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Over-Scheduling Your Child

We have all done it. I know that with my youngest, between play dates and extra-curriculars, we were always on the go. I dealt with meltdowns, tantrums, etc. just to fulfill the daily activities I had planned. Don’t get me wrong, I love to stay busy, but when it came to my second daughter, I decided to change the schedule up a bit. We have played more at home, said “no” to more play dates than “yes,” gone to less scheduled activities and enjoyed being each others’ company. The conclusion I have come to is that tantrums are less frequent, meltdowns are non-existent, and the one-on-one time I am getting with my second born is priceless.

I’m not saying that my parenting technique is the best that is out there…I am merely stating what I have witnessed between the two extremely different approaches I have taken with my own two daughters. I encourage you to take a moment and think about your child’s life. If it’s hectic, sit down together and decide where you can cut back. If it’s overly structured, set aside time for blowing off some steam.

Things we enjoy: Riding a bike, taking a walk, playing a game, listening to music, or just doing nothing for a while. I have noticed that it gives my kids some much-needed downtime. And never forget how important it is for kids to simply get together to play. Kids need time to just be kids.

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The Importance of Reading to Your Kids

So our oldest daughter decided about a year ago that she no longer enjoyed reading. It was the “boring” thing to do, it took away from play time and getting her to  read on her own was, well, an impossible task. I found myself asking why other kids LOVED books and my daughter was turning up her nose at the thought of cracking one open.

Being a former teacher, books are OOBER IMPORTANT to me. For one, I know that statistics prove the more your read to your child and have them read to you, the more they learn. Reading is linked to vocabulary development, cognitive understanding, and overall growth in academics. So why is my oldest daughter displaying distaste toward reading?

I did some soul searching and came to the realization that I was to blame. I was pushing books on Annora and making her feel overwhelmed by them. You see, reading to your child is one of the most effective way to build the “language” neural connections in their growing brains as well as the strong base for their cognitive development. She sensed the “push” and decided to push right back…typical first born right?!?

A study was made in Rhode Island Hospital to compare two groups of eight months old – one group was read to often as babies, while the other was not. It was shown that those who were read to have their “receptive” vocabularies (number of words they understand) increased 40 per cent since babyhood, while the non-reading group increased by only 16 per cent.

So, I took some advice from friends, family, and resources and backed off our oldest daughter. I gave reading a rest and what happened next was beautiful! Her appreciation for literature grew on its own with the consistent read alouds and exposure my husband and I gave her.

Reading to your child does not only benefit his language development. It is only one among other very important benefits:

  • Reading to your kid makes you bond with him, and this gives your child a sense of intimacy and well-being.
  • The intimacy of reading to your kid is such a pleasurable experience to him that he will have a positive attitude towards reading as he grows up.
  • It calms your child, especially when he is fretful and restless.
  • It promotes increased communication between you and your child.
  • Preschool children who are exposed to language by hearing words that are read to him and in conversation tend to do well in school.
  • Many studies show that students who love learning and do well in school were exposed to reading before preschool.
  • Your baby learns early the basics of reading a book, that words represent sounds and concepts, words are read from left to write, and stories continue when you flip the page.
  • It promotes longer attention span, which is an important skill for your kid to be able to concentrate.
  • It builds listening skills and imagination.
  • Your young child learns about colors, shapes, numbers, and letters, while your older child discovers an expanding chain of knowledge.  His interest in cars, for example, will expand to his interest in trucks, and other transportation like planes and rockets, and soon he will be reading about outer space, science and technology, and so forth.
  • A study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science in January 2013 concluded that “reading to a child in an interactive style raises his or her IQ by over 6 points.”
  • Books teach your child thinking skills early. When you read to your child, he learns to understand cause and effect, he learns to exercise logic, as well as think in abstract terms. He learns the consequences of actions, and the basics of what is right and wrong.
  • Books teach your child about relationships, situations, personalities, and what is good and what is bad in the world he lives in.  Fantasy books provide material for his imagination and free play.  Fairy tales fascinate your kid, and help him distinguish between what is real and what is not.
  • When your child reaches a new stage in his growth, or experiences a new and unfamiliar situation, reading to your child about a story relevant to his new experience can relieve his anxiety and help him cope. For example, if your child is stressed about his first day in school, or about moving to a new location, you can read a book to him that shows that these should not be painful experiences.
  • According to a study published in Pediatrics, children who had been exposed to home reading showed significantly greater activation of a brain area that is “all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” according to Dr. John S. Hutton, the lead author and a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Reading to your child build brain networks that will serve him long-term when he transitions from verbal to reading.
  • Your child learns early that reading is fun and not a chore. When your child grows up, you will not be stressed about getting him to read, as reading has become, for him, a pleasurable habit.

