Reflections on a weekend waldorf conference - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-12-2006, 05:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Last weekend I was able to attend a "Waldorf in the Home Conference", offering three keynote speakers who talked about very different issues, and also dozens of various breakout sessions (which I had a hard time choosing between). The conference also brought together lots of excellent vendors offering books, toys, wools and silks, etc that are often hard for Waldorf parents to find locally. It was fantastic.

But I was amused by examples that appeared to me on all sides debunking some of the most persistent Waldorf "rumors".

* Rumor one-Waldorf forbids black crayons. Black crayons were right there for sale in the set with all kinds of other colors. (Lyra, the company that provides the colored pencils used in most Waldorf classrooms, also has a "skin tones" set of twelve additional colors to add to the basic browns, black, peach and pink colors already included in the 24 color set).

* Rumor two-Waldorf requires angels have blond hair. Toy angels were offered for sale that had every color of hair, though each I saw all had the same color body--bright sheet white. In fact, I think they probably were made from white sheets.

* Rumor three-Waldorf dolls are always caucasian. I probably saw a couple hundred dolls for sale, and they were a wide array of skin, hair, and eye color. As I browsed, the first family who walked up after me immediately chose a beautiful doll with very black, black skin.

* Rumor four-There's no ethnic or racial diversity in Waldorf. Judging by appearances only, the keynote speaker wasn't white. He looked to be African American to me.

* Rumor five-Waldorf educators are deaf and blind to any pedagogical influence except Steiner. A second keynote speaker talked almost exclusively complimenting four independent philosophies of education, none of them directly influenced by or from Rudolf Steiner. She made a point of saying that Steiner would appear somewhere below them on her own ranked scale, and [shock of shocks] nobody fainted or rushed up to eject her from the podium.

* Rumor six-Waldorf educators are gravely serious all the time and don't have senses of humor. All the speakers I saw used a lot of humor, including the conference presenter, Rahima Baldwin Dancy who was very down-to-earth and self-deprecatingly funny.

* Rumor seven-in Waldorf education, all the women are required to wear these 'odd' long dresses. I only saw one woman presenter in a long dress, and even that one didn't strike me as "odd".

* Rumor eight-Waldorf teaches that "the heart doesn't pump blood". Actually, one of the keynote speakers may have bolstered those rumors by discussing his own conclusions about the role the heart plays in blood circulation. He didn't talk about how this issue should or shouldn't be taught to children, (my children haven't been taught the heart doesn't pump blood), but instead more or less directed his comments to parents themselves, focusing on the role diet would play in proper blood circulation if the 'exchange' chemistry taking place in the capillaries, rather than pure power of pumping heart muscle, were more responsible for generating the coursing of blood through the body. This question about whether the heart is really pumping blood, as opposed to regulating and 'pulsing' the blood flow, has given some of the waldorf critics conniption fits for years, so I'm sure they'll froth at the mouth hearing this. However their position has been (as I've heard it anyway) that in Waldorf, students are taught "beings" living inside us cause the blood to circulate, which wasn't even remotely close to the scenario I heard described in this talk.

Unfortunately, there was no way for me to attend everything - including "Understanding Waldorfspeak" which I was really looking forward to. Luckily, it will be made available on CD so I can at least catch it there. I've often thought the topic would be a great subject for a feature article or pamphlet, so I'll be interested to see how it was handled in this conference.

BTW, it seems there's a kind of Waldorf philosophical 'advice for parents' television program about to happen. I'm going to hold my ear to the wind to find out more about the particular whens and wheres.

Linda
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Old 03-12-2006, 05:23 PM
 
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Wow that sounds like a great conference. Do you know if it's going to be held anywhere else?

Great for nature studies! http://www.pleinairkids.com
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Old 03-12-2006, 05:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think the next one like this will be in Colorado next October. It will probably have different speakers and topics featured than the one I just attended.

I found this link where you can register to find out more:

http://www.informedfamilylife.org/contact-us.html

Linda
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Old 03-12-2006, 05:42 PM
 
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Cool I will check it out - thanks!!!

