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Category: Life in a large family

Homemaker Hack: toothbrush jar holder board for small bathroom

Homemaker Hack: toothbrush jar holder board for small bathroom

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Having six kiddos is a blast. But it’s also challenging. One of the challenging aspects is keeping track and organizing everyone’s stuff: shoes, socks, multiple pairs of underwear (I’m always getting “Mom! These aren’t mine! These are ____!” Somehow they always seem to know.) A tough one for us personally is toothbrushes.

Since we began our new and exciting journey with Carrie Ibbetson and her Oral Health Coaching program, each of the kids now have multiple toothbrushes and tools for different purposes that they rotate through. I dutifully wrote names on each brush handle BUT still needed to be sure everyone kept their tools separate to avoid cross contamination. Bleh.

This presented a new challenge though because our bathroom is so small. You know some of those old-style bathrooms where the architect was like, “this room shall serve as few purposes as possible. It shall have a toilet. A sink. And a small bathtub.” Pretty scrunched. At least it encourages shorter bathroom trips, LOL.

ANYWAY, here is what I came up with:

Not bad, huh? It was super easy to make and works so well for all the kids. Here’s how I made it:
Materials:

  • Wooden board (Any scrap wood will work but I didn’t have any and I liked the pallet kind of look so I found this one 50% off at my local JoAnn Fabrics and used a coupon so I got it for about $5)
  • Pint size, wide-mouth mason jars (Already had a ton of these in my basement – Free!)
  • Steel worm gear clamps – like 11″-12″. These were available at a local hardware store for just over a buck a piece.
  • Copper pipe strap with nails – I found a package of like 10 for about $3 at the hardware store. I had the gear clamps with me so I just held them up to choose the size I wanted.
  • Screws – just rummaged in my basement for a few miscellaneous ones
  1. I chose to paint my board. Probably could have painted twice but I get bored with painting quickly.
  2. After it dried, I measured the length and divided it by the number of jars I wanted penciling in my marks.
  3. I nailed in the copper pipe straps. In hindsight, short screws would have been better but I just bent the ends of my nails down in the back. Note: make sure to hold up the jar to where you think it will hang; I almost mounted my clamps too low and my jars would have hung below the board.
  4. Then I screwed the board into the wall where I wanted it.
  5. Next, I inserted the worm gear clamps, adjusting to the size of my jar and tightening.
  6. Finally, I placed the jars into their rings and, voila!

What are some great ways you save on space in your bathroom?

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A Different Green Smoothie

A Different Green Smoothie

After making enough food to satisfy the stomachs of six starving tiny humans I often don’t feel like eating the same thing or don’t feel like investing more time to make food for myself. Smoothies are a simple way for me to pack in nutrients without spending a lot of extra time in the kitchen.

Here’s what I had this morning:

Here’s what was in it:

3/4 cup plain, homemade yogurt
1 tsp maple syrup
Splash of vanilla
1/8 tsp spirulina powder
1 raw egg yolk
1 Tbls coconut oil

I find it helpful to add ingredients while the blender is on (especially when you add the coconut oil).

It is filling, it is healthy, a little tart and it is tasty. I feel a boost of energy after drinking this in the morning. Something I desperately need to continue chasing my children for the rest of the day! Sometimes I add frozen fruit for fun. Give it a try! Note: if you’re going to attempt the raw egg yolk, be sure to research your egg source carefully first. I actually buy a specific brand of egg just for the purpose of eating raw; I wouldn’t do this with just any egg. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use the eggs we get from our new little flock of hens later this year!

What are your fast and healthy breakfast favs?

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments


GETTING REAL

Those squeeze fruit pouches for babies: love them and hate them; especially after your foot unknowingly finds a half finished one on the floor.

Kids’ toothpaste seems to be getting low. You find out your son wanted to try it out as hair gel.

