Airplane 101

I will be perfectly honest with you. Flying with kids is not my favorite thing, but it does not need to be scary either. There are many ways to survive flights with kids. Whether it be a 1-hour flight or a 9-hour flight I have included some tips and tricks to achieving the best experience possible for everyone.

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Tips and Tricks for Flying with Kids

  1. Plan the flight time around the child that needs the nap the most. Yes, I expect you to forfeit one child’s potential happiness for another’s. If your toddler is going to be the more difficult child to fly with then plan it for a nap around take off.
  2. Do not over pack with entertainment. Give the window view its time. When that joy wears off then bring out one item/game and so on. Do not give your children ALL OF THE OPTIONS in the first thirty minutes of the flight.
  3. Pack snacks and water even though they give out snacks and water. When all else fails bribe.
  4. Do not freak out about ear popping. If you are nursing a baby then nurse during take-off and landing. If you are not then pack something chewy (gummies, fruit leathers, etc) for them to chew during take-off and landing. As a pilot spouse, I can tell you that this is even more important during landing. If they are asleep during landing do not panic more than likely it will be ok. Suckers tend to work very well for younger ones who are not quite old enough to chew well and who are not nursing. We like the ‘Yum Organics’ lollipops.
  5. You do not need to pack the pillows and blankets. Most airlines will gladly supply those.
  6. As I mentioned before, a bag of games is not necessary. Keep it simple. We love our boogie boards, magnetic faces and we try to make the face look like other passengers. We also enjoy card games and one deck of cards and provide a lot of entertainment if it needs to.
  7. Something I had to learn the hard way is to reserve your seats if they give you the option. Also, you can speak to the flight representative at your gate to move seats closer together. It is worth the money to not start your flight off with a seat situation mess.
  8. Foreign airlines tend to take the children on board into special consideration. When flying with Aegean air the flight attendants supplied my kids with coloring books about Greece.

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Before You Fly

These days it is fairly common for a flight to be delayed, canceled, or just not moving as quickly as a panicked mother needs it too. One of the saving graces that I have used almost every time we have flown this last year; Paper Planes. Yep. They are a mom’s best friend. We left the U.S. with a brand new Usborne Paper Plane book and ran out of paper planes the day we flew back to the U.S. six months later.

Such a simple concept and yet so effective to buy you a solid hour or more of happy child time. Most of the waiting guests will play along too. Do not worry too much if your child’s airplane dive-bombs sleeping people. Our middle child once hit a sleeping man in the head with a paper plane and he had to creep over to retrieve it and the guy scared him half to death. It was hilarious. People are not typically out to ruin your child’s good time.

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Keeping it Real

It is emotionally challenging to wait to board an airplane with small children. Because we are conditioned to feel guilty about making the other passengers feel uncomfortable over our child’s presence. I have seen loads of blog posts about the cute little “I’m sorry” bags that moms make for the passengers around them. Unless your child is notoriously obnoxious these bags should not even be under consideration on your part. Your child has just as much of a right to fly as the man who will take his shoes off next to you. Your child has just as much of a right to fly as the woman choking everyone with her perfume.

Do not feed the mainstream culture’s ridiculous notion that kids shouldn’t be on planes. People quickly forget what it is like to be sleep deprived and doing your best to keep people alive and happy. Do not let them get to you. Their happiness is not your problem. Simply do your best to keep everyone from crying at the exact same time and that is enough. You are enough. You can do fly alone with your kids. Get out there.

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Getting Around the Most Famous Greek Postcard Destinations

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In the Land of a Million Islands

Greece as a whole includes 6,000 islands. Only 227 of those islands are inhabited. Of those 227 only 2/3 are truly accessible by tourist. Every Greek island is entirely different and worth its own trip, but most people daydream about the most popularly photographed Greek islands and those are the ones they tend to visit first. From the beautiful white mountains on the island of Crete to the red sand of Santorini, the options are unlimited and bring people back to Greece time and time again.

