Places to Go - Wonderful Interactive Artwork at the Artisphere (Arlington, VA)


A few weeks ago I brought the kids to the Artisphere to see some of their new exhibits. As always, there was only one other group of visitors in the building. As F summarized the situation, "mom, this place is so awesome, I can't understand why nobody ever goes here." Nor can I F, nor can I.

First off, Elsabe Dixon, the artist in residence through 2015, who works with silk worms. An incredibly friendly Dixon let my kids carry a silkworm by its wings and (even better) bring home a cocoon. Plus, her work is a joy to take in, as the space feels like part studio and part habitat. Dixon mentioned that as part of her her current project she plans on building an even more interactive exhibit in the Artisphere, so keep checking in.


After visiting with Dixon, we started to make our way to the galleries upstairs, but as soon as the kids found the lounge's Yogibo chairs, we needed to break for "chill" time. Have you ever tried one of these? They mold to your body like a comfy sweater. Really, sort of amazing. Now everyone in our family wants their own.

While we relaxed, we checked out a slideshow of Yassine El Mansouri's observation photos. Each photograph features an ariel view of a person surrounded on the floor by all the clothing he/she owns, leading us to various discussions about how much floorspace we would each need to take a similar photo. [T, not very much; whereas P requires a football field for all of her clothing (not really, but almost)].


Eventually, we made it upstairs, where T quickly discovered Dustin Carlson's gas pump sculpture. I'm not sure Carlson meant his work to be interactive, so I told T not to touch the pump, but not before I snapped a quick (adorable) photo of the experience.


In the museum's main gallery, the Think With Your Hands exhibit showcases several shadow box collages by various artists. A small sun/circle symbol resides next to several of the works, for these you can either borrow an ipad from the Artisphere or download an app and the work will in some way become interactive.

While this sounds like a cool idea in theory, most of the artworks' ipad interactions just link up photos of the artist's sketchbook or other works, which I felt distracted somewhat from the actual works on display. But my kids love an ipad, so they found the experience "awesome".

Finally, we meandered to the movie studio, where Kadavre Exquis's "what is dead may never die" played on a continuous loop. The video seemed rather random, making it fun to watch with a group of kids under 10. Since none of us really "got" it, we all had different theories about what it was about (T remains convinced that the videoplayer broke, thus explaining why the images made no sense to him).

All in all we only spent about an hour at the Artisphere (it is a rather small museum/gallery). But it was a really good, fun hour.

The FREE Artisphere is only open:

Wednesday-Friday from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m
Saturday: Noon – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: Noon – 5:00 p.m.

Parking is free with validation, making it an easy in and out destination. Plus, it is fun. And relatively kid-friendly. Perfect for Thanksgiving weekend. Click here for more information.

Also, if you're looking for kid-friendly museum ideas this winter, don't forget that Smithsonian's Early Education Center offers some wonderful classes for the 6 and under crowd, click here to learn more.


Things to Do - This Untamed Life, Evenings

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Don't these late fall evenings seem LONG all of a sudden? Especially with the absence of soccer and other seasonal activities, we seem to have so much time. Some nights these extra moments are such a blessing, as we play boardgames or watch a weeknight movie. But some nights, especially when the kids come home tired and cranky, the hours seem to linger forever.

How about everyone else? How have you been spending your evenings?

Don't forget to click on over to This Untamed Life, to see the rest of the group's recent photos.


Places to Go/Things to Do - Dumbarton Oaks (Washington D.C.), Cherish This Day, & Random Links


It is supposed to warm up a little this weekend, so I'm posting a few photos from our (somewhat) recent trip to Dumbarton Oaks, which has free admission until spring (thanks KidFriendly DC for the suggestion). The kids ran and ran. The adults admired the gorgeous scenery. Everyone hypothesized on how one goes about obtaining swimming pool access (do any readers know the answer?).

And if you're still wondering how gorgeous the gardens really are, check out this article, where National Geographic ranked Dumbarton #6 among the top 10 gardens in the world (Dumbarton was the only American garden to make the list).

