Thursday, March 29, 2012

Strong enough

Have you heard that saying, "God will never give you more than you can handle"?  Some people add a tongue-in-cheek, "I just wish God didn't trust me so much," on to the end of that.  You hear it a lot when people are going through adversity, like a loss or serious illness.  It's supposed to be comforting...or inspiring...or something.

It really annoys me when people say that.  Mostly because it just. isn't. true.  And I would go so far as to say it's dangerous to believe the lie.  Would you like to know where that saying comes from?

Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, warning them not to fall into the traps of idolatry and immorality--not to become complacent or overly comfortable, because temptation is universal:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I think we can agree that this verse is saying something altogether different, right?

God does allow circumstances in our lives that are too difficult for us to navigate on our own so that He can draw us closer.  God knows I've had a few of those in my life: situations that were just too much for me to endure.  Sometimes, we can't do it any more, and we just break .  It is in those broken moments of deepest despair when our heavenly Father longs to reach out and pull us closer.  He aches to put our broken pieces back together into something new and beautiful.

Those times of dark desolation in my life, when I have clung to God, knowing that I can do nothing else, have been so, so beautiful, because of God's transforming love, through God's amazing grace.  There is nothing better than living, with every breath, in the conviction that it is God who sustains you, and nothing else is holding you up. 

God uses these situations in our lives because He wants us to know and trust and believe that He is faithful to carry the burdens that are too heavy for us to bear.  He is, you know.  Strong enough.
In my weakness, His strength is made perfect.
But the Lord said, “My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power.” So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ERV)
I love this song.  Listen, then scroll down for the lyrics.

Matthew West - Strong Enough (Official Music Video) from emimusic on GodTube.

Strong Enough
Matthew West

You must, You must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through

Well forgive me
Forgive me if I'm wrong
But this looks like more than I can do
On my own

I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

Well, maybe, maybe that's the point
To reach the point of giving up
Cause when I'm finally
Finally at rock bottom
Well, that's when I start looking up
And reaching out


Cause I'm broken
Down to nothing
But I'm still holding on to the one thing
You are God
and You are strong
When I am weak

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don't have to be
Strong enough
Strong enough

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don't have to be
Strong enough
Strong enough


(Thanks to KLOVE for the lyrics)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Craft of the Month--April

April is all about spring time and celebrating new life.  Here's what's coming in April for Camp Scarlet's Craft of the Month Club:

~ Egg shell mosaic cross
~ Sponge painted chicks  
~ Baby bluebirds in a nest

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eggshell Mosaic Cross

I love mosaic--I found myself drawn to the colors and patterns.  There is something so real, so right and restorative, about taking something that is broken and ugly and making it into something lovely and new.  It reminds me of the way God works in my life, taking all of the broken, ugly parts of me and transforming them into something new and beautiful through the sacrificial blood of Jesus.

It seemed particularly fitting to use mosaic to explore and celebrate and meditate on Christ's resurrection this year.  So yesterday, the kids and I fashioned mosaic crosses using crushed egg shells.

To make your own, you will need:
~ black construction paper
~ white crayon or chalk pencil
~ glue
~ egg shells dyed in several colors--either save some from your Easter eggs or follow the directions below*
Using a white crayon or chalk pencil, draw a cross outline on the black paper. You could certainly use white or another color paper, but the black sets the color of the shells off brilliantly.

 For younger children, draw lines inside the cross, forming several blocks for different colors. Older children (and children at heart) can freehand a design if they prefer.

 Paint a section with glue (don't skimp!), then place egg shell pieces on the cross. We found that if we left the pieces a little bit larger, and then placed them so that the outside of the shell curved away from the paper, it was easier to place them where we wanted without getting gluey hands. Then we just crushed them gently into place.

 Working with one section and one color at a time, continue until the entire cross has been covered.

That's it! So easy, and so beautiful.

Happy Easter!

