Jun 30, 2011

Shiny happy people

I was just telling someone that she could always feel good about reading my blog because it's "just real life."  I'm not fond of sugar-coating, and my emotional baggage is too full of guilt to knowingly attempt to foist it on someone else.  I don't think I have the market cornered on anything fabulous, and I'm mostly just bumbling along, trying to figure out how to raise my kids with a measure of joy...and without the house imploding by 5:00 p.m.

But as I perused my recent blog posts with the eye of a newcomer, I thought, "Woah.  This is a pretty great life here.  The kids are reading and biking and learning about science and the value of work.  Everyone is smiling and wearing clean clothes.  The baby is healthy and the husband can do anything and the three-year-old is miraculously getting the medical treatment he needs.  This family's life IS perfect."

And of course I agree; I am certainly grateful for all the good that's going on around here. Perhaps I'm not grateful enough.  It's possible that a more fervent counting of blessings would scrape me off the pavement on the hard days (and they're all hard days).  Every night this week I have told Garry, "I cannot do this ONE MORE DAY."  And I'm serious. As I am entering the eighth month of pregnancy I have officially donned my Crazy Lady hat, where everything is dramatic and nothing makes sense and life in general is overwhelming.

Consider for a moment what I have to work with.

Today I committed a cardinal sin.  I put Lexi in her car seat and buckled the straps.  GASP! This is completely, utterly unacceptable to a certain two-year-old, and my nefarious deed spawned ten minutes of the most ear-piercing shrieks you can imagine.  I suppose it wouldn't have been so terrible had I not been subjected to the same high-pitched wailing while navigating the aisles of Target with four children just ten minutes prior. The boys orbited the cart like Saturn's moons, each of them pinging off the end caps for the sheer joy of hearing the metal clang against their shoes.  Displays of sparkly toys, sugary treats, and commercialized t-shirts periodically pulled them out of orbit, requiring me to herd them along or sometimes use powerful magnetic forces (read: the threat of lost privileges) just to bring them back to the cart's general vicinity.  Little Miss Screamy just wanted to be another orbiting moon, not a captive of the cart, and she registered her objection in decibels.

Head-turning public displays aren't this family's only forte, however.  The fireworks fly in the comfort of our own home, too.  The seven-year-old is currently fond of the Major Meltdown, which can be prompted by just about anything.  Today his fits were prompted by my choice of writing assignment, the comfort of his underwear, the size of his baseball pants, the fact that we did not dine at a restaurant for lunch, the injustice of an unequal distribution of strawberries, and the need to repeat hand washing after doing a poor job. I'm starting to wonder if his hormones are out of whack like mine; we tend to fly off the handle with about the same frequency, but just for different reasons.  Maybe I should cut him some slack.

The three-year-old banged his head on the kitchen table during breakfast.  I didn't witness the event, but it left a nasty mark.  And then, while he was climbing out of the back seat of the van this afternoon, he caught his foot in a seat belt, fell three feet, and face-planted on the garage floor.  After nearly passing out (his reaction to pain), he had a giant knot on his forehead, which he steadfastly refused to allow me to treat with ice.  This happened after he was prematurely awakened from a much-needed nap (he was up at 6 a.m.) and could not be consoled.  Did he really spend half the day crying?  I kind of think he did.  He spent the other half changing his clothes.  His third and final outfit was an electric green swimming suit with blue sharks on it, paired with an inside-out-and-backwards orange t-shirt with a wide white stripe on the chest.  He wore this getup to Target AND the baseball game.  At the game he also proudly wore a Toy Story Band-Aid on his forehead.  Three cheers, my son!

A description of the day would not be complete without the antics of Mr. Nine, whose persistence in defying directions is mind-boggling.  When I prompt, "Sit up and curve your fingers, Zach,"  he arches his back, sticks out his elbows, and flattens his fingers onto the piano keys.  Every time he does this, I congratulate myself on saving these battles until now.  I knew this is how piano lessons would be, and here we are.  How does a parent combat such a strong will?  I'm laughing as I think of the possibilities.  I'm also groaning at the way this boy takes advantage of me, sucks on his white shirt collar while eating something chocolate, pokes holes in our window screens, never EVER flushes the toilet, and belches in front of my friends.

