Monday, July 28, 2014

Simple Ways To Show Your Kids You Love Them

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* This post was originally posted on 8/2/13.  Enjoy!

*Be silly--My kids just love being silly: dancing, skipping, making up silly jokes, giggling at stupid cartoons, making crazy faces.  Just be silly!

*Play one more game--My son is obsessed with Monopoly right.  Games could go on and on for days at a time and it can definitely wear on this Mommy's nerves.  But he cherishes every moment we spend playing this game together.  So just one more game, Mom!

*Give one more tickle--Again, my son is very physical.  His love language is touch.  And although he doesn't like to be rough when he wrestles, he does love to be tickled.

*Ignore your to-do list--This is a hard one for me.  I'm very Type-A and I have a running to-do list that is more than a mile long.  But the goal is to set it aside for a time each day and listen to what matters to them.

*Tell them you love them--My youngest really needs to hear "I love you" constantly.  He just craves that reassurance.  And I don't want my kids to ever grow up thinking "Do they really love me?  They never say it."  Just say it!

*Give them another hug--And hold them for a long while.  There's nothing like a hug that you can just melt into.  It just reminds them how truly safe they are.

*Say yes--This is another big one.  How often do we say No in a day?  And how many of those No's can turn into Yes'?  I know often I say No out of habit when I could just turn it around and make a new memory.

*Tell them the strengths you see in them-- Along with the No's, how much of our day to day interaction focuses on correction and discipline?  Our children need us to pour into them 10x as much as we correct them.  Pour in that love and tell them what good qualities you see in them.  Give them a long term perspective of how awesome they're made.

*Do something they love--Monopoly?  Need I say more....  Skip on the way to the gym.  Watch them ride their bike out front.  Make a special dessert together.  What does your child love?  Pick a time and do something THEY love.

*Speak only encouraging words--Pour into them.  Pour into them.  Pour into them.  No, this is not reality.  This is the goal.  Turn your correction around into encouraging them to do the right thing.  Encourage their dreams.  Encourage their friendships (within reason).  Encourage their grow.  Pour, pour, pour out those encouraging words.

What ways are you finding to connect with your kids?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Smore Bars

*This post was originally published on 7/29/13.  Enjoy!

Who can believe it's the end of July already?  Wow, where has the summer gone?  So before the kids head back to school, here's a recipe that's guaranteed to be a hit, whether around the campfire or the dinner table.

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Smore Bars
(*from Chocolate, Chocolate, and More)

3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. mini marshmallows (I really just dumped in handfuls)
2 regular sized Hershey chocolate bars

1. Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter and press into pan.

2. Combine 1/2 c. butter and sugar until creamy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt well.  Slowly add to wet ingredients.

4. Mix in marshmallows.  Spread dough over graham cracker crust.

5. Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes.

6.  Break up chocolate bars and freeze while bars are baking.  After 10-12 minutes, remove bars from oven and top with chocolate bar squares.  Return to oven for 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Turkey Cucumber Wraps

I love to cook, but with three kiddos, my life seems to be all about quick and say meals lately.  I thought things would slow down over the summer, but really... I may have over committed us.  So here we are, making quick meals and trying to keep them nutritious.

And these wraps are awesome for taking to the pool or grabbing a quick dinner before a baseball game.  They are so ridiculously easy and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand.

Just start with your favorite tortilla.  Spread on some veggie cream cheese and season as you like.  I love a little garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Layer with cucumber, tomato, avocado, and sliced turkey.  You can add some cheese if you'd like (but I love mine with just the meat and veggies).

See, so easy.  Just serve it with a salad or some fresh fruit and dinner's on the table in no time.

What yumminess are you discovering this summer?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: I'm working on a Family Book for the Little Man and some stuff for his Mickey Mouse Party.  Everything is in preliminary stages, but hoping to get some stuff done this weekend.

What I'm Reading:  The Rosie Project... I wasn't sure about it at first, but it's really funny.  I started the book club book for July, but quickly misplaced it.  I'm in trouble with that one.