*To dye egg shells, first crack the eggs and empty them into a bowl (or do what I did and collect them for a few weeks as you use eggs). Wash the empty shells well (use a bit of dish soap and rub the insides to remove the membrane). 
Dunk shells in a mixture of 1/2 cup boiling water, 1 t. white vinegar, and about 20 drops of food coloring.  The longer you leave the shells in the dye, the deeper the color will be.  Remove the shells to a paper towel to dry. 
Once the shells have dried, place all the shells of one color in a ziploc bag, and gently crush, using a rolling pin or rolling a can over it.

A closed door

We found out on Sunday morning that our insurance company will not cover occupational therapy services for MC because, in their opinion, it's not medically necessary.  

Did you hear that sound?  That's the sound of a door slamming shut.  BANG.

I am devastated by this development.  I thought, finally, here was something that might help my son feel OK in his own body for the first time.  I can't imagine how it must feel for him, where the gentlest touch can be excruciating, and background noises are impossible to filter.  His body is his enemy; frustration and anger bubble up uncontrollably.  He is constantly searching for ways to temper the never-ending barrage of sensory input, but most, if not all, of his self-coping mechanisms are socially unacceptable or even harmful.  I've tried to help him...Lord knows, I've tried my best...but in this case, my best is sorely lacking.  I just don't know how to help him.  I thought OT was an answer to my prayers.  I allowed myself to hope, to believe, to dream of a normalized future for my boy.  But now, with no guarantee of success, and a $200 per hour price tag, occupational therapy is out of reach. 

So yeah, I've been crying a lot.

Have you heard that saying, when God closes a door, He opens a window?  Several years ago, when my husband found out his company was closing its doors and he would be out of a job, I started praying that God would provide a new job for him.  When it became obvious that Hubby would receive multiple job offers, I started praying that if God had a preference as to which job he took, that God would make it obvious.

Just like that, one offer was rescinded, and taking another offer would have required a major pay cut.  Another company couldn't give us an answer as quickly as they had promised.  Couldn't get much more obvious than that.  Slam!  Slam!  Slam!  More doors closing.  I know Hubby was disappointed, and I was, too, because I think we would have loved living there, but I was secretly thrilled by such a complete and decisive answer to prayer.  And so we made our way to the upper Midwest.

When those doors slammed shut all those years ago, there was already an open window, just waiting for us to climb through.

This time, there is no window.  This time, it's a lot harder to believe that there will be a window.  I thought I had faith before, but that's not exactly true.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 
Hebrews 11:1 (TNIV)

Of course I believed that God would provide an open window, an alternate solution, when that solution was already on the table, out in the open.

But now, with God's help, I have faith, truly and completely, even though it's hard to see past the solid, reverberating door blocking the way in front of me, that in God's perfect timing, a window will open.  I am certain of it.  I have to be.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Losing my mind...Snowpants edition

So, you know how it's been unseasonably warm around here this winter?  Well, a couple of weeks ago, we took unseasonably warm to a whole new level.  It was mid to upper 80s here last week.  Our normal high at this time of year is in the upper 30s.  Normally at this time of year, we still have a good amount of snow on the ground, so the kids wear full winter gear, including boots, snowpants, hats and gloves, to school every day.  But not this year.  And that's why, about a week and a half ago, I decided to remove MC's snowpants from his backpack and store them...somewhere (I was a little fuzzy on the details).

So, I took them out, and they weren't his.  I was sure that his are Cherokee brand, with a button closure, and these were some other brand, with an elastic waist.  I figured MC grabbed someone else's pants by mistake, in the end of the day confusion.  I checked the tag to see if a responsible parent had labeled these snowpants.  Nope.  So I sent them back to school, with a note asking Mrs. W to please check around to see if someone else had MC's snowpants.

Unfortunately, most (all?) of the other parents were on top of the snowpants situation, realizing much earlier on in our heatwave that they could leave the snowpants at home, and no one else brought snowpants to school that day.  And so, at the end of the day, these alien snowpants were still resident in MC's backpack.  I sent them back again, because it didn't feel right to keep someone else's snowpants hostage.  Knowing that MC's coat hook is right next to E's hook, I decided to email E's mom in a last-ditch effort to see if somehow their household was unwittingly hosting MC's snowpants.