See?  It's just real life.  It's a good life...but boy howdy, I'm exhausted.

Jun 29, 2011

Baby update

I had a routine OB check-up on Monday.  I was nervous going in, since bed rest arrived during this stage of my pregnancy with Lexi.  Ten days ago, the PA told me my cervix was beginning to thin.  She brought up the idea of bed rest again, so I was pretty concerned about the possibility.

My appointment started with an ultrasound.  Chris, the technician, and I are on a first-name basis because I have seen her so often over the last few months.  I think I have about 30 ultrasound photos of this baby!  Chris has been doing growth scans (measuring the baby's head and belly circumferences, femur length, organ function, and fluid pockets) every three to four weeks since March, plus keeping an eye on my cervix.  Since I have about a dozen contractions a day at this point, frequent monitoring will continue.

Baby Girl (yep, still a girl -- I ask Chris to check every time!) is doing well.  She's a tiny thing, just in the 25th percentile or so.  Her current estimated weight is three pounds, nine ounces.  If she follows her growth trends and arrives at 40 weeks, she might only weigh about six and a half pounds.  It will be interesting to see what happens!  I'm pretty large, considering I have two months of pregnancy left.  I just close my eyes on the scale in the OB office.  But I figure that with feeling so lousy all the time I deserve whatever food I crave and/or can tolerate.  I'll lose the weight later.  And looking at this sweet baby profile makes me very, very happy!  She's worth all the discomfort.

Baby Girl is a wiggly little thing.  She is especially active in the evening when I lay down after the kids go to bed.  I can usually count on an acrobatics show, which can now be seen from the outside of my belly.  She's pretty shy when Garry or the kids place a hand on my belly.  While I sometimes wish they could feel what I feel, I cherish this time that the two of us have together.  Feeling her move inside me is easily the best part of being pregnant.  I always miss it when it's over.

Dr. Bianco had some excellent news for me: I have not made any progress toward delivery.  In fact, he said the PA mis-diagnosed a thinning cervix.  I'm not dilating at all, so the daily contractions have not been productive.  This is such good news!  I couldn't quite imagine how bed rest with four kids during the summer would play out.  I'm happy that my somewhat-functional status can remain as-is.  All of this could change quickly, but for now, I don't see the doctor again for two weeks.

The heat is definitely getting to me, though.  My hands and feet are always swollen now, instead of just at the end of the day.  I'm not sure if the heat is to blame for my nausea, which has been LOTS worse the last few weeks.  Do I have the flu?  Am I just crazy?  Who knows.  Thank goodness for Garry, who comes home whistling every day and doesn't seem to notice my deficiencies.

Jun 28, 2011

He's handy

This post is long over due.

Back in May, Garry built some fantastic shelves in the garage.   He built most from scratch but assembled and installed a few from a kit. They have increased our storage capacity significantly, allowing us to move frequently-used items like boxes of boy clothes and holiday decorations out of the inconvenient crawl space and attic.  I love the enhanced organization and functionality!  

Garry also employed his handiwork in refurbishing an old bookcase for the basement.  It was a cheap office store purchase back when we bought our first home.  It had definitely seen better days.  The bookcase was just a smidge too wide to put in a little nook between two closets downstairs, so it ended up in the garage.  When it was replaced with better shelves, Garry decided to figure out how to make it work in the basement.  He had to remove moulding and a light switch from the wall to make it fit.  With additions of bead board, trim, and paint, the bookcase now looks terrific.  I love the built-in look, and the case is a perfect storage spot for all of our scrapbook and photo albums.

In the midst of the garage and bookcase projects, Garry took a few minutes to install a rod in our laundry closet.  This is another three-years-in-coming project, but one I have enjoyed every day since it arrived.  I'm sure the treadmill appreciates not being used as an ironing rack, too.

Also last month, our 13-year-old KitchenAid mixer stopped mixing.  It made a horrible grinding sound.  We sighed a big sigh; this was a tragic development.  Garry figured he had nothing to lose by taking it apart, so he did!  He quickly discovered the source of the problem, fixed it, and managed to put the mixer back together in perfect working order.  He also thoroughly cleaned the KitchenAid, so it is in excellent condition all around.

Garry's latest attempted project (besides the fence staining, of course) was installing a whole-house fan.