HAVE A FANTASTIC WEEKEND EVERYONE!! Don't forget to click on over to Cherish This Day to see how everyone else photographed their week.


* This cookbook looks awesome (because Husk is yummy).

* 22 Vintage Ads Designed to Keep Women In Their Place. Horrible.

* DIY - tiny house from a box. Wouldn't these be so cute as Xmas decorations? You could make little stockings and a tree.

* Ai Weiwei takes over Alcatraz.

* I'm not sure this was meant to be the funniest thing I've read this week. But it most definitely was the funniest thing I read this week. Of course I could be thinking too hard about what I think, "which is very dangerous." (On the other hand, this article points out that they actually said some interesting things).

* A whole blog full of spiralizer recipes.

* She woke up like this. This is awesome - “I have a note on my full-length mirror that says, ‘There is not enough time for hating yourself. Too many things to make. Go.’"

* 21 big batch cocktails for Thanksgiving. Yay!!


Things to Do - 12 in 12 (November 2014)

Tuesday, November 11th was P's 8th birthday, so we took it easy on the 12th.

After you read about our day, don't forget to click on over to Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelons Grow to see how their days went.


7:30 am - Why is T asleep in my bed? Why? I'm asking seriously. I awake early because he keeps kicking me. Mean little feet. (And notice how he has managed to wiggle his way into the absolute middle of the mattress).

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7:45 am - P checks out her new pierced ears. T manages to worm his way into the photo.


8:00 am - Just when it seems like the morning is going smoothly, T realizes his favorite pants are all in the wash. Thus begins, "the great pants meltdown."

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8:15 am - The girls surprise me by unloading the dishwasher without being asked (they apparently felt bad for me during the "great pants meltdown").

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9:00 am - After dropping the girls at school, I read the New Yorker while walking the dogs. Leaves are pretty.


10:00 am - Darcy Troutman Photography is experiencing its busiest fall ever (yay for all my amazing clients). So I have a lot of editing and slideshow making to do. The puppy keeps me company.


Noon - Walk to Journey Yoga for an afternoon class, followed by the grocery store. I have to cut my list in half when I realize I can't carry most of it home. After looking at this photo I realize that mostly junk food survived the cut.

[2 pm - 3:30 - work]

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3:45 pm - Pick the kids up from school. T seems to have recovered from this morning's "great pants meltdown".

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5:00 pm - My friend, Laurie, is in town for a work trip, so she comes over for dinner before heading back to Charleston. So excited to see her!

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6:00 pm - T does homework while we drink wine.

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7:00 pm - The Arlington County School District bought ipads for every student in F's 3rd grade class. She's a little obsessed.

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8:30 pm - Dan puts the kids to bed, so I can walk around the neighborhood for hours in an attempt to knock Nora out of #1 (if you have a fitbit, you understand).


Things to Do - My Baby Girl Turned 8 (and Had Her Ears Pierced).

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For the last two years or so, P has wanted her ears pierced (as in "really really really wanted"). But we made her wait until her 8th birthday and now she couldn't be happier ("the best birthday ever", or so I'm told).

If you have a second, click on over to the Stories We Tell to see the whole event unfold.



Things to Do - Christmas Cards - 30% Off at Pinhole Press


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At the end of 2013, we took the silly hat photo before our annual solstice party. Everyone said, "well, I guess you already have next year's holiday card ready to go." But I scoffed. I take millions (literally millions) of photos a year, surely 365 days would be enough time for a more recent family portrait. But even though I spend my days photographing other people, I never take photos of myself, causing our Christmas card picture to be somewhat outdated. Lesson learned - this year I plan on spending more time IN FRONT of the camera.

For the second year in a row, we ordered our cards and calendars from Pinhole Press and (as always) I couldn't be happier. They print everything on this gorgeous, thick card stock that looks amazing. The colors always come out perfectly and I love the classy/stylish design selections.

