Tuesday, August 2, 2016

One-on-One: Making the most of the moments



A few years ago I found myself in 'parenting' conversation with a stranger. Her children were older than mine by about 10 years and she was telling me about The 12-Year Trip.  She and her husband took each child, at age 12, on a vacation of their choosing.  Beyond the fabulousness of being able to pay for that (cha-ching!), I found myself thinking of all the great places my little ones may choose.  My husband, the realist, decided that was a little extravagant for our family.  "Besides if we have money to do that let's just take a trip alone". Which we did (read about it here). And it was awesome.




I didn't, however, forget the notion of The 12-Year Trip, and when I found out that a trip to Las Vegas was going to be necessary for my son's soccer team I admit I was probably as excited as he was.  Although it has been a pretty good year for us, the idea of getting him to myself for three nights was really attractive.  I generally attend all his games, but I usually have his sisters (and sometime brother too) on the sidelines. The idea of a weekend 1:1 interspersed with soccer and food and some Las Vegas shenanigans was pretty cool.

Seriously who looks more excited?
One-on-one all my kids are fabulous, but as a crowd they can be a little much at times even for their mother. Just sayin' what we all feel. As a family we do what we can to steal away 1:1 time with the kids. My husband does daddy dates with the girls.  He also coaches JR's team now and they get lots of time away together.  He drives the carpool for Anthony's team giving him a chance to debrief each week as well.

I take lunch to the kids at school once a week. Their lunch times are back-to-back and I can sit at their table, share the meal and chat with them and their buddies.  If we want we can take the meal outside and sit alone which we do about 1/2 the time.

When Anthony left our parish school and started attending the local charter school, I lost my lunch time with him. We still have plenty of time together in the car, but often he is doing homework and his sisters are almost always around. He is up later than his siblings so we still get more time alone with him, but I am usually exhausted then.  As he grows physically in stature I am faced with a a physical reminder of the reality that my time with him is limited.  I feel as though I am going to blink and the next thing I know I will be packing his bags for college.

With this in mind, his soccer trip became OUR soccer trip and I planned out some great fun for the two of us.  We ate at the buffet, he rode his first roller coaster, he played soccer, rested, played more soccer and ate more fabulous food. We were able to do what we wanted without negotiating the desires of four other people and I was able to appreciate a kick-back attitude that I rarely notice at home.  As the eldest he is full of opinions on how we parents his siblings and we were able to talk those through just the two of us. I pushed him though his fear and made him ride his first REAL roller-coaster.  We found an amazing patio overlooking the strip for our last dinner in town and we had a wonderful meal with his coach's family.  I goofed up on directions (I zigged when we should have zagged) and we wandered and wondered and just had fun together.  For the first time, my son really experienced a real vacation- not just a family trip.

Taking him on this trip solidified something between us.  He is on my side now in a really cool way and I am appreciating it as long as it lasts.  Our time together let him see my humanity in a way that I don't think he sees often enough at home.  At home I am the cook, the cleaner (sometimes), the taxi driver, the shopper, the babysitter... I fill a number of roles and responsibility. This trip gave him a chance to see me aside from all of those roles and I was just me. I laughed, I loved, I supported, I ate, I wandered, I was easygoing. I didn't have to wipe noses or cut up food or worry about nap times or doctor appointment.  I could have a glass of wine and watch a football game with my son and just hang out. I could venture out for a morning cup of coffee and to his delight bring back a bagel for him to nosh on in bed.

One-on-one time with your growing ones is a beautiful gift.  As they get older that 1:1 time becomes ever more important because they are able to pay attention to who you actually are when you are not being pulled in 100 different directions.  Being a middle-child, I don't remember getting good 1:1 time with my parents until I got married, had a child, and moved away. They came to visit and it really was the first time I had more than a few hours alone with them. I cherish those days we had together and I hope Anthony remembers this trip and all of our special moments together.

How can you carve our special moments with each child? What special memories do you have of 1:1 time with your parents?

Thanks for stopping by!





Friday, July 29, 2016

Maui Trip Tips and Tricks


Aloha!!
This year I turned the big 4-0 and my husband and I took off for a little R & R alone.  After our more recent road tip, we were ready to leave the children in very capable hands for 6 days. Maui was our destination of choice for a real vacation. We had always wanted to go to Hawaii having never been before, and we decided that it was too expensive for us to take the family.




















