Monday, November 30, 2015

Verse of the Week

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the Advent season for 2015 and I figured I would honor the Advent by not so much honoring a particular verse but with a weekly reading for the next four weeks..

“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
On those living in the land of the shadow of death,
a new Light has dawned.
For unto us a Child is born,
to us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulders.
And His name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:2-6

Weekly Linkup

Do you do a verse of the week?  I would love to have you join me and my friend Tasha at ABC's and Sweet Tea and link up to help spread His word.

Counting Pinecones

Friday, November 27, 2015

Making Thanksgiving Memories


Thanksgiving is a holiday that I have a love/hate relationship with. It is only in the last few years that I have really gotten to where I can relax and not stress over the holiday and only in the last two years that I have really enjoyed it.

As some may know, I grew up in a very dysfunctional home.  Holidays were not happy times as it was when most of the adults in my family would get drunk and would end up getting into fights. Growing up, the only Thanksgiving I ever remember being somewhat enjoyable was the time I took my paper plate of food out to the garage and shared a quiet dinner of dry turkey with my outdoor cat.  Yup, that's how miserable my holiday memories are..

Fast forward to now. It has taken many many years to get over the dread and stress that typically accompanied holidays.  It helps that I have a husband who absolutely loves holidays - any and all holidays.  Sometimes, it's like I have 4 kids as he's just as excited about the holidays as the kids are.

It also helps that my husband makes the absolutely best turkey I have ever had in my life.. LOL  Well, he can't take all the credit, as I mix up a really great concoction of butter and seasonings and inject half of the bird (it's too spicy for the kids) with my own Cajun awesomeness. ;)  But the rest of it is all him and from start to finish the event of making that magnificent bird takes about three days.

And it also makes a huge difference that there isn't any fighting going on (outside of the occasional squabble between the kids) but instead we share the kitchen duties while listening to holiday jazz music.   Over time, these small differences have made a huge difference in how I feel in regards to the holidays and while I still get a bit stressed just from the day itself, I find myself relaxing and smiling a lot more than I ever did when I was younger.

Yesterday was probably the best we've had in the 9 years we have been together.

For starters, I personally had so much to be thankful for this year..  This past year has seen many blessings to our family: our health, my husbands job, our friends and family and the Crew.  But one thing I am most grateful for is we had not one but two long lost family members enter back into our lives. First was my Aunt Debbie whom I lived with in New Hampshire when I was 6. My father removed all contact I had with them when I moved from there to Texas.  Second was my cousin, Robbie, whom was like a brother to me when we were younger.  Both Robbie and I were victims of bad circumstances of our screwed up family life and I lost contact with him after he turned to drugs and ended up in prison.  He has since gotten his life straightened out.

For the past week, the kids have been counting down to the day.  All they could talk about was how Dad was going to make his wonderful turkey and how Mom was going to make them deviled eggs. We all got up early to watch the Macy's parade and enjoyed a nice breakfast and then the kids watched movies on netflix while Dad and I filled the house with the wonderful smells of Thanksgiving.

This year we changed our traditional dinner a bit and decided to honor our Native American heritage by adding a couple of simple Native dishes to our dinner -Hominy as a side dish and Navajo Fry Bread instead of rolls).  This proved to be a wonderful addition as the kids are still talking about how great both were.  They also enjoyed all the decorating with Flint corn and pumpkins. And WOW, did they eat.. I think both of the smaller kids ate more than anyone else. Where they put it all, I don't know but they engorged themselves on turkey, sausage, stuffing, deviled eggs, bread, hominy, and pie...

Ohh.. And my husband was absolutely thrilled as his Carolina Panthers beat the Dallas Cowboys and are still undefeated this season.. LOL

Typically, we end up decorating the tree after dinner but we were all so full and happy, none of us wanted to do much of anything.. Even the kids didn't mention bringing out the tree.. We will instead do that tonight as we will all be able to enjoy it together much more..

It feels good to know that my kids look forward to the holidays and have great memories of them, especially compared to how I felt in regards to them when I was their age.  I hope it is always like that for them, that years from now they will talk about how they can't wait to go home for Dad's turkey.  And I hope that I will look forward to those holidays too, counting the days down til Dad's turkey is in the oven and I wait for the doorbell to ring and the door open with the kids saying "Mom, we're here!"..

