Monday, September 30, 2013

Connecting, Learning, Growing

A lot has been said about the flood of information that comes into our lives because of the internet.  We are cautioned to not waste our time on trivial internet fluff.  I agree with that.  I have always loved to spend time on the internet and I have always tried to make my time there productive, uplifting, and/or educational.

And there is so much good to be found online.  I have often been touched, strengthened and empowered by information or stories I've read online.  Every once in awhile an article or a blog will just blow me away and I will be a different person for having read it.

These last few months, these kinds of articles seem to have been coming faster and thicker.  I have been praying more and more fervently as time goes on for certain blessings and for help in becoming the kind of person I want to be, and it appears to me that these online articles are one part of the answer to that prayer.  These things grab my eye, I take a few minutes out of my busy day to read them, and it ends up being "wow, I really needed to know that." 

Like I said, I have had experiences like this for years and there is nothing particularly remarkable about that in and of itself, but it really has been on my mind lately how interesting it is that these very timely messages are coming faster and faster and are more and more profound and moving.

Does this make any sense?  Do you feel it too, or is it just me? 

I would like to share with you one of the online experiences I have been having that has had a big effect on my life.  Last April, I started following the blog of a friend of a friend named Jenifer Moss.  Jenifer, during her eighth pregnancy, developed a severe case of placenta percreta, which meant that without very skilled medical intervention she would die during the delivery of her child.  When I picked up her story, she was staying the the hospital, several weeks away from delivery (they wanted to keep an eye on her.)  From the beginning, I was totally hooked by her blog.  I understood her fierce devotion to the life within her because I would feel the same way in her shoes, but I was very inspired by her positive attitude, her beautiful faith, and her determination to survive. 

I followed Jenifer as she went through one of the most intense and traumatic surgeries her hospital had ever seen.  She made it through, despite all the odds.  Her baby son is absolutely beautiful.  Since his birth she has been experiencing a long and difficult recovery.  Following her story has been a constant reminder to me to treasure motherhood and appreciate each day and each act of service that I can perform for my family.  I had been working on being more grateful and more positive, and every time I read a new post on her blog it was like she was helping me day by day to be who I wanted to be.  And I am steadily growing in gratitude and appreciation for my life, thanks, in part, to this incredible woman whom I have never met.

Her latest blog post was just absolutely beautiful and I just had to share it on here because it is so very meaningful to me.  You can read it here.  I think you will be glad you did.

It is such an amazing power we have with the internet to be able to share our voices with so many.  And the beauty of blogs, unlike books, is that you can follow someone's story in real-time as it unfolds.  Jenifer has no idea who I am and how much she has touched me.  I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of her story, and the stories of many others whose lives I follow online.  I am so grateful for all the wisdom, faith, goodness, and beauty that is being amplified by the internet.  I am grateful for how it helps me in becoming the person I want to be. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

There is a Pumpkin on my Porch!






I can't even begin to say how much I love this time of year.

The pumpkin comes courtesy of the Rabbit, who brought it back from her class field trip to the pumpkin patch.  I plan to take the entire family out there sometime in the next couple of weeks and then there will be LOTS of pumpkins on our porch.  And that will make me very happy!  I love autumny things!  

You know, it's funny...  this is the first year in a long time when I have really felt like decorating for Fall.  I'm not sure why, considering how much I love it.  In recent years I guess I just had too much on my plate to worry about decorations.  But now, I don't know.  Maybe it's this cute new house of mine.  It really is cute.  It inspires me.  Or maybe it's the fact that we are going to have a real autumn followed by an honest-to-goodness winter, the likes of which I have not seen since I was a wee little thing in Minnesota.

There's also the fact that I have an embryo interior decorator: Roo.  She saw the tub in the garage that said "fall decorations" on it and got very excited.  "I will help you decorate for fall, Mom!"  In a few years she will make sure my house is always beautifully decorated for holidays and I won't even have to do anything.

So, with Roo's help, I got a wreath on the front door...



... and a cornucopia and some et cetera on top of the piano.







It's not much and it's not fancy, but....

It makes me happy!

Look What I Did!