Getting There
Maui is one of the islands that had direct flights from Arizona so that also made the long flight less daunting, and cost-co offered a pretty decent package deal with airfare, hotel, and car rental. At the airport we were given a great 'deal' to upgrade our sedan to an open top jeep (yes please). After some debate we had the price dropped to an extra $100 total for the week and it was the best spent $100 of the trip.

We had a few choices on where to stay and we opted for a condo with a kitchen, right on the beach, in Lahaina.

We were able to cook some of our dinners and eat them pool side, walking out the gates of the hotel onto the beach to watch the sun drop.









Lahaina is also a great place for shopping and touristy stuff.  Many of the Luas are in Lahaina and there are a few good places to eat as well.  A short drive gets you to the Safeway for supplies, and a short walk lands you at the harbor where all the dinner cruises, snorkeling adventures, and pretty much anything on the water happens.




Lahaina is on the dry-side of the island and offers the islands amazing views of the sunsets.  It is nestled between the mountains and the shoreline.  We slept with the curtains open and had an amazing view to wake up to each morning.  Coupled with our fabulous sunset each night and it really couldn't have been a better location. If Ka'anapali is a resort town, Lahaina is a beach town. Accessing the actual beach can be tricky if you dont know where you are going.  If you are just visiting the town for some good food and the beautiful sunset, park where you can find a spot, and then head over to the harbor.  On the south side of the harbor you will find beach access. You can walk this beach for quite a ways as you pass just a few condos, many more beach houses, and even a little park. If you come at sunset you can even take a peak at the Feast of Lele Luau.





Things to Do
There are a ton of free things to do on the Island!  Our base camp, Lahaina was just a short drive from places like the upscale shops at Whalers Village, the Blowhole at Pipoa Point, and Honolua Bay.  The blowhole was fun but be sure you dont get too close.  People die there 'all the time' according to one local we spoke with. The hole call suck you in! The bay we just happened to discover along the way and it was amazing!




Honolua bay is great for snorkeling, swimming and even paddle board yoga.  I think one of the coolest things about The Bay is that it is accessible through a little rainforest path. 


If you are a water-fall lover you will have to take the road to Hana.  Hana is a sleepy little town on the East side of the island towards the bottom. It is a a curvy road filled with switch backs (I read there are 617 of them) and it carries you down the coast and in and out of rain forests.  Single lane bridges and hairpin turns make the trip slow, but also enable you incredible glimpses of waterfalls.  Be prepared to stop anywhere you can park along the road.  Hop out and look for paths back to the waterfalls. We found two amazing falls with great swimming holes and I was able to cross something off my bucket list!

As you continue south along the road you come to arboretums (which we skipped) and little fruit and snack stands (also skipped).  We packed our lunch and ate it at the Wal'anapanapa Wayside Park. This park has black lava beaches and trails that run along the coast.  We took one trail thinking it was a loop and turned back after a mile. We weren't disappointed thought! Succulents grow right out of the sharp black lava rack and it is striking in its beauty. The park was jammed packed with tourists so it was nice to get away from the crowds and explore. There is an awesome pirate cave to walk through at the beach so be sure to check that out. I have a few more photos of that beach, more waterfalls, the beautiful succulents, and the cave on my Instagram feed.








Tip: Wear good shoes! I was shocked at the number of folks wearing flip-flops. My fit-bit tracked us at over 20K steps that day (that is over 9 miles) and we wouldn't have gotten to the most beautiful places without good shoes. I had a pair of keens and my husband had a pair of speedo shoes and our feet were happy all day. We were able to cross slippery rocks and easily enter and exit the water as we wanted.

After Hana, you can continue South on the Hana Highway to the pools at Ohe'o Gulch.  About three miles before the park there is a wonderful waterfall, swimming holes and accessible with just a short hike. They also had a stand selling 'jungle jewelry' for amazingly cheep prices so we did a little souvenir shopping after our swim.  It was good that we did our souvenir shopping cheep because admission to the National Park was $20 a car.  The Haleakala National Park runs all the way from the crater to the coast so Ohe'o Gulch is actually National Park Land.  The admission tickets was good also at the crater which is accessible from the center of the island, but we didn't have time to see that. The admission price was understandable when you got going on the hike.  We took the Pipiwei trail to Waimoku Falls which is 2 miles in and 4 miles round trip. The trail takes you through the rainforest, along the Seven Sacred Pools, and into the bamboo forest.

