Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Focus Finding Mission

I open Twitter and see the people doing it right: they focus on their niche, consistently tweeting on the same topic; their tweets have a distinctive voice and are routinely clever, or inspirational, or snarky, as befits their persona; their posts are nicely spaced, appearing every hour, around the clock.

I know this is the right way to build an audience, establish credibility, and attract a following. Every now and then, I attempt to follow these rules. Then, I get distracted. I retweet something, just because I like it. I type a random thought that came to me in the shower. I tweet 50 times one day, and then don’t tweet for days, or weeks.

I have a jumping-around kind of mind. My interests and thoughts scatter a hundred times in a ten-minute conversation. Ideas spin off, sometimes on rapid straightaways, sometimes into deep rabbit holes, sometimes in a thousand directions, like sparks of fireworks.

Source of Scatter

For 30 years, I was the consummate good girl. I created lists and schedules. I color-coded my school notes and files. I adhered to guidelines, suggestions, and shoulds. For 30 years, I thought the true me was the ultimate rule-follower.

From 30 to 40, courtesy of my children, I discovered all the ways that rules do not work. I stumbled upon books about alternative health care, natural living, positive parenting, and expanded world views. I realized that my rule-following youth was not a projection of Me, but a coping mechanism for surviving in a crazy world.

For the past few years, I’ve been learning to recognize my multidimensional self, to honor my non-linear thought process, and to unearth the real True Me. My tweets and blog posts reflect my winding, confusing journey. I may not be doing Twitter and blogging, right, but I’m doing it my way. I celebrate that.

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Revealing Myself, Libra

Our bodies are made of stardust. The moon moves the waters of the world in an intricate pattern of rise and fall. The Earth’s angle toward and rotation around the sun dictate seasons for planting and reaping. Wise Women and Men have long recognized the influence of sun, stars, moon, and planets on life. For many of us, synchronizing projects, plans, and selves with celestial and terrestrial rhythms leads to increased enjoyment and productivity.

As part of my journey to embrace my Swan Mother Essence and to be my best self, I have joined the Magic and Wisdom Circle. During the cycle which begins when new moon in libra, our theme is self-love.

I decided to join the circle about a week ago. Though the circle was closed until the moon moved into libra this morning, self-love information began to show up for me as soon as my intention was set. Last week, I was reviewing an advance copy of Sasha Allenby‘s “Write an Evolutionary Self-Help Book.” In Chapter 3 – Your Life, Sasha writes:

Magical Mirror by Ironshod Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2009-2014 Ironshod via DeviantArt

Self-love is a term that is bandied about very flippantly in the self-help and transformation industries. Here, it is not a term that I am using lightly. If you did nothing else, other than commit to experiencing as much self-love as you have the capacity for in this given moment, and if you are committed to expanding that capacity in each moment, then all the other aspects of your life inventory will fall into place.

I wonder if you are willing to come on that kind of journey with me as we go through this book together? To put self-love at the heart of all you do?

Am I willing to put self-love at the heart of all I do? What a question! I turned off my Kindle and let the idea of self-love (putting it first being a leap I saved for another day), first.

Yesterday, YouTube suggested a video for me: Self Love – The Great Shortcut to Enlightenment by Teal Swan. Teal calls self-love the root from which everything grows.

By setting my intention, my journey to loving myself truly and deeply began. I am, in motion. As I appreciate all aspects of me and practice self-acceptance, I fill myself with a love and harmony so grand, they flow from me. And so it is.

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Expanding Awareness (Thank you, autism)

autismpositivity2013button2The next stage of human evolution will be marked by awareness that we are all interdependent cells within the super-organism called humanity.
Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. and Steve Bhaerman in Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (And a Way to Get There from Here)

I find immeasurable value in Awareness, the state of being able to perceive, feel, and be conscious of people, ideas, and patternsSince I first heard the word autism (December 2000), my Awareness expanded exponentially. My worldview widened, and continues to grow. I evolved, and continue to evolve.

 Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Before autism (and my children) expanded my Awareness, I was very certain of what I should do, how people should act, and how the world should be. Because my children didn’t match my image of how children were supposed to be, because I loved them, and because I wanted to be the mother they needed, I softened. I realized the value of being like bamboo, flexible and bending with changing conditions. I recognized the importance of acknowledging when I was wrong. I learned to be different from the mother I’d been expecting to be. Without the gift of autism, I would be shallower, more narrow-minded, and more rigid.

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.
Albert Einstein

The diversity that we observe in individuals today demonstrates that there is no one optimal way to be. We can expand our Awareness by interacting, working, and playing with one another. We can learn to communicate with words and beyond words, recognizing that the task learning to communicate across styles does not fall to any group, but is a task for all.

It is not survival of the fittest, but cooperation, interaction, and mutual dependence among life forms that allows for the global expression of life.
Lynn Margulis in Symbiosis in Cell Evolution

The spectrum of people on the planet today is an invitation to see the essence of one another. It is an invitation to look with new eyes and listen with new ears, and to perceive with our hearts or our senses. It is an invitation to expand our perceptions and evolve. It is an opportunity to embrace uniqueness and individuality while recognizing our oneness.

Autism rocked by world in the most amazing way possible. Read more in my post Work in Progress and in the book that tells my story, and those of other changed mothers, Swan Mothers: Discovering Our True Selves by Parenting Uniquely Magnificent Children.

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Stop Combating People

Photo 26Before I had children and early in the parenting journey, I thought it was my job to mold my children into kind, intelligent, and self-sufficient beings. That they would speak properly, have good table manners, be polite, and do well at school was presumed, a baseline. These were my assumptions before autism rocked my world, before one child was diagnosed autistic, before I realized the other two were anything by typical. Diagnosis and confusing-to-me behaviors did not immediately change my perception. I simply resolved to work harder to mold my children into the kind, polite, intelligent, and self-sufficient beings they were supposed to be.

I ALWAYS loved my children. I always strove to be the mother they needed. I did my best to be patient and supportive. But I did believe that it was my job to make them be/act/appear as normal as possible. For me, normal meant following the rules of society, exercising self-control, learning, and growing. I did not believe my goals for them were harmful. I believed it was my mother-duty to raise children who fit in, because that’s what my life experiences had taught me was correct.

As time went on, my understanding shifted. I watched my children. I embraced what made them smile and rejected that which caused them pain. I read amazing books that revealed a new way to look beyond the face value of “behaviors” and “traits.” I discovered something wonderful where others saw misbehavior and dysfunction.

Finally, c. 2008, I wrote this in my journal:

Last week I had an Ah-ha! moment. I realized I need to stop trying to fix my children. I love them with all of their sometimes challenging traits — but I have, for a long time, been on a mission to minimize those quirks. For now, I need to let them be — as important for me as for them.

A short while later, I picked up a book in which the first chapter was titled “The World Needs Autism.” Reading these words was affirmation of my realization.

A later journal entry: I have long known that there is a purpose for autism. I am slowly muddling through what that purpose is. I believe that everything is evolving perfectly and the purpose is being served — even if I don’t understand it.

It took me a long time to get here. (I tell the story of my parenting journey, and those of many other mothers, in Swan Mothers.) I still get plenty of opportunity to practice. Many resources that are available today, specifically, blogs written by autistic adults, were not available when I started this journey, so I continue to uncover new layers of understanding. I still want my children to be kind, polite, intelligent, and self-sufficiency beings, but I want them to be these things while being fully themselves.

Don’t go changing, to try & please me
You never let me down…
I couldn’t love you any better
I love you just the way you are
(with apologies to Billy Joel)

stopcombatingme8This post is my contribution to the #StopCombatingMe Flashblog

What is it?

A flashblog is a day when a group of people share their thoughts about a single topic.

Why?

To tell Congress to reform the Combating Autism Act or to let it expire.  Sign the petition and learn more here: http://action.autisticadvocacy.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10412

Why Reform the Act?

My friend S.R. Salas explains that here.

