Thursday, June 30, 2011

28 Hours

Cousin Camp, Glorious Cousin Camp.

This is the third year my parents have done Cousin Camp, and the first year all of my children were old enough to be invited. So I had hours and hours to myself. Oh it was heavenly. I even had a husband laying in bed throwing up, so I was really by myself. I loved every single minute of it. (Well except for when my throwing up husband needed some assistance.)
Making t-shirts, water slides, rain-gutter ice cream sundaes, picnics at the park, outside movie, sidewalk chalk, and games make up the hours of Cousin Camp.  The only drawback I see is that we always wait for the very end to take the big group photo when most of the kids are tired and ornery. One child (whose child could that be?!) in particular was very uncooperative!!

In the past, we've given credit to both of my parents for hosting Cousin Camp, but I'm really thinking that maybe the credit belongs solely to my mother...
We LOVE Cousin Camp around here.
Now if we could just get it extended to a week-long camp instead of a two-day camp, life would be REALLY good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today versus Yesterday

I think I had forgotten the kind of mom I was planning to be. In fact, I don't think I forgot, I know I forgot.  All of my hopes, plans, and project ideas were tucked neatly and orderly away in a file drawer until today, when I was reminded of great plans of rock experiments, soda-bottle ocean dioramas, Christmas stories each day in December, homemade gift tags, a lady bug project to learn to count, family home evening templates, general conference activity sheets, and so on.

I've been meaning to go through my file drawers for a couple of years now, but put off the hours-long project for another day.  Another day came today, when home alone for hours and hours, meant I could spread paper all over the floor in safe piles that would not be stepped on, colored on, or paper-airplaned with.

I'm amazed at not only how much I had filed away, but what I had filed away.  Seriously? Did I really think I was going to use that stuff?

Yes, I did.

But instead, as I sat there vacillating between the 'to keep' pile and the 'toss' pile, I remembered those specific visions of future mothering moments.  And now I found myself thinking: Don't I have enough to clean up already, without having my child walk around with a 2-liter soda bottle filled with vegetable oil and plastic fish swishing it back and forth to imitate the ocean??  Did I really think coloring cute little ladybug templates and attaching together with butterfly clasps would teach my kid to count any better than them standing on the edge of the sofa and daringly practicing aloud, 1-2-3-(and then jumping!).  Did I really think those magazine articles would somehow help my children become responsible and hard-working more than a pet goat and my threats and bribes?

Sure, we have craft-class twice a week during summer, I'm a sucker for homemade birthday cakes, and I've even convinced myself to sew a costume or two. But as for all that other stuff? My recycling can now runneth over with tossed magazine cut-outs, online print-outs, and photocopied templates of visions long forgotten.

As I sat on my office floor amidst piles of papers, the brightly colored magazine pages stared up at me as I remembered clearly my early mothering days and the big dreams I had.  I recalled the vision of me, wearing a cute apron, smiling nice and big, while passing out craft supplies, and calmly and nicely speaking the instructions to patiently waiting, smiling children seated around the table.

As I tossed the 2-liter soda bottle, filled with vegetable oil ocean diorama instructions into the 'toss pile', I recalled last week's craft class around our kitchen table: As usual, I took on the role of 'Delilah' the craft class instructor and welcomed them to class.  Joshua immediately started yelling, "Stop talking like that, you're Mom!"  As I threw the craft supplies on the table, I told them to be nice, not make a mess, and if they fought and argued about cleaning up, we'd skip craft classes for a month.  I told them to figure out the instructions by themselves and only bother me if there was a serious injury with the scissors.  Ellie whined about Drew taking her marker, Luke couldn't unscrew the glue lid, Joshua cried because Luke said a horse doesn't look good on a monkey's tummy and therefore he wouldn't help draw one, Drew pestered everyone, and I told everyone to stay seated and not touch the scissors while I ran to the Stake Center to pick up Megan who was arriving home from Girls Camp.

My reality now is a far cry from what I KNOW I pictured it being when I filed away dinosaur jello instructions, rhyming riddles, and gift-tag templates, a decade or so ago.

