S-T-A-R Superstars Are What You Are

141964A7-FC75-47E9-B25A-E239664C1407First off, let me preface this post by saying the title is an ode to the countless softball cheers that I’ve heard repetitively over the past 6 weeks that I might N-E-V-E-R get out of my brain.  Like I wake up at 3am singing my favorite cheers until I can fall back to sleep.  Or I dream them, I don’t know, all I know is that they haunt me in my dreams!

With that said, Phantom U8 Summer league has officially come to an end.  We didn’t go out in the style that we all had hoped but Sporty learned so much and loved every aspect of playing against girls way better than her.  Sporty’s spring league team was undefeated this past year, so she was feeling pretty good about her softball skills.  And while there is no denying, she’s talented on the softball field, this travel season taught her that there are girls out there, her age, that are light years ahead of her.  And well, given Sporty’s personality and desire to win and be the best at everything, fortunately, this has made her want to work harder and practice more, thus net and tee for our backyard.

I’m so proud of her for doing this league, there’s no secret there (i.e. the amount of pictures and videos, I’ve posted on Facebook and Instagram this summer).  I know it’s annoying but it’s really hard for me to imagine where we were 7 1/2 months ago.  7 1/2 months ago, I would have never imagined that she would be able to play softball this competitively, she couldn’t even let her leg dangle from a chair or in her booster seat without intense pain.  7 1/2 months ago, Sporty was in excruciating pain recovering from her tendon transfer, pain that almost had me running her back to the hospital to be readmitted.  She was being wheeled around school in a wheelchair.  I had to push her into school in a stroller because she couldn’t use her walker to get from the parking lot to her class because it was too far and too painful.  She recovered slower than we had hoped and expected, went back into her AFO due to tendon fatigue and pain.  We had a detached tendon scare.  But here she was, playing 4 games a weekend, most of the time 3 of those on Saturdays, against some of the best softball players in the Bay Area, all with absolutely no foot pain!  It felt so good to trade casts and AFOs in for a good pair of cleats!  And I need to keep reminding myself of how far we’ve come, those were dark dark days for our family following her surgery, and seeing her on the field, happy and at peace doing what she loves, well that makes those dark days a little more bearable in my soul.

And then there is the pride despite their record, they lost many games by double digits but each week they showed up fresh and ready to play.  Sporty herself got out there in each tournament and pitched an inning or two.  She’d walk off the field and say she did horrible (which more often than not she did) but each week she asked for more, knowing all of her teammates, their parents, and the opposing team were out there, all eyes on her as she struggled to make the ball go over the plate.  That takes a lot of GUTS!  Guts I never would of had.

Then there was her performance and growth.  When the season started Sporty was probably in the bottom 25% of the team.  She batted at the end of the order and played lots of outfield.  By the last two tournaments she was in key positions and moved herself up to hit in the top 5, her last tournament she hit in the 3 or 4 spot.  She found her niche as a catcher and had some near throw outs down the 3rd base line.  Sporty was able to spot the runner stealing from 1st to 2nd base and try to throw her out without her coaches directing the play.  She became aware of the field and situations.  Sporty also played a mean 3rd base.

There were days where it was a 107 in the blazing sun, no shade on the field, some of the fields were worn down and not maintained, some were make shift AstroTurf fields, and they were losing by 10+ runs, they all could have quit, they were seeded last in most tournaments, but they ran out on the field each inning, heads held high.  Those are the things I am most proud of, Sporty and her teammates held their heads up high and competed when they could have quit.  And to me, that makes the weekends lost at the softball fields worth it.  Life doesn’t always hand you undefeated seasons, but you need to get back up and go out there time after time and keep trying.  Sporty learned that valuable lesson this summer.