Getting around the most famous postcard islands

CRETE: what I like to refer to as the Gateway Drug of Greek islands is situated between Southern Mainland Greece and Northern Africa. I call it the Gateway Drug because it is significantly more affordable than most of the other “postcard” islands. It also is home to a Naval base, which tends to make traveling military members feel safer. Safety is not an issue in the majority of Crete. Actually, while I was there I was curious as to how the crime rate of Chania, Crete compared to where we were stationed at the time (Camp Lejeune, NC) the crime rate of Chania was less than the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Safety is not an issue in the country of Greece as a whole but should be the bottom of your worry list on the island of Crete for sure.

Getting Around Crete

Getting to and from Crete is very simple. There are daily ferries from mainland Greece to Crete, but it is cheaper to fly from Athens and only a 50-minute flight. Once you are on Crete it is incredibly affordable (30 to 40 Euros) to rent a car for the day and drive all over the island. This is a must do to get to secluded beaches and monasteries. The bus system on Crete is very efficient but timely and you see more by car.

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Elafonissi Beach Southern Crete

Getting to and around Santorini

EVERYONE that comes to Greece wants to go to Santorini and/or Mykonos. Aside from my opinion on these islands, there are very specific ways to get there. Typically, tourists visit both islands because they are close in proximity to each other. Getting to Santorini can happen in a few ways. The first is a flight from Athens or Crete. This is a very pricey option. The second option is a ridiculously long ferry ride from Iraklio, Crete. There are no ferries to Santorini from Chania, Crete you must ferry from Iraklio, which is 2.5 hours on the other side of the island.

When I say that the ferry is ridiculously long I mean 3 to 9 hours depending on what kind of ferry you take. Most recently, I took the high-speed ferry with the kids and it was about 3 hours. Normally, there is not a huge price difference between the two different types of ferries so take the speed if you are able. From the adverturer perspective, the long overnight ferries are a great way to meet people, but a bit stressful with kids and luggage.

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Perissa Beach (the Black Beach) on the island of Santorini. The color black is not Perissa in Greek, it is mavros just so you know.

Getting around Santorini is best done by car. Here is the tricky part. The cars are cheaper to rent at the bottom of the mountain at the port, but then you have to drive a manual in stopped traffic going up a very large very steep volcanic mountain. If you are not a manual professional this is a nightmare. You can rent vehicles at the top, in town, but they are about 15 Euros more per day. Renting a car is definitely worth it to get to all of the amazing secluded spots that Santorini has to offer. If renting a car is an absolute NO for you then there are public buses.

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The Red Beach Santorini

Getting to and around Mykonos

Mykonos is a very small island and a great starting place for most tourists. I have heard from readers that they really enjoyed starting their Greek island journey in Mykonos because it is so Westernized. The whole island is entirely dedicated to tourism, even more so than other postcard-perfect places like Santorini and Crete. Mykonos exists solely for tourism and therefore no car is required to get around. Everything you would want to see is within 3 square miles. There are ferries available to Mykonos from Santorini, Iraklio Crete, and Athens.

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Getting to and Around Rhodes

I tend to refer to Rhodes as a “secondary island” because it is not in the top three that most tourists visit. Rhodes is my favorite island, so much so that I named a child after it. One of the many reasons why Rhodes is a secondary island is because it is really difficult to get to affordably. There are 16 to 18-hour ferries from Iraklio, Crete, and Athens or you can fly in, which is very costly. You have to really want to go there to make it happen.

Visiting Rhodes is more worth it than I can put into words and I hope that you will be inspired to make it happen based on my recommendation. A car would be nice to have to explore the island but is not necessary in order to see the bulk of the high tourist sites. Also, hiring a car and driver for the day is more affordable in Greece than most other places. If you are uncomfortable driving in a foreign country this is a good option for you.

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Getting to and Around Zakynthos

Ten years ago no one I knew was traveling to Zakynthos. Facebook ads have made Zakynthos’ shipwreck beach famous. A rather large island, Zakynthos requires a car to get around and can be accessed by car/ferry and flight. You can rent a car in Athens and drive the 6 hours to the Western most coast of Mainland Greece. You should definitely visit Olympia (site of the first Olympics in 776 B.C.). Then just north is the ferry port to cross over to Zakynthos. The other option is to fly out of Athens to Zakynthos and find a car upon arrival. Zakynthos is still developing as resorts are popping up everywhere.

