Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Cards

This year I made a few varieties of Christmas cards, once again.  I used to find one stamp set I liked or a layout that really made me excited and mass produce all my cards but over the last couple of years I've been making several different cards as the mood strikes until I have all 40 or so cards that I need.


 The above card was made using green card stock, starry vellum paper, some silver twine, blue card stock, and then my image was stamped on white paper.  I colored in the globe with marker and put crystal effects on the whole thing to make it 3-dimensional and shiny. 

  
This card is my favorite (sorry the picture isn't the greatest-- we had quite a few dark, gloomy days around here).  

I liked it so much I made three different versions using different shades of blue paper for a total of 12 or so cards.  I used blue paper for the card and made sure I had enough extra scraps to cut out a backing for my snowflake stamped image so that they'd match.  I had some snowflake vellum paper and used clear tinsel ribbon from Stampin Up! to embellish the card.  I stamped my snowflake image on white paper using embossing ink.  I then used heat and stick powder and sprinkled the entire snowflake with Dazzling Diamonds glitter from Stampin Up!


I loved the simplicity of this card.  I'm not usually a simple card kind of gal and tend to lean towards the more is more philosophy but once I finished this card I really loved it.

It's another card that I ended up making a dozen or so of in a variety of blue shades.  I used my snowflake punch from Stampin Up! and punched out a white snowflake.  I added a rhinestone gem to the end of each "arm" of the snowflake and stamped my sentiment "the little things" in Whisper White craft ink. 

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Science Lessons Walking Through the Snowy Woods

As we were walking through the snowy, cold New England woods I was struck by how much science we were doing as we were walking, talking, and observing. 

We found so many animal tracks in the snow.  We have just an inch or so of snow, enough for a nice coverage of the ground without it being so deep that the tracks were buried or hard to find.



We saw turkey tracks, deer tracks, and what Alec believed to be fox prints.  My husband thought they might be raccoon prints instead and Alec told us that the "fingers" weren't long enough and that raccoons have long fingers more like a human hand but skinnier and with claws on the ends.  He pointed out that the fox prints were more like a small dog, small coyote, or small wolf but since they were so small and not very deep in the snow they had to be a foxes.

They had great fun following the tracks in the snow to see where they led and we found a nice big tree with lots of leaves under it that we believe is probably the home to the deer.

We looked up fox prints and raccoon prints on the computer once we got home and we all conceded that Alec was right and we most likely saw fox prints. 

My husband was teaching us a bit about the different kinds of trees.  He pointed out pine trees, red cedar trees (which he encouraged the boys to smell a piece of), spruce trees and even maple trees.

Alec found a stick with what looked like frozen/ crystallized sap on it that he wanted to bring home. We thought it was a maple branch and probably maple sap.


We talked about how much sap  you need to make even just a little bit of syrup and reminded the boys about our trip to the maple sugar house.

Once home Alec really wanted to try and melt all the sap together and then re-freeze it. He used a small knife to scrape all the sap off the branch and set it near our wood stove to melt.  He told me at lunch that he was pretty sure it was not sap at all.

The blob (as he calls it) did not melt at all but started to dry out and shrivel up.  He's beginning to think it's some sort of fungus or mushroom. 

We'll be looking that up later after he pokes and prods at it some more.  Such a wonderful way to learn about the world around us.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

What are you Thankful for?

This thanksgiving was like no other that we've ever had.

We had no plans.

We had no where to be and we had no one coming over.


We were spending a quiet day at home together.  Like usual I had built the holiday up in my mind but had no real idea of how it would actually play out.  We had gotten a dusting of snow overnight and by 7:30 this morning all three boys were suited up and heading outside.  They made a snowman, played,  and enjoyed lots of fresh air.  Next thing I knew the younger two boys were playing next door and Ian and my husband had left to go visit a relative.

I had the house to myself, I was watching the parade, and I was kind of miserable.

It didn't feel like Thanksgiving when no one was around.  I tried to enjoy the peace and quiet and be thankful for our laid back schedule today but I was thinking I might have made a mistake in planning a holiday with just us.

It was just about noon by the time everyone came back home. 

 It really didn't feel like Thanksgiving at all until we sat down to eat dinner today.

