School’s Out For Summer!

This post is sponsored by The Motherhood and Brain Chase.

 

The girls are officially out of school for the summer. Astrid ended last Friday and the big girls got out on Tuesday.

 

Typically I take and post their first day of school and last day of school pictures. Typically the growth is noticeable, but this year the changes are less physical in my opinion(I mean Eloise grew about 6″ but she still looks the same to me). This year what I did notice were the academic changes. Well maybe the biggest change is that after seven years of taking pictures in the same spot – we moved houses and have to find the perfect school picture taking place. OMG!

 

Eloise, now in Middle School, spent time in her room doing homework and projects with friends on Facetime – her advanced Algebra and history classes were more intense and she tackled the challenge while learning amazing organizational and study skills.

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(someone is not happy..not naming names)

Esther started fourth grade needing a lot of help with math and working through large projects – but by the end of year became very independent and creative with her projects, writing, and work. I’ve never seen a year where she blossomed like this. I attribute some to maturity and some to having truly just an amazing teacher.

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Astrid started kindergarten not wanting to start kindergarten. She wanted to hang with mom forever and didn’t think being in a classroom would be her jam. But she’s now reading – early chapter books, doing math that astounds me, knows every country and continent in The World, and is learning Latin. But most of all she now loves school and is excited for first grade. Yet she didn’t grow out of one outfit(or pair of shoes) the entire year. Okay – maybe her plaid jumper got a bit shorter.

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Summer will be a mixed bag for us. I like some scheduled activities and some weeks of complete freedom. But whether the kids are heading to camp or just hanging at the pool – I still think it’s important to mix some learning into the beautiful long days of summer.

 

So in just over a week our Summer Learning Adventure begins when Esther starts Brain Chase! Believe me – she is counting down the days. However – she leaves the day before (I KNOW!) for sleepaway camp and will be gone for 13 days(I KNOW!). So now she is super freaked out because she is afraid she will miss out on the clues and adventures. But I have reassured her – and I need to reassure all of you – that it’s okay to have plans this summer – camps, vacations, weeks by the pool – and STILL participate in Brain Chase. You can always catch up on work missed(you just cannot work ahead!

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By registering for Brain Chase, your student is committing to do about five hours of focused online academic work each week for five weeks. Because the curriculum is web-based, he or she can complete the work whenever, wherever, and in whatever order he or she prefers.

What’s so great about Brain Chase is that it is an online challenge, so you’ll need a high-speed Internet connection anywhere. It will work on the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari web browsers. You will be able to complete math, language and reading assignments on tablets. (For the writing assignments, it’s recommended to have a desktop or laptop available.) To add to your vacation flexibility!
Brain Chase understands falling behind – the summer can be busy. Brain Chase allows students to catch up on missed work from previous weeks (although they won’t be allowed to work ahead).

 

You can learn more about the flexibility of the program through this post on the Brain Chase blog.

 

What I love about Brain Chase is that it is not THE Summer activity – it is just another cool adventure to add to our Summer of fun! Brain Chase is the perfect way to supplement the summer’s outdoor fun with positive, educational screen time – it’s not too late to sign up, and it’s flexible enough to fit any schedule. You can add it to your kids’ existing plans to round out their summer fun.

 

What fun plans do you have lined up for Summer? Let the adventures begin!

 

This post was sponsored by The Motherhood and Brain Chase but all words and opinions are my own.

 

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Give Your Kids A Cool Summer Adventure! #BrainChase

This post is sponsored by The Motherhood and Brain Chase.

 

We are deep in our summer planning right now. Camp sign-ups start in February, Sport Sign-ups now, we are talking seriously about our road-trip, and family has started calling to find out when it’s a good time to visit. Yet with our new home I also just kind of feel like canceling everything and enjoying a new adventure in our backyard. There’s something so simple and beautiful about kids just outside from dawn until dusk, riding bikes, running between houses, and meeting new friends. I love when my kids have their own adventures during the freedom of summer.

 

Yet no matter how free we make our summer, or how scheduled we make our camp, family, and travel commitments – we always make time to read and keep up on some school work during the summer. Typically we head to the bookstore and buy some fun workbooks, but as our kids have gotten older they typically enjoy learning online with cool games and apps. Studies show that by the end of summer, students perform on average one to two months behind where they left off in the spring – so it just makes sense to keep up on some sort of school work to prevent that summer brain drain.

 

So I think we’ve found the coolest thing to get us sharp, have fun, go on an adventure, and do something as a family this summer. Basically we are throwing those workbooks in the recycling and seeing the world from our own dining room table.

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We are going on a Brain Chase. Brain Chase is a 5-week online summer learning challenge disguised as a HUGE global treasure hunt for 2nd through 8th graders. Each summer, a golden mechanical treasure will be buried somewhere on earth – and it will contain the key to a safety deposit box holding a $10,000 college scholarship fund. Participants who complete an hour of online summer learning activities each day will unlock secret animated webisodes that hold the clues to the treasure’s whereabouts. Pinpoint the treasure’s location first, and you’ll be the one on a plane to dig it up!!

 

Ummm… BURIED TREASURE! A $10,000 SCHOLARSHIP! THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME TO FLY SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD TO DIG IT UP! A FAMILY ADVENTURE TO REMEMBER FOREVER!

 

YES PLEASE!

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Brain Chase starts on June 22, 2015 and continues with 5 weeks of structured challenges on reading and math websites, weekly writing exercises, and exclusive access to an original animated adventure series loaded with hidden puzzles and clues. You and your children participate in a massive global treasure hunt for the big prize of a lifetime!

