Thursday, 27 February 2014

I Write the Songs that Make the Whole World Sing

Music is a very important part of our lives and we have always hoped that the exposure we give Molly and Jack to a variety of music will enrich their lives.

When I was pregnant I remember being at a Pixies concert and Molly jumping in utero each time Frank Black paused then belted out one of his legendary yowls.  Little did we know that this jump was a sign of who Molly is today.  She loves to be chased, startled and one of her favourite games to play with Chris is quiet, quiet, LOUD, LOUD.*

baby in the beer garden kids at outdoor concerts
Molly at an outdoor show for The Rural Alberta Advantage - looking longingly at the beer garden.

The day we brought the minions home from the hospital Chris determined that he had a very important decision to make: what would be the first album that the minions ever listened to?  After great debate he determined that it would be R.E.M.'s album Murmur on vinyl.   When I recently asked him about why he selected this album: his answer: "A lot of reasons."  When I asked him to elaborate he simply said, "because it is awesome."  Clearly he's not willing to give up the recipe for the secret sauce, or he doesn't remember.

Jack LOVES music and sings to himself, usually at the top of his lungs, and dances all the time.  Sometimes he'll make up his own lyrics, other times he goes for children's classics like: Ba Ba Black Sheep, the Alphabet song**, Twinkle Twinkle, or Happy Birthday.   He's obsessed with my drum kit, his marching drum set and his toy xylophone.

Molly does not feel the same way as her brother.  The only song I've ever heard her sing is Happy Birthday, in the correct context.  Most of the time she prefers silence.  She routinely asks Chris to stop singing, dancing or to be quiet. This has been happening with such regularity that we've started to compare her to John Lithgow's music hating Reverend Shaw Moore in Footloose: "If our Lord wasn't testing us, how would you account for the proliferation, these days, of this obscene rock and roll music, with its gospel of easy sexuality and relaxed morality?" Only Molly says things like, "Stop it daddy, stop singing, be quiet."

This past weekend, while we were assembling a record shelf we tried something new.  We put on The Beatles, 1967-1970 compilation and she went crazy for it, she played and danced the entire time it was on.

When my niece M. was a baby we could always calm her down by playing Corey Hart`s album Boy in the Box.  It was uncanny and Corey Hart will always remind me of her.

I would argue that The Beatles are now the most important musical influence in Molly`s life thus far.  If you find the right music, for the right person at the right time you may inspire even the biggest critic to get up and dance.

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*Essentially they both shush each other and whisper about being quiet until Chris breaks the silence by yelling, "LOUD, LOUD, LOUD!" at the top of his lungs. I find it mildly annoying, but they both love it.
**You know he's Canadian because he always sings the "zed" at the end.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Old Apartment

A friend of mine, when apartment hunting in her early 20's, went on and on about the importance of the kitchen in a home.  She'd talk about the need for good size, sitting space, as well as counter space to cook.  She'd lament about how the kitchen was the heart of many houses, a place where feelings and bruises were healed over a cup of tea, a place for secrets shared, holiday meals and card games that went into the night. A place with a bad kitchen was a deal breaker for her.  Both of us being literature majors, we had many conversations focusing on wonderful scenes of fiction set in kitchens and she often talked about how amazing a series of short stories set in kitchens would be. As I was in my early twenties I had very little interest in the kitchen as "an experience" and attributed her fondness of kitchens to her being a hippy who consumed more brussel sprouts and beets than any other human I had known.  I just didn't get it.

The place I lived in when I met Chris was admittedly my worst apartment.  I lived there in the time period where I was most broke, most broken and most miserable - ah the mid twenties, I don't miss you for a second.

The apartment was small, old and had the tiniest galley kitchen imaginable with absolutely no preparatory or eating space. After I met Chris and we agreed to move in together, we compiled a list of things that were important to us in an apartment.  A sizable kitchen with a dish washer was on the top of his list.  We ended up moving into a great place in Toronto's Bloor West Village that had a large open-concept kitchen and living room for a low price.

babies on kitchen floor
Molly and Jack on our kitchen floor - 11 months old

This became the first apartment that felt like home and we spent our first five years together there.  I had my make-up done for our wedding at that kitchen table, we hashed out our first fights there, hosted Chris's late night studying and late night partying well into the morning.  We even signed the papers for our mortgage to the house we bought and brought Molly and Jack from the hospital to in that very kitchen on Jane Street.

