No one cares what you hate.

No one cares what you hate. Except me. For a little while, I’m here to listen.

Let’s talk about Pokémon Go.
I want to understand why you hate it.
It’s a phone app, very similar to Geocaching, except I’ve never heard anyone complain about Geocaching.
In fact, people are usually very positive about it.
I’ve never seen memes bashing Geocaching.
Then there’s Pokémon Go.
I realize that some players have been disrespectful and some have made stupid mistakes.
When millions of people of all backgrounds enjoy something, some of them will be stupid or disrespectful. Take football for example. Some football fans do stupid and disrespectful things before, after and during games. There have been riots at, or because of, football games. People have been seriously injured or died playing football. Does that mean watching or playing football is a stupid way to spend your time?
*I* don’t like it,  but I’m cool with millions of people enjoying it even though it sometimes interrupts what I’m interested in and causes traffic issues and invades my newsfeed.
Sometimes it’s annoying, but I accept that people enjoy it and I don’t try to put a damper on their good time.

I don’t like Candy Crush,  either. Just throwing that out there since I’ve spent the last week reading how much so many people hate Pokémon Go. I don’t watch The Bachelorette or Big Brother and I’m not a fan of Sriracha.

This is what you sound like, only a lot more hostile. Boring. No one cares what you hate.

I downloaded Pokémon Go because I enjoy geocaching and I read that it was similar, and also because of a second hand Pokémon nostalgia. A lot of the kids in my life loved Pokémon and dreamed of catching them in real life. It was a big part of their childhood, so it was a part of my life, too.
I’ll probably never get into the way they do, but I have enjoyed hunting with my daughters and my friends, and I’ve enjoyed meeting people and making friends at the places that attract a lot of players.
The backlash I’ve seen towards this game is weird, at best.
I get that it’s cool to hate things that are trendy, but it doesn’t make you edgy because everyone else is doing it, too.
So if you are hating this game for its popularity, you’re in on the second most popular trend at the moment.
You’re a nonconformist just like everybody else.
If you hate it because out of the 15 million people downloading it some turned out to be stupid and disrespectful, then you probably hate a lot of things, including me and this blog.
There are a lot of stupid and disrespectful people in the world and if it took this app to make you aware of that you need to get out more.

Or less, because you’re kind of crabby and intolerant.

If you hate it because you don’t understand it or you refuse to find out what it’s about and prefer just to make the assumption that 15 million people are stupid, I probably don’t like you and don’t care what you think anyway.
If you have some other reason to hate it please comment.
I want to understand.

Enjoy Every Moment (In Defense Of Screen Time Part 1)

 

My cell phone is broken. It broke on my birthday over a month ago and at the time it was a tragedy. I’ve healed and mostly moved on since the loss, but sometimes I still miss it. Yes, I’m still talking about my phone. Like a lot of mothers, and people in general, I have become attached to my phone because it gives me access to the things I enjoy, my friends, books, Netflix, Words With friends, and my favorite feature, the camera. My phone had thousands of pictures, and yes, I had them backed up. I love taking pictures of my kids and my world.

 

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Remember that book Penny had on Inspector Gadget? I always wanted one of my own.

Cell phones get a bad rap, especially parents with cell phones, or parents that let their kids have cell phones, or parents that let their kids look at any kind of screen, or parents in general. If you are a parent everything you are doing is probably wrong, especially if what you are doing is reading this blog on your cell phone. Look up, see, that lady is judging you.

I read a post on Facebook the other day about a mother that observed her toddler at play. She made a note of how many times he looked up at her and the tally was 18 in however many minutes and she posed the question, “what if I had been on my cell phone?” She would have missed her toddler looking up! Eighteen precious looks!

I wish I could find the post again because I have so much to ask her. What if her toddler had looked up and witnessed her reading a book? What if her toddler looked up and saw her chatting with a friend? What if her toddler looked up and saw her taking his picture? What if her toddler looked up and saw her helping a friend with a parenting dilemma? What if her toddler looked up and she was *gasp* in the bathroom?

