they decided they were done with it, so it is not the couch’s fault it didn’t have the longevity of, say, our old bed. It met us late in life. But it was great for reading.)

No, insisted Mr. Fun Apartment. No new couch. No even going to look at and sit on new couches. He was very firm on this.

It seems that somewhere, somehow, we crossed a line. From this day forward, we are not investing in anything that would make our lives somehow easier or more comfortable. New towels and a new couch would make us too comfortable here on Easter Island. And if we are too comfortable, we will never leave. And leave we must, because adolescence is looming. It is looming too large to fit in the Fun Apartment.

I’ll be honest, my experience with adolescent boys is extremely limited. But from what I understand from my panel of former adolescent boys, they need truckloads of food, delivered hourly, and they need bedrooms with doors so that they can engage in–I am reliably informed–silent prayer before going to sleep.

Also, a mother of adolescent boys will need a bedroom without a great bloody window into the rest of the apartment so she can change her clothes without hiding into the closet. I know it brings light to the rest of the apartment, and doubles as a goalpost, but people, enough is enough.

After all, this was only meant to be a two year experiment. We are now seven years into that two year experiment. Soon, we might be ready to publish our results.

A preliminary look at the data: As Big said this morning. “The Fun Apartment is basically a hallway.”

Another data point: A friend of Little’s, who attended our birthday extravaganza in the crystal palace/vacant apartment across the hall, remarked, “Your apartment has that small room with all the toys.” Alas, that small room with all the toys is our apartment.

Thus far, the data also supports my promise to myself that this will be the only time I make a major life decision for a reason as flimsy as tax purposes.

Fun Apartment Floor Plan

 

Don’t get me wrong, we still believe in micro apartments. We still believe in living small–it’s New York City, after all. For a kindergarten teacher and an architect, there is no living large. But there is living in two bedrooms. With doors. And new towels. And, maybe a new couch. We can take all this fun with us. It will fit.

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Ready for some football

Once, we lived in a castle at the top of a beanstalk. Another time, we were overrun by dinosaurs. We were slaves to Pixar in the “World above Cars.” We drifted in and out of staterooms on the Titanic, miles below the surface. We built a place on the outskirts of Lego City. We lived long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.  You see, at the Fun Apartment, we don’t just like things. We LIVE them. These kids drill down deep.

And now, we live at Lambeau Field.

The latest Fun Apartment obsession is Green Bay Packers football. (Really, is there any other kind? I’ve not heard of it.)

That’s right, these boys bred in our tiny matchbox live, eat, breathe, and (occasionally) sleep a sport that requires 120  yards to play it properly.

To be fair, I opened the door to this by letting them watch Packer games with me and teaching them what I could about the game. But it didn’t take long before my admittedly casual knowledge was outstripped and they were explaining things to me. Really, how was I to know about the “no forward passing past the line of scrimmage” rule?

And this new love of football incorporates other favorite activities: wrestling! and tackling! And because we live in New York City and it is winter, most of these games happen indoors. Happily, being knocked to the ground can only improve most of our possessions. Or we play in short spurts in our neighborhood playground. That was where I earned my five game suspension for chop blocking. (I did feel very badly about the fat lip. But it went away in a few days.)

It’s changed our discipline game around here, as well. Now transgressions like using our bodies to hurt or not being a kind brother earn the accused received a ten yard penalty and it’s an automatic first down for the injured party. Oddly, this is way more effective than the traditional time out in the bathroom. I just have to carry around a yellow flag.

That’s right folks, it is football all the time around here. They are never off the field. Many games occur on the sidewalks of 8th avenue—which is way better than those corporate dome stadiums. And the beer is cheaper.

Because we never bothered with cable or any other complicated TV business, we often end up watching the game in our local watering hole around the corner, where these guys have become regulars. Once a Buccaneers fan offered to watch them while I ran across the street to switch the laundry. It takes a village, people.

When it’s not game on, it’s still go time. Yesterday I caught the Quarterback standing in the middle of the living room, well middle of the whole apartment, really, with one arm raised in the air. “Umm, what are you doing?” I asked. “Practicing holding the Vince Lombardi trophy,” he answered as if it were the most obvious of answers. Such thoroughness is to be admired.

Another favorite part of these games: instant replay. That is when they decide that something about the play has gone wrong, so they must play it out again. So they do it again. r . . e . . a . . l . . l . . y     s . .l . . o . . w . . l . . y. This is how they do it in the NFL, right?

There is also commentary, which, though influenced by game announcers is still very kid-like: “Here’s the snap and pass is caught by my brother in the most best play ever!”