Kids down their food like industrial vacuum cleaners and dash away from the table insisting they are “stuffed”. Mom: “Are you SURE?” Kids: “Yes! Yes!” Mom: “You’re going to be hungry in 10 minutes…” Kids: “Nuh-uh! We’re SO FULL!” Ten minutes later: “Moooooom…what can we have to eat?”

You’re in a meal-planning slump so you browse through your old pinterest food pins. “Oh we haven’t done this one in a LONG time! I’ll make that one,” you say as you find something that looks appealing. Note to self: make notes or DELETE those pins you’ve tried; there was a reason you hadn’t made that meal in so long!

Spring has arrived! The moment you construct that new raised bed you’ve been planning one your outdoor cats be like “oh, how thoughtful of the human to give me such a large new toilet.”

You find a cereal bowl and spoon in the trash can. It’s not broken; someone just wasn’t thinking and threw it away. As you’re about to holler to the kids, “ok! Who threw a bowl away?” you recollect it may have been you as you cleaned the kitchen last night in a semi-zombie state.

Sunshine is glorious but now you can see the million sticky handprints on the windows.

Small socks clogging the drum in the washing machine.

RECEIVING GRACE

Glad you put down your phone when the kids yell “mom! Watch me!”

The sight of a small child still unfolding from sleep. Love that she still trails around her blanket. Curr-click. Heart photo to remember.

Giving in and letting the toddler help with dinner because they really want to just spend time with you.

Glancing out the window to see a big brother cheering a little sister as she balances on her bike.

Seeing your children delight in being around each other.

A repentant heart in a child and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Friends who message you to say, “I prayed for you!”

God’s gentle reminder in the middle of my worry-storm of everything little thing I want to accomplish and everything thing I want to teach my kids that all I really need is to know Him and out of that will flow all He has called me to do.

 

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments

KEEPING IT REAL

  • The Baby grabs your coffee off the table and onto your lap.
  • You make oatmeal for dinner.
  • You buy a Costco pack of paper plates to combat the mass of unwashed dishes cluttering the kitchen. After a week of using paper plates you admit it’s pretty cool…
  • The alarm bleeps in your ear. You are faced with two options: sleeping another 10 minutes or getting up to exercise. Bwahahahaha!!
  • The three year old asks to help setting the table. You hand her the pizza cutter with a caution that it’s a little sharp. She grabs it, turns heel and races into the next room screaming, “watch out! It’s SHARP!”
  • The cool thing about being eternally sleep-deprived is that you can drink caffeine any time to the day and still fall asleep as soon as you hit the pillow.
  • Gathering the kids for a group Bible story is sometimes like trying to rake leaves while the wind is blowing.
  • When you ask the kids to describe what you just read, they stare blankly for a moment then start spouting appropriate-sounding answers like, “God?” “Jesus?”

GRACE MOMENTS

  • God is good. The only reason for grace throughout the day.
  • Friendship is a gift. Friendship that is tested with fire and revives stronger is priceless.
  • Your husband takes two whole days at home so you can attend the church’s women’s retreat.
  • You overhear one of your children encouraging another with a verse from the Bible.
  • No matter how empty the fridge appears, with a little imagination there always seems to be something you can make!
  • Some books are like old friends. You share one such book with your kids and delight to find them as captivated by it as you were.
  • A simple school lesson sparks a question in the children which turns into an opportunity to dive deeper into the subject which ignites a fire in their souls.
  • At the end of the day, it’s not about doing it all, it’s about being faithful to just do the next thing.

What were some of your Real/Grace moments this week?

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A Brief Morning Prayer

A Brief Morning Prayer

In the quiet of this morning, when anything at all seems possible, secure my heart and my thoughts for you, Oh Lord.

My plans, my expectations must fall apart before your sovereign plan; give me open hands and an open heart.

When tiny feet sound on the stair, signaling the end of the stillness (and hot coffee!), give me your love for them. May the fullness of my hands cause my heart to burst with reasons to give you glory.

Let me never cease to pray for the children you have entrusted to me; make them sharpened arrows for your kingdom.