I do very little that I thought I would.  I do very little that would be found in a magazine. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to me that I held a 'Halloween Ghosts' story and craft project idea in my hand, struggling to decide exactly what pile to put it in. I reminded myself that I'm almost thirteen years into this parenting thing, and some things are likely not to change, including the fact that I detest Halloween.

So there you have it.
Years worth of visions and ideas tossed in a heartbeat without a second thought.
Except the Halloween Ghost craft that I surmised belonged in the 'to keep' pile.

You just never know.
Somethings do change.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mind Conflict

This warm summer weather accentuates even more the ever-present conflict I have in my mind. The thoughts of "I can't wait for this stage to end." and "Oh, time is passing too quickly."

Drew wants to be outside morning, day, and night. But there are a few problems with his incessant want.
1. I am limited in what I can really get done outside, and though I am enjoying the laziness of sitting in a chair reading while he plays, there's only so many hours in a day I can realistically neglect inside chores.
2. If by chance he slips through a left-open door, he wants to be on the drive-way riding, pedaling, and pulling, and the risks are too great for him to be left unattended. So in I bring him, and the wails and tears begin.
3. His nice siblings do take turns with him, but when one returns in and I ask, "Where is Drew?" The answer that in essence says, "Being babysat by a four year old" is not acceptable!

Drew makes messes, has temper tantrums, escapes without telling me his whereabouts, can't communicate as well as he (or I) would like, refuses to wear clothes, and most recently left skid-marks of poo, perfectly centered down the flight of stairs, as he slid down on his bum with a (very) poopy diaper! But there is just something about the pitter-patter of little feet on the tile, the sounds of a diaper swooshing between his legs as he runs, and the endearing smiles, hugs, kisses and expressions of a two year old that I will so dearly, dearly miss.

And therein lies the conflict ever in my mind.

My head feels as though these inconveniences will never end.
My heart is starkingly aware they will.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

As The Days Go By

The days of Summer are speeding by a little more quickly than I would like...
With the exception of Ellie's swimming lessons, we have no scheduled classes or commitments.  That's the way I like it. I've received plenty of emails, flyers, and invitations for my kids to be a part of some organized group, but I hit delete, or take them straight to the trash.  I love the do what we want, when we want kind of summer days.
And they include such things as:

A play date with a cousin.  (I'm sure eight month old Cousin Lucy would not have been quite so cranky during her visit, had her two year old cousin not been within inches of her throughout her stay.)

And may I add--even with the cell-phone quality photo, you can still see Drew's popsicle stained leg and black foot.  He eventually did come clean after a tub, but not before he wandered the house with his filth and stickiness.  Somethings you just gotta let go...
After cursing my LANDSCAPER husband, calling my LANDSCAPER husband, and texting my LANDSCAPER husband about the whereabouts of MY hose.  We found it in the place it is kept, except after getting it all hooked up to both the slip-n-slide and the faucet, we discovered it had a big hole in it.  So after all the communication attempts to locate the hose and then Luke's duct tape attempts to fix the hose, we borrowed the neighbor's hose (and water!).  However, it was all pretty much a waste of time as fifteen minutes into the water fun, the children decided they had been nice enough to each other for long enough, and mom shut down the whole thing.
Don't you love field trips with friends, and you somehow end up with a documented picture of them and not your own kids?  All because Luke decided to blink, Ellie decided to be funny and hide behind the stroller, Joshua attempted to follow the poor example of his sister, and Drew felt the need to turn around to see for himself, why in the world mom was yelling threats at his siblings.
Mike and I are considering purchasing some stock in Bandaid.  Bare legs, scooters, bikes, and running around result in the never-ending need for bandaids.  Somehow, as soon as the bandaid is in place, the 'ow-ow-ow' part is gone.  Take for example the 'owie' in this picture on the knee to the left of her bent fingers, oh wait, you can't see it?  Exactly why I was slightly frustrated at the drama-filled words whined by the seven-year-old, 'I can't handle this, the bleeding won't stop.'
I've been less than pleasant when Joshua insists on wearing long sleeve and long pants nearly, every single day.  While we've been lucky the temperatures have been below the normal average, it still makes me crazy.  Mike has attempted to tell me to take my own advice of "Somethings you've just gotta let go..."  But for some reason I can't. So for now I have a nice little hiding place in my laundry room for Joshua's long sleeve shirts.  The long pants Wranglers only battle, is at this point; not quite worth the battle.  Although, along with our purchasing of Bandaid stock, I must tell Mike to look into Wrangler stock too.
Things were a little more peaceful around here with a couple of 'shall remain nameless' kids being separated from each other for a couple of days.   Luke, our hardest worker, second only to Mike, is well on his way to his financial summer goal, helped by a couple of days spent working with Dad.  I love that Mike is so great at teaching our kids all about money, saving, spending, working hard, etc.  But I'm a little concerned about this time sheet, because as endearing as it is, it could quite possibly be in violation of child labor laws...