What I'm Doing: Getting a new fridge.  This is the second one that's gone out this year and I just want to kick it.

What I'm Watching: We started watching Hitch last night, but it got late.  We both love that movie and plan on finishing it tonight. 

What I'm Enjoying: Lots of pool time... baseball games... plums... projects!

What are you up to?

Friday, July 18, 2014

10 Tips for Reading Aloud

*This post was originally published on 10/24/13.  Enjoy!

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Reading is in our blood.  I've always been a big reader and as a writer, words have a huge impact in my life.  Reading opens new worlds and experiences for our children, and I really want mine to grasp what a great experience it can be.  So one thing we did early on was read aloud to our kids.  Every night before bed, we all climb up on the couch and read the Bible, along with other books.  It's some of the sweetest moments in our days.  These are some of the tips we've learned along the way:

1. Get comfy--Find some place you want to linger.  For us, it's the couch.  For you, it might be your child's bed, or an old comfy rocking chair.  Pile on the pillow, find a comfy spot, and settle in.

2. Make it a routine--My kids miss it when we don't read every night.  Some nights are hectic or company is in town.  But it's become so routine that my kids miss it.  They come to crave the closeness and discovery together.

3. Speak clearly--Read clearly.  When you're "hearing" a story, it's harder to follow the story than when you're seeing the words.  So read with distinction, pause in important conversations, and pronounce new words clearly.

4. Read Slowly--Reading aloud isn't about just getting through it.  Savor the words.  Use your pauses well and don't let your kids miss a thing.

5. Speak with emotion--People don't speak in monotone so why read in monotone?  Using emotion conveys meaning and makes the story clearer.  And if you're reading a lot of dialogue, try using voices.

6. Use prediction questions--Ask the kids questions as you read.  What's going to happen next?  How do you think the character feels about what's happening?  Use the illustrations to your advantage.  As them to analyze the action and predict what's going to happen.

7. Ask questions to check understanding--Ask questions about new words and situations.  Does your child understand what's happening or need some clarification.  Checking for understanding as you read can bring the whole story together.

8. Take turns--Some times my kids want to read to me.  And that's ok.  In fact, that's great.  Allowing them the time to read to me gives them great practice in reading, pronouncing, and reading aloud, which is a skill in itself.

9. Define hard words--Don't assume that your kids know what every word means.  Sometimes new words can be defined in context.  But if you find you're reading a lot of new vocabulary, take the time to define new words and explore new concepts.  After all that's what reading is all about... new ideas.

10. Use Audio Books--Don't forget to use audio books.  We listen to audio books all the time while we're running errands or traveling to visit family.  We've explored so many new words, new characters, and new stories in listening to audio books.  So if you're struggling to find time for reading aloud, work audio books into your day.

Do you read to your kids regularly?  What are your tips?
*Linked to these Parties

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

12 Healthy Snacks While Traveling

If you've ever traveled with kids, or just traveled on your own, you know how temping those little bags of cheap junk food can be.  Any time I had walk into a gas station or convenience store, I hear every bag of potato chips immediately scream my name.  I won't even get into how my mouth starts watering.

The next time we hit the road, let's pack a few of these healthy snacks and avoid the convenience store.  So while we're filling up the gas tank, we can avoid filling up on junk.

1. Trail mix--My kids love trail mix and there are so many options for building your own, making it easily customizable for your family's tastes and preferences.  Plus I love to throw in a handful or two M&M's as a treat for the kids.

2. Fresh fruits--Fresh fruit is a great option for being healthy and regulating your blood sugar.  Buy what's in season to save some money and still feel good about what you're feeding your kids.  Plus it's super portable.

3. Dried fruits--Dried fruit is a great option for when fresh fruit is out of season.  My favorites are the apple slices and dried berries.  Again, mix and match for your family's taste.

4. Yogurt cups--Yogurt cups work well if you can make a quick stop for lunch or snack.  A small ice chest is easy to place in the back seat.  This is another great option for regulating blood sugar if you watch your labels.  Don't forget the spoons!

