In Search of the Great Pumpkin (and it's not even October yet)

Elaborate pumpkin patches drive me bonkers. Hay rides! Mazes! Games! Long lines! Petting zoos. Such a production over pumpkins. I get it. The farmers are making extra cash by adding a few perks. Can't fault anyone for that. And plus my kids love it. I just want to tone it down a bit. Get back to nature. Hippie shit. So last weekend when we stayed in a small town called Rhinebeck, I was delighted to discover a pumpkin patch without all the gimmicks, like the one straight out of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Wonderland Farm has 30 acres of pumpkins ready to discover and bring home. The entrance has pumpkins for costumers to buy or they can roam the land and pick the pumpkins straight off the vine. Were some of the pumpkins rotting and filled with flies? Yes. Many actually. But that's all part of it. The patch wasn't all groomed and pristine. It was an adventure.

Since we basically had the field to ourselves, we could take our time picking out our favorites. Our only competition was another couple and their dog. And they were good. I saw the ones they were picking--warty ones, white ones, tall skinny ones, and classic round ones. They already had two wagons filled with amazing unique pumpkins and they weren't done yet. I imagined they were the owners of a 19th century bed and breakfast and were picking pumpkins to delight all their guests. I could see all their pumpkins pouring down the steps and into the lawn for the next two months. A gorgeous fall display for all to enjoy.

I paid them no mind until I saw Oscar standing guard over his newly discovered pumpkin. After searching almost the entire field, he knew this was a pumpkin worth protecting. It wasn't going to be snatch up by anyone. Not me, not Owen, and certainly not our fierce competitors over 2 acres away. The pumpkin was bright orange, had a nice thick stem, and perfectly round. One of the best I've ever seen.

"You've done good," I told him, "But there's more to see!"

We all continued to look for more and walked away, but Oscar stood still. First looking at us, then his pumpkin and then the couple who was now over 3 acres away. Back and forth. Until he finally yelled out, "Help guys! I really found the perfect pumpkin. This is it. I need to bring it to the wagon."

We were all too invested in our search to stop and help him. He continued to wait for someone to help. One foot on the pumpkin as if it was Plymouth Rock itself. Then sitting on the pumpkin like a chair. Eventually he plucked that pumpkin right off the vine and started to roll it to the wagon. Except it wasn't rolling straight and it started to get away from him.

I heard him yell, "Dad! Help! Pleeease!"

Rob ran over and helped him take it over to our wagon to be claimed as ours--forever. The end of country life for this pumpkin started right then. No more sunshine or deers or dirt or bugs or even germs thanks to the bottle of Purell Oscar poured all over it as soon as we got home. Now that it's under the care of Oscar and experiencing posh city life, it's never had it so good.

I didn't quite see it at the patch, but it is a remarkable pumpkin. It's currently sitting in the middle of my living room next to the other pumpkins we bought. Oscar's is the biggest one by far and stands out among the rest. He had reason to protect it from those ruthless bed and breakfast owners. They overlooked one of the best pumpkins in the field. And while it didn't have warts or an odd shape, it's a classic. Like out of a drawing. Or a children's book. It surely is the great pumpkin, Oscar Bees.  
presenting oscar's pumpkin--center. 
here's oscar attempting to bring his perfect pumpkin all the way to the wagon
oscar and ella are not amused. 
Keep reading to see more pictures from our pumpkin patch adventure . . .


NYC Skateboard Lessons: The Best Birthday Present for 6-Year-Olds

This is Owen and Oscar on their 6th birthday with their lollipops and skateboards. They just finished their first skateboard lesson. Here's how it played out:

As we turned the corner in Riverside Park, we were greeted by Shawn, the best skateboard instructor ever. He had drawn a half pipe with sidewalk chalk and made the kids the cutest name tags before class started. Notice how he cut out the stickers and made the edges all squiggly. He could have them left square, but no, he busted out the scissors. That's the kind of guy Shawn is. Salt of the earth.

Shawn had them stretching, practicing in the grass, learning how to fall properly, and taught them a quick little skateboard flip. I'll have to take a video of it--it's the first things kids want to show people.