Our current house also hosts a nicely sized kitchen.  When I was pregnant with the minions I became obsessed with getting the perfect table and right around the time the kids were born we settled on a farmers style rosewood table.  I envisioned this table being a place for family meals, board games, warm mugs of tea and story telling.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I was nesting.

Last year when Molly and Jack outgrew their high chairs (aka lunged out of them, stood up on them) we decided that it was time to get them their very own kiddy table and replaced the high chairs with their very own small table and chairs beside our own.  They liked their table for a little while and still use it regularly for snacks and creative endeavours, however, about six months ago Jack picked up his plate, walked over to the rosewood table and sat in the big chair on his knees so he could reach the table and eat with us.  I had totally negated the entire purpose of the family table because the chairs were "too big" for them to sit on.  I'd made the room in our house that was supposed to be about the heart of our home about function, but Jack found a way to circumvent and then taught his sister to do the same.

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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Do You Believe in Magic?

Being the parent of a toddler puts you in an interesting position of power.  Your children are young and naive  so they pretty much think that you're amazing and have ridiculous expectations of your capabilities.  In a few years when the minions roll their eyes at Chris and I or scream about how unfair we are, I'll look back at this and remember a time when we had magical powers.

red riding hood and knight halloween costumes
Sir Daddy the Knight and Little Red Riding Hood

7 Amazing Things that Toddlers Believe About Their Parents.

  1. You are a magician.
    When they hand you a broken pencil, cookie, toy and declare, "Fix it!" You know that they really believe that you can.
  2. You are a celebrity.
    Both children have pointed to a number of models, singers and actors on TV...all who have the same colour hair as me and declared that they are in fact mommy.  This is amazing when it's Zooey Deschannel or Lilly Allen, confusing, although complimentary, when it's Halle Berry and a little alarming when it's Tommy Lee or Kid Rock.
  3. You are a Disney Princess/Prince.
    Apparently Molly believes that I can communicate with animals and that they will do what I say.  The other morning she instructed me to, "Tell the birdies to be quiet.  They're too noisy!" She didn't believe me when I explained that they wouldn't listen to me.
  4. You are a healer.
    Your kisses can make anything from a scraped knee to hurt feelings feel better.
  5. You are funnier than the best comedians.
    Your slap stick moves rival the Three Stooges' and your impressions are on par with Dave Coulier (but in a good way).
  6. Your lap is the coveted spot and you always sit at the cool kids table.
    Brawls will break out over who gets to sit with you.
  7. Your narration is on par with Morgan Freeman and that guy from the Coors Light commercials.
    You tell the best stories and not just because it's delaying bed time.  Just don't hold your breath over scoring a VISA commercial contract or a voice-over in the next Pixar movie.

With great power comes great responsibility.  Enjoy it and always remember it!

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Monday, 24 February 2014

Stacy's Mom

When we were naming our children, like many parents we took extra effort to ensure that we picked fairly traditional names that would grow with them and carry them well into life.  We looked at how people could pun names for school yard taunting, we looked at rhymes and we went to sites where people rated their names and talked about why they liked or didn't like them.  As extra insurance we made sure that we picked some solid middle names that they could turn to if they decide that they don't like their given names.

We were happy with our choices.  On vacation in Seattle with the minions when they were 10 months old, a waitress at The 5 Spot immediately picked up on Molly's spirited nature and declared, "You're much too feisty to be a Mary* now aren't you!" in a thick Irish accent.  I was thrilled that someone had picked up on what a tenacious young woman my daughter was going to be.

babes in toyland

A while later I heard a buzz about a drug that was making it's round through the club scene: Molly.   Molly is a form of MDMA (Molly - short form for molecule) is essentially one of the key ingredients in the drug ecstasy.  Things my daughter has in common with the drug: Exposure to either Molly can distort vision, hearing and sense of time.  Molly(s) can cause confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems and drug cravings, just ask my friend at our local liquor store. This "Molly" thing will pass I thought to myself.   It's not like we named our daughter Heroin, right?

