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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Siblings & Familial Responsibility

My kids are early risers.  When I say early, it is a rule in our house that you cannot come out of your rooms until your clock says 6:00.  You read that right, it’s not a typo: SIX o’clock.  Most parents I know who have a similar rule use 7:00 as their time of choice; to that I say “I WISH!”  Anyway.

Connor is 8 and Sam is almost 4.  Connor is adept and able at making breakfast essentials: bowls of cereal, toast/bread with peanut butter & jam, bagels with cream cheese, frozen waffles with syrup.  He can pour the milk easily, as well as cups of juice.  It’s a wonderful blessing I tell you, given how early they wake.  Because while it’s true that MOMD is too an early riser, even he likes to stay in bed until 7:30-8:00 on the weekends.  You may have noted that I have not counted myself among the “early risers”; that’s because I’m not.  I’m a Keenan through and through and would spend the entire day in bed if I could.  😀

But to the subject of this post: we have talked with Connor about his responsibility to care for his brother.  Likewise, we have talked to Sam about his responsibility to care for his brother too.  We’ve explained that one of the things we expect from them is that if they are asked to help with something, that they help.  This is part of what it means to be in our family: we help each other.  Many times for Connor, this means helping Sam to get his breakfast organized.  Usually, Connor is quite happy to do this.

There was an incident about 2-3 weeks ago though, where I came downstairs later than usual, on a school morning, and Sam had not yet had breakfast.  He got up after MOMD had left for work, and Connor “didn’t feel like” pouring Sam’s cereal.  I said in response to this explanation, “Well that’s funny because I’ve decided that I don’t feel like making your lunch today either.”  Connor’s eyes bugged right outta his head.  I’m telling you, it was the best reaction – I wish I had had my camera!  After I had calmed down a bit, and had organized Sam’s breakfast as well as packed Connor’s lunch, I explained to him that I count on his help, especially in the mornings, and particularly now in these last few painful weeks of pregnancy.  I told him that it is very stressful when I come down in the morning and have just a few minutes to get everything ready for him, and the added work of Sam is enough to throw everything off kilter.

He nodded that he understood.  The reasoning was sound, so how could he not?  And besides: there’s no way that kid wants to make his lunch every day.

So fast-forward to Saturday morning.  Somewhere around 7, Sam comes into our room and asks us to get up and make his breakfast.  We tell him that Connor will be happy to help, and to go ask him.  Sam says that he’s all ready asked Connor, and he is not helping.  We assure him that if he asks again, Connor will help.  Sam leaves the room, makes his way downstairs, and all is quite.  Until about 20 seconds later when we can clearly hear his stomping around and shouting, “MAKE MY BREAKFAST!  I WANT YOU TO MAKE MY BREAKFAST!”

As I’m sure need not be said, we were not sleeping in after this behaviour.

MOMD went downstairs and talked to Sam about his rudeness and that we were not happy with his yelling.  When I came downstairs, he had also talked to Connor about his refusal to help.  Connor’s position was that he was only obligated to assist on school-days, because Mom has enough to do and making Sam’s breakfast is too much.  Sooo… at least he was listening before?  I guess?

I told Connor that, as part of this family, we are required to help each other when we’re asked to.  “If you are tired of helping him all the time, you can teach him and encourage him to pour his own cereal.  That’s helping.  Telling him ‘no’ is not helping.  And I’m sure that you are not happy with the outcome of your decision, since you’ve had to talk to 2 people about this all ready today.”  He nodded his head in agreement.  We talked about the things that each of us do to help the family: Dad does the laundry, Mom does the cooking, Connor helps Sam, Sam clears his dishes, and so on.  We talked about how we don’t always want to do these things, but that we do them anyway because people we care about are counting on us.  I think he got the message…

But the talk got me wondering: Do I expect too much from my kids?  What do you have your children do to help with the business of “Family”?  Are there chore lists?  Do you leave them be, trusting that things will come together when they’re older?  Do you tie expectations to age?