Fourteen quarts of peaches plus seven and three-quarters pints of peach jam! 

I love canning because:

I love food
I love being productive
I love a warm, steamy kitchen
I love getting in touch with my pioneer roots
I love living in harmony with the seasons
I love squirreling food away for the winter
I love the law of the harvest

AND

I love the little "pop" the jars make when they seal
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sunday Morning Pancakes

I am all kinds of crazy-in-love with my new kitchen.  I especially adore the island.  It is the perfect place for things like cooking and serving up mountains of pancakes. 


We eat pancakes pretty often at our house.  We don't follow the tradition I grew up with of having them every Saturday morning.  In fact, we most often have them for dinner.  But we also often have them on Sunday morning since we have afternoon church and it's nice to take the time to make a fun breakfast.

We like real maple syrup at our house.  No fake stuff allowed here.  That is one little luxury we afford, we just make sure the kids go easy on their syrup.  We also like pancakes with applesauce and fresh-grated nutmeg.  If you've never tried that you should.  We have this cute little nutmeg grinder and it gets a lot of use at our house.   Fresh grated nutmeg is such lovely stuff. 

Ah, I love food.  And I LOVE having a kitchen that is so pleasant to be in that it makes cooking for my family a true joy.  What a blessing!  




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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Individual Updates: Moi

Since school started, I have lost five pounds.  I'm thrilled about this because I didn't lose any weight over the summer and I was starting to wonder just how hard it was going to be to reach my goals: could I even do it?  Had something changed metabolically that was going to stop me from losing any more weight?  (I had my thyroid checked even, but it was normal.) 

I have been doing really well with the no sugar thing for a long time now.  But even though I wasn't having sugar binges, I was having pizza binges and honey ice cream binges and lots of other binges that I won't even say because it would be embarrassing. 

So I set a new goal: no binge eating.  I can eat anything I want, I just can't eat tons of it.  I can have no more than two helpings.  Which is sometimes still too much with some foods, but it allows me the luxury of eating a little too much without eating a lot too much.  So I can eat whatever I want and I can even eat a lot of it, but I just can't cross the line into eating obscene quantities. That may be something that's hard to understand for someone who is not a food addict, but let me assure you, I am very good at eating obscene quantities of things and I have done it habitually throughout my life. 

This new plan is working well.  And I'm finding that I've been off sugar for so long that sugar doesn't usually appeal to me.  Sometimes I will eat a homemade treat-- like the plum crisp I made the other night-- but I don't want to have the sugar hangover so I'm pretty careful. 

Walking the kids to school each morning has helped.  It's a nice little brisk walk that gets me going in the morning. 

We took August off our Y membership because between our trip to Utah and our move I knew we'd never get over there.  I missed it.  I also realized that I really need to pay the extra for the childcare (and it's really not that much) if I am going to be able to really use the Y the way I need to. Sometimes you need to be frugal and sometimes you need to take care of yourself. 

And plus, when I do pay the money for the childcare I'm motivated to get my money's worth. 

So I am now back at the Y three or four days a week.  It feels good. 

It's an upward spiral.  The more I exercise, the more I want to eat healthy.  The more I eat healthy, the more I want to exercise.  Then I see that number go down a little on the scale and I do a happy dance and I want to eat healthy and exercise even more. 

I also take some supplements.  Those probably merit their own post.  Back in April I posted about some of this health stuff and mentioned water kefir and a reader asked if I could give some more information about that.  I promise, dear reader, I will.  I have not forgotten your request.  My water kefir starter has been in the freezer these last few months, but it's been on my mind and I intend to get it out and wake it up soon.  Water kefir is an awesome source of fresh probiotics, and it's cheap.  It needs to become part of our daily routine. 

But, more about that later.  I read recently that if you don't get enough sleep it's hard to lose weight because your body goes into survival mode.  So, goodnight!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

May I Just Say...

...that I LOVE my pantry! 



I need to do some more posts about this beautiful new house we're living in and enjoying so much.  I'll start with the pantry!  It is fabulous! 
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Individual Updates: the Babies


Peanut and Prince Charming are known as "the babies" around here lately.  The gap between Peanut and the Rabbit is my largest space between children (nearly 3 years) and it's weird to me to have the Rabbit off in school and the next child in line only Two years old... She's too young to sign up for a bunch of lessons and work on preschool workbooks with.  It will be three more years before she is in the fall crop of Kindergarteners and that seems so very far away right now.