Here's to making new memories.. and to healing old ones.. and to many more blessings that I am sure the Lord will bestow on my family in the future.

Now to just make it through Christmas ;)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

RIP Christmas Tree (Throwback Thursday)

Today is Thanksgiving but as it is still early in the holiday, I'll save my Thanksgiving post for tomorrow and instead post my Throwback Thursday posting instead.

Last year, our Thanksgiving holiday wasn't near what we had hoped it would be.  Alyssa was in
Texas with her father so there was no turkey for us, just a small ham and a few fixings to say we had Thanksgiving and that was about it.   But we did head out at 4am to drive to town to pick up a really great deal on a Christmas tree to replace our old tree that had went kaput..

This year, the family is all together and as I write this we are sitting in the living room watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, the breakfast casserole is cooling on the stove and we're about to start making the bird.  Tonight, after we all have full bellies of turkey and stuffing, we will bring out the beautiful tree that we were blessed to buy last year, our favorite Pandora Christmas station will play and together we will once again decorate the tree.   Jack, our elf on a shelf, will possibly make his first appearance tomorrow morning and things will start gearing up for the Christmas holiday.   It blows my mind that the year has gone by as quick as it has.

So enjoy today with your family, I know I will..

RIP Christmas Tree

Originally Posted November 28th, 2014
By now, your fridge is probably packed full of leftovers, the dishes from last night probably still in the sink (unless you were smart and got paper plates and plastic forks) and maybe you're out running the roads for Black Friday shopping. Either way, hopefully you had a wonderful holiday with your family and are getting a somewhat relaxing breather before the madness of the Christmas shopping starts.

We had a nice quiet Thanksgiving of just myself, my husband and the two smallest kiddos.. My oldest daughter ended up having to hop a flight to Houston to go visit her father as we alternate each year as to who gets Christmas and who gets Thanksgiving. Since Alyssa wasn't here, we decided to just do a very simple meal for the four of us. My husband baked a small ham and made mac and cheese while I baked some
Simple Family Dinner
sweet potatoes and made some Parmesan bakes greenbeans.  Every weekend we get a huge box of organic produce straight from the farms which meant some awesome sweet potatoes and fresh green beans for us.. LOL  (Although, now that I'm thinking about it, I totally forgot about the acorn squash and will most likely be using it as well as the pumpkins we got for bread this week..).

Usually we make the full Thanksgiving spread. My husband makes an AMAZING turkey each year as well as homemade cranberry sauce while I take on the sage sausage and green apple stuffing and whatever else we have. I enjoy the holiday cooking as both of us are in the kitchen together. Usually Charles will put on a nice jazz station on Pandora and we will relax and interact while cooking up our great feast. In years past, we've usually had at least 1 friend over, usually more. Being a military family living on a base, some of our friends are unmarried and might not be able to go home to their families for the holidays and so the more the merrier.  This year, however, one of our normal visitors is currently deployed to Korea and our other friends who usually come to eat have moved off to start other ventures outside the military, so it was just us.

But even with just the four of us, it was nice. We sat together and watched the Macy's Parade and then decided to watch the Wizard of Oz afterwards. The kids ate their ham and their baked potatoes (green beans are evil as far as they are concerned) and enjoyed the family broadcasting. We all enjoyed some pumpkin pie and blueberry cobbler for dessert and just had a really nice family day together.

This morning, we got up to do something we have never done before.. We braved the Black Friday craze.. We typically avoid Black Friday and any shopping establishments as much as possible during the holiday season. However, this year, we knew we needed to replace our Christmas tree. Charles and I bought a pre-lit tree probably 8 years ago and I was never really happy with it to begin with. It was tall (7 foot) but very skinny.. I tend to like full trees. But we made due with it and every year, we decorated the tree as a family. Each year our family grew from 3 of us (Alyssa was from my previous marriage of 13 years) to 4 and then to 5. Each year following Thanksgiving, the tree would come out and I would have to figure out all the wires to get the lights to work right.. the decorations would come out and get sorted through as either breakable or not and the little ones would get to put the non breakable stuff on the tree while the rest of us would tackle the more fragile pieces.  Every year, we would always be happy with how the tree turned out, even if I liked a fuller tree.