I wouldn’t really ask her any of that because I’m not trying to give anyone a hard time. She was making a valid point. Some parents probably do spend too much time on their phones. I’m not going to give them a hard time either. Parenting is hard enough without me sticking my nose in their business. You can’t tell by looking at a parent on their phone if they are on it too much. Even if you witness them missing a moment they might have enjoyed that does not mean they miss every moment. They might have missed that same moment because they were tying their shoe. We can’t possibly observe every precious moment with our children and trying might be worse for the soul than your cell phone. It’s stressful trying to “enjoy every moment” because we all hear all too often “they grow up fast.”

It does go fast, and you will miss it, I can’t deny that. My daughters are old enough for me to realize that the cliches are true. That does not mean you shouldn’t enjoy a book or a chat with your friend or play Candy Crush Saga. You do not need to witness every time your child looks up at you and your child should sometimes witness you doing more than staring back.  It’s good for your child to see that you have hobbies and interests and friends. It’s okay for your child to wait a moment while you finish what you are doing. If you were speaking on the telephone you would not hesitate to make them wait their turn to speak. If you were reading a paperback you would probably finish the sentence, or even the chapter, before responding, depending on the age and urgency of the child.

This is a new generation of parenting. We are still figuring out how technology fits into every aspect of our lives. We chat with our friends by text and read books on digital devices, and that’s okay. It’s okay to accept the progress and make it work for you. Read, chat, play, live. Enjoy every moment of your life.

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It’s all in how you look at it.

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In loving memory of my phone.

Every Year Is A Revolution

My community lost many good people this year. Some suddenly, without warning, and others slowly, gracefully, giving us time to rally and support them and their families. We also didn’t lose people we thought we might, and that is always a miracle. I wanted to write a blog about that and more to end the year. I wanted to say something profound, something wise. I wanted to end my fortieth year with something more than a messy house, the sounds of two little boys playing with a Star Wars science kit, and Firefly on Netflix.

Really, what more is there?

(Side note: Wow, we are geeks.)

This is everything. It makes me happy to know my friends are getting ready for a night out with music and chaos and the people they love. I’m content hanging with the boys, knowing the girls are at work with my boyfriend, at the business he bought this year, and they will all be home soon, at least for a minute.

Instead of something wise or profound I’ll leave you with my favorite Facebook comment from this year.

So fragile, and yet, they cut my head open, moved a bit of my brain, pulled a tumor off of a very tiny bundle of nerves (only damaging the single nerve that it was attached to!) and stapled me back together, all in the course of one day. Ten days ago. And today I went on a hike. Up a hill. It’s kind of amazing. My recovery has not been exactly typical, I admit. They were able to retain my hearing and leave other important nerves intact, and don’t let the hiking fool anyone, I’m still a hot mess, but… I spent the day with my kids.
Fragile, but amazing. All of us.

See ya in 2016.

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Ten Simple Answers

I’m going to need everyone to calm the fuck down about pretty much everything. Some super conservative dad that apparently just woke up here in 2015, saw a Princess Leia doll in a bikini with a chain around her neck and had no idea how to explain it to his children. (What grown man hasn’t seen this movie?!) This is just the tip of the crazy iceberg. These parents have no problem sitting their kids in front of violent television, but scantily clad heroines are a step too far. One Million Moms, which only has 75k likes on Facebook, by the way, and others like them, are worried about explaining that now any two consenting adults can get married legally. It’s a pretty simple concept and I bet their kids have a better grasp of it than they do. Transgender people not only exist, but now they are getting media attention and parents are freaking out. And of course mothers everywhere are feeling empowered and standing up (or sitting comfortably) for their right to nurse in public. Sit down, mom and dad, I have all the answers.

“What Will I tell my children?”

  1. I don’t know, let’s look it up together.
  2. That is none of our business.
  3. Yes, some people believe that, but I don’t. I believe _____________.
  4. It is a natural human function.
  5. I don’t know, we should ask him/her/them.
  6. 42
  7. Every American has the same rights, no matter what.
  8. If you don’t like it you don’t have to look/listen/buy/whatever.
  9. People with different backgrounds or cultures sometimes do things differently.
  10. We should not judge this situation with such limited facts. (See the first two answers if you need to expand.)