 

 

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The Importance of Reading to Your Kids

You probably already know that you should read to your children, but do you know why? Here are three important reasons to not only read aloud with your child, but also to make it a shared activity:

  1. Reading exposes your child to rich language and diverse content.  Book language uses a larger vocabulary and more complex grammatical structures than the short, one-way communication we tend to use in feeding and caring for our children. Books allow us parents to expand the language environment as we become their children’s first and most important teachers.  They help us to immerse our children in rich and varied language. Books of narrative fiction spark children’s imagination as they entertain and inform them about their emotions.  Books of informational non-fiction answer questions, providing concepts and knowledge that are the cornerstones of science and math. Both types are important and all of their benefits can be realized with books in any language. Parents should feel empowered to read aloud in Spanish, Chinese, or whatever their native language.
  2. Reading with your children helps prepare their minds to succeed in school.  The benefits of shared reading know no age limits.  Babies are soothed by their parents’ voices; school children reading to parents can show their new accomplishments or seek their parents’ help. Books for toddlers can help children get ready to learn to read. I recommend books that provide nursery rhymes, songs and verse as they help children learn to appreciate the sounds within words. Children are used to listening to language for its meaning, but reading demands that they also pay attention to the sounds of language.  Hearing words in terms of syllables, consonants and vowels encourages phoneme awareness, which is the first step towards reading phonetically.  Nursery rhymes and songs leap from the page when parents remember them from their own childhood and make them a part of family life.  When said in English or Spanish, traditional nursery rhymes and songs help attune children to what the alphabet is all about.
  3. Reading with your child can enrich family ties and intimacy.  Its virtues are strongest when us parents read ‘dialogically’ by taking the book as an opportunity to enjoy a conversation.  Reading together is family time; it is fun time, cuddle time, a time to share your passions, perspective, and your values but also a time to listen. It creates a time for children to express themselves as well as an opportunity for us to show our willingness to listen. When we build a conversation around a book we encourage our children to communicate with us.

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Staying Active With Your Kids on Rainy Days

I don’t know about you but winter/ grey skies/ rain/ etc. gets me into a FUNK! I could just wrap up in an overly soft blanket with a good book and read my day away…and then there are kids 5 and under…which want nothing to do with sitting still and reading books all day under a blanket. Humph! What is a momma to do?

Here are some suggestions on those dreadful winter days that can entertain the littles without much prep work.

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St. Patricks’ Day Crafts/ Science Experiments You Won’t Want to Miss with Your Young Kids

So I may be a little late with the March calendar of crafts/ science experiments, but I figured the 11th was good enough to get it out there. Most of my “crafts” are science experiments because my kids LOVE to tinker and explore. I also like my “fun things to do with the kids” to be educational and allow deep conversation to brew. Don’t get me wrong, there are times for the cute crafts, but I use them sparingly because there are so many amazing experiments out there with basic ingredients/ materials you have hanging around the house…so why not right!?! I have done some research on Pinterest and various teacher sites and have come up with a fantastic list sure to make your March fun and a HIT with your kids!