The thing that impressed me most was that it was the first time my kids ever set foot on their skateboards (they received them as presents in the morning) and yet they learned how to have so much control of the board when riding. It's shocking.

I asked Oscar what he thought of the lesson and he said, "It wasn't good, it was FANTASTIC!" Everyday after school they beg me to bring their skateboards so they can practice. They keep asking when their next lesson will be. Soon, I tell them. Keep practicing. You'll be with Shawn in no time.

I found Shawn through Go Skate Skateboard School. They have instructors nationwide--I'm sure you can find a few in your area. While it was super easy to sign up, I thought it was weird that Go Skate didn't tell me who the instructor was going to be until 24 hrs before the first class. I signed up a month early and it was annoying not to have contact with the instructor. This wasn't Shawn's fault, more the company's policy. So odd. But everything worked out in the end.

If you're interested in getting your kids into skateboarding, here's the equipment I bought. As long as you don't buy a cheap skateboard from a toy store, you'll be fine.  
dude, this is the worst collage ever.
Triple 8 Pads: I like these pads and recommend them. They are easy to put on and seem durable. I bought the junior size.  
Razor Helmet: Not totally impressed with the fit of this helmet, but for around $10, it suits our needs. If they continue with skateboarding, I'll get them a better helmet. For now, this one is fine.
Positiv Skateboard: These skateboards are slightly smaller than a regular skateboard, so they are great for kids. Ella got the pink one pictured and my boys chose this red one. My kids' skateboards measure 28.65 inches long, verses the standard 31-32 inches. The boards arrived assembled and ready to ride. Although, I did have to loosen the screws on some of the wheels to make them ride smoother.
so badass with their skateboards and birthday crowns. 
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Genetic Testing: I'm Getting Tested for the BRCA Gene Mutation (AKA The Breast Cancer Gene Mutation)

It's a sick joke, but I always tell Rob to start keeping his eye for another wife when I turn 50-years-old. Around that time, he'll have the chance to pick up a shiny new bride thanks to my family history with cancer. I don't think any of my grandparents saw the age of 60. In fact, when I was born, they were already dead, mostly from cancer. My mom even died of breast cancer in her early 50's. Last week I decided to do something about my morbid joke: I took the BRCA gene mutation test. While it won't tell me my chance of getting all cancers, it will give me a better sense of my chance of being diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer.

Remember when Angelina Jolie's article came out in the NYTimes earlier this year? She wrote about how a positive test result for the BRCA1 gene mutation led to her to take drastic measures to avoid the 87% chance she had of developing breast cancer. I was extremely judgmental of her article. I hated how it felt like everyone was congratulating her for being so brave. With my family history, I always assumed I had the BCRA gene mutation but didn't have the means to do what she did. When my friend Sarah shared the article on Facebook, my reply lacked understanding. Knowing what I do now, I wish I could take the comment back. But it was my gut reaction. Here's a screenshot of my mortifying response:

Sadly, I don't think I was the only one writing critical things about the article. I cringe when I think about it now.

So when I was at the doctor's office last Friday for a regular check-up, and she asked if I ever thought about taking the BRCA gene mutation test, I replied much like I did to the article, "Sure, I've thought about it. But why? I assume I have it. What could I possible do with that information? It's so expensive anyway. I could never afford the test or the measures I'd need to take to avoid cancer."

She responded, "Well, for one, you could find out you don't have the mutation and have peace of mind. That would be nice. And if you're positive, you'd be monitored closer, get more mammograms each year and be assigned a breast specialist. And plus, with your history, I'm pretty sure your insurance will cover most, if not all, of it."

I thought for a minute and realized I was curious to find out. I always was. I told her I'm interested as long as my insurance will cover it. She assured me if it didn't, then I would be notified and decide what to do from there. I decided to go for it.

"Ok," she said, "I'll go get it."

Wait, I thought. Go get it, now? Like the test kit is your office? It's this simple? Minutes later the nurse was drawing blood and shipping it to a lab in Salt Lake City. I find out the results in a few weeks.

