Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Forget the Purell

Seeing that dirt is a major part of me and my family's life, especially my children, I thought I would share this article:
 
May 25, 2010 12:52 PM EDT
Go ahead, let your kids play in the dirt, it could make them smarter.
 After conducting a series of experiments, researchers have found exposure to specific bacteria in the environment could increase learning behavior, ScienceDaily.com reported.
"Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breathe in when they spend time in nature," Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, N.Y., said.
Previous studies on M. vaccae involving mice showed stimulated growth of some neurons in the brain that resulted in increased levels of serotonin and decreased anxiety.
"Since serotonin plays a role in learning, we wondered if live M. vaccae could improve learning in mice," Matthews said.
Matthews and her colleagues discovered they were on the right track.
"We found that mice that were fed live M. vaccae navigated the maze twice as fast and with less demonstrated anxiety behaviors as control mice," she said. "It is interesting to speculate that creating learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where M. vaccae is present may decrease anxiety and improve the ability to learn new tasks."
The findings were presented Monday at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

Yay for dirt!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Solemnity of the Ascension

"Our right to Heaven has been given us, our place is ready; it is for us to live in such a way that we may occupy it some day."
~Divine Intimacy, pg. 535


Today is Ascension THURSDAY!  I'm not a big fan of transferring this Feast Day to Sunday, so we are celebrating today.  Unfortunately, Natalie has a sore throat and fever, so Mass is not on the menu, but I did make homemade cream puffs (aka cloud puffs...) for dessert, and I am making fried mushrooms for appetizers (cloud-ish as well ;).  Hopefully we can get in the Glorious Mysteries tonight in lieu of Mass.

"The Ascension is, then, a feast of joyful hope, a sweet foretaste of Heaven.  By going before us, Jesus our Head has given us the right to follow Him there some day, and we can even say with St. Leo, 'In the person of Christ, we have penetrated the heights of Heaven.'  As in Christ Crucified we rise to the life of grace, so too, we are raised up to Heaven in the Ascension of Christ."
~Divine Intimacy, pg. 535~

And, don't forget that the Novena to the Holy Spirit starts tomorrow in anticipation of Pentecost.  I've actually never said this novena, but in the Divine Intimacy meditation for Ascension, it says this:  "...they returned to Jerusalem where, in the Cenacle, they awaited in prayer the fulfillment of the promise.  It was the first novena in preparation for Pentecost..."  How cool is that?!  Sometimes the Apostles, early Christians, and even the humanity of Christ can seem so distant, surreal, and hard to reach.  But, reading that the Apostles said the same 9 day novena that we still say today (probably not in the same format) makes it seem so much more real!  So, I think I will make the effort and say my first Novena to the Holy Spirit to prepare for Pentecost!!  The meditation goes on to recommend that we should unite our novena to the Blessed Mother, just as the Apostles did (although, you probably already knew that...)

3 a.m. Fun

Early on Monday morning, around 3 a.m., Natalie comes running to our bedroom.  "Mommy!  There's a mouse in the bed by Andrew's foot!!"  Well, I'm guessing it wasn't a restaurant grade mouse like Little Chef from Ratatouille.  They never are!  Why do movies like to portray mice as some kind of cute, little creatures that are oppressed by humans??  Don't get me wrong, I love Little Chef...but, in real life, mice are WAY grosser than that.  Once, at our old house, I went to grab a pair of shorts off the top shelf of my closet, and I saw two little pairs of eyes and ears peeking out at me from the corner of my closet, on top of my pajamas!  The nerve of those things.  Mice are probably close to the top of my very short list of things that I don't like about living in the country....second only to snakes.  Anyway, back to Monday morning.  Of course, Natalie comes to my side of the bed.  So, I do what any logical woman would do in this situation...I shake Phil, who's still sleeping, and send him to save his only son from the mouse.  Meanwhile, Natalie gets snuggled up, all nice and warm, in our bed next to me and Rachel.  Phil comes back and mumbles something about "no mouse"..."must have been dreaming."  Natalie shoots up and quickly defends herself:  "yes there was!  I heard it squeaking, and I felt it when I pushed on it."  What, and then you just left Andrew to fend for himself against the ROUS???  Actually, I found out the next day that she did try to wake Andrew:  "I shook him and said 'Andrew, wake up, there's a mouse', but he wouldn't wake up, so I came and got you."  That's good to know...at least she tried to save him.  So, who knows.  Maybe there really was a mouse, and maybe there wasn't.  We have an excellent barn cat who we've actually seen hunting in the pastures, so while I believe Natalie wasn't making it up on purpose, I do think she may have imagined it (at least that's what I keep telling myself so I can sleep without being paranoid about mice in the beds).  But now, they are completely scared to sleep at night!  Last night, they must have woken me up 4 times!!!  "Mom!!  Did you hear that?"  "There's another mouse in the bed" (me:  "no there's not...go back to bed.")  Andrew came in at one point claiming he heard ducks!  Good grief!  They are really paranoid.  Hopefully tonight is better.  And then there's Phil...I was almost asleep last night, and he says "I just heard a mouse run across the floor!"...me:  "really??"...him: "no, just kidding, haha."  *SIGH*