On Friday night, Chris was out at a concert, the kids were in bed and I was making some home made soup. Just your typical wild and crazy weekend night.  While I was waiting for the vegetables to soften in the broth I flipped on the TV.  The only thing I could find was Breckin Meyer's brain child Men at Work: a show featuring the lives of five friends (one of them is Hyde from that 70s show and one of the others is Buffy the Vampire Slayer's own schemer Warren) who work together.  One of the characters was depressed about something (a woman I imagine) and his buddies decided that it was time for him to meet someone.  When he meets a good looking woman, the friends overhear that she's going to a party for "Molly" which they assume is a birthday party.  They decide to crash Molly's party and hi jinx ensues when they discover that someone spiked the KoolAid with Molly.  Every one gets high and touchy feeley and wants to make-out courtesy of "Molly".

Thank you Breckin Meyer for bringing the drug reference Molly to prime time. I kind of  hate you.  We used to be friends back when you were that cute skater kid from Clueless or even when you played John Arbuckell in the Garfield movies (not the best choice for your career I'm sure) and I even like your voice over work on Robot Chicken, but now, if I ever meet you I'm pretty sure I'm going to kick you in the crotch, hard.

On Saturday night we went to a house party and someone introduced themselves as Stacy.  Another party goer asked her if her mom "had it going on", she sighed and rolled her eyes.  I felt her pain.

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*Molly is the "pet" name for Mary.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Give Thanks and Praises

Last month I had the honour of being nominated for Voiceboks Top 50 Hilariously Funny Nominated Parent Bloggers – 2014.  It's so incredible to be recognized among so many other talented writers.  The award was voting based, so I went out to you: my readers, fellow bloggers, friends and family to solicit support.

Even though it wasn't one of my new year's resolutions this year, I am constantly struggling with putting myself out there and promoting my writing, my passion.  I posted about the contest, emailed, got on blocked lists  for my obsessive social media campaigning and even shared a photo of Molly and Jack that Chris voted as "most likely to get child services called" to inspire people to vote.   All of this was in attempt to achieve my goal to make it into the Top 10 of this contest and earn a virtual badge.

Today I posted my badge for making the top 10 list and have been recognized with nine other fantastic writers on Voicebok's Award Wall of Fame.  In the end I earned 4th place which truly exceeded all of my expectations.  Thank you so much to everyone for their support and encouragement in helping me celebrate my craft and my twisted love letters to my family.

As a part of this fierce competition I checked out the other bloggers who were fighting for top spot and thought I'd share with you some of the great writiers I discovered in case you would like to check them out too:

Comic Strip Mama - I especially liked this Justin Bieber Strip

Hot Mess Mom - Love her post on all bloggers being narcissistic, self-absorbed douche canoes (her words not mine)

Toulouse & Tonic - I am thankful that Chris is only guilty of 2-3 items on her 10 Things I'll Never Understand About Men List

Again, thank you everyone for your kind words, readership and virtual love!

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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Run to the Hills

On Family Day this year we took the kids tobogganing on the hill at Jeff Healey Park with their cousins: It was fun, interesting and exhausting....

9 Things About Tobogganing with Toddlers (or our toddlers anyway)

  1. A hill becomes significantly steeper when you are pulling up a toboggan and a toddler passenger who refuses to walk, especially when cousins "hop-on" half way up the hill for a free ride back to the top.
  2. The hill becomes even more Mount Everestesque when said toddler refuses to hold onto the sled, rolling off and you have to carry them under your arm like a football.
  3. You will lose at least one mitten, glove or hat  (Thanks to Aunt M. for retrieving Jack's bear hat for us).
  4. Compact cars are not built to transport old timey toboggans, every time we hit a bump on the drive over we got to experience a new radio station, CD or tape courtesy of the rear end of the toboggan. Our sled favours Depeche Mode and light jazz.
  5. If you are not fast enough getting eager toddlers back down the hill they will quite literally attempt  to throw themselves down the hill solo, sleds be damned - Jack.
  6. Children do not care about crashing into other children, in fact most of the time they find it kind of funny. 
  7. No matter how many times a child giggles and yells "More, More!" at the bottom of the hill, you may still need to give them a pep talk when you get back to the top - Molly.
  8. They will pee their pants and it will freeze.
  9. Tobogganing doesn't end when the kids get tired, it ends when the parents have had enough.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Market Song

Whenever Toronto is offering up something new and fun we try to support it in whatever way we can. When I found out about Steam Whistle's (indoor) Winter Farmers Market I was pumped.  Chris and I went on a brewery tour for our second date and had our wedding reception there, so Steam Whistle is near and dear to our hearts.  