Even though, for the first time ever we all snuggled down to watch It's Thanksgiving Charlie Brown last night on TV.  We let the boys stay up late and laughed together watching the antics of the Peanuts.  We learned about the Pilgrims in It's America Charlie Brown too.  Even though we've spent the last week talking about Thanksgiving and even though my husband was home with us it still didn't really feel like Thanksgiving.  In fact, Alec appeared not to have realized it was Thanksgiving!

I'm not sure how, but somehow none of my kids knew what I was cooking this year, none of them realized that no one else was coming over, and none of them seemed to get into the spirit of the holiday until we sat down to eat.

 When we sat down to dinner I asked each of them in turn to name something or a few things they were Thankful for.  They ended up keeping it up throughout most of our meal and we had such great conversations.  They all told me my thankful list sounded like a greeting card and was fake because that's what everyone says.

 I had said I was thankful for our family, our health and our home.  Since that didn't appear to be good enough I said I was thankful for yoga pants.  That they approved of! 

It was fun, light hearted and over so fast.  I felt that this year, more than any others, we really connected as a family.  I wasn't spending the whole day in the kitchen or entertaining guests so I got to spend the time with my boys completely un-distracted and tuned in to them and our family.

We read P is for Pilgrim and talked about such heady topics as why Lincoln was shot, where he was and who did it.


But my favorite part of the day was listening to their Thankful lists.

In no particular order they were thankful for :

  •  a house that had floors and rugs and walls that kept us warm
  • shoes and socks
  • video games and all electronics
  • "all the technology that makes our lives easier" (that's a direct quote from Alec)
  • all the people who prepare good food like today's feast, the people who make the pizzas and the foods at restaurants
  • Their family and friends that have helped them become who they are today
  • Ian was thankful for the ability to run and use equipment and that he was part of a family that had access to it all
  • Ice cream and Italian ice
  • that they don't have to work as hard as the pilgrim children did
  As they were speaking and laughing and bickering I couldn't help but think how lucky I was.

How thankful I am for all the time I get to spend with them.

 How thankful I am for this amazing journey we're on day in and day out growing, loving and learning together.

How lucky we are to have this amazing life together complete with wonderful family vacations, field trips and lots of great memories.

I remembered our Thankful tree from last year and marveled over how much their answers had changed and evolved from last year.   I marveled over what wonderful young men my boys are becoming and how lucky they are to have the amazing role model that is my husband, without whom our life would never be possible.

We are truly blessed and more than ever I felt that this year.

 Perhaps because I too am one year older and have grown, changed and evolved or perhaps because I had the added gift of time this year.  Time to sit, time to reflect and time to enjoy.  It was definitely one of those days I want to store and remember. 

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

School and Snow-- you can have both

  Determined to do some school work today I warned the boys early this morning that we had to do SOMETHING educational today.  Ian nodded along as he watched the Curse of Oak Island and Alaska The Last Frontier.  The younger boys mumbled consent as they continued to play Minecraft on their Kindles.  I warned them that I was heading upstairs to get ready and I expected them all to be ready too.  I got side tracked fixing up my nails for the holidays.  It's a yucky rainy and snowy mix outside and wanting to feel festive and happy I put on some Jamberry snowflake nail wraps.  I'm probably one of the few people I know hoping we'll get dumped on in the next 24 hours.  It's been a really long time since we've had a white thanksgiving and I think it would be festive.  Of course, I don't have to travel in it either so that makes a huge difference.  I just hope and pray that everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving either way. 
   I finally came down around 10 and asked if anyone was ready to start school.  Since Evan had been following me around for the last 20 minutes asking if he could start school he got first dibs on my time.  We sat down and read another elephant and piggy book then worked on three pages in his phonics book.  He did absolutely awesome at it all.  He convinced me he only needed to do one page in his math book since he did three in his phonics book and that seemed like a fair deal to me so I agreed.  We opened his math book to a page on addition.  We had gone from 5 or 6 problems, complete with pictures to count, to a page of 30 or so problems with no pictures.  The problems had also changed from 4+2 and 5+6 to 10+9 and 13+ 5 so I was doubly glad we had decided on just one page today.  We took it problem by problem and he did great.  We took turns writing in the answers since he hates to write and mostly I just want to know if he can figure out the answers.  He remembered the "trick" with adding 10 and immediately knew that 10+9 was 19.  He always put the larger number in his head and counted on using his fingers when necessary.  If the problem was written 2+8 he'd immediately repeat "so 8+2..." and figure it out that way.  He's got a good grasp of addition and numbers so we'll just start working on memorizing addition facts.  From learning sight words I know he's not so great at memorizing but repetition works wonders.  We'll have to start playing some games with his addition facts and probably only focus on one family of facts at a time.  We finished up his schoolwork in record time today and I went to see what the older two boys were doing.