I’ve posted a video and picture of Sporty getting hit by a pitch at her last at bat.  We thought for sure that Sporty was going to be in tears, I could hear the thunk as it hit her shoulder from the stands and as Hubs rounded the backstop to check on her she had a huge smile on her face.  After the game I noticed stitch marks on her jersey.  That’s how hard it hit her.  Hubs asked her how she didn’t cry.  She responded, “I don’t know, I knew I was going to get hit, the pitcher didn’t adjust to me being a left handed batter, so I knew the ball was going to hit me.”  Hubs asked her why she didn’t move.  She responded: “I knew we were down and needed base runners to score runs so I took one for the team.”  How does her brain work like that at 8!?!

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Training Center

DE6271E1-58B8-4EAB-90F0-81C718A2E314B6B5A05D-9D81-4439-B935-E9423F1A76B3We’re slowly but surely creating a little training center in our postage stamp of a backyard (excuse the crazy tall weeds, we haven’t been home on the weekends to mow it!).  Sporty has been begging for a net for our backyard to help her practice pitching but I was hesitant to invest (those suckers get pricey) not knowing her commitment to softball, she is 8 after all.  But after seeing her passion for pitching and clearly she’s committed to softball, I broke and invested in a pop-up net.  Hubs convinced me to get a 7 ft net versus a 5 ft net so my 5’4″ self pretty much needs a step stool to get it set up but since we’ve already lost a few balls over the fence that Sporty has pitched, it was probably a wise choice.  And yes, Sporty pitched a ball over a 7′ net, fully grown cab vine (don’t worry, no wine grapes were harmed in the incident), and a fence to lose the ball.  Thinking we should skip pitching this tournament, but that’s just me.  (Plus I don’t need any more grey hairs!).

Well then, I came across a coupon to Big 5 AND a a reasonably priced tee that they happened to have in the store close by.  So viola, we can now take some batting practice.  Now we’re just missing a bucket of balls (who knew a bucket of softballs would run upwards of $100!?!) and a pitching rubber.  The kids love it so far and it gives me almost an hour of them outside practicing while I clean or make dinner without having to fully watch them.

Even Young Jedi, who likes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, is excited to practice his throwing and hitting skills.  Actually, this travel team has also benefited Young Jedi.  I’ve mentioned some of the struggles we’ve had with Young Jedi, the struggle is seriously REAL with this kid.  We’re schedule to meet with a developmental pediatrician next month to crack the code on this kid but seeing Spor56192A82-93BC-48D9-BEC4-CA5330C31166ty into softball and competing has sparked an interest in Young Jedi that we’ve never seen (other than his obsession with Star Wars and Power Rangers).  He wants to play catch, practice batting and he even asked for us to sign him up to play fall baseball.  Usually he rejects activities because he feels like he’s not any good or he’s embarrassed he won’t be good, or someone has teased him once and he gives up on the activity but watching Sporty with her teammates, he’s been more and more into baseball and even brings his glove with him to practices and games. When we told him he had to move up to coach pitch and he couldn’t play tee-ball anymore he was super excited to take the next step.  So I am thrilled to see him take interest in something.

So I’ve got my eyes peeled for a pitching rubber and a bucket of balls to complete our training facility.  Unfortunately, no Prime Day deals on those items this week!

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So So Close

This past weekend we trekked down to San Jose for our 3rd of 4 tournaments!  I can’t believe our summer ball season is coming to end!  Sporty has had soooo much fun playing competitive softball.  And her skills have improved dramatically in the 6 weeks that she’s been playing.

The girls played incredibly this past weekend.  In fact, they didn’t have any of those 0-15 or 0-19 blowouts against them.  They lost their first game by a few runs and tied their second two games Saturday.  This was their first tournament where walks were allowed and there was no coach pitch to save them from those 4 balls but they held their own and their bats came alive this weekend!  They were also able to steal to 2nd and 3rd bases.  It was really exciting to watch.

Sporty got to play catcher and pitch.  Pitching, well we still have a lot of work to do, it wasn’t as bad as her Burlingame tournament outing but not as good as her Pleasanton pitching outing.  But as a catcher, she killed it!  She was on it and loved trying to throw the runners out that took big leads on 3rd.  And Sporty got her first fast pitch hit off of probably one of the fastest and most accurate pitchers in the first round of playoffs.  She started a rally which brought them within 1 run of the other team.  They ended up losing in the first round but that team went on to win the whole tournament so there was no shame in that loss.  And truthfully, they should have and could have won.