At the end of the day, those snowpants were still in MC's backpack.  I decided to take them out and put them in the lost and found at school--maybe then someone would claim them.  It wasn't a huge loss if we didn't get MC's actual snowpants back, since they had a hole in one of the knees--I was planning to toss them at the end of the season anyway.  And I was anxious to move the snow gear out of the mud room, even though I knew we'd need it again for our inevitable April snowstorm.

So I took out those snowpants, and took one more look at the tag for a name, just in case I missed it the first time.  You may remember that I had checked for a name on day 1 of this ordeal.  And what do you think I saw on that tag?


(our last name is so long you can't write it on a tag in one line, even if you go diagonally).

I am losing my mind.

Or, and this is the option I prefer, Mrs. W is being very tricky :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

More St. Patrick's Day Crafts

I thought I'd post these just in case you're looking for some cute, quick, and easy crafts you can do with your toddler or preschooler for St. Patrick's Day.

You've already seen our silly St. Patrick's Day snake:

And a beautiful leprechaun's rainbow:

Since we already had the rainbow, we figured we should also make a pot of gold to hide at the end:
 Just cut out a pot and glue it to a background paper.  Then glue gold foil coins in the pot--we used wrappers from chocolate coins (Roger was pretty happy about that :-)

We also made this sweet shamrock craft.  Another legend told about St. Patrick is that he used shamrocks to illustrate the concept of the Trinity.  A shamrock has 3 separate leaves, but they're all part of the same shamrock.
To make one, cut a shamrock out of green paper (or white paper painted green).  I used the template from here, enlarged to 135%.  Glue the shamrock to a piece of paper on which an Irish blessing has been printed.  We used the blessing found here, which goes like this:

A Wish for a Friend
Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers -
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours -
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

Next, trace your child's hand on the shamrock.  Outline the hand and shamrock with glue and sprinkle with glitter.

It's a fun project and a lovely keepsake.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

stART: St. Patrick's Snake

Legend has it that Ireland is snake-free because St. Patrick chased them all away.  It isn't true, but it's a fun story. 

Continuing in our St. Patty's Day theme, we decided to make snakes today.  While the kids worked, I read out loud The Last Snake in Ireland: A Story About St. Patrick by Sheila MacGill-Callahan and Will Hillenbrand.

This book tells the story, fictional, of course, of how and why St. Patrick decided to banish snakes from Ireland.  But in spite of his efforts, one pesky snake remains, and he is determined to make Patrick's life miserable. Patrick's attempts to outsmart and outrun his enemy through all of Ireland and Scotland culminate in a surprising, indeed extraordinary, turn of events.

To make your own snake, first trace a dinner plate on the color paper of your choice. I would have chosen green, but Pal wanted pink and Roger wanted red (which actually worked out perfectly, because the mischievous snake in the book is red).
 Cut out the circle, then, starting in the center, draw a spiral, all the way out to the edge of the circle.
 Next, cut along the line and decorate.  The center becomes the snake's head.
 This, here, is a perfect example of having to let go and let the kids make their own creative decisions.  I was all set to have the kids make repeating patterns with foam shapes on their snakes.  So very psyched for it, in fact.  I mean, we were getting history/social studies/fairy tales in with the book, fine motor skills with the cutting, and patterning would have been the mathish icing on the slinky cupcake.  (I was so proud of myself for incorporating all that learning into one little project)  But no.  Much to my horror, Pal started out by sticking a checkered flag AND a motorcycle to her snake, followed by several lightning bolts and a "vroooom". 

Oh, and by the way, I don't know what's going on at Pal's house these days, but lately she's been a broken record: "it's my choice; I get to choose."  Yup, it's her choice whether or not she wants to wear a jacket, whether or not she wants to eat what I serve her, whether or not she wants to do the activities I have planned.  She just doesn't quite get that there are consequences to her choices, like, if she doesn't eat what I serve, she'll be hungry, or if she doesn't want to do what I have planned, she might be bored.  She seems to think I'm here to cater to her every whim.  Because it's her choice.

