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Monday, February 27, 2012

Gotcha Day Celebration

Yesterday, February 26, was Andrei's "Gotcha Day."  I had been thinking about how we would celebrate this every year as I wanted to start some traditions to culminate that special day in his life.  I opted for a Russian din-din and a giant cupcake.  However, much like the disaster it was trying to leave the orphanage with Andrei a year ago, our celebratory "Gotcha Day" ended up with a mess a well.  (Feel free to recap our experience HERE.)

Andrei was on day #2 of running 102 degree fever.  Kennedi was on day #1 running a fever.  Doug had been out of town and wouldn't be back until evening.  So, I did the unthinkable--at least for me.  I used a box cake AND..... icing from a can!!! (I justified it by saying Annsley and Kennedi could make his cake for Andrei this way. Also, I knew it would not taste very good and that would keep me from eating it.)

I know.  I KNOW!! I hold my head in shame to all the bakers out there. 

I had bought one of those Wilton giant cupcake pans earlier in the year.  We made the giant cupcake, and after it cooled, we set out to ice it.  Trying to capitalize on our Russian theme, I had planned for a white cake, red icing, and blue sprinkles (the colors of the Russian flag.)  I bought strawberry icing, but no matter how much red I added, it just turned brighter pink and ended up closely resembling the sunburned gum paste pig from the birthday party.  I usually use the "professional" icing dyes, but I was out of red.  The liquid stuff doesn't quite cut the mustard. 

So now our Russian theme is starting to look like a drunken 70s disco tech.  I gave Annsley a knife and said go for it.  I didn't even bother with the piping bags.  I forgot that I was making a cupcake, and Annsley and I iced the bottom of the cupcake. (Yes, those ridges...should have been my first "uh-oh" but I didn't catch on until the job was finished.)  We're both looking at a hot pink giant cupcake that resembles more of a hot pink short, fat stubby pencil standing on its end.  It is the ugliest and most pathetic baking phenomen that's ever come from my kitchen--EVER.  And that is going all the way back to those 6th grade brownies I made once.  Annsley sprinkles some edible blue glitter in an effort to "pretty it up." 

We stick a candle on top for "Gotcha Day #1." 

I make beef stroganoff.  I actually can do that quite well, but yesterday's did not come out right.  I think it is my worst stroganoff to date.  Not sure even today what went wrong. 

Then I set out to make Russian potato pancakes--or Bulgarian or Jewish. I was not interested in making borscht as beets and I are about as tight as a tom cat and a veterinarian with a coupon for 50% off all neutering services!  I grated my Russet potatoes.  The recipe said to them grind them after that.  I figured that as old as a country Russia is that the babushkas 300 years ago didn't have a food processor to use, and so I took the liberty and decided that these little old ladies probably stopped at the grating process as well.  I made about 12 little nasty potato pancakes and put them in the freezer to set up.  I had read somewhere to do that to keep them from falling apart when you fry them.

Well, they froze to the plate.  No, I didn't put wax paper down first.  So, now my grease is hot (and this is the first time I've fried something in my kitchen in probably 12 years by the way...) and I'm using my spatula to try to pry these little boogers off the plate.  In short, they came out OK.  The girls and Doug thought they were delicioso!  I don't care if they ever grace my presence again.  I like my potato without egg, thank you!  We did dip them in sour cream--a Russian staple. 

Andrei was exhausted, and didn't eat his Russian meal.  We lit the candle for him to blow out and the girls sang "Happy Gotcha Day" to the birthday song.  After blowing out 2 candles on his birthday, this single candle was child's play for him, and with merely a puff he extinguishes the flame atop the house that Papa Smurf built. (ie: giant cupcake that the mother iced the bottom with store bought icing). 

Andrei goes off for a bath (he hasn't napped in 72 hours and he was still up in his bed the night before at 10:00pm when I went to bed) The big people are left to "devour the cake" as Annsley said.  Doug (who had been out of town and missed the afternoon baking slacker event) says to me, "Oh man! This is awesome!! What kind of cake did you make?" 

He's serious.  How do you respond to someone who prefers a cake with 1/3 cup vegetable oil and water and icing made with corn syrup?  I choose instead to think that he was just hungry.  Very hungry. 

So, Gotcha Day #1 is in the history books.  I find it quite fascinating that yesterday was in very much a mirror of challenges and faux paus just like it was in Russia a year ago.  And as I'm typing this, I'm realizing that it was really "Gotcha Day #2"--not #1.  We needed 2 candles. 

I was severely disappointed before the evening was up.  UGGGGH!  I had really planned on a much different turn out on so many levels.  We'll get it right next year.  Maybe.  The important thing is we are celebrating this amazing little boy coming into our family. 

And, if you're up to looking at's the cupcake ( a term I use very, very, very loosely here)...I struggled whether to expose it publicly, so don't say you haven't been warned!!

You can see Kennedi's little fingers have swiped some of the icing.  I'm still trying to decide if that didn't actually help out the looks of Pap Smurf's home!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Growing Boy!

Andrei had his 2 year well visit Monday morning.  He's now 35" tall and 29.7 pounds.  He's jumped from the 25% in weight to the 75% and has moved from the 50% in height to the 75%!  I think he's gonna be a big un! His head is still small; probably always will be our pediatrician said, but she wasn't concerned about it.  He was on track with all the developmental questions.  Yea!

I got out the girls' baby books to compare, and he's 2 inches taller and 5 pounds heavier than Annsley was at 2; he's only an inch behind Kennedi but weighs 3 pounds more than she did.  Not bad for a boy who got his start in a Russian orphanage! We are fixing to have to move to size 5 diapers as we're experiencing blow-outs and lots of leaks lately.  I've never bought size 5 diapers.  My girls were potty trained while still in 4s.  There are not as many diapers in a size 5 box.  A LOT less in fact.  Potty training is looming on the horizon--I can just feel it!

I made a short video of Andrei's year with us and put it up on our adoption blog.  Click HERE to check it out!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Look Who's Two!!

Our little Russian blessing turned two Sunday!! We had his birthday party on Saturday, and in honor of our Siberian Birthday Boy, snow fell the morning of his party. Since we had gotten the girls their own "highchair" cake for their first birthdays, I was leaning towards doing the same for Andrei.  A one year old maybe...maybe....eats a few bites or licks his fingers.  I have been able to watch Andrei with cake before, and that boy can put it away.  He's like his momma.  Birthday Cake or bust!  So, picturing Andrei devouring the ENTIRE little cake, me not thinking that is the best thing for his little body, listening to him scream when I take it away after he eats half of it, and then having to endure all the grandmas sympathizing with my screaming toddler, I opted for cupcakes instead.  As I predicted, he scarfed it down in nothing flat. 
2 Year Old Barnyard Bash! Thank You Fisher Price Farm Set for your support in this endeavor!

My attempt at Gum Paste animals...In case you can't decipher my little critters, you're looking at a pig who forgot the sunscreen, a cow in need of a stair stepper, and a slightly gene damaged sheep.

After 1001 pictures, give it a rest!!

Trying to light his own candles.

And yes, he did blow them out all on his own!!

Not bad.  Not bad at all...

60 seconds later, it's all gone!

The Party Goers

Gift Aftermath!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Can You Bottle Grandmas' Power?

I am constantly amazed at what our children's grandmothers can get our little darlings to do that Doug and I can't.  I've been trying to wash Kennedi's "White-White" (her white blanket--actually the term white is relative--) and "Puppy" (her nasty looking little stuffed Schnauzer with scratched up plastic eyes and super glued nose).  I have had no trouble in the past washing them until recently.  She watched Andrei throw a most ungodly temper tantrum when I washed his Taggie the other day, and since then she has refused to let me wash her loveys. 

Enter Gram, my mother.

Kennedi spent the night with Gram yesterday all by herself.  She's a totally different child when she's not competing with her older sister, and Annsley thoroughly enjoyed having her parents to herself  yesterday afternoon and last night.  Today Kennedi was unpacking her bag from her stay over and as she took "White-White" and "Puppy" out of the bag, she says to me, "Gram washed "White-White and Puppy."

She said it simply matter of factly.  No emotion.  She acted like it was a normal, every day sort of thing.

I said, "Really?"

She nodded and said, "Yes.  "Puppy came out first.  White-White had to so-o-o-a-k." (Heavy emphasis on soak.) 

"Gram soaked White-White?" I asked.

Kennedi says, "Yes.  In chemical.  Gram said "White-White" was too dirty to be in her beds."

No kidding.  White-White looked like he'd been tied to the back of a horse and dragged the distance of the Oregan Trail. 

Then she brings Puppy and White-White to me to inspect.  "See?" she says.  "Don't they smell good?" 

Yes, that was my point exactly, but what do I know???

Monday, February 13, 2012

According to Kennedi

Kennedi was by herself at the table the other day eating a snack.  Out of the blue, she turns around to me and says, "If you go to the sticks, you have to have breadcrumbs." 

Huh???? I asked, "What did you say?"

She repeats, "If you go to the sticks, you have to have breadcrumbs." 

I ask, "What are sticks?"

Kennedi says, "You know, those pointy things with prickly branches."

Okay....I'm still not up and running with this conversation.  "Why do you need breadcrumbs?

Very matter of factly she answers, "So the witch will not follow us.  It's wild in the sticks with witches, bears, and snakes!"

Call me slow, but I'm still not following.  Maybe you are at this point.  The whole "sticks" thing has me a bit confused.  "How do breadcrumbs help you?"  I'm thinking that if you have a trail of breadcrumbs, the witches, bears, and snakes CAN follow you. 

Kennedi says, "They help us get out of the sticks."

"How is that?"

She is becoming animated as she becomes frustrated at her mother's obvious shortcomings. With her little fingers gathered in a fist, she emphasizes, "Because the birds come.  They help us get out!"  (Gee Mom,  why aren't you getting it???!!! How much plainer do I have to make it?)

I'm still not up to speed.  "How do the birds help?"

"MOM! They eat the breadcrumbs, so the witch will not follow us!!!!" I think I'm following.  It's some kind of rendition of Hansel and Gretel??? I don't remember reading the story to her.  Ever.  "Where did you hear about these sticks Kennedi?"

She is aghast at my ignorance.  Again, her fists are pumping up and down.  "On my V-Reader!" 

At this point I'm thinking this is too good of a story to forget, and I grab a sheet of paper and start taking notes about our conversation.  She looks at me and asks, "Are you making a stick list? Make sure and put down it's wild in the sticks!....Are you putting that down??"

Now she realizes she might live in epiphany and begins to retell the entire tale again.  Upon the second reading, I finally get it.  The sticks are the forest trees.  The breadcrumbs help you get out of the forest, but you have to call for the birds to come eat the breadcrumbs or the witches, bears, and snakes will be able to follow you. 

Only through the eyes of a 5 year old!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where's Your Goat?

Sibling rivalry is high at our house.  I don't like it.  Annsley does a fantastic job of twisting the knife she just inserted into her sister's back.  Kennedi has a knack for sending her older sister "over the edge" with frustration. Doug is always reminding Annsley to not let Kennedi know where her goat is tied. Last night Kennedi was taking down Annsley's Super Bowl decorations and throwing them in the trash.  Annsley was beside herself and Kennedi was gleeful. 

Annsley was tearful and distressed about how mean her sister was and telling her daddy she didn't like her.  Doug pulled her up into his lap.  "You know, I was sure that Kennedi was going to be a boy," he told her.  Doug continued, "God told me when your mom was about 5 months pregnant that we would eventually have a boy, but this was a girl because Annsley needed a sister." 

Annsley was not impressed that her father had heard correctly from the Holy Spirit.  She just crossed her arms in a huff.  She got up and marched to the trashcan, and now she's really mad because she realizes that Kennedi has thrown away even more of her decorations.  I look at her and say, "Annsley, Kennedi is a gift from God..." and I continue with my lecture.  Annsley puts her fingers in her ears and starts singing.  Daddy Doug says to her the same thing he's been saying since she was four, "Annsley, don't let her know where your goat is tied."

Later that evening when Kennedi is taking her bath, I find Annsley filling up a ziplock bag with ice.  She has plans to tackle her sister when she is naked and force her to lie on the bag of ice.  I take her weapon from her and she marches to her room.  I find Annsley on her bed. "It's not fair." In all my motherly wisdom I say to her, "Annsley, it's a game to her.  She wants to see if what she does is going to get you upset.  You need to smile and not watch her.  Even if you don't say anything, but you snarl and cross your arms, she knows she got you.  And then she wants to take the next thing down to see if you'll react again."  Easier said than done.  It's so hard for adults to "take the high road" how can a little 7 year old who is just consumed with "now and the present" understand?  Then Annsley starts crying and says, "It's a mistake she's my sister!" 

I only know her pain too well.  Kennedi gets into her sister's stuff because she can.  Because it will upset the apple cart.  Because life is a game to her.  And not that she really wants to win, but throwing the confetti is more than half the fun.  It's who she is.  She is still tests the boundaries yet, but that will change soon.  Right now, we're working on Annsley's sense of humor.  She has very little.  Well, she actually has a lot-- it's just one sided.  She's great at dishing it out, just not very good on the recieving end. Unfortunately for Annsley, she is a lot like her mother.  Unfortunately for Annsley, Kennedi is a lot like her father.  Even today he still giggles when he thinks about doing something funny to somebody else.  Like father, like daughter!

FOLLOW UP**The next night after I typed this, I was so proud of Annsley.  Her sister was taking down yet another Super Bowl decoration to get a reaction out of her sister.  "Kennedi, does that belong to you?" I asked.  Annsley shakes my arm in an effort to get my attention.  She has this fake plastered smile on her face and says, "See Mom, I'm smiling."  Kennedi puts the decoration back and searches for a new stick to stir.  For now, though, it is a victory for my 7 year old!

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Lesson on Birth Order

I feel like the "education" part of my blog has been on the back burner lately.  Who wants to tune in every week simply for entertainment and to pass the "blahs?"  Let's get more bang for our buck and learn something at the same time!! So, I introduce to you...

Doug and I have studied extensively on the different personalities.  We could teach an all day seminar on them.  In fact, Doug often does.  If you've never studied the personalities, it is worth doing it.  It will help you with your co-workers, children, friends, spouse, etc.  I'm a melancholy (orderly, don't like surprises, analytical, cautious).  Doug's a sanguine (friendly, outgoing, loves being around people, emotional, spontaneous).  Don't think it didn't cause WWIII when we got married, and he used my toothbrush one morning!

But, I've never studied birth order.  And I wish I had.  The personalities made teaching junior high children so much easier, but this would have added to it.  (You know the kid with so much potential,  but he doesn't do a flippin' thing???)

As I've posted earlier, we've been reading some of Kevin Leman's books around here.  I decided to pick up The New Birth Order on the fly the other day.  I was in a desperate attempt to try to "figure out" Kennedi as she is now the middle child.  Middle children are not something our families (Doug or mine) has much experience with.  Just about everyone has/has come from an only one child or two. My motive was to get a download on middle children, but what I really got was a download on first borns. 

Annsley obviously is a first born.  However, because Andrei is the first born male, he will have many first born attributes despite him being the baby. Any child in the family who is 5 years+ younger starts a "new" family and becomes the first born. 

There isn't a lot about middle children.  Out of all the research out there, there is the least written and known about the middle child.  In fact, Leman states in his book that middle children are the most likely to be the well adjusted adults.  Counselors/psychiatrists see fewer of them than anyone else.  They actually see mostly first borns and only children!  Apparently, the skills that middle children learn being the middle child will serve them well later on.  Yea for Kennedi! You go, Girl! He did stress though to do things to make the middle child feel special as he feels "squeezed" by big sister and baby squeezed right out of the game in other words.  Point taken Dr. Leman!

Doug and I have been working on becoming recovering procrastinators this past year and surprise! A great deal of the book was devoted to first borns/only children and their perfectionism--and that perfectionism leading to procrastination!  And how we as parents influence them in that area and how we as the parents need to be mindful of the little things we do to them to further that perfectionism mentality.  An example he makes in the book:  Your 4 year old makes her bed.  You say, "That's a great job" as you smooth out the wrinkles.  She learns that her job wasn't really good enough.  They become so concerned with being perfect that many first borns/only children that it leads to procrastination because they have a fear of messing up--so they end up not doing anything. And yes, I know there are lots of reasons why people procrastinate.  But lots of people tend to procrastinate because of the perfection issue. 