This weekend is our last tournament and while I’m super glad to have our weekends back (being at a field at 7am that is an hour away is BRUTAL!), I will miss the games and the experience of travel ball.  It’s a great group of girls and parents so I am definitely glad we had this experience.  Sporty is sad to see it end too, she told me on the way to practice last night that she is sad to see it end and wishes there were more tournaments to play in.  She’s hungry for a Sunday win so that they can keep progressing in the tournament to make this season last longer.  I know Young Jedi will be happy to NOT have to sit at softball fields ALL day long!  We owe him a few solids to make up for the long hot days he’s spent pretending to watch his sister (those popsicle and snow cone bribes only get us so far).

And the glory of it all, I asked her this weekend of her feet hurt at the end of the day after playing 3 games and she looked at me like I was insane.  Why would I even be asking her such a thing?  I’m like, you know, you had surgery 7 months ago, does your foot ever hurt after playing 3 games in a day (sometimes, they are back to back).  Nope, she replied, they feel good!  All I ever could have hoped for!

So here’s our picture recap of the tournament and of course video of her first fast pitch hit!

 

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Like Boss’

Sporty and I got new hats. I saw a lady wearing a super cute trucker hat that said “Soccer Mom” this week while on vacation so I just needed to have a “Softball Mom” hat for our endless hours spent on the softball fields. After some debate with hubs about whether asking random lady about her hat was creepy or not and some liquid courage, I finally asked where she got it. Turns out, they’re from a company called Mother Trucker.  So while still at dinner I started surfing for my perfect hat, and while I was surfing for “Softball Mom,” I came across “#girlstrong,” and, well, it screamed Sporty.  Seriously, cutest hats, I may need to add “Soccer Mom” to my wardrobe for Sporty’s upcoming soccer season and of course “Baseball Mom” for Young Jedi’s adventures on the baseball diamond. And maybe I can convince them to make a #madetorun hat!!!  So here we are sporting (get it!?!) our new hats. They came just in time for Sporty’s third tournament. More on that later!

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Home Sweet Home

Last weekend Phantom hosted a tournament at our home sweet home fields. It was so nice hosting the tournament for a variety of reasons a) we didn’t have to drive an hour for our early game b) we got visitors and c) the girls were comfortable on their home turf. 

An added bonus is that we played Friday night which left us only playing 2 games on Saturday which happened to be 9:30am and 5:00pm so it felt like we actually had a Saturday in between. 

Friday night the girls lost pretty bad, like 0-15 bad. Saturday morning they lost 0-1 and they brought home a 12-2 win Saturday evening. We still got the 8am Sunday playoff slot and the girls ended up losing 0-1. They are really starting to hold their own against really good teams!  The girls were definitely sad to lose and not protect their home turf but they’ve improved so much in the short summer that they’ve spent together and it’s so fun to watch them play. The parents are great too and when a girl makes a great play, the parents all high five that girls’ parents to celebrate the success. 

Sporty was also lucky enough to have her former Kindergarten teacher come and watch her first game and then her friend and her mom came Saturday evening game. She loved having fans cheer her on!

Sporty oh Sporty. Sporty played well. She told me her coach had her on the roster to pitch the first inning of the evening game Saturday night. I tried to talk her out of it. Sporty has had no training and before this travel team, never pitched in a game before since her spring league still did coach pitch at her age. I tried explaining to her that the coaches will put her where they think she’s the biggest asset to the team. Pitching probably isn’t it right now since she hasn’t had opportunity but we’d get her opportunity and practice if she was really serious about this. She was hell bent on pitching. I even spoke to coach and told him  if he wanted to pull her, we would not be upset with him. But he stuck with her. Now I’m not the type of mom to tell her kid that she sucks. I never said that. I just tried to stress that she’s stronger in other positions, catcher, 2nd base, even outfield where she’s had some great plays. But when Sporty gets something in her mind, there’s little one can do to persuade her otherwise. This is an attribute that’s allowed her to overcome her obstacles in life but isn’t always the easiest trait to parent. She looked at me and said “Mom, I can do this.” 