Great for nature studies! http://www.pleinairkids.com
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Old 03-13-2006, 11:05 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl
BTW, it seems there's a kind of Waldorf philosophical 'advice for parents' television program about to happen. I'm going to hold my ear to the wind to find out more about the particular whens and wheres.

Linda

This kind of cracked me up! I don't usually think of Waldorf and TV together but it makes sense if you talking about adults. Makes sense also to go where the public is.

Glad you had a good time! It sounds like a wonderful conference.
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Old 03-13-2006, 03:11 PM
 
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Thanks for sharing your experiences Linda, it sounds like a great time! I enjoyed reading your 'discoveries' as well! I know in Canada we have a waldorf conference in Ontario, but that is about as far away from us as Colorado is!
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Old 03-15-2006, 05:37 PM
 
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Hey LInda your PM box is full! Empty some.

 
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Old 03-15-2006, 06:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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: All better now

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Old 03-15-2006, 09:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I thought of a couple more rumors that I saw dispelled at the conference.

Rumor: Waldorf doesn't want children to read before they're 14. I saw Waldorf Reader textbooks being sold for the second, third and fourth grade. They're written by a former Waldorf class teacher still very active in the Waldorf movement.

Rumor: Students are painting weird ritual "talismans" in their "wet-on-wet" paintings. A book I found there published for teachers went into thorough detail about how to teach painting, and these images which are rumored to be "talismans" are color exercises emphasizing color qualities and color relationships, for example the different qualities that come from placing complimentary colors side by side. I have a wonderful book on landscape design (completely non-Waldorf) which goes into beautiful detail about this very subject--how colors evoke different feelings in different combinations. The author has illustrated the landscape book with ...... wet-on-wet watercolor "talismans"

Linda
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Old 03-26-2006, 08:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Cool!

I have a new quasi-Waldorfy "talismans" avatar! These weren't made by Waldorf students either .

Kandinsky made them.
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Old 03-27-2006, 01:07 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl
Cool!

I have a new quasi-Waldorfy "talismans" avatar! These weren't made by Waldorf students either .

Kandinsky made them.
I was wondering what that thingamajig was! Thanks for letting us know.

Kandinsky was undoubtedly doing some sort of weird meditation exercises and it just looks like paintings

[you know who will be really mad ]
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Old 03-27-2006, 02:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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:

Kandinsky called his talisman "Color Study". Hey!!! That's the same "lie" fed to us Waldorf parents.

The dots all connect!! Kandinsky is part of the same black magic cult as the landscaping book illustrator and the Waldorf kindergarten teachers!
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Old 03-27-2006, 02:31 PM
 
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Kandinsky was deeply influenced by Steiner and Anthroposophy.
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Old 03-27-2006, 04:24 PM
 
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And he is still a well-known artist? I thought all that anthroposophy stuff meant that only cult members would want to look at it, not mainstream museums. He must have somehow overcome his conditioning or something.

http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/kandinsky/

A link to some of his paintings, a brief bio and a bit of other stuff. No mention of Steiner or Anthroposophy.

Muse, do you have a link to the connection? Now I'm getting curious.

Deborah
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Old 03-27-2006, 05:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Deborah

Yes, I've heard this too, though Kandinsky absorbed many influences, including Bauhaus--which is about 180 degrees from Steiner in that it emphasized a materialistic direction for modern art. In those days, the modern art movement was pulled away from the académie establishment and were taking cues from anywhere and everywhere, including Amish quilters and factory designers. German Expressionism tended more to the Romantic self-expressive side of the modern movement, and Steiner and Goethe are part of that Romantic stream.

Many important artists in the modernist movement were interested in Steiner, including other Blaue Reiter artists like Jawenski, as well as Mondrian and Malevich (who painted "White On White"). Steiner gave many public lectures regarding Goethe's Color Theory. Kandinsky went on to become a very influential figure in both the philosophy and teaching of color theory in the arts.