 

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Beyond Labels: Lessons from Autism and Parenting

When I started blogging, I thought my topic would be autistic and neurodivergent children and their mothers.  The more I wrote, the more challenging it became to work the words autism and autistic into the text. Writing “autistic child” felt forced.  Why? I wondered.

I realized that I don’t relate to the term “autism mother” and everything I write applies to all of my children – not just to my autistic son. It is not because he is not special, but because they all are. We all are.

I could write about IEPs and the gluten free diet and innovative therapies for autistic children.  But there are already many blogs, newsletters, books and magazines on these topics.  They are being done well by other people.

I find myself sharing wisdom imbued in me by my children.  I write about what I’ve learned along the way that has made our lives healthier, easier and happier in the hope that you will benefit.

The word autism turned my world upside down and inside out.  I would not be who I am without it. I am also ready to move beyond the label. What do you think?  I’d really love to hear your thoughts on labels in the comment boxes below.

Beyond the Label:  Lessons from Autism

Only one of my children is diagnosable and sports a recognizable label:  autism. When I think about him, I do not think, “My autistic child.”  I think of him as Daniel. I think of my quirky daughter as Ellana and my intensely principled son as Jonathon. I see each as a uniquely magnificent individual.  All three are beyond labeling or categorizing.  There is no normal in my house.

What is normal?

Synonyms for normal include:

·         typical

·         average

·         unsurprising

·         ordinary

·         common

Would you like to eat a common chocolate, drink an unremarkable wine, drive an average car, or take an ordinary vacation? Might you prefer chocolate that is uncommonly delicious, a wine that is remarkably silky, a car that offers a surprisingly refined ride, and an extraordinary vacation?

Why then are typical, ordinary, normal children seen as ideal? We don’t hunger for mediocrity in other aspects of life, yet we yearn for uneventful meals, ordinary nights and unremarkable parent-teacher conferences.

We are burdened by the notion that children should be a certain way.  That life should be a certain way.

How They Should Be, How They Are

Most people, either consciously or unconsciously, expect their children will be like them.  Fathers place tiny, spongy footballs in the cribs of their infant sons in loving anticipation of lives of athletic stardom.  Mothers play classical music for babies and take toddlers to Kindermusik to develop well-rounded, cultured children.  Grandmothers study little faces to see who the which family members the babies look like.

All of this usually comes from a place of love for the child and delight at the prospect of another chance at life.
But then something happens.  The future athlete can’t learn to ride a bike or pay attention to directions.  He certainly can’t throw or catch the ball.  The upcoming Miss Charming throws spectacular tantrums and refuses to listen to music.
Teachers and doctors and specialists say its autism or some other dis-order and the parents’ world turns upside down.

What’s in a name?

. . . language is entirely symbolic.  Words aren’t real.  They’re simply scribbles, doodles and sounds to which we assign meanings stored in the brain as images, feelings, and sounds:  mental constructs only vaguely approximating the objects they represent.   We use words to manipulate the mental representations, rarely scrutinizing our constructs under the light of physical reality.

–From Mark Rostenko’s article The Unnamed in Obscurious Moo
At first, the label is a lifeline.  It explains why our children are the way they are.  The words give us something to research:  autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD, sensory integration disorder, reactive detachment disorder.  The words connect us to others like us and are a way to find information.

Eventually though, we realize that our child’s -ism or disorder is not exactly like that of other children.  His or her most triggering behaviors and traits AND most endearing ones are quite unique.

Some suggestions about his or her condition are right on.  Others don’t work at all.

None of us fits neatly into a box.
We are all alike.  We are also all different.

Play a Game

When looking at your child’s differences or noticing people who seem entirely unlike you, play a game.  Say,“Just like me, this person….”

Notice the ways we are all connected. Notice  the ways we are uniquely magnificent.

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Valentine’s Day? Bah, Humbug!

It is February 13, and, yet again, I have not bought those silly, pre-printed Valentines. When my children were in elementary school, I did buy them. It was required.

I’d watch other children walk to school clutching red-heart-decorated shoe and boot boxes to collect the cards and treats. I  supervised reluctant card-signing.