We've certainly missed Megan this week while at Girls Camp.  We miss lots of things about her, and I KNOW I thank her plenty for all she does around here, but oh boy, when she gets off that bus on Friday I'm going to make sure I spend plenty of time telling her exactly how much I've missed her help this week.  Remember one of my first sentences up above? Well I also love the variation of the sentence that goes, "Doing what I want, when I want."  And with my built-in babysitter gone for a week, it's kind of cramped my style a little... Especially on the day Luke was gone too, and I took Ellie, Joshua, and Drew to the store.
Big mistake!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bad Pictures: Reflections on Parenting

If you've noticed over the years, I make sure we have photos taken every Mother's Day and every Father's Day with either me or Mike and our children.  The photos we captured this Father's Day were no different than any of the others...not quite as perfect as I hoped for, but instead they are unique and capture our little family just perfectly.

After I expressed my frustrations at a certain child for not quite co-operating for the picture, I thought about how these pictures really represent our family, and more specifically mine and Mike's parenting...

No matter how hard we try, there's often one or two going against our efforts:
Sometimes, no matter what are instructions and preparations are, we are caught off guard and aren't quite ready:
And there will always be those times when things don't quite go the way we want them to, or some still choose not to co-operate, but we try (and try and try) again:
And sometimes, you just sit back and realize, though it isn't perfect, we're giving it a go--and what we get should still end up with some decent results:
And after the repeated efforts of trying and trying some more, you just can't help but smile in the end:
And though we never did end up with the perfect result,
In each one, there's some good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Girls Camp Memories--Old and New

Last week Mike and Megan returned home from a meeting about Young Women's Girls Camp.  One of the first things I read on the instructions handout was, "I know our girls will make memories to last a lifetime."  Immediately, upon reading that line, I thought of my own fond memories of Girls Camp at Camp Piuta, and of course they included memories of old, dear friends; Jennifer, Michelle, Tiffany, Emily, Janae,and plenty of others.  I remember putting tent stakes together with band-aids, grafitti-ing the cabins/bathrooms (we didn't start this, I promise, it's just 'what one did!'), telling scary stories, and so on.  I don't think it was a coincidence that last Monday, the day after I read Megan's instruction paper, I ran into one of my favorite young women leaders; Pam.  And we reminisced about the very last night, of my last year at Girls Camp, when we were staying up late, laughing, giggling and having fun.  When somehow, a bunk ladder fell and hit Pam on the head.  And Jennifer and I had to roam the camp to go and find our Priesthood leader and then to the kitchen to get some ice.  Except there was no ice--instead we returned to the cabin with a (cold) pork chop and placed it on Pam's head.
Such fun, fun, memories.  And I also love that just yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit with some of these girls I have such fond memories with.  What a treat old friends and great memories are!!!
So when Joshua sat on the kitchen bar-stool the other day, having just been told how long Megan would be gone to camp, with a long face whined, "But I will miss her", I assured him she will be having so much fun, we should be happy she's there.

I love my memories of Girls Camp, both the ones as a youth and the couple I went to as a leader (I can't find any photos of me dancing as a lollipop!).  Even though I got all teary eyed as Megan's bus pulled out of the church parking lot, I am thrilled she is there.

And I can't wait for one day, twenty years down the road, her daughters making fun of her hair and her clothes in her girls camp pictures!

Have fun Megan!