But it's really art~and not a voodoo talisman.
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Old 03-27-2006, 07:06 PM
 
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Old 03-27-2006, 07:13 PM
 
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Back to the OP, it's nice to hear that some of the "rumors" about waldorf no longer hold true or are unfounded. But I do think it varies greatly depending on the schools. I think here in England Steiner schools may suscribe to a slghtly more "dogmatic" version of anthroposophy. e.g. in our Steiner school black is absolutely not introduced until a certain age and all the women do wear long flowing skirts. Then again, individual tecahers may be flexible on certain issues. My DS's teacher just invited me in to the class to lead a percussion group with the kindergartners. I said I was surprised and pleased since I'd read that Steiner had some fixed ideas about how and when certain instruments should be introduced. She said, "Oh, he probably did but I don't care", and was inspired enough to start doing drum making and percussion groups with her class.
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Old 03-28-2006, 01:06 AM
 
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Thanks for the link, Muse. Sounds as though many artists were searching for spiritual paths in one way or another.

Deborah
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Old 03-28-2006, 01:10 AM
 
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The bit about the long flowing skirts reminds me of a conversation I had with one of the early childhood teachers at a waldorf school. She remarked that many years ago, when she had first started working there, the teacher who had hired her encouraged her to wear long dresses to work. The EC teacher tried and tried, but it just wasn't her, so she switched to slacks and a top--but she wore an apron whenever she was with the kids

She went on to be the lead teacher in the EC program for many years and has now started her own school in another part of the city. She is a super teacher, despite the slacks.

Deborah
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Old 04-03-2006, 04:20 PM
 
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Linda,

As a trained Waldorf teacher, I have to say that the information you've sited in your original post are not "rumors". They are actual facts about Waldorf Education, though there may be occasional exceptions in some conferences, schools, etc. Yes the black crayons come in the box, yes there are multicultural dolls, but...

However, Waldorf is Anthroposophy. Therefore it has earned its stereotypes by its own history of actions and pedagogical recommendations.

Stockmar crayon company is not "Waldorf" itself. It's a company Waldorf schools order from. When teachers get their crayon shipment, they pull out the black ones.

Waldorf teachers tell fairy tales having been taught themselves in Waldorf teacher-training that the blonde haired character is closer to Christ than a dark one! The Waldorf teacher has been taught this and knows she is passing this information on to the child. That is a Waldorf teacher's mission. S/he believes they will improve the world by passing on the "Mysteries" hidden in the fairy tales that only the child's soul can grasp, since they are so pure.

Therefore, in the Waldorf classroom, you will see the child gravitate toward the blonde doll in play because she or he looks most like "Jorinda and Joringal" or whatever characters from the fairy tale they've been hearing that week.

I am a trained Waldorf teacher, and none of what I saw you mention in the original post was rumor at all. It was fact, recommended to me in my training by the head honchos in Waldorf Education in the USA!
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Old 04-03-2006, 07:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Beansavi

Yes, we've talked about this before. I'm aware that some kindergartens don't provide black (or brown) to the children. What I could have said better is the things like the black crayons are rumored to be quote/unquote "official" Waldorf, that black is "forbidden". I've heard many times that some teachers pull these colors, and I think you earlier indicated this was the case when you taught in your school. I meant that it's a rumor that Waldorf education itself *forbids* them, like some official policy or something. Black crayons were made available in my children's classrooms, even their kindy drawings. And they were available from the waldorf vendors. What I characterize as *rumors* are the claims that these issues are "the way it's supposed to be", that there is some kind of official Waldorf rule in effect. (An additional rumor holds that the more experienced teachers are more rigid to these so-called official rules, and that new teachers are more likely to deviate. This isn't true in my observation from our school either. I think the more experienced teachers are much more successful in distinguishing and prioritizing between what's the True Waldorf philosophy and one Particular Waldorf Practice or another).

I forget the exact relationship, but I've heard Stockmar described as an anthroposophical company. And they do sell crayon sets without black or brown, but they also sell sets with only black (or only brown).