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Craft Basket Wednesday



I've been plugging along on the baby sweater I'm making for Rachel.  Now that summer is here, and we are done with school, I should have a little (note: very little) extra time to work on it.  We are going on a week long beach vacation, leaving this Saturday, so I will at least have the 4 hour car ride (there and back) to make some real progress.  The yarn isn't as soft as I'd expected, but I'm still hopeful that it will come out nicely.  Maybe once it has been through the wash...

These are pictures of the back of the sweater:





As you can see, I also discovered how to use stitch markers...greatest invention ever!  Thanks to the Knit Together blog for hosting Craft Basket Wednesday!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Best Mother's Day Present Ever!

Aside from the very cool, sleek, new digital camera that I got from Phil, of course.  Really, the best Mother's Day present ever is just being a Mom and experiencing the things that children are made of.  Yesterday, on Mother's Day, Rachel stood up for the first time all by herself!  She just stood there...for about 5 minutes smiling, and holding on to *nothing*!  I was very excited.  It was so cute.  She also fed herself for the first time yesterday.  It was too funny.  Her eyelids were almost glued shut by the time she was done from all the macaroni on it.  Thanks to my new handy, dandy (and fancy) camera, I was able to catch a few pics and a video (of the eating...not the standing...the camera came after the standing, and my old one is officially dead - RIP):



Haha..I have no idea what this expression is about ;)


Then, there are the times when, after months and months of constant reminding, the kids finally pick up on using manners!  This is really the best.  I've been working with Rachel on teaching her sign language, especially please and thank you.  Supposedly, it helps with tantrums and whining.  Today, she was sitting at her little table, playing with an empty cup and a straw.  She dropped the straw and started fussing.  I told her, "Rachel, please don't cry...say 'please'".  Well, she immediately stopped crying, did the sign for 'please', and said 'peeees'.  It was awesome!  I realize she is young, and we've still go a LONG way to go, but still!  It was very gratifying.  

Or, there are the times when their imaginations are just so precious, you just want to squeeze them.  Andrew told me today, "Mom, when you grow up, I want you to be a princess...and, when Daddy grows up, I want him to be a pirate.  And, can you and Daddy buy me a real Pirate Boat?!?!".  He was serious about this!  

And, of course, there are those rare moments and treasures when they actually tell you that they think you are a good parent.  Natalie does this most often.  Once every blue moon, she'll just climb on my lap and say something like:  "Mom, you are the best mom...you're so kind and gentle."  (She actually told me this once, months ago, so I figure I'd better get it in writing as proof ;).  

Those are some special moments.  Those are what make Mother's Day worth celebrating, and what make me glad to be a mother.  Because, sometimes, when I'm in the trenches and caught in the day-to-day mundane, and the kids are fighting and arguing, or we're all exhausted from lack of sleep, or if I'm so tired of changing dirty diapers I just want to cry, and I forget about the better moments, I think...if I could just not be a Mom for today, my life would be so much easier!  But, that is not my calling in life.  Christ didn't come so we could have an easy life on Earth, but so that we could have Eternal Happiness in Heaven.  But, it only works out that way if we keep our hand to the plow here and now...no matter how much we want to drop it and look back.  C'est la vie!  I'm just so thankful that God gave me these particular children, and my particular husband.  I don't think my sanctification would have benefited as much without them.

Plus, the fact that we spent the entire day just relaxing together as a family, and my husband both fixed dinner and cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, certainly made the day extra special.  Thanks, Phil, for making my Mother's Day so wonderful!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gather around, kids...it's time for Family Rosary

Back in the early stages of my marriage, before we had children, I used to envision what family Rosary would be like.  It went something like this:  The whole slew of kids would gather around Phil and I, the older ones kneeling piously next to their Dad, in front of a beautifully ornate, yet tasteful, picture of Our Lady.  The littlest ones would snuggle up with me on the recliner, each playing quietly with their Rosary.  We would, of course, be saying the correct mysteries on the correct day, and no one would ever lose their place.  Then, the children came, and exhaustion reality kicked in.  Tonight, I was laying in bed while waiting for Phil to finish up a few things after dinner.  I started to think that we hadn't said the Rosary as a family since Lent, and since the kids were conveniently jumping on the bed next to me, unraveling my latest knitting project, I decided we would say one...NOW.  So, I send little Andrew to get everyone's Rosary from their home on top of the TV.  Ten minutes later he comes back with his sword, but no Rosaries.  "Andrew, where are the Rosaries?"  "I can't reach them"  "What were you doing?  Never mind...Natalie, will you please go get our Rosaries??"  She skips off and returns promptly with the Rosaries.  Phil comes in after getting ready for bed..."we're saying a Rosary?".  Excellent!  He's on board!  Gather around, kids...it's time to start!  In this particular scenario, the only picture we have in our bedroom is a framed playbill and two ticket stubs from Phantom of the Opera that Phil and I attended our first Christmas as newly weds.  But, if you relax your eyes a bit, and tilt your head to just the right angle, I'm pretty sure you can see the Holy Family in it.  Now, we used to use just regular Rosaries; you know, the beaded kind on wire.  But after many sessions of tears because Natalie's precious heart-shaped Rosary was broken and scattered on the floor, Crucifixes being ripped off and used as swords and daggers, and Rachel almost strangling herself, I decided to get something safer.  So, for Christmas, I enlisted the help of one of Santa's very Catholic elves - Jim from RealLifeRosary - to make everyone a corded Rosary to put in our stockings.  I don't remember now how much these little beauties cost, but they were worth every penny!!  So, we get started on the Rosary.  It's Thursday, so we should be praying the Luminous Mysteries, but no one can remember them (Natalie asks what Station we're on O_o), and I think Rachel may have eaten our card that lists the mysteries, so we go with the old faithful - The Joyful Mysteries.  Which is fine.  It's May Crowning season, so The Coronation had a special place this evening.  I tried to focus...I really did, but Rachel was crawling over everyone, screeching at the top of her lungs at anyone who refused to relinquish possession of their Rosary to her, so that she could wear them all as necklaces.  If you did, however, give in to her pleas, you were rewarded with a polite "ti-ti" (aka "thank you") in the sweetest, most angelic voice she could muster.  Andrew's got his Rosary wrapped around his wrist so tight, I'm worried his hand might fall off.  Then he starts making these karate noises, and re-adjusts his Rosary to bow and arrow status.  By the end, he's doing head stands and tuck-and-rolls on top of Rachel.  Natalie is asking me about every five minutes which bead we're on, but I have no idea because Rachel is using my Rosary as an accessory.  By the time we get to the Hail Holy Queen, I'm starting to get the fit of giggles, and I'm just so thankful that it didn't start until then!  We manage to squeeze in a final St. Michael prayer, and after we make the Sign of the Cross, Andrew, while standing on his head, says "that was good!".  I laugh and say "yeah, it was something."  Natalie says "It was prayer!".  Yeah, I guess it was.  It may not have been perfect, but it was our attempt at family prayer this evening.  Do you think three year old Jesus did head stands during the Holy Family's prayer time???

**I should probably clarify...we do not actually have monkeys for children.  We actually work hard at making sure our children are well behaved and respectful when it comes to prayer; however, life does not always work out the way you want, and every so often we have a situation like this...which always reminds me that it's not me who is in control here; it's God, and if I don't rely on Him for the graces to be a good parent and steward of the gifts He has given us, then our little family just won't work properly.  Besides...kids will be kids sometimes...and, that's ok, too =)

Little Thoughts

Andrew came to me in full Pirate regalia and said:

Andrew:  Mom, can you put my pirate hat on so I can get married?
Me:  You're getting married?
Andrew:  Yes, I need my pirate hat on.
Me:  Ok, come see...I'll help you.  Who are you marrying?
Andrew:  Natalie
Me:  Natalie?
Andrew:  yes, Natalie
Me:  ok
Andrew (without skipping a beat):  I was in the castle, and there was a witch, and I shoot her, and I killed her, and I cut her, and I ate her...in the castle.
Me:  you ate her?
Andrew:  yes, in the castle.
Me:  *trying not to laugh*  what did she taste like?
Andrew:  the witch?
Me:  yes, the witch
Andrew:  she tasted sour...I ate her in the castle
Me:  wow...ok
Andrew:  Now, I have to wait for Natalie to come back so we can get married...

Not sure if this is exactly a healthy use of his imagination, but it was still pretty funny.  The whole time we are having this conversation, Rachel has pulled up on the side of the chair that I am sitting in, and is going:
Rachel (while continually patting me on the leg):  mom, mommy, mom, momma, mommy, mom....
Me:  yes, Rachel?
Rachel:  she babbles for about 2 minutes, and then goes about her business of playing with a stick.

Whatever it was she was trying to say, she made sure I heard it!  Natalie was inside, busy getting all dressed up in her Princess clothes while all this was going on...no doubt getting ready for the wedding ;)  Never a dull moment over here!

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Skirts, Veils, and Catholic Feminism

I remember when I first made the personal decision to never wear pants into a Catholic Church again - whether for Mass, or just for prayer.  Obviously there are instances where I don't necessarily have a choice...I mean, if it's go to Mass in pants, or don't go at all, I would definitely just wear the pants.  But, as a general rule, I make the effort to wear a skirt or dress - even if I don't feel like it.  I don't remember the exact date, but it was probably about 2 years ago, and I was going on a silent, weekend retreat.  There is a sign on the Chapel at the retreat center that says "Please no shorts in chapel".  It was rare that I would wear shorts to Church (at least not since I came back to my Faith as an adult), but I almost always wore dress pants, the occasional skirt, and rarely dresses (due to nursing babies).  But, before going on that retreat, I decided that I would pack only skirts and a dress for Sunday Mass.  My reasoning was two-fold.  1. it was a weekend that was to be devoted to Christ, so I thought it would help if I gave him the best of my whole self...not just the focus of my mind through prayer, but in the way I dressed as well.  And, 2. it was a weekend away from the kids, so I knew I would have the time to primp and pamper myself (you know, actually shower more than one day in a row, fix my hair, and wear a little makeup) without worrying about my nice clothes getting chewed up food on them, or other unpleasant baby goo on them!  The only non-dress clothes I packed were my pajamas and running shorts - so I wouldn't be tempted to opt out of my skirts for the weekend.  You see, I am a big creature of comfort.  So,  while I love the idea of wearing cute, modest, and feminine skirts to the grocery store, it is more of a struggle to actually implement it.  I walk into my closet, and those soft, faded, blue jeans and familiar, old T-shirts just call out my name, and I can't resist!  And, being that I don't have an out of the home job, it's easy to just fall into that trap.  But, ever since that weekend, I started wearing only skirts and dresses to Mass - no more dress pants.  It is just a small sacrifice and witness to womanhood.  I am a woman, and I am feminine, so why not dress that way??  Modestly, of course.  Skimpy clothes is a distorted version of feminism.  Plus, I think Phil likes to see me dress feminine more often.  And, since I made the switch for Mass, I've found that I enjoy wearing skirts more around the house, and when we go out.  I hardly do it every day, because it's not always practical with kids, and I just don't feel like it.  But, it's nice that I have gotten more comfortable with my femininity.  I was never really a girly-girl growing up - I don't think I wore make-up until I got to college, and even now I only wear it for Sunday Mass and special occasions...I just don't like to bother with the stuff on a regular basis.  If I look washed our and tired, oh well!  But, now, maybe once or twice a week, I'll wear a skirt...just because I'm a girl!  Who knows...maybe one day I'll switch over and be an exclusive skirt-wearer, but probably not.  And, there's also a difference between being feminine and being a high-maintenance, movie-star-type woman.  Feminine I can handle...high-maintenance, I can not!  And, I'm pretty sure neither can my husband. It's weird how just the way you dress can make you more aware of who you are as a person.  Once I started wearing skirts more, it really made me think more about what it means to be a woman, especially a Catholic woman.  Where does Catholic feminism really fit in my life?  What does it mean for me to be a Catholic wife and mother?  I'm still working on figuring all that out, but the journey sure is interesting!  Which brings me to another topic:  Chapel Veils....


To veil or not to veil?  That is the question.  I've mentioned several times that our family started attending the Traditional Latin Mass recently.  And, actually, the word 'recently' probably no longer applies...it will be a year this June that we began attending the TLM on a regular basis.  Not long after we began going to that Mass, I noticed a handful of chapel veils dotted throughout the congregation.  I was initially intrigued.  Being born in the early 80's, chapel veils had all but disappeared by the time I was old enough to know what they were.  I'm not even really sure I knew that it used to be a tradition in the Church, to be honest.  I knew Our Lady wore a veil, and many of the Saints, and nuns, but that's about it.  So, when I first saw them, I was curious, and oddly attracted to the idea of wearing one.  So, I went home did some research, and decided that I liked what they represented (at least on a spiritual level...my human pride was more than a little turned off, although I did think they were pretty).  Several months after going to the TLM, I looked around at different stores that sold them, and bought one each for me and Natalie.  When they came in, we tried them on and played around with making them stay on.  Then, they sat in the van for the next two Sundays because I felt awkward.  Not only am I a creature of comfort, but I also do not like to be frowned upon.  I love human respect way too much.  What if someone made fun of me?  What if someone asked my why I was wearing this thing?  What if *gasp!*  people judged me and deemed me as a  'holier than thou' Catholic?!!?  Finally, I just swallowed my pride and wore it.  I realized that it didn't matter what other people thought about the fact that I wore a veil.  I don't wear it for them anyway...I wear it as a sign of my womanhood, of my obedience to Christ and my role as a wife, and out of respect for what is happening on the altar.  If people think I'm weird, or too traditional, so what!  That's not why I wear it, and it's not their place to decide my intentions.  These were the thoughts running through my mind as I pondered wearing this pretty, new veil.  But, you know what?  I can count on one finger the number of times that someone has asked me about my veil.  And, she was very sweet about it...it was more a curiosity thing than a judgmental thing.  And, maybe I was the one being too judgmental about other people's intentions towards me.  Most people probably don't even notice.  Now, I feel weird when I don't wear it.  In fact, it is rare that I attend Church as the only veil wearer - even at non-Latin Masses.  While I am always in the minority, there is also usually at least one or two other ladies who have one as well.  Our Lady wore one...St. Veronica used hers to wipe the face of Our Lord...so, why not wear one?? 


I realize that these are two hot-button topics among Catholic women; however, these are just my personal views on the issues.  I mean no offense to ladies who never wear veils or skirts.  For me, they are just two, small outward signs for witnessing to and being respectful of my dignity as a Catholic woman.  Because, being a woman and a Catholic are two of the most dignified gifts God has given me, and it's hard to be authentically respectful of that in the culture we live in today.  And, while there are many ways to show God that I appreciate those gifts, this is what I've chosen to show Him my appreciation for creating me as a woman and a Catholic.  So, there you have it!  Skirts, veils, and Catholic Feminism...fun stuff!


Here's a video that I discovered at the Knit Together blog on Veiling:



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Motherhood



Motherhood is stopping to smell even the smallest of flowers.  It's being there for your children even when you don't feel like it.  It's loving them unconditionally, and letting them love you unconditionally.  It's spending an hour filling up an ice chest full of water balloons just to see the happiness on their faces in the two minutes it takes for them to pop all those balloons.  It's dealing with teething, diaper changes, sickness, giggles, story time, afternoon naps,...  Motherhood is more work than anyone could ever imagine, but the joys and love that you experience in motherhood is also greater than anyone could ever imagine, or begin to explain.  I hope that my daughters will one day embrace motherhood as the gift from God that it truly is. 

Happy Mother's Day!  And, good luck to all the contestants in the We are THAT Family Happy Woman giveaway!

***Photo credit:  this photo was taken by a friend of mine, Karen Cunningham, who is a professional photographer.  Please see her Facebook page if you like her work.  Thanks!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Great Fencing Project - Part Deux


**just a clarification:  technically, the fence in these photos are not technically 100% finished...the pictures were taken *before* the face boards were put on there to cover up the seams...my camera has a mind of it's own, and works when it wills...I've yet to get pics of the fence completely finished...**

It's been awhile since I've sat down and written a blog post.  We've just been so busy lately; I've not had the time.  And, really, I should be folding laundry or sweeping right now, but I'm pretty sure 'blogging' is synonymous with 'procrastinating from house work', so here I am!  

A few weeks ago, my husband began working on putting up fencing around our property, so that the cows could get to grazing.  Last weekend, his Dad and cousin came by to help him finish up the fencing around the house.  It looks so good!!  I'm so excited about this fence.  It really dresses up the yard and makes it look beautiful.  Plus, the cows can no longer just show up on my doorstep looking for food or a place to chew their cud =)

My handyman!

The first row of boards up:

Second row of boards:


And, all three rows:

I think my favorite part of this project was the fact that it ended up being a family project.  Phil got help from his Dad, brothers, and his cousin to do the bulk of the hard work, like putting the posts in, and hanging the boards, but for the lighter work, like putting up the face boards, and a few other little things, the kids and I joined in and worked as a family to get it done.  I'm finding more and more that living in the country on a large piece of land is so great for family life!  Not that it's always perfect and happy - I mean the kids were pretty much whining the whole time because "they were tired", "we don't want to!", and "Andrew's not helping"..."Natalie's not being nice!"...blah blah blah!  But, even so, it forced them to learn to cooperate and at least try to work as a team.

Don't let those smiles fool you!  They were only posing ;)

They would carry the boards and line them up along the fence, then Phil would put the board on the face of the fence to cover the seams with one screw, and then I would go back and put the rest of the screws in.  It was work, but it was fun...

Natalie making sure Daddy gets it level:

On most afternoons, they just opted to play instead of help:



Liesel even got involved!:

I'm sure the kids will be forced to do work around here that they absolutely do not want to do, and it will cause all sorts of arguments, but in the long run, I truly believe they will benefit from life in the country...even if they never see it that way.  Having that strong sense of family, and expecting everyone to contribute to family life instills values and virtues that are hard to find else where.  Not that this can't be done if you live in the city, but I think it's harder, because when you live out in the country, life is just slower and simpler and more conducive to working together and communicating.  There's no stress of city traffic, or loud noise, or all the lights from businesses that are open 24/7....it seems like cities never sleep.  And, I love that my kids spend the majority of their time outside, exploring nature, catching frogs, finding baby birds, playing in the dirt, learning about farm animals and gardening.  It's amazing to see the wonder on their faces when they discover something new.  Now, don't get me wrong, there are days when all they do all day is fight, or beg to watch TV all day long (some days, I just give in to their request for my own sanity ;), or refuse to go outside, but I would say that the majority of the time, life out here is just simply awesome!  On top of all that, it's so easy for me to find God in our life here.  I'm not being constantly distracted by the glitz and glamor of the world (although, the internet does a pretty good job of filling in that hole...).  It's so peaceful and quiet - it's hard NOT to see God in nature when it's all around you.  

Anyway, I got side-tracked.  Back to the fence...we are pretty much finished with the fence around the house.









The next phase is for Phil to finish up the perimeter fencing.  He has one more side to go, I think.  After that, he has to put up the fencing to divide the property into separate paddocks, and then we'll be cow proof, or "cow tight", as he likes to say =)  In the mean time, we've got up some temporary electric fencing so that the cows can start eating on the grass that has been growing like crazy!  It needs to be eaten, and we are running low on hay, so we put up the temporary fence last week, and the cows got their first taste of the grass since we moved here.  They were beyond excited.  The littlest one just kept running through it and jumping in circles...it was so cute!  I tried to get a picture of her in action, but she was too quick...



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