If you haven't ordered your own cards yet, Pinhole Press is offering all No Monsters readers 30% off holiday cards through Wednesday, November 26th (THIS IS AN AMAZING DEAL!!). Just use the coupon code "nomonsters". So what are you waiting for? Hurry up and shop everyone!!

(Pinhole Press gifted us our cards, but the opinions expressed our entirely my own (OF COURSE!!).


Things to Do - Grateful List (October 2014)

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* Reading The Goldfinch (I liked it, but didn't love it)
* Reading Kevin Canty's Story with a Bird (in the October 6, 2014 New Yorker)
* Reading The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (so so good)

* The kids loving their first Ethiopian meal (at Meaza)
* Crockpot pork roast with apples in apple cider
* North south chili (from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health: More Than 200 New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Delicious and Nutrient-Rich Dishes
* Celestial Seasoning's Caramel Apple Dream tea
* Baked cod with feta and tomatoes (Cooking Light)
* Hot cider with rum before trick or treating

* Claude Moore Colonial Farm's autumn market fair (we love this place)
* Soccer practice at dusk (for all three kids)
* Days of Endless Time at the Hirshhorn
* Cox Farm's corn maze

* My new pink leather purse from the Gap
* Korres Greek Yoghurt Advanced Nourishing Sleeping Facial (I think I like this even better than La Mer, plus it's much much cheaper).

* Making my own pair of PJ pants (yay! for learning how to sew)
* Basement yoga with Beth
* Ticket to Ride and Quirkle for family game night
* F and T assembling T's Lego Friends set together (plus, I'm glad I didn't have to do it)
* F writing her own blog (it's part of a school project)
* Friday Halloween, complete with happy hour and F's birthday sleepover

VACATION (Cape Charles, VA):
* Kiptopeke State Park
* The zipline playground
* Free wine tasting and polka music
* Swimming outside in October
* Wonderful food and conversation with good friends
* And the rain stayed away

THE KIDS' LISTS: (Dan has been putting the kids to bed most nights, so these are only the few bits and pieces I catch when I'm in the room)

F - a really great birthday, my awesome presents, a nice house to live in and food to eat, my family

P - that everything is so great, Silver Diner night, my school, my friends, soccer, gymnastics, playdates

T - our festival for walk and bike to school day, free slap-it bracelets, the Halloween parade, school, soccer


Things to Read - Three Books About Families (For Adults)

I haven't reviewed books in awhile. Book reviewing seems easy enough, but I find it hard to talk about reading without reducing everything to a cliche. Oh well, I'll try my best (actually, that's not really true either, as I'm typing this late on Wednesday night).

I realized last week that most of my recent reads have involved "family" in one sense or another. I didn't exactly plan this, but it seems like a good reason for a blog post.

What Ends - This book starts off simple enough - documenting the daily life of a small family who owns a guest house on an island off the west coast of Scotland. The writing is basic, but beautiful. And I soon found myself entranced by this nice, easy story, despite not quite knowing where the plot was headed. So the end sort of hits like a punch in the stomach. I started crying in the middle of P's soccer practice. The book serves as a strong lesson on what can happen when we put our individual aspirations first; even seemingly non-selfish desires, such as the need to forge one's own path in life. I loved that all of the characters are somehow flawed, but also relatable. Despite the tears, I really loved this book, and will keep thinking about its "lesson" for years to come.

The Goldfinch - Okay, so I'm stretching a little here, as the Goldfinch really is more about the absence of family, then about blood relations. It's long. And hard to summarize - disaster, stolen art, the meaning of "masterpiece", drunk kids in Vegas, furniture restoration, rich people in NYC, etc. But at the novel's core the book deals with creating one's own family and finding a home. At times I found Donna Tartt's prose a little wordy, but still, she writes well (there's a reason she won the Pulitzer) and the characters stick with you (especially Boris).