5. Hardboiled eggs--Eggs are wonderful as well if you plan to stop.  Loaded with protein, eggs fill small bellies for those long road trips.

6. Ants on a log--These are an all around great snack for the family: veggie, peanut butter for protein, and a little sweetness in the raisins.  Looking to contain the mess?  Pack your celery sticks and peanut butter in a resealable jar.

7. Cheese and crackers--I love have cheese and crackers with us.  I can slice up some cheese before we leave home, pop it in the ice chest, and just pack a box of triscuits or wheat thins.  It's a great way to pack in some carbohydrates and protein quickly.  Plus it's easy finger food.

8. Fresh veggies--Along with fresh fruit, fresh veggies is an easy option.  There are so many choices as well: cucumber, carrots, celery, bell pepper, or cherry tomatoes.  Even an easy pre-made salad can be slipped into a small ice chest.  Plus veggies are packed with fiber to fill your up quickly without the extra junk.

9. Nuts--Nuts are wonderful as they're also packed with fiber, healthy fats, and protein.  Almonds, walnuts, pecans, ... all are wonderful options.  You can also save a ton of money buying them in bulk from the grocery store.  Mix them with dried fruit to make your own trail mix.

10. Seeds--Our family loves sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, especially when we can season and bake our own pumpkin seeds.  But there are plenty of other options as well: chai seeds and flax seeds to taste as well.

11. Popcorn-- Popcorn is so easy to travel with.  More resilient than crackers and chips, but still has the crunch.  And it's a great economical way to get whole wheat.

12.  Granola--Homemade granola is wonderful.  Our family loves a yummy variety we made loaded with pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and coconut.  It's easy, filling, and portable.


13. Lots of Water--We each have our own water bottle that we keep filled in the refrigerator.  Before we leave the house, we always grab those water bottles and fill them to the top.  Water will keep you hydrated and feeling great on the road.  Yes, you'll have to stop more for potty breaks, but really you're doing amazing things for your body so who cares?  Drink your water!

What are your favorite healthy snacks for the road?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Child of Mine {Review}

Kelly is a mother.  Well, she was at one time, before her ex-husband sold her daughter for drug money.  And with his accidental death, she has no leads for finding her Emily.  So she resorts to traveling the States on her weekends, DNA testing unsuspecting adoptees.

Jack is a single father, left to struggle through parenthood after his brother and sister-in-law die in a tragic accident.  His adopted niece, Natalie, loves her "Dad", but struggles with her desire for a mom. She even goes so far as to try and set him up with her Amish nanny, Laura.

Eventually in Kelly's investigations, she comes across Jack and Natalie's special situation and decides to find out if this could possibly be her lost daughter.  But will she tell the truth this time?  Or continue using deceptive methods?  And what of her relationship with Jack?  And his relationship with Laura?  And what if adoptive and birth parent issues aren't nearly as cut and dry as they seem?

This newest novel by David and Beverly Lewis takes so many twists and turns.  There were several moments in the book where I thought I had it figured out, only to have the authors throw everything I knew upside down.  I love the way their two writing voices played off each other as well.  The character's voices were distinct, yet there was no disruption in the change of writing.  The story flowed nicely.

While I've been a long time fan of Beverly Lewis, this is the first time I've read anything by David Lewis.  And he certainly held his own in this work.  While Beverly Lewis typically writes Amish fiction, this book is NOT Amish fiction.  The only Amish character in the book is Laura, who does play a prominent part, but is not the entire focus of the book.

My only complaint was San's character.  Jack's grouchy sister, San, has no problem sharing her discontent with absolutely everything Jack does.  While she is a believable character, she is highly annoying and I could have done with less of her in the book.

All in all, I enjoyed it.  This one gets four stars in my book.  Kept me guessing till the last page.  Hope you enjoy!