One side effect of watching too much football is that these kids can now pretty much recite ads for trucks they are too young to drive, insurance they don’t need, food they won’t eat, beer they can’t drink, shows they aren’t allowed to watch and internet service that they don’t understand. Way to hit the demographic sweet spot, advertisers. Money well spent, I’m sure.

There’s an awful lot more testosterone around here, too. I mean I know I’m surrounded, but it hasn’t been quite so locker room-like before. Now, when these yahoos celebrate anything, say correctly identifying their own socks, they throw out their skinny chests and thump them.

However, this was not the ideal year to embrace fandom. Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone stunned us all. And the meager offerings the rest of the season gave some insight into what being a Packer Fan in the 1980s must have been like. Still, the future quarterback and wide receiver remain undaunted. And the weekly requests to relocate to Titletown persist.

(Hey, I bet we could get a huge place there. After the Fun Apartment, any average-sized Wisconsin home would feel like Lambeau Field to us.)

What’s funny about this latest obsession is that our entire apartment, including all the fun, would fit inside the area on a field between the zero and one yard line. And yet, this has not affected the scope or scale of these kids’ ambitions. To them, every pass is a hail mary, every run is 80 yards, every kick is into the wind, and every game is the super bowl.

You are all welcome to join us at the Fun Apartment’s Super Bowl party. But you have to sit on our bed to watch the game. And our tv screen is a whopping 14 inches wide.

And after the game is over, we won’t be mourning the end of the season. We’re still playing. There’s no offseason at the Fun Apartment.

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Survival of the Funnest

You may well be wondering “Hey, did you guys survive the bedbugs? Or have you been carried off by the invading swarm?”

Well, both, in a way.

We came through it. We walked Bloodsucker valley and lived to tell. We’re still moving around the city, and we’re not scratching persistent itchy bites. We pass through the nights unmolested. Ten years from now, I might be cautiously optimistic that the process has worked. But we also seem to have been carried off, replaced by new, stronger more bad-ass people. We were made new through bedbugs. And even the Fun Apartment was made new. Even though it’s pretty much still the same.

It was 26 days living with the bags. Twenty. Six. March of 2017 is now just a charred piece of paper on the family calendar.

It was only supposed to be 24 days, but the exterminator decided–twice!–to rearrange his schedule.

And perhaps I should thank him, because it was those extra two days that did it. Those were the days that showed me that things couldn’t be the old way anymore. I knew on those two days that we were–or at least I was–going to be different people at the end of those two days. Those were the days I said all the swear words.

Happily, at the end of those two days, Mr. Fun Apartment and I were different people still married to each other, so that’s a plus. And I was a new person who just did whatever felt good. And didn’t feel bad about feeling good. I dyed a pink streak in my hair. I threw out at least a third of our stuff, but decided that we really couldn’t live without a giant squid costume.

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Eyeballs the size of dinner plates!

I went to a fancy party–on a Monday night–and drank ALL the champagne! I made cereal and called it dinner–to great applause! We started watching Looney Tunes! The Mr. bought some shorts! (Well, he’s got the legs for it.)

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Push the Sky Away.

I got interested in a band* and then actually went to see them play–like an actual real person does! We went camping and ate ice cream sandwiches for lunch! At this point, I fully expect the boys to come home with tattoos. I’m cool with that, as long as they are anchors with the word “Mom” over them.

So now, apparently, I’m a person who says “Yes, why the hell not?” to almost any proposition I get. But I warn you to use your power over me wisely: I’m very susceptible to suggestion. Yes! The answer is yes! Unless you’re the PTA, in which case the answer is “Umm . . . maybe next year?”

So does all this newness mean that I’m ramping up for a big blog-name-changing announcement? No. Not yet.

But we’re asking ourselves a lot of questions that begin with “When?” and “Where?” I think we’re pretty set on “Who?” I’m afraid that “How?” will just have to sort itself out later. I’m too busy saying yes to things.

So, for my mom and the realtor she’s been secretly emailing, we’re not packing up yet. But we’re opening the lens wide. We’re putting on shoes, but no pants.

Why the hell not?

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*One of the in-house music critics insists on referring to the band as Nick Cave and the Bad Nuts. Hey, I’m pretty sure Nick would say “Bring it on.”

 

 

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Grand, indeed.

Remember when my super awesome Grandma ran off with my title of “Smallest Dwelling Space in the Family”? In one down-sizing move, she moved into her own assisted living Fun Apartment complete with bingo and a meal plan. Well, she’s been cut down in the prime of her youth. At age 100, she passed away two weeks ago.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I write my second obituary ever. When your grandma is 100, you kind of assume that she must have some key to eternal life, because she keeps still being there. Five or six years ago, I used to get weepy when I said goodbye to her. But recently, her staying power seemed so great that I’d give her a hug and wave “See you at Christmas!” on our way out of town. Ah well.