And she's still my baby girl.  It's fun having a baby girl and a baby boy both to squeeze and snuggle.

I must say, however, that Baby Boy and Baby Girl do not get along very well lately.  Peanut is just having a hard time in general-- so much change-- and Prince Charming is the perfect entity to take out her frustrations on.  Alas, she hits and kicks him frequently.

She also gets upset and screams "I HATE YOU!!!!" at people from time to time.  So, we have lots to work on when it comes to anger management.

But when it really comes down to it, she really loves her little brother.  Right now they are happily playing with the Fisher Price farm set together.  And she gives him hugs and loves as often as she beats up on him.


Peanut loves to sing and dance.  She loves to dress up.  She loves horses.  And everything is "mine."  When we're out driving and she sees a horse she will say, "my horsie!"  And when we see a picture of Jesus she says "my Jesus!"

  


Prince Charming loves trying new foods.  It's so fun to feed him because he enjoys it so much.  He's a turbo-crawler, he pulls himself up easily to the furniture, climbs stairs, and can lower himself off my bed, but he's nowhere near walking.  None of my kids have walked before fifteen months, so I don't expect that he will either. 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Individual Updates: Rabbit



My Rabbit, as many of you know, is my first kid to go to Kindergarten at the public schools.  When the other kids were five they were not, for various reasons, ready for the environment of Kindergarten.  But the Rabbit IS ready for it.  She's taking the Kindergarten by storm.

She adores her teacher, and she has a very good teacher who definitely gets my stamp of approval.  She will not leave school each day until she has given her teacher a hug.  She wants very much to follow directions and get positive feedback.  Every day she tells me about the kids in her class who misbehaved: what they did to break the rules and what the consequences were.  She does not want to be in that camp.  I'm grateful that she's learning that sense of order and following the rules and I hope it rubs off at home a little bit. 

She seems to be making friends easily.  In particular, she sits by a little boy named Alex that she really likes. 

Academically, she's way ahead of the game.  This is one thing I do not like about her being in public school.  I would really like to see her be able to continue to progress academically at her own pace instead of having to go back to letter and number identification when she's ready to sound out words and add.  I told the teacher to have her help kids who were struggling.  We'll see how that works out.

It is a huge advantage to homeschool to be able to have your kids learn at their own pace, be it slower or faster than average.  I wouldn't want Rabbit to be kept in low gear long-term so I am going to watch the situation carefully.  But for now I think she needs the social experience and that is more important. 

One day I kept her home because she was sick.  That day I realized just how high-octane she is.  I was trying to do my normal homeschool routine with Bean and my energetic little Rabbit somehow managed to throw off our entire groove.  Our nice quiet homeschooling morning was definitely not quiet.  I saw clearly from that experience that her needs are better met at school right now and how one of the really hard things about homeschooling for me in the past was that I wasn't meeting her needs very well and that made teaching the other children difficult because she was more disruptive.  I was doing my best, but it wasn't working very well for the broad spectrum of her needs, despite the fact that she was progressing very rapidly academically.

I read an article that you should not load up your Kindergartener with extracurriculars while they get used to the school groove.  I definitely see the wisdom in that.  The Rabbit wanted to play fall soccer, but I did not think that wise.  She does ballet after school once a week and I'm almost wondering if that's too much because she is always so tired before and after ballet.

She sometimes tells me that she likes ballet and sometimes says she doesn't like it.  I have considered pulling her out of it, but she's only been in it a couple of months and I think she needs more time to know how she really feels.  Plus, my Rabbit is extremely gifted musically and I think dance is incredibly beneficial to her.  I see so much good in her learning to how move her body to the rhythm of the music.  Plus dance teaches things like strength, self-control, and grace.  So we'll keep with the ballet for a little longer, at least.