I wish the results didn't take so long. I wish I would have taken this test sooner. At the time the article came out last May, I had the exact same insurance I have now. The exact same family history. I could have gotten it then and had the results months ago. But now I'm stuck waiting around for the results. I call the lab everyday to find out the status of my test. Everyone on the phone is so kind and encourage me to call anytime. Currently, I'm waiting for my doctor to submit a required form. As soon as she does, the lab will proceed with my order.

I'm trying to keep my mind off of it and hope everything will turn out fine. It probably will be. I hate this waiting place though. It's such a useless place. I can't wait to escape. There's fun to be done!

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Lessons to Be Learned On Parenting: Books, Instinct, And Snarky Commenters

My favorite parenting philosophy is just figure it out as I go. Most books are shit and the kind of person who even considers reading parenting books, is probably doing fine. I think Abraham Lincoln said that.

Every once in awhile, however, a friend or stranger stops me in my tracks and convinces me to seek parenting advice from a book. Rob especially loves these moments in our relationship. After I read one chapter, he is subjected for days on everything he's doing wrong as a parent from me, the new expert. I'm sure he's cursing me, the author, and the person who recommend it the whole time. He pines for the day when the book starts to wear off. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

This happened once when I was complaining about Ella never sleeping as a baby. I was 23 or 24 years old at the time, practically a baby myself. I assumed babies, like adults, would sleep when they tired. AND ELLA NEVER SEEMED TIRED. Those bedroom eyes she always seemed to have? Oh, they were inherited from my mom. I was at a dear friend's house talking about Ella's inherited eyes and my friend shut me up by saying something like, "No, she's tired. And your mom probably was too." I wanted to die of embarrassment. I could feel the tears starting to come in, but I tried to stay cool.

She reached for a copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and said, "Here, take this home and read it."

While I was totally grateful for her concern on the outside, inside I was thinking otherwise. Who does she think she is? Telling me my baby is tired! Ella's fine! I'm doing the best I can. But I never said any of it. Instead, I took the book, went home, and read it. While I thought the layout and structure of the chapters were awful, the information was priceless. It completely changed how I thought about sleep. Not only for Ella, but for myself and, years later, my boys. I never did return the book to my friend. Take that bitch. ;)

And now I'm in the thick of yet another parenting book. I'm taking this one in chunks and of course forcing Rob with me on my journey. It was recommended to me from a sassy anonymous reader who was disgusted by my post, "Behavior Chart for My Ego.". Anon suggested I read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. While I was reluctant to take advice from a snarky commenter, I'm not too proud to think I know everything. So I ordered the book seconds after she left the comment and started reading it on my Kindle. It's changed everything. This is the quote I keep coming back to:
The more you try to push a child's unhappy feelings away, the more he becomes stuck in them. The more comfortably you can accept the bad feelings, the easier it is for kids to let go of them. I guess you could say that if you want to have a happy family you'd better be prepared to permit the expression of a lot of unhappiness. 
The authors suggest four ways to help children deal with their feelings:
1. Listen quietly and attentively.
2. Acknowledge their feelings with words like, "Oh . . . . Mmmm . . . I see . . ."
3. Give the feelings a name ("Wow! That sounds frustrating/challenging/intense/disappointing!")
4. Give the child his wishes in fantasy (I wish I could give you the biggest bowl ice cream with 10 cherries on top right now!")
It seems so simple, but it's an art not to deny their feelings, give advice, defend the other person, give pity, or half listen. I've tried it over the past week and loved the results.

Take yesterday, for example. I was helping Ella with her spelling words. As I gave her a practice test, she was stuck on the word "extinct". She was beyond frustrated when she got the word wrong. I could see the rage building up in her. It was so annoying. Before I might have tried to deny her feelings and say something like, "Oh, Ella. It doesn't matter, it's just a practice test! Get over it. Move on. You'll get it the next time. Shush."

But instead I sat on the couch with her as she let off some steam and said things like, "Oh . . . .Mmmm . . . That is so frustrating!" Pretty soon she was saying, "I wish the dinosaurs never were extinct so I would never have to learn how to spell that word." OMG, I thought, this is so textbook!

I went on with her fantasy about dinosaurs still existing today and walking through the streets of NYC. We talked about training them like dogs. And I asked her which one she would want. She said, "Not a T-Rex! The one with a long neck that eats plants." Good choice.