    Alec, who is barely 2/3 of the way through his book asked if he could just finish reading his book.  I get that he wants to finish up the book and that he loves reading so I said sure and hoped that he would be finished soon.  He finally came down (after he had finished his book) and worked on a page multiplying two digit by one digit numbers.  We counted up how many pages they completed and how many are left to fill in with their workbooks and they're about 1/3 of the way through it.  I was surprised since we really don't do pages all that often.  I told them if we kept up at his pace we'd be done their books by spring. 
   Ian was busy in his room building with his Lego pieces.  He put together a drill rig using a fan from an old loader and other assorted pieces.  Evan wanted to see what he had built and the next thing I knew they were building together.  I let them be until I heard some fighting and then encouraged Ian to either go read in his room or come work with me on some math.  He chose to read a chapter or two in his room with his new Roscoe Riley book we started last night.  He must really like the book since he was reading it after he was in bed last night too and is already on chapter 10.  He finished reading and reluctantly came down to work on some math.     
        While he might have grumbled and complained about having his math book out we ended up working on four pages!  This was HUGE.  Ian hates math.  He picked out a page on rounding to the nearest tenth, hundredth, and thousandth and completed it by himself getting them all right.  We then went through together and worked on a few pages since we discovered he was quite a few pages behind Alec.  He hates to write his answers out and the few pages we found together I had him just tell me the answers orally.  We worked on rounding decimals to the nearest whole number, deciding when to use inches/ feet/ yards or ounces/ pounds/tons in measurement and weights, and multiplying or dividing by 10.  We were done very quickly.  So quickly that Ian argued with me that we couldn't have done four pages.  Once I reviewed it with him and he saw that we really had accomplished a lot today.  He told me he was smiling underneath and imagining himself burning his book this summer once it was all done.  I'm thinking I should photograph a few of the completed pages if he's serious. 
    We ate lunch and read some more of our Harry Potter book.  We hurriedly got ready for our gym class and headed out.  We only had one other family show up but luckily they are a large boisterous group.  I think my boys had even more fun today than usual (other than a few minor injuries).  They played gaga ball.  They set up a mini obstacle course, used the jump ropes, and tried to balance on the Bosu Balls.  Evan tried doing jumping jacks on the Bosu,  Both him and Alec had a contest to see who could hop on one foot the longest while staying on the Bosu.  They flipped the Bosu balls over and balanced on the flat plastic side too.  They tried standing, sitting, and even walking from one to another.  It was lots of fun and I practically had to drag them away when it was all over. 
balancing himself

doing jumping jacks
  



















     The roads were getting a bit slushy but we still decided to stop at the library anyway on our way home.  We had a few more books that had come in overnight and we had finished our book on CD.  The boys loved Dragon Rider and were sad to see that it was not part of a series.  I tried to encourage them to pick out another book on CD but no one really seemed to want to so we decided to take a mini break from them.  Alec is on his last book of the Warrior book series and checked out another 3 chapter books in the next series of Warrior books (we discovered there are many series within the series).  I also picked out a lot of Christmas books for us to read aloud and share together.  Something about winter always makes me want to snuggle up with a good book, my boys, some hot cocoa and a nice fire. 
    We headed home and the boys all geared up in their winter gear eager to play outside.  I filled up the wood rack and got fires going in both the woodstove and our fireplace.  Since it's our first snow storm of the season the kids couldn't wait to get out in it even though it was mostly rain with very little snow mixed in.  They were soaked within minutes but couldn't have cared less.  They built and destroyed a snowman, tried to go sledding and spent a good deal of time pushing snow around with the snow shovels. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Homeschooling During Thanksgiving Week

 I am continually struck by this thought today and over the past weekend.  It just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving is really this week.  