She is always humming.  She loves to sit at the piano and pick out tunes by ear.  Some of them shock me with their complexity: I'll be cooking in the kitchen and, oh my goodness my five-year-old just played the melody to the theme music from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe...  So I bought Alfred music's piano book designed for younger beginners and I've been teaching her.  She is doing very well and begs me for more and more.

We work on piano during that lovely hour between when Bean goes to school and when Fish and Roo get home.  Such a wonderful time of my day where I get to really focus on my sweet little Rabbit for a few minutes.  She really is a sweet, loving child... in addition to being very spunky!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Individual Updates: Fish


Back when we were homeschooling, Fish had a really hard time with the interruptions and the slightly chaotic atmosphere that comes from having six kids of different ages all trying to have their educational needs met at once.  For so long he wasn't really interested in school work and then when he finally decided he was really interested in it, he needed a calm, focused atmosphere to learn.  I remember after that first day at co-op-- I think he realized finally what school could actually be like-- he just wanted to sit at a desk and focus on what the teacher was saying.  He became increasingly frustrated with my stopping mid-sentence to deal with someone screaming or even just my saying "I need to stay here on the couch because I'm nursing the baby, so if you need help with your math please come over here and sit next to me."  The other kids didn't seem to mind that, but Fish did.

So Fish is totally loving school, at least that aspect of it.  He likes his teacher and she likes him.  She says he adds a unique perspective to things that she appreciates.  He seems to be doing well.  I haven't heard any feedback from her about him being drastically behind, though I know he is somewhat behind on spelling and writing just because of the differences between public school and homeschool. 

Fish bolts out of bed every morning when his alarm goes off at 6:30.  He is absolutely neurotic about leaving for school on time.  He has also become meticulous about his personal hygiene.  So he gets up, gets dressed, feeds himself breakfast, and then brushes his teeth and carefully combs his hair (I have a hard time getting some of my kids to brush their teeth once a day, let alone twice!)  Then he comes into my room (sometimes I'm still getting up) and says "can I leave yet?" and it's still half an hour before he can leave the house.  So I've been making him do some small chores and practice the piano a little bit (has hasn't done any piano in two years, so this is really good!)  As the time to leave approaches, he gets more and more antsy.  We try to have a small devotional right before it's time to leave and he's always hurrying us through it.  He wants to get to school as early as they will let him be there so he can get situated and ready for the day.

Socially things are a bit rough for him right now.  He does not have any good friends yet.  We knew it was possible that it would

be that way and so we talked about it before school started and I think he's handling it okay.  He likes to play four square at recess and can usually find some kids to play with him, but sometimes he can't and then he feels really left out.  He's so much like me in that he is incredibly sensitive-- the complete opposite of Bean.  So I try to keep the channels of communication open with him and talk to him a lot about what's going on and how he feels about it. 

He loves his Legos and wishes he had more time to play with them.  I think he wishes he had someone his own age to play Legos with.

He is playing soccer this fall at the YMCA and he loves it and I'm so glad. He wants to be more active and eat healthier and I hope I can help him with that. 

Like Bean, he did a beautiful job at the audition for the children's choir.  He has a very wide vocal range and can sing high notes clearly.  I'll never forget the surprised and amazed look on the director's face during his audition as they tested his vocal range and he went higher and higher and higher. 

Fish has a great sense of humor and a gift for impersonation.  He can really make me laugh.  A couple days ago we were at the YMCA and I had just come back into the children's play area after working out.  I was trying to round up the kids and I guess I was a little agitated-- "Where's Roo?  Where's Rabbit?"  and Fish, sitting there, quoted Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice:  "Hill?  HILL?!!!"  It took me a minute to realize what he was saying-- if you've seen the 5 hour miniseries version, Mrs. Bennet is always yelling hysterically for her servant Hill.  I absolutely loved it that he thought of that.  Kind of unusual for a ten-year-old boy.  But my Fish is a very wonderfully unique boy, and I like him that way. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Individual Updates: Roo

Roo loves school so much she can hardly stand it.  She wishes she could go on the weekends.  She loves her teacher and she loves all the work they do.  Her very favorite subject is math. 

Here she is running happily to meet me at the end of the school day.  "How was school?" I ask.  "Awesome 'possum," she replies. 