Share with me, please, because navigating these waters of parenting is tough work when doing it alone; together though, we can lighten each other’s load.  So then: to the comments!

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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Family, Raising Kids

 

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Awesome Moments as a Parent

This is a quickie.

About a month ago, after talking with Connor following an incident with a neighbourhood kid, we started the wheels turning on speech therapy. He’s always had a weird way of saying his “R”s; sounds almost like he has an accent. Anyway, today was the conclusion of his 4th session, and his therapist came out to tell me how amazing he is doing, and that his progress in the last week has just blown her away.

You guys… he can make his R sound… I know this may sound insignificant to many, but truly? Hearing him actually make the real-live “grrr” sound? It moved me to tears. In fact, I am still crying about it…

It amazes me the capacity for growth and learning that children have. In fact, I think I’m going to start to emulate that a bit.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Family, Raising Kids, Randomness

 

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The Conclusion of the Teddy Bear Saga

I am happy to report that YES!  There is an end to my hand-ringing search for THE bear for our little girl.  So let me regale you with the saga as it unfolded…

Back in February, I wrote about the tradition of teddy bears and our babies.  We have been determined to find the perfect bedtime companion for our little girl, and let me tell you: it has not been an easy search.  But I’m getting a head of myself.

So back in February, I wrote that post.  MOMD read it, and then came up with a list of places where we could conceivably go to potentially find THE bear.  Since our anniversary was in May, and my parents had offered to take our boys for a day & night as our present (awesome gift — thanks again, Mom & Dad!!) we decided to head to Niagara-on-the-Lake.  There was a shop MOMD found in Jordan Station, it was close enough to NOTL (and the Coach outlet store, not that influenced my decision in anyway, whatsoever) to make a day of it.  So, we schlepped the kids off to my parent’s place and hit the road.

After several bathroom stops (and a snack run at Starbucks, of course) we found ourselves at the address listed on the web.  In the interest of full disclosure, MOMD did research this location a bit, as the picture of the building looks…  well, a little sketchy is almost a compliment. According to the internet though, this shop was fairly well reviewed, with lots of people saying things like, “Ted is great!” and “I found exactly what I was looking for!” and “I could spend all day here.”  Armed with comments like that, we were sure that we would find what we were looking for.

So we pull into the driveway, park the car, and are faced with our first dilema: which door do we use?  There was the one at the front of the building, plus 3 more doors to try off the parking lot.  We approached the one that looked the most “main entrancey”, off the parking lot.

I’ll admit it: we were both feeling a little trepidation at this point.  “It’s okay,” I told myself.  “It’s quirky!  And think of the story we’ll have to share about finding her perfect bear in the strangest shop imaginable…”

Little did I know how on the nose I was…

So MOMD is first up the stairs.  He pushes open the door and we enter into the tiniest room you’ve ever seen.  “Mansion,” I think?  “Talk about an oversell…”  It’s as the door is closing – and the bell to let the shopkeep know customers have entered has all ready rung that we are assaulted with the most horrifying stench you can imagine.  In fact: I doubt you can imagine the smell.  It was of rot, and decay; it smelled like old, dead and decaying bodies.  Completing this bone-chilling tableau is one lone fly, circling above our heads, buzzing.  “Ah ha,” it seemed to say, “fresh meat…”  And the eyes of many, many stuffed toys gazing on from the surrounding shelves.

We looked at each other and were about to make a break for it when another door opened and out popped the shopkeeper.  If you’re like me, and have a dreaded fear of clowns, this description will be perfect for you.  He looked like a retired clown.  He was wearing denim overalls, was easily 70, with snow-white hair and the wateriest blue eyes I have ever had the misfortune of looking on.  “Well hello,” he said as slowly and creepily as you can fathom, “Where are you folks from?”