Luckily, Roger was a bit more open to my suggestions, allowing me to lay out these alternating shapes in rainbow colors for him to glue on...but he's got his fair share of un-snake-like objects glued to his project as well.

But I digress, back to the project.

Add some googly eyes and a tongue cut out of a contrasting color.
And there you have it.  A simply splendid serpent.

For more art projects inspired by stories, check out A Mommy's Adventures.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happily pinning away

Remember waaaaay back in November when I said I'd been pinned?  I also said,"I have yet to try Pinterest, being of the opinion that such a thing would be very detrimental to my housework completion ratio."  Well, I have been happily pinning away (not pining away--that's something completely different) for oh...about 5 days now, and I'm pleased to report that it hasn't affected my housework completion ratio in the least.  OK, maybe a little bit, but I've had a lot going on the past couple of days.

Just to review, Pinterest is sort of a virtual corkboard.  As you come across ideas or images online that you want to remember, you can pin them to your board.  The advantage of pinning is that, unlike bookmarking, you can see a picture and write yourself a little note to remind yourself why you wanted to save that particular site.  Plus?  You can keyword search on Pinterest to see what other Pinners have deemed pin-worthy.  Basically, you're gathering all of the best of the web, however "best of" is defined for you, into one easily accessible location.

So what made me take the plunge into pinnerhood?  Well, I was busy preparing for our next theme for Camp Scarlet and came across a craft that I absolutely love.  I knew that I would forget about it if I didn't do something to jog my memory.  Bookmarking just wouldn't do.
{Image Source}
I was just about to print it, when I put my mental foot down and said, no.  No more paper.  Not one more piece of paper needs to be generated in this household at this time.  And that's when my Boy Scout friend, Elly, did a good turn and sent me an invitation to join Pinterest (thanks, Elly).  By permitting me to avoid generating more paper clutter, Pinterest is actually helping with the housework matter.  Right?  I'll take that as a yes.

Even if you're not a member, you can check out my boards here.  I'll give you 3 guesses as to what our next theme will be.  If you have been sucked in to the vortex of collaborative loveliness that is Pinterest, let me extend a kind invitation to follow me.

See ya there!
Follow Me on Pinterest

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Construction sensory bin

I don't know where I first heard of this idea, but it's a good one, so I tucked it away in my brain for future use.  Yesterday dawned gray and rainy, and I knew we'd be needing some fun inside activities to keep us sane. 

I poured some cornmeal into a 9x13" pan and added a set of construction vehicles for Roger to play with.  Simple, easy, and so much fun (and only a little messy--I put the 9x13" pan on top of a large jelly roll pan to contain the bits that escaped--you could also put down a drop cloth).
This was so much fun, in fact, that this morning even MC couldn't keep his hands off :)

Cornmeal is great for this, because it looks like sand, but you could also use rice, dry beans or lentils, or even birdseed--whatever you happen to have on hand.

Have fun!

Monday, March 12, 2012

My problem area

Ug.  I couldn't sleep last night!  Wanna know why?  Because I was thinking about my problem area (OK, so I have more than one problem area, but this is the one that bugs me the most right now).
It's our Mud/Laundry Room.

I had a helpful and inspiring conversation with J this morning about this very room, which made me want to share these pictures because:
  1. I'm hoping you'll have some ideas for me
  2. I'm so excited about the changes I already have planned, and I wanted to take some "before" pictures just in case I ever get around to an "after" post
  3. This is an area that lots of us struggle with, and if you struggle with how to control the inevitable chaos in your entry or mud room, just know you're not alone
Keep in mind, as you're looking at the pics, that I am the only one home right now, so most of the boots, gloves, backpacks and jackets that live in this room are currently out with their owners. (So what I'm saying is, if you're tempted to look at the pics and say, "oh, that's not so bad," really, it is.  Bad.)
 Here's our huge bulletin board, on which important papers are to be posted.  I had grand visions, at one time, of dividing the board into 3 sections, one for each child, but it hasn't happened.  And no one looks at this bulletin board except for me.