People, let me tell you: having a 100 year old grandma was awesome. She was spunky, feisty, and utterly devoted to her long-awaited great grandchildren.

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Oldest, youngest, and one in the middle.

And for a good portion of those 100 years, she was remarkably lucid. In recent conversations when I thought perhaps she was confused, inevitably it was I who had lost the plot, not her. To be fair, how could I be expected to remember that my husband got a new job, just because Grandma did?

Another awesome thing about a 100 year old grandma: I got to go to a birthday party at her assisted living facility where there were a lot of guests who weren’t quite sure who they were celebrating. There was a bouquet of 100 roses and a very large cake. And wouldn’t you know it? Grandma, who had had her hair done at a salon that morning, was working the room, thanking everyone for coming and asking if they had enough cake.

But having a 100 year old grandma was also very hard. She became less herself each time I saw her. As her eyesight left, it took her favorite activities with it. She couldn’t read, watch classic movies on tv, or sew. Her vocabulary evaporated rapidly. Conversations with her were more retrograde than linear and she became increasingly confused. Toward the end, she was genuinely suffering in a body that no longer obeyed her and a brain that stopped trying to follow conversations around her.

 

But at her essence, Grandma was a pretty fantastic lady. She had very high standards. My sister and I saw this in her reactions to the various boyfriends we paraded in front of her. My college boyfriend was met with a sniff. Later she told me “You must think I just fell off the turnip truck.” I’m still not sure what she meant by that, actually. But whatever her meaning, that guy isn’t around anymore, so she must have been right. A boyfriend of my sister’s was very well-received until he mentioned he didn’t want to have any children. After that, he might as well have been an end table for all Grandma regarded him. When I brought the future Mr. Fun Apartment around, she brought out the good china for dinner and told him “We’re putting on the dog!” Grandma knew what she was about.

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That necklace grabber is now 8 years old.

She was an inveterate letter writer. Wherever I lived, she sent a steady stream of envelopes to my mailbox. These envelopes were often stuffed with things she cut out of her newspaper–comics, articles, whatever struck her fancy. As her eyesight failed, the handwriting got worse and the newspaper clippings began to include panels from several different comics. I began to wonder when she would just post me the whole edition of the Grand Rapids Press inside an envelope and have done with it. But thanks to the strength of her pen, I have stacks and stacks of her letters to read through when I feel lonely for her. I even have most of the clippings.

She could be a very sweet lady, although not to everyone at every moment, especially toward the end. She also had a unrivaled  ability to carry grudges long past their sell-by date. Mention her name to my dad, nearly forty years after my parents’ divorce, and he still looks somewhat uncomfortable.

Do you want to know the secret to her long life? Let me tell you: ice cream. I’m pretty sure she ate ice cream every day of her life. She had a bowl every night while she watched old movies on tv. At least, she did until she couldn’t figure out how to work her tv anymore. Then she just ate the ice cream.

(Maybe I’ll just pitch this health conscious, clean-eating business out the window.)

Two things I inherited from Grandma: a love of craft projects–especially secret projects–and her sewing machine. In her later years, she made enough quilts to cover an entire sleeping village. As her eyesight went, though, the quilting fell to my inexperienced hands (quilt count: 4, if you count one that Grandma made and I hand-quilted and passed off as my own to my nephew.) But during her last, title-snatching move, we found a quilt (Dresden Plates, I am reliably informed) she had started, but will never finish. It came to the Fun Apartment, so Grandma and I are still working together on a secret project.

I’m taking my time on it. I don’t really want it to end.

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Sleep tight. . . .

Remember when we got the huge new bed? And remember when we were overrun with sea monkeys?

Well, those two things have kind of come together in a horrible way for us. It’s another infestation, but less friendly, more plague-y. That’s right: we found bed bugs.

Can you hear me screaming all the curse words, even from where you are? Good, that means I’m doing it right.

Go ahead and take a moment to glance around, itch everywhere, and then send us a text cancelling our next social engagement. It’s all right: everyone does. We grow accustomed to it.

How did we get them? Beats us. You can’t exactly interrogate the little m-f-ers, so it really could have been from anywhere. But where it is now is under the kids’ bed. (New bunk bed with all metal frame currently on requisition.)

So what did we do? Well, the exterminator suggested we go stay somewhere else for 14-20 days. This brought a fit of grim laughter. If we had somewhere else to live for that long, don’t you think we’d already be living there? And let me tell you, even very nice people aren’t eager to accept our kind of refugees into their homes.