It was also an opportunity for an activity that was fun for Molly and Jack as well as mom and dad.  The market is open on Sundays, from December 22nd until February 23rd (this coming Sunday) from 10AM-2PM.  This weekend was our third attempt to go to the market, as earlier trips were thwarted by rain, snow, sleet, dark of night and toddler infections: clearly we are not the US postal service.  

It's an eight minute walk from Union Station or there is  plenty of fairly pricey, pay parking around (it cost us $9 to park at the Air Canada Centre and walk over).  

What was in it for Molly and Jack: 
  • A great view of all of the trains displayed outside
  • Samples of organic chocolate, fresh apples, BBQ sauce on crackers as well as apple cider
  • They got to run around the newly poured foundation of the scheduled expansion of the brewery while squealing (they only got a couple of suspicious looks) and Jack warmed the hearts of most patrons by giving a round of high fives to nearly everyone in the brewery

Chris Pushing Molly in the snow

steam whistle market
Molly and Jack Playing

What was in it for mom and dad:
  • We got to enjoy a pint of Steam Whistle Beer each
  • We got to watch some of the Olympics on TV while the minions ran around
  • Accommodating vendors let us buy individual apples from giant baskets so Molly and Jack could eat while we sipped
steam whistle market
Molly unsuccessfully attempting to get a sip of mom's "juice".

What we bought:
  • Apple Cider
  • Sparkling apple juice
  • Chocolate Strawberry Tea (this stuff is soooo good)
  • Apple butter BBQ Sauce
  • 2 honey crisp apples that were immediately consumed by Molly and Jack  (I'm tempted to go back and grab a basket next week)
  • Home made dog biscuits for uncle D.'s new puppy (made from some byproducts left over from the Steam Whistle brewing process)

Farmers market
Some of our purchases

Don't expect a huge selection of fresh product at the market, but we loved almost everything we tried there and Molly and Jack adored being taste testers.  On the way home Molly kept telling us how much fun she had at the market.  Also it wasn't overly crowded, so it was easy to keep an eye on the minions.  If you're looking for something to do next Sunday in downtown Toronto, I highly recommend you check it out before it's gone!  Added bonus, it's right across the street from the brand new Ripley's Aquarium in case you  need some liquid courage before you face the sharks!

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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Blue Valentine

Last Valentine's Day when we went to pick up Molly and Jack from daycare we discovered that their cubbies were not only filled with the outfits that Jack had painstakingly destroyed that day, but also with paper Valentines from other kids in their class.  As I collected the little notes and stuffed them into my purse I was thankful that Molly and Jack were just a year and a half old and blissfully unaware how their parents had failed at Valentines.  I am almost certain that every other child had participated in a card exchange while we did not.

I vowed to myself that this year would be different, that I couldn't rely on the assumption that they wouldn't understand, that they were the only children not participating in the exchange of pink and red stationary.  In late January I started creeping projects on Pinterest, I had grandiose ideas of toddler friendly hand made cards that they could work on for their classmates, cousins and grandparents.  I even made a shopping list for the Dollar Store complete with glitter, construction paper and enough sparkle heart stickers to make the minions the envy of unicorns everywhere.

toddler playing with cheerios

Here's the thing...I never made it to the dollar store.  It was cold outside, the kids got sick twice: each, I got sick and then there was the Molly pneumonia scare.   It snowed a bunch and then time passed by.  I should have known better, evenings and weekends filled up with laundry and naps for everyone, not time for craft corner.  I am incapable of mailing a letter most days.