 

Each week the adventurers have 4 tasks to complete – a reading task, a writing entry, math points, and a bonus challenge(typically 4-5 hours of total weekly work). When they are done, they unlock the next webisode which contains hidden pictures, numbers, and riddles to help them guess the treasure’s location! The webisodes are so cool as they travel around the world exposing your kids to even more cool adventures!  And don’t worry if you are going on your own adventure or to camp during this time – as Brain Chase allows you to make-up your work at anytime during the 5 weeks!

 

Brain Chase is fun with action-packed animations, mysterious packages in the mail, and the hunt for buried treasure that turn learning into an adventure. It’s FLEXIBLE. You’ll do the challenge when you want, where you want, and at your own pace. And it’s CUSTOMIZED. You get to work at your own level.

 

Then every 24 hours, your adventurer can log in to enter their guess of the treasure’s location. The first adventurer to guess the location travels with their family to dig up the buried treasure.

 

The Sunstone of Cortes is just waiting for you!

 

I think my kids have already watched that video about one hundred times.

 

And if you need more inspiration, just watch the winners from Summer 2014!!

 

All you need to do now is sign-up and let the countdown begin to your own summer adventure. If you register before April 15th, your cost is only $149(additional discounts for siblings), and get an ADDITIONAL 15% off with code SELLABITMUM15.

 

And let your summer adventures begin!

 

Sponsored by The Motherhood and Brain Chase. All words and opinions are my own.

 

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Why We Love Archery

One of the most beautiful, amazing, yet sometimes heartbreaking part of parenting is watching your child find their way as we(as parents) try HARD to resist the urge to (gently) push them into activities, but instead sitting back and letting them find their way. Will they play football like you did? Will they excel in math? Love tennis and have your killer serve? Sing professionally like your grandmother?

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It’s hard to know where their love and passions will land. I do know that by three years old, Eloise wanted nothing to do with team sports. She hated being chased, feeling like she could let other people down, and felt pressured not only by herself, but from others. So she found “loner” activities like reading, dance, piano, swimming, and skiing (oh and crazy math skills).  She was drawn to activities where she could practice without an audience and work on skills that she needed to improve…alone.

 

When she went to sleep-away camp a few summers ago, I wondered what activities she would brave – track and field, drama, sailing, art? I was surprised(happily) when she returned and told us that she signed up for archery – and shot all week for a few hours a day. AND LOVED IT! And talked about it constantly. Her dad, excited to have someone to shoot with, went out and bought both Eloise and Esther each a Genesis bow.

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And weekly the three of them would head to the indoor range to shoot and hang-out and then go out to lunch or for a treat. Jed was thrilled to have an activity to share with his daughters, and they were thrilled to have an activity that was fun and new!

 

And then we put a target in our backyard so it’s even more convenient to shoot. I love watching my family enjoying archery together and work to continue to improve their accuracy. I hope that they continue to shoot as it’s such a great family sport.

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I also won’t lie and say that Eloise started shooting just randomly – I do believe her love for the Hunger Games books and movies certainly had something to do with her interest. I think that’s amazing. In fact the sport has seen HUGE growth over the past few years – with many schools now starting clubs and promoting the sport. And you’ll find that most youth programs use the Genesis Bow System as Genesis has created innovative and easy-to-master bow and arrow products that help kids of every age, size and skill level experience the hands-on thrill of shooting, training and competing to win. As part of its Bulls I Did It! Program, Genesis strives to help parents release the hero within their child by letting them discover their natural talents and unlock their unique potential through archery.

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Specifically the Genesis™ bow has an adjustable draw length so kids can’t outgrow it. Plus it’s easy to shoot, perfect for schools and clubs and can be used by the whole family (also comes in Mini Genesis™ version). The company’s newest feature is Build-a-Bow, which lets you create a custom look. In addition, Genesis sponsors competitions and public demonstrations across the country, and inspires parents and kids to live an archery lifestyle together.

 

And now we are surprising Astrid with a Mini Genesis bow for Christmas so she can start shooting too. I can’t wait to watch her out in the backyard with her sisters.

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Maybe the next step is to get me involved.

 

If you are looking for a great gift for your sons or daughters – you might mention archery to them as it’s making such a huge resurgence.

 

Let us know if you have any questions about getting started as my girls would love to help!

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I’m working with Genesis to promote their #BullsIDidIt program – which we as a family are so excited about. But all words and opinions are my own.

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My Kids Saw The Mockingjay Movie

In a follow-up to one of my best and most judged parenting decision – letting my nine year old read The Hunger Games Trilogy – and taking her to the movie – I’ve now taken my current nine year old to see the new Mockingjay movie.

 

Not only did I take my two oldest to see Mockingjay – but I took them to the Thursday night premiere of the new Mockingjay movie. Like with thousands of teenagers and twenty-ish year olds. Thank goodness that premieres now start at 9pm as there is no way this old lady could handle a midnight movie.

 

Eloise read the Hunger Games books when she was in third grade, and she saw each movie as it came out.

 

Esther also read the Hunger Games books at the end of third grade, and then we rented each movie as she finished each book. Our agreement was that she could attend the premiere of Mockingjay if she finished the last book also.

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Reading Mockingjay was a bit painful for Esther – as I think it was for many of us. Hailed as the most *meh* of the series for sure, it was not a thrill-read like the first two books. And the end is just sort of a bummer.

