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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

our playroom

Finally, after more than a week of a messy unorganized house today I worked up some energy to do up the kid's playroom.

It turned out like this:

getting flowing curtains to stay up with
flimsy string did cause some swearing
on my part...the kids were out of the room.
this would work better with a large hula hoop,
if you were inclined to try it at home. i only
had a grapevine that is what i girl likes it though :)

a little hippy bed-sharing family. HA.

it took my 20 minutes to sort through the crap in his castle.
he was quite pleased.

i kind of love it.
Saturday, May 28, 2011

fairy gardens

So, I just got done watching Tinkerbell, with the kids of course. HA. My sister's daughter is way into fairies and Tinkerbell so we got to share the magic when she brought the movie to our family get together at my parents farm this weekend.

If you know me, and have for awhile, you will know that I was totally into dollhouses and tiny things as a child, er, teenager, er, I still love it.

So, if I can't make vegetables grow maybe I could make a fairy, for the kids of course...out on our patio?

Totally doing this. Seems like the perfect anecdote for my crazy past few weeks and the crazy month ahead (actually working a bit again!) Will post pics of the final result. Because I know you are all DYING to know how it turns out.

PS If you google fairy gardens you will see people are totally cukoo about these things. Garden shows. For fairy gardens. I see a hobby in my future, for when I am old with long grey dreads, after a day at the farm with my dairy goats. Don't you want to know me then?? HA.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

school woes

So. I have been holding off on this topic because I didnt know - pardon my language - what the hell to write, because I don't know - again pardon - what the hell to do.

And I still don't.

But I figured maybe some of you have input or are in the same tough spot so I figured I would write just this: I don't know what the hell to do about school for little man next year.

I really don't. And it sucks. Because I am the type that likes knowing.

Who ever knew parenting at school age - making all these huge decisions - would be so tough! I know everyone says you can change if its not the right fit but its his first introduction to the educational world, the world of learning that is so important to me and dada. I dont want it to suck. I don't want it to be "okay." I want it to be PERFECT.

Our woes are thus - little man turns five in August. So first off, do we delay a year? EVERYONE says you should. But he is begging to read and go to school (sure I can teach him, and we are. His favorite game lately is the Hominem Game. I don't even know if I am spelling Hominem right. Am I ? Do you even remember what hominems are??? Exactly my point. - for the record the game is thus: "HEY," he yells out. "SEE and SEA. HOMINEM COMING UP!!" It's slightly adorable. But I digress.)

[Edited to add: Dada just gently informed me, a week after this post that indeed, sea and see are HOMOPHONES, not HOMONYMS. Ummm. Oh. Right. An example of the latter would be lie ("dont lie to me little man!") and lie ("lie DOWN little man") Just didn't want to be responsible for any misinformation, my dear reader. HA.]

My point is not "oh my brilliant child," my point is, he WANTS to do school stuff. And sure, I am down with the whole homeschool thing, maybe, at some point, if I get my organic dairy goat farm and my yurt, especially then (insert winky face guy.) For now though. Well, baby number three arriving in September changes things. Having something for him to do, whether its school or preschool or whatever, would kind of be really really REALLY great. For now.

And we were thinking our local adorable Waldorf school was the answer, we were down to signing away our life in private school payments, and then we thought, well, you know, paying THIS MUCH to have our kid bake bread and dig in the dirt is all well and good but he does that at home with me. FOR FREE. I can just invite neighborhood kids over to bake bread and then send them out to dig in our mud pits (which we really do have) and voila, we have recreated the Waldorf kindergarten experience.

Also, we realized that the private school world (while great for many, not knocking it...not totally) can tend to contribute to a bit of an entitlement kind of complex down the line, and well, we aren't so into that. Plus, diversity is important to us. We live in a very diverse neighborhood and this school was, umm, really white.

So. There is that. So then I think, crap. What do we do then??? So I look into public kindergarten. Well, our school district does full day kindergarten, which is great for working parents but, a lot for our little man I think, with no preschool experience under his belt and a little sister at home who ADORES him (I also then go, all day with little miss and baby and no brother to play with her and help out??? NO WAY. Plus it starts at 7:30 in the morning? WHAT THE HECK??) But then I find this nicey-nice sounding public "open school"  which we could opt into...which has half day kindergarten...but, which is full for this fall. And there are a few other nice little charter schools and a French immersion school to look into, but again, too late for those for this year.