Garry had grand plans for this relatively inexpensive cooling option for our house, but after some post-purchase research, we have determined this particular plan just isn't going to work.  Besides, routine maintenance on our furnace just revealed that furnace and water heater replacements are in our near future.  We'd better save our pennies (and Garry's efforts) for colder days.

Thanks for being so handy, honey!

Jun 27, 2011

Morning chore?

At 6:30 this morning the house was nice and cool (69 degrees!) so I took advantage and mopped the floor.  Zach and Tyler were completing their daily 30 minutes of reading (so we can climb towards our summer goal), and Gavin and Lexi followed suit.  

I loved hearing Gavin "read" Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? to his sister while his brothers got lost in their own novels (Fablehaven: The Rise of the Evening Star for Tyler and Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo for Zach).  Raising readers makes my heart happy.

Jun 26, 2011

Road Warriors

Garry, aka Super Dad, has generated excitement about bicycle riding in the family.  He is trying to make some healthy lifestyle changes and is including everyone in the fun!  So, in addition to beginning the Couch-to-5K program, Garry is planning to ride his bike to work sometimes and take the kids on bike rides.  On Thursday everyone rode to and from Tyler's baseball game (I drove).  Ever since then, the kids have been begging for an encore.  So, before the great staining project began, Garry took the kids on a 3.7-mile bike ride through our neighborhood.  We sure love living in an area where there are bike trails a-plenty!

Someday Baby Girl and I might join them.  But on this Saturday I enjoyed an hour to myself, which I devoted to laundry and the cleaning of bathrooms -- in peace!

Weekend Warriors

Garry and the boys tackled a HUGE project on Saturday: staining our new fence. Although the fence was a beautiful golden yellow we knew that stain would protect our investment and increase its life span.  The stain itself was pretty expensive, so Garry was determined that this would be a DIY project.

Garry enlisted the boys to help.  Zach and Tyler worked in rotating 30-minute shifts. After Garry sprayed on the stain, the boys followed up with a paint roller to distribute it more evenly.  And so they worked in tandem, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  The boys had a great attitude as they worked with their dad.

Saturday was quite warm -- in the 90's -- and Garry got fried by the sun.  He and the boys each had a rather bronze hue to their skin and clothing, as well.  The beautiful amber stain left its mark on lots of things besides the fence!

By dinner time, the day's work was done.  Unfortunately, the work wasn't, because they ran out of stain (15 gallons wasn't quite enough!).  So Garry will buy more this week and finish up one evening.  He has about 1/3 of the outside of the back fence (in the greenway) and the insides of the neighbors' fences to stain.  We are looking forward to the end of the fence project, but it sure has improved the appearance of our property!  Now perhaps we can turn our attention to the tragic lawn....

Jun 25, 2011


Gavin attended his first Occupational Therapy session yesterday.  He was thrilled to go since he had so much fun at his evaluation in April.  Because the therapist who evaluated him had a full schedule, Gavin will meet with a different lady on Fridays.  After 75 minutes with Dana yesterday, I am quite content with this arrangement.  She seems terrific, and she and Gavin connected well.

I felt a little awkward doing my usual photo documentation routine on the first visit, so I just observed and took notes.  The whole therapy process was quite fascinating, and although I don't understand all of the details that will roll out over the next few months, I am confident that OT is going to provide important skills for both Gavin and me.

Gavin's first session was all about assessing his physical strength and response to gross motor activities.  He had a fabulous time playing in the ball pit, walking on his hands like a wheelbarrow, swinging from a (low) trapeze and falling onto a crash pad, and riding and spinning on a platform swing.  He was SO happy!  Watching Dana work with him gave me ideas for activities at home, and Dana also instructed me on ways to help meet Gavin's sensory needs with joint compression and heavy pressure.

Near the end of the session, Gavin's impulsive nature took over and he jumped into the ball pit without asking.  Dana reminded him that there was only one rule in her gym, and she prodded him to articulate it.  The rule: ask before using the equipment.  Gavin knew the rule, and he knew he had broken it, but his response was unlike anything I had seen him do before.  Instead of screaming or throwing a fit, he was completely silent.  He hung his head and leaned against the wall.  After five minutes of encouragement, Gavin finally followed Dana to a mat on the floor, but he still wouldn't speak.  She talked to him and did gentle joint compressions on all of his limbs and hips and head.  He was so calm, but clearly felt badly about breaking the rule.  Gavin didn't get to do any more fun activities during the session (time was up), but I think that experience made a lasting impression!