The bamboo forest was spectacular. The trail ends at the Waimoku falls, which is impressive, but like the Drive to Hana, the journey to the falls in worthy the effort alone.

We were feeling brave, and had upgraded at the last minute to an open top jeep, so we continued south from the National State Park.  The road south of Kipahulu is not recommended for tourists, but the locals we spoke with all suggested we take it. We clarified with the Park Ranger that the road was open and accessible for us and he since we were in a Jeep he suggested we take the less populated south road.

The road south was rugged in places and less maintained than the earlier stretches of the 37 but we loved it.  We were able to see the change in the island from rainforest, to almost a high desert, to lava land, all while driving along the side of the ocean. It was breathtaking in its beauty.  The total trip around the island too us about 12 hours and that included a quick stop at Walmart to grab more water before returning to Lahaina. We left about 645 so were got back just in time to watch the sunset.

We sat through a timeshare proposal which was only mildly distasteful in order to get free passage on the whale foundation boat for a snorkeling eco adventure done by the Pacific Whale Foundation.  All of the crew are actual college educated, some at the masters level.  They are highly knowledgeable about not just boating but sea-life.  We had a great crew!  The boat took us around Lanai to the cliff side where we snorkeled for a few hours. We were served a light breakfast, lunch and drinks on the boat and even encounter a huge pod of spinner dolphins. The dolphins themselves were worth the sea sickness.  My recommendation - take some dramamine with you! Getting sick at sea was rotten and really put a damper on the whole excursion!

A note about booking your excursions.  Check the weather and plan accordingly. We had hoped to do the drive to Hana earlier in the week because it was our #1 thing to do - but the weather was bad the few days before we arrived. We had rain before us and rain forecasted for the day after we left, but beautiful weather while we were on the island. That meant that all the roads were a little soggy, the snorkeling wasn't going to be clear for a few days, and the people that had been on the island for a few days already while it was raining were itching to get in a boat or helicopter and start seeing the island. On Monday, the only available snorkeling tour was on Thursday and we were not able to get our 'first choice' boat and tour to see the sea turtles. We still got a great trip, sea sickness aside, but if you are serious about doing something then check the weather and book for the right day early. Give yourself a few days after a rain before trying to snorkel too. Murky water means you can see much and also is the only real time you need to worry about sharks.

One evening we took in a show - The Ulalena show in Lahina.  We got 2:1 tickets through our concierge and we were so glad we went! The show gave us a little glimpse into the culture of the island and provided a nice relaxing night. The Maui Theater is very small so you dont' need to upgrade your seats. There isn't a bad seat in the entire place. The show was just over an hour and we were out in time to see the sunset and grab some dinner. I was really glad we did that rather than the Lua.  The resort we were staying at was next door to the Lua and we snuck a few glances. It was not nearly as impressive as the show we had seen.  The academic in me was itching to know more about Hawaii culture and history so we did a little reading after the show.  I highly recommend reading up on the island before you come.



Where to Eat
In your own kitchen.  Hawaii isn't know for its fabulous food. There are a few local dishes like Kahula Pork tacos or Loco Moco (a burger toped with an egg and smothered in gravy served over rice), and of course get some shaved ice. Lahaina has a shaved ice stand across from the harbor and you can grab a humongous shaved ice to eat while you walk the beach at sunset.

Lahiana 
Lucky for us Lahaina town has "The Best Burger" in Maui 12 years in row.  This awesome dinner called The Cool Cat Cafe even has gluten free buns (you can't see it but I really did a happy dance).  We ate there twice. They also have good happy hour drinks and specialize in their burgers and shakes (which they can make in for the 21 over crowd).  They have a little air hockey table inside and a few arcade games to keep the 21 and younger crow happy too. We did a little research before we went and we asked around to all the locals and found Aloha Mixed Plate - the food was mediocre.  It was nice that they actually had parking. They provide the food also for one of the Luaus - think about paying hundreds of dollars for mediocre food!  We also tried Malo, a greek-type place, and they had some pretty good gluten free flatbread. We hit Safeway a few times and tried very hard not to over buy.  We got some fruit and breakfast foods as well as stuff for a few dinners.  Our resort had a grill and we kept meals very un-complicated.  We generally only at one meal out each day.

Paia
Two of our favorite meals were in Paia.





Mama's Fish House has been around forever and had amazing (and expensive!) seafood.  Turn after you see the fishing boat on the left and if it doesn't look right you turned just a little too soon.









It is off the highway and down the road from town but there is a reason everyone recommends it.  They have a little private beach, valet parking, and you can still go in your bathing suit.

I






Another gem in Paia is Charleys. We stopped there for breakfast and for $25 got a breakfast burrito and a Huevos Rancheros. The servings were HUGE and the meal was excellent. It is more of a western style saloon that plays classic rock music. It felt a little out of place but the food was dynamite.

What to Pack
Are you ready to get the suitcase out?  Leave your jeans and sneakers at home.  Really. I didn't even bring socks. I am a total jeans and t-shirt sort of girl but I am glad I saved some space in the suitcase. It is humid here so you don't want tight stuff.  Bring a sundress or two, a pair of shorts, sunscreen, a few tank tops or t-shirts, swim suit and cover up, flip flops, water/hiking shoes, hat, snorkel set, and maybe a sweater or hoodie if you tend to get chili. I brought two nice pair of sandals too and that was a waste. Bring a backpack for hiking and towels unless your hotel provides them (we called before hand to be sure). Everyone is casual here so pack accordingly.

Hawaii is a magical place. On the North and East side of the island everywhere you turn you see shocking beauty. Keep in mind that I am not a photographer and I took all these photos with my iPhone! The beauty here is such a visible reminder of God's great love for us, and His enormous creative power. To be surrounded by such varied beauty gives us a glimpse of His majesty and is a great example of how diverse the nature of beauty actually is. Beauty does not come in just one form and neither does God's love for us.  There is something for everyone and God's love is for everyone too.  For more photos of the trip and other "normal life adventures in parenting" follow me on Instagram @parenting_with_peer_review.


Safe and  Happy travels and Mahalo for stopping by!










Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Growing Together in Christ with Blessed is She

About once a month I send you all a lovely little Facebook message to let you know I am the writer of the day for Blessed is She.  Blessed is She is the online community that sends the daily reading and devotional to your inbox while you sleep each night. I love Blessed is She because it has allowed me, for the first time really, to get into a routine of reading God's word daily.  Behind the scenes as a writer, it has been amazing to get to know 50 or so powerhouse Catholic women who work as writers or editors or graphic artists or photographers.


Jenna, our founder and creative director, wants our Blessed is She community to grow in depth not just numbers, so she is working with the writers to create webinars now too. Bonnie Engstrom will be giving the first webinar on July 12th on the topic of Building Intentional Communities. I love this idea because it will give the readers a chance to start engaging with the writers and one another in real time albeit still over the web.  I will be hosting a session on Intentional Parenting in December and there will be various topics at least once a month for paid subscribers.

Yes, I used that word. Paid subscribers.  In order to grow the community we need to have a consistent revenue source.  People say the web is free but it really actually isn't when you have a web presence as large as BIS.  For $9.99 a month or $99 a year you get the monthly (or more) webinars, plus we will send you the Advent and Lent journals automatically shipped to your door.  No more having to order them before the season starts (and find your purse and type in all those numbers).  Just sign up once and you will have access to everything.

Side note: If you haven't actually been to the site you should just check it out. They have some really beautiful stuff in their store too!

I hope you will join me in joining the Blessed is She community and together we will continue to grow in Christ.  Click here to join! 




Friday, June 17, 2016

Family Road Trip Survival Guide




Our most recent trip from Arizona through New Mexico and into the mountains of Colorado prompted my dear friend (who I will just call NW) and I to throw together this Road Trip Survival Guide. Before meeting us in Colorado, NW and her family of 8 took a huge trip from Arizona to Indiana and back again hitting up 10 states in the process. They are veteran road trippers (last year they went AZ to DC!) so I have taken notes from them, on this and many other areas of our parenting journey.  The result is this Family Road Trip Survival Guide. 