The thing is, I couldn’t just walk away.  I was raised to be polite, and while I was not going to actively engage in conversation with this creepman, I couldn’t just ignore him and try to push my huge – and vulnerable – belly passed his equally sizeable girth and run for my life.  So I chatted a little, never answering more than was asked, and MOMD picked up a few things on the shelves, threw in a few comments here and there, and no more than 5 minutes later we were outta there.

Never has fresh air smelled so good.

We walked to the car as fast as I could waddle, got in, and burst out laughing.  I mean, WTF just happened?!?!  Were we unknowing participants in some elaborate ruse that would later be televised?  Was that the set of some real-life horror movie?  Because I will tell you this: there is no way anyone would EVER in their right mind buy a toy from that store.  Aside from the creep-factor (which I hope I’ve conveyed was massive), you would never be able to get the smell out of the fibres of your plushie!  You would just be throwing your money – and your toy – away.

We sped off to NOTL and got a much needed glass of wine:

After that, it was ice cream at Cows, and then we checked out a few gift shops hoping we’d find a bear, but alas.  It was not to be.  I did get an awesome diaper bag however, and MOMD was a trooper and stood in line for me at Coach to pay for so I could sit down.  So the day wasn’t a total waste.

But what about the bear???

We took the boys to our local mall to check out the toy stores there: no luck.  We went into card shops, and again no luck.  We huntedfor this bear…  and we found it.

Meet Alphie:

Hi guys. <waves>

He was tucked away on a shelf in our local combo Hallmark/Laura Secord shop, and when I saw him, I knew he was perfect.  I brought him home for the boys to inspect, and they too agreed that this was the bear for our little sister.  He’s been de-tagged, washed and dried, and now waits patiently for her to come home and lavish him with her love.

Just like the rest of us.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Family

 

Starting School Worries

As you probably know, I have a preschooler, who is soon-to-be a kindergartener (YAY!!).  And while September is really a ways off, I’ve been spending time over the last several months thinking about how to prepare him for school.

We’ve attended programs run by the Early Years Centre which happen in the school that Sam will attend.  We’ve take advantage of the programs run at the library too.  We read at lot at home, we sing, we even attend music programs that the EYC runs too.  He started occasional daycare in the fall with a woman in our neighbourhood, so he would get used to the idea that someone else can take care of him for part of the day and that I will always come to get him when the day is over.

He knows his colours, he sings the alphabet, he can easily count to 10 without error, and stumbles his way up to 20.  He can even count backwards; easily from 5, and with some struggle from 10.

The thing is, if you point to a block or something and ask him, “What colour is this?” he will answer, but it won’t be right.  The block might be yellow, but he’ll say it’s orange.  And while he can see A B C D stamped on the side of a playground structure and say, “Hey!  It’s the ABCD’s,” and launch into song, he cannot look at a single letter and recognize it.  He can count, but has no number recognition.

And don’t even get me started on writing his letters…  We’re working on concepts like holding the writing instrument (crayon, pencil, marker, pen, whatever he chooses) in the correct position.  He doesn’t like it, but he can do it.  But then: ask him to outline a pre-drawn letter?  You may as well cut off his arm.

Yes, I know you don’t start from nothing and go to letter tracing.  We have lots of sheets where you connect the dots to make straight lines, or boxes, or triangles or whatever.  He did that activity ONCE.  Every time I have suggested it since he has forcibly declined.  The one thing that’s been drilled into my head by Connor’s teachers is that learning at home must stay fun.  Do not force the child to do what the child does not want to do.  Tears, yelling, temper-tantrums should not be a factor in learning at home.  The Special Education Advisor who has worked with Connor stresses that the hard work should be done at school, so that home continues to be a safe place to explore concepts.  It is because of this that I do not force the issue with Sam.

Thing is… this causes me stress.  I have no facts to back up this opinion, but I believe that the majority of Sam’s classmates will have spent a significant portion of their toddler & preschool years in daycare.  When Connor was in daycare, they worked with him on writing his letters (he could write his name before he started school), number & letter recognition, and hell — they even helped him learn to colour inside the lines!  Sam can do none of these things.  No, not even colour within the lines.  He acts as though to do so would affect his creativity; “I will not be confined by your LINES, Mother.”