Back to square one.

So we visit a little private school of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. I like this. It was a sweet little school and the kindergarten only meets three half days a week. Kinda perfect, right? But...they do the whole desk, bookwork thing which might be too much for my little man at 4-turning-5. Still an option though.

We don't HAVE to have him in school until age six. So we could do nothing. But he wants something. So I start looking at preschool programs. I find this great one, The Forest School, a nature immersion program that has kids outside in the woods EVERY DAY. Some Waldorf, some tweaks (a heightened focus on being kind and social skills and the Golden Rule because the teacher saw that lacking in the local Waldorf private school world.) Plus, playing in the woods all day, eating porridge in your little wood lean-to under the trees. How lovely! We are visiting next week. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

So maybe the little forest school for the summer and the small private school for the year? Or the little forest school all year too and then trying to get into the half day program at the public open school next year? But then, will he be bored hanging with three-five year olds all year, instead of learning letters in a class? There is also a part of me that is fearful his little domineering self would be the class bossy kid in that scenario. He tends to play much better with older kids and I could see him being the sweet youngest boy in the class if we did send him (to the little private kindergarten....but do I want him in a private school environment, even though they have much more focus on personal development and social skills?? ACK!!!! And round and round my tortured mind goes.)


Where is my goat farm??? I want to run away and hide from this decision.

Ideas? Advice? Opinions?
Friday, May 20, 2011

Anti-recipe #32 Mideastern lamb and rice scramble

I wish I could come up with a more elegant name for this dish but I really can't.

So I grew up with a father who cooked only in case of great need, (ie Mom was at Bible Study or choir practice) or in the case of duty (ie grilling, pancakes).

This meant he had a limited repertoire. His meals were thus 1) goulash (typical Midwestern dish with macaroni noodles, tomato chunks and ground beef...hmmm actually this sounds good and I haven't had it in years! I need to try to recreate it) and 2) hamburger rice scramble. He would make this last dish by scrambling up hamburger, adding onions and celery and mixing it with cooked rice. We would douse it with ketchup and ask where Mom was in whiney voices. (I have to say I made this the other day and it was, um, really really good.)

My anti-recipe for you today is a Mideastern take on this meal and it is really super yummy.

Start with ground lamb. I have used ground beef but its just not the same. Fry this up in a little olive oil in a really large skillet. Salt it as you cook. Add a little chopped onion to cook too.

Note: you could totally do this vegetarian too. Just add an extra can of garbanzo beans for more protein!

Put one cup of rice on to cook. So, my husband insists that I have the magic touch when it comes to making rice. I don't get how someone who can make a perfect hollandaise sauce (YUM) can't figure out making rice but, that is me. It is simple. For brown rice (if you are in a healthy mood) add one cup of rice and three cups of water to a pot with a lid that fits (hard to find in my kitchen. HA) Bring the water to a boil without the lid on. Once the water is just at a boil turn down to simmer and put on the lid. Don't lift the lid to check (my glass lids are handy for this purpose) it just lets out the steam. If you don't have glass lids you obviously do need to check at some point (in 15-20 minutes) add a little hot water when you do. If you are making regular white rice add two-three cups of water initially and check sooner, it cooks up fast.

Now here is the Mideastern part. You need to season with a ras el hanout seasoning. This is a Mideastern season blend that literally means "top of the shop" in Arabic. Every woman in the Middle East has her own concotion, blending whatever spices she has on hand. A friend of mine gave me a giant bag of her mother's mix when I left Iraq. Being that that was 6 years ago it has long been gone but luckily dada works at a Middle Eastern restaurant where they sell spice blends. YUM. Traditionally it includes cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric. Season your cooked rice with this stuff, a good tablespoon of it. You can also add it to the meat as its cooking.
Add your cooked rice to your really large skillet with the cooked lamb and onions.

Add one drained can of garbanzo beans. Let all this simmer for awhile. Then turn off heat.

Add some chopped tomatoes.

Serve with plain yogurt and hummous on the side (or on top like my husband who mixes it all together) and toasted pita (which you can use to scoop up the yummy mixture).