Plan Your Route
Spontaneity is great and all, but putting in a little extra time and energy to research the best route, complete with stops for food and fun can make or break a trip. Sometimes the best route is not the shortest route. A route that adds 30 minutes, but includes a great hotel for the night or an awesome hike can be a huge bonus. Interesting drives with elevation changes and changes in vegetation can also be great for the kid who just likes to look out the window. Hours of looking at the same landscape can make the driver a little bit crazy too.  Map your trip a few different ways and then look to see what works best. AAA will do a triptik for you online (click here) but if you want their free books and maps you have to be a member. You also need to order them weeks ahead of time. 




Stop Along the Way
Don’t be afraid to stop and let the kids run, hike, or play a while. Giving everyone a chance to get in a hour or so of play time or exercise with lift everyone’s spirits and reduce the overall grumpiness in the car.  Taking a decent stop will also break your driving up into two smaller trips rather than one big trip.  Give your kids and yourself the ‘goal’ of getting to the hike, not the end of the day stop.  Let them know you will drive for, say four hours, and then stop for a snack and a hike, or park with some equipment.

Where You Stay Matters
Where you stop to lay your head at night makes a difference.  We are huge fans of the Embassy Suites chain (book here).  They have two room suites and sleep 6 easily.  Each hotel has a manager reception in the evening complete with snacks and free adult beverages. After driving all day the last thing we want to do is make the kids sit in a restaurant. We want them to fill up on some healthy snacks and then head to the pool for a pre-bedtime swim.  We generally don’t buy dinner that night because after eating out for lunch and snacking all day in the car, we just need a little something in the tummies.  My man-child needs a little something more now that he is a teen, but that means only feeding one (not 6!).  When we have missed the reception (typically only goes to 7 or 7:30) we have ordered pizza and had it delivered to the hotel.  It is much cheaper than room-service and it is fun to eat poolside. 




The Embassy Suites can also contain all our family in beds and they have a free full-breakfast which is nice.  Dad can take the kids down to eat while I pack up (or vice-versa) and the children can fill their tummies before we hit the road.  We paid a little more for the room, but got dinner, drinks, and breakfast without a drive so it works for us. 

Books on Tape and Travel Apps
Find an app like Overdrive (click here) where you rent from the library and it is free.  You can link multiple libraries to the account. Audible (click here) is also great because it has a free initial trial period. You can down load a book and then turn it on when the kids start bickering on the second half of the day.  The story can lull the little ones to sleep and keep those bigger ones from complaining. Book ideas are at the end of this post. Just click on the title and it will bring you to the link.  My friend Phoebe also has a great app called PlateGames (click here).  Basically there are 4 different License Plate Bingo games you can download and play. 


Food Fun
Provide a little food fun for them along the way.  We are a mostly gluten-free family so we pack a mini-ice chest with salami and cheeses, fruit, beef jerky, and granola bars.  For our last trip I made blueberry muffins before we left and those were a big treat (although in hindsight they were a little too crumbly for the car!).

Reward System
A few years back when we had an Arizona-Oregon road trip during which we implemented a reward system called Daddy Dollars.  Each hour we give each child a Daddy Dollar. That Daddy Dollar is earned by good behavior. Hitting your sibling, complaining, whining, and asking “how much longer” are all behaviors that result in no Daddy Dollar for the hour.  Showing the virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, charity, love, hope, self-control, sense of wonder etc.) result in extra daddy dollars. For instance, if our kids are looking out the window and express amazement at the beautiful scenery, they get an extra Daddy Dollar. If they help their sibling reach something – extra daddy dollar.  Anything that encourages them to look away from the i-pad and engage positively with the world around them gets them a Daddy Dollar. We are super generous with the dollars!  The last leg of a trip we often do a bonus hour because it is a lot harder to be nice when you have been driving all day. At each stop we let them look in the store (kept in the back of the car) and purchase items. The store is filled with coloring books, magazines, travel games, and even credits for the app store. Additionally we will let the older ones purchase junk food at gas stations using Daddy Dollars. It is vacation after all.

Something Special
As it the trip weren’t enough… it can be fun to do a little something extra for the kids.  I ordered a little pillow stuffing (amazon delivered it the same day!!) and picked up some cheep fabric at the fabric outlet, and made little pillows and a blanket for the trip.  I did break two needles and messed up my brothers machine after I broke mine (sigh), but in the end the kids each had a perfect size travel pillow for the trip.  I encouraged them to each bring a small (like baby blanket size) blanket in the car as well because we can NEVER agree on the right temperature for the car.  The kids were super excited about their pillows and it helped them create a cozy little nest in their space. It also kept them from trying to bring all their bedding (which they always want to do) in the car. 