Phony Baloney

Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday observed on February 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs (none of whom are known for love or romance). It was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, and was deleted from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

The roots of St. Valentine’s Day may lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated February 13 – 15. Priests of the festival whipped bystanders.  Being touched by the whip was supposed to increase fertility in women.

What exactly are we celebrating?

I understand that contemporary Valentine’s celebrations in school are not about Christian saints or Roman holidays.  I understand (sort-of) that they are supposed to be fun. But what are we teaching? How do children who are socially inept, bullied, or shy experience this holiday?

Same, Same!  Cards for Everybody!

Children are required to give a card to each child in their class, so that no one feels left out. But kids know who likes them and who doesn’t. They know whom they like. They know when they are giving cards because they have to, versus giving cards they want to.

Teaching children to be kind and considerate to all of their classmates is a valuable lesson.  Teaching them to treat everyone the same, is not.

All children do not all wish to be treated the same. When sad, one child might like a hug, another to talk it out, a third would prefer to be left alone. Some children show their excitement with high-fives and shouts, others flick their fingers or flap their hands.

And a Little Red Dye #40

Almost half of my children’s classrooms have been peanut free. One was latex free. Our homeschool group avoided eggs because one family had life-threatening allergies. But artificial colors and flavors have been allowed in all classrooms. (Except at the Waldorf school. But that’s a separate, otherwise awful story.)

The UK banned artificial food dyes in 2008 after a study suggested they are related to hyperactive behavior in children. The UK demands that manufacturers use natural colors and flavors and US companies use natural products in the UK — while continuing to use artificial dyes in the products sold in the US.  (Learn more from Deborah Merlin, author of Victory over ADHD.)

My daughter was severely affected by red food coloring as a child.  Now, she avoids fake-red foods saying, “It makes me crazy.”

Bah, Humbug!

hum·bug

[huhm-buhg] interjection, noun
1.  something intended to delude or deceive.
4.   something devoid of sense or meaning; nonsense
  • I wonder what would happen if, in lieu of pre-printed, generic cards, we asked each child to think of one thing they admire about each classmate.
  • I wonder if the children would be surprised to discover that there really is something good about every person in the room, even in those children they don’t like.
  • I wonder how it would feel to receive 20-some pieces of paper that showed us the wonderfulness our classmates found in us.

What would you have the schools do in place of the humbug that is Valentine’s Day?

Note: 

I am now homeschooling my only remaining elementary school-aged child and am thrilled to announce that I did not buy cards or candy for Valentine’s Day this year.

 

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My Kind of Presence

“Children need us to be present.” I’ve read it in a hundred books and articles. I’ve probably written it myself.

When my children urgently, intensely need me, I can be present. When they are hurt physically or emotionally, I am 100% there. When they hug me, I’m there. During choir concerts, band performances, and karate tests, I watch and feel my heart swell with joy.

But when it comes to helping with homework or playing a game, watching karate practice or swimming lessons, my attention wanes.  No matter how actively I try to give the activity my full attention, half of my brain disengages.

Noticing What Works for Me

When I am talking on the phone, I iron or fold laundry.  If I am listening to a lecture, I take notes or scribble something unrelated.  When I drive, I listen to books on tape. My best ideas often show up when I’m not thinking.

For a long time, I tried to make myself pay attention to just one thing: smell and taste the food when I’m eating; focus on clothing while I iron; listen when people talk.

I was certain that was the right way to do things.  Everyone said so.

But that kind of presence didn’t work for me.  I gobbled food to finish eating as quickly as possible.  I left baskets of clothes unfolded.  My attention wandered when people talked.

One day, I acknowledged what I had known for years: I listen better when I’m doing something else.

Allowing My Children to Determine What Works for Them

An  article in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua titled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior stirred up an avalanche of responses.  The most egregious aspect of the article was that Chua’s daughters had to do what she demanded, when and how she required.

I do not believe in parenting by total non-interference.  Parents are parents because children need guidance. When parents teach and support in a gentle, loving manner, children may benefit from our accumulated wisdom.  We show them how to navigate life on Earth.