She made some friends last year that all ended up in different classes this year, so she doesn't seem to have any good friends in her class yet.  But she still says that people are nice to her.  And I get positive feedback on her behavior all the time.  She was her art teacher's first pick for Art Student of the Week for this school year.  I was not surprised. 

She is doing an orchestra program through the school, playing the violin, and she loves it.  I'm excited for that for her.  She also loves her ballet class. 

At home, she has been a little bit touchy lately.  This is unusual for my little Roo, who is usually always so sweet.  She will overreact when her brothers annoy her-- usually she just lets it roll off her back or only gets mildly annoyed, but lately she will cry noisily.  I hope it's just the stress of the move and the fatigue from not being used to long days in school.  I am trying to show her extra love, but that's one thing I really miss about not having her home with me: I don't feel like I have enough time in the day to enjoy her as much as I want to, now that she's in school so much of the time.  So I am trying to savor every moment I have with this sweet, fun little girl. 


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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Individual Updates: Bean


I want to tell you in a bit more detail about how each one of my kids is doing lately.  I will start with Bean. 

Oh, Bean.  If I was going to pick one of my kids to homeschool simply by my preferences, it wouldn't be him.  He and I have butted heads about every little bit of learning he has ever done.  And with the way his brain is wired (officially diagnosed with a learning disability) he is not an easy kid for me to teach. But I am grateful I can homeschool him, even though it is hard. 

I had him make up his own homeschool schedule.  I figured we'd have less conflict if he was the one who had decided everything.  Okay, yes, we do have less conflict, but we've still had several lively arguments already this year about why he really needs to put down his book and do X, Y, or Z, according to the schedule.  Sigh.  He has come a long way from where he was, but I still feel like most of the battle is uphill with him academically. 

He actually made a really good schedule.  He's doing spelling and grammar first, because he hates it (but it's what he needs the most.)  His other subjects at home are history, science, the Old Testament, typing, Latin, thinking skills, reading comprehension, and civics.  Starting out, he typically got about half his work done in a day because of deliberate dawdling, arguing with me about little stuff, and slipping away to read fluffy fantasy novels when my back was turned.  Wanting to improve that, I offered him a carrot: I am going to give him a dollar for every day he does all his work according to the schedule he made.  Any day he does not complete his work on schedule he owes me a dollar.  I told him that this morning and so far I owe him a dollar.  I hope this continues. It was our best homeschool day ever. 

I hope I'm not portraying him in too bad of a light.  He really can be delightful to work with when he decides to be, and I love those moments.  I just want to be honest about this situation: when he decides he doesn't want to work he makes my life extremely frustrating. 

However, with just him and me and the babies home in the morning I have had more opportunities to give him hugs and sit on the couch and snuggle him while studying something and he and I both appreciate that.

Yesterday he coaxed me to go on a little walk with him to a stream that runs not far from our house.  He's found this enormous willow tree there that he likes to climb around in.  We sat there in the tree on a beautiful September day and reviewed his Latin flashcards together.  He was very happy being outside.  I need to remember that.  

Today when I wasn't looking he changed one of the nouns in a sentence in his grammar book from "dishes" to "squids."  I turned around and he was diagramming "Bethany scrubbed squids."  We had a good laugh over that.  

It feels weird to drop him off at school in the afternoons. 

He isn't crazy about his math class.  He's never been crazy about math.  He seems to understand it pretty well, though, and I know it's good for him to be there. 

He loves band.  He really seems to have a gift for the trumpet and his new band director is really excited to work with him this year.  It's so wonderful to watch his success there. 

He adores his time in the library after school.  It's his hour to unwind.  The librarian thinks he's great.  I went in and talked to her the other day and told her I need her help to get him to read more than just the fluffy fantasy novels he's so fond of.  She sent us home with a stack of historical fiction, which so far has been a hit. But he's still sitting on the couch right now reading fantasy.  (How many Brian Jacques novels are there, anyway?)