When I was in kindergarten, we were only allowed one color at a time for the first few months. I can remember this so well . We started with red, and that's all we had for a week, it seemed like. We were given coloring book dittos of "red" things to color. A red fire engine. A red apple, etc. We used it to color a letter we were learning in the ABCs too.Then blue--I remember the bluebird (which we don't have where I grew up ) Yellow sun, Orange - orange. Green tree. Purple grapes, then brown. Anyway, black was last. I remember we colored a black bear. And though the teacher must have had some pedagogical reason for teaching us colors this way, in this sequence, black last, I wouldn't characterize the black as "forbidden" in my public school.

But I'd like you to explain more what you mean about the blonde thing. I was speaking of angels, not fairy tales. So this is a different, though equally unsettling, issue. What do you mean that you were taught that the blonde fairy tale characters were closer to Christ? How exactly is this taught? In Jorinda and Joringel, for example, no hair color is given, although Jorinda is described as the "fairest of all". Though "fair" can mean "blonde", it can also simply mean "pretty". As in another FT my children were told, Little Snow White, who was the "fairest one of all", though her hair was as black as ebony. And no Waldorf teacher is encouraged to add any concrete specifics to the FT that weren't already there. They aren't even taught to impart any specific emotional drama to it, but to just let the child respond to the archetypal imagery that comes from the folk tale itself.

Do teacher trainees in the class question this at all?

Linda
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Old 04-04-2006, 09:45 AM
 
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I have to add that my kids had black and brown crayons in Kindergarten and they had teachers with over 20 years of experience. My son used black for his boat riggings. My daughter used black and brown to draw people of all colors because that was a reflection of her friends at school as well as the dolls available for play. The teachers had many puppets available and often told the same story more than once. They would often change which puppet represented which part with each telling. So the girls in Mother Holle would be blond in one telling, brown haired and skinned in the next and so on.
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Old 04-04-2006, 02:13 PM
 
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Okay,

So we can say that things vary from school to school. My point is simply that Waldorf teachers like me were trained in what I said below. I think where the actual professors come from make a difference, too. My main one was from Germany and her father had been a big Waldorf person there and in founding Rudolf Steiner College. My other point is that Steiner talks about the "vibration of black", etc etc. I'm not really in the mood to go into all that again, but its covered in the "Safe Haven" thread, thoroughly.

Just trying to set an example of "it's not all black and white, right and wrong..."

My baby needs me....signing off for now...

Beth

Quote:
Originally Posted by beansavi
Linda,

As a trained Waldorf teacher, I have to say that the information you've sited in your original post are not "rumors". They are actual facts about Waldorf Education, though there may be occasional exceptions in some conferences, schools, etc. Yes the black crayons come in the box, yes there are multicultural dolls, but...

However, Waldorf is Anthroposophy. Therefore it has earned its stereotypes by its own history of actions and pedagogical recommendations.

Stockmar crayon company is not "Waldorf" itself. It's a company Waldorf schools order from. When teachers get their crayon shipment, they pull out the black ones.

Waldorf teachers tell fairy tales having been taught themselves in Waldorf teacher-training that the blonde haired character is closer to Christ than a dark one! The Waldorf teacher has been taught this and knows she is passing this information on to the child. That is a Waldorf teacher's mission. S/he believes they will improve the world by passing on the "Mysteries" hidden in the fairy tales that only the child's soul can grasp, since they are so pure.

Therefore, in the Waldorf classroom, you will see the child gravitate toward the blonde doll in play because she or he looks most like "Jorinda and Joringal" or whatever characters from the fairy tale they've been hearing that week.

I am a trained Waldorf teacher, and none of what I saw you mention in the original post was rumor at all. It was fact, recommended to me in my training by the head honchos in Waldorf Education in the USA!
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Old 04-04-2006, 02:21 PM
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Beansavi - doesn't it stand to reason that you may have had a slightly different training and practice than what Linda experienced at the conference. One person cannot speak for the entire movement.