Getting Around the Most Famous Postcard Destinations

Do Not let the logistics get the better of you. It all sounds very complicated I know, but it is not as bad as it appears. During high tourist season, approximately mid-may through September, the ferry schedule is very frequent. There are a lot of things that the Greek people do perfectly, logistics and timekeeping are not among them. Do not fret. Book what you can online. You will have to go to the ticket offices to pick up tickets. These offices are not next door to the actual ferry. Give yourself ample time and flexibility to learn the ropes. If you get stuck on an 18-hour ferry bring a deck of cards for the ride.

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What is up with the Bradburys?

Hello there Edventurers! 

What is going on with us? Well, everything and nothing, all at the same time. If you haven’t noticed; we have left Europe and are back on U.S. soil… .You will be hearing extensively about our European stops for the next 8 months, but in the meantime, we are trying to establish a new life stateside as well. A lot has happened in the last four months. The biggest thing is Greg switching aircraft. I’m going to go into detail about this a little bit as most of our family, friends, and followers are not military. Back in July, Greg was selected to transition to flying his dream aircraft the C130 Hercules. For the last four years, he has been flying the UH1 Huey helicopter. 

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He was flying the helicopter in the photo and is now transitioning to fly the big airplane in the photo.

This is RIDICULOUSLY exciting news, BUT it comes with its own slew of new issues. The main thing is that it requires him to go back to “school” known as FRD for 5 months. This school is located in Cherry Point MCAS, which is the area you have recently seen on the news under 40 inches of rain from hurricane Florence. His FRD program begins in January, but he is supposed to report there October 1. Issue number two, because we forfeited our on-base house back in May, my husband is now homeless and living in his car in between switching duty stations and awaiting orders. Once he gets orders to the new air station he can get a house. . .

Issue number three: hurricane Florence swooped in. The area we were planning on moving to for FRD is now under water and we have no idea what housing will actually be available to us when he reports October 1. Issue number four: we still do not know the status of all of our material possessions. It is in a storage unit in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It really doesn’t matter at this point, but it is an extra factor in the already complicated equation. Finally, issue number five: we still do not have fleet orders. So we do not know where we will be going next summer when Greg’s training is complete. Our fleet tour will be 3 to 4 years. Though this is a little farther out date-wise, it would be nice to know where we will be stationed because it may ultimately change the housing options for us in North Carolina. If we are to be stationed there, we will most likely purchase a home. If we are only there for 5 months, then we will rent, etc.

The kids and I did not return to North Carolina from Europe. There has been some confusion from readers asking about our evacuation. The kids and I did not evacuate at all, we have not been there since mid-march. My husband and our storage unit are there though and of course the dozens and dozens of friends and military sisters that we call family. 

There’s No Place Like Home

The kids and I are settling into a routine of sorts back in Kansas and Missouri. We are spending half the week in Bonner Springs, KS with in-laws and cousins and the other half in Boonville, MO with my dad and brother (these are just over 2 hours apart). The absolute best thing for us right now is routine. It distracts from the culture shock a bit and helps the kids feel “settled” during this time of pure upheaval. Old family traditions are being mandated back into action (i.e. homemade pizza Fridays). We are busy visiting, playing and decompressing. I am getting MUCH needed alone time after months and months of 24/7 on-call mommin’. The kids are getting much-needed attention from other adults and building on those cousin and family relationships. 

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The 6 younger cousins. All boys, alternating years, ranging from 7 to almost 2.

They are growing in leaps and bounds. Lux is losing teeth and the other two are cast free and playing hard trying to catch up on lost time. We are excited about what the year holds; forest school, new homeschool curriculum, baseball, holidays, two moves and being back with daddy on a consistent basis. We are also constantly planning the next big edventure.

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What are the Future Travel Plans???