Under the bulletin board are 2 hooks for backpacks.  There used to be 3 hooks, but one fell off and we've never replaced it.  Why?  Because there is a pocket door behind this wall, and nothing stays, even with anchors.
 The door to the garage is to the right of the bulletin board.  We have baskets for the kids' gloves and hats to the right of the door.  These bins also hold swim goggles, shin guards, cleats, and bike helmets in various seasons.  This particular containment system actually works pretty well for us.

Our mop, broom, and dustpan are hung on this wall, behind the utility sink, along with umbrellas (it's raining today so most of those are out, too) and a fly swatter.  I have never liked this particular hanging thing--the stuff falls off whenever I try to remove one thing, plus, if whatever you're trying to hang doesn't have a hole, it can't be hung.  In WV we had something like this that gripped the handles instead of having hooks, which worked well, but I'm wondering if we can put the cleaning stuff in the closet in our entryway instead.

Just to the right of the entry door is our utility sink.  This is the one blank wall in the room, only because it would be kind of hard to reach whatever we wanted to put up there.  The sink becomes a catch-all for things that need to go out the the garage, plus this bucket lives there permanently.  Maybe I can move it with the mop... We also need a cute jar for Hubby to put his lava soap and whatever else into--the cream cheese spread container has got to go.

 Under the utility sink are all of our shoes.  And yes, we need our snow boots AND flip flops right now!  The shoes drive me nuts.  I instituted a "three pairs of shoes per person" rule, and it still just ends up being a huge mess (remember, there are 4 people currently out, with 6 pairs of shoes and boots that will be tossed under the sink when they get home).  I think I'm going to take a cue from J and get some baskets or bins for the kids--whatever doesn't fit needs to be stored somewhere else!

 Our mud room is also our laundry room, with the washer and dryer just to the right of the utility sink.  I love having these shelves to stow stuff.  Hubby and I keep our hats, gloves, and mittens on bins on these shelves, as well as cleaning supplies, a few miscellaneous things, and of course laundry supplies. 

 Keep in mind that today is laundry day, which is the only reason the washer is cleared off. Usually the washer is the dumping ground for any and everything that comes into the house.  The ironing board stows nicely between the dryer and the wall, but I need a better place for the boot dryer.  And you don't want to know about everything that's fallen behind and between the washer and dryer.  I should really clear that out sometime.

 To the right of the dryer is where Hubby and I hang our coats, snowpants, and purse.  The hooks aren't quite high enough up, though, because our snowpants drag on the ground, making the floor space along this wall unusable.

To the right of our coats and the kids' coats and snowpants, plus a bunch of reusable grocery bags, which really should be kept in the vehicles, or maybe on a hook in the garage.

So what do you think?  Got any suggestions for me?   The major issues, as I see them, are the out of control boots and shoes, and the lack of backpack space.  Pretty much everything else has a place to be (although I'm not completely happy with some of those places).  I also need to get a handle on all the paper that comes into the house--some kind of sorter or mailboxes or something.   

Thanks again J, for showing me your mud room and providing just the inspiration I needed to get this project going.  It takes courage to show others your problem areas (especially in the aftermath of the mad morning dash to get the kids out the door to school).  Have I mentioned I want to be more like you?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

stART: Making rainbows

The other day, in anticipation of St. Patrick's Day, we read The Leprechaun Who Lost His Rainbow by Sean Callahan, and illustrated by Nancy Cote.

In this cute story, Mr. Roy G. Biv, a leprechaun, has lost his rainbow and enlists the help of a little girl named Colleen to make a new one.  As Colleen throws her red licorice, orange basketball, and yellow umbrella into Mr. Biv's hat, a beautiful rainbow begins to form.

After reading the book, we searched around and made our own rainbows using things we found around the house, just like in the book.
 Here's Pal with a red balloon, orange scissors, yellow letter r, green chip clip, blue geotrax coal dumper thingy, and purple socks (we decided to omit indigo for simplicity, plus there was an explanation on the last page of the book saying that some scientists now say indigo isn't a separate color in the rainbow--just another shade of blue).