Now, print this list, stick it in your pocket, and next time your delicate senses are overwhelmed by all the side boobs and gay innuendo you can whip it out and pick the right answer. When in doubt, choose 1 or 2.

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The New Normal

I told you in March about my brain tumor, called an acoustic neuroma, or correctly but cumbersome, a vestibular schwannoma. In May they were able to remove the entire tumor without affecting my facial nerve and saved most of what vwas left of my hearing. I have been extremely lucky and for that reason I have also been mostly quiet about my recovery.

The five days I spent in the hospital are a blur to me now. Many patients experience extreme vertigo after having a vestibular schawannoma removed, because it is located on the nerves that affect hearing and balance. I was on a pretty decent cocktail of anti dizziness and anti nausea medications that kept me happy, but I’m going to deliver my PSA now. If you’re going to be in the hospital and possibly unable to speak up or defend yourself, be sure you have an advocate present at all times. I was asleep a lot and in pain so I did not want a lot of company. That was a mistake. I spent a very uncomfortable night in the Intensive Care Unit with a nurse that thought I should sleep less and take less medicine so I could get up and move around quicker. I can only assume she didn’t understand the nature of my surgery. I was in pain, drugged up, and trusting. I spent the evening sick and miserable and my only vindication is knowing that she had to clean up after me all night. That, and when my surgeon found out I got to listen to the head nurse explain to her that she was wrong. Call me petty, that felt good. Enlist advocates. Do not go alone.

I’m in several online support groups for patients all over the world with the same type of tumor. Before surgery I heard many horror stories; I also heard many success stories. I knew all the possibilities. I knew that even the most successful surgeries are still brain surgeries and have lasting effects. AN patients often refer to “the new normal” and I remember thinking that sounded like a desperate attempt to sound positive. I understand now that it’s not an attempt at anything other than explaining how you feel. It’s different for everyone. My normal isn’t anyone else’s normal anymore. I could be better, but I am very aware that I could be worse.

Yesterday, a member of my support group posted,

“I wish there was a blog that I can share on Facebook describing what daily life is like for those with AN. I want my family and friends to understand why I am chronically ill. They don’t understand why I can’t travel, stay up late, the chronic ear pain, etc. “

I realized that I had started out with the mission to raise brain tumor awareness, and then in the midst of my own battle, when I had the most to say, I shut my mouth. In my defense, it took me awhile to be able to sit upright at my computer.

My recovery isn’t like anyone else’s. It’s different for everyone. One of the most difficult conversations to have with this diagnosis is the “my brother in law’s cousin had brain surgery and he’s fine” talk. We are all really super happy for your distant relatives and acquaintances, but you simply cannot compare brain surgeries. This is not to say that one is better or worse than another, but that they are different. Not every surgery to remove a schwannoma is the same, let alone every brain surgery. My surgeons used the retrosigmoid approach, but there are other types, as well as gamma knife or simply monitoring the tumor to see if it grows. Surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma is one of the least invasive brain surgeries you can have, according to one of my surgeons, which makes it sound less frightening, but what I learned from my support groups and research was that it also has one of the most hellish recovery periods, and that some people never fully recover. Every journey is different, but I will invite other AN survivors (and those still dealing with their tumors) to leave comments about their daily life. I’ll leave you with a link in case you feel compelled to learn more or donate.

