Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Peppery Friend

We're always trying new ways to get Aias interested in food.  Lately when we take him to the grocery store, he likes to pick a random fruit or veggie that he's not super familiar with, and has us buy it.

This time, it was a red pepper.

When he chooses one, I don't react, I just let him know he can hold onto it and we'll buy it.

Today, he actually ATE some of it. Raw! A raw red pepper... like an apple. I tried pretty hard to contain my shock.

After eating part of it, he wanted to put it in the fridge "for later..." but all he did with it later was... take a bath with it. Yeah.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Giving Abercrombie & Fitch Clothes to the Homeless is Not Inspiring, It's Insulting

Yesterday I noticed a video going viral on social networking. In the video, a man is giving Abercrombie & Fitch clothes from local thrift shops to homeless people in an effort to "insult" the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jeffries, because of his fat phobic and tasteless comments about not wanting "uncool" or "fat" people to wear the brand.

Not cool, guys. Not cool.

I honestly can't think of anything more classist and insulting than this.  Basically what this act is suggesting is that homeless people are so disgusting, untouchable, and "the lowest of low" that anything they represent or wear is to be considered a horrible insult to that brand.  How absolutely sad and disgusting that message is.  It's fantastic to help the homeless, but if you are just simply exploiting their misfortune by trying to make a political statement, that's just plain... mean.

This isn't inspiring, creative, or helpful: it's mean, classist, and exploitative. It can actually also be perceived as an act of bullying itself.

If you want to take action against Abercrombie & Fitch because you don't like bullying or fat-phobia, don't do it by being classist.

If you want to take action against a brand, do any number of these things:

- Stop buying it.

- If you own any of their "Billboard-esque" clothing, recycle it.  Kitchen rags, maybe?

- Talk to friends and family about why you did the above.

- Write a letter to the brand, or write on their Facebook wall, to tell them how you feel about their actions.  Tell them you won't be buying their brand anymore.  When you say it, mean it.

Lots of people sharing this video are applauding it, and the message behind it. These are not ignorant people, either. These are forward-thinking, progressive, and intelligent people.  I think they just didn't see it from this perspective, and I hope that now they can. While I don't think people who like this video and the message it sends are classist or bullies, I think it shows how easily we can get angry about one inequity to the point that our anger can blind us from other inequities.

"Here you go, you are so fucking disgusting that if you wear this shirt it will piss off a CEO.
This is so much more inspiring than fat-phobia!"

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An Attempt at a Bath

If I look at a computer screen or my phone, I'm often shunned.  Tonight I attempted to take a bath and read some articles online on my phone.  Mr. "I Can Open The Bathroom Door Now" had other plans.

Thanks for filling up the tub for us, we'll be right in!

Not only the three-year-old... but the cat!

That's ok, I can have privacy in like 15 more years.

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Political Circle-Jerk In Your Day-To-Day Life, Parenting or Otherwise

My inspiration for this post is actually our Provincial Election in British Columbia, but it's not a far cry from parenting, either.

About 5 years ago, I stopped paying lots of attention to mainstream media.  My reasoning?  I felt like I was being played and I was tired of reading articles that were strategically placed for my consumption, in order to sway my opinion on a topic one way or another.   Instead, I started to read alternative media sources, or first hand experiences of important events. The less biased, the better.

I have some pretty strong opinions on many topics, but one thing I've always prided myself on has been my ability to change my mind as new facts arise. I'm never so committed to an opinion that I start to lose sight of potential new information that could sway my beliefs in the other direction. My most significant parenting related example of this is circumcision.  Before having Aias, I was 100% certain we would circumcise because:

- I figured it's "what you do"
- His dad is circumsized
- It had never occurred to me to not do it

About halfway through my pregnancy, someone really kindly handed me some information on it, I read it, and I changed my mind.  New facts = new opinion (sometimes).  In this case, I changed my mind completely.  I'm sure lots of people could have read the same information and gone through with circumcising, but for whatever reason, this information struck a chord with me that was enough for me to change from one side to another. 