*Disclaimer: I received a few copy of this book for review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, July 14, 2014

10 Goals This Week

Here's how I did 2 weeks ago:
  • 3 baseball practices, swim lessons for all 3 kids, 1 music class, library day
  • Finish Daily Learning Notebooks

  • Pre-post 3 blogs
  • Finish 1-2 DIYs

  • Work on gift
  • Write 2 cards
  • Make 2 MM lanterns

  • Sleep 8.5 hrs/night (4 nights)
  • Workout 3-4 days/one day of yoga
  • Spend extra time working on verse
These are My 10 Goals This Week:

  • Swim lessons for 2 kids, 4 baseball games, 1 music class, library day
  • Finish Daily Learning Notebooks
  • Pre-post 3 blogs
  • Work on VEDA
  • Finish 2 MM lanterns
  • Work on family book
  • Try one new recipe
  • Sleep 8.5 hrs/night
  • Workout 3-4 days/one day of yoga
  • Memorize 2 verses

What are Your Goals for the Week?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made:  I'm working on Little Man's 3rd birthday so I was making Mickey Mouse decorations.  Also worked on a family book for him.  :-)

What I'm Reading:  I'm reading Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  Little too much sex, but very interesting look at relationships.

What I'm Doing:  We're working in the yard this weekend.  Really needs some TLC.

What I'm Watching:  ugh... not much.  Little bit here and little bit there, but nothing good.  Having more fun watching my kids at swim lessons and baseball practice.

What I'm Enjoying:  Summer berries... lots of reading... swimming, swimming, swimming

What are you up to?

Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Follow Blogs {Without Google Reader}

* This post was originally published on 6/3/13.  Enjoy!

If you haven't heard, Blogger will be eliminating its blog reader in July 2013.  Yep.  That's next month. And I hate to admit it, but I've been a procrastinator about finding alternative readers.  Sure, I've seen the posts from other bloggers describing their favorite new ways to follow.  But I'm so computer iliterate.  I was afraid with three kids and everything else on my plate, I'd never figure it out.  So I waited.

Till I finally sat down and just gave it a try.

And really, it's so much easier than I ever imagined.  Really.  It's really easy.

So whether you've never subscribed to a blog, or have a full Blogger Reader, here's your chance to check out some new ways to follow along.

As I've researched, I've found three different options out there for following blogs in the future:

1. You can subscribe via email.  This is a great option if you don't want to manage a second inbox.  All blog posts will conveniently delivered directly to your email.  If you want to read further, simply click on the post and you'll be sent to the site.  You can follow Creative2xmom by entering your email in the box on the top right of the front page.

2. I've heard good things about BlogLovin's reader.  There are some bloggers who rave about it.  I can't speak much to it 'cause I found something I already love.  (*I've since learned there is a "Connect to Google Reader" option on this site as well)

3. You can also subscribe via Feedly, a second blog reader.  If you're already using Google Reader, this is a great option.  Simply click on "Connect to Google Reader" and your feeds will be seamlessly migrated to your new Feedly reader.  This was the big selling point for me.  I didn't have to search through all my blogs and re-follow from a new reader.

If you are just starting to follow blogs through Feedly, click on the magnifying glass on the upper right corner and enter the blog address.  Click on the plus sign for your new subscription to be added.  As you spend more time on Feedly, you can customize folders to sort your subscription based on interest, or other categories.

There's also a mobile app to keep you reading on the go.

So there you go, a crash course in subscribing to blogs after Blogger Reader disappears.  If you like keeping up with blogs, subscribe!  Blog writers love to write for you and we love it when you follow along.

Subscribing via email is very easy, but if it's not for you, here are two other options, BlogLovin and Feedly.

And subscribe to Creative2xmom if you're interested.  No pressure!  Creative2xmom publishes new posts 3-4x/week with lots of recipes, homemaking ideas, and motherhood thoughts.  I try to keep them useful and fun.  And of course, subscription is free!  Who doesn't like free?

How do you read your favorite blogs?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Break or Summer Planning?