Enjoy the Journey
Try to focus on the journey and not just the destination.  This is a tough one for us because my husband generally hates road trips. Like many adults he wants to just GET THERE already but that mentality can make 8 hours in the car with kids really miserable. I drove most of the way for the first time and that helped immensely because he got to relax. We got the National Geographic Roadtrip for Kids book (buy here) and it was great. The kids can follow along and see where we are on the trip and what the local landmarks are. The maps on our phone don’t generally have landmarks indicated, but if you bring a old-fashioned paper map the kids can mark the way as you go.  It can be really helpful for them to see where you are and how far they have come.

With just a little intentionality (okay a lot) you can turn your family trip into something that more closely resembles a vacation - if you don't know the difference click here. For tips on traveling with other families click here - I tell all about our first trip with NW and her fabulous family. 

Happy travels to you all & thanks for stoping by!


Great Audible Books for Download







Thursday, May 12, 2016

Midas and Me: On becoming a Dog Person

Don't let the photo fool you. I have never been much of a Dog Person. My family had enough of them. Them meaning dogs and Dog People both.  My parents have always had a dog or two - very well behaved dogs I might add. My siblings have usually had a pair a piece as well. When we had been married just a few months, my husband decided it was time for a dog. I always knew I wanted my kids to grow up with a dog, so I guess that meant we had to get one. I wasn’t really ready for the responsibility, but he was so we took the plunge.

I was rather neutral on the subject for most of our time together.  Our meaning the dog and I. I have never been neutral with my husband. Flint, as we named him, was a great dog. Like amazingly awesome. A full-bred Black Lab, he lived for the tennis ball, the water, and the family. That was really it. He was smart and well trained and loveable. After more than a dozen years we had to say goodbye and it broke my husband’s heart. You can read that sad story here.   

Now remember me saying that I wanted the kids to grow up with a dog… well here we were with four kids (aged baby to tween) and no dog.  So of course we had to get another one. It wasn’t just that the kids were begging for one, it was that I really think dogs add something special to a family. I wasn’t sure why, because, again, not a Dog Person, but I just knew we needed to move towards getting another one.  A year passed.  My husband wasn’t ready. Another year began and I decided it was time.

Everyone told me I was going to be the one doing every thing- feeding, walking, poop-scooping, whatever. It was all going to fall on me.  And they were mostly right. 

My husband said ‘he won’t be as awesome as Flint because Flint was the perfect dog”, and he was sort of right too. Flint was our dog – his and mine.  We raised him and brought him through puppy hood before we had kids.  We practiced our parenting on him.

But now we are parents, in the most active parts of parenting, and we have this dog. This huge puppy.  And it is different. Midas is my dog.  He isn’t my kid’s dog, he isn’t my husband’s dog, he isn’t our family dog.  He is mine. I don't know how it happened that way, but it did. And that is okay. We mostly have shared responsibilities for the daily stuff.  But I am the one whose heart he has captured. 

From the first moments when he crawled into my lap, to the moments now when he just quietly follows me from room to room while I go about the tasks of motherhood, he is mine.  And I am his.  He is the one to greet me when I come home to a quiet house after dropping the kids at school.  He is the one to follow me into the bedroom at night.  He has learned where he can lay and watch me cook, and when he needs to go to his own spot. I know that in the years to come he will be a source of comfort and companionship. When the kids leave home for college, Midas will very likely still be there, at home, waiting for me.  He won’t move on to cooler, better, more grown up things. I will always be enough for him.

Although he is another mouth to feed and he adds tasks to my schedule, he is never a source of guilt.  Midas is happy, truly happy with what ever I have to give. And I have to admit it is kind of nice being able to escape the chaos of the house a few days a week for a really long walk with Midas. As a mom, I of course feel like I am never able to do enough or be enough, and yet looking at him I see unconditional love. What ever I have to give is enough.    And that is pretty cool. 


So to all you dog lovers out there – I get it now. I am not sure I am ready to dub myself a Dog Person, but Midas is working on me a little at a time.  

Thanks for stopping by!  
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