Nowadays it seems like the bulk of the news articles I read are ones that are shared on Facebook, by my Facebook friends.  They are generally articles that thrill or disgust me in the same exact ways they thrill or disgust my like-minded friends.  Because these are people I'm friends with, it mostly means:

- We have something in common.
- We have similar interests.
- We have similar opinions.
- We walk somewhat similar paths.

So really, it's no doubt we react to the same articles similarly.  This is great in a lot of ways; but in a lot of ways, it sucks.  Here's an example of why it sucks:

During the Federal election, 99% of my Facebook friends were adamantly opposed to Stephen Harper. I'm pretty sure most of them wanted him tarred and feathered.  There was literally only one person on my Facebook that discussed the election that was in favour of the Conservatives, and I think eventually that dude cut me.  If you went by my social media exposure alone, you'd have been shocked to find out that Stephen Harper is actually our current Prime Minister, because it would seem very much that absolutely zero people cared for him.  A few of my friends even admitted that they didn't get a chance to vote at all, but because of the overwhelming hate toward Stephen Harper on Facebook, they thought it wouldn't matter very much if they voted or not because "clearly he would never get in with so many people hating him."  WRONG.  Remember, for every NDP loving facebook user whose newsfeed is full of Anti-Harper graphics, there's another Conservative loving Facebook user with a newsfeed full of Stephen Harper love graphics.

Here's the issue with so many aspects of politics, whether it's government politics or parenting politics, as they are represented on social media: in many ways, you are creating a bubble for yourself, and not even necessarily giving yourself a chance to hear any other arguments.   And in a lot of ways, it's an even smaller bubble than one any mainstream media could create for you.  You can get yourself so comfortable by being surrounded by a group of people who agree with you, that you can find yourself simply spouting the same opinions in different poetic ways, "liking" each others posts to validate each other, and never even having the opportunity to expose yourself to new facts that could potentially change your opinion for the better.

I'll use circumcision as an example. I have 2 or 3 dozen friends that post anti-circumcision graphics and articles.  Most of these I agree with, and I often hit that "like" button.  Some of these friends have said that every time they post, they lose a friend or two, or end up getting into an argument with a friend who holds a different opinion on the matter.  At some point, their list gets so pared down, they are still posting really informative articles but the articles are only being read by people who already hold the same opinion on the matter in the first place.  In other words, they offer validation, not necessarily an opportunity to hold an honest opposite opinion.  The particularly aggressive (or even passive aggressive) images and links are even worse for this.  They express an opinon that puts your friends in a position to either agree or just feel bad about the opinions they hold. 

Am I against sharing these images and links? Absolutely NOT.  I love them! At the same time, I suggest people do it in a way that doesn't just validate people who agree with you and alienate people who don't.   The best thing to do is try and post things that are:

- Friendly
- Honest
- Non-Aggressive
- Non-Passive Aggressive
- Thought-provoking
- Encouraging of mature and open dialogue

Without the above, what you are finding yourself in is a circle-jerk.  You'll find yourself surrounded by people who believe all the same things as you, your only interactions with others being constant validation of the beliefs you already hold, and denying yourself (and your friends) the opportunity to change their mind about something.

There's nothing more dangerous.

P.S. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT do a Google image search of "Circle-Jerk" ;)

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why I'm Not Even A LITTLE Bit Sorry...

People always joke that Canadians are always saying how sorry they are.  In my case, it's no joke!!! I think I've apologized 100x a day since I could speak.  Since having a kid and having a family child care, I think number of "sorry's" I've uttered have multiplied exponentially.

When do I say I'm sorry?

- If I'm too close to someone in public

- If I feel like I'm taking up too much space

- If I bump someone

- If I'm next in line and someone is behind me but wishes they were next in line

- If I order the last piece of banana bread and the person behind me wishes they did

- If I cough when I'm sick

Etc, etc.  Pretty much all the time. And with a smile on my face, to boot.

So even though I try not to say it, it slips out quite a lot. I think it's because I'm often going around the neighbourhood with not only my own child, but with two others.  An umbrella stroller with a kid on either side of it takes up a lot of space on a sidewalk, and it doesn't move very quickly.  Don't even get me started on how much space we take up on the bus.  So before people even have the chance to say anything, I often find myself offering up a smile and muttering those words, "I'm sorry."