EVERYONE wants to know what we are doing next! I love the enthusiasm and interest. We will be stateside for the next year. That is an absolute, as we desperately need time as a whole family and we have two moves on the horizon better done together. What I do know is that Greg and I are hashing out an international travel plan together that allows for the boys to play sports and not miss out on everything stateside while still traveling consistently. The most recent conversation was stateside March through November and traveling December through February. This is not a bad plan at all and may be entirely feasible. Time will tell. A perfect scenario, in my opinion, is four months stateside and two months gone rotation. Right now we are not planning anything until after our summer move, but a Spain, Portugal, and Wales trip with good friends has been proposed and a fall Mexico trip is highly likely. All of the readers will get a chance to vote on future Edventures once we know what coast we would be flying out of! In the meantime, we will be covering the U.S. by car, hopefully finding a home, loving on each other and learning everything we can.

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Road Tripping Like a Pro

When I am in Europe, I utilize the affordable flights and comfortable train system regularly. In the U.S. those are not realistic options. In the face of Hurricane Florence and all of my friends evacuating with small children I thought I would share some road trip wisdom with you all. When you find yourself faced with a long road trip across our large country there are some rules of thumb that I abide by that help make those trips easier. I would love to tell you that there is a for sure cure for the road trip whoas, but in all honesty, the success of your road trip will be mostly dependent upon the stops you make. Let’s delve into some do’s and don’ts of road tripping with kids that will help fill your mama bag with useful tools.

Must Do’s on the Road

  • LEAVE EARLY: I know, as moms, the struggle to adult early is very real, but you and all of your passengers will be better for the early start. The goal is 3 to 4 hours in between stops. Therefore, leave by 7. Morning snack in the car. Stop for early lunch.
  • SCHEDULE STOPS 3 to 4 hours apart and 1.5 to 2 hours long. A great road trip looks something like this: leave by 7 am, stop for early lunch and/or sightseeing from 10 to 12. Back in the car for naptime covering approximately 4 hours. Stop late afternoon for sightseeing/snack. Drive another 1 to 2 hours before stopping for the night.
  • Plan your route ahead of time and schedule fun sightseeing stops. If your children know what they have to look forward to down the road, they are more likely to keep the mood mellow in order to get there.
  • DO LIMIT SCREEN TIME to late afternoon. In my personal experience, if screen time happens in the morning then we do not do well in the afternoon. If you use screen time in your traveling (we do not), but if you need to try to make it happen during the youngest traveler’s naptime. It will also make the last two hours of a day’s journey go faster for the younger members.
  • MAKE YOUR STOPS COUNT. When you stop everyone uses the bathroom, everyone gets something to eat, the vehicle is fueled. In between stops do not happen unless there is an emergency. Make this your normal routine and after day two everyone will fall in line.
  • PLAN FUN STOPS that require walking and are outside. Unless someone is suffering from pneumonia you need to force the fresh air on your travelers. Later I will touch on some fantastic outdoor stops that fit into your two hour stop window.

Things Not to Do

  • AVOID EATING IN THE CAR. If you can manage a lunch stop for a full, out of the car, meal then do so. I suggest this for many reasons; first off when our children eat in the car we get stressed out about the mess. It is natural, we all do it but avoid it. Secondly, you will eventually have to stop to clean up children and/or the car. Lastly, if someone is going to be bathroom triggered by the food you are much closer to a restroom if you went inside somewhere to eat.
  • DO NOT SIT THE TWO THAT FIGHT TOGETHER.
  • DO NOT BRING SO MUCH “ENTERTAINMENT” that your children do not learn how to entertain themselves. It is easy to pack the toy chest. Try, to pack road trip games instead. Some tried and true suggestions are; I Spy, License Plate Bingo, Would you Rather, Car Color Competitions, Sing-a-longs, etc. Looking out the window is always amusing, in my opinion. To be perfectly honest, the less you pack the less stress you have and the less there is to fight over.
  • BE SNACK PREPARED. I know I know, I said to avoid eating in the car. What I meant was to avoid eating meals. Snacks will get you to your scheduled stops more easily. Make them dry snacks that vacuum out easily for your sanity mama.
  • AVOID UNPLANNED STOPS by magically foreseeing the future. I’m kidding, sort of. If you are prone to needing a 2 pm coffee pick-me-up then pick it up as you fuel up the car and kiddos at the lunch stop. Foresee the need so to speak. If you don’t then you will need to stop and that will cause kids to frantically vacate the car as well.
  • DO NOT MAKE RESERVATIONS for your hotel until you’re 30 minutes to an hour away from your stopping point for the night. It is highly unlikely that every hotel will be booked and this gives you a lot of flexibility with your time. For example, if the baby takes a late nap and you know you can make it another two hours. If someone gets car sick and just really needs to not get back in the car today you now can easily stop. Stay flexible.