And I’d like to add “May we survive raising them!”

Her last pitching outing in her first tournament was downright embarrassing, no one wants to see their kid look awful out on the field. She threw one strike. This time, wow, what a different story. Her second pitch, the batter hit a choppy grounder to her, she fielded it and threw a perfect throw to first for the out. The key, she threw a pitch that someone could hit!  There were ups and downs the rest of the inning, she gave up 2 runs. Threw about a dozen strikes, hit 2 batters and had some hits off of her. She was right, she could do it. Once again I’ve learned not to under estimate the power of the human spirit. 

She had some good plays the rest of her tournament including a double play at 3rd where she fielded a fly ball and tagged the runner out on third who didn’t tag up on the fly. I asked how she knew to do that and she said “I just couldn’t let them score another run!”  Her innate knowledge of the game baffles me sometimes. Now we just need to get her bat swinging!


So that leaves us with 2 more tournaments this summer. It will be nice to have our weekends back but I will miss watching Sporty and her teammates play and improve each week!

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If You Give A Sporty a New Bat

If you give a Sporty a new bat, she will approach the plate with a new level of confidence, pride, and determination.

After Sporty’s first tournament and after seeing how fast some of her opponents can pitch, Hubs finally agreed with Sporty and myself that she needed a new lighter bat to help with her bat speed.  I looked at our local places – Dick’s, Big 5 but since it’s not softball season, inventory was super low.  We heard about this place called West Coast Sports about 20 miles away that is a huge warehouse full of softball and baseball gear.  So we made

 

 

812D866E-4DA0-4572-B460-0B5DC9B3B9F1the trek out to this place and it was HOLY softball and baseball gear, I’m talking 2 stories of stuff.  Sporty scored herself a sweet Louisville Slugger TPS 12.5oz bat (her current bat is at 16oz!), Young Jedi got himself an awesome gear backpack since we’ve been kicking it old school with the stick bags and I got myself a new softball glove since I’ve been using my >20 year old softball glove from high school!  We got all of our stuff for a fraction of normal retail!

 

 

 

Sporty is so proud of her new bat and has been showing everyone that she can her recent acquisition.

So if you give a Sporty a new bat, she can conquer the world!

Here’s a video of Sporty testing her new bat at the pitching machine!

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Throwing In the Towel

 

2CABF6AE-8E71-4F60-920F-85CD5C51494FThis here is Sporty on her first day of swim a couple of weeks ago.  It was a short lived swim team tenure for her.  For years, Dr Fluffy Unicorn has mentioned that swim team is the best exercise for Sporty and clubfoot in general.  It builds muscle and strengthens tendons with no joint impact but with me working full time, I’ve never been able to execute and commit to the everyday rigors of swim team.  With this being my first summer off as a SAHM, I figured it was the perfect time to sign her up for the Jr Swim team.  Sporty loves swimming and one of her schoolmates and soccer teammates was also signed up so she was super excited to start the swim team with her.

I drastically underestimated Sporty’s atrophy and loss of stamina during her recovery.  Sporty is in ridiculous shape….on land.  I marvel at her muscle tone (even though lack of muscle tone in the lower extremities can be a side effect of clubfoot) and her athletic prowess on everything she picks up.  Except for swim.  Sporty struggled to get across the pool.  I seriously couldn’t watch in fear that she would sink.  I had a long talk with her after the second day of the swim team about maybe we weren’t ready for swim team yet.  It had been almost 9 months since she swam due to the surgery, casts, recovery.  Sporty did not want to quit.  I love that part of her.  She refuses to quit.  That’s the piece of her that’s allowed her to overcome clubfoot despite all of her setbacks.  I assured her this wasn’t quitting, that we’d take the money and put it towards swim lessons to get her stronger and more comfortable in the 7′ deep end.  It wouldn’t be the end of swim but a different path.  Different paths are ok.