We sat on the couch for a little while until she said, "Mom, I want to watch a little Portlandia." I always compliment her sense of humor when she gets the jokes. "You know Ella," I tell her, "Most kids your age don't get these jokes." She feels grown up and smart when I say this. I put it on.

Low and behold the parenting book skit started playing (shown above). I know I'm exactly the kind of parent they are making fun of. It makes me wonder if Rob helped write parts of the script. It's ok. As I see it, a little mix of instinct, snarky commenters, and expert advice is what's going to solve all my parenting problems. Because, you know, half of the people can be part right all of the time. Some of the people can be all right part of time. But all the people can't be all right all of the time. That's what Abraham Lincoln said.

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Rob's Dance Off

After I finished writing yesterday's post, I moved on with my day--doing laundry, cleaning each room, the usual. Then the texts started coming from Rob. He believed very strongly his appearance on the dance party footage is actually the highlight. Noway. You be the judge . . .

Keep reading to see screen shots from our text exchange and my favorite stills from the footage.


Mom Can't Stop. And She Won't Stop. She Likes to Party.

Last May, my family spent an afternoon filming each other dancing. It was probably a rainy day and we didn't have much else to do. While the shots of the kids and Rob turned out amazing as expected, it was my appearance, that upon reflection, is the highlight. I'm dancing in my bath robe to none other than Miley Cyrus. While our dance party was made before Miley's trasformation into the pop goddess she's known as today, I feel like I was onto something. Prophetic almost. A month later, Miley revealed to the world that she's actually an unconventional and wild house party gal. I love what she's done with herself.

Watch my video. Tell me I wouldn't have made an awesome background dancer in We Can't Stop. I would say Wrecking Ball, but she decided to go solo on that one. I respect that. I just feel that even though I'm 31, have three kids, and I'm a stay-at-home mom, Miley and I aren't so different after all. We like to party. And we can't stop. And we won't stop. We run things. Things don't run we.

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Father and Son Clones

Last night at the dinner table Owen said, "Hey dad, you're in sales right?"

Rob, "Yeah."

Owen, "Well, to convince someone to do something, you have to "dig deep". That way they will want to do buy what you're selling."

I think Owen's doing a unit on persuasive essays at school and was fascinated by the idea. The two of them went on and on about trying to get people to buy a product. I wasn't surprised.

Ever since Owen was about 2, I've noticed he is the clone of my husband. Which is weird because Owen actually has the same DNA as his brother. I always tell Rob our marriage was solidified the day Owen was born. Anytime I'm with Owen, it's like spending time with Rob. Even if we got a divorce, I would still be stuck with him one way or another. I might as well stick it out an entire lifetime. It's not so bad, both of them make me laugh like no one else. That alone is worth any trouble they cause me. If I'm totally bummed about something, I can count on them to get me to smile. It works like magic.

With Owen, all I have to do is ask him to make me a silly face. It usually takes a few tries, but he always gets a giggle out of me. With Rob, all I have to do is ask him to tell me a story from his childhood. Or better yet, his adult life. Either way, my life is in good shape with those two around.
Owen's trying to be funny. And it's working. 
Keep reading to see more pictures of Owen. Plus an explanation for last week's posts . . .


Everyday Expectations

Since my boys were around 3-years old, they have jumped out of bed at 6am and sprinted to the living room with the viger and urgency that should only be felt on Christmas morning. What do they expect to find at the end of the hallway? I don't want to disappoint them or anything, but it's a regular old Tuesday in mid-September.

Or worse it's Monday. Yes, it's actually Monday. The worst day of the week in the most uneventful month in the year. Just when they were getting used the weekend lifestyle of lounging around in their underwear and watching cartoons all day, they now have to switch gears and stay in school for 9 hours. They will have to wear a tie and a belt and sit still and eat a school lunch. We are not going to a Parisian carnival today. There are no presents to open or birthday breakfasts to eat. Go back to bed! There's nothing to see here but the start of a new day.