So my expectation is that come September, Sam will start school (full day, thank you GOD) with a classroom full of peers who can write and read their own names, write and recognize letters of the alphabet, and their numbers too.  Sam can verbally spell his name, and like I said earlier, he can say the alphabet and count…  but he can’t read or write.

I worry that I have not set him up for success.  Isn’t that my job as a parent?  To make sure my kids are equipped to face the challenges the world throws at them?  How can I get him to where he should be come September, while respecting the “fun learning at home” rule?

No seriously: I’m asking for your advice.  PLEASE HELP ME!

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Family, Raising Kids

 

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I feel like I *must* have something to say…

Every now and then I see a posting on blogs that I read regularly where the topic is basically, “I want to be writing but I have no idea what to write about.”  Those entries always make me smile.

That is, until I experienced my own bout of it.

Never having been through this before, I have no idea what to do to break the streak.  All I can think to do it just write a post full of randomness.  I’m sure it’s not going to be enlightening or riviteing – for either you or me, frankly – but maybe just the act of writing will get my juices flowing again.  So here goes nothing.

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MOMD is a Newfoundlander.  His parents mailing address is on “The Rock”, in a small town called Fox Trap, on the outskirts of St John’s.  Like so many Newfoundlanders, his parents are working in Fort McMoneyMurray in the oil sands.  They work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off and fly home for their 2 weeks off.  It works for them, because they are on the same rotation and so spend the majority of their 2 weeks off together.

Last night, MOMD took a call from his Dad’s cell phone.  Turns out that while he should have been happily arriving at his lovely home with his loving wife sometime after supper, he was in fact trapped in a hotel in Toronto.  His flight left Alberta on schedule, made a stop in Red Deer, Newfoundland and was on it’s way to St John’s when the fog rolled in.  The plane was not cleared to land.  And so, instead of going to either of the other 2 airports on the island, or any of the airports in the Maritime provinces, he was re-routed to Toronto.

We talked to him this morning and he has been scheduled to get on a 10:00 flight this morning, flying to Halifax, then to Gander, and then to St John’s.  Needless to say, he is not at all happy given that he paid for a direct flight.  There is a 9:00 flight that he’s trying to make it on which is a direct, non-stop to St John’s.

What gives with Air Canada, huh?  The worst part though is that by the time he actually makes it home, my Mother-in-Law will be halfway through her first week of her 2 week break.

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My darling daughter will be delivered in just 29 days today.  Unless – as many have pointed out – she decides to make an early entrance.  Which she may, and once I make it to 35 weeks (that’s Saturday, if you’re keeping track), I will happily greet her before then.  I don’t have words to describe my excitement about meeting her. I’ve been talking to her, interacting with her and her spirit for some time now, and I simply cannot wait to see her, hold her, kiss her… and dress her!!

Every morning, Sam (my almost 4 year old) asks me, “Mommy, what did you dream about?”  Usually my answer is “I don’t remember, honey.”  Because I really have a hard time hanging on to my dreams once I’m awake.  This morning though…  this morning I remembered.  I dreamed of her face.  Not her infant face – I think she was 2 or 3 years old.  And in my dream, I clearly saw her dark hair – like mine, which neither of our sons have – and her eyes.  I saw her beautiful, smiling, compassionate sparkling eyes…  I was entranced.  I could have stayed in that dream for 8 more hours, which is really a relief.  Because (as I wrote about here) the eyes I saw are my brother’s eyes.  They are also my Mom’s eyes, and her Mom’s eyes; a legacy of the Kelly-Keenan family.  As it turns out, I’m really okay with her having his (really their) eyes.  In fact, I feel giddy and strangely honoured that she will carry on that legacy of her Irish roots.