Best Family Friendly Stops for Sightseeing

The U.S. is a massive country and because of the extensiveness, at some point, you will find yourself in a barren landscape with no civilization in sight. I have made the cross-country pcs road trip twice alone with three children. Some of our favorite stops were in the areas I was hoping to avoid, but couldn’t.

Arizona: A stunningly beautiful state with lots of open roads. Many people drive through Arizona and stop at the Grand Canyon. Though the Grand Canyon is beautiful; you need more than two hours there. One of our all-time favorite stops is Meteor Crater. We all adored the museum and the landscape and there is plenty of room for kids and pets alike to run around. Also on my Arizona list is the Phoenix Zoo. Great little zoo to let the kids explore.

New Mexico: The New Mexico landscape and truck stops can be very intimidating, but there is a lot of cultural immersion and learning to be had here. One of the most magical moments of any road trip we have taken is when we saw the Acoma Pueblo (Sky City) emerge on the horizon. In order to do a tour and get access to the city you need to schedule a tour way in advance, but it is so worth it.

Western Texas: Once you leave Houston you have what I like to call “no man’s land” Texas. Full of Ranches, 80 mile an hour speed limits and tumbleweeds. There is not a lot going on out there, but if you search hard enough there are decent stops to be made. One of my children’s favorites was Cadillac Cemetary outside of Amarillo. Though I thought it was rather boring, the kids loved it and it allows for plenty of space to run without disturbing anyone else. The Guadalupe Mountains National Park also provides a space to stretch the legs and learn about the local landscape.

Becoming a Pro on the Road

A lot about road tripping comes with practice. Not all road trips are created the same, but they can all be fun. When you find yourself in need of space and stops just take them. Give yourself and your children some grace and go with the flow. The best way to ensure a happy road trip is to be flexible with your plans. As tempting as it is to stop at every advertised museum or “world’s largest ball of yarn” sign try to push forward with the promise of stops of outdoor space. The less complicated you make it the easier the ride.

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Culture Shock: My Emotional Return

This morning,  I was awoken at 0315 by a jet lag laden toddler who was very happy to be here. Yesterday can best be summed up by ‘jumping a plane.’ My faith in the prospect of us all getting on a space a flight together was nil, but it happened. Therefore my return to the U.S. happened much more quickly than I was emotionally prepared for. I truly believed I’d be returning sometime this month, but closer to next. There wasn’t time for tears yesterday, just a brief flash of relief that I would have Greg’s help on the arduous 9 hour non-stop flight home. The morning light finds me in a different state. Today, Greg is spending the day at the National Aquarium with the boys. Their last full day with dad until Thanksgiving. I am spending some much needed time alone with my books, computer and coffee. My husband is expecting great joy from me over this day, but really it’s self-care of the emotional sort. 

I wandered onto the Barnes and Noble steps this morning so excited to be surrounded by books and quiet. I was instantly cornered by two men preaching the words of Jesus to me and asking me how I was spending my last days before his return. . .I didn’t miss this. I knew this return would be difficult for me. Although the children were with me each step of the way, I was entirely alone in my experiences as the adult abroad. The protector abroad. The provider abroad. The logistics officer abroad. The chef, chauffer, grocery getter, entertainment finder, pleasure seeker, educator, alone. It’s like walking on the other side Neptune and expecting to view your world with the same eyes. 