(PS--I hope the Lord answers Ellie's tender prayer last night, "Bless Megan won't miss us too much and that she will be happy.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Passion and Inspiration

(Photos are all courtesy of Rebecca Walters)

Truly I would have to say, the highlight of last weekend was spending Saturday with these wonderful women at a Power of Moms Retreat.  It was a lot of work to pull off such a Retreat; everything from registering attendees, to planning the food, to printing name-tags, to helping plan the agenda, and yet still have time to pull together a couple of decent presentations of my own.  But as I look at this picture, and remember the faces of so many women I listened to, learned from, and enjoyed being with--it was ohhhhh so worth it.

I have been to four Power of Moms Retreats, a Power of Moms board meeting and numerous Power of Moms Learning Circles, and there is no place else I have ever been where there is absolutely NO judging, competition, caring about what you wear, where you live, how much money you make, etc. etc.  My new dear friend, Emilee, (that I met at the April Retreat) and I were commenting after about how so many women in one room, in most usual circumstances creates feelings of competition and inadequacy.  Not so here--want to know what we surmised?  That The Power of Moms truly pulls in the cream of the crop.  These women are absolutely amazing--with one thing in common--to be better mothers--to be deliberate mothers--and to gather together to learn from each other. It is truly a beautiful thing to be a part of.

There is still the odd minute when I feel as though I have to pinch myself to believe I am part of such a wonderful organization, and that me, Little Miss Tiffany Nobody, actually had the chance to be on the agenda with such wonderful women as Courtney Kendrick (from CJane), Linda Eyre, and of course The Power of Moms co-founders; April and Saren.

Women are invaluable to each other--we have so much strength to draw from one another--so much to learn and to give from each other.  I have received many nice emails, comments, and compliments regarding the day, but really, the one that sums up why I am involved with such an organization was this one, "Your passion for loving your family...was inspiring."  I do love my family; and it is because of my attempts to strengthen and improve my own little family that I do what I do.

Saturday night as Mike and I rounded up the children to put them to bed after a very long day, Megan said, "Mom, you just have the biggest smile on your face."  And I took a moment to explain to her what it means to surround oneself with such positive, wonderful, intentional, deliberate, women.

What a wonderful day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friends vs Family

I've told you once, I'll tell you again:

"One loyal friend is worth more than a thousand relatives." 

The last couple of years, I have learned some of the greatest lessons of love, support, consistency, and acceptance from all of my dear friends.  I count my friendships with others (not just those in these pictures) as some of my truest blessings in life.

There is something uniquely divine to a good friendship--my experience with friendships has been that friends know they have to keep up the relationships, so time together is greatly sought after.  My experience with family too often seems, that relationships are taken for granted and time together isn't as valued.  I could easily find more friends to make it a priority to spend hours together at the park just visiting, relaxing, and not wanting to leave, than family members on all sides.  Too often, families think relationships will last because of mere lineage rather than time.  It makes me sad, but such is life.

Back to Sunday... Though there are lots of smiles in the pictures above, it wasn't one of the more jovial times together.  And though thank heavens I don't think there were any tears (kids included--I think!), there were some pretty somber, serious conversations.  Life is heavy for each of us in our own ways, but what a change in pace to sit in a park, under blue skies and a bright sun, picnicking with friends, on a peaceful Sunday afternoon.

Getting that many schedules to jive is usually no small feat, but I think a greater power knew how soothing this time together could be and the first day and time suggested accommodated us all.

Sunday afternoon was a sun-shining, warm reminder that life is good.
It really is.
Even if it is sometimes hard.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Using the NON-Christmas Present

Today's report of last weekend, really wouldn't be complete without using part of the blog post I have in my drafts still from December.

Of course on Christmas Eve, we didn't know the uncertainty in our lives (and finances) that would be coming our way.  Ironically though, our current uncertainty, has made Mike's Christmas Eve decision seem more and more right.  Yep-you read that correctly--seems more right.  After all, our circumstance is fairly temporary, but Megan's talent will be lasting a lot longer than that...

Mike laid around in bed most of Christmas Eve morning not feeling very good due to a cold. I politely refrained from asking him how long until he was going to get up and do something productive.

But before I knew it, I heard Mike saying to Megan, "Why wait any longer? Let's go get it."
Mike's few months of research, Megan's patience, and my closed mouth (surprise!) finally resulted in...

Megan's upgrade to a pedal harp!

(I love that she was so excited, she didn't even take her coat off before she started playing.)