Children also benefit from figuring out how to do things their own way. We can help our children to notice things about themselves by telling them what we observe.

  • “I see that your eyes are starting to close.”
  • “Sometimes you get cranky when you’re hungry. Have you noticed any signs that you need to eat soon?”
  • “You seem so excited about drama!”
  • “Tying your shoes is frustrating. Would you like me to show you a different way to tie?”

Let’s encourage our children to discover what works for them.

Let them discover their own how. Allow them to trust their own experience and knowing.

We can learn from our children how to support them and how to honor our own needs.

Need helping shifting your ideas about how things should be?  Consider shifting your beliefs with Matrix Reimprinting.

Does your child do something his or her own way? Do you? Please share in the comments below.

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Work in Progress

Thirteen years ago, my mother-hero’s journey began. My almost-three-year old’s teacher stopped me at the door. “We’d like to have someone from special ed come in and observe Ellana. She’s not like the other children.” My heart raced. My world whirled. Hours passed and I began to assemble the teacher’s words into meaning. She thought something was wrong with Ellana. I wept. I raged. I decided that Mrs. Francis was wrong. I refused the call to adventure. I rejected the labels the teacher and observer wanted to associate with my beautiful, brilliant girl.

Twelve years ago, I acknowledged that my child was very different from the other preschoolers and accepted the challenge to be the kind of parent (I thought) she needed. I decided to overcome the autism spectrumy thing. I donned my battle gear. I read, researched, and planned. I drove my daughter to therapy appointments and sampled treatments and therapies of many flavors. I had a goal. I would help her to modulate odd behaviors and acclimate to the ordinary world. I would fix the glitches in her system. I would make my child normal.

Eleven years ago, when my second child was two, he was evaluated and given an autism diagnosis. While Ellana’s way of being defied labeling, Daniel had never spoken a word. He pressed the buttons on his toys repeatedly. He flicked his hands in front of his face. He was happy, affectionate, intelligent, and obviously autistic.

Nine years ago, my first grader was in her fifth school in five years, and we were asked to withdraw midyear.  I plunged into the abyss. Amidst deep, dark despair, I experienced moment of insight: I would teach my daughter at home.

After five years of homeschooling, after much yelling, crying, and foot stomping from mother and child, revelation dawned: I did not need to fix my daughter or her brothers. They were not, and never had been, broken. None of them resembled the children I had envisioned, but they were perfectly themselves, and I loved them, no changing required.

Four years ago, my three children went to school. For the first time in eleven years, I was home alone during the day, so I decided to write a book. I interviewed mothers of autistic children and wrote about the transformative power of our parenting journeys. I was healed and enlightened. I recognized my children’s inherent awesomeness. Life was easy and good. And we lived happily ever after.

~ The End ~

Cue the laugh track. While the above is an accurate, though drastically abbreviated, telling of my parenting experience (the whole is here), and though I did feel as if my mother-hero’s journey had come to a natural conclusion, I relaxed on my (virtual) lounge chair on the beach, margarita in hand, rather briefly. The end was not The End, but a curve in the spiral of life, circling into another loop of The Journey. I had arrived . . . somewhere, yet felt more unmoored than ever.

 

Mother,
      a small BIG word, 
       gave my life purpose and meaning.

It was I,
         who knew what my children required.
It was I,
         who fed and healed.
It was I,
         who soothed and strengthened.

I was
     needed,
     heeded,
     indispensable.

Until I was not,
             not needed to fix, for they were not broken,
             not heeded, for they invoked their own wisdom,
             not indispensable, for they were competent and complete.

Mother,
      a BIG small role,
      forged the woman I am today.

It is I,
       who practice non-interference.
It is I,
       who aim to advise less and listen more.
It is I,
       who teach and support.

I was
     heated,
      hammered,
        beaten into shape.

Until I became,
               cool and unrestricted, flowing like water,
               expansive and pliable, open to constant change,
               sovereign and free.