Doug and I (both first borns) can write a book about that one.  We have already been able to witness that in Annsley.  Literally, she will take 45 minutes picking out a shoe to buy. She's doesn't want to bring home the wrong one.  In contrast, I took Kennedi the other day to buy some new shoes.  We walked into the first store and she tried on and bought the first pair of shoes she saw.  I've been catching myself after reading that book about "correcting" Annsley.  The other day she was folding laundry, and I just had to bite my tongue and sit on my fingers.  I all of a sudden got what Leman had been saying in his book. 

He also cautioned about piling all the responsibilities on the first born.  As he stated in his book, he said that so many first borns complained that they still had trash detail when they were in high school--meaning, their chores just kept adding and adding because "they were so responsible".  The "baby" chores weren't dropped from their list and given to their siblings. (For instance, the first born 10 year old vacuums, sweeps the floor, cleans the bathroom while her 8 year old sister wipes her booger on the front door that her older sister just shined to perfection because the only thing the 8 year old had to do was dust, and so she had time on her hands to stick a finger up her nose...OK, so Leman didn't say that in his book...perhaps I am dealing with some unresolved issues from my own childhood...) I've caught myself doing that with Annsley.  I know she will do a better job gathering all the trash and putting the trash bags in the cans, and she's been doing that since she was 4.  So I've rearranged some things and have Kennedi picking up some of Annsley's easier chores.  And I just have to take a deep breath when I go into the bathroom and find Q-tips spilled on the floor by the trash can and the bag not exactly the way I would have done it.  He also addresses the "dethronement" issue all first borns encounter when the next child is born, and he gives suggestions on how to handle that. 

It's been interesting because Doug and I have examined about how we were raised and having to deal with the whole perfectionism thing. It's really been an eye opener for both of us.  I remember thinking as I read those chapters that I felt so vindicated!  Yea! I knew there was a deep seeded reason why I would rip the heads off and drowned my sister's Barbies in the swimming pool or spend hours and hours and hours reading books on how to ski before I even skiid for the first time. (I needed to get as much information as I could so I would make the fewest amount of mistakes...and maybe, just maybe I would be able to ski like Jean Claude Killy right out of the box!)  I wasn't an island.  We first borns were a club! We had others out there who were card carrying members of the "Suffering First Born/OnlyChildren" and had very similar upbringings. (And to know that our first born/only child parents are card carrying members of the same club!) I don't know about you, but I always feel better when I realize that I wasn't the only one in the world.  Then I realized that this book wasn't so I could be validated in my shortcomings.  It was a wake up call to Doug and me to be watchful that we didn't take Annsley's natural first born giftings and create a liability in her.  Knowledge brings power! 

If you're into reading, check it out.  I know you'll learn something about yourself and those you love! Although the book largely in part discusses parenting your children, there are chapters about birth order in the workplace and marriages as well.  I give the book a "2 thumbs ups!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sappy Baby Bye-Bye

It's about all gone.  The baby stuff.  I don't know why I've been hanging on to it for so long.  Babies aren't happening around this place again.  In a pretense two years ago I said I didn't know how old Andrei would be when we brought him home and what he might need. But really, was he going to be using the Baby Einstein play floor gym?  Or that adorable Tommy Hilfiger navy blue dress in size 3-6 months?

I had thought my sister was being "sappy" when she got rid of her infant items/clothing/toys.  "I'll bet your storage room in empty!"  I attempted to celebrate.  "Yeah, but...." was all she said. 

I understand now.  I don't know what motivated me to do it.  I literally woke up three weeks ago, marched up to the attic, and brought down tub after tub after tub of baby clothing.  Then I noticed the baby swing.  Then I found the infant baby tub. And then it was the crib mobile.  And then, and then, and then... I made a quick call to the Crisis Pregnancy Center here in town and asked if they could use some infant items.  "Of course!  We'd be so thankful" the  nice lady on the phone said.  I told her I'd be there by the end of the week.  I knew if I didn't make a quick appointment I might chicken out.  So, thanks to the pregnancy center, Craigs List, GoodWill, various friends of younger children  and the NICU (where Annsley spent the first 21 days of her life) we're about all baby-ed out around here. 

Every night I'd show Doug my daily finds.  "Do you remember when Annsley wore this?"  or "Do you remember this?"  I think the girls had a lot of fun looking through all the stuff as well.  They kept asking if they wore this or played with that.  "Mom, tell me about when you put me in the carrier.  What would I do?  Hey, can't we keep the baby swing?  Andrei would like it.  Mom, did I like wearing those pajamas? Mom, why are crying?... Are you sad?" Yes, Kristin--I was the sappy one now! I made sure most of the items grouped together went to the same place/family.  It somehow made me feel better to think that one child would get the benefit of my girls' things instead of an item here and an item there.  I don't know if that makes sense, but I think that falls under sappy as well.

But now I have a lot of room up in the attic.  A lot of room.  You forget how much stuff you need for babies.  And now I have lots of empty plastic tubs.  Not to despair--I'm sure I will find a creative use for them. 

In my whirlwind clean out, I decided that it was time to get rid of the high chair.  Was it a "throw the baby out with the bath water" thing? Or was it wanting some more room back in my kitchen?  Or was it the reality hitting my 43 year old body that I have a toddler and my attempts to make Andrei older than what he is?"  I decided to get the booster seat out and see how Andrei did with it.  After all, he is only 23 months old.  He loves it!  He is so proud of "his chair".  He shows it to everyone who walks in the door.  And the best part is his plate hasn't ended up on the floor.  That was my big deal.  Gaining more room in the kitchen wasn't going to be worth it if I was going to be moping 4 times a day.  I don't think we'll be able to go back either.  He saw the high chair tray resting on the table yesterday, looked at me, and shook his head, "No."

Here are pictures of him in his "big boy chair" at breakfast the other day.  He ususally gets oatmeal, but he was enjoying a special treat of blueberry pancakes that day.  He's sporting his new cap his daddy brought home as well.  Doug thought he'd win some bonus points with the grandpas!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baby House #1

Last week a member of the Kras Yahoo group sent out a request of any who had adopted out of baby house #3.  He was trying to find others who had adopted about the same time and hopefully within their son's orphanage group.  There are approximately 100-150 children in each baby house, but they are grouped together in groups of 15 or so, and they stay within that group their entire tenure there.  Andrei was from the apple group--not their son's group.  We exchanged a few pictures, and I noticed that our children were not from the same orphanage either despite thinking we both were from baby house #3.  We had actually stopped at this orphanage to do paperwork, but then we traveled on to Andrei's orphanage. 

So, we started investigating. How could we both have #3?  There was another mom who had answered the request, and her daughter was from Andrei's orphanage AND was in his groupa!  Even though she brought home her sweet daughter 6 months after we did, she and Andrei would have been in the room together at some point.  So, I think that is pretty awesome that we can show him pictures later of one of his "groupies." 

The dad sent me a link with all the Krasnoyarsk orphanages listed on it.  There were two #3 Baby Houses listed there.  One was the orphanage where we had all been in to do paperwork (the actually orphanage was housed on the 2nd floor of that particular building), and another was listed there with the title Special Baby House #3 for Children with Mental Defectives.  That title just saddened me so much. I don't know if I had ever mentioned this, but an American couple whom we met at the orphanage had told us that this orphanage we were adopting out of was half special needs and half non-special needs.  I assumed, using that information, that this had to be Andrei's orphanage.

I decided to try out Google Earth and see if I could tell if this really was Andrei's orphanage.  I pulled up the address and I couldn't recognize a thing.  Then, this other mother emailed me saying she thought our children's orphanage was actually Baby House #1 as she had the actually address of the home.  I remembered Lena, our translator, reading the emblem at the orphanage and telling us it was baby house #1, but there was a #3 at the bottom of the emblem, and I had just always assumed she had misspoken.  So, back to Google Earth in search of Baby House #1.  And what do you know! That one IS Andrei's orphanage!  Here's a snapshot of it:
I even recognized the pharmacy where our coordinator would stop for those simply smashing little blue booties we had to wear.  If you click on the picture, it will enlarge it.  You can vaguely see the wall around the orphanage property.  We entered from the street, would drive through the gate, drive around the east side of the orphanage, and park on the west.  You won't find a parking lot for the workers to park in.  They didn't have cars.  Most of them walked or took the bus. 

(We're still trying to clear up the confusion of #3 being on the emblems.  Jenn has an email to our translator to see if we can get an explanation.)

The emblem causing all the trouble!
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