I have a thick packet of reading material to study before our next session, and I'm also hoping to find some books to read that will help me better understand Gavin's needs.  We only have 19 insurance-covered therapy sessions (and without insurance they are $350 each!), so I want to ask as many questions as I can while I have face time with a therapist.  And, to be realistic, I'd better study up while Baby Girl is happy and quiet.  This should be quite a journey for all of us.

Jun 23, 2011

Mom Camp: Round Two

Yesterday I hosted a second group of kids for our summer Mom Camp.  It was a bad nausea day for me and the morning was rough, but we all pulled through and had a good time.

Based on lessons learned from Tyler's group, I made a few strategical changes for Zach's group.  First of all, I hired a teenager to help with set-up, implementation, and babysitting.  Gavin and Lexi napped for part of the time and were in Holly's care part of the time.  That was a huge improvement over last time.

Other changes happened as the science camp progressed.  I was really surprised, for example, at how much more...exuberant...the 8-12-year-old set was than their younger counterparts.  Wow!  I never knew a 12-year-old boy could be so chatty and loud!  The boys (and token girl) seemed to have a great time with our experiments.  Once again, we began with marshmallow-and-toothpick towers.  Zachary was thrilled to build the tallest freestanding structure, which stood about 13 inches high.  The kids were all very creative! 

We continued with science safety worksheets, and then made "lava lamps" in plastic bottles with oil, water, food coloring, and Alka Seltzer tablets.  These were a huge hit.  The boys discovered that adding multiple tablets made for a more energetic reaction in the bottle, leading to greater air build-up.  The kids all enjoyed unscrewing the bottle tops when the bottles were especially full and watching the caps fly through the air.  Zach was the only kid to spill his colored water, thank goodness.  Hopefully food coloring comes out of clothing as well as it wiped off the wood floor.

Next we made "oobleck,"  which turned out to be an extremely messy venture.  Who knew boys could have so much fun with slime?  It was hilarious to watch them experiment with and color their goo.  We watched this fun video clip of people walking across a pool of oobleck.  Pretty fun!

After these activities the kids clearly needed to burn some calories, so I sent them out to the backyard to RUN.  Holly supervised and I joined them after 15 minutes or so (I cleaned up and answered a couple of important and well-timed phone calls).  After a Popsicle snack we enjoyed two outdoor activities.

The first involved vinegar and Alka Seltzer tablets inside film canisters.  Depending on how the kids positioned them, the canisters either shot in the air like rockets or the lids popped off.  What a blast (literally!).

And then, for our grand finale, we launched Coke and Mentos geysers.  I instructed the kids better this time, so the geysers were lots more effective and I got better pictures.  Zach set off the last geyser, and in my concentration to capture a great photo, I didn't notice that he positioned his head directly in the stream of soda.  That diverted the geyser directly into me.  Fantastic!  I didn't wash the Coke out of my hair until this morning.

At the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, but I think we all had a good time.  I sent eight dirty and hyper boys home to the parents, which means I did a good job as a hostess, right?  I know one boy who was super happy.

Jun 22, 2011

Catching up

The summer days have been much busier than I expected they would be.  I run here, there, and everywhere most days, and look forward to the rare day (or segment of a day) without an obligation.  Time for myself or things that I like to do (such as blogging, for example) is definitely on the back burner.  But overall, summer has been much better than I expected, too. Here's a brief recap on the family goings-on.

This girl is full of questions:
"Tan I see?"
"What is dat?"
"What are you doing?"
"Why?  Why?  Why?"

She loves to be involved, to help with the details, and to do everything HERSELF.  If we do something for  Lexi, like put on her shoe, pick up a towel, wipe her face, fasten her car seat buckles, lift her into the car, close the door, or pour the milk, she completely loses her cool.  Lexi absolutely cannot handle being helped against her will.  It's much easier (and faster, and quieter) to just let her do what she wants to do.