Like Mike said, We can't afford it now and I'm sure we won't be able to afford it in three years either. But talent doesn't really wait...

And though Mike finally decided to get it on Christmas Eve.
It WAS NOT a Christmas present!

Now back to this last weekend, I had a very busy week, culminating in a big event I was part of on Saturday (will be blogged about soon).  Megan had a harp recital in Salt Lake--all was fine that I wouldn't be able to attend this event; Mike would be there with camera and video camera in hand, we'd all watch it together Saturday night, and life would be good.

Well, during the day on Saturday I noticed I had a couple of missed calls and then a text that read: "Where are the boys supposed to go?"  Oh yes, minor detail.  I had promised Mike I would arrange for a babysitter for the boys during the recital.  But in the hussle and bussle of my own preparations. I forgot!

Drew, though a lover of music, I guess had no interest in the recital music on Saturday.  So Mike spent the recital outside of not only the recital hall, but clear outside the music store, to alleviate Drew adding any sounds to the musical performance.  Being outside the building, didn't lend itself well to Mike being able to hear any of Megan's piano or harp performances.

Just as well he wasn't inside, as the video camera that was beginning to show low battery at the horse show the previous evening had forgotten to be charged.

Such is the life of a parent, it wasn't that we didn't care, it wasn't that we just stayed home, we both gave it some good effort but we fell a little short.  No pictures and no recordings, but we've heard the songs over and over enough times from practicing, that I think all will be well.

Add to it that Megan recently played at a Stake YW activity, the City Hall (which she was featured in the local newspaper for), and will be playing in a couple of weeks in Sacrament Meeting, and we didn't and won't be missing those performances-life is good.

Pictures or no pictures;
Megan is good.
Very good at the harp.

(PS--I have found it quite 'coincidental' that Mike chose to purchase the big, heavy, pedal harp a couple of months before major back surgery where he can't lift anything heavier than 6-10lbs for 6 months!!!  Instead he stands by and 'directs' the move and lift into the car.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Blurry Cowboy

This weekend was chock-full of so many great events, that instead of doing a  long 'weekend' post, please oblige me while I spend the next few days focusing on one event at a time...

Back in December when I was looking at cameras I wanted to purchase, the man at the store said, "This one will be great for capturing moving targets at your kids' sports events."  I didn't feel the need to expound on the fact my kids aren't really the sports events type.  But, I did wish I had paid more attention to his advice AND read up more on the camera user manual before Luke's first Horse Reining Show on Friday night.  Luke was a moving target for his whole event and oh man what cruddy camera shots I got.

Surely a second place ribbon makes up for the fact Mom doesn't have great photos of the event.

A photographer I am not. A proud mother I am.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Goats, Kindness, and Crocheting

Oh man, this week has been one of those weeks that I've barely been keeping my head above water, but it is all worthwhile. You know, kind of like that 'be anxiously engaged in a good cause' thing. But there are a few things I've had mulling around my mind, so I'll get them out.

*The other evening while working in the back yard, I heard Luke call to me from the cul-de-sac. He was taking Hank The Goat on a walk. Complete with a leash and everything. My son was walking his pet goat. (Now that is one line I don't think I EVER would have dreamed I would type!!) It's become a daily occurance, although I made some very serious threats when Luke attempted to allow Hank into the house!!

*The other morning while running I passed a lady doing something I couldn't quite figure out, then when I passed her later on, I saw clearly what she was doing. Crocheting! The lady was crocheting while she was exercising. I wanted to stop her and ask her where the time in her life is that she can just do one thing at one time, shouldn't exercising be that time? But then I remembered that just a block back, I was texting three friends planning a friend picnic this weekend. Why oh why do women multi-task too much??

*I am having some really honest conversations lately with Megan. Why oh why are girls so unkind to each other. Poor Megan has been on the receiving end of some really brutal two-faced personalities this last school year. The sad thing? Having to tell her that some girls never grow out of it. We all (but especially women) need to just BE KIND!

*Speaking of kindness, yesterday I was the recipient of a stranger's kindness. And though it was a tiny act, it was just the kindness I needed during a very crazy, tense few moments. I made about 549 phone calls to Mike in this first few minutes, perplexed at my situation, and then my 550th phone call to him was me in tears telling him how kind a lady was and how I am now committed to be kind to EVERYONE, ALL of the time. I know--kind of a far-fetched goal, but I can try.