Normally we'd be baking and cleaning up a storm today but this year, much to my family's chagrin I'm taking a mini holiday from all our holidays.  I decided NOT to host a huge Thanksgiving feast at our house, like usual, instead we're staying home with just the five of us.
  • I don't need to cook and clean for three days prior to the holiday.  
  • I don't need to hit the grocery store (we've already decided we'll just work with what we already bought).  
  • I don't need to set the table all fancy and bring in added tables and chairs. 
  • I don't need to do much of anything except cook on Thursday. 
 It's a weird feeling but I'm loving the laid back feeling of holidays at home.  Typically the kids and I wouldn't be doing any schoolwork at all this week, but since this isn't  a typical holiday I figured we might as well get a little bit of school work done. 

We read Three Young Pilgrims while eating breakfast.  Ian had picked this up at the library one day last week and wanted to read it before Thanksgiving.  It was such a great book with lots of details about the first Thanksgiving, the pilgrims, and the history of that era.  We had a few pretty good discussions about what life was like back then.


 Ian started reading his new book up in his room.  He has read three chapter books this past week!   He decided to add up all his change and money and fill out a bank deposit slip for our trip to the bank tomorrow.  He wanted to keep 1/4 of his money for spending and put the rest in his savings account.  He asked if he could call that math for today and move on to painting his airplane.  I thought that was fine and he happily set to work pulling out all the supplies he needed.  When he was done he cleaned up after himself as well.


 Evan and I read another elephant and piggy book called My Friend Is Sad.  He did great!  We then went on to work on two more pages in both his Star Wars math book and his Star Wars Phonics book.

 Alec spent his morning reading more of his Warriors book.  He started book number 5 this morning.  He had finished up book 4 on Sunday and wanted to read the My Weirder School Book Mrs. Lane is a Pane!  He read the entire book in just under an hour last night!

 My nephews arrived and the boys took off playing; they played Kindles, WiiU, Playstation 2, watched videos on-line, played ping- pong and made up their own game using our ping pongs  paddles.

Ian stumbled upon a series of mining shows called "Yukon Gold" on YouTube and spent part of the day watching these old episodes from the History channel.
  
After their cousins left  Alec was back to reading his Warriors book, Evan was building with blocks and Ian was playing with our Rubik's Electronic Puzzle Cube.  He played a memory game and made it to 40 correct colors in a row!  Ian and Evan worked together to build a fort for their stuffed animals using blankets and blocks and put all of their polar animals in there. 



Their fort

 The boys finished up their day watching a Magic School Bus episode.  They watched The Magic School Bus In the Haunted Museum and learned all about music and vibrations.

The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series


Friday, November 21, 2014

On The Go!

   While our days have definitely quieted down quite a bit I still feel like we're often on the go.  Today was one of those days where I knew we were going to be gone so much that school work was going to be next to impossible but that's OK.  There's more to life and learning than just books and days like today help me focus on all that "other" learning.  We  had a bit of time before we had to leave the house this morning and Ian made waffles from scratch for everyone.  Other than asking me to take out the waffle pan and asking how to decide how many chocolate chips to add to the batter, he didn't need any help at all this time.  He doubled the recipe again and happily set to work-- reading, measuring, mixing, and following directions.  He even game a mini lesson to Alec about how to measure out the batter, pour it evenly into the waffle maker, and safely take out the finished waffles.  Alec was eager to learn but nervous about getting burned.  It was neat to see Ian take over and teach for once.  The boys did an amazing job.  I ended up eating chocolate chip waffles too and boy were they ever delicious!   Now if only I could get Ian to bake and cook a few other dishes then we'd truly be all set.  I'm toying with the idea of having each of the boys help me cook dinner one night a week, but I do enjoy my peace and quiet in the kitchen so I'm not totally sold on that idea yet. 