I guess to them, that's as exciting as it gets. A couple of real maximizers those two boys. I hope they never change.
Ella, on the other hand, has had the morning mope walk down for years.  
Top photo by Keith Pitts
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NYC Fashion Week Wrap Up

see more NYFW water colors by Samantha Hahn here  
So fashion week is over. I think. I wish I would take note of these wonderful learning opportunities to gain insight on what I should and shouldn't be wearing. Unfortunately it takes me years of reflection to realize my fashion blunders. 

Here's a couple of my favorites. Maybe I should be a fashion blogger? I'm really using this time at home to consider my options . . .


Impeding Doom: Fall Fashion and Mom's Diet (a diet book for children!)

it's astonishing how many "before" pictures i've taken of myself. sometimes i'm in my underwear and other times, like this 2012 edition, i keep things decent. i've yet to take an after shot.  

Fall in almost here. I fear what's coming up soon. Jean shopping. It's worse than bathing suit shopping.

With bathing suits, I just buy one. I go into the whole experience knowing my body isn't going to look perfect. I try on 3 suits and pick the one that makes my boobs look the biggest. Done. With jeans, however, I'm faced with a zipper and button situation on a perpetually 4 months pregnant belly. Squeezing all that into a jeans ain't easy or fun. It's the universal dilemma of never getting the jeans to match up, either they're too lose in the leg or too tight on my hips.

More than ever, I want to look sleek and stylish in pants, but then I throw them on and suddenly I look straight out of a Gap commercial from 1998. I jump and jive my way right out of the fitting room.

Last fall, I was training for the NYC marathon and was even vegan for a month. The jeans I bought during that time were tiny and amazing. After I stopped training, ate whatever I wanted and gained fifteen pounds, those jeans didn't feel so comfortable anymore. Did I buy new ones? Nope. Too prideful. On a beautiful day in May, the seams in the crotch gave up their fight. It was obscene. I declared it the first day of summer.

I just want to let it all hang out. In the summertime, I can wear flowing dresses and I don't have a care in the world about my growing ass. The fall reminds me immediately.

So while it feels liberating to ignore diet plans for a beach body, I find myself weeks away from fall and I'm starving. It's all part of my 2013 Fall Body Diet Plan. I don't own any jeans at the moment, but when I do, they are going to look awesome. For a few weeks at least. Until the squeeze, rip, trash, SUMMER! cycle repeats itself again.

Speaking of diets, back when Ella was in first grade she brought home the worst book from school. I had to steal it. To think something like this was published in 1987! I have a feeling most copies have been burned by now, so I'm posting it here for all to see. Enjoy.
Keep reading to see the rest of the book . . .


10 Things I Found in My Kid's Closet

I spent 3 hours cleaning my kid's closest yesterday. Here's what I found . . .


Twiddling my Thumbs (But My Future Looks Awesome)

Pose #1: Sultry

My kids started school a few weeks ago and I've been twiddling my thumbs ever since. I clean a lot. Basically that's all I do. And grocery shop. I need to get out more. I should be contributing to society. Volunteering.

So I searched NYC Service and found a great organization. I thought I was a perfect fit and applied immediately. The director responded back to me a week later and was like, "We're actually looking for someone with a little more professional experience. This one might not be a fit for you. We'll keep you in mind for other opportunities for sure!"

I wanted to die when I read the email.

It's come to that. I don't have enough experience to volunteer. Volunteering in NYC is tough apparently. They don't mess around.

Now that volunteering is out, I'm considering a career in modeling. For the professional experience, of course. Then. Then! I'll be able to volunteer. Here are the poses that show my versatility . . .


Thursday Morning Confessions

best couple shot ever! we love taking pictures together!!! so much fun!!!
After I dropped my kids off at school today, I went for a quick jog home. When I got to my building, I skipped the elevator and walked the 6 flights of stairs to my apartment. When I came in, it was really quiet. Except for me--I was breathing so loud. I wanted to sit down, but I paced up and down our hallway a few times until my heart slowed down. Finally, I went to the living room and rested on a chair. I thought I heard someone in the house.

"Rob, you home?" I asked.

I looked in the bedroom and then the bathroom. As I walked in, I saw him in the tub taking a bath, just laying there completely still. Never a good sign. Rob only takes a bath when he's working out something in his brain. It's his thinking chair.

He looked up at me and said, "Hey."