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I don't know where this summer's gone... Wait, I take that back.  I don't know where it's gone: VBS, baseball, ballet, swim lessons, ... on and on.  And here I find myself over a month into the summer and this homeschool Mama wants to make the most of what's left.  So while, I'm trying to soak up some rest and relaxation, I know that school is just around the corner.

Thus, summer planning it is.  I'm looking over the past year and reworking what's best for our family.  Just to get me started, these are a few things I'm working on:

  • Start with the Basics--For us, my non-negotiables are Math and Reading.  Any time we have a field trip, we try to hit at least these two subjects.  After that, my kids love Science so I work that in next.  And then we  add in History and Writing. 
  • Get into a routine and don't overwhelm in the first month-- I learned last year that we just went too crazy, too fast.  I have to remember that we're going from the lazy days of summer into 5 subject school.  Even I feel overwhelmed.  So this year, we're easing in, bit by bit, and finding our groove before we get in too deep.
  • Look for discounts and used deals--I'm spending a good chunk of my time this summer searching for used curriculum.  There are lots of curriculum exchange groups on Facebook and you can find lots of used books on ebay as well.
  • List some read alouds--We've had a read aloud list going this year with the kids.  So I'm planning ahead in case there's any unit studies I want to coordinate our reading with.
  • Determine priorities for your kids--Usually my kids so some kind of sport through out the year so I can count it as their PE.  But your family might have other priorities to work into your schedule: music lessons, art classes, co-op classes, language learning... now is the time to prioritize and see how they will fit into your fall schedule.
  • What do your kids want to learn this year?--Ask your kids if theres anything specific THEY want to learn this year.  For us, we're doing California history and my oldest has always wanted to visit the state capitol.  I'm thinking my youngest wants to learn more about animals so we're working that into our Science curriculum.
  • Don't compare--I have to constantly remind myself of this one.  I see moms writing their own curriculum.  Or other moms planning fantastic field trips.  Or even other moms who's kids are skipping grades, and learning third languages, and taking engeneering classes at 5 year olds.   I wouldn't compare my kids if they were in public school.  So why am I putting so much pressure on myself and them in our homeschool?  Part of homeschooling is having the chance to celebrate our time together and I'm not going to ruin in by comparing any of us to someone else.
So is anyone else back in planning mode yet?  How are you planning for the fall? 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do-It-Yourself: Homemade Ketchup

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I've been wanting to try homemade ketchup for a long time.  When I go in the grocery store, I get really sick of checking every label for high fructose corn syrup.  And ketchup is supposed to be a simple one to duplicate, so why not give it a try?

While searching pinterest, I found this recipe and thought it looked promising.  I used maple syrup to sweeten mine and prepared yellow mustard 'cause I couldn't find my powder.  The one thing that puzzled me was that the spices didn't have exact measurements and for me, that's not a good thing when I'm trying a recipe for the first time.  The first time I like to know exactly how the author made it, then tweak it from there.  But I was game to give it a try.

Well, trial and error will certainly be my take on this one.  I added too much spice somewhere.  All the spices listed here are very hot and somewhere along the lines, I just added too much.  I tried to tone it down, but wow!  I won't be serving this to my kids.  Although full of flavor, I just got mine too hot.  I'd love to try it again because it is yummy, but it will certainly take some time.  As I dial in my recipe, I promise to share it in the future.  For now, it's a work in progress.

Have you ever tried to make your own condiments?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July to all of you!

I pray that you're celebrating and enjoying
Our Nation's Birthday!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Adventure Bible for Early Readers {Review}

Let me just give you an overview of what's in this bible:

  • Life in Bible Times - Articles and illustrations describe what life was like in ancient days
  • People in Bible Times - Articles offer close-up looks at amazing people of the Bible
  • Let’s Live It! - Hands-on activities help you apply biblical truths to your life
  • Did You Know? - Interesting facts help you understand God's Word
  • Words to Treasure - Great verses to memorize
  • Twenty special pages - Games and other Bible fun, all with a jungle safari theme
  • Book introductions, a dictionary, and color maps
I've always thought I would love to have this bible for my kids, but it's so different looking at one in the store and being able to have one in my home.  I wanted to be able to hold it and really take my time with it.  And I was not disappointed.