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments

“By the grace of God I am what I am…”

KEEPING IT REAL

  • Your brain is serenaded 24/7 by the strains of the latest favorite animated movie soundtrack.
  • There’s a sticky spot on the table in which you keep setting your book or your hand.
  • Why even bother wearing socks in the house; there are puddles EVERYWHERE.
  • The undone laundry is the towel load. That night, two children throw up…and there are NO towels.
  • Nice weather keeps the kids outside for hours…and hours…even though there is still work they need to do, it’s ok if they don’t come inside quite yet…
  • Motivation strikes: it’s work-out time! Barely a minute in, the toddler decides to literally drape herself over you as you attempt a floor routine.
  • A child spills her smoothie into the shag rug. Just to prove how dumb you are, you clean up the mess then give her more smoothie which she immediately spills again in the same spot.
  • All the matching socks are on a walk-about. There’s nothing for it but to wear mismatching socks and YOU DON’T CARE.

 

GRACE MOMENTS

  • A friend brings you dinner when your husband is out of town.
  • Friends volunteer to watch your herd so you can run errands and get a coffee ALONE.
  • You get to experience real love and support from your church family.
  • Optimism: mountains of laundry equals a well-provided for family with lots of little people to love.
  • Your oldest says, “hey mom, I can watch the smaller kids so you can have some quiet time.”
  • Your kids are sick but still a friend offers to come help out even though she might catch it!
  • Once in a while, your big children still want to snuggle.
  • Remembering Ephesians 2:8-9.

 

What were some of your Real/Grace moments this week?

 

 

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments

Just a few of the things God has done in my busy life this week! 🙂

KEEPING IT REAL

  • You have the house to yourself for a few hours. Looking forward to some rare alone time, you think of all the many things you’d like to do knowing you won’t have time for all of them. You start straightening the house while you try to decide on just one or two things, only to suddenly realize everyone just pulled up in the driveway and you’ve spent the whole time cleaning (like you do every day). Lesson: next time have a list of “alone-time activities/projects”!
  • Finally, the house is vacuumed! The kids bring home paper bags filled with popcorn. The toddler runs around shaking a bag upside down yelling, “it’s snowing, mommy!”
  • There is no cream in the fridge for your coffee…and you were JUST at the store.
  • You tell all your friends that your baby is sleeping through the night. That evening, she stops sleeping through the night.
  • The toddler gets loose without a diaper and pees somewhere on a floor covered with Legos.
  • You catch your four-year-old running out of the house in only a swimsuit because apparently, any sunshine at all qualifies as swimsuit weather even when it is 35 degrees and still icy outside.
  • Your daughter stares at the top of your head then declares, “mom, your hair is turning gray!”

GRACE MOMENTS

  • You discover an unopened bar of your favorite chocolate in the pantry.
  • Every morning your oldest son gives you a hug the minute he sees you and says, “I love you.”
  • You get to hold a brand-new baby and marvel at the miraculous handiwork of God.
  • You witness the answer to a prayer you started long ago.
  • You read a passage of Scripture you’ve read before but glean a deeper understanding of it.
  • You’re able to still have peace and a sense of joy even when things are not the way you planned.

What were some of your Real/Grace moments this week?

 

Real/Grace Moments

Real/Grace Moments

 

I thought it would be fun to take a moment this week to reflect on real-life moments that (although maybe not our favorite at the time) we can look back on now and laugh. And also, to take a moment to count our blessings. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to these!