*Continuing with my kindness thoughts; I love our new hand-made sign (that I owe my sister-in-law still for!) in our family room that states, 'Kindness Matters'. Indeed it does.

Happy Weekend.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Next 76 Days

Despite the fact that the first day of summer vacation I...

Picked up 5,291 Otter Pop wrappers from the back yard
Swept the kitchen floor 654 times
Called Mike and told him I was SERIOUSLY considering calling a local day-care to get the rates for a certain child to attend.
Was dismayed at the aftermath of a eating popcorn and playing Legos combo for three of my children and two neighbor kids.
Picked up 343 towels from my backyard while the children picked up the other 8,729 items strewn across the lawn.
Gave my kids a reprieve from the 'summer tasks' for the first day.

I am still feeling optimistic about the rest of the summer.  I've had a couple of people ask me lately how I feel about all my kids being home for the summer.

My answer?

I love it.  I love summer vacation, I love my kids home from school for a couple of months, I love the do-what-we-want-when-we-want kind of feeling without schedules of school, homework, bedtimes, etc.  But I do love the return of routine when school starts again.  There is something about the more routine, organized schedule of a school year that keeps us all in check. But a two-three month vacation is glorious too.

Although, with that said, summer vacation definitely isn't all Otter Pops and water games around here.  Just like last summer, the summer before that, and the summer before that; we have daily morning task lists that include such things as; homework sheets, pick-a-chores, music practicing, bike rides around the local trail, and summer goals.

And when Luke said the other day, "Why do we always have to do homework sheets in the summer?  No one else does!"  Mike and I gave him the standard reply, "We don't care what other people do. It's what WE DO."  Luke's follow-up comment was cut short by Mike's reply, "No one else I know has a goat either, should we get rid of Hank?"

Luke had no further comment.

All in all, I think the summer and us will get along just fine.
(For the most part.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

From This to That

No more lllooonnnggg school programs that don't hold pre-schoolers interest.
(Yes, I  have no problem admitting that the only camera I took to a school program was my cell phone!)

No more 'parents needed' field trips:
(And we wonder why state test scores aren't as high as they could be!!??)

No more dragging undressed kids in the car to take children to school with over-sized items such as teacher gifts, report props, birthday treats, etc. that aren't easy to transport on the bus:

No more sixth grade graduations:
(If the students don't even want to be there, do you think the parents do?!?)

No more Megan at this school, that she has loved so much (well except not really this year!):

It's time for toddler stunt riding:

It's time for neighborhood out-door parties:

It's time for SUMMER!!!!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Last Hoorah

I can't decide what was the most exciting part of our elementary school Field Day on Wednesday.

  • Watching Megan, as a member of the Student Council, dutifully sit in the dunk tank. 

  • I wish you could see better the look of sheer excitement on Luke's face at the thought of being the first to dunk his sister.

    When Ellie's baseball throwing attempts didn't result in a dunked Megan, she just ran up to the 'button' and pushed it.

    • Somehow allowing my competitive streak to come out, and racing other mothers, students, and the principal in the 50 Yard dash. And oh boy am I feeling it today--but the satisfaction of a couple of good wins outweighs the pain.  (sort of)
    The glory of the win is taking precedence over the unflattering nature of the photo!!
    • Playing on the blow-up toy, laughing and bouncing down the slide with my kids and a few other PTA volunteers during the lunch break.
    And though the bouncy slides were a ton of fun, the photos of me--a thirty six year old bouncing down them are really not flattering enough to put on here... you get the idea, right?
    • The impromptu PTA vs 6th grade tug of war challenge.
    I might add that while I was totally fine with the 6th grade students beating us, what in the world was up with my competitive streak yesterday?!?

    And quite possibly, the tied for first-place highlights of the day were:
    • Speaking with a megaphone. Mike did not think I was serious last night when I showed him one on e-bay I really want for my birthday this fall. It could quite possibly eliminate the need for me to ever raise my voice again...
    • The fact that my stint as a two year PTA President is OVER!!!!!!!!!!  Hooray!!


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