This bible is just beautiful, inside and out.  It's written in a NIrV, very similar to NIV, and easily accessible for young readers.  There's plenty of little extras like the dictionary, memorizations, profiles of biblical characters, all of which combine to encourage young readers in their spiritual growth.  The full color pages are engaging without being cartoonish.  And the quality of this bible is beautiful with a hardcover and pages thick enough to keep the print from showing through.

The only drawback to this version is the 3D cover which just cheapened the look overall.  I just would have preferred to have had the cover from an earlier version.

Overall, I'm very happy with this bible.  I would recommend this version for ages 7 and up.  

*Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this bible for review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Swimming with Non-Swimmers

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*This post was originally published in Aug of 2008.  But I find all these things to still be true in my life today, especially with #3.  Hope these tips help someone in a similar situation.
**This photo was from July 2013...

One of the perks of living in an apartment is having unlimited use of a swimming pool that I neither have to clean or pay for.  Chemicals, ph balance, and vacuuming are far from my mind as I enjoy a dip in the cool water whenever I feel like it, within the parameters of nap times and lunch.
So naturally I've passed on my love of water to my two little ones.  Big Boy, not quite 3 years old, is a natural in the water.  He's like a fish, with his innate ability to glide underwater, as exhibited by skipping a level in swim lessons this year.  And Baby Girl, 7 months old, is currently trying to crawl on the water in her enthusiasm.  She can certainly splash and kick with her brother.
Our favorite part of the day is finishing up dinner, leaving the dishes in the sink, and dashing out the door to the pool.  It provides a distraction amidst the bewitching part of the day, when every one's getting tired and yet it's still hours before baths and bed.  It's become such a great technique for keeping the kids happy that I've even ventured to take the two of them by myself on evenings when my husband has to work.  And I've found that with a little preparation and a watchful eye, it can be done, even enjoyed.  Here are just a few things that I've picked up along the way:
  • Since both of my children are non-swimmers, we have one very important ground rule: No One Gets In The Pool Before Mama.  I'm always the first in and the last out.  Even if Big Boy wants to run ahead and jump in, knowing full well that he can at least tread water, he knows that such action will immediately get him pulled from the water and into time out.
  • Floatation devices are my friend.  Both of my children have, and use, some sort of personal floatation device.  They go with us to the pool every time, no exceptions.  For Baby Girl, I have a Baby Spring Float.  It's easy to store in the off season and really holds her up out of the water. For Big Boy, I have a life jacket that we picked up at Costco in the beginning of the summer.
  • While Big Boy is learning to swim, he loves to dive, flip and swim underwater.  So often times he'll want to take his life jacket off.  I love seeing my son learn to swim and encourage it as much as I can.  So while Baby Girl is in her "floatie," Big Boy is more than welcome to swim without his life jacket.  When she gets fussy and wants to be out for awhile, the life jacket must immediately go on, or he gets out of the pool.  It's that simple. And with my son's love for the water, he always chooses to use his life jacket.
  • Leaving the pool can often be a difficult transition time.  Baths come next and inevitably, so does bed time.  Who would want to leave the pool when faced with that?  However, we've found a technique that works, most of the time.  Big Boy does better with transitions when he's told to say "Good-bye."  So each time, we say "good-bye" to our good friend, the pool.  Sometimes we even incorporate a "Good-bye Song" that he learned in his gymnastics class.  
  • There are always other ideas that come along: using the umbrella stroller, carrying a beach bag for towels and baby toys, filling a sippy for Baby Girl before we leave, and making sure to use the potty at home so I don't have to juggle two and a water hazard.  We're always refining our technique.  But for now, we've got a pretty good system down.
So what Works for You?

Also check out our updated pool bag video just posted last week.  It's definitely become more complicated with 3 kids, but it's still a whole lot of fun.
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