Big Breasts and Wide Hips - A few years ago, after the Nobel Committee granted Mo Yan the 2014 Prize for Literature, I read his novel the Garlic Ballads and really enjoyed it (if "enjoys" is the right word for an incredibly depressing book (critics have labeled the novel China's Grapes of Wrath)). So this year, I decided to dive into one of Yan's other novels - Big Breasts and Wide Hips, which centers around the matriarch of a peasant family of 8 girls and 1 boy (the youngest), trying to keep everyone fed and alive during the upheavals that define twentieth century China. The book is quirkier and more bizarre that the Garlic Ballads, but also a great history lesson of the last 100 years. The end is also somewhat odd, but then again so is capitalism in a communist country. I'm not sure I can easily recommend this book (it's a tricky read), but if you're sick of slick, page turners and want to try reading something slightly outside the norm, then this is the perfect place to start. Plus, at its core, the book deals with women's power to endure and build and hold things together.

So help me out, what have you all been reading lately?


Places to Go - Museum Classes for Kids with the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (Washington D.C.)

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As any long-term reader of this blog probably knows, I'm a huge fan of bringing kids to museums. Even little kids. So I was pretty excited to learn that Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center ("SEEC") is now offering weekend and weekday classes for children aged 6 months through 6 years. SEEC has offered similar programs through their lab school for years but its main mission is to serve Smithsonian families and space on the campus is limited.

A few weeks ago, SEEC asked me if I wanted to watch one of their classes in action. We met at the Smithsonian's American History Museum, the location of one of SEEC's two centers (the other center resides next door in the Natural History Museum) and walked over to the Sackler Gallery with about 10 preschool-aged children. Even for me (the huge fan of kids in museums) the somewhat austere Sackler gallery, which features dim mood lighting and nothing that visitors can touch, has always seemed out of preschool range. Luckily, those in charge knew what they were doing.

Museum-going with SEEC feels like a VIP affair, a few badge flashes and we were in - no bag checks, no cranky guards frowning with disapproval. Our group made our way down the stairs to the bottom of Xu Bing's hanging sculpture entitled Monkeys Grasping for the Moon, where we plopped ourselves on the floor and turned to look at the artwork. The teacher explained that Bing built the artwork specifically for the Sackler Gallery (cool, huh)? The teacher then asked the kids of what the art reminded them and we started talking about monkeys and words and chains of objects. I was impressed as none of the dialog seemed forced, the teacher definitely had ideas she wanted to emphasize, but she encouraged the kids to articulate their own thoughts.

After about ten minutes, the kids seemed a little antsy. So the teacher brought out a barrel full of plastic monkeys and handed these out to the children. I learned SEEC programs usually bring in objects for children to hold during museum visits, ensuring that their little hands always have something to touch. The students then made predictions about whether or not plastic monkeys can create horizontal chains (the children already knew how to use the monkeys to make vertical chains). Everyone voted and we tried the experiment, where we learned that some monkeys could make a chain but that the links fell apart when too many monkeys were involved.

After the plastic monkeys returned to their barrel, the teacher read Elphinstone Dayrell's Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky aloud to the children. After which we stood up and prepared to leave. Since the class was run as part of the preschool, the kids made their way to the playground. But if this were a weekend class, the attendees would have returned to the classroom for an activity or art project.

After saying goodbye to the children, I walked on over to SEEC center to tour their infant classroom. Preparations were underway for an infant weekend class, which involved a trip to the National Gallery of Art. "Really?" I thought. "Infants in the National Gallery might be taking this whole early childhood education a bit too far." But I changed my mind when I saw the materials. The museum visit would focus on fall colors and the staff was making colored rings for the infants to hold/play with/teethe. Then, back at SEEC, a sorting activity full of various buckets of brown things, orange things, red things, and yellow things was set up for the babies, which seemed like a perfect age-appropriate activity.

Basically, the whole program really impressed me. I'm pretty bummed that two out of my three children are too old for the classes (and T is at the outer edge of the program's age cutoff).

A new season of classes opens this January, click here for the link and to register. The program also offers a biweekly early explorers class for children 18 months to 3 years and their caregivers (click here for more info).