Our tree last year

Last year, we pulled the tree out and plugged it in and it wouldn't work anymore. We troubleshooted things like fuses and such, but nothing worked.. We made due, buying a couple of cheap strands of lights to go around the tree and once again, we were happy with the outcome but we knew that this year, we would have to replace the tree.. I had my eye on one in particular at Walmart and we planned to head over there this weekend and pick it up. Then I saw that one of the Black Friday deals was 30 percent off the tree, so we debated if we would be willing to deal with Black Friday madness in order to save a few dollars (okay, more than a few - we're talking 45 dollars.. lol) .  Last night, I just happened to look on Home Depots website and saw they were having a Black Friday deal for a particular Christmas tree for $79, which was $120 off the normal $200 dollar price. I showed Charles and we both agreed, it was a better tree.. It had LED lights rather than the regular ones (hey, we like to save energy) and it was a "Quick setup", all we had to do was put the pieces together and they plug themselves in, no wires to figure out.. It had a remote control so we wouldn't have to worry about climbing behind the tree and presents to either plug it in or unplug it.. It had both white and multicolored LED lights that could be switched between with the use of the remote.. and best of all, it was a pretty full tree, no more tall, skinny trees.. LOL  (Oh and did I mention it was only 80 dollars???)

The kids got tucked into bed at their normal time and I told them that I would be waking them up before the sun came up because we were going to go get a new Christmas tree.. They were excited to say the least.. We knew Home Depot was going to open at 5am and we knew that if we wanted any chance of getting the tree, we would have to be there at that time.. 4am rolled around, we woke the kids up, loaded up in the car and headed that direction. We got to Home Depot about 5 minutes after 5 and saw people coming out, each with two of these Christmas trees.. So my heart sunk when we saw the pallet which held the Christmas trees - completely bare.. That's okay, we told each other, there were other trees that were also on sale and while they weren't 80 bucks, we found one we liked for 150 (the last one they had).. It wasn't LED but it was still pretty.. But while Charles was going to grab a cart, one of the employees told me that they had a few more 80 dollar trees that were in the back of the warehouse and they were loading them on a pallet to be brought back up. He told me where to wait and a few moments later he came back and told me they were handing them out a little ways behind me. We got over there just in time to put our hands on one of the trees we wanted (by the time I got there, there were only 3 left)..
The new 80 dollar tree of memories

The kids were wonderful and were happy about the tree.. Home Depot had brought out coffee, hot chocolate and donuts for the shoppers, so each kid got to pick 1 donut for our trip home.. And since we didn't spend $150 on a tree, my husband was a sweetheart and bought me something I'd been wanting for a while now - a 5 foot lighted deer and sleigh to go out in the yard..  (And we got both, along with two Poinsettias for less than the other tree would have cost)

I hear horror stories of Black Friday and I know it is crazy. I see the videos of the pushing, the fighting and the chaos that erupts over people trying to save a few dollars on a TV or a computer... I'm so glad we didn't run into that type of behavior at Home Depot (especially since I had my kids in tow).. Instead, everyone was nice to each other, willing to tell others where they found a particular item and even telling others "Good Morning". (Another shopper is the one who told me they had donuts for the shoppers as she smiled at my kids). That's the type of behavior I want my kids to see..

If anyone is a teacher to my kids, however, it would be myself and Charles.. and while we took the day off from school, I do believe they learned some valuable lessons yesterday. One being that Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey and the spread, but about being together, enjoying each others company. They also learned about disappointment - they knew I wanted that particular tree and they knew that when we got there, that tree wasn't available anymore.  They heard the conversation between my husband and myself when we decided "That's okay, lets find another tree we like" and so they learned that life is about compromise. We can't always get what we want but we can be just as happy with what we can have.. And finally, they learned that sometimes, even when you are disappointed, something happens and can change that for you. The tree we wanted suddenly became available, we were able to get it after all.