 

So I guess going into the movie, I should’ve expected less than the first two. If I had expected less than maybe we would’ve enjoyed Mockingjay more. Because I have to say that Mockingjay part one was very slow. And kind of boring. And lacking of action. But knowing the book – part two should be very action packed.

 

I will also say that the Mockingjay movie was not so great for my kids to watch. While The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were full of not only strategy, action, and the actual games  – they were also full of human relationships, strong teenage characters, and suspenseful moments of cheering for someone. The sets were beautiful, the story was easy to follow, and it was pure entertainment while staying pretty true to the books and still dealing with the government crap going down.

 

Mockingjay part one was almost all government politics and positioning and propaganda – which truthfully went way over my kids’ heads. It was a great set-up for part two, but made for a pretty boring movie. In fact, when the movie ended – typically at a big premiere in a packed theater there are cheers. Instead we all kind of looked around and just said “Wow, that’s it?” Like awkward total movie end silence and checking phones.

 

Also – while there is of course killing in the first two movies, they showed less of the actual violence in those. In Mockingjay, there are a few pretty intense scenes of death when Katniss visits some Districts that the Capitol has attacked. Those were some pretty hard scenes for kids to watch. Or for me to watch really.

 

All in all I think my kids had fun going to a movie premiere for the cool experience, and of course seeing Katniss because they love her, but I think they felt the movie wasn’t that awesome compared to the first two Hunger Games movies.

 

Have you see it? What did you think?

 

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Lessons Everywhere

We passed a homeless man as we were walking to our car today. He had numerous bags, a wheeled cart, and he sat on the curb reading his bible aloud. Eloise took the two dollars she had out of her pocket and started to hand it to him even though he had no sign and wasn’t asking. He looked stunned at first but then smiled and said he wanted to read his favorite verse to us.

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“Does he worry that it’s weird to read his book aloud when he knows no one is listening?” Eloise asked

 

I’m guessing that many people do listen. In their own way.

 

“I wish there wasn’t homelessness. It doesn’t make sense to me here in Minnesota when other people have so much. Why does it happen?” She prodded as we now drove home.

 

Many reasons – loss of a job, mental health, a fight with a family member, hopelessness, moving to a new place, a bad relationship, abuse, alcohol.... I answered carefully, but truthfully. It can happen to anyone.

 

“Well we need to find a way to get rid of it altogether.” She said quickly yet kindly and oh so hopeful.

 

Well that’s complicated. How do you think we could do that?

 

“By having the Mayors and Governors and the President helping all of their people thrive.”

 

That takes money – so more taxes for everyone to do this?

 

“Of course, rich people should give more but even just regular people like us should do more and give more and think of other people more everyday. If we all thought like that I bet people wouldn’t be homeless. And then the people who got homes and jobs could pay it forward to other people too – people who still needed homes. But someone has to start. Everyone has to start.”

 

I like the way you think, Eloise.

 

“No one should suffer alone. Do you think he’s alone a lot?”

 

Probably, but I bet he’ll remember you today.

 

“I think I’m going to do something about this soon. Do you think I’m old enough?”

 

More than old enough.

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Overnight Camp Alone

“Do you think she’s okay, Mom?” Eloise asked on Sunday evening. The two of us were snuggled up close(well as close as you can be when it’s hot and humid and you don’t have central air), each reading our own books with our cat Truffle sprawled out over both of us. “She’s never been to overnight camp alone before. We’ve always gone together.”

 

“I’m sure she’s fine.” I said, while still thinking about my Esther-Boo and how she was a mix of smiles and excitement and a few tears and looks of uncertainty as she boarded the bus to camp that morning. Alone.

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Alone in the sense that she went to camp this week without friends and family. But surrounding by love, oh I know this, with the other 100 or so girls she will meet and outstanding counselors to guide her through this week.

 

And even though this is her third year heading off to overnight camp – it feels different this week, as she chose to head off without a friend or sister with her. At nine – she’s my sweet, brave, kind, and silly girl – who can make friends with anyone. I’m sure she’s fine. I know she’s fine. But for the past two years I’ve felt and quiet confidence of things being okay because she had her sister. They had each other. So it was okay not having contact with her for the week – nope, no phone calls allowed. But this time I wish I could just hear her voice once.

 

And typically I’m not one so full of mother-worry.

 

So each evening Eloise and I gather around my laptop – watching the camp website for pictures. They post about 60 pictures at about 9:30pm of the days’ activities. We search them all to see her face. Is she smiling? Is she having fun? Is she with someone? Does she look happy? Yet of the 200 plus photos that have been posted this week, she’s only been in three – and in those she’s been off to the side a bit and too far away to catch an emotion on her face.

 

Last night – “I’m sure she’s having a great time, mom.” Eloise said after we viewed all of the pictures and Esther wasn’t in one of them. “I know her – when doesn’t Esther have a good time?”

 

“I know. I just miss seeing that smiling face. I want to kiss her cheeks.”  I said as I looked directly at Eloise and honestly she looked a little bit uncertain herself. “You miss her don’t you?” I cracked a smile when I posed that question to Eloise.

 

“Miss her? Nah, It’s actually been kind of nice to have you all to my self in the evenings.” Eloise laughed. But then she went back to the photo album online searching for that sweet face that remains on our minds this week.

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Have your kids ever headed to sleep-away camp? This is my kids’ third summer doing it and I have to say that they both love going. The skills and  independence they earn, and the lifelong friends they make can’t even begin to be measured. Eloise is headed up this next week and will stay for two full weeks.

 

I’ve written a few posts about summer camp if you want to check them out too as you are perhaps making your own plans for camp.

Five things to expect when you send your kids to overnight camp.

 

How do you know if you’re child is ready for overnight camp?

 

And ode to summer camp(yes I actually sing in this one) as a summer sanity saver for parents.

 

 

 

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Superhero Moms And A $200 Amazon Giveaway #happymamas

I’ve felt like a pretty bad mother since Listen To Your Mother ended last week. Trying to get back into the everyday of life – packing lunches, doing laundry, cooking meals, grocery shopping, cleaning, and working – has been more difficult than it should be. It’s also why my kids have eaten jelly toast and apples for lunch four nights in a row and we’re down to our last half roll of toilet paper. It’s like Russian Roulette pooping around here because you never know if you’ll end up in the bathroom without the toilet paper. So maybe it’s best to just bring your own if you come over for a visit. Or maybe not visit us at all because our house isn’t clean and I can only offer you water.

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But the beautiful thing about all of this -KIDS DO NOT CARE. Only I do. I care about a clean house and full fridge and clean jeans and toilet paper. My kids haven’t noticed anything amiss because their home is still here, and we are still here. And healthy. And can laugh about the jelly toast for the fourth night in a row.

 

We put so much pressure on ourselves to be a ‘good mom’ and ‘do it all right’ and ‘to be at every thing our kids do’ but we need to realize that a good hug, an I Love You, and just time for a snuggle(or a fist-bump if you have a tween like mine), is really all we need to do to be a Superhero Mom most days.

 

We are a Superhero to these little folks – whether our cape is showing or not.

 

Mother’s Day is a strange day in my book. A card makers holiday that I personally don’t need. I don’t receive gifts, flowers, or brunch and frankly all I wanted to do on Sunday was to stay in jammies all day and watch movies with my kids and maybe not have to cook dinner because I love take-out. I will love you forever if you would just surprise me with take-out. The girls all made me cards – which really they do not have to do – but Eloise’s card this year was amazing. And in my eyes – her gift was much more than just this piece of paper with her fabulous cartoon – it was that she gave me the gift of knowing I’m raising wonderful, creative and thoughtful people.

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Her cartoon reminded me that we are all Superheros who hold this job of mom.

 

In fact I took this SuperheroMom Quiz from coupons.com and found out that I am Cat Woman! As I self-proclaimed cat lady – I think this fits me well!

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Coupons.com is a great source for celebrating moms this month because of the great savings, deals and coupon codes. Take the quiz and find out what your superhero power is, and while you are there be sure to enter enter the Coupons.com Mother’s Day Giveaway this month where you can win prizes like a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 Sephora gift card, a Vitamix and a Roomba. Coupons.com is a great source for celebrating moms this month because of the great savings, deals and coupon codes.

 

Coupons.com is also sponsoring a Happy Mama Moments Mother’s Day Should Be Every Day Giveaway for a $200 Amazon gift card that can be used for whatever you want on amazon.com! For a chance to win see below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this giveaway or post. All opinions are mine.

 

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Taking A Tumble

The email read innocently enough “Astrid is now the only child enrolled in our Monday morning gymnastic class so we will need to find another class for her to join. The following are your options…”

 

Strange though. It was now March, and this four year old class started in September. We had now spent the school year with our Monday morning ritual. Astrid has made friends with her four ‘tumbling-mates’ and I’ve made nice with the other moms. No one had mentioned dropping out or switching classes when we just saw them a few days ago. Astrid liked her gymnastic friends and class very much and at times on a Sunday night would say “Gymnastics is tomorrow so I get to see Hannah!”

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And as much as I’m not very good at making mom friends at these types of things – I did enjoy this hour each week with the five of us sitting in comfortable chairs, lattes in hand, watching our kids through the big picture window as we discussed school choices, the cold winter, and a bit of celebrity gossip.

 

If you are or have been a parent of a preschooler – you know how these weekly morning classes go – whether a music class, book group, ECFE group, tumbling class, or soccer – it’s a constant for the school year and part of your schedule. A place for your kids to try something new, a place to meet new friends, a place to fill a morning when you can’t fathom another long morning at home in the long winter, a place of comfort in your week that you count on.

 

But this was actually more than that. Gymnastic is something she loves. She can do forward and backward rolls, balance on the beam, and is learning to flip over the bar. She’s proud of herself and I love that about her. As we all know, these excursions into “Hey, let’s try this!” – whether violin, baseball, or chess club – can sometimes not go too well for anybody.

 

“I guess we will try Thursday night.” I wrote back. None of the new times looked great and I wish I had contact numbers for the other moms to see if they dropped out or moved to another time, as it would be nice for Astrid to continue gymnastics with them.

 

Thursday night was everything Monday morning wasn’t. It wasn’t just the quiet, small preschool class in the gym – but 10 classes going on at once – from preschool to the college team training in different corners of the smallish space. But a light came in the chaos ,while Astrid shed her snow pants down to her leotard, was that two of her friends from Monday were also in the hallway – including Hannah.

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Until they lined up and while Hannah and the other friend lined up in one place – Astrid was asked to line up with another group. I could see a bit of worry mixed with her own strong brave face as she watched her Monday friends go in a different direction. And I watched her through the window as she jumped, balanced, tumbled, and rolled with her new class.

 

“Did you have fun?” I asked her when she came out of class and she showed me her stamp on her hand from her new teacher.

 

“It was okay. Busy. But I wish I could be with my friends.” She said quietly as she sat on the dirty floor to pull on her leggings and socks.

 

“I’ll contact them tomorrow to see what we can do.” I told her. “But maybe that class is already full.”

 

I emailed the director asking if Astrid could be moved with her friends if there was room. Her answer surprised me.

 

“Oh, they’ve moved up to a more advanced level and Astrid is not ready for that yet. So no, they cannot be together. If Astrid wants to continue to do gymnastics she’ll have to stay at a lower level – which is the class she is now assigned to on Thursday nights.”

 

Lower level.

 

My first reaction was visceral “MY daughter? My daughter IS good and deserves to be with the more advanced level with the other four year olds!” And “Astrid – now you have to work harder and then you can be with your friends!” I sheepishly admit I thought that. Said that. Wanted that.

 

Until the next week as we drove away from another Thursday night class of Astrid watching her friends across the room and she said to me “I don’t like gymnastics anymore.”

 

After loving, and announcing it as her favorite activity for the past six months.

 

So I went back to the gym’s website to see what it said about the classes and of ‘moving up levels’ and of ‘handling of preschooler confidence and emotions,’ and all it had were age group classes listed. We signed up for a 4-5 year old class for the school year. And it was our expectation to be in it, and with consistency for the year. I know kids will be at different skill levels – just like they are for any activity – but to start dividing them up and showing them where they belong on the skill ladder at this age. Well that just hurt us both.

 

And made her start not liking something she started having a passion for.

 

Now I’m not one of those parents who believe that all kids should be equal in activities, no winners or losers, and medals for participating – but to squash kids at four years old in their first year at an activity? I’m not sure what the point of it all is. Maybe those other four year olds who are ‘more advanced’ now can keep their legs a little straighter on a cartwheel, but it’s not like they’re doing split jumps on the beam yet either.

 

So I emailed the gym director one more time and asked if there was another class we could try, and we found an opening on a Friday afternoon. It’s a small class, with some sweet kids, and she doesn’t have to see her old friends across the gym anymore. And when these lower level kids finished last week, Astrid ran to me with a smile to show me her stamp.

 

“Did you have fun?” I asked.

 

“Yes, mama – this was much more fun today. I guess maybe I’ll keep trying gymnastics for awhile.”

 

And we walked out of the gym hand in hand without a care in the world about her level. Because she had fun.

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Do you feel they should start diving kids based upon skills and levels at this age? What’s your experience?

 

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A Cooking Birthday Party For Kids

I love to celebrate birthdays – and have been known to throw a few wonderful birthday parties in the past. From princesses and butterflies or rainbow birthdays to yellow themes or peace signs and slumber parties to Yo Gabba Gabba and Alice in Wonderland – my girls spend months thinking about themes, crafts, food and friends. We even have parties for our cats. And I’ll spoil them rotten on this day – because it is truly their day. Call me over the top, call me obsessive, call me Tracy – but don’t call me crazy because you’re only a kid once – so why not do it up in style while you can. And hey, if you want balloons and clowns even when you turn 45 – I say go for it.

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But.

 

Having ‘in-home’ parties has become less appealing to me over the last few years. This weird thing happens – the kids GET BIGGER. And while 10 five year olds doesn’t seem like a big deal in your modest home, 10 eleven year olds cannot all fit in one room. Also – they don’t totally enjoy playing pin the tail on the donkey or doing my lame crafts I come up with. So our theme parties have slowly turned into slumber parties(the type where I sit in the kitchen and watch Scandal and drink red wine – which AWESOME), but even I(even with wine) cannot handle a slumber party every single year. Also tween girls scream. What is UP with the screaming? So this year I convinced both of my older girls that we should ‘hire-out’ and have off-site birthday parties.

 

And while I’ve always liked in-home parties because I’ve always considered them to be more economical – if I factor in all of my time to clean and prepare and decorate and coordinate and manage and buy everything – well it turns out having an off-site party is about the same cost and I HAVE TO DO NOTHING. But show up. And read People magazine with a latte.

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But I also wanted to make sure it was a party where everywhere hung out and did things together. I didn’t want a big bouncy house thing or open rec day or something where I would be chasing kids and mending broken arms. I still wanted all the kids to be a group and do something that Esther was passionate about. Also, we like quiet things. And less screaming.

 

Also note that I’m anxious for the day when my kids are old enough to just be passionate about a mani/pedi spa day and fancy lunch with me and just a few of their friends. I think this day is coming soon.

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Esther loves to cook and bake. So I Googled cooking schools in Minnesota and found a very awesome place called “Way Cool Cooking School!” I called and they had the date we needed available, so we loaded up two minivans full of 11 tween girls and off we went for a few hours of cooking.

 

The Way Cool Cooking School did EVERYTHING. The craft – they decorated aprons and all of the guests signed Esther’s apron. The lunch – they all made their own pizzas from the crust on up. The cake – they provided a birthday cake already made and decorated, and the kids made homemade cupcakes and decorated them to take home. The treat – they made chocolate dipped ‘mini microphone’ marshmallow treats. The goodie bags – they provided each child a ‘left-over’ box with fun cooking utensils, treats, and recipes. They did ALL of the set-up and the clean-up.

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I did nothing but deliver the girls to them and then I honestly read a magazine for two hours.

 

And Esther and the girls all said it was one of the best parties ever. I loved that it gave them a skill, they had fun, and we didn’t have to worry about the mess. The ‘chef’ was so incredible with the girls and I just cannot recommend a party like this enough. I would say it would be perfect for kids ages 7-13 and those that are able to sit and really pay attention for an extended period of time. The chef taught them some great cooking skills and shared some fun recipes.

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I have a feeling we will be going back there soon as they also offer classes and camps for kids. (And no, they have no idea who I am or that I’m writing this).

 

Do you love to have home parties or off-site parties for your kids?

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It’s A Good Thing You Can’t Have More Kids

“MOM!!!” She screamed at 3am. I was finally sleeping in my own bed after spending three nights in hers. Those three nights in hers meant very little sleep, so my sleep now was heavy and needed. Jed had to even nudge me “Trace – Astrid’s calling for you.” And this was the man that never heard any of our babies wake up once. Now me thinks he did…

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I rushed to her side thinking the worst(puke all over her bed), but instead found a little blond imp sitting up and just smiling at me.

 

What is in love? Why did you yell for me? Are you okay?

 

“Yeah, I’m okay. I just wanted your company. I missed you when I woke up. I couldn’t touch you. So now I can touch you.”

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I sat on her bed and she rubbed my knee and smiled.

 

Okay, I’ll just snuggle beside you for a few minutes until you fall back asleep.

 

“Thank you mama for giving me company.”

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My intention was for her to close her eyes and drift back to sleep, and then I would go back to bed.

 

Her intention was to use my new ‘company’ in her bed for a little conversation. As it turns out when you spend 24/7 was a sick child for four days, they really get used to you being with you and doting on only them. And it’s not like when they are four you can leave them to their own devices for care.
Basically it’s a no win situation. And they know it.

 

“Mama, it’s a good thing you won’t have any more babies, right?

 

I guess so sweetie. But why do you think it’s a good thing? And we really need to get back to sleep.

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“Well, it would just be so awkward for that new baby?”

 

Awkward? Awkward how?

 

“Well you know you could never love them as much as you love me, and you’d have to tell them that. And well..AWKWARD!”

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Yeah, you’re right, that would be awkward for them. Good thing you’re the baby forever I guess, huh?

 

“Yeah, that was really good planning, Mama.”

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She so knows her rightful place in this family and uses it daily to her advantage. Girlfriend gets me every single time.

 

I just hope she doesn’t need more ‘company’ tonight.

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She Loves Me Anyway

I make a lot of mistakes as a mother. While our oldest daughter will always officially be our guinea pig, our trials and errors do not belong exclusively to her and to talk about ‘from the couch’ one day. Her sisters will join her there.

 

I would not call myself a ‘mean’ mother, but I am a ‘firm’ mother. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t yelled. Because I have.

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I’ve also apologized more times than I can count because I am not above mistakes and I’d prefer a relationship of mutual respect with my kids.I don’t want to be their boss. I am here to be their guide.

 

I forget things. I’ve forgotten my kids at school and activities. I forgot Astrid once as she slept in her car seat that I put down on the sidewalk while I loaded the car. But thankfully had just pulled away from the curb when I realized my grave mistake.

 

I’ve been taking an ‘in the car’ body count since that day.

 

I’ve forgotten field trips and important papers to be sent back to school. I’ve forgotten birthday parties and important parts of costumes or projects that I was suppose to buy for them.

 

I’ve fed them junk food and drive-thru and don’t buy organic fruit.

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I’m inflexible and probably not as warm as they’d like sometimes.

 

I work from home, thus the line between “Is mommy working” vs “Is mommy not working” is blurred and most of the time I feel like I’m failing at both.

 

Mornings are hectic no matter how early we rise or how organized we seem and I’m always short with them as we hustle out the door. As the bus pulls away I always think that if this is the last time we see each other – what will they remember about me.

 

I hate playing games(except cards), don’t understand make-believe, I’m a horrible artist, don’t craft, don’t allow glitter, and I don’t love play-dates…here.

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I’m the type of mom that gives her kids plenty of opportunities for independence and learning. You won’t find me trying to entertain them on the weekends. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m too detached.

 

I have faults too long to list – just like any human and mother.

 

And when I feel overwhelmed and that I’m doing it all wrong.

 

I need to remember one thing.

 

Kids are kids.

 

And their simple needs are love and security.

 

And if I search though the life of each day of chaos and busy and schedules and short tempers and toys everywhere  – I see love and security everywhere for them.

 

I don’t need to play Monopoly or dollies to give them that.

 

And even if we’ve had a bad morning, I am still greeted each day with a picture from Astrid.

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A picture of us(without clothes…with our belly buttons showing…ahem). But us. Together.

 

That’s what Astrid sees. That’s what she knows and loves. And she draws me a picture of us every day. I have 240 of these so far. And if you think I’m making a book. Well you are correct.

 

“Mommy, you’re my best friend and you’re the best mommy ever.”

 

And any mommy guilt I have disappears.

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Join Amanda of Dude Mom and 11 others as we celebrate being Happy Mamas each month. Join us and let’s start a movement together.


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We Did Not Like The LEGO Movie

I took my kids to see the new LEGO movie today. We went in with an open mind and not a disdain for all things Lego. We own LEGOs. We play with LEGOs. We don’t worship the LEGO like we might some other toys. But a LEGO-liking-family we are.

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My only bias to watching the LEGO movie is that I’m not a huge fan of kid movies in general. I might also fall asleep in most of them…BUT…if my kids loved or even liked the movie ..then it was still a good movie in my opinion…because my kids enjoyed it. And I fake it for them.

 

I mean, have you seen Free Birds? One of the worst movies of the century. But my kids found it funny and enjoyed themselves, so I pretended that I did not sleep and totally enjoyed myself too. Do NOT go see it though. OMG so bad.

 

But the LEGO movie disappointed all of us. I mean – I loved the positive messages of believing in yourself and everyone has a special gift and everyone plays differently and all the good stuff we teach our kids – and I kind of liked when it all came together FINALLY with the actual real dad letting his real kids PLAY. Got it. Good.

 

But oh my gosh – the 90 minutes before that were so dang boring. Eloise was asking to leave. Astrid fell asleep. And Esther was people watching. I nodded off a few times, but tried to keep it together to actually watch the whole show. And I also noticed that most adults were not laughing out loud during the scenes that I thought were actually kind of clever.

 

Here’s the thing though – I am glad that you and you and you and you enjoyed the LEGO movie. Because the majority of the population seemed to love it. Awesome. But people seem to have a major emotional attachment to this movie, and saying that you don’t love it is like getting into a debate about SAHMs vs WAHMs or breast vs bottle. Chill people.

 

Speaking of chilling…..We loved Frozen – BECAUSE OLAF. But I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And I would never question why you didn’t like it or how you could not appreciate the message. Cool. Not frozen – just cool. Just don’t come over to our house because the snowman building is rampant around here.

 

And I loved the movie Brave – but my kids hated it. HATED it. I will never understand them. And I will probably never understand kid movies. I will never understand kids.

 

Another one you may not believe – but none of us liked any of the Toy Story movies. None of them. None of us. WHO ARE WE?

 

But Smurfs?? BIG FANS! Don’t hate me for it. Maybe it was because Smurfs 2 was set in Paris. Paris.

 

So dish – what kid movie do you love the most? Do you have a kid movie that your kids loved but you hated? Or maybe a kid movie that you loved and your kids wonder why you keep watching because they did not love it?

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An Ode To Play-Doh

A Play-Doh Poem

-Just Because I’m Trying To Stay Sane Right Now


Your squishy clay

Your bright colors

Make it hard to resist you

But when you dry up

And land on my floors

It makes it hard not to dis you.

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You stick in hair

And carpeting

And on my cats and chairs

But when my kids create

Their ‘art’

I decide that I do not care.

 

They build boats and cars

And cookies with the clay

Kids ages 2 to 12 together

Find this fun to play.

 

So I walk away

From the mess I see

From this ‘doh’

They use for creations

Their snowman, dolls,

Fruit and fun made

From their own imaginations.

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Yet days later after

They’ve cleaned and put

All the ‘doh’ away

I still find the bright pieces

of clay imbedded in

The socks I wore that day.

 

So again I curse the

Devil ‘doh’

For entering our domain

I toss it quickly in the trash

Knowing we will buy more

When it rains.

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Cold Weather Day Fun

Schools are closed today. Not for snow, but for cold. We had -45 wind chills this morning with actual temps of -22. I went for a four mile run and actually felt a bit overdressed. One layer too many – but it was good to be warm and safe and I take preparation for any cold weather run very seriously.

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I also welcome concerned, adult, encouraging, kind and even humorous conversations about crazy cold weather running on social media. But some people like to throw around the word ‘stupid’ instead. Because that’s now how I guess people constructively talk to other people in 2014. Attacking strangers on social media is the new fashion of the season. YAY us!

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Which makes me sad for all of humanity.  Also now I feel obligated to contact the internets to make sure I’m dressing my kids appropriately when I let them go outside in this cold. Because we did go outside. I have so much guilt.

 

So to get over my awesome berating on the twitter this morning, we decided to do a cold winter weather science experiment. We boiled water and threw it into the air to see if it really does just freeze immediately into little ice crystals and vaporize. And it does! So cool! (Please note for all of you worried internet people – I did this experiment before my daughter did it just to make sure it really worked so I did not feel like I was putting her at risk that boiling water would rain down on her panda hat cuteness…so please don’t call me icky internet words).

Then we went to see Disney’s Frozen again and now are even more obsessed with Olaf The Snowman.

 

Then we had donuts.

 

Now we are eating popcorn and drinking hot cocoa.

 

All the good things you are suppose to do when school is called off.

 

However, now school is also called off for tomorrow. One day off is fun, two days off calls for an emergency plan to keep the kids entertained without donuts and cocoa. Maybe I’ll just go for a long run in the frigid temps and think about some fun things we can do as a family.

 

So do you love when school is called off? What is your favorite activity for kids on a day off from school?

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I’m also honored and crazy excited that my post On Being Vulnerable is syndicated on BlogHer today!

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I’ll Take The Root Canal Instead Of The Uterine Ablation

Blood quickly started running out of my vagina, through my underwear, soaking my very awesome olive green skinny jeans and started oozing down my leg.

 

As I was standing in line to pay at H&M.

 

Mind you that I was not wearing a sweater or coat to cover my bottom or to wrap around in front of me, and my handbag is medium size and structured so also of no use for camouflage.

 

Also I had just inserted TWO super tampons just one hour earlier as my period started yesterday morning.

 

I’d also like to take this time to remind you that I had just started my period two weeks ago when I bled all over the dental exam chair while getting a root canal. And since I haven’t had my period in about four days, well it was really time for it to start again.

 

Which is why I was seriously saving for a Uterine Ablation or putting one on my daughter’s Christmas list.

“Dear Santa, I would very much like Saige the new American Girl Doll, Roller Blades, an iPod Touch, and of course a Uterine Ablation for my mom so she doesn’t bleed through clothing when we are out in public anymore. Love, Eloise”

 

Because when you have high deductible insurance you pray to Santa for all things to do with your uterus.

 

So while I’ve been saving up for a fun visit to the doctor to have my uterus scraped and lasered and stuff…a tooth fell out because a filling from 1975 went bad. And I ignored this hole in my mouth for about four months(did I mention we also don’t have dental insurance) until HOLY HELL A NERVE WAS EXPOSED and THE PAIN…OH THE PAIN!

 

So for the next three days I sat at the dentist getting a root canal and a crown and writing a check for $2600! Because how fun is that! I now have no pain, a new tooth and I fear my uterine ablation is now off Santa’s List.

 

Because as a mom(or parent) we don’t prioritize things like our lady parts when we need to spend money – we put off haircuts and doctor’s appointments, going to the dentist and buying ourselves Spring wardrobes while we make sure our kids are properly outfitted and signed up for soccer.

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Mom Money Prioritization goes something like this….

1. Food for kids

2. Shelter for kids

3. Clothing and shoes for kids

4. Cat food and litter

5. School supplies and books for kids

6. Activities for kids – sports, dance, piano et al

7. Birthdays and holidays for kids including presents

8. Your kids friend’s birthday presents

9. Charitable contributions

10. Kids dental and doctor visits.

11. Braces for kids

12. Vet visit for cat

13. Cell phone bills

14. House repair needs

15. Vacation savings

16. Saving for college

17. One haircut per year

18. Razor refills to shave your legs

19. Dental appointments for you

20. Your uterus

 

So off I go to buy another box(or 20) of Super Tampons and wish someday the tampon makers would realize that they have a HUGE market to capture of perimenopausal women who need the Super Deluxe Paper Towel Roll Size Extra Absorbent Tampons so they don’t have to worry about leaking out in front of their children. Or the cashier at H&M. Or their dentist. Or on the car seat. Or ever.

 

Do you prioritize money differently now that you are a parent?

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How To Speak Dog. I mean CAT #NGKInsider

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Our cat Truffle turned three last week so I tried to take birthday photos. To which he said “Are you kidding me?” Because it doesn’t matter how much you might think you can coerce a cat to still still and nicely for you – YOU CANNOT! Unless you drug them, which I totally would never do.

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I also don’t believe we will ever know what a cat is saying – because cats are more smart, savvy and cunning than us – which makes them an eternal mystery. And also adorable.

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And who wants a predictable pet?

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Those crazy dog lovers, that’s who! Seriously, such an ‘easy to read’ animal. And it’s also why you need to get How To Speak Dog  – another awesome book from National Geographic Kids.

How to Speak Dog is a fun, informative, and photographically driven book that helps kids understand what their dog is trying to tell them through body language and behavior. Super-engaging dog photography, along with National Geographic Kids’ signature bold and bouncy design, helps illustrate the key canine concepts. Quick-hit tip boxes, fun facts about mankind’s best friends, and informative sidebars from the experts enliven the text. Readers young and old will respond to the irresistible call of the canine in this delightful book that warms hearts and wag tails everywhere—a must-have in every home where pups are looking for love and understanding.

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We love the animal and pet books from National Geographic for our kids. These non-fiction wonders are entertaining while they are education and so fun to read and look at the pictures whether you’re 4 or 44.

 

And there’s probably not a How To Speak Cat book – because cats are too awesome to be interviewed. Or even look at you.

 

But if you love cats, dogs or just a good joke – check out National Geographic’s new Just Joking App – it’s a FREE app for kids and we’ve been having a ball with it this week. Here are some Halloween favorites to try on your kids tomorrow!

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Q: What happens when a ghost gets lost in fog? A: He is mist.
Q: Why did Dracula become a vegetarian? A: Because his doctor told him “stake” was bad for his heart.
Q: What is a monster’s favorite place to swim? A: Lake Erie.
Q: How do you fix a broken jack-o’-lantern? A: With a pumpkin patch.
Q: What did one ghost say to the other ghost? A: “Get a life!”
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Zombies. Zombies who? Zombies make honey and zombies dont’
Q: Why don’t mummies go on vacation? A: They’re afraid they might unwind.

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Disclosure: I’m a National Geographic Kids Insider – and I love taking you inside the Yellow Boarder for fun activities for your families. I am not paid for my time with them – I just love them. And cats.

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Finally An Answer To All Of Their Questions

“Mommy why don’t cats talk like people?”

 

“Mommy why are plates round but you can’t throw them like balls?”

 

“Mommy, does Bob Marley’s mommy live in Hamsterdam?”

 

“Mommy, are cats and dogs best friends sometimes?”

 

“Mom, why can’t I have a phone of my own?”

 

“Mommy, how do they get those people in the TV?”

 

Survey says that kids ask about 1000 questions a day(okay, I just made that number up as I’m just going by my personal experience with three curious kids in the house – so consider that an average). And I admit that much of the time I cannot answer their questions. Or keep a straight face.

 

This is 30 second picture into my typical day…

But there is one question that I need to answer, and that is “What’s for dinner?” And the best way in to get all three kids to smile and say “Right answer, Mom!” during our cool Fall weather here in Minnesota, is to answer with “Campbell’s Tomato Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches!”

And then maybe they will be too busy eating to ask me why squirrels cannot fly airplanes.

 

Or maybe they can just ask The Wisest Kid In The Whole World!

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The Wisest Kid, discovered by Campbell’s Soup is an 8 year old who lives on a mountaintop and offers lighthearted advice to parents about what makes kids happy, especially around mealtime. He may not be able to tell you about “Hamsterdam” but he will offer kid-friendly mealtime tips, recipes and more to help parents avoid the “Mealtime dilemma.” We’ve all been there, right?

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