Look, Touch, Learn
Recommended Ages: 6 months – 18 months
Saturdays: January 31 – February 28 (excluding February 14)
Each week we discover our senses and engage in play that will help your child learn about themselves as well as, build their cognitive, emotional and motor skills.

The Same on the Inside
Recommended Ages: 19 months – 3 years
Saturdays: January 31 – February 28 (excluding February 14)
It is never too early for your child to begin to understand and appreciate diversity. Each week we will begin with everyday jobs, like eating or getting dressed and then we will learn how they are done in other parts of the world. Families are encouraged to share their own traditions as part of the class!

Animals in Art
Recommended Ages: 4- 6 years
Saturdays: January 31 – February 28 (excluding February 14)
Children discover the significance animals play in art from all over the world.

*Note - SEEC sponsored this post, but the opinions expressed are (of course!!) entirely my own.


Things to Do - This Untamed Life, Dinnertime

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This week This Untamed Life is posting dinnertime images. I didn't have a recent photo and assumed I'd have to skip this Monday, but then, on Thursday night, we picked up sandwiches from Taylor Gourmet (love that place) and T walked around with the bag on his head, which pretty much sums up our dinnertimes as of late.

HAPPY MONDAY EVERYONE!! Don't forget to click over to This Untamed Life to see how everyone else photographed their night (lots of great images this week).

*One quick thing - just a reminder that there are still 3 days left to enter the Papirmass giveaway!!


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links


A few photos from our yearly trip to Cox Farms, the area's largest pumpkin playground. On the Tuesday that we visited the weather started out perfect, but by noon a storm moved in causing temperatures to drop significantly and a light, freezing drizzle to fall. We made it through a cold, rainy hayride then headed for home. Oh well, at least we had a few good hours.

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! Now that soccer season is finally over, we plan on chill-axing for most of it (though photography season keeps going strong, making my work week the opposite of the general populations, with crazy busy Saturday and Sunday afternoons).

Don't forget to click on over to Cherish This Day to see how everyone else photographed the first week of November.


* Celebrity Halloween Costumes of 2014.

* This Untamed Life now has a facebook page, please pop on over and give us some love!!

* Normal people in their underwear. I love these photos so much that I'm tempted to spend $100 on bra.

* Strandbeests.

* This coloring book looks awesome.

* Monopoly in photos. Atlantic City isn't very pretty anymore.

* 1 minute vacation.

* Domestic Bliss.

* Does anyone else remember ShowBiz Pizza Place? I loved that place (and, thanks to Danzel, I now need to see the documentary).

* This ad is pretty incredible.

* Wow, finally a TV show that our whole family is excited about.


Is it sad that every year I look forward to the corn maze? In my defense, it really is rather impressive.


The cold, drizzly hayride. But luckily the kids ended the day with a great group photo (Last week, while I worked on our Xmas cards and yearly calendar, I realized that I have almost no good shots of my three kids together from 2014, so now I'm forcing them to hug all the time).


Things to Watch - Netflixing (November 2014)

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Four years ago, when I started this blog, I posted almost every Thursday about "Things to Read." Such posts came easily, as we raced through picture book after picture book. But now the girls choose their own reading material and, sadly, they rarely request my input. Of course, I'll always love books and love posting about books, but I no longer have much to say on a weekly basis. So, time for something new . . .

As I've written about before, we find it incredibly challenging to agree on movies/tv shows to watch as a family. INCREDIBLY. CHALLENGING. But we keep searching. In order to help with such efforts, Netflix has recently asked some bloggers to join their "Stream Team", where we'll post once a month on some of our recent viewing successes. *** And, yes, if you're wondering, I do feel a little silly moving from books to movies, but, sometimes a bucket of popcorn, a comfy blanket, and our whole family crammed on one couch equals happiness.