Ultimately, I told her it was her decision but I told her I was concerned with her safety in the water and I wanted her to think about it.  It wouldn’t be the end of summer swimming, it would just be different than we expected.  We need to recognize that she went through major surgery and we shouldn’t expect her stamina and muscle tone to be there without some work and we maybe we jumped into swim team too fast.  After speaking with the coach she didn’t think it was a good fit either.  And honestly, I was super disappointed with the city’s program.  It was the Jr Swim team, we expected a certain level of instruction and guidance and they just dropped them in the pool  and had them swim back and forth for an hour, yelling at them to keep going even when they saw the children struggling with a certain stroke.  I didn’t want Sporty to grow to hate the water, to despise the sport because of a bad experience (that’s how she came to give up basketball).

Sporty reluctantly threw in the swim team towel.  We walked straight to the office and signed her up for swim lessons starting the next week.  We’re all happier with the change.  So while I hope, throwing in the towel and moving to something easier doesn’t become a habit, I hope it helped Sporty realize that she needs to be self aware.  Self aware of her body, her safety, and her environment.  Clubfeet are going to plague her her entire life, self awareness is going to be key for her continued success and atheleticism.

And if I know one thing about Sporty, she’ll train as much as I let her to come back next summer with vengeance and destroy those laps on the swim team!

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Better Late than Never

So this is an ode to World Clubfoot day which was some 18 days ago BUT it is summer vacation and I am tasked with keeping Sporty and Young Jedi entertained and since they are high maintenance, that’s no easy task.

So every year, people gather in Iowa at the University of Iowa where Dr Ponseti practiced and created the Ponseti method for treatment.  We’ve yet to make it out, mostly because Sporty always has some sort of sport going on so it’s hard for us to get away but several of the families I’ve “met” along the way attend and they have a clubfoot race.  This year Freddie Sanchez was there.  Freddie Sanchez was a SF Giant and he was born with clubfoot.  He was on the Giants in 2010 when they won the World Series AND when Sporty was in the depth of treatment.  It was super inspiring to watch him on the field and know that Sporty could live a long life.

One of the friends that I’ve met has a daughter that’s a couple of weeks younger than Sporty who has bilateral clubfoot, a daughter Young Jedi’s age who doesn’t have clubfoot and little boy who has unilateral clubfoot so they attended.  She knows Sporty is a huge Giants fan and when she met Freddie Sanchez, she recorded a message from him to Sporty (which Facebook won’t let me download).  She also gathered some goodies for Sporty, including a signed ball and picture by Freddie Sanchez.  I’m not sure who was more excited, Sporty or Hubs.

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First Tourney Jitters

Well Sporty and her teammates had their first tournament this weekend and there were definitely some jitters, ok a lot of jitters, especially for Sporty.  I could just feel her nervous energy starting the day before and she didn’t settle down until after the first game.

The girls lost their first game 0-19!  They played some seriously good teams, the pitchers pitched so fast the girls couldn’t even decide to swing before the ball was in the catcher’s glove and the girls on the other teams were big, like I don’t know what they are feeding them in some of these cities but we need to get some of that out here.  And it was seriously hot, we’ve had record breaking heat out here and the girls played 3 games on Saturday on turf fields.  You could just feel the heat radiating off of them.  It was disgusting, I’m not a fan of turf especially since Young Jedi brought a bunch of the beads home with him.  Poor Sporty was so uncomfortable in her AFO on the field in her second game that she asked to be pulled mid- inning and had to take off her AFO.  It was just that hot!  She was so concerned about what Dr Fluffy Unicorn would say!  Sunday’s game was even hotter so I didn’t even have her try to put it on.  I’m like “don’t worry about Dr Fluffy Unicorn, I’ll take the heat!”  But seriously, she was miserable and it was turf so there wasn’t a chance of her rolling her ankle in a divot or uneven ground so I made the executive decision.