And, we used stockmar products in the public school in which I taught most recently.
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Old 04-04-2006, 02:41 PM
 
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Big sigh.

I have addressed the "speaking for the whole movement" thing many times, cheerfully. Like I said, it's on the "Safe Haven" thread.

Lastly, I believe what I was saying in my previous post is that the crayon issue Linda categorized as a "rumor". That word is what I have issue with. It is not a "rumor", it is a practice, recommended in some teacher training institutes and concretely recommended by Steiner.

My point has been that all Waldorf schools are members of AWSNA, all AWSNA officials are Anthroposophists, and Anthroposophists have made clear statements about what Linda is calling "just rumors".

The Steiner/Anthroposophy element in teacher training does not vary. It is concrete. I am not "speaking for the whole movement". But facts are facts.

Let's be clear here: I am glad some Waldorf schools don't follow Steiner to the letter.

I am not a "bad guy" here. I like to speak openly and honestly, and play devil's advocate for the sake of open, free speech. I love language and have spent a great part of my life studying it and teaching it.

Beth
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The Waldorf first graders, some of whom apparently still aren't provided "black" crayons, spend their days in a classroom facing an enormous expanse of pure-black blackboard. So, and I'm sorry if this sounds irreverent, but the Waldorfian brouhaha over these dang little black crayons is hilarious at one level. The earlier thread here entitled something like, "they're just crayons, for cryssakes!" was spot-on.

I'm still concerned about the blonde hair issue, and it may relate to what you're saying about the teacher being from Germany. I read polls about this, that in Germany most polled claimed angels are blonde. But I'm surprised if a Waldorf educator is teaching this as if it's Steiner's directive for teachers to present thru stories to children, and I'm concerned if teachers-in-training are passive and okay even hearing this taught them. I'm surprised that Steiner would have claimed real angels have "hair", period, let alone blonde.
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Old 04-04-2006, 04:53 PM
 
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I am interested in all this as i am currently looking into a waldorf school for my 12 year old (we have been homeschooling until now) and starting up a waldorf playgroup for my 2 little ones in home.My best friend is a waldorf teacher and a witch (wiccan). she says she likes waldorf because it is the closest thing to earth worship as far as schools go. the referance for nature,seasonal celebrations the like, she teaches african dance and her dh is an african drummer. She teaches her children about many religions and so the christian aspect does not bother her because she says it is not the main thing. she does not remember being taught to take out black or brown crayons and says she seems bummed that that would be told to prospective waldorf parents. she says it seems weird. anyway we have been having lots of conversations about waldorf and while she does not like everything about it, the public schools and even private tip the scales in what she does not like. so she says take the good, leave the bad,as in all schools/education...
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Old 04-04-2006, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beansavi
Big sigh.

I have addressed the "speaking for the whole movement" thing many times, cheerfully. Like I said, it's on the "Safe Haven" thread.
It is typical at mdc for threads to get very long. Some who have participated since the beginning and have followed page by page enjoy this. Others who are interested in the topic but are starting afresh like to ask questions that may have been answered in the long thread. However, there are a lot of times that the long thread is just too long to enjoy anymore. I happen to think it would be more helpful to just answer the question succinctly than point a reader to a thread that is very long. We repeat ourselves a lot at mdc and the most helpful mamas don't mind it at all.

Playing devil's advocate back at you, I found a Steiner quote about why black is not used. Based on this lovely quote, I can see why followers of Steiner would want to limit the use of black crayons.

Quote:
Now submerge yourself in black; you are completely surrounded by black--in this black darkness a physical being can do nothing. Life is driven out of the plant when it becomes carbon. Black shows itself alien to life, hostile to life; when plants are carbonized they turn black. Life, then can do nothing in blackness. And the soul? Our soul life deserts us when this awful blackness is within us.

Black represents the spiritual image of the lifeless
.

Rudolf Steiner
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Old 04-04-2006, 10:37 PM
 
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didn't realize this had posted twice.
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Old 04-04-2006, 10:38 PM
 
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sorry!
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