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A friend of mine returned to work this Monday after the end of her 12-month maternity leave.  I wanted to get together with her last week, for one last hurrah, but the craziness took hold and it was impossible.  She works shift work at Mount Sinai and I don’t know when we will have a chance to see each other again.  This makes my heart a little sad.  I know that when things settle down a bit, I can call her and figure out scheduling; I just wish I had called her last week is all.

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Life is moving forward.  I am not in control of many of it’s events; none of us are.  We are in the “flow of life,” as I like to call it.  We can get a paddle and speed up the journey, racing all the way to the end; we can watch behind us and spend all of our time pining for what has passed; or we can sit on the bench with a delicious, refreshing drink, enjoying each moment as they happen.

“C’mon Mom! Let’s go!”

Yes, let’s go.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Randomness

 

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Doing Less to be Better

So yesterday I shared with you about my recent pregnancy-related scare.  Today when I woke up, I started thinking about what I could do today to maximize my “sitting down” time, thus taking it easier*.  MOMD came into the room to say good-bye to me at 6:40, telling me that the weather man was promising rain, rain, with rainy periods.  With that cheery news he kissed me goodbye, and suddenly I had the first thought of how to maximize “sitting down” time.

Connor would take himself to the bus stop!

This isn’t the first time he’s done that, there have been instances over this past year where it’s been prudent for us not to go with him.  Today though, today it felt different.  When I told him that we (Sam, the dog and I) would not be going with him, he asked why.  I reminded him that I’m not feeling my best these days, with the baby and all, and he got a concerned look on his face.  This wise old voice came out of him and just said, “Oh.”

MOMD & I have created a fairly transparent family.  When we are having issues or emotions – dare I say fighting? – we experience the moment exactly where we are.  We do not remove ourselves to another room to have “adult discussions”, we do not remove ourselves to resolve the issue either.  I read somewhere once that while it is distressing for children to witness their parents arguing, it is more problematic when they don’t see it, and even more troublesome when they do not get to witness the resolution.  Children learn that it’s okay to argue, and how to resolve disagreements when they happen, by watching their parents.  This resonated for us, and we strive to practice it.

Anyway — so we’re transparent.  Which means that Connor and Sam are both aware (as aware as an 8yo and an almost 4yo can be) that this has not been a great time for me.  They know I’m tired, that I’m hurting, that I’ve been sick, that I can’t always do all the fun things I like to do with them.  So it wasn’t really a shock to Connor I’m sure when I said that we weren’t going to go.  And too, it’s not that he’s not ready for the independence – he totally is.  In fact he craves it.  The look in his eyes this morning though…  the concern that flashed across his face…  In that moment, I felt awful.

I felt like his face was saying, “Another thing you can’t do?  Oh Mom…”  I felt like I was letting him down, robbing him of those few moments where I was his parent in the morning.  Those final moments where I was caring for him – even from a distance.  I felt like he was sad to be dropped from my list of things to do.  I said, “I’m sorry buddy… there are going to be a lot of things that I just can’t do in the next few weeks until the baby comes.”

He nodded his head, telling me that he understood.  And when we went to the door to see him off, I knew he did.  “So Mom – can I take myself to the stop every day from now on,” a big grin on his face?  Sure you can buddy, sure you can…

*May I just say how ridiculous it feels to me to say “taking it easier”?  I mean, what do I do all day?  I take Sam to the park or the drop-in centre, or his Early Years Centre programs; sometimes we run errands; mostly though I’m sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table surfing the web!

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Raising Kids, Sickness/Wellness

 

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How Am I Feeling? Ummm… Embarrassed, Actually.

Every time someone sees me, the first or second thing out of their mouth is, “How are you feeling?”  I usually respond to this polite inquiry with “BIG.”  They laugh, I laugh, and then they ask when I’m due.  I tell the the number of days remaining until my scheduled c-section (35 today) and follow it up with, “Not that I’m counting,” and another laugh.