Overall Sporty had fun, I don’t think she quite fathomed the concept of 3 games in one day (with heat close to 100 degrees) when we told her about it.  Her first game was at 8am, then a 12:30 game, followed by a 4pm game.  So it was a LONG, HOT day!  It was definitely a learning experience for the girls but they had fun.  Sporty somehow sweet talked her dad into agreeing to buy her a new softball bat that is shorter and lighter than the one she currently has.  We need all of the bat speed that we can get!

The girls lost their first game 0-19, won their second game 8-7, and lost their third game 0-14 to put them on in the 12th seed (I think out of 16 teams).  They lost the first round in the Championships on Sunday in extra innings, it was heart breaking.  They were so close to advancing.

In other news, I overcame my fear of port-a-potties as that was my only option for 10 hours. Remember how I said it was close to 100 degrees???  Yeah, now that’s love!

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Sporty getting ready to bat

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After the last game of the tournament, still all smiles

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Sporty making her pitching debut, lets just say we have lot of work to do, I think she threw one strike in the inning that she pitched.  But she loves it and wants more so we’ll have to get her some lessons or practice

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Hoping for a hit!

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Calling out the play at first base

 

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Kind of a BOGO

 

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I had to capture my negotiation to get him on the x-ray table

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So there’s the fracture, I actually think this was when his cast came off.  I’ve tried to repress all memories of when I had two kids in full leg casts

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The fact that the two darker lines run parallel, tells them that his legs are growing symmetrically so the growth plate is a-ok

This week we headed up to Dr Fluffy Unicorn but this time it was for Young Jedi and not Sporty.  I know, right!?!  We have to keep you all on your toes.  Remember that time when Young Jedi fractured his leg 10 days after Sporty had surgery and they were BOTH in full leg casts, during our rainiest winter in like 10 years!?!  Well if not you can read about it here and if you do remember, you should just read about it again because one really can’t make this stuff up:

https://madetorunblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/that-one-time/

 

 

 

Now that you’ve had a good laugh, the story continues.  Well when we went to get him officially casted by the orthopedic physicians assistant, she mentioned that based on the x-rays his pediatrician took, they couldn’t tell if the fracture impacted his growth spurt, I immediately went to leg length differences, surgery and since we were just barely pain free from Sporty’s surgery I couldn’t even process another surgery let alone on the kid who gets a paper cut and acts like the world is coming to an end.  (Seriously, he tripped on the sidewalk this week and skinned his arm and for 3 hours he asked why (in the whiniest voice imaginable) they had to make sidewalks so hard!?!  Again, can’t make this stuff up!).

Anyhoo, they wanted to check him 6 months after his injury date so that led us to our appointment this week.  Getting him to take x-rays again was a negotiation that cost them 2 lollipops and me a nap for the day along with some Otter Pops and other promises.  (He seriously better be rich when he’s older so he can buy me a nice Hawaiian condo where I can finally recuperate from all of the grey hairs and sleepless nights that he gives me.)

So after waiting 45 minutes (insert more whining from Young Jedi), we got our 3 minutes with Dr Fluffy Unicorn (don’t get me started on that!  Even his nurse missed the check-up, it was so short!) where we learned that his growth plate was NOT impacted by the fracture.  Can I get a hallelujah!?!  Seriously, we needed that small miracle.

And the BOGO part, well we never made a follow-up for Sporty when we were there a week and a half ago.  She REALLY wanted out of her AFO for her softball tournaments.  Unfortunately, that request got denied.  Even she couldn’t sweet talk him into changing his mind on that one.  He said he wants her to remain in her AFO through the end of her softball season.  BUT soccer season, she can stop wearing her AFO when that starts the end of July/ beginning of August.  She’s pretty much out of her AFO (not by my approval) except for softball and for the most part has remained pain-free.  Next check-up, mid-September!  She’ll be well into her 3rd grade year by then!  Crazy!

As for Young Jedi, he is officially released from Dr Fluffy Unicorn barring any future breaks!

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He doesn’t quite appreciate the Dr Fluffy Unicorn pictures the way Sporty does

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