I'm a little obsessed with Netflix's 80s' offerings (oh nostalgia). (1) The Karate Kid is probably the most accessible, as Ralph Machio is pretty much impossible not to love. We're also big fans of (2) Adventures in Babysitting, despite the iffy language. (3) Pretty in Pink remains one of my all-time favorite movies, though F didn't really love it ("why is she obsessed with this loser mom? she's way too good for him."). (4) We also watched (4) Ghostbusters recently, which the kids and my husband all found hysterical, though I still find it random.


For the most part, the kids aren't allowed to watch TV during the week. So this category may be a little bit trim for now. But for F's Halloween sleepover the kids watched (1) My Babysitter's a Vampire and now they want to watch it over and over again. They're also somewhat addicted to (2) High School Musical. All three kids were somewhat obsessed with (3) Kickin It, but after a middle school babysitter opened my eyes to the fact that T was attacking everyone in site, we've banned the show for awhile (plus, I hate the snarky banter that epitomizes all Disney shows).


So my absolute favorite sitcom probably ever is (1) The League (all 5 seasons of which are available through Netflix streaming). The show focuses on a group of four friends in a fantasy football league, a premise which would usually bore me to tears. But it is funny. Pee your pants funny. Test the boundary lines of what you can do on TV funny. So wrong you're appalled, but you're still laughing hysterically funny. When we finally finished the last episode of Season 5, the sense of loss was almost too much to bear. What should we do now? Who will make us laugh? We've since moved on to (2) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is also very funny but so snarky that viewing it is comparable to eating too much cheesecake, in the sense that you feel somewhat bad about yourself afterwards.

Regarding movies, we were pretty psyched when (3) Silver Linings Playbook showed up on streaming. Bradley Cooper is amazing. Dan also enjoyed (4) Soccer Stories, which I missed out on. And we just finished the Netflix original (5) mini-series, Happy Valley, which, while depressing (another lost-girl drama) was well-acted and somewhat addictive.

Okay everyone, what have you been watching on Netflix?

*** Full disclosure - As a Stream Team member, I received a free ipad mini and a free Netflix subscription (we've been paid subscribers for years now). Of course (and, AS ALWAYS) the opinions I express are entirely my own (no free gifting will ever make me like High School Musical).


Things to Do - Papirmass GIVEAWAY!!! (now closed)


I originally wrote about Papirmass a few months ago - the subscription art service that delivers an amazing print each month through your mailbox. The cost is relatively cheap ( $69 a year ($99 outside of the US)) and the art is both eclectic and gorgeous.

Now that the holidays are approaching, a Papirmass subscription makes a lovely gift. And for those of you who hate surprises, Papirmass also sells former subscription prints for only $10 each (though they often sell out). Click here to see the selection. You can also buy folios of all their 2012 and 2013 prints.

Papirmass is giving away a year long subscription to one lucky reader. To enter go to Papirmass's website, find your favorite print, and then either: (1) list the name of the print in the comments section of this post. MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN THE BODY OF THE MESSAGE!!! OR 2) Like No Monsters In My Bed on Facebook and write the name of your favorite print on either my wall or as a comment (also, please make sure that your facebook account allows you to receive messages from non-friends).

I will choose a random winner one week from today, on the evening of Wednesday, November 12th.




Things to Do - Halloween 2014

Is it me or has Halloween become an all-day affair? This year the holiday fell on a Friday, so maybe that made it seem more epic. Or just more adult focused (our neighbors cashed the keg by 9 pm). Luckily the weather was perfect and the kids were happy. But I'm exhausted.


Round 1 - The grade school parade.


Round 2 - Our last minute happy hour, part I. All I wanted was a group picture. This proved trickier than expected.


Round 3 - Happy hour, part II. Rum with hot apple cider and my second attempt at a group picture.


Round 4 - Trick or treating. My kids became candy obsessed.


Round 5 - F celebrated her 9th birthday with a princess zombie and a few other friends. How is it possible that we're now on the verge of tweenhood?


Round 6 - The post-sleepover present opening. F received $80 in Barnes and Noble gift certificates. Her friends know here well.

Round 7 - (Not photographed) - Darcy asleep on the couch before a full day of soccer games forces her to wake.



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