Sweet Lexi also really likes to "read" scriptures with the family and "say" prayers.  Hearing her repeat verses from the Book of Mormon is pretty tender (even in between slurps of breakfast cereal), but my personal favorite is hearing Gavin help her say a prayer.  Gavin will offer a few words and Lexi will copy.  Tonight t hings went kind of like this:

Gavin: Help us have a good day after breakfast. (Yeah, we had cereal for dinner.)
Lexi: Dood day after bref...bref...cereal.
Gavin: Brekkkkk....brekkkkk...
Lexi: {silence}
Gavin: Lexi, say 'breaKfast.'
Garry: Gavin, move on.

The rest of us could hardly contain our laughter.

Last week Gavin helped me plant flowers in the front bed.  This may have been the highlight of his week.  He absolutely loved digging in the dirt, inserting the flower, patting the soil, and watering with fertilizer.  He was actually a pretty good helper for a while...and he had a great time.  Bonus!  Gavin is also very fond of playing with a new t-ball set we picked up for him.  It's his favorite back yard distraction right now.

One of Gavin's new traits is announcing, several times a day: "I have a question."  He's also using fun words like "impressive," "accomplished," and "fantastic."  For all of his intense behaviors, we are sure enjoying his colorful vocabulary.

We are currently pursuing a preschool option for Gavin with the school district.  At his initial screening yesterday, Gavin was his usual spirited self, but I was surprised to hear today that the Child Find specialists are willing to conduct a full evaluation in July.  We believe that these preschool years will be critical for helping Gavin learn to function properly in a classroom.  We hope the right situation will open up for him.

Mr. Ty finished up track camp last week and loved every minute.  At the second meet he chose to run the 50 meter dash (9.3 seconds) and the 4x100 meter relay (1:14).  He also threw the discus (20'3").  Tyler really enjoyed the water balloon fight at the end of the meet, too.

Tyler is still our most prolific reader.  Right now he is plowing through book two of the Fablehaven series.  He is blossoming on the piano.  I especially love listening to him sing the words to each song that he learns to play.  He is very enthusiastic!  He is also making progress on singing on pitch, which is fun to note.

Last week, cub scout day camp was certainly a highlight for Zach.  He did all sorts of amazing things during his days in the woods, like hiking, fishing, rock climbing, BB gun shooting, archery, painting, and building and practicing other practical skills.  Zach came home sweaty and dirty and exhausted every night.  On the last day of camp, Tyler and I joined Zach for a closing ceremony in Black Forest.  The Native American dancers and yummy snacks made for a fun evening.

Zach has since decided to work on earning some scouting belt loops.  The first one he earned was for skateboarding.  I worry about his safety on such a contraption (I guess I'm old school), but Zach enjoyed experimenting for a while.  I loved all of his sound effects, which mostly came when he lost his balance, and seeing his tongue curl or stick out -- that's Zach's sign of concentration.

Last night I came home from visiting teaching to find Zach's ratty monkey on my computer keyboard.  He "won" this from a vending machine in Kingman, Arizona last summer.  One of the monkey's arms came loose the other day and Zach apparently got impatient while waiting for me to fix it.  So late last night I sewed it up and tucked in bed with my sleeping boy.

It's been a busy work week for Garry, fraught with problems and setbacks and difficult projects.  Next week should be a little better, but he'll be slammed during the first week of July.  Fun times!

At home, life isn't much calmer; he just spends less time on the phone and computer and puts out fires face-to-face.  On Monday night Garry fished a toothbrush out of the sink pipes and unclogged a toilet filled with about a roll and a half of toilet paper (and various other substances).  Luckily, he was laughing as he worked.  He said, "Sometimes I wonder if this is really my life!"  Haha.  Me too.

My last OB appointment was Friday.  Baby Girl continues to be healthy and super active.  Hooray!  It seems that a new issue crops up for me every couple of days, but I am happy to be in the home stretch.  At 30 weeks, my due date still seems a bit distant, but signs continue to point toward the possibility of early delivery.  We'll know more next Monday after an ultrasound and more monitoring, but the doctor has already brought up bed rest.  So now I'm torn between panicking that it's too early for the baby to come and panicking that bed rest seems completely impossible.  This week we bought a package of diapers and washed all of the newborn stuff.  It won't be too long until we're using such things!

Jun 20, 2011


If you can guess which child performed which act of mischief today, you get a special prize.  I'll be surprised if anyone gets 100%!