Because the moving out option was not open to us until our summer staff retreat, and because the exterminator implied to Mr. Fun Apartment that waiting that long would constitute child abuse, we got instead the more complicated, larger pain in the ass option of “bag and bomb.” That essentially means that we have packed ALL of our stuff into large plastic bags. Then, the exterminator dropped what is hopefully a very lethal and effective pesticide into each bag and sealed them up.

But did not take them anywhere.

That’s right. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more fun, the Fun Apartment stuffed itself into (at last count) 57 awkward and somewhat fragile plastic bags. That number does not including the ones in the bathtub that hold the clothes we are allowed to wear over the next two weeks, and then take to the laundromat for some 40 minutes of fun in the hot, hot dryer.

And it’s two weeks of this, not counting the four extra days when the exterminator couldn’t be bothered to come by. So 18 days. Oh, and the extra 6 six days he suggested, while he tries to wrangle up the stragglers who did not deign to go inside the bags, but instead continue to wander about the apartment in search of luxury living spaces in Chelsea. (Location, location, location!)

And after 24 days of living like refugees in our own house, another fun time awaits us!: putting everything away again! It will be like moving in! Again! Except not into a new, bigger place. Into the exact same place.

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Climb every mountain.


In the interim, we’re camped out among the bags, all carefully stacked to the heavens. But we can start to see the bones of our old home reemerging. Today, after some rearranging, our little guy gasped with delight “We can have a couch?!” Upon receiving confirmation that, yes, we could indeed have a couch, just like regular people, he positively glowed.

And to show that we’ve been visited by not just any ordinary bedbugs, but ones with incredible senses of irony: I was counting the days until we can slice open the bags and move in again, and as I was tapping the days (10), a bed bug wandered across the calendar.

So, good thing we’re going through all this. It’s going swimmingly. Exactly as planned.

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Team Spirit

A few weeks ago, the Fun Apartment represented at the women’s rights march here in our own backyard. After all, as I tell all three of these guys, several times a week, “Mommy is a person, not a (ladder, tissue, housemaid, miracle worker, etc.)” So, all of my fellas tagged along to support me at what one son referred to as the “Kitty March.”

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Meow.

(You guys! Why didn’t anyone tell me about the hats?!?! I could totally have made the hats!!! My knitting superpowers, gone to waste!!)

Anyway, as we strolled along (the boys were somewhat relieved by the pace, as they had earlier expressed concerns such as “Mommy, I don’t know how to march!”) Our newly minted kindergartener used the opportunity to try to read the signs. The third grader asked a lot of questions, and listened intently. They demolished a contraband bag of cheez-its which greatly increased their stamina for the march. Chants rippled through the crowds, but as one suggested that the current resident of the white house should vacate the premises immediately, the elder boy grew pensive.

“Mommy,” he said. “Remember how you said that when we watch football, we only say good things about our team? How we don’t say bad things about the other team because that’s not nice?”

(Our team, by the way, is the GREEN BAY PACKERS. And this was the day before they were defeated in the playoffs by the team the boys referred to as the Atlantis Falcons. Ok, Lost City, you win. This time.)

“But, isn’t this”–he indicated the chanting–“like saying bad things about the other team? Shouldn’t we just say good things about the Packers–I mean, about women?”

People, I was stunned. Stunned, not only because it meant he had actually heard something I said other than “There’s chocolate for breakfast,” but because he heard something I said and he was right. They go low. WE go high.

So, here we go. I’m only saying good things about my team. And it’s easy to do. You see, my team believes in the dignity of all humans. My team believes in accepting everyone. My team believes in loving our neighbors and caring for our community. On my team, we open doors to welcome people in. My team knows that because all lives matter, we need to ensure that black lives matter. My team is about contributing to something larger than yourself. My team raises people up. My team believes that we have a responsibility to our children, to our planet, and to each other. My team believes in equity. My team has a lot of work to do, but that’s ok, because my team believes in raising our children to be even better than ourselves, so they’ll keep doing that work.

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You tell ’em.

(My team also believes you should pick up after yourself, but on this one, my immediate family members are not exactly first round draft picks.)

Wow, there are a lot of good things to say about my team. And guess what: if you want to be on my team, we’d love to have you! We don’t have jerseys, but I am going to make us the hats–looks like there will be plenty of chances to wear them.

Does this post mean that the blog will now become a hotbed of political insights? No, I seriously doubt it.  We’ll probably be back to wondering why our tiny household requires five kinds of toothpaste among four people later this week.

But today, I just need to say it: Go Team!

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