We strapped that tree to the top of our car and made the trek home (we live about 30-40 miles from Home Depot). We laughed at the sound of the bungie cords vibrating at highway speeds (and even figured out at what speed the bungies started vibrating and making noise (15 miles per hour).. And as we drove home, we watched the sunrise together, something we never do because we are usually asleep. (I should also mention that driving up there, we saw 2 very bright shooting stars as well).. Together as a family, we worked to unload our loot, the kids opening the door for dad while mom heated up a hot bad for dad because he kinda hurt his back putting the tree on top of the car.  Once everything was inside, we all kinda looked at what we got and we all said how happy we were that we were able to get it.

We will hopefully enjoy that 80 dollar tree for many years to come.. Tonight we will break out the hot chocolate, put some "Go Fish" Christmas music on the play (the kids love their version of "The Little Drummer boy") and we will decorate the tree to some extent, as well go buy more ornaments this weekend for Alyssa to help decorate when she comes home Sunday.. And hopefully each year we will pull it out, fluff it up and once again bring out the decorations and decorate it together. The kids might not remember our crazy Black Friday rush to get it as other memories crowd it out but I will always remember when we pull that tree out.

We braved Black Friday.. We survived.. and we all learned from it.

RIP Old Christmas Tree.. You weren't very full.... but... you were full of LOVE....

Ash and Garrett - Christmas 2012

Alyssa - Christmas 2011

Alyssa and Garrett - Christmas 2007

Charles and Bren - Christmas 2008

Garrett - Christmas 2008

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

The Hawk

We've started having this female red tailed hawk hanging around our back yard.  The other day my husband rolled over in bed and saw her peeping in through our window.

Have your own Wordless Wednesday post to add?? Be sure to click over to Life at Rossmont to post your own or to view other Wordless Wednesday posts.

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Monday, November 23, 2015

Verse of the Week

There are so many wonderful scriptures in the Bible.  It's one of the few books that you can put down, open up to anywhere among the many pages and find a passage that seems to speak to you directly. When you are down, when you are depressed, when you are happy, when you are celebrating:  there is always something among those pages that fits your life perfectly.  And sometimes, memories are associated with particular verses.  Verses you might not have thought about in a while will come to revisit you and you will remember a very particular memory that you associate with that verse.

That happened to be tonight.

Last week, my friend Lisa over at Chickens, Bunnies, and Homeschool linked up with a verse from the book of Isaiah.  It was one of my favorite verse when I was a child and attending Sunday school but I hadn't thought of it in a while.

"Come now, let us settle the matter," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."
  Isaiah 1:18

Back when I still attended Sunday school, I remember doing a craft to associate with this verse. It was a picture that we colored a cross with a red crayon and then we were given a piece of red film to place over the picture.  When we did so, the red colors somehow cancelled each other out making the red cross in the picture appear white.

I might be wrong about the exact specifics of the craft, as that was nearly 35 years ago but I will never forget the red turning white and knowing that the blood of Christ had the power to make such a strong color as scarlet red turn snow white.

So, hopefully Lisa doesn't mind me stealing her verse for this week :) (Actually, it's her son's verse as he's memorizing them for his dedication) but when I saw it and had such a wonderful memory, I knew that God was telling me I needed to revisit this particular verse myself. .

And if anyone happens to know how to do the craft I'm talking about, please, leave me a comment about it. I would love to do it with my kids if I could remember the exacts of it..

Weekly Linkup

Counting Pinecones

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook (A Review)

One of the hardest things for me to admit to is that I'm overweight.  I know I've got more than a few extra pounds yet I try my hardest to hide this fact by only posting pictures of myself that makes me look at least a little bit skinnier than I am, only posting headshots, ect.  If your indeed like me, you've probably tried and failed multiple times at losing weight, always feeling like a failure each time.
Trimtastic Chocolate Cake
Maybe you've tried many different eating plans that are the latest fad in hopes of finding that one magic formula to help you drop the extra.

Well, this might be exactly the miracle your looking for.

I recently was given the opportunity to review the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook, a 512 page companion book that works with the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan designed by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison.  Prior to receiving the cookbook, I had heard quite a bit about the THM eating plan and was pretty excited to try it.  Needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed using this cookbook along with the eating plan.