A. Clogged the toilet with half a roll of toilet paper.
B. Covered the wood floor with water and ice to see how it aided in human locomotion.
C. Dismantled several pens and used the springs to shoot people.
D. Ate three English muffins for a snack at 5:00 p.m.
E. Filled the ride-on dump truck's storage compartment with toilet water (separate from Incident A).
F. Ripped apart two fuse bead creations, bead by bead, and scattered the remains all over the carpet.
G. Ran away.

In addition to all of this craziness, I tripped on a stair while walking in from the garage this morning and landed flat on the floor.  I saw a chiropractor tonight who declared me "all out of whack" and produced some pretty impressive snap-crackle-pop action.  Sometimes I think the chiropractor is full of hocus pocus, but since my headache disappeared in the hour after my visit, I'm hoping he can help me. least with the back pain.  As for the rest of it, I plan to medicate with Oreos.

Jun 19, 2011

Daddy's Day

We sure love the Daddy at our house!  Father's Day was pretty low-key this year, but Garry enjoyed a nap, a break from Sunday dinner duty, chocolate chip cookies for dessert, and some fun cards from the kids.  We all laughed out loud during dinner while Garry read the surveys the kids filled out about/for him.  A few of the funny quotes:

From Lexi:
What does Daddy do to relax?  Makes me mac and cheese.
What is Dad's favorite thing to do alone?  Fixing away.
What does Dad love to do with you?  Sing Child of God.

From Gavin:
What does Daddy do to make you laugh?  Farts funny sounds.
What does Daddy do when he's alone?  Play with costumes and lost people.
How tall is Dad?  60 feet away.

From Tyler:
How tall is Dad? Six feet, four inches.
What's something Dad always says to you?  "Hi, Ty."
If Dad was a superhero, he would be super strong and transformable.

From Zach:
What is something that Dad always says to you?  Please be good while I'm at work.
What does Dad do to relax?  Falls asleep.
What's your favorite thing to do with Dad? Go fishing.

Garry's gift was a new bicycle (noticing a theme this year?).  He was thrilled to replace his old bike, which was a hand-me-down from his dad when we were newlyweds.  For our anniversary we bought a used bike trailer, hoping that family bike rides could become a tradition.  Gavin and Lexi were thrilled with this development when they took a spin around the block on Saturday.

I'm sure grateful for the super-Dad Garry has become.  He is the preferred parent by far, always doing fun things for the kids and being very hands-on during the hours he is at home.  He's the resident bedtime guru, bike fixer, ball thrower, puzzle builder, game player, and outing taker.  The kids are always thrilled when he returns after a day at work, but I don't think anyone is more happy than I when Daddy comes home.

Remembering Spencer

On Tuesday, June 7, Garry learned that his cousin, Spencer Waite, had died suddenly in a tragic accident. Garry immediately made plans to attend the funeral in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although the funeral was a terribly sad occasion, it was wonderful for Garry to spend some time with his family at their home.  Zach and Tyler visited Logandale last summer, but the rest of us haven't been to Nevada since December 2008.

Garry arrived in Las Vegas on Friday around lunchtime.  He enjoyed a meal with his parents and sister (Heidi) at their favorite Mexican restaurant, Macayo.  That day he also got to visit with some high school friends who still live in his hometown of Logandale.

Spencer's funeral was held on Saturday in Las Vegas.  It was a wonderful celebration of Spencer's life and a beautiful reminder of the Plan of Salvation.  Spencer's death is certainly tragic, but it is tempered by the knowledge that he is part of an eternal family, that his spirit has been reunited with that of his father, Garry, who died 13 years ago this week, and that we will all see him again someday.

Garry deferred most of the picture-taking to his mom, who had a nice camera, but somehow that camera and all of the pictures from the funeral were lost.  The cell phone photos in this post aren't awesome or all-inclusive, but they are the best we've got.

This is Garry and his Aunt Paula, Spencer's mom.

Garry with Paula's son, Ryan, and Garry's Grandma Terry and sister, Heidi.

Spencer's brother, Oliver, and Grandma Terry.

Garry and his cousin, Julie Terry.

Garry with Spencer's brother, Mason (recently graduated from law school), his wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Claire.

Our hearts go out to Spencer's dear family and friends during this difficult time.  We love you!

pass it on!

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