(P.S. My dad has many many fine talents including fixing anything with like a coat hanger and duct tape and the ability to braid squirmy little girls hair ... but he does generally leave the cooking to my mom. LOVE YOU DAD.)
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

on reordering the house

Ugh. Is all I can say about rearranging the house. Ugh. (Also why I havent blogged yet this week. I am not good at being creative in chaos.)

So, with baby number three impending (four months, eek) we had been contemplating a move to a "for real house" with bedrooms corresponding to the number of children we are anticipating, a proper kitchen with a dishwasher, a big yard etc. But, it looks like that is not to be. Not only is the housing market crazy (lots of cheap houses for sale but really hard to get a mortgage=lots of high rental prices!) but we realized how much we appreciate dada's 15 minute commute by bus into downtown. We were contemplating the suburbs (the yards! the gardening! the schools! the houses! the shopping malls!) but its just too far right now.

So we are staying in the city. Maybe planting some nice flowers (this yard does NOT like gardens) and shopping at the city's largest farmers market, less than a mile away.

And, we are rearranging the entire house. How, you ask?

Ha. Well....

The downstairs family room has become...a massive family bedroom. Yes. Sleeping in the same room as our children. Crazy? Maybe. But we figure we spend half the night getting up with either of them so why not. Its a huge room and we are gonna get that adorable IKEA bunkbed that everyone gets to put in the corner for them. And you know, really, we have always loved staying in hotel rooms where we were all together and we have coveted a yurt for years, with a big huge open living and sleeping space, so really this is no different. Yes, we are odd.

The old "master" bedroom is now the TV room, it turned out to be a really nice space. And the kids room is a play room, bright and sunny and filled to the brim.
the living room, minus some toys, plus more seating.
i plan on taking out most of the toys once the playroom is in order.
notice, my mom chair, in the sun, where i am sitting now,
blogging, ignoring my girl throwing all the playdoh on the floor.
Now to get everything organized. Double ugh. I have to step around boxes to get to the laundry room. The problem is the downstairs closets were FULL of toys and clothes and crafty stuff. Now all of those things are in my laundry area to make room for our clothes.

The other thing I was thinking was MORE STORAGE. I scoured craigslist and found a few new shelving options with plans to get even more once we start putting things away.

So, we shall see. Maybe it will help, maybe not.

In the meanwhile its nice to have a fresh take on the space.

our big giant sunny bedroom, and yes, i will squeeze in the
little baby cosleeper when the time comes too...
the kids bed...soon to be replaced by said adorable bunkbeds.
shelving! more room for knick-knacks!
no, seriously i am a huge knick-knack
person but i put them all away when
we moved here...except for a few
baby friendly things...
time to get more out!

more kitchen shelving. YAY.

also, fresh lilacs from outside help...

why, hello there.

the playroom. i have my work cut out for me. (also,
very industrious auntie cari is coming over today. i am
hoping she might give a hand...)
what to do with all these toys!?
hmmm...big church garage sale coming up...
this is where little man, and usually little miss, spend EVERY
morning. i kinda miss our cozy mornings while i drink tea and
they play next to me but...the amount of toys was getting
kinda outa control. plus, the quiet is kinda nice...
plus, this is all the er, crap, he insists on storing in his castle.
you would get tired of that every morning too, right?
(notice the cup of half dollars which dada has started
bribing little man with, plus the popcorn
- hungry? have some popcorn! -
plus the integrated play pieces...every castle needs
a tiger and firefighter, right? )
Friday, May 13, 2011

on being pregnant

little miss has to hug the baby daily.
not a flattering picture, but cute.
So, I am at the halfway mark now. Just past really. 21 weeks. Getting there. Getting big. The kicks. The heartburn. the Braxton Hicks contractions. It’s all happening. And so suddenly! I was just honestly getting my head wrapped around it…THIRD BABY…But then my next door neighbor has her baby and my older sister has her baby and now September feels VERY far away and I feel VERY pregnant.

Whoever said that the second trimester was the “energy” spurt of a pregnancy obviously didn’t have a four year old and a two year old.

Energy? What energy?? WHERE IS MY FRICKING ENERGY??