If you are unfamiliar with the THM Eating plan, basically it teaches you to eat foods by balancing fats and carbohydrates in order to allow your body to efficiently burn each type of energy.  By doing so, your body burns through the fuel you supply with your meal and then moves on to burn excess stores of fat.   This means that particular groupings of foods are not eliminated with a few exceptions of those items that cause a spike in blood sugar.  Meals are grouped either as S (Satisfying), E (Energizing) and FP (fuel pulls).  While a bit confusing, the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book explains it really well.

The Cookbook, while not necessary, is EXTREMELY helpful in coming up with great ideas for meals. It takes the guesswork out of putting a meal plan together as each recipe is labeled as either S, E, or FP.  Full colored pictures accompany many of the recipes to allow you to see what the finished product should look like.  The book is broken into sections such as One Pot Meals, Hearty Mains and Sides, Sunrise Eats, Sweet Treats, Beverages and All Things Smooth and Crunchy.

My Thoughts and Experiences with the Cookbook

Lazy Lasagna
My family and I have been using this cookbook almost exclusively for the last three weeks and I honestly think I am in love with it.  My picky eaters have eaten just about everything we have made and have even asked for repeats of some of the recipes.    Tonight we made the slow cooker pot roast which had radishes instead of potatoes in it and they didn't have a clue they were eating radishes.

Some of our favorite recipes so far have been the Lazy Lasagna (which both my kids and my husband made me make a second time less than a week later)  and the Chicken Jalapeno Popper Soup.   The Just Like Campbell's Tomato Soup has also been a real hit in our house with the kids who have asked for this recipe for their lunch a few times now. However, the Trimtastic Chocolate Cake, which is made using zucchini, has been the most requested recipe out of the book, even resulting in an extra cake being made for my husband to take to work.

Each recipe uses healthy ingredients and replaces harmful weight increasing ingredients like refined sugar and white flour with healthier alternatives like Stevia and almond flour.  While some recipes do require special ingredients such as Oat Fiber, Glucomannan or Pressed Peanut Flour, many other recipes do not require these pricey ingredients and can be made from ordinary ingredients from your grocery store on the corner.

We have only found one recipe that none of us liked very much (it was a desert). Many recipes will
Just Like Campbell's Tomato Soup
have you scratching your head wondering if it will be worth trying but the outcome turns out really well such as  in the case of the radishes in the pot roast or mashed cauliflower on top of a shepherd's pie.

Does the plan work?  So far, so good.  We've been eating the THM way now for a 3 weeks. I will admit that during that time, I have eating meals that were "off plan" a number of times, yet I have still managed to lose 7 lbs. My oldest daughter has also lost roughly 5 lbs.   Nobody in my family has felt like they have been on a diet and my kids are thrilled that dessert has become a frequent visitor to our dinners.

If your looking for a healthier way to eat without feeling like your punishing yourself, I would highly recommend this plan.  Even if your just looking for a few healthier meals to add to your dinner rotation, this cookbook would make a great addition.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A (Not-So) Worthless Week..but. (Throwback Thursday)

It's always funny when I look at some of these old posts and I see history in repetition.  Just like in the throwback post, the kids are sick and not a whole lot is getting done.  

Sickness is inevitable here in the desert I guess.  The temperatures swing from one end to the other
each day, making switching on the AC and the heater during different parts of the day a necessity.  For example, the high for today is in the 70s while the low is in the 30s.  Because of this, we all tend to get sick at this same period of time.  It is what it is.

The difference between this period in time and last year is that then, I basically gave up on the year, while now I instead put our books to the side and download a unit study from Amanda Bennett or someplace similiar.   Yup, I've become a mean Mommy, making them learn about Thanksgiving while they are sick ;)  I've also been throwing them some Thanksgiving themed "Color by Addition and Subtraction" pages just to keep them on their toes.

However, with all that said, there's one major thing that is exactly the same from that post and now.  We are still a close knit family..  Sure, we might have squabbles from time to time, like when we get on Alyssa's rear end for her poor grades in school or because Garrett refuses to help clean the living room, even when he made most of the mess, but we all still hug and kiss each other often, the kids still snuggle up with me when I'm laying in bed and ask me to read to them, and my husband and I still sit together on our couch and show each other affection.