    We read some more of our Harry Potter book while eating breakfast, knowing we'd most likely not be home to do that later.  After breakfast we all got ready.  The boys made beds, put away their laundry, got dressed, brushed and flossed their teeth.  We all piled into the car to head to our lawyer's office.  I had to sign some papers and knew it would be quick enough to bring the boys with me.  I had never set food in a lawyers office until I was an adult and found it a bit intimidating at first.  Knowing the boys were not at all impressed by a "lawyer's office" was great.  They asked a few questions but mostly just observed and we were in and out pretty quickly.  They sat in the waiting room while I met with the lawyer.  She, of course, asked the usual "no school today?" question and I responded that we homeschool.  Like usual, my response was met positively.  She congratulated me on my ability and willingness to homeschool.  Then asked if I had educational background, not because she didn't think I was qualified to teach, but because I didn't seem at all intimidated by the fact that I was teaching.  She confessed that he had wanted to be a stay at home mom but realized rather early on that she was a better mother when she was working with other adults and had breaks from her kids.  She remarked that she thought it was important for all of us moms to know ourselves enough to know what we're best at.  I heartily agreed.  While I love homeschooling I'm quite quick to admit it's not for everyone.  Everyone CAN homeschool if they want to but yeah, I think it's great for all us moms (and parents) to respect each other's decisions and work with our strengths.  The boys played Minecraft on the Kindles and the other women in the office soon realized what they were playing.  They all have kids and are deep in the Minecraft craze too.  My boys enjoyed talking with them and sharing their knowledge and I could tell they all enjoyed the exchange too.
   We immediately headed across town for Alec's dentist appointment, and though we were a few minutes late, we soon had him settled into the dentist's chair.  I let him handle the hygienist's questions and listened in on their conversation about tooth care and cleaning.  My kids all enjoy and look forward to going to the dentist for their cleanings and I hope it always remains that way.  He had a great check up and we all piled back into the car. 
   Ian was asking Alec and Evan for help with his Minecraft game and they told Ian that he had discovered gold.  For my boy that suffers from gold fever this was excellent news.  His eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning as he hurriedly asked what the best way to mine it was.  He turned to be, elated, and exclaimed that he had found gold.  The face was priceless and I was momentarily reminded how lucky I am to share even these tiny little accomplishments with my boys. 
   We headed home for an hour or so until gym time.  I hadn't planned on doing anything but we ended up having a mini geography/ cultural lesson.  We had a gift of candies and treats from Mexico that we had received.  I took out a knife and we spent a bit of time trying each of the candies.  We talked about possible ingredients, local plants, and spices.  The boys compared the tastes and textures and ultimately Ian was the only one to like any of them.
Can you tell what Alec thinks of coconut candies?


   Ian worked on painting the first coat on his airplane while Alec read his chapter book and Evan ran around playing with swords and toys.  Our time at home was short lived and all the kids piled back into the car to head to our gym class.  We listened to even more of our book on CD and now only have 3 more disks left to go!


  


















     At gym they went through some warm up exercises, ran through an obstacle course a time or two, and played Simon says.  The kids also played quite a few games of gaga ball and then tried to play capture the flag for a bit.  Evan was not having fun at all today once the obstacle course was cleaned up.  He's not a huge fan of gaga, mostly because he tends to get out fairly fast and that frustrates him.  His team was loosing at capture the flag too and I think all of this was compounded by the fact that he didn't bother to eat lunch.  None of us did after having a large, filling breakfast of waffles, but I still think by 2:00 the kids were starving.  We've noticed that makes a huge difference with Evan and his attitude.  The older boys stayed after class to practice their karate form with their teacher and to play a game with "just the big kids" called Ninja.  They had fun learning this new, made up game but I could tell Evan was near melt down mode by then so we packed it in. 
Warming up

Simon says

Capture the flag

Ninja

    We needed to stop at the store for a few things.  Evan was pretty moody and grouchy then too so I ended up buying us another box of protein bars and handed him one as soon as we got in the car.  By the second store I had a totally different happy kid!  We ran into Ian's first grade teacher and he was thrilled that he was taller than her now.  They chatted for a bit and she commented on how busy we keep.  I sure couldn't argue with that!  We picked up some glass ornaments and some yarn so we can start in on our Christmas crafting real soon.  I reminded the boys that come Thanksgiving traditional school tends to fall by the wayside and we'll be concentrating on crafting, baking, and holiday fun.  They're looking so forward to that and I have to admit that I can't wait either.  We have some really neat and different crafts planned for this year as well as our traditional paper snowflakes and household d├ęcor type items.  It's always such a fun time of year. 