The simple truth however is that I’m generally feeling pretty awful.  My pelvis separated about 7 weeks ago – thanks to the hormone relaxin – and I’ve been in chronic pain since then.  It interrupts my sleep, and I have even on occaision woken up crying it’s that bad.  The baby has settled into my pelvis quite effectively, and the result of this is that if I stand for more than about 3 minutes, the tops of my thighs go numb.  I have outgrown most of my maternity clothes now, with the exception of about 3 dresses, which are not exactly casual, but they’ll do.  Because I’ll be damned if I buy anymore maternity clothes for the last 5 weeks of my last pregnancy.

I’ve had a gall bladder attack, pneumonia, tons of intense braxton hicks, and I’m swollen.  None of this has ever happened to me before.  I am a walking ball of discomfort.

This morning when I woke up I was horrified to find that – impossible though it seemed – baby had sunk even deeper into my pelvis.  I’m telling you: I’m sure that if I reach up, I will feel her head.  I had more braxton hicks this morning, pains so intense that I couldn’t stand to spread cream cheese on a freakin’ bagel.  All of this caused me to become concerned.  “What exactly is going on up there,” I wondered?  My appointment with my OB was still 7 days off, and I was really worried that something might be happening.  So I called, and they said come in, and so I did.

I was scared.  I’m only 33 weeks in here.  And while it’s likely that her lungs are fully developed, maybe her digestive tract isn’t yet.  Someone recently told me that it’s not until 34 weeks that babies are capable of the sucking/breathing/swallowing all together that are required for breastfeeding; for eating of any kind actually.  While I have been saying that I’m ready, and she can come any time now, I really do not want her intubated, or to have a feeding tube, or to be in an incubator all by herself.

I had called MOMD, who had a meeting right at the start of his day and so I had to leave a message.  I called the sitter up the street to see if she could take Sam so that I didn’t have to bring him with me, and she offered to come and pick him up.  (That offer right there?  Moved me to tears.)  I filled up my water bottle, texted a few VIP’s and got in the car.  I was on the road alone with the scary thoughts.  I called MOMD again, and this time I got him.

I told him I didn’t know what was going on, but that I was heading to the hospital.  I was trying to be reassuring, sort of nonchalant, explaining the pains I had this morning and that baby was further descended, and he said, “Should I meet you there?”  Before I knew it, I had responded, “I would really like it if you could be with me.”  It was then that I knew how scared I was.  Normally I’m a tough kid who can handle life on her own.  “You want to come with me?  You’re more than welcome but it’s totally not necessary,” is more my standard kind of response.  Not today, kids.  I honestly and clearly told him I was feeling quite emotional and that I would appreciate his presence.

I got to the hospital ok, was ushered into a room, and in comes my OB.  Normally I’m a witty, low-maintenance (as far as pregnant women can be ‘low maintenance’) patient, and I’ve known her for 9 years now.  She knew I was not all right.  I told her why I was there to see her, and that I was feeling emotional.  She checked my blood pressure (which was fine, as usual), fetal heartbeat and said, “The good news is that if she was in your vagina we wouldn’t have found the heartbeat here on your belly,” giving me a very reassuring smile.  She did what I really wanted her to do, and that was check my cervix.  “Very gently,” she said, “because we really don’t want to start anything.”  A moment later it was all over, with the statement that I needed to hear: “cervix is long and closed.”

Initially I felt relieved.  Vastly relieved.  Because: complications.  And then…  then I was so emotional.  MOMD put his arms around me and silent tears slid down my cheeks.  It wasn’t until much much later that I realized the overriding emotion of my day was actually embarrassment.  I mean, I’ve got two children all ready: shouldn’t I know what labour feels like?

I told this to MOMD when I made the realization.  He quickly said, “I’m certain that your OB would be the first one to say that each child, each labour, each delivery, are different.”  It was the right tact to take because I went on to say, “Yeah, and she would also likely point out that I didn’t know I was in labour with Connor, and that I didn’t get the chance with Sam because of him turning breech at the very end…”

I was reassured that I don’t need to know everything.  I was reassured that the third time can be just as scary as the first time.  I was reassured.  And that is a wonderful thing.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Family

 

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