So today, the day before Valentines, I am going to go to a drug store and buy whatever Valentine cards are on sale, then at daycare pick up I am going to write down the names of all of the children in Molly and Jack's class to avoid me just randomly penning "fellow classmate" on every person's card.*  Tonight I will let my children scribble all over them at my parent's house and do everything in my power to ensure that these cards physically make it into daycare tomorrow.  Maybe next year will be different, but probably not.

*There are only eight other children in their class and they talk about four of them all the time, you think I'd have a better grip on names.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


I try to be very receptive when staff at our daycare discusses behavioral issues with me about our children.   For the most part the minions are very well behaved, however Chris and I are both keenly aware that Miss Molly can have an explosive temper and that Jack likes to wrestle like a puppy.  So when the daycare talks to us about discipline I take it very seriously, to the point where Chris thinks I am being ridiculous, but I don't think he understands my perspective:

When I was about two and a half years old my mother decided that I would benefit from some interaction with children my own age, so she enrolled me in a local nursery school a couple of days a week, I believe she even got a part time job for the express purpose of paying for said nursery school.  There was one tiny problem with this plan, I was miserable there and in turn put every ounce of my being into torturing the staff at the daycare.  My unapologetic apathy and disgust towards this place remains one of my very first memories, although I couldn't and still cannot pinpoint exactly what made me unleash my reign of terror upon this playgroup.

mom and toddler girl

For months I refused to eat anything they tried to feed me*, I wouldn't use the potty (even though I was fully potty trained), I cried, I screamed, I fought and battled every single thing that they wanted me to do with the fire of a million suns for hours on end.  It was epic.  I was a toddler super villain:  a staff member quit because they couldn't take it any more.  Eventually I was expelled.  My mother says she still remembers picking me up: sitting on the steps of the daycare with a plastic bag full of pee soaked underwear, with tears running down my face - I wish she'd taken a photo.  Six months later when I asked my mom if I could go to pre-school, she laughed in my face and told me I would have to wait until kindergarten.

11 years later I showed up at a babysitting job; it was a 4PM shift in the summer and I was relieving their nanny.   As luck would have it this nanny was the same woman who I had forced out of her job over a decade ago.   She remembered me instantly and proceeded to go into great detail about what an awful little beast I was.  It was incredibly awkward and I didn't know what to say, so I just shrugged, listened and eventually asked her if the boys I was sitting for had already had their snack of cabbage.  She was unimpressed with my response and left in a huff.  Who holds a 14 year old accountable for something they did when they were a toddler?  When I told my mom what had happened she wasn't very surprised.

Knowing I had this tendency towards villainy I wanted to ensure that "the dark side" doesn't impact Luke and Leia until they are ready to comprehend the full power of the force.

*In my defense I recall them trying to feed me copious amounts of cabbage for a reason that is still unknown to me.

Friday, 7 February 2014

I'm Sick of You

We thought Molly was over the worst of her illness from this past weekend, but we were wrong.  On Monday her slight cough was keeping her up for a lot of the night, on Tuesday when we picked her up from daycare they let us know that she was coughing constantly, all day long and was lethargic.  Tuesday night I frantically called our doctor's office to see what we could do, then scheduled an appointment for Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, in the middle of yet another winter snow storm, we trudged over to the doctor who then referred us to a local hospital for chest X-rays because they were afraid it might be pneumonia.  With my heart in my throat we headed over to the hospital to await the test results.

toddler girl at playground
A healthier Miss Molly

Chris and I had several epiphanies as we blundered our way through yet another toddler health crisis over the past few days that I thought I'd share.

Baby Brain Can Extend Well Into Toddlerhood
I remember those long arduous nights in the early days when a lack of sleep turned our brains into mush.  Lack of proper sleep can impair your judgement and reasoning skills significantly.  This was proven by Chris' decision on day four with minimal REM sleep to hand his car keys to occupy Jack while they were grocery shopping.  Upon cashing out, Chris discovered that Jack had tossed the keys aside in favor of consuming granola bars.  After 45 minutes of questioning Jack about the keys whereabouts*, tearing around the store in search of the keys, while checking in with the cashier every 10 minutes a random store manager overheard the fifth inquiry with the cashier and tossed Chris the missing key ring casually as if it were a pack of gum and he hadn't been tearing the store apart looking for it.  I guess Fresh Co. now has revenge for the minion vomit incident circa 2013.  When I inquired as to why Chris had not asked the cashier to make an announcement over the PA system to help him find the keys he muttered something incoherent that might of been a curse under his breath.