This will NEVER be me - no matter how great the price
I won't be camped out in front of Walmart or Target this Thanksgiving, hoping to get a great Black Friday deal.  Instead, we will be together watching parades and football, helping each other in the kitchen while preparing a wonderful dinner together that we will enjoy. Afterwards we will decorate our Christmas tree together and drink hot chocolate and listen to holiday music.

Because 20 years from now, my kids won't remember an Ipad that I got for a really great price at Walmart after sitting outside for 48 hours. Instead, my kids will remember that family always came first and that we made some wonderful holiday memories together :)

This posting is part of the "Throwback Thursday" Linkup hosted by Tots and Me. Be sure to click over and see other Throwback Thursday Postings :)

Tots and Me

A worthless week.. but ...

Originally Posted November 21st
This week was terrible for us. As I said in the past post, we were all sick. Out of a family of 5, 4 of us got the flu and we're just now starting to feel like normal.. Most of the week was spent sleeping in or just vegging out trying not to be too active. When we did feel well enough to do something semi-productive, Ashleigh spent it drawing, Garrett spent it playing Little Big Planet and Mom spent it scouring pinterest (which mind you, I'm addicted to) for curriculum ideas for the upcoming holidays as well as reading. Prior to getting sick, I was 2 books behind on my reading goal for the year on Goodreads, I am now 4 books ahead. Yup, thats right, I have read 6 books in the past week.. LOL

Yup.. that was basically us.. Only we didn't look this good!!!

However, this week really gave me some true insight to the closeness our family really has.

Anyone who has had a kid wonders if they are raising them right. We worry that we are either too authoritative or too lax when it comes to our parenting style... Will our kids view us as a friend but still understand that we are the parent?  I think all parents have these types of fears, especially if we grew up with broken homes ourselves. We always want better for our kids than what we had when we were growing up..  I personally came from a very abusive childhood and swore I would break the cycle...but I still worry if my actions are the right actions.. Do I raise my voice too much or in a frightening manner? Should I spank or not?? Do my kids know that I love them or are they growing up being scared of me? I know other moms who have similar worries, so I know it's not just me.

This week, with all of us sick, it was amazing to see how the kids actually fit into the family structure without any questions asked.. They say kids lead by the example set before them and I guess that means we must set a pretty good example. When Ashleigh was feeling her worst, Garrett would say "My poor Ashleigh. she's so sick".. When Garrett was feeling his worst, Ashleigh was there to hug him and cuddle him (when momma wasn't). When mom was sick, they helped clean after dinner, picking up plates and cups and taking them to the sink even though they felt rotten as well, then told me they did it because they loved me.  When Dad was sick in bed, they made sure they were very quiet to not disturb him but occasionally cracked the bedroom door to check on him.  No matter how rotten we all felt, we were all together as a family taking care of each other.  We hugged, we cuddled, we kissed the top of each others heads.. We retrieved the thermometer for one another and  brought medications to one another. (Ashleigh even read to me at one point)..

It makes me feel good to know that our family can function as one cohesive unit, even when everyone's feeling like poop..  Some families don't function all that well, even at their best.. but even at our worst, the love was strong between all of us..

Maybe we didn't get to do our math and our vocabulary this week (although I did make them read.. lol) but lessons learned were just as valuable, I think..  even if we're gonna be playing catch up next week.. LOL

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday (Nov 18)

Saturday we loaded up the Forester and headed over to the Base Theater to check out the yearly performance of Tops in Blue.  Alyssa and I attended the show last year but this was the first year Charles and the kids were able to attend..

Tops in Blue is a touring performance unit composed of active duty members of the US Air Force.  Formed in 1953, these talented vocalists, musicians, dancers and technicians take a temporary leave from their current duty assignment to entertain military personnel and their families around the world.

The kids throughout enjoyed the show and I was completely shocked that they were able to sit for 2 hours straight, that's how entertained they were :)

Have your own Wordless Wednesday post to add?? Be sure to click over to Life at Rossmont to post your own or to view other Wordless Wednesday posts.

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont


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