I walked into Barnes and Noble and burst into overwhelmed tears. I have searched shelves for 8 months for an English book to capture my heart and now I’m surrounded by millions. Yet the loudest emotions were gratitude and absolute despair. I want to write, but how can I stand out on shelves with millions of people doing similar things? How can I do well enough in a country of constant perfection? Where do I start now? At the same time I felt pure relief at having anything and everything I could ever want at my fingertips. The U.S. is a country of pure convenience. Everyone around me in this store is searching through a ridiculous amount of options for something perfectly designed for them. They are annoyed when, God forbid, it must be ordered. Not too long ago I was walking two miles each way to get groceries with three children. No I don’t expect an award, but Americans are too comfortable. I know people struggle. I understand that everyone’s circumstances are different, but as a whole they seem to be entitled to everything and not happy with any of it. 

Welcome

American news blared at breakfast this morning. I immediately started feeling the same nauseous nagging feeling that I had on the airplane yesterday (not pregnant, not sick). Some people have mentioned to me how odd it is that I do not follow current events, or news reports being a military spouse. I have not willingly listened to the news in the last 15 years. My husband asked me last week “how did you not know about this?” In regards to something with Turkey. The answer is simple. I choose to think of Turkey with an open heart and in the form of a memory clip of myself looking up at the Gold leaf ceiling of the Agia Sophia from 10 years ago. I am not naïve to the news, but I do not want to view the world through the media’s eyes. 

The Truth of my emotional dumping I’m doing today is that I’m terrified. I am absolutely ridden with nervous nausea terrified of raising my children here. America can be and has been a wonderful country. There are opportunities here that I am eternally grateful for, but the task before me now is to figure out how to maintain the lifestyle I want for my children. How to bring the family values, the love of food, the endless amounts of available time, the love of all things wild and free that so many of the countries we have visited possess. I have walked many MANY miles in shoes that fit better to who I truly am. How do I preserve her spirit when everything about American culture tries to smother her? 

I have already received messages and emails asking “Doesn’t it feel great to be back?” There are some very wonderful things. New books, clothing, family, friends, some favorite foods, etc  to name a few. The idea of being able to run to a store that sells everything at midnight and it be perfectly normal is appealing, but I already miss buying apples from Giorges at 8:52pm before he closes so we have snacks for sunday when nothing will be open. I already miss so much. I know that another adventure is right around the corner and many many more big adventures in the years to come, but right now I’m mourning the loss of the ideal way of life that is deeply embedded in my spirit and I start the difficult task of trying to preserve and preach it loudly. 

The Next Eight Months

The Bradbury family will be separated again after today. Yes, my husband has returned from deployment, but we do not have a place to live or tangible orders yet to help secure a place to live. Greg will return to work in North Carolina tomorrow and the kids and I will fly to Kansas City to be with family and friends through Thanksgiving. We are ready for this time with our loved ones. After Thanksgiving I will drive the kids, myself and our long lost dog Buzz Lightyear back to North Carolina. What we do know, is that we will spend Dec-June-ish stationed at Cherry Point MCAS, NC where Greg will go through flight training to fly the C-130. By the time the humid scents of summer arrive we will be moving to either Iwakuni, Japan or San Diego, CA. There is a small chance we could stay in North Carolina, but it doesn’t look likely. We should know where we are moving to this month, but as I write this I have no idea. The next international adventures will take place from either of those two locations late next year. There are a few things in the works, but nothing firmly planned yet. Traveling with my children, as regularly as possible, is something that will continue. I learned WAY TOO MUCH on this big 8 month trip to not utilize what I’ve learned to make future experiences better. 

I’m in love with the world. Despite the brutal falling meteors that seemed to hit every three weeks (i.e. rental disasters, car accident, broken wrist, broken foot, lost toe nails, blizzards, missed trains, infected groins, money/money/money, friendships, walking/walking/walking, public transportatioin, etc). I am at peace in the world and someday I will write that book for my children and maybe that unknown stranger in Barnes and Noble.

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