My New Normal
I can walk straight already. I can drive, but only for a very limited time and I’m not sure I should drive anywhere I don’t know my way around, only because I get frustrated when I get confused. My memory seems fine. I think. I can still hold my own in a political debate on Facebook. The boys never had that heart breaking moment I feared back in March; they’ve been able to climb around on me just fine even though I can’t pick them up. I can take my kids to the movie or a park as long as I’m careful. I can do almost everything I did before, except bend over, lift pretty much anything, or tolerate the heat. If I spend too much time outside I get sick, and considering that is my favorite place to be, this is a horrible side effect for me, possibly the worst. I can’t clean my house without bending over. Try it! Sometimes I sit on the floor to sort toys and I am very thankful for my ability to pick things up with my toes. Even cooking heats the kitchen up to an uncomfortable temperature, and just standing in the kitchen is exhausting sometimes. I wake up tired. I have kids to feed and messes to clean before my first daycare clients arrive, but all I want is to take my medication for inflammation and lay back down and wait for it to work. Just getting dressed is a struggle because our house is always so warm, which makes me nauseous. Once the meds kick in I get a small burst of energy that carries me through the first part of the day. Sometimes I feel so good, hiking the easy trails, reading stories, doing crafts, that I think I could go all day. I cannot. I’ve tried. The kids need a nap and I need conditioned air and rest. I still have tinnitus. It’s slightly worse since surgery, but most of the time it is white noise. It is one more thing that wears me down. The constant noise, straining to hear, inflammation of the neck and shoulder muscles, a swelling feeling in my incision area, all start to make me tired by the time I am off work. There is a condition called neuro fatigue or neuro exhaustion that accurately describes how I feel. If you have a friend or family member with any type of brain injury please click those links and try to understand their day.

My hearing was damaged before the surgery and, other than a hearing aid, there is no way to repair it or bring it back. I’m grateful they were able to preserve most of what was left of my hearing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a struggle. Some days I wake up with a fulness on the AN side and much louder tinnitus. I’m trying to teach my children to look at me when they speak. I hate when they ask me for something and I feel lost. I’m supposed to have the answers, but I need to be able to hear the question. They are kind and calm, though.  I wish it would not be considered impolite to snap at adults not to mumble, because they have no problem sighing at me when I can’t hear. I know it’s frustrating to repeat yourself,  but please be patient with people who ask you to clarify what you said.

Some days, busy days, the pain is worse and I’d like to take more medication, but The Barkeep (my boyfriend, for new readers) is not home and I have small children here, so I try to wait until they are in bed, because I never know how it will affect me. I spend a lot of time watching the clock for when I can take medication, or better yet, get some sleep. Putting little, wild people to bed when you are exhausted is trying. Thankfully I have a secret weapon, Goldy, my daughter that is living at here while going to college. (Beauty didn’t run away with the circus, she stays at her dads a lot, works some and spends even more time with friends. She was in school right after my surgery so was not here to help as much, but she is a great help when she is home.)

I also have a wonderful support network of family and friends that brought us dinner and watched the kids during the worst, early part of my recovery. I know that I am lucky. I know that my recovery has been easy compared to many. I also know that it’s not over. I have a long way to go. My doctor is confident my pain will get better in time, but much of what I am dealing with is here to stay, and I need to learn to cope with it. That’s what “the new normal” means. You adjust. It does not mean you pretend everything is positive, in fact it is the opposite. I can and should share with you that some things about my recovery suck, but I’m not defeated. This is how I feel. This is who I am. This is normal.

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I’d love for other AN patients to tell us about their new normal in the comments.

Please check out this link for more information: https://www.anausa.org/

Jester Park Natural Playscape – Real Reviews For Real Families

Jester Park Natural Playscape

11407 NW Jester Park Dr, Granger, IA 50109

FREE

Jester Park is not a long drive from Des Moines, but once you hit the front entrance it feels like another 20 minutes until you find the playscape. It’s a lovely drive, though, so just keep going and follow the speed limit. My kids like to sing songs from Into The Woods while we drive through the heavily wooded area. Do not go towards the playground, which is also nice, keep going towards the elk and bison, you will find the playscape.

A natural playscape is not a typical playground. There is no plastic or metal or rubberized surfaces. There are wood chips and rocks, dirt and weeds.  Kids need nature and they are not being exposed to nature the way we were growing up. I use “we” assuming that if you have a family you probably grew up with skinned knees and wet shoes in the summer, but I’m not exactly sure when they started paving and padding everything. Goldy and Beauty were lucky to have a playground and a pond directly behind our apartments most of their childhood, so we didn’t frequent other parks very much so I didn’t notice the change until it happened.  I love the exciting, modern playgrounds that I have previously written about, and they play a wonderful part in making sure our kids are moving and not spending too much time with screens in their faces, but if you want a true outdoor experience with all the comforts of a playground you can’t beat a playscape.