Be Wary of Strangers in Vans
You know the cliche about creeps luring children into their vans with promises of candy? We don't need to worry about Molly getting bamboozled by the promise of candy, we need to worry about strangers and stickers.  After three medical examinations, a set of X-rays and half a day of waiting I learned that she will do almost anything if she believes that you will give her stickers.  After Molly's X-rays the technician asked me, "So how many other times has Molly had X-rays?" Answer: None.  The technician protested, "But she's only two and a half and she sat so still."    I explained, "You promised her stickers!"  As the day progressed Molly learned that if she coyly told people about her twin brother she could get two stickers instead of just one, because he needed one too.**

Croup is the "New" Colic 
After days of worry, sleeplessness and hours in medical waiting rooms it was determined that Molly has croup.  The good news is that it's not pneumonia, the other good news is that the doctor at the hospital gave us the go ahead to send her into daycare because she was beyond the worst of it (and that is where she caught it), the bad news is that the only cure is time.  We braced ourselves for yet another sleepless night.  At 11PM we heard that telltale croup seal bark and rushed up to grab Molly, except she was sound asleep.  It turned out that Jack had developed a different type of croup, “spasmodic” which comes from the same virus but manifests itself differently.  Thankfully we had him back to bed within an hour and he slept through.  I remember when Molly had colic how much I cursed it; The constant crying for no reason, the hours of pacing and walking, but after croup, I hate colic a little less.  With colic I never feared for her health and it never sent us to the hospital.   Sure it ruined a lot of evenings, it was exhausting but you could set a clock to it (7PM - 10PM) and we got so much vacuuming done!

*The only answers he provided Chris with were: "Keys!", "Bars", "Bear", "High-Five!"  and "Chocolate".
**Jack was not with us at the hospital and never received a single sticker from his sister.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Always Be My Baby

There are so many moments surrounding parenthood that we can't wait to share.  We proclaim them from the social media mountain top and wear them like badges to validate that we are "good" parents.

Then there are the others....the times when you have one of those days and even worse, the times when one of those days lasts for five days.  These are the times that you probably won't take pictures and post them on Facebook.  On Friday when we picked up the minions from daycare we got word that Molly had a fever of 100.5 and climbing, so we braced ourselves for the weekend.  These are the times when all of the parental rules that we try to maintain on a daily basis for the sake of our sanity go out the window.

toddler girl with books

Toddler in the Bed
Do you know what makes our bed so great?  That there aren't any toddlers in it 99.9% of the time.  But on Friday night when Molly was up with the chills I sandwiched her between us and we were serenaded with a running commentary about EVERYTHING known to man as we tried to sleep, "That's my blanket." "You're my mommy." "This is my juice." "I'm wearing pajamas." "Jack is sleeping."

Dessert for Dinner
Molly didn't eat much this weekend, so when she requested ice cream for dinner, Chris went out to the store to buy it for her immediately - no questions asked.

Inappropriate Television
We are pretty strict about what and how much television the children are allowed to watch.  When they're sick we let them watch a lot more TV than the half hour a day they are accustomed to.   Late Saturday night we may or may not have applied cold compresses to Molly's back to bring down her fever while watching Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle: because let's face it: Neil Patrick Harris makes everyone feel better.

As we spent the weekend with our sick little girl a lot of things occurred to me: she isn't a baby any more, she calls my name most of the time instead of crying and when she's laying on top of me her height spans a considerable portion of my 5 foot 1 frame.

I spent much of this weekend begging for Molly's fever to break, pleading with Advil to relieve her symptoms and wanting to hit fast forward.  As tired as I am, I know that these moments we share with her in the middle of the night are the ones I am going to remember for the rest of my life, even if she isn't, which probably isn't a bad thing because Harold and Kumar isn't very appropriate TV watching for a two year old.

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