Really, I can't be too upset about all the fantasy.  He's READING, for Pete's sake.  I'd rather pull him out of a book then pull him off an Xbox.  And he does enjoy the classics I want so badly for him to immerse himself in.  I finally decided to get a membership at Audible.com and you know what he wanted for his first download?  Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott.  He's been listening to it while we make and eat lunch and he loves it.  Can you believe a twelve-year-old boy who adores the writing of Louisa May Alcott?  I'll forgive him for a lot of head-butting for that!

Today he auditioned for a community youth choir and he totally nailed the audition.  His tone and pitch were beautiful.  I was so proud of him. 

He also played a game of football, which I was not able to attend because I had to take other kids places, but when I picked him up he was beaming.  He is confident and strong out there on that football field, and he contributed a lot to the team.  He sprained his knee during his game last week, but with a knee wrap on it he had no problems tonight.  Thank goodness. 

So, yeah, I watch him struggle with writing and spelling and I worry about him... I deal with him pushing every one of my limits relentlessly and I get exasperated, but when it really comes down to it he is a really, really neat kid with a lot of unique talents and I love having him home with me and getting a front row seat to watching him grow. 




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The New Routine

It's good to have a routine.  For years I reveled in living my life according to my inner rhythms, not having to use an alarm clock or rush out the door in the morning.  But after awhile I saw that I was having a very hard time instilling self-discipline and the benefits of steady routine in my children.  And so I've come to the point where I am appreciating that alarm every morning. 

It goes off at 6:30.  That's not too terribly early. 

We leave for school between 7:30 and 7:40.  I walk down there with the kids.  It takes about eight minutes each way.  I am home by 8. 

The morning is then dedicated to Bean, interspersed with housework while he works independently.  We have an early lunch around 11:30 and then I take a short nap with the babies. 

At 1:30 we leave the house.  I drop Bean off at the junior high.  Then I drive back to the elementary school and pick up the Rabbit from Kindergarten.  I bring her back home and we have about an hour together before Fish and Roo get home from school. 

Bean is done at 3:30, but he can stay after school in the library for up to an hour.  This works out well because we often have an after-school activity such as dance at about 4:30, so I just swing by and pick him up on the way there.  He loves to spend time in the library, so it's a win for everyone. 

Our afternoons and evenings are a little nuts right now with football every evening and soccer coming up soon in addition to our usual dance, scouts, and music.  Monday through Wednesday is especially crazy with Thursday calming down and Friday's unscheduled afternoons a welcome reprieve.  I intend to make Friday evening Family Game Night, which is something I've been trying to do for years but couldn't seem to nail down when our lives were so unstructured.

Saturdays we will do some cleaning and then have some fun together.  Hopefully I will have time to work on some projects too.  Sundays, of course, are for rest and worship and quiet time alone with our family.

I'm still working on getting the kids to go to bed at an appropriate time.  Bedtime routines have never been a strong point of mine and they're resisting the change, despite their fatigue from school and getting up earlier.  I want to have all of them asleep by nine at the latest so I can have a couple of hours before my self-imposed bedtime of 11 pm.  Which is coming right up, so I'd better wrap this up.

My days are much more structured now than they've been in years.  However, I think I am accomplishing more than I have in a long time.  An object in motion stays in motion, so being compelled to motion has been very beneficial to me in so many ways.  However, it seems like the days are just galloping by at this speed.  I am endeavoring to live very consciously: to create and savor little moments with the children since I have less time with them than I used to have. 

I would like to tell you a little bit more about each individual child and how they are doing, but it's bedtime.  Tune in next time! 


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Howdy!

 
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A Haircut for Peanut

Recently I arranged for a friend of mine who has some skill with cutting hair to come over and clean up my girls' hair a little bit.  I was thinking of Roo and Rabbit needing to look a little sharper when school started.  Roo is growing out her bangs and they needed to be shaped a little bit.  I gave the Rabbit a bob last winter and there were a few ragged edges (it was harder than I thought it would be!)  My very nice friend easily and quickly cleaned those up. 

Well, then Peanut wanted a turn.  So my friend kindly gave her a most adorable haircut.  Her wild zoo hair now looks a lot more tame.  And she looks older.  Sigh.  But other than the feeling of  "NO, don't let my baby grow up!" we all LOVE her little haircut!

 
 
 
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