There are 3 playscapes in the area, currently, that I am aware of, and another going in right in our neighborhood at our favorite splash pad, McHenry Park. I am always looking for more. (Hint hint leave a comment if you know of one!) Jester is probably our favorite because it is closer than Brenton Arboretum, which I will write about next, and the water feature is more fun than Sargent Park.

There is always plenty of parking fairly close to the play area. The bathroom is in the parking area, just a small building with an outhouse toilet and plastic urinal, but they keep it clean and provide antibacterial soap. There is also a water fountain but I recommend bringing your own water bottles. There is not much shade anymore. They cut down our favorite shade tree that we usually sat under to eat lunch. There is a lot to do but my kids always go straight for the water. If it gets crowded or unruly we go down the hill to the sandbox. There are also wood blocks, a prairie grass maze, and prairie animals to view. There are no picnic tables at the playscape but you can lay out a blanket or drive to the nearby picnic areas within the park. There are benches and one by the water that even provides a little shade. I imagine it would be a handy place to breastfeed a younger child while an older sibling played in the water. The website says this play are is best for children over 5, but mine have been having fun their since they could toddle. When it gets busy you may want to take little ones to the sand box.

For the love of all things pink and sparkly, though, please watch your children of all ages. My sister in law and I witnessed several little boys throwing large rocks into the water while other kids were playing. The adults responsible for them sat under a shady awning, ignoring them. When one little boy got a rock to the scalp and was gushing blood, his mother patched him up. They told the kids not to throw rocks and went right back to their shady hideaway. The kids continued throwing rocks into the crowded water area, and slowly other families began to leave. I think I have mentioned that I dislike trendy names for parenting types, helicopter moms and free range parents. I think we need a new trend. Common sense. If all the other parents at the play area have to make their kids leave the water because yours are being unruly, you need to hover a little more. That doesn’t make you a helicopter parent. It makes you and your child decent people. If your child is throwing rocks into a crowded play area they are showing you they are not ready to be left alone there yet.

I don’t want to give you the impression this is a dangerous play area. Far from it! Kids can and do throw rocks anywhere. We go to Jester Park several times a year and have only had this one incident.

My family has been picnicking at Jester Park since before Beauty was born. I know because we have pictures of her there in utero. There are several nice shelters you can just show up and use as long as there isn’t a reserved sign, or you can reserve them for an event. There is a large modern playground with modern bathrooms and showers across the street, an equestrian center, an amphitheater, a golf course, camping, fishing and more. There is also a lodge for events and they hold classes there, as well. If your family loves nature or needs more time in nature you must check it out.

We had a great time and I hope you do, too!

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An elk was watching us dig in the sand.

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The boys are playing with the wood blocks under a somewhat shady awning.

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Sharkboy and his cousin, playing in the water.

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This is the elk and bison viewing area.

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Little S is playing in the sand.

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Ankeny Miracle Park – Real Reviews For Real Families

Ankeny Miracle Park

300 NW School St.
Ankeny, Iowa

The Miracle Park in Ankeny is another inclusive playground, meaning it is suitable for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. From the website:

More than 3,500 children with special needs between the ages of 5 and 15 live in Polk, Boone, Dallas and Story counties and more than 800 attend Ankeny Community Schools. Today, there is a lack of recreational facilities to meet the needs of our young special needs population as accessible playgrounds and the ability to participate in sports leagues are virtually non-existent.