I am also at the point where I have gained enough weight to feel awkward and big, (but not quite enough where you get the stares and the condescending pats.) I told my sister the other day (one of the never-been pregnant one) that I don’t feel pregnant I feel like I have gotten fat. Quickly. Really, really fat. She assured me I look pregnant, not fat, but I have my doubts. Really though, the weight doesn’t bother me, it’s just a pain in the ass. You know? By the time I get to the end of my pregnancy it’s like I am dragging around the weight of a toddler attached to each foot. (Stop calculating, I will tell you, its FIFTY-SIXTY EXTRA POUNDS!!)

As of now I have gained precisely half of that upper limit and have officially reached the point where I try and economize on bending over. Bend over to put away the milk, take two shuffling steps (while still bent over) to pick up the crust of the peanut butter sandwich Mr. Four-Year-Old threw on the floor…hmmm while I am down here maybe I should cut my toenails again, its been awhile.

You get the idea.

the day before little man arrived
It’s also to the point where I have to lay on my side because lying on my back feels like I have a 20lb weight squashing my internal organs, oh wait…(yes, I know I said 30 lbs, the other ten has gone…elsewhere…)so I flip and flop all night. At least I am still lithe enough to do that easily. Not looking forward to month 8 when you have to put only the silky sheets on the bed so as to minimize friction and make the flipping and flopping easier. (You think I am joking? Totally not.)

Sorry. Can you tell I am tired?

There are things you can do though, and I am going to start as of now, taking better care of my beat up old body.

Managing the low back pain. This is totally the worst, all that pulling and aching from that belly, ugh. Pelvic tilts work wonders for this, as does a little light yoga, several times a day, even just 10 minutes at a time. (Pelvic tilts are what they sound like, get down on hands and knees and gently rock your pelvis up and down, like 20-30 times.)

Posture. I am so guilty of slouching over in my mom chair on the laptop. Today I have started pulling the laptop down onto a low table and sitting cross-legged on one of our wooly rugs on the floor. And sitting up REALLY straight. I need to do this more. My midwives explained that you need to think of keeping your belly straight and with as much space as possible to get baby into a good birthing position (and to relieve back pain and to help with heartburn and digestion too!!).

Exercise ball. Just sitting and rocking around on it really stretches and soothes the pelvis.

six days before little miss came
Yoga. Went to a prental yoga class for the first time this pregnancy just last week. I NEED TO GO EVERY WEEK. We shall see. (Easier said than done) Like I said though even a little yoga around the house helps. Especially downward dog and pigeon pose (too hard to explain, google for directions)

Supplements. I am kinda crazy about this because I really think they help and the science of it makes sense. Babies need a lot of Omega oil (DHA and all that good stuff) for brain development, so, we should give them as much as we can as their brains are forming! I take a (slightly nasty) fish oil, liquid supplement. I give it to the kids too. (You have to get the good stuff though, the el-cheapo brand from Walmart etc is made with crap quality fish full of mercury and formaldehyde. Ew.) I also take probiotics and Vitamin D and prenatal vitamins. Vitamin D is important for pregnant and nursing moms, in large doses. My doctor recommended 5,000 to 10,000 IUI daily.

Rest. Oh my gosh. I need to go to bed earlier. I need to start choosing the 9pm bedtime over an extra hour with dada or on the computer. Naps. Naps don’t happen. But, at least closing my eyes to rest every other day with baby girl for a bit would be good.

the belly, in its current state. pardon the armpit.
its really hard to take a picture of your belly
by yourself...
Inversions and rebozo. You can google both these things but this is the best website (one of my former midwives!) I am a freak about helping baby get into the ideal position for birth. Apparently I have a slightly tilted uterus which makes my babies present in a difficult way (my current chiropractor insists she can help me and reduce my long painful is hoping!!) Little man was a c-section because of this…and because I didn’t know about things like inversions and rebozos. I know now. Little miss was a home birth, presented the same way, and came out after months of rebozo-ing and inversions, some lunges during labor and lots and lots of efforts (and the support of my fabulous midwives!)  (I should do birth stories someday. Would it gross people out? Hmmm. I will I think.) So, inversions are basically putting your hands on the ground, legs up on your bed, and letting your belly sag down. Look at this site for directions. You can do it on your own, nightly, just for a few breaths. Here is where you can find rebozo info. It’s a traditional Mayan thing, with a long piece of cloth, used to kind of wiggle and lift the belly. There are lots of videos on Youtube.