KEEPING IT REAL

  • You don that cute new tee you bought, smiling at yourself in the mirror as you pass by because it’s so much fun to have something new, pick up the baby only to immediately have your top has transform from apparel to burp cloth. Literally.
  • Loving the feel of the new, thick shag rug (New Year’s house gift!), you slowly wade through with bare feet but discover it is now embedded with one of childhood’s deadliest landmines: Legos.
  • You have forgotten to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Again.
  • You’re picking up bits of tortilla chips and crackers from the floor and without thinking, pop one into your mouth and eat it. As you swallow through your own horror, you assure yourself that certainly, by now, all the germs in the house must be the same color as your own…
  • Your baby has a snotty nose. Although you know you just bought a Costco-sized package of Kleenex, there is none to be found within your immediate vicinity. So, you use the baby’s sock. Or the hem of your burp-cloth shirt.
  • You serve your kids box macaroni and cheese for lunch for probably the fourth time in a row. You optimistically throw some frozen peas at it, thinking that will make it all better.
  • No one wants to talk to you or needs you until you are in the shower.
  • While waiting for your older children to finish their swimming lessons, you need to use the restroom but have to take the baby, 2-year old and the 4-year old with you. As you masterfully juggle baby and hiking up your jeans, your ever-admiring 4-year old daughter yells loud enough for everyone in the family restrooms to hear: “Oh, mommy! I LOVE your underwear!! It’s SO pretty!!!”

GRACE MOMENTS

  • An older woman touches your arm at the store as you stand in the check-out line with your brood and says, smilingly, “I remember when I was in your shoes; bless you.”
  • Your littles still want to snuggle and be with you; even when you’ve had a very bad day.
  • You overhear one of your smaller daughters singing to the baby, “I love you, and God loves you…”
  • The new baby smiles at you.
  • Your husband brings you home a mocha.
  • A friend asks, “how can I be praying for you?”
  • Your husband senses how tired you are and manages dinner himself so you can take a break.
  • You enjoy a deep, encouraging personal devotion time with the Lord while the house is quiet.

 

What were some of your Real/Grace moments this week?

 

 

The Rough Road of Motherhood

The Rough Road of Motherhood

~Recently, I was asked to share the devotional at a friend’s baby shower. After much prayer and advice from others, the Lord led me to share a few of the things I wish I had known as a brand-new mother. I hope it is encouraging.~

It’s 2am. Small cries inform you that your baby is awake again and needs you. You fumble in the dark so you won’t to turn on any lights and just manage to get your child fed. You may begin to doze off now, only to reawaken when you hear an explosion emanating from her posterior. Up again, lights on, new diaper. Back to bed. Almost asleep…oh my goodness! Again! This time up the back of her onesie. Repeat the last three steps. Rather than drifting back to sleep, you’re more awake now and so is your baby. In fact, she thinks now is a perfect time to tell you her list of demands. Loudly.

Now your husband is awake. You both take turns walking up and down the room, bouncing and singing to your precious progeny wondering helplessly what in the world she wants.

Eventually, she goes to sleep. Your husband drags himself to work. You’re tempted to get some housework done or take the opportunity to get some quiet time with the Lord. You fall asleep trying to decide.

It’s noon. You’re still in your pjs, rushing around trying to get a few things in order before you run out (now late) to your mom’s and baby group.

Baby spits up on you. Of course, you remembered a change of clothes for her but forgot to pack an extra shirt for yourself.

After group, where you felt like your baby was the only one not doing what everyone else’s babies were doing (sitting up, rolling over, saying “mama”, contentedly enjoying tummy-time or (GASP) sleeping through the night), you make a quick run to the store. Your baby coos through half the trip, then screams through the rest. You’re sure the whole store is staring at you. Flustered, you forget two of the items you needed.

On the way home, she falls asleep. You decide for the sake of your sanity to place the car seat in the bedroom so she can continue her nap.

Your mom calls. She wants to know what’s new with you and her grandchild. You tell her everything is fine but maybe let slip something that’s giving you a hard time with the baby. She means well, but all you hear is everything you’re doing wrong.

Evening approaches. You’ve made a stab at the housework and now you need to make dinner buuuuuuut you need those couple of ingredients you missed at the store. You call your husband to see if he’ll pick them up and you’ll eat late or if you should opt for take-out.

Take-out wins.

Your baby is an absolute delight until bedtime where she proceeds to fuss and cry until eventually exhaustion prevails and she falls asleep. At this point your husband, who has enjoyed several boosts of caffeine throughout the day, twinkles his eyes suggestively at you while inside you’re thinking “you’ve got to be kidding!” Ultimately, the evening ends with very little sleep and some frustration. The cycle begins again with the wake-up calls of your baby.

Congratulations! Welcome to motherhood! Anyone who is a mother can relate to parts or maybe all of this scenario. From the moment your baby is born, the task of motherhood is unending. It is highly demanding on you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Physically, your body, already having spent nine months feeling stretched to the limit, is changing all over again. You can feel self-conscious of how you look post-baby; fearful you’ll never return to how you once were. Lack of sleep and constant production of nourishment for your baby is taxing. Maybe breastfeeding is far more challenging for you than you imagined.

Emotionally, it’s easy to feel very lonely as a new mother. Often, you think you’re the only one dealing with a baby as difficult as yours and that no one understands. You look around at the other mothers in your life and wonder how they can manage to make it look so easy; surely, there must be something wrong with you. You may even sense some distance between yourself and your husband as baby’s needs demand more time away from each other.

And spiritually, it can be so easy to slack from your regular study of the Word and time in prayer. Instead, you begin to rely on your own strength to get you through the day. When that happens, you can very quickly feel starved.

Philippians 4:4 tells us: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.” God wants us to cultivate a joyful spirit. It may be easier to allow ourselves to feel down and even complain when we are exhausted. Earlier in motherhood, I remember feeling sorry for myself when I would be awakened by kids in the middle of the night; I resented that my “right” to sleep had been violated and I would allow it to affect the next day. God convicted me of this, and instead I began to remember scripture verses about joy when I had to get out of bed and I set a new habit: I chose to always greet my child with a smile whenever I saw them. Remember, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22.

Resist the temptation to compare yourself to those around you. Your story will always be different from someone else’s. The mothers around you who seem to have it all together have struggles of their own. Pray that God would protect you from feelings of inadequacy and thoughts that because this motherhood thing isn’t flowing the way you expected means you somehow “missed your calling” elsewhere in the world. Despite what the world or even well-intentioned family will tell you, your life is not “on hold” because you’re having a baby; this IS your life. Don’t grow to resent your baby because you believe she’s keeping you from doing something “more meaningful”. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Have joy in being where God has you right now at this moment. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Remember that your husband still comes before your baby. It’s easy to give all your time and attention to your baby and forget to make time and attention for your man. Yes, your baby needs you very much especially in the beginning but keep in mind that she is a welcome addition to an already established family unit but not the center of it. (Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”) The new inclusion of one person does not exclude the other. Find a good balance together. Husbands and wives need each other. Your children need to have a mommy and daddy to need each other. They will grow best and derive a sense of security when they see their parents not only spending their own time together but enjoying each other.

Psalms 63:1 “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Above anything else, put God first. Back in my earlier days of motherhood, I told a friend how overwhelmed I felt with everything, that I didn’t know how to get it all done managing kids, a home, being a wife, and serving God. What she told me was so simple. Put God first. Set aside all that “other stuff” and go to Him first. He will give you your portion for that day. And when you seek Him diligently and increase in craving the Word each day, that “stuff” won’t matter because you will be obediently and joyfully pursuing what He has given you for that particular time.

Don’t try to do anything in your own strength. God wants us to realize just how desperately we need Him. For some of us, like me, it takes a lot of reminding. When I’m not feasting on the Word, I’m quick to tell myself “I’ll get to that later” and rely on my own strength to do things. How quickly I crash! God in His gracious mercy, has shown me repeatedly that there is no moment in motherhood where I can exclaim, “I have arrived!” And with each child He has awesomely blessed me with, I have been that much more driven to my knees in prayer for His help. And that’s where He wants us. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9

So, what about the wonderful fuzzy feelings that babies are supposed to bring with them? Oh, they’ll be there. As you faithfully pursue God, slow down and take the time to just enjoy your baby because she will grow so fast! You’ll hardly be able to get over marveling at her tiny fingers and toes. You will be beside yourself with delight at her first smile or when she locks eyes with you and recognition floods her little face. There will be wonderful snuggles and times when you’ll feel you could stare at her perfect form for hours. If I could go back to the early days with my first, I would have put down a lot of the housework and cuddled my baby more.