A few months ago we were walking down the sidewalk to the playground and after saying I was sorry, a woman actually had the nerve to say to me "You should be!"  And you know what? It was then I realized that I wasn't actually sorry at all.  And maybe I never had been.

So while oftentimes an "I'm sorry!" still slips out because of habit, the truth is: I'm not sorry.

I'm not sorry because all I'm doing is taking care of a few little kids, and we are outdoors getting some sunshine instead of sitting inside watching tv.

I'm not sorry because if you need to get around us, you can just step on the grass. If you can't just step on the grass because you are in a wheelchair or for some other reason, you can say "excuse me" and we will be happy to move.

I'm not sorry because I don't have eyes in the back of my head, so if you are behind me, I can't see you or hear you among the chatter of little voices.

I'm not sorry because if you are headed towards us, you stepping around us is a lot easier than the 20 feet it seems to take to move 2 kids and a stroller completely sideways (that is, of course, if we haven't already gotten out of your way because we saw you coming). 

I'm not sorry because if you want to walk faster than us, you can walk around us.

I'm not sorry because a long time ago, you were a little kid too. And adults all around you had to be patient so that you could be given an opportunity to explore your world at your pace, and safely. 

I'm not sorry because everyone has a right to "be" and take up the space they take up.

I'm not sorry because we are doing the best we can, walking the quickest we can, and taking up as little space as we can.

I'm not sorry we are walking.
I'm not sorry we are there.
I'm not sorry if it's inconvenient to you in any way. 

I'm not sorry because while you are a blip in the grand scheme of their lives, what's important to me is that these little kids don't grow up thinking they need to apologize for simply being, and every time we walk down the sidewalk it's an opportunity for me to teach them that. 

I'm Not Sorry

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Why Being Familiar with Your Menstrual Cycle Can Be Crucial To Your Developing Baby

A few months ago my dear friend from And Mommy Makes 3 suggested I read "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" by Toni Weschler, MPH.  She knew we'd be trying to conceive #2 soon and said it was a must-read.  I take her opinion very seriously so I asked my friends if anyone had a copy they weren't using so I could borrow it, and I couldn't believe the number of my friends who owned copies. I was fortunate enough to have been given a copy by someone who had two.  I started reading it in the bathtub one evening at around 7 (after Aias fell asleep), and stayed up until 3am to finish it. It was seriously that interesting.

Now don't get me wrong... I'm not one of those people who is obsessed with menstruation or thinks it's an enjoyable thing... I actually loathe it. Every month I've been proud of myself for not going on a tirade on Facebook about how much I hate having a period. The truth is, I'm miserable for 5 straight days during that "time of the month."  However, as miserable as menstruation is, it's actually pretty freaking interesting. I've taken many lessons from this book, but there's one particularly interesting thing I want to share with you, especially if you've ever had a baby or if you are planning to have one in the future.

First, I need to do some explaining of how the menstrual cycle works so you understand why I think this is so interesting (and perhaps alarming).  

Before you have a baby, you may think that pregnancy is "9 months long."  We hear this everywhere from the time we are kids as it's in books, movies, on tv shows, from those around us, in jokes, etc.  The funny thing about this is that when you are pregnant, you don't generally think in terms of months at all... you generally think in weeks. The reality is, pregnancy is more like 40 weeks long.  In fact, the first "two weeks" of a pregnancy are the time before you've even ovulated, before egg and sperm have even met.  That is, of course... if the length of your cycle before ovulation is two weeks... which is the beginning of the issue I wish to address in this blog entry, which is that of babies being "early" or "late" by a few weeks.

You see, another mainstream idea is that a woman's menstrual period is 28 days long, and they ovulate on day 14.  This is true of some women.  Actually, it's true for me.  My cycle is exactly 28 days long and through charting my period for 2 years and through charting my basal body temperature, I can honestly say that my cycle is completely average.  However, this is not the case for many women.  This is why lots of women have tried to not get pregnant by only avoiding sex around the 14th day after their period, and lo and behold, they've gotten pregnant anyway.  What's probably happening is that they don't actually ovulate when they are expecting they do, because their cycle is different than the typical 28 day cycle/day 14 ovulation theory.  This doesn't mean they aren't healthy or normal, it just means they aren't average. The reality is a healthy cycle is generally 24 days to 36 days long. Some people say as long as you menstruate 10 times in a year, you shouldn't be concerned at all. If your cycle is shorter or longer, it may indicate some sort of problem, but then again, it may not... it may just be the way your body works. 