I was blissfully unaware of him at this point, the endorphins must have been kicking in. I looked at myself in the mirror in front of the medicine cabinet. My face was completely red and splotchy, but I felt good. I went back to the living room and started taking my shoes off. I watched Rob walk down the hallway, wrapped in a towel, still thinking about something.

He looked at my and asked, "Did you stop blogging and writing because of me?"

Ha! This is what's bothering him? "Ehh, no. It has nothing to do with you. I haven't stopped blogging. Or writing. I just took a break over the summer. The kids were driving me crazy. It's really that simple."

Still, he looked distressed. "I just feel like you have a lot of regrets."

Whaa? Where is all this coming from? "Of course I have regrets," I responded. "It boggles my mind when people say they don't have regrets. What, are they perfect? They never made a mistake? There's a million things I would tell my 18-year-old self if I could. Most people would." I started thinking about all the movies about time travel because it's such a universal dilemma . . . Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Back to the Future Part II! Tons of movies. I can't be alone in this.

He was still acting weird for the next 15 minutes, asking me all these bizarre life questions. Especially at 8am in the morning. That's when he confessed.

He needed a notebook for a meeting today and found one in my dresser. It was a notebook he received a while ago from work with his company's logo on it. Perfect, he thought. But before he put it in his backpack, he flipped through it to make sure it had a few blank pages. What he found was my handwriting. One day last April, I used the notebook as a journal. 14 pages worth of stay-at-home-mom angst. He read every page while I dropped the kids off at school this morning.

When he showed me the notebook, and told me he read it, I didn't even remember what I wrote in it. I could have written anything 6 months ago. I scanned it over and found page after page filled with garbage about how "No one knows the real me!" Stupid shit like, "I've been writing so much for my blog that I've been losing track of myself. It's not that what I write online is very different, it's just not exactly me. It's so damn edited." Basically it was 14 pages of self loathing rubbish I would never want people to read or care about in the first place. That's why I put it in a journal. With a rubber band around it. And forgot about it for six months.

I explained all this to him until he realized the ridiculousness of the situation and apologized for being so weird.

Before he walked out of the door he said, "This would make a good blog post." I certainly agree.

As a peace offering, I'm expecting him to bring me home a diary with a lock and key. With wild horses on it. He just better not read what I'm going to write about this event. It ain't going to be this nice!

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Behavior Chart for My Ego

behavior charts are a total drag 

While behavior charts have shown great results for my kids in the past, I never have all the supplies on hand to keep it up. And by supplies I mean a piece of paper and writing utensil, stickers if my kids were lucky. So I came up with a new idea that requires no supplies and is a total ego booster for me. I need constant validation. It must be so exhausting.

The kids start each day with 5 minutes of alone time with me. But they can't cash in their minutes until bedtime. Throughout the day, if they yell, hit, swear, or tease each other, they get a minute taken away. If I see a nasty behavior pop up, I give them a warning and tell them moving forward that's a minute off. The only way to get a minute back is to do a major chore. It's easy to get minutes taken away, but takes a lot of effort to get them back. I'm talking like clean the entire living room. I even used this method to get the boys to walk into school without crying. I awarded them 2 extra minutes if they walked into class like brave little soldiers. Ella always walks in without a problem, so I gave her 2 extra minutes for being such a good example.

Every night, each kid cashes in their minutes. Alone. They can do whatever they want to do with my undivided attention. Oscar usually chooses to watch a music video, Owen usually wants to do a craft or get tickles, and Ella usually picks getting her hair done in the sloppiest french braids ever. Some nights we run out of time so we'll squeeze in their minutes the next morning, or some nights I forget it entirely. But I've been consistent enough that I can use this method to get things a little more happy and peaceful around here.

Since starting this a few months ago, my ego grown to new lengths I never knew possible. Watching people work so hard to spend time with me is the best feeling. They cherish our time together. It's most likely their favorite part of the day. ME! The truth is, I enjoy my time with them more than they know. Each day I find ways for them to get extra minutes and usually end up giving them way more than they actually earned.

And now since I've made myself out to be mom of the century (gag), I'll bring things back into perspective and show a few of my parenting fails over the years . . .
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