The road of motherhood is rough, but you don’t have to travel it alone. Don’t be afraid to seek out advice from godly women around you. They are there to encourage you and pray for you. Don’t be like me when I tried to figure it out on my own because I couldn’t bear to admit I was struggling. Be open in your communication with your husband and strive to be of one mind together in raising your daughter.

Being a mother is one of the most incredible tasks God gives. Just think! In His wisdom, He chose you to be the mother of this child, another human being created in the image of God, His most precious creation. He has charged you and your husband with the responsibility and privilege to raise her for His glory.

I love how God uses many things in this life to remind us of the relationship He desires to have with us. Motherhood is yet another beautiful picture of God’s perfect and boundless love. A mother sacrifices daily her needs and desires for her child; Christ came to serve and not be served. A mother would give her life for her child, and God sent His only Son.

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalms 139:13-16

The Sunshine Beyond the Fog

The Sunshine Beyond the Fog

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How long it has been! The world has changed once again in our home. A healthy, beautiful little girl (we’ll call her Pumpkin) is now blessing all our lives in new and sometimes challenging ways. A birth story is coming…when time allows for me to complete it. 😉

With the cold weather beginning to set in, the darkness staying longer in the mornings, and coming earlier in the evenings, the children and I have tried to find more to do indoors including making a valiant stab at some semblance of school. Sometimes, it has caused us to be at each other’s throats what with the lack of routine and the exhaustion that comes with adding a new baby to the family. This mommy has certainly felt the struggle of trying to get a much needed quiet time with the Lord every day and getting everyone to accomplish at least ONE productive thing before resorting to the electronic baby-sitter devices…such is this season of life.

I feel like I’m in a perpetual fog most mornings. When the alarm goes off from across the room, I roll out of bed to hit snooze only to crawl back into bed, convincing myself that I’ll get up the next time it sounds. But the next time goes by and before I know it, everyone else is up and it’s now too late for a quiet Bible read with a cup of coffee. Well, I could probably get the coffee, but we all know that it will be re-heated a million times before I can actually sit and finish it.

You know that feeling you have when you’re trying to move quickly while wading in deep water? Your mind is moving fast to will your body to move quickly and you know where you need to go but it is impossible for your legs to cut through the water barrier. That’s how it feels during the day when trying to do something simple like make a meal or put a load of laundry in the washer. I…feel…like…a…snail…

Being social right now feels slightly foreign to me. Having been so focused on the affairs of home, it is sometimes hard to remember other people exist in my life. So if I zone out while we’re talking, it isn’t because I don’t enjoy visiting with you, it’s because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before (and possibly because on the millionth re-heat, I zapped all the caffeine out of my coffee). If I’m late getting somewhere, I have six reasons plus my un-showered, un-combed self as my excuse. And if I say “let’s put that off until next week”, it isn’t because I’m trying to avoid you, but because if I add one more thing to my plate right now, I might actually lose my mind.

All this isn’t to say I’m complaining. I’m actually not. All this is simply a statement of fact. This is life right now.

And yet, with all this exhaustion, all the ups and downs of my mommy hormones, and even the loneliness that comes from scant adult interaction during the week, I AM LOVING this time!!

This is where my God has put me. This is my portion; this is my cup. Again, I am floored by my own inadequacies and His sufficiency. And though it makes no sense in the commonsense world, the more I empty myself, the fuller I am. I am so tired some days as I stumble around in the fog of my own humanity, but He is the light that guides me safely through and is the sunshine that is always there beyond the fog.

We may have ordered out pizza a lot more these days and there are definitely more piles of stuff around the house lately, but again, I am loving this time! I am filled with joy knowing that this is where God has me and it is He who sustains me.

To all my friends and family, I love you! To anyone else who feels stuck in a fog season: life happens but God is there in the middle of it.

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