The way your menstrual cycle works is there are two "phases," and these phases are divided by the day you ovulate.  The first day of your period begins phase one, which is called the follicular phase.  Once you ovulate, you enter the luteal phase.  In most women, the luteal phase is almost always exactly the same length of time, give or take a day.  The follicular phase, however, can vary.  This is because things like stress or sickness can delay ovulation or make it happen earlier.  My cycle is 28 days like clockwork, unless I am sick or going through a stressful time, when it can be between 24-28 days.  Looking back at my charts over the last 2 years, it's interesting to see that months I got sick during the follicular phase were months where I had a 24 day period. 

At any rate, where am I going with this rambling? Trust me, I have a point :)

When you take a pregnancy test and go to the doctor, most doctors base your "due date" on the date of your last menstrual period (LMP).  They then calculate the first 2 weeks of your recent cycle as the first 2 weeks of your pregnancy, and the 2 weeks after that (the two weeks where you don't even know you are pregnant) are weeks 3 and 4.  So by the time you've missed a period, you are already 4 weeks pregnant!   But wait... if you don't have a regular cycle... are you MORE pregnant? No, you aren't more pregnant.  But it could seem that way...

Here's an example:

When I was pregnant with my son, I had my last period on February 1st, 2009.  I got pregnant with him on Valentine's Day-ish, and ovulated on the 15th.  His due date was November 8th, based on LMP.  Probably because my cycles are perfectly average, Aias was actually born on his due date, when my pregnancy was exactly 40 weeks 0 days. 

Let's say that two other women also ovulated on February 15th that year, also only encountered sperm through whatever means on February 14th as well,  but woman A had a 24 day cycle (perfectly normal) and woman B had a 36 day cycle (perfectly normal).  Let's say all of us have a 14 day luteal period.
 Woman A would have had her last menstrual period (LMP) on February 5th (ovulating on day 10 of her cycle).  Woman B would have had her LMP on January 24th (ovulating on day 22 of her cycle).

If you type these dates into a due date calculator, or by using only the LMP method or wheel that doctors use (which assumes a 28 day cycle, and a day 14 ovulation), we'd all have had different due date:

My due date:  November 8th
Woman A's due date: November 12th

Woman B's due date: October 31st
Let me be clear; this does not mean that any of us are further along than the other. If we all ovulated on the same day, and all had encountered sperm on the same day, our babies are at exactly the same stage of development. So why the different due dates? Simple: because of the 28 day cycle/ day 14 ovulation myth.

The big question here though: WHY DOES THIS MATTER? 

Here's why it matters: 2 weeks difference in pregnancy is a huge deal.  It's a huge deal because every week of development in a singleton pregnancy between 0 and 40 holds value in terms of development.  While people say babies are "term" at 37 weeks, a huge amount of development happens in those last three weeks.

Another reason why it matters is that doctors (and sometimes even midwives) start to get nervous if your baby is "late."  Let's look at woman B, for example.  Her baby won't be 40 weeks developed until November 8th.  However, her "due date" is October 31st.  Depending on the circumstances of her pregnancy, her care providers may want to push her to not go "beyond her due date" and maybe even want her to induce on October 31st so she doesn't go over her due date.  Worse yet, what if they want to induce even earlier for whatever reason, and they are thinking they are inducing 2-3 weeks before the "due date" but are really inducing 4 weeks early.  In pregnancy, weeks that your child is developing inside you are very valuable!

I've known dozens of women, literally, who were pushed by care providers to induce on their "due date" for "safety reasons" even though the women were really against it.  Or women who were considered "a week late" and so they were pushed into induction.  Some of these women were bullied into it with the threat of harming their babies, and then their babies were born smaller or with less developed lungs than their care providers thought.  I can't help but wonder how many of these women were actually being encouraged to deliver before their babies were even ready to come out. 

