Monday, June 24, 2013

Field Trippin' - Contemporary Art Style

This past week, we headed out with our buddies to The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. We'd never been there before so we weren't sure what to expect. We were really going to take a photo for the Sonlight catalog. :)

Imagine our surprise when we saw this totally awesome exhibit by Brian Dettmer.  Here's the down low on Brian.

Brian Dettmer is an internationally renowned sculptor who uses outdated, mass-produced books as the medium for his craft.  The artist carefully slices through books such as old encyclopedias and medical guides, revealing words, patterns and images. Individual ideas and thoughts are separated from their original context and rejoined to allow them new possibilities of meaning. What is left behind is a stunning, visual prose.

Art from books... ha ha ha ha ha!!!  It was amazing. Except for the part where I couldn't take any pictures. Boo, boo, double and triple boo. Good Grief!!! I can take pictures at the Met or of the Declaration of Independence. But not here. I'm not one of those ding bats who uses the flash. Ever. I know how to use a camera.

So we didn't get our shot, and it would've been perfect, and I don't have much to share with you except for this photo I borrowed from the website. If you get a chance to check out some of his stuff, do. It was wonderful.

There was also some bizarro tarot card exhibit. Besides the fact I'm not down with tarot cards or what they represent, it was really complete junk. A few beautiful drawings,  a lot of I'll just throw this down on a 8x10 piece of paper and frame it, and a touch of inappropriate. We rushed through that with a few words on the occult and what the Bible has to say on the matter.

There was a rather neat Art Lab where the kids could make their own art. They had pages of old books for them to create art in the style of the Mr. Dettmer and several other activities. They had a lot of fun creating and then hanging their art in a museum like a real artist. That was pretty cool.

We managed to get some shots for our photo shoot outside. And while we were there we got in a little nature study too. Nothing like multi-tasking while out and about. I didn't get the shots as I'd envisioned though. They were too busy reading the books to pose "properly." Brats! lol

What interesting places have you been to recently?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

There is a Reason....

Why Type 1 Parents are exhausted. The short answer is because we don't sleep. Because we're getting up every few hours to check their blood sugars.

The fact that T1Ps (type 1 parents) do this is sometimes a hot topic for debate.  Those "in the know," other T1Ps usually, understand completely. (And my most awesome friends.) Then there are others, usually those who know little to nothing about Type 1 diabetes, will assume things like "helicopter parents" or "over-reacting." Or "once you get their blood sugar under control..." As if that is a possibility. The disease is too unpredictable and there are too many variables that effect it. We shoot for in range and hope for the best.

Your pancreas is naturally programmed to keep your blood sugar where it needs to be. That is not the case with a type 1 diabetic. The pancreas doesn't make the cells necessary to produce the insulin that  gets the sugar to the cells where it's needed for energy. So we inject the insulin ourselves, whether by syringe or a pump.

Now your perfectly created pancreas knows precisely how much insulin your body needs for the amount of food you consumed. Awesome. But not true for the diabetic.  Unfortunately for the diabetic the amount of insulin given is decided by a human. A perfectly, flawed human.  We are given guide lines by (perfectly, flawed) medical professionals for how to figure out this stuff out. But it's still just a SWAG (scientific wild a$$ guess).  What works one day, might not the next. I've done the same thing over and over and often gotten totally different results. How my older daughter reacts to a treatment is often the exact opposite of how my younger daughter reacts. I'll get totally different outcomes for doing the exact,same thing on a different day.

The guidelines change ALL THE TIME. I can't even begin to count how many times we've changed our daughters' insulin to carb ratio or the amount of basal insulin they get. Tons. The weather can effect it. Stress. Physical activity. Type of food. Lack of sleep. Hormones. Puberty. Growth spurt. Illness. Pretty much anything.

We have to take all of this into consideration when we decide how much insulin to give our daughters. That is a huge amount of pressure. Every decision we make has a huge impact on their health. Too little and they run high. They feel horrible and run the risk of having high ketones which, over time, can lead to DKA and major long term health issues. Too much and you have a more immediate scare. Plummeting blood sugars.  The latter is the fear that keeps T1Ps up at night. This mom's experience is every T1Ps worst nightmare. (And thank heavens they had a continuous glucose monitor to catch that.)

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so it is very overwhelming to be a full time pancreas for two children. My husband and I are not perfect. We make mistakes. Like the time Kayleigh got 2 doses, one from each of us, of her night time lantus. We realized it right after it happened but there was nothing we could do about it other than check her more frequently. Had it been fast acting insulin, we'd just have given her a snack but since lantus acts differently so we had to wait it out. She bottomed out about 16 hours later, with a blood sugar reading of 41. (Her target is 150.) While in the car.

Last night we had another "human error scare" with Mackenzie. She was a little on the low side at bed. Not really low but not where we like her for sleeping purposes. Because diabetes does NOT sleep. It seems to play the nastiest at night.  So we gave her an uncovered snack and asked her to reduce her basal insulin (long acting) by  10% for 4 hours. (One of the perks of pumping. You cannot do that on shots while using lantus. Once it's injected, there is no changing your mind.)

We checked her again about an hour and a half later, expecting to see her closer to her target of 120. She was lower than when she went to bed.  We got her another another snack and checked her pump. Instead of reducing her basal by 10%, she had increased it. We were twigging. What if we hadn't checked her again? She had 2.5 hours left of the adjustment left. What would we have found if we hadn't checked again until 2 am?

And get this? After a snack, reducing her basal for real, and a great number at 2 am, she was still on the low side when she woke up this morning. That's diabetes. It doesn't follow a pattern, it doesn't sleep, it doesn't care about the "rules" of carbs to insulin.

And that my friends, is why T1Ps get up all night long. Because we don't know if D is going to play nice. Or if we might have made an error, like last night when we didn't double check that Mackenzie hit the right button. The only way to know is to check. Even if it means giving up REM sleep.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: Prima Latina

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Latin was something we enjoyed but got lost in the shuffle when our life got crazy with diabetes. So when the opportunity came up to review Prima Latina from Memoria Press, I was all over it. What better way to get back into our latin studies then with a review where we have to be consistent with it.

About Memoria Press

The Memoria Press educational philosophy is a self-described as a "classical Christian education." The believe in training through liberal arts and familiarity with great books and great Western thinkers. It is a family-run publishing company that provides materials for private and home schools.

Our Experience

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We received the complete Prima Latina set. It came with the student book, instructor guide, pronunciation CD, flash cards, and  instructional DVDs.

It is meant for students in 2nd through 4th grade. I knew that when I decided I wanted to review with my 6th grader. However it takes a different approach, much heavier in vocabulary, then what we've used in the past and I was excited to try it.

This program is super easy to use. You do not need to know any Latin to do well with it. The DVD lessons do all the "heavy lifting" for you. An older student could even be successful doing it on their own.

There are 25 lessons total. The lessons are made up of five parts: The lesson itself, vocabulary and grammar forms, practical Latin phrase, English derivatives, and Latin Prayers. All of this is laid out in the student book and taught in the instructional DVD.  The book is well laid out and easy-to-read.

Mackenzie and I watch the DVD one day and then she'd do the lessons in the student book the next.  Really, she could complete the entire lesson in one sitting. It was really easy for her. I think that the most this was most obvious on the DVD. The instructor was definitely teaching to the younger set. But despite this, we both enjoy the lessons and are learning a lot of new vocabulary.

One of our favorite parts was the English derivatives. It is a lot of fun to see how many words in our language originated from Latin. This will be helpful when the SATs roll around. ;) She is also enjoying learning prayers in Latin.

If you are looking for a quality, affordable, and easy-to-use program for Latin, then check out Prima Latina.



Age Range: Grades 2-4

Price: $90 for the complete set


The Good, The Bad, and What We LOVED!!!

Well our 2012-2013 school year is coming to a close and that is always a good time to reflect on what worked and what didn't this past year. So here's what we used and what we thought of it.

The Good

Word Roots

Language Lessons for Little Ones

Get Ready for the Code series

Exploring Creation with Zoology 2, Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day

What We Believe Series, Apologia

The Bad

Honestly, nothing that we used this year actually falls under this category. Unlike the absolutely wretched something we tried last year that still angers me to this day.

We did have one thing that stopped working for us this year...

Growing With Grammar level 6 - We started using it last year when Susan Wise Bauer decided not to publish Advanced Language Lessons. (Wahhhhh!!  We loved First Language Lessons.) GWG worked wonderfully for us last year. This year we have seemed to hit a wall with it. So we will be moving on to something else next year. I still think it's a great program, definitely worth a look if you are searching for a self-led program for your child.

The real "bad" for us this year came in the form of two type 1 diabetes diagnosis'. Learning to adjust to a new, and much more complicated, life style takes a lot of time and energy.  On top of the learning curve of just caring for the girls, we quickly learned that blood sugars that are out of range can lead to an inability to focus on things like school work. We often had to "reschedule" our day to work around difficult blood sugars. This, on top of review items, led to us taking a bit longer than normal. Which, of course, meant "lesser subjects" got pushed aside. Things like...

Visual Latin - Wahhh!!! We love Visual Latin. Love, love, love it. We hope to get back to it next year.

Artistic Pursuits - for both girls. Not as big of a deal for Mackenzie as she takes art classes at our local co-op. Kayleigh just did more informal crafty projects that went along with what she was reading.

Composer & Artist studies

What We Loved

Sonlight Core F, Eastern Hemisphere - It was fabulous!!!! Hands-down the highlight of our school year. A wonderful look at the world God created filled with tons of moving books. More than one book had Mackenzie begging to read ahead. It really got Mackenzie and I thinking more about those around us and helped us prioritize how we pray.

Sonlight Core p 4/5, Exploring God's World - This is my second time through it and it's just as good the second time around. Since I had updated the core there was even a little newness for me. Kayleigh just loved the books, and like her sister, likes to read them again and again.

We've been using Sonlight for 8 years and we just adore it. It's content is the absolute best (in my not so humble opinion). It's easy to use, just as easy to tweak. It's always the best part of our school day. :)

All About Reading pre-1 - Love, love, love it. I'm super excited to do Level 1 with Kayleigh next year.

Math-U-See, Zeta and Primer - MUS is hands down our favorite math program.  Despite the unique scope and sequence, Mackenzie continues to get near perfect scores on her mandatory standardized testing.  Mackenzie will be moving on to Pre-Algebra and Kayleigh will continue on with Primer.

Institute for Excellence in Writing - Our first year using it. I don't know why it waited so long to try it. It's revolutionized Mackenzie's writing. We love everything about it. And it provides us with great entertainment because Canadian Andy is hi-lar-i-ous!!!

Raising Rock Stars Preschool Memory Verses, 1+1+1=1 - This was our second time through this. We always enjoy Carisa's stuff. It's sad to think that we've now reached the point where Kayleigh is too old for most of it. :(

So tell me, what did you love this year? Or not.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Birdcage Press

Birdcage Press Logo photo Birdcage-logo_zpsa3a9555b.jpgArt appreciation and art history is not something that I was ever exposed to during my school years so, when I started homeschooling, I was really surprised at how much I enjoy it. My girls too! It really surprised me when I saw how interested in art Kayleigh was at a very young age.

So we were all really excