Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Captured Christmas Memories & Traditions

What do you get when you try your hardest to photograph a million and one precious Christmas moments, a busy 10 month old who doesn't sit still and a tired seven and a half month pregnant mama?

Very few photos that aren't blurry/caught just in time or that adequately share the story of Baby's First Christmas.

She'll forgive me one day, right?

At any rate, I'm going to share the tidbits I did manage to snap despite there being a huge gap in pictures sharing all of the time we spent with our families.Darn it.

Our family tradition: Gingerbread house/scene creating as a family on Christmas Eve afternoon.

Gianna preferred to stay under the table awaiting any crumbs that fell.

Finished product: Santa's Village (aka: our best one to date!!)

Opening gifts on Christmas Eve, before late evening Mass. Lily and Jonah all ready to open and Jonah's holding his special gift for Mommy: a short 'book' he made and wrote with only a little assistance from Daddy. A tear-jerker moment for me since it was one of the most heartfelt gifts my boy has ever created for me.

Gianna's new ride: she looks like she's totally into it, right?

All of the kids stayed awake during Mass and we all were chipper enough for this quick family photo afterward:

Baby's first Christmas morning:

We enjoyed yummy Christmas brunch with some of Reed's siblings/their spouses and his parents, at their house. Afterward, we stopped at home to pack up the van and head to my parents where we celebrated with my parents, my brother's family and my grandma.

My family's tradition: we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus after our Christmas meal together. This year I went simple, since we are always so stuffed after all the eating, and made poke-cake cupcakes with whipped topping and holiday marshmallow toppers.

Another tradition: a photo of Papa with baby who is celebrating their first Christmas, along with their Christmas stocking. We started this with Lily, the first grandchild, and now Gianna is baby #6 to carry it on. We'll do it again next year with Baby Gem too!

We truly had a wonderful and blessed Christmas! Now we are enjoying Christmas break from school and a slower pace. Unfortunately, this is a busy time for Reed at work so he is unable to stay home and be cozy with us. We sure do miss him. We'll make up for it this weekend again though when we are all together for three days!

How are your Christmas days going? Hopefully peaceful and relaxed, as they should be.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Waiting On A Child

It's the week before Christmas and while I'm thinking about that infant child, the King, I've got my mind on another baby too.

Our baby.

Yesterday I had the chance to catch another glimpse at Baby Gem. At my regular OB check up last week I was measuring a few weeks smaller than what I should've been, so my doctor ordered an ultrasound.

This morning I heard back from my doctor and he said Baby Gem is roughly 4 lbs. 12 oz. and ultrasound and growth were both normal. While waiting on little one it's always comforting to see their growth and changes. How can we not fall in love all over again when we get to watch him/her move and wiggle, swallow and move their hand up by their face? Precious. The tech even pointed out some hair too. So cute. It also confirmed that I again am currently carrying a 'low rider' and this baby is low in my pelvis and in position for delivery. This would explain the pressure I've been feeling over the last two weeks.

These new shots of baby will hopefully inspire us and move us in a direction of decision to get baby names narrowed down. We talked about it over the weekend, but then when we tried the names out on the kids they were less than enthused with them. Not that we decide on baby name solely based on the kids' likes or dislikes, but let's say that we're currently 'in negotiations.' It will come, I'm sure. Until then, don't ask us the names because we won't be sharing any more during the remainder of the pregnancy. We'll fall in love with the names on our own and then fall in love all over again when we put it with the face of our lovely little one.

Waiting and watching, are tough to do. We know arrivals, big and small, come all in good time. As we wait, we prepare and make ready...our bodies, our minds, our hearts. These last days of Advent our precious days, even though they are filled to overflowing with things to do, school to wrap up, piano recital and daily duties that call. Hopefully we can still capture in our home the wonder and awe of waiting, preparing and making ready.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's Celebrate Today!

There are a few milestones I thought I'd celebrate today, instead of waiting until tomorrow. I rarely post on the weekend and I know that most of you rarely read then either, so let's make the most of Friday! It's practically the weekend, right?

First, tomorrow is my Fourth Blogiversary!

I've nestled myself in this little corner of the blogosphere for four years already. Amazing! Thank you to so many of you loyal friends and readers who have journeyed along with me. It's been so much fun getting to know you!

Perhaps you stop by once in a while or are here on a regular basis, either way I'm grateful that you swing on by. If you are new here, Welcome! I look forward to 'meeting' you. Become a Follower and I'll be sure to say HI over at your place! I always enjoy meeting new readers!

My desire is that With A Hopeful Heart is a place for you to be encouraged, realize that we moms are all human, perhaps give you a chuckle once in a while and sometimes just a good 'fluff' post to read.

All of these are just brief glimpses into the open door at my house and my hopeful heart. I'm glad you're here for me to share them. I will be praying a prayer today for all of you who have so richly encouraged and blessed my life through this blog.

Second, we're celebrating Gianna tomorrow too!

She's 10 months old already and keeping this mama quite busy. Never a dull moment, never without eyes full of wonder and awe, always amazing and blessing our lives. Happy 10 months G!

Lastly, I celebrated this one yesterday but figured I'd throw it in here too: 32 Weeks!! And for those of you who ask about this sort of thing and look for those belly you go:

Thank you for celebrating with me today! Have a glass of wine if you are able or perhaps a steaming cup of coffee along with me...CHEERS!

Have a wonderful weekend as we light the last Advent candle!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Please Pray Tonight For A Dear Blogger

Jamie and her baby could use your prayers tonight.

Let's surround her in our prayers and keep this sweet mom in our thoughts.

Visions Of Sugar Plums....

dance in his head.

Because he thinks gifts as great and large as an iPad and iPod Touch will be filling his stocking.

Dream on, little man.

Realistically, I don't think he's counting on these outlandish gifts, but he mentions them any way in the hopes that St. Nick will soon hear.

(Darn Christmas consumerism! It takes away from the innocence of the season)

But still, I wonder how did my little boy become a techie nut?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Like Brother, Like Sister



Can you tell they are siblings? And who their daddy is?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rose And Joy: They Just Kind Of Go Together

Today is Gaudete Sunday! It's always been one of my favorite Sundays. I think it's a Pink thing.

I recall most of my life liking the 'Pink candle' Sunday (Or as our priest reminded us at Mass this morning, it's ROSE, not PINK). It means that Christmas is near, but there still is just enough time to try and enjoy Advent.

For me, the word 'Rose' alone gives me Joy. It has held so much meaning over the last couple of years, so when I hear it I cannot help but smile. That the Rose Sunday comes amid my most favorite time of year, just happens to be an added bonus.

Oh sure, it's stressful these days and at this time of year. Too many, many things that take our time, our effort, our sense of peace and our joy. Somewhere though in the midst of that, is the quiet place. The waiting place. The place I find and grasp just for a quick moment, because in the busyness it can be so fleeting.

It's there though, softly whispering. Beckoning us just to BE in the joy. BE in the season.

Today I am embracing the joy and peace of Gaudete Sunday. Time with my family, wrapping gifts, a family walk and stolen moments of pink.

I know all around me there are many suffering, there are many family and friends that have reasons to be without joy today. This evening we'll turn on our outside Christmas lights for the first time this year and hope to spread our JOY to those around us.

I hope that you are finding plenty of pink and lots of joy to celebrate today.

Friday, December 9, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

With this being my most favorite time of year, it was time to kick myself into gear and get decorating. The big kids helped me over the last two days spread Christmas and Advent cheer to the barrenness of the ordinary in our home. The outcome is somewhat minimalistic compared to what I have done in the past, but I added more to the tree and focused more on the main rooms-living room and dining room. Honestly, that was about all the energy I could put into the effort.

And I like it this way.

{pretty} above the dining room table

{happy} little girl who is less than eager each morning to let daddy leave for work. Some days she cries when she notices that he is getting his coat and shoes on to leave for the day. We do our best to entertain her and keep her busy as he slips out the door, but we still stand at the window and she waves good bye most every morning. While the parting is tough, she loves her treasured morning moments with daddy and I think he does just as much.

Too bad my Christmas photo cards have already been ordered and are printed. Otherwise, this photo may have made it on the front. It's {funny} because it was such a real and heartbreaking moment for Gianna, but we were trying to make the best of it.

The tree was up and decorated and we were celebrating, but Gianna did not feel very celebratory at the moment. I will not share with you another photo taken the moment before that certainly could have told a different story and would have made it under the {real} part of this post. Let's just say that a certain older child was very much more crabby in the previous shot.

A {real} moment during decorating. Each child has a photo of their First Christmas and hanging their first ornament on the tree. Thankfully, I remembered to have my little photographer snap this one.

Happy Weekend to all of you! I am hoping to manage some more baking with all my helpers, rest a bit and just enjoy the Advent weekend.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty,happy,funny,real} entries.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Help! Having Troubles Reading Or Commenting Here?

According to Sitemeter, I'm still getting visitors here and the numbers are about same as they have been in the past.

However, while I get my regular people who comment, the comments do seem to have gone down just a bit. Not a big deal if you all are busy, but it makes me wonder....

Are you all reading in Google Reader? Or are you able to actually hop over here and read on my blog? Trouble commenting?

If you are having any of these problems, could you let me know?

The reason I'm asking is because several months ago I had problems with others being able to stop here, along with many other bloggers. We found the problem and I pulled that from my sidebar. I thought the issue was resolved, but it's been drawn to my attention that a couple of close friends (including my husband) have trouble getting to me. They have to do it via Google search and then can eventually get here.

I've had trouble commenting on other blogs a couple months ago and went ahead and downloaded Google Chrome and the issue resolved for the most part.

Please, will you try to comment letting me know that you can or even email me to let me know if you are having troubles? hopeful(dot)heart(dot)blog(at)gmail(dot)com

If any computer guru has any insight, I'm up for that too because if there is an issue I'm unsure how to amend it. Thanks, dear readers!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reasons For Hope

Had we lost hope and stopped trying to increase our family size simply because it became too difficult....

I never would've gotten this newest vacuum cleaner model

I never would've beheld the innocence in these beautiful baby blues

I would have missed out on being able to torture my child with this costume on Thanksgiving

I wouldn't be greeted by this child at snack time

I'd miss another helper in the kitchen

We wouldn't have a little girl to call Miss Fancy Pants

Our family would've missed out on this beautiful smile and the girly giggle that goes along with it

This sister wouldn't have a little sister

My heart wouldn't have moments like these to treasure or my eyes have ones such as these to tear up over

I'm find myself especially sentimental during Advent and the Christmas Season. This year is no different, because there were days when being in this place and THIS BLESSED was only a distant hope. I do not forget those days and that feeling. I also do not forget the faith and hope that remained and helped us remain strong.

Especially thankful for my hopeful heart today.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fluff And Stuff

I'm feeling fluffy today.

No, not fat kind of fluffy, although my baby bump is certainly growing. More of a do-I-really-have-anything-insightful-to-take-the-time-to-type-into-a-post-because-my-readers-deserve-some-new-material-but-I-just-have-randoms-in-my-head-so-I'll-write-a-fluff-post-instead.

You get all that?

Who doesn't like fluff? I like fluffy teddy bears and fluffy slippers and a big fluffy pillow, don't you? I hope you aren't disappointed, but I'm forging ahead with a pregnancy brain, fluffy post. Feel free to leave now if you'd like. I won't mind and I promise that there will surely be more substance back here very soon.

Here we go:

-I'm trying to get myself into Advent. But, as I said here, my brain is still stuck in September. It's a bummer because this is my absolute FAVORITE time of year. I love the preparation, the decorating, the baking and the family time. Now I just need to jump in and get my head in the season.

-Perhaps the above will be better once I start decorating the house and baking cookies. I love when my house is decorated and smelling of Christmas. The last couple years though it's the setting up all the decor and pulling out the bins that is daunting. I blame the belly. Good thing I've got such a helpful and willing hubby.

-Almost all of the Christmas gifts are bought or ordered. I scored a great deal on my photo gifts for several people, so that thrilled me to no end. And, I was offered an Amazon Prime free trial at the beginning of November, so I've been getting some great deals, plus free shipping. Sweet deal, but a little addicting to just go out on Amazon any time and order anything not worrying about shipping. Normally I'd be waiting and combining as much as I can when I order, but with the Prime I've been an orderaholic. Probably not worth it for us personally to actually purchase the Prime, but a sweet deal if you order a ton.

-The kids are growing up too fast. I know we all say that, but it's true. Lily is turning into such a young lady (already)and she is such a mother hen. She checks in with me daily at least once, asking if I've felt the baby move recently. I've never asked her why, but I think even she likes to have the reassurances. Jonah is keeping busy with constantly transforming and changing his Thomas the train sets and redesigning them. School has a few struggles for him, but we're trying to figure them out and work with them. Speaking of school, we are keeping a steady pace since we just have a few weeks until Christmas break, then another month of school and then baby may arrive any time. We'll see where we go from there.

-As for the little lady of the household, Miss Gianna is keeping us all busy and entertained. She is developing a fun personality and is keen on watching us all the time. She's drinking from a sippy cup, can drink from a straw and will self feed at snack time. I cannot believe she is nine months old!

I had her in to the doctor for a check up the other day and she weighed in at 21 lbs. 3 oz. and 29 inches long. Doing well. She absolutely hated the appointment though and she didn't get to show off her fun personality, funny little grin accompanied by scrunched up nose or hear her little laugh. She cried and screamed the.entire.time. And, that even included when the doctor (her Godfather) was checking her over. (Thankfully, she doesn't usually act like that when we see him outside the clinic)I guess she doesn't like non-family members in her space or at least she doesn't at the clinic.

-I find myself craving things and very hungry this week. Perhaps little Gem is going through a growth spurt? I've never really been one for cravings or to have them that long. Even when I have had them while pregnant, I don't usually give in or make my husband go out and get them for me. Coffee (half-caf) is tasting especially yummy and comforting lately. I try to stick with my one grande cup per day, but some days by mid-afternoon the second cup is calling. Sometimes I give in. And how about those advertisements for the Arby's Reuben? Have you seen them?

That is looking scrumptious right now. I should probably pass though since the sauerkraut may do a number on my tummy.

I think that is about it from here. There you go. How's that for a bunch of fluff?

I hope that your first week of Advent is going well. Please stay tuned here, despite the nonsense. Rest assured that I'm still reading from all of you, despite the lack of commenting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Family Advent

It's several days into Advent and I've been reading post after post of amazing Advent plans. You all have such wonderful ideas and book lists galore!

For some reason, Advent snuck up on me and I was unprepared. Some place in my brain I am still stuck in September. Not sure why.

When one of my kids asked on Saturday morning what book we were reading this Advent season as a family, I sat with a blank stare. I hadn't a clue. In fact, I had completely forgotten to research and purchase something for us. Shoot!

To Amazon I went and found that the author of Jotham's Journey (a past Advent read we all enjoyed)had two other books to choose from. I ordered both so as to be prepared next year and not be caught off-guard again!

We'll be reading Bartholomew's Passage this year, after it finally arrives today or tomorrow. We'll be starting a little late, but we'll be sure to catch up. Within a day after purchasing these books, I read from several bloggers and facebook friends that they too were planning to read Bartholomew's Passage. Looking forward to reading along with so many of you!

Throughout the weeks we'll also pull out a number of excellent Christmas books that I've bought over the last few years. In addition to those, I've got a mile long list of them requested from the library. I've gotten my list over the years mostly from Jessica that she posted again this year.

Our other Advent family tradition that we will again do this year is the St. Andrew Christmas Novena. It has blessed our Advent abundantly and our evening family prayer time as we prepare for Christmas. We prayed it two years ago in hopes of our own little one and last year we prayed it again and offered it for Mr. and Mrs. B. They are expecting Baby B this year in a couple of weeks! This year we will pray it for Baby Gem and a safe delivery and many bloggers/friends/family who are expecting little ones in the coming months.

The novena starts TODAY, St. Andrew's feast day!

St. Andrew Christmas Novena Prayer to Obtain Favors

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (November 30) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

No other big plans here for Advent, but I think a few small traditions are wonderful memories to make with our growing family. If you have a prayer request you would like our family to pray for during our Advent novena, please leave a comment or email me (see sidebar). We'll gladly include your intentions with ours.

Happy Advent!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving From My Turkeys

From Lily:

From Jonah:

From Gianna:

From all of us here at our house, to all of you, wherever you may be...

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Partly To Mostly Foggy

I was very relieved when I read Patty's post last week and found that I was not alone.

I thought perhaps I was losing my mind or that it was just MY connectors that were a little less than, well...connected. Good grief! Several times a hour day I find myself questioning some of the most obvious things or forgetting the most basic of tasks.

Is this normal? As the pregnancies add up, does my IQ and brain wave frequency decrease? Or maybe it's the close proximity of pregnancies this time around.

Restless/interrupted sleep?(Gianna still doesn't sleep through the night)

Well, I've been blaming 'pregnancy brain' in hopes that it was a good enough excuse.

It's some of the smallest details, but really things that are so every day and basic that I don't feel like I should have to think so hard about. It's peculiar though how often there is the missed connection somewhere that keeps causing the brain fog.

I'm hoping this will all come to an end soon, but if sleep deprivation is the main culprit then we might as well count on this continuing for at least another year.

Thankfully, my children aren't old enough to admit me to the Funny Farm yet. Although, maybe hubby is about ready to. Doubt it. He'll probably keep me either way.

PS..When I wasn't busy losing my marbles yesterday, I took a Sunday Snapshot. It's a small glimpse into my world at a certain point on a Sunday. Go check out Snapshots from a Sunday to see what others were up to yesterday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Snowy White

Today brought our first snowfall and although that does not necessarily mean that winter has officially started, in my book it pretty much does.

So begins winter survival, snow packed country roads and more snow/winter gear to pile on before heading outdoors.

Surprisingly, my nine month old enjoyed the sled ride and snow blowing at her face far more than I anticipated. The girl was smiling more today in the sled than she has over the last two weeks donning her winter coat in the stroller.

Now it's back to the couch with me to nestle in my cozy blanket, the smell of warm chocolate cake out of the oven and the sound of my daughter practicing "There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays" on the piano.

I hope you are enjoying your Saturday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Just Write: A Day Late

I love this idea! And, since my blog posts are lacking and just faint whispers in my head, today this seems ideal.

I've got ten minutes before lunch....and....GO!

My 'big kids' (that's what we're calling my two older kids these days) are watching HUB. One of the couple measly channels we get after we put our DISH network on suspend for a bit. It was an effort to reduce tv watching, but also cut down the budget. We opted for getting a local guy to come and amp up our outside tv antenna so that some channels are available to us on regular tv. We also got a Roku that allows for instant watching/tv shows that we can't get via the antenna.

Anyone confused yet? Bottom line: we are saving money and enjoying the freedom of less tube time. The drawback will be missing all of the Hallmark and ABC Family Christmas specials.Oh well.

Gianna weighs around 20 lbs. and has gotten to be too much to carry in the infant car seat. Growing 8 month old + growing mama belly = time for a new car seat. Although the infant car seat will again be filled come February, putting it away for a time still makes me tear up just a bit. Our time with Gianna so far has flown by and my heart is so full. I almost cannot imagine what life was like before we were a family of five. I know that something was missing and God definitely filled that void. Now, it will be times two in just a year.

A doctor visit and a slew of labs left me with mostly good news. Twenty eight weeks tomorrow and right now my weight gain is five pounds shy of this point last year with Gianna. That makes me feel good, mostly because I know that getting the weight off later may be more difficult. I'm thinking though that if ever there was a time to go for the gold and gain weight, now would be it. Not willing to take that plunge though. Is that wrong? The weighty issue kind of gets me thinking lately. My other labs revealed no gestational diabetes, my thyroid is normal and completely being off my meds. for the last month is just fine and lastly, my progesterone number rose rather than fell this week. The relief to be off thyroid meds. is wonderful. Still on progesterone shots, but feeling more ok with it this week. It certainly can't be much longer now, one way or another.

My kids are now fighting over playing in the basement and some disgruntled argument ensues. It goes like this-on again, off again, bittersweet sibling stuff.

Although random in post writing this is, it's me writing. These are the things that flutter back and forth, back and forth in my head these days as the clock hands fly around and around.

The timer is sounding and children's tummies are calling.

Thanks for joining me in Just Write. It's random and not perfectly written, but that's the point. Other Just Write posts are linked over at The extraordinary ordinary.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Realities Of Motherhood

The other evening as I rocked Gianna back to sleep I got to thinking.

That alone can be alarming considering that I think my brain is working at only half-power lately.

As I rocked back and forth snuggling my little one I also sat there misty eyed. The day had been long, I was tired, Gianna had been peacefully sleeping and now was suddenly startled and awake again. I had found out that my progesterone number had dropped since last week and I was anticipating another progesterone shot within minutes. I am tired of those things and was so hoping that my number would sustain and get me off of them for the remainder of this pregnancy. No such luck.

I wearily rocked my sweet baby girl as my other baby, current in-belly resident, kicked and moved. I couldn't help but think how it's the beginning of sibling rivalry or perhaps camaraderie. I half embraced the moment as the other half of me became overcome with emotion.

I am human. I am mom and I am wife. Like most moms,

In that moment the reality of motherhood grasped hold of me and I thought of how overwhelmed and restless I felt. This would all only be magnified when a new little one enters our house in mere months, while I trip over toys, run after a one year old, school my older children and wear my super-mom cape as I fly around the house. I could not imagine how she does it and still remains sane. I pondered for a moment so many women I know who hold in their loving arms child after child who they lovingly raise. Far better are they than I, for being able to care for and manage so many blessings.

Overcome, I then realized that every reality of motherhood and day in the trenches most often can easily be outweighed by the rewards of motherhood. The daily graces that I cling to and desire. Difficult days like these aren't forever and most often don't last, although they seem to pile up and feel like they never end. There are so many good days that are filled with enough moments and memories to fill the mommy scrapbook in my heart.

A peace and serenity came over me.

I looked down at the sleeping baby in my arms, inhaled her sweetness and kissed her one more time before laying her back in the crib. I watched her peaceful sleep and knew that sometimes we need to face the realities in order to more fully see and enjoy the rewards of motherhood.

Although it isn't always glamorous and perfect, this is my vocation and I wouldn't change a thing about my daily reality.

I closed the door and turned to face my other reality-a sharp jab in the behind.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smile! Your Children Are Watching

During a recent school day, my youngest student caught me off-guard during a particular difficult teaching moment.

"Mom, keep that smile on your face!", he shouted.

I stopped what I was doing and kept the smile.

He smiled back at me and said, "I think I know why some people have a smile on their face ALL the time...."

He paused.

"It's because they don't have children."

While his little observation initially made me laugh, it's given me something to think about since then.

How often do my children see me smiling? So easily I share my grin with a friend or even a complete stranger out of kindness, but not as often with those I love.

Does my face reveal the contentment and joy that fills me on the inside? Sadly, probably not nearly enough.

This has left me wondering how often my children see me happy and know that I feel blessed to be their mom. Too often I am preoccupied with so many things and tasks and demands of daily living. I think that I easily wear that on my face and forget to crack a smile. Worry and anxiety quickly stomp out the true happiness that fills me on the inside.

My son ought to know that children are the light of the household. Children do bring joy and smiles to life. They are a blessing. MY children are all of those things to me and MY house. As his mom I need to remind him of that and show him, even if by a simple smile.

When I least expect it, my children may be watching and gauging the happiness of our household by the smile or furrowed brow that I display. Let my children never wonder if our family is truly happy or if mom and dad love being their parents. A simple smile on my face should be able to reassure them.

In addition to many hugs and 'I love you', what an easy and simple gift I can afford to give them every day.

'Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.' -Mother Teresa

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