Keep in mind... these are only women whose cycles are considered within the normal range... so probably LOTS of women have cycles these lengths.  What about women with even shorter, or even longer cycles? While shorter cycles are less likely, many women have super long cycles.  For example, let's say a woman C has a 55 day cycle, and conceived under the same circumstances as myself, woman A, and woman B. Woman C's LMP would have been January 4th... so if you used the LMP method of determining a due date with this woman, you'd end up with a due date of October 11th!

Now, there are some measures in place that help with this.  For example, woman C would probably be assumed to be further along, would be given a dating ultrasound, and they'd try to guess the "fetal age."  If woman C had been keeping track of her period length or had a reasonable idea of when she had ovulated, this could be corrected and a proper fetal age could be estimated.  If woman C was like me when she got pregnant, and wasn't keeping track of anything, she may have answered the "how long is your average cycle" question in the same way I did, by saying "I have no idea."  While care providers could probably have come up with a reasonably accurate due date, it wouldn't be impossible to be off by a week or so.  Especially because later in the pregnancy there's lots of opportunity for variation; with larger or smaller babies being considered further along or further behind at times (whether the ultrasound can actually determine how large a baby is remains another matter all together).  You can see how tricky this can be.  And Mommy Makes 3 points out, that with longer cycles like this, the LMP method is clearly a washout and it's actually better to use other methods. 

Woman C would most definitely find herself in a position where her care providers would be trying to nail down her "actual" due date... but myself, woman A, and woman B have cycles that are "pretty regular" so care providers would most likely feel comfortable just going with the LMP method, even though the dates are so off, at least in terms of the developing baby.  

So a few points i want to drive home:

- It's normal to not have a 28 day cycle where you ovulate on day 14.

- A week or two of development can be really important to your baby.

- The medical technology sometimes isn't there (or isn't offered) to really nail down your actual "due date."

- Due dates are often "best guesses" rather than set in stone.

- Your best bet, and maybe your baby's, is to track your cycles and use a care provider that doesn't brush you off and try to only use the LMP method of the "spinny wheel" when you tell them about the specifics of your cycle.

- Awareness of how your body works always offers you opportunities of empowerment, so learn as much about how your body works as possible.

 Most of all... your baby may not really be early/late! 

*** Extra special thanks to And Mommy Makes 3 for links provided, and for doing all my math! ***
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Thursday, May 2, 2013

The "Get Along" Shirt: A Different Perspective

Several months ago I saw people start to post things about "get along" shirts on various Facebook groups, and of course, on Reddit.  In case you've never heard of this, basically the idea is that if your kids are fighting/arguing with each other, you make them either:

1. Sit and hold hands
2. Wear the same giant shirt

for a period of time until they get along.  Still don't know what I mean? Do a Google Image Search of "Get Along Shirt" and you get results like these:

From Reddit (

From the Huffington Post (

From KnowYourMeme (

When I first saw this, I thought it was absolutely hilarious. And of course, parents all over are saying it works great.  I basically laughed my ass off for a good 20 seconds.

Then, I thought about it a little more. And of course, thinking about it more proved to be a buzzkill because it made me realize I don't think it's very funny at all.  Maybe you think I'm being an oversensitive about this, but first, hear me out.

Here are the reason why I am not a huge fan of the "get along" shirt:

Reason #1: Respecting a Child's Personal Space

First and foremost, we need to be consistent in teaching our kids that it's not ok for someone to force themselves, or someone else, to touch them.  Or for them to be forced to touch someone else. We have to teach them to respect their own bodies, to respect other people's bodies, and to have a respect for personal space. The idea behind this shirt is to force the kids to touch, and to be squished together next to someone who they don't want to be squished up next to.  I think this teaches kids that it's ok sometimes for a person in an authority figure to force someone to touch you / you to touch someone as a "punishment." NOT a lesson I want my child to be taught.

Reason #2: Arguing Kids Probably Need Time APART, Not Tied Together

When I was a kid, my middle sister and I fought constantly.  There were days where we fought all day, every day.  We tattled, we screamed, we threw toys, and rarely (but sometimes) we smacked each other.  I can only imagine we must have driven my parents near insanity.  They probably wanted to bring us to an orphanage some days.  I figure we got like this because we were together ALL.THE.TIME.