I love this “I am Lucky” St. Patrick’s Day craftivity because it helps children reflect on who they are as a person and helps them value what they have around them. So often, our kiddos don’t spend time thinking about what makes them a good person and appreciating the good things in their life. In this activity, students create a four-leaf clover.  On each leaf, students write something that makes them lucky. You could also come at it from the perspective of something they’re thankful for or appreciate.

Skittles Rainbow Experiment

How fun is this Skittles Rainbow science experiment?!? So easy and will surely bring the “Oooh’s” and “Ahhh’s” from your kids or students. Place skittles (in a rainbow pattern) around a slightly sloped plate or bowl, add luke warm water until just the edge of the water touches the skittles, wait about 30 seconds and watch the magic happen!

Exploring Colors with Baking Soda and Vinegar

In this science activity, not only will children get to create a chemical reaction, but they’ll also be able to explore color mixing and create some colorful “artwork”!

Materials:

Tray to hold the materials

Baking Soda

White Vinegar

Food coloring

Ice cube trays

Pipettes

Procedure:

Place a fair amount of baking soda in the bottom of the tray.

Fill ice cube trays with the primary colors (food coloring) and vinegar

Using a Pipette, place different colored drops in the baking soda. Practice mixing the colors to make secondary colors.

How to make Shamrock Crystals

  • Borax
  • boiling water
  • a wide mouth glass mason jar
  • green and white pipe cleaners
  • string
  • a pencil
  • food coloring.

Instructions for making the crystals

First, twist  your pipe cleaner into the desired shape.  I set out a few templates of shamrocks (printed off the internet) for the kids to look at.

You will need 3 cups of boiling water per mason jar, 1/2 cup of Borax for each jar.  The more saturated your solution is, the larger your crystals will be.  Stir until all the borax is dissolved and the solution is clear, add food coloring if you desire.

Tie a string around the tail of the shamrock and tie the other end to a pencil.   Gently lower the shamrock into the solution making sure that it is not touching any sides or the bottom.  Set the jar in a safe spot that will not be disturbed.  We let ours sit overnight and the kids were amazed to find the pipe cleaners were transformed into crystal-encrusted decorations.  Gently cut off the string and display in your window.

Magic Milk Experiment

Place milk in a shallow dish and add some drops of liquid food coloring.

Now grab a *magic* toothpick.  What?  You don’t know where to buy magic toothpicks??  Just dip the end in dish soap ?

and let your kiddo touch the milk with it.

The colors instantly shoot out at lightning speed creating a wake of rainbows!  Try dipping the toothpick in the color first and then the milk and you’ll make rings.

Do it a few more times and then just sit back and watch.  As the soap disrupts the surface tension of the milk, the colors dance around all by themselves.  Kind of like a funky kaleidoscope.

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The Stay-At-Home Mom Game Plan

I don’t know about you, but as a stay-at-home momma, I can start to go out of my mind if I don’t have a game plan for the day. Winter months are always the worst because many days we are stuck inside. On days we stay home, sisterly tiffs can break out, television gets turned on, and momma gets TIRED! The best of my days are the days when I have various activities planned throughout to keep the girls “busy” and entertained. Here are a few of my go-to activities:

  • Read Books…lots & LoTs & LOTS of books
  • Paint-Put LARGE sheets of paper on the kitchen floor and let them create. They will be entertained for a LONG time with this instead of the usual 8 x 11 piece of paper
  • Sensory Bins…I literally put corn or beans in a plastic storage tub with some kitchen utensils
  • Puzzle Time-My oldest struggles with puzzles so we put them together often
  • Dance Parties…LOTS of Dance Parties
  • Bake something together-My youngest daughter’s FAVORITE thing to do
  • Clean the house and get rid of old, broken or unused toys
  • Make forts under the dining room table
  • Write your (the child’s) own story or draw pictures to tell a story
  • Dress-Up/ Dramatic Play
  • Jump on the Trampoline in the basement or wherever you have one. If you don’t have one…GET ONE…it has been a game changer!
  • Play-Doh, a rolling pin, and cookie cutters are GREAT
  • Science Experiments are always fun! Don’t know which one to do, Google “Easy Science Projects at Home” and see what pulls up. Pinterest is another good option for ideas.
  • Good ole Independent Play. Send the kids to their rooms or a particular place in the house with something they want to play with and allow them to explore, create, and imagine on their own.
  • Weather permitting-Go outside and play games or allow kids to create and imagine on their own.

Whatever you decide to do with the kids, make sure you have it pre-planned out so you can quickly and easily move from one activity to the next. By being prepared and ready for the next lull in the day, you save yourself putting out little fires and the day runs SMOOTHLY!

 

 

 

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Teaching From Anywhere…

Let me preface with this is NOT a homeschooling post. This is a “If you have kids, read this” post.

When I decided to homeschool our oldest, it wasn’t an easy decision whatsoever. I had a battle going on inside me that brought many questions to the table.

Will she be well-rounded if I homeschool?

How will she be socially?

Am I equipped to get the job done right?

Will this be a frustrating experience or a pleasant one?

These questions flooded me on a daily basis until one day I just had to make the decision. Homeschooling it was! Being a former teacher, I used to roll my eyes at homeschooling moms who weren’t trained to be teachers. They didn’t the progression of how we educate kids so how could they be great at schooling their own kids?!?

Boy was I wrong! What I have found is a community of men and women passionate about their child’s education and making sure they get the best, most well-rounded education and life experiences available. They are very aware of where their child is academically and where they want them to be by the end of the “school year.” I speak on behalf of the parents I have encountered only. I am aware that there are homeschooling parents out there that should probably not be homeschooling if you are thinking about the child’s best schooling experiences. It isn’t for everyone and that is ok.

People ask me all the time how much time I spend on schooling my oldest. Honestly, I never stop “schooling” her. I feel that there are teachable moments everywhere we are and throughout the day she is getting lessons. She helps make her bed in the morning, helps her sister when she is having a meltdown, helps clean up her toys, gets the mail, etc. These are all life skills she is starting to have. As far as academics go, we read signs along the road, sing songs with an educational theme, play outside and get dirty, talk about kinetic and potential energy while we are chewing our food, read books at nighttime and I ask her about the configuration of the word and how we can possibly sound the word out. At dinnertime we sit together at the kitchen table and just talk…about the day, about God, about what we plan to do tomorrow, about our dreams and wishes. When we are cooking dinner, we talk about the food choices we are making and why we are choosing to eat healthy vs. throwing a frozen pizza in the oven…I could go on and on.

Yes I have “school time” where we sit and talk about academics but honestly academics are all around us…we have to be open and willing to “See” the opportunity and seize it! Our little ones are sponges. They soak up everything their environment is throwing at them and then some. By enriching their environment and making experiences intentional, we are setting them up to be lifelong learners…and that is a beautiful gift!

So whether you are a homeschooling momma or your child attends private, public, etc. school, you too have several opportunities a day to enrich their environment with experiences and knowledge. You first need to be open to the opportunities that arise and then use them for the greater lesson.

Here are some examples of how I incorporate “school” into our everyday life:

  • Talk about the importance of brushing your teeth while brushing our teeth
  • Right when we wake up, we try to make our bed and talk about the days events (working on planning your day out and not just flying by the seat of our pants)
  • While eating breakfast, talk about foods that wouldn’t be healthy vs. healthy breakfast foods
  • Cleaning up the breakfast when we are done (working on family chores and expectations)
  • While getting dressed, we talk about what we are wearing and why we would choose pants over shorts on a cold day. We look outside and determine what kind of shoes we will need (flip flops, rain boots, snow boots, dress shoes, etc.)
  • We have a painting on our kitchen wall and we often talk about the way the artist mixed colors and what colors came about from him mixing them the way he did (color wheel)
  • Helping cook or bake and reading the measurements out loud to me and then executing it.
  • Reading her sister a book (or several) while I get lunch ready.
  • They see me exercising every morning and we talk about the importance of keeping your body fit and healthy and ways to do that.
  • While driving in the car, we sing educational songs, look for sight words, read the letters off of license plates, look for shapes in the clouds, etc.
  • We journal together…seeing the importance of journaling, writing practice, etc.
  • Playing games at home together (teaches taking turns, encouraging those who aren’t winning, healthy competition, and any skills the game works on, i.e. math, reading)
  • Playing with playing cards and making number lines, putting cards in order from highest to lowest, playing War, etc.

I could go on and on. Teachable moments are EVERYWHERE and as long as you are aware of the day and what your little one is and could be soaking in, the possibilities are endless! Happy Teaching!

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10 BEST Kids Educational Apps and Games

Being a homeschooling momma to a preschooler I have to be very strategic in what I allow my daughter to “watch” or “do” when we have finished with the days work and there is time to “kill.” I use parentheses because honestly it can be easy to get in a rut of allowing her to watch the television while her sister takes her afternoon nap. I am an entrepreneur and it would be easy for me to set her in front of the “babysitter” and get some work done.

I did a little research on how she can get in her “electronics/technology” time yet continue to learn in a fun way.

  1. Miss Humblebee’s Academy:Miss Humblebee’s Academy language and literature helps children develop skills required by the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and the Common Core State Standards. Preschool through kindergarten-aged children learn basic concepts and build a strong foundation in letter knowledge and sound. The curriculum gradually becomes more challenging as the child advances.Children will learn:
    • Alphabet knowledge, sounds each letter represents and writing practice sheets
    • Upper and lowercase letter recognition
    • Follow multi-step auditory directions
    • Rhyming
    • Blends (br, tr) and digraphs (ch, sh)
    • Segmenting and putting sounds together to create words
    • Parts of a book
    • Comprehension
    • Categorizing like words
    • Sight words
    • Auditory discrimination; example: distinguishing the difference between bin and pin

    In addition, your child and you will enjoy hours of educational and entertaining reading that spans many literature styles. You’ll find traditional stories such as The Crow and the Pitcher and The Lion and the Mouse, as well as new stories and poems written exclusively for Miss Humblebee’s Academy, all richly illustrated.

https://www.misshumblebee.com/

2. PBS Kids:  An educational “game-based” site for kids to go and explore and feel like they are getting “free time” when they are learning skills and facts.

http://pbskids.org/

3. ABC Mouse:  The Step-by-Step Learning Path presents the full ABCmouse.com curriculum in a carefully designed program of more than 800 lessons in ten levels. As your child completes each lesson, he or she is guided to the next one and is motivated to continue learning by ABCmouse.com’s Tickets and Rewards System.

https://www.abcmouse.com/

4. Curious World:  From literacy and creative expression to science and math, Curious World’s award-winning app offers games, books, and videos that encourage early learning. Each game, book, and video is associated with our 8 key learning areas so you can be sure your child is enjoying a balanced diet of educational experiences, as you track their favorites.

https://www.curiousworld.com/

5. National Geographic Kids: Nat Geo Kids inspires young adventurers to explore the world through award-winning magazines, books, apps, games, toys, videos, events, and a website, and is the only kids brand with a world-class scientific organization at its core. They strive to teach kids about the world and how it works, empowering them to succeed and to make it a better place.