Thirteen years into the journey, I am trying to not try to figure out a new purpose for being, striving to adjust to the flow of life’s currents, and learning to thrive in this uncertain space. I do not remember what I know every day. I relearn lessons I previously mastered. I slip, stumble, and fall. I notice twists, hills, and valleys on own journey honor the journeys of those around me.

I know that in every moment, we are all flawed, and we are all stunningly beautiful. All is perfect, even when it does not seem that way. Everything is in creation. I am a work in progress.

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11/11 Gateway to Easier, Happier Mothering

11/11. The ones of today’s date seem to create gates.

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could step through a gateway to an easier, more joyful life with our children?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice if today were the day to take this step?
Whether your are reading this on November 11 or on a day with no elevens in the number at all, consider that today can be the day. Read on for some ideas for stepping into easier, happier living.

Reaching for “A Little Better”

Are you content with life? How do you see your children today? How do you feel?

Esther and Jerry Hicks created an Emotional Guidance Scale  that helps us move from feeling bad to feeling better about whatever we are experiencing.

In looking at the chart, most of us yearn to be at the top, in the purple zone. Even the blue and green areas look good. We want to feel hopeful and happy and to appreciate our children and our lives.  However, if we are currently in the gray or burgundy zones of guilt or grief or despair, the leap to joy seems inconceivable.

Instead of aiming for giant leaps, it is usually easiest and most productive to move through one gateway at a time. Sometimes, we simply step through. At other times, we must knock and a door will open. Once in a while, we need a battering ram.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

One way to move up a level its to find something — anything — that feels good about the current situation.
  • In the midst of a tantrum, consider finding something good. “My child is safe. I am staying calm and looking for a good way to handle this moment.”
  • When you child struggles to communicate, consider, “We have wonderful speech therapists. Look how she tries to show  me what she wants!”
  • As your child insists on the thousandth meal of the same food, think, “It is so easy to feed him. I know what he wants.”

Celebrate Success, Celebrate Yourself and Your Child

Every step is one that brings you closer to the Joy Zone. Anger and rage may not, by conventional standards, seem like a good thing. But anger and rage let you know that your do not feel powerless. You are moving closer to hopefulness and joy.

Tools for the Journey

Please browse the blog archives for tips for really easy ways to support you as you step through each level.
Consider exploring:

Next time you see 11:11 on the clock, take a deep breath and think of one thing that feels good about that moment. Every good feeling that you focus on will bring you closer to more experiences that feel good.

 

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The Story of Writing a Book

I had it in me all along.
Of course.
But I didn’t know.
Didn’t admit it.

Modesty,
sometimes very real,
sometimes really phony,
fell away.
Realization came in flash:
I would write a book.

IMG_6117

Imbued with insight
from an experienced author-coach,
Supported in camaraderie
by a circle of  writers,
I stripped bare
revealing, repeatedly, my Self.

Though I prefer the safety of caves and shadows,
silence deep in the forest,
stillness of night,
though exposure felt odd and new,
writing felt right.
I wrote.

IMG_2262

On October 22, 2012, the paperback edition of Swan Mothers was published.

On October 31, 2012, the Kindle edition was released into the world.

Scan

Publications was . . . anticlimactic. The road to holding the book in my hands had been long, winding, and interspersed with reroutings. And yet, there was a feeling of having arrived. I had accomplished something Big. I had written and published a (really awesome) book. I knew my book would heal mothers and improve the lives of children. I know it will transform the world.

The knowing is ephemeral, slippery.
One day, I know,
KNOW for sure.
The next,
I know nothing at all.

A reviewer writes:
someone has put into words and clarified for me what my soul knows to be true
and my soul sings.

No books sell for a month,
and I wonder why I wrote at all.
Why did You lead me to believe this work was Divinely inspired?
Why did You make me think taking myself and my family public was acceptable?
Why, oh, why, am I here?

One year later:
Exposed.
Stripped.
Exhibited.
Wondering
where to go, now that I’ve arrived,
what to do, now that this work is done.

P1010101

 

Editing to say, you can buy Swan Mothers from Amazon.com.

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