Instead of forcing us together, however, they simply gave us time apart.

If you are a kid and you are living with a sibling, you are sometimes with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You didn't CHOOSE your sibling... but you live with them, and you have no choice.  Now think about this for a minute; you may love your friends and your partner, but do you think you'd get along with them perfectly if you had to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with them? Probably not... and you are an adult, so you chose your partner and friends!  So while you as an adult may be able to keep calm if you are hanging around with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if they are starting to annoy the crap out of you, take away the impulse control and maturity you have as an adult, and chances are you'd fight like kid siblings.

If my son and his little friend have arguments or start to grate at each other, I simply let them play in different rooms.  This solves the problem almost 100% of the time.   If your kids are grating at each other, they probably need some time apart. 

 Reason #3: It's Good to Teach Your Kids that People Don't ALWAYS Need to Get Along

While your kids arguing probably makes you insane, the fact of the matter is, people don't always get along all the time.  The best thing you can do is take this opportunity to teach your kids this.  That may be easier said than done with different ages, but do the best you can.

"I know you are angry with ______ right now, but please keep your hands to yourself."

"I know _________ thinks the sky is green and you think the sky is blue, but it's ok to think different things."

"It's ok if you don't like each other right now, but it's never ok to hit another person."

I know, these sound like flaky and idealistic things to say, but the reality is, people DON'T ALWAYS have to get along; they do, however, have to not hit each other or scream at each other in a disrespectful way. 

Reason # 4: It's Belittling, and Sort of Offensive to the Kids

I'll tell you a story.

About a year ago, I was at a local playgroup with my son and a little boy I watch, Elliot.  I was playing blocks with Elliot I when another kid came up, grabbed his hand, and clamped down on it with his teeth... and didn't let go!  I immediately reached out to remove his hand from the other boy's mouth, but the kid would NOT let go.  Finally the kid's mom came, grabbed her kid, and left a crying (and bleeding!) mess of Elliot. I was mortified.

I was comforting Elliot when the boy's mom came up and said "Now kiss his hand where you bit him!"  The look on Elliot's face was the look of sheer terror. This kid had just bitten his hand, the last thing he wanted on earth was for that kid's mouth going near his hand again, even to "kiss it better."

OH HELL NO! I basically said, straight out, "he's not kissing his hand" and walked away with Elliot.

So back to the "Get Along" shirt, who knows what went down with your kids.  Maybe one hit the other, maybe they were both hitting each other.  Forcing them to touch the person who just smacked them, even if they smacked them back, isn't very respectful to either of them. 

Reason #5: Your Kids are Probably Not Less Mad At Each Other, They're Probably Just More Mad at You

If your kids calm down because of the Get Along shirt, it's probably because they'd have calmed down either way. Kids don't stay hyped up forever.  It's probably also because they are both refocusing their anger/annoyance/frustration at you, for punishing them by making them sit together.  This doesn't really address the reasons they were fighting in the first place, and just sort of redirects their initial feelings.   Look at the kids in the pictures; they are still very upset, and probably feel humiliated.

So, do I think you are an asshole if you've used this shirt?

The answer is no.  I don't think you are an asshole if you've used this technique.  I just would not personally use this technique myself because I feel that the cons outweigh the pros.  I recognize the technique may work, and that people who use it may feel like they've tried every other possible technique and only  this technique has proven effective for them.  I just wanted to share my perspective in case anyone hadn't considered it.

So what do I do instead!? 

The best strategy I've used in getting two kids to get along when they've been grating on each other has been to take two steps:

#1: Separate them for a while. Let them play in separate rooms.  Let them cool off and have time apart.

#2: Give them a toy or game that requires them to play together to make it work:

- Scatch
- Tennis
- Baseball and bat
- Board game

This will teach them that sometimes it can be fun to play together, and that there are some perks to having a sibling.

Better yet...

Why not take the punishment aspect of the "get along" shirt away entirely, and instead make it appeal to your kids as something awesome they are allowed to use if they get along?

"I have this huge shirt, if you guys get along, you can both wear it at the same time! Wouldn't that be hilarious?"

Now that's what I call a REAL "Get Along" shirt.  A shirt for kids that are, you know, actually getting along :) 
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