Oh. Also. Green things and protein. Daily. I went in to my midwives recently and found out I was slightly anemic. Not a big deal but enough to contribute to the tired, dizzy feeling. I was CRAZY about green things and protein last pregnancy and I need to get back to that. One easy way is my green shake which, typical me, I had stopped making regularly. Now I don't try anything funky just a handful of spinach, a banana, some yogurt or kefir and orange juice.

Any mommies have other things to add? Any tips?

Okay. I need to do this stuff. Isn’t it awful that one of the hardest things to do as a mom is to take care of yourself?? But this is when you gotta switch your mindset maybe. I need to take care of THIS BABY…by taking care of myself.

In any case, I am at my parent’s farm today. I napped in the chair while the kids played and now I am blogging while my mom makes dinner. Being taken care of is a good thing every now and then.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

road trips with small children

Okay, so we had our moments. Particularly when children were tired and/or hungry and/or tired of driving. (Or when adults were tired and/or hungry and/or tired of driving...) Here is a rundown for you.

the moon sand debacle. a stupid stupid thing to give your child
in the car (to my credit i had no idea what the stuff was)
 Worst driving moments:
-trying to get the kids to fall asleep our first evening on the road...we left at 4:30pm and didn't get to the hotel until 10:30pm. It should've taken 4 hours to drive but we stopped literally every 20 minutes from the moment we left home. I had to hold each of their hands until they dozed off, crying and wimpering, not an easy feat with a big belly to rotate from the front seat.

-last day driving home when little man, having had too much apple juice and junk food, declared he had to poop for the last 200 miles, every 30 minutes or so. All of a sudden from the backseat he would wimper and yelp out "but I have to POOOOOOOOOOOP." And then of course we would drive through little old towns, far off the tollroad, waaaay out of the way, to find the one junky little gas station within 20 miles where dada would snatch up Mr. Poopster and rush him into the junky little bathroom only to have him come out 2 minutes later, having refused to do the deed. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Maddening.

-last day of driving home when little miss threw a screaming fit refusing to get into the car again. "NO MORE DRIVE! NO CAR! MY GET OUT!" Especially bad because I TOTALLY felt the same way.

holding baby girl's hand to get her to fall asleep.
my skin actually got irritated from rubbing against the
seat upholstry so much from this position...

oh, so sweet.
Best moments:
-turning around to see our little people holding hands during the scary parts of "The Incredibles" (which we watched daily) Little miss cuddled up to her "bruver."

-when the children finally fell asleep....Halleluiah!

-the morning we spent in Ohio, stopping at a lighthouse on Lake Erie, climbing rocks, mist in our faces. Really perfect.

-the beautiful scenery, early spring in the Midwest, actually having extended conversations with dada while the kids watched Wonder Pets, and then Incredibles...again. Having those conversations made the drive worth it, even though my lower back is aching.

-I dont know how this would have happened without the ability to watch DVDs daily. We usually only did two or three, sometimes just pieces of movies. Please, if you are road tripping with small children, do yourself a favor and buy the adaptor for the laptop or the fancy DVD will be happy you did. I think when they are older the road games and such will happen but for now, I was quite content to let their eyes glaze over while watching Curious George.

-Turns out mom and dad were right on, packing food from home is so nice. We got soooo tired of fast food, even of the Subway variety. We actually stopped at Applebees on the last day to have a salad!

-The small toy things that looked so appealing in the dollar spot at Target to entertain the children will either get ignored or lost in the mix of dirty socks, stale pretzels, and fruit snack wrappers that littered the floor. I should have forgone the toys and gotten more DVDs.

eating sugary cereal while watching
cartoons in bed at the hotel....
the kids LOVED this part
-6 hours a day, 7 tops, that is all the driving time you can really do. Anything more than that is really killer. Remember 8 hours of driving equals 10 hours, with frequent potty stops (some my fault!) and the need to run at the rest stops.

-Not really a tip but I totally prefer the old time rest stops with a vending machine or two and toilets and picnic tables. The commercialized ones with the Starbucks and McDonalds are handy and all but kind of take away from the "getting away from it all" road trip appeal.

-Prepare yourself, as the person in the passengers side up front, to be the hander-out-of-snacks, the settler-of-squabbles, the reacher-of-toys-that-dropped-on-the-floor, the finder-of-markers, the wiper-of-Cheeto-stained-fingers. You will be turning around A LOT. Get your supplies, your wipes and snacks and mix of toys and DVD selection right up front, at your fingertips. Good luck. May the force be with you.

Funny thing, after going to the chiropracter yesterday, to fix said painful lower back, little miss started crying when we pulled into our driveway. "No go home!! MY DRIVING!"

I think, in the end, we all liked it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

national wear your apron day

So, I have learned that today is "National Wear Your Apron Day" (which may or may not be real but according to many in the bloggy universe it is...)

In any case.


I love aprons.

Here is the apron that started this blog...

attractive, no?

and the belly that now inhabits the apron...
Sunday, May 8, 2011

perspectives on mother's day

So we are back. PHEW. And while I will blog on it in a bit, first I must write on this most momentous day. Mother's Day. It is a day we all anticipate, a little recognition above and beyond the norm. Maybe even a nap. I just took one and am totally groggy. And now I am blogging while dada unpacks all the suitcases and does vacation laundry. Totally lucked out on the timing of the day, eh? HA.


It's an interesting thing seeing a grown man around his mother in his childhood home. It's a whole new perspective on who that man is, where he is from, who he has become. Of course, this is where we just were, with dada and his family. And while their house isn't the house dada grew up in it is filled with memorobilia from his childhood. His Matchbox car collection, much to little man's pleasure. Grade school pictures line the walls. The very story books his mother read to him are still in their kid book collection. And of course, it is in his childhood hometown. His beloved Pittsburgh.

When I was a kid, I remember watching my dad interact with his mom on our summer trips to Iowa. She would call him Johnnie, giving him a "to-do" list upon our arrival. "Johnnie, could you climb up and fix the gutter? It's too high for your dad. Johnnie, your father could use help tilling up the old rasberry patch. Johnnie, that door always squeaks." He would smile and nod and accomplish the list each time. It was their routine of showing love to each other. He performing as the dutiful son, the eldest and the only boy, loving his mama with his hands. She, acknowledging the handy man he was, able to fix a toaster with nothing but a butter knife and a bit of electrical tape.

This week I watched as my husband did the same for his mom, loving her and supporting her, his "Ma," as he says, while she showed she still needed him, her boy, in her own way.

And more than that, watching their whole family interact. Siblings teasing and talking. Remembering old times. And all our children twirling and giggling and tumbling through the chaos.

What an amazing thing, a family.

no, that is NOT a weed girls!

little man getting a lesson or two in soccer
from his near-pro cousin
And as I sat back, taking it in, I see his mother, smiling from the porch swing in the fading spring sunlight, watching cousins wrestle and play. And I realize, this is what I am creating, this legacy. This is what mothering is - the cement that bonds these relationships, that fosters them, that instructs them. 

We get so caught up in the day to day - though living in the day to day is necessary and right! - but we forget to pull back and recognize the importance of our work.

These siblings, that you remind not to hit a million times a day, will one day laugh in your back yard, eating blackberry pie, as their sons tackle each other on the soggy grass and their daughters teach the littlest cousins how to weed without pulling up grandpa's marigolds.

grass stains well worth the romp in the sunshine with cousins

These days are when we put in the hard work. Those evenings, in the cool spring air with laughter ringing around us, those moments are when we see the fruit of our work. And yes, we get our happy realizations of it here and there, but, creating those bonds, that love, that is our legacy.

Just a little Mother's Day perspective...

Happy Mommy Day to you all!

And especially to my Mama, and my husband's Ma. We appreciate what you have created!
Friday, May 6, 2011

springtime on the road

Fuzzy green trees lining the horizon
Clumping in the muddy fields like schoolgirls
Sun rays pelting through the clouds
Long slants touching silos, barns, crumbling with age
Dousing the landscape in light, now dark
Ponds reflecting the scene back again, in admiration
Murky rivers, churning with winters residue, escaping into fields
All flashing by in a golden greenish blur, springtime on the road
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