Since 2007, Ankeny Parks & Recreation and the Ankeny Kiwanis Club have partnered to offer “Super Kids,” a series of programs designed for our special needs community. We’ve joined together again to create and construct a Miracle Field & All-Inclusive Playground facility specifically designed for children with disabilities. The Miracle League Field & All-Inclusive Playground will be co-located in Hawkeye Park in Ankeny and will provide children with special needs and their families:

  • A non-competitive co-ed baseball league
  • A custom field made of cushioned, rubberized turf that is flat and free from obstacles
  • A network of “Buddies” to teach, assist and protect players during play
  • A 100% accessible playground on a rubberized surface
  • A playground that focuses on maximum “play value” with an emphasis on inclusive play
  • A sensory rich playground experience catering to kids with physical, cognitive and sensory disabilities

As you can see, there was a real need for this in the greater Des Moines area and I am happy to see those needs being met. These are the only two inclusive playgrounds I am aware of, but if you know of others, please comment. I’m sure there are families that would love to hear about them.

Ankeny is a quick drive for us, but I used my navigation to find the park, taking us 20 minutes out of our way. It is by an elementary school and other ball fields, just off Ankeny Blvd. I don’t really know my way around Ankeny, but it was a simple drive with the right directions. There are giant baseballs on top of it so if you get in the right area you can’t miss it. I was told to park in the school parking lot and did not see any other parking. I’m sure it has a parking lot… right? I’ll look next time we go because we will definitely go back. Walking across the playground was not an issue but I did feel a bit weird when the kids came out for recess and clearly wanted to play on the equipment. Several hovered near the edge, waiting to see if the adults would notice, but no one actually broke the invisible barrier to join us. They did have two nice play sets of their own to play on, which will be an added bonus in the summer.

Unfortunately, the bathrooms were closed and Little S had to pee on a tree. He has gotten really good at aiming but stood a little too close to the tree. I think outdoor peeing is an essential skill that should be taught to kids at a young age, but not having a penis of my own I am still learning a few things, too. Back up. Guessing from the size of the building I expect comfortable restrooms with real toilets. I’ll let ya know.

I did not see a place for snacks, but that is another thing we will look for when we return. There may be a concession stand for the ball field. There is a shelter for shade up the hill from the playground and there are awnings over the equipment. I’ve heard several complaints about the lack of shady trees near newer play sets so I feel the need to point out the obvious. Trees bring birds and birds poop on slides. Most park developers are hesitant of too many trees, though, because they have to knock them down to build. Some newer playgrounds have planted trees, but they don’t provide much shade yet. You might want to wear a hat and bring extra sunscreen. I had a pop up tent for my kids that I bought at Goodwill, but I never used it. It was similar to this one, found on Amazon.

There are two playgrounds at Miracle Park, one meant for kids ages 2-5 and another for kids 5-12, as well as a long row of swings for all ages and abilities. I had Sharkboy, Little S and their cousin R with me, ages 3-5, and they all chose the big playground for most of the visit. I’m going to try to describe this to you, but you might need to see it and walk around it to understand. It was a bit like a maze. You can get all the way to the top using ramps and once you are in there doing it it is less confusing, but there are tubes and interesting things to climb on and ramps going in every direction. At least it felt that way to me. The kids had no problem getting around and Goldy caught on quicker than I did. Maybe you have to be under 12 to get around in there.

I don’t like parenting labels like “free range” and “helicopter” because I feel they divide us even more and unnecessarily, but I will say if you are an anxious, hovering parent you will not want to let kids under 5 play on the big play set. I saw young toddlers checking it out and they were fine, but I’m not sure my own heart could take that. There are some very tall slides, an open net for climbing across and some pretty high drop offs. There are also monkey bars at the perfect height for young kids, though, and a lot of fun spinning and climbing toys. There was so much more and I will show some of it in the photographs, but you’ll have to check it out yourself to see everything.

We had a great time and I hope you do, too!

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If you notice the parents to the left it will give you an idea how tall the slides on the right are.

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Little S, age 3, on the monkey bars.

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This is a like a rope bridge, only more rope and less bridge. There is nothing beyond their own skill to keep them from slipping through the net. Of course it was Sharkboy’s favorite place to climb around.

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We had no idea how this was meant to be used so we tried several ideas, including tread mill style.

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Like a regular slide, only noisier.

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