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/

6. FunBrain: Kids in preschool through Grade 8 will love Funbrain, a site that makes developing math, reading and literacy skills fun. Check out games like Math Baseball and Grammar Gorillas. Kids can even read books on the go.

http://www.funbrain.com/

7. Babytv.com: This site offers 24-hour television programming for little ones—because who hasn’t been up at 3 a.m. with a child? In addition to always accessible educational shows, kids can play games, listen to songs and more. There’s a monthly subscription fee that depends upon which platform your child will be viewing on—Kindle, iPad, etc.—and what features you plan to use.

https://www.babytv.com/

8. Agnitus.com: Agnitus is all about the tangible learning experience. In a world where kids are told not to touch things, the Agnitus app says, “Yes! Please touch!” Kids can trace numbers, learn about size relationships, colors, consonants, read books and more, all on a tablet. A free trial is available online.

http://www.agnitus.com/

9. BrainPOP: BrainPOP’s animation brings learning concepts to life for individuals or entire classrooms. Kids learn about historical events, science and even the stock market, all with the help of a plucky robot and his friends.

https://www.brainpop.com/

10. Spatulatta:

Learning takes place in the kitchen, too, according to Spatulatta. Kids can learn cooking basics and try out new recipes built around the type of meal and favorite ingredients. What better way is there to transform your picky eater into a budding chef?

http://www.spatulatta.com/

Share your favorite best educational websites for kids in the comments below.

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Best Fall/Thanksgiving Crafts to do With Your Preschooler & Toddler!

I just can’t help it…the holidays near and I get all geeked up about crafts and art projects. I did a little Pinterest investigation and found my Top 10 crafts that Annora, Delise (and even Daddy) and I plan to conquer! We may not get to all of them but at least we have several options. Whenever I choose crafts to do with the girls, I always look for something that incorporates some type of learning. You will see that these Top 10 will not only be FUN, but educational as well!

You can also follow me on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/mommy2be81/

  1. Turkey Time Directed Drawing

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2. Fall Leaf Painting

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3. Gratitude Turkey Craft

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4. Turkey Color Matching Craft

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5. Feather Letter Activity: Creating Your Name

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6. Lego Stamped Indian Corn

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7. Hand-print Turkey Poem

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8. Turkey Tissue Paper By Number

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9. Invitation to Create Turkey Play Dough

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10. Pattern Block Turkey

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Why I Chose Classical Conversations Homeschooling…

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Man is it tough to be informed about all of the educational opportunities out there for your children! Charter, Public, Private, Montessori, Homeschooling, etc. Phew…the list goes on!

As a first time momma to a schoolage child, I must say that I was very confused and uninformed about my options. Thank goodness for my past!!! Having been a former teacher, I knew that the options out there were endless (well…almost), but I also knew it certainly isn’t the “norm” to go against the grain. I did know one thing though, I wasn’t comfortable sending my little one to the public school around the corner that refused to let me observe in the kindergarten classroom (to see if that school was a good fit for my upcoming child).

It was two years ago I started on this journey of finding the right avenue to take for schooling my child(ren). Annora was 2.5 years old. I went to so many open houses of different schools and just never felt like I belonged…never felt like what I was experiencing matched my families values and beliefs along with the rigorous curriculum I so desperately sought after. The Montessori school’s open house was impressive but failed to bring the religion piece into it…and it was a bit too expensive for our budget. Private was an option but again the cost was a bit too much. Charter didn’t WOW me and the thought of homeschooling terrified me (despite being a former kindergarten teacher).

It wasn’t until I attended an open house for a homeschooling organization called Classical Conversations that I felt connected and like the Christian values matched the rigor of material the kids were to learn over the course of the year. So, I swallowed my fears and decided to dive right in. It has been the most joyous experience…and I LOVE watching the lightbulb go off! The fact I get to witness it is a gift.

I FINALLY found THE group/school/organization/co-op/etc. that fit my families belief system. To say I am impressed with this program  is an utter understatement.

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The point is not to sway you to join a homeschooling co-op (although I would say it is a wise choice if it fits the schedule and values of your family), but to research, research, research what is out there; what options you, as a parent have when it comes to educating your child. Don’t settle for your child’s future…FIGHT FOR IT!

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Annora giving her weekly presentation.

Annora giving her weekly presentation.

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