  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hiking and Homeschool Pilgrim Day

We started our day off with a forced march through the woods.  I had warned the boys before bed that we'd be bundling up and heading out for a walk first thing in the morning.  I wanted to get our walk in before our homeschool group meet up.



We have so much sickness and illness all around and I was thinking lots of fresh air wouldn't be a bad thing.  I'm hopeful it will keep us healthy, but if not at least we had a nice morning nature walk and hike.  We walked for 30 minutes and observed the differences in the woods during this time of the year.

The boys reminded me what the path had looked like in late spring and told me we should hike the same trail all four seasons.  I reminded them that we just about have.  I had the same thought not all that long ago.  The boys found animal tracks and Alec determined that it was a dog's paw print.  We had a race to the car at the end.  Alec, not only won, but he was the only one who  made it running flat out the whole way. 

Checking the ice to see how solid it is

Soaking in the sunshine

Pointing out paw prints to us and all the parts of the paw print

It's a race... guess I loose!

 We listened to our book on CD in the car and the boys were all playing Kindles as well.  They were all playing a new app I downloaded yesterday called Bridge Constructor Playground.  They tried to convince me it was learning and I had to laugh.  I told them that's the whole reason I downloaded it for them yesterday.  It looked like a fun way to reinforce our bridge building lessons and make connections between the Magic School Bus movie and our marshmallow bridges.  They had fun and they often conferred on the right way to build their bridge.  There are many materials available to them to build with and they can test the bridges with cars and trucks.  They really liked it a lot. 

We headed out to meet our homeschool group for a fun history class.  I think our wonderful group leader really outdid herself this time!  She brought three different books to read about what life was during the first Thanksgiving.

We read Sarah Morton's Day; A Day In the Life of a Pilgrim Girl,


Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times,


and Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day In the Life of a Pilgrim Boy.


listening to stories
In between each reading she had games planned to go along with the stories and time periods.  She did a great job relating all the stories to the kids lives and I was pleasantly surprised by how much all three of my boys knew and remembered about the pilgrims.  Even Evan often whispered the answers to me.

They learned how to play Fox and Geese.  Our leader had printed off paper versions of the game and brought white and red beans to act as the chicken and foxes.  It reminded me of Checker's meets Nine's Men's Morris and, not surprisingly, Alec really got into the strategy of the game (here's a wooden version of the game).

Playing goose and fox



Listening to another story

The boys also played a Native American Stick Game (here is a basic version of the game).  Alec joined in with some new kids that had showed up today and played a few rounds.  He quickly grasped the concept of the simple game and memorized the scoring rubric within minutes.  All the kids seemed to enjoy the game a lot.  Evan was too shy to play at first but eventually settled down to play a few rounds with just me.  We used more beans to keep track of our scores and I liked that it incorporated a bit of math and counting too.  Evan even figured our how much I was ahead by when he had 22 and I had 25 beans.  His next drop gave him four more points and he told me he was then winning by 1. 

Playing the stick game


Evan and I playing

The kids got to sample semi- authentic pilgrim food.  Our leader brought Pompion, Cornbread and Apple Juice.  We talked about what Pilgrims ate and drank.  The resources they would have had available and how the holiday has changed over time.  Ian knew that they would have drank beer or wine to protect themselves from the water and that they didn't have juice available to them.  We changed that today for obvious reasons, but we did keep our foods sugar free and spice free as the Pilgrims most likely didn't have access to sugar, sweeteners, or spices. 


The kids also got to play with colonial era toys like a Jacob's ladder, a old wooden colonial bowling set (where the pins are set in a circle), an old top and string, and some wooden catch ball game.  The kids all took turns with the various toys.  We noted how simple and unadorned they were as well as the fact that the toys were made out of wood-- not plastic!  It was a fabulous afternoon and a great history lesson. 
Trying to catch the ball
in the cup is not easy!

Jacob's ladder confer

Playing bowling
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