Next, we wanted to paint our own rainbows, but unfortunately, we were missing some colors--we only had red, yellow, and blue (don't tell the kids, but we really do have orange, green and purple, too!).  So we had to figure out how to make each of the other colors using the paint we had.

I would suggest making orange first, since it's the easiest to figure out which colors to mix--I asked the kids if we had any colors that looked sort of like orange, and they thought yellow and red would do it. They were right!
 Here's Roger mixing yellow and blue to make green.

 Once we had our rainbow colors, the kids painted half rainbows on their papers.  We used Q-tips to apply the paint, because I didn't have enough brushes for each kid to have 6, and I didn't want to mess with washing them. 

Then, we folded the papers in half and voila!  A rainbow!

Here's one that Roger did on another day, using the non-waxy side of freezer paper, and some better quality paint (well, at least the orange and purple were better quality).  We should have spaced the colors out a little more.  I definitely like the colors on this one better, but I didn't take pictures while we were making it...

For another fun rainbow activity, check out Almost Unschoolers for their rainbow in a box.  We spent a good half hour on this one--didn't get any good pictures, though.

I'm linking this post to stART at A Mommy's Adventures.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday snapshot

What a gorgeous day--sunny and 60+* F.  But what's better than a sunny, warm day in early March? 

 We finally got a chance to make and try out our mega-bubble-blower!  So much fun :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Never enough

MC has been working hard this week perfecting his role as "Henchman" in his school's Prairie Fire Theater production of Sleeping Beauty.  That's right--the kids, along with 2 actors from PFT, are putting this show together in one week--it's really amazing how it all comes together.  Click here if you would like to read about AKD's experience last year playing Sid in Tom Sawyer.
I think it's going well.  As a Henchman, MC doesn't have a whole lot of lines, and he's got a lot of fellow Henchmen he can watch for cues as to how to behave.  If he forgets the words while they're singing their songs, he can just move his mouth and I'm pretty sure the rest of the gang will fill in.  He's been having a little bit of a rough week at home and school, I think because the busy-ness of this week is a little too much for him, but I don't think that will affect his performance.

Yesterday MC came home with an invitation to the show that he can give to a friend or relative whom he would like to invite.

But we don't have anyone to give it to.

This is one of the hardest parts about living far from family--our kids never have grandparents or aunts and uncles or cousins or Godparents at their "things"--their concerts, their games, their belt ceremonies, their blue and gold events, their Christmas programs, their science fairs, their birthday parties, their church milestones, their pinewood derbies, their biography showcases...

I go to these events, and sit by myself or, sometimes, with my husband, and look around at all of the people who are saving chairs for grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles; I look at all the cousins who are sitting together.  After the "thing," the extended families gather around the young performers or players or scholars or honorees in little clusters around the room, congratulating them, telling them how great they are, how much they enjoyed the show.  And here, over to one side, is our little family.  Just us.  Hardly enough to surround the special boy.

This is the way it was for me when I was growing up.  The closest we ever lived to extended family was about a 7 hour drive away (that's not counting my uncle, who followed us around, and even lived with us for a time).  I must confess, I never noticed everyone else having family and us having none.  So perhaps my children don't notice either.  I hope they don't notice.

Some days, I don't feel like I am enough to be even a satisfactory mommy to these three boys of mine, but even on a good day, there is definitely not enough of me to be their mommy and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and sometimes even Dad.  Some days, I am it for them.  I am all they have and it's not enough.  I am not enough.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snow Day!

Actually, it's more of a slush day.  I think we would have had school if this stuff had stayed snow.

The good news?  Our annual springtime kayaking "pond" has an impressive head start.

The bad news?  It's right at the bottom of our "beginners" sledding hill, rendering the hill unusable.

The bad or good news, depending on your perspective?  The kids think it's super fun to go in it.  Even without kayaks.

The good news?  We implemented a new lightning-fast method of forming large snowballs for snowmen.

The bad news?  Now we have three rather large snow balls that will soon be frozen in place at the bottom of our "expert" sledding hill.

The really bad news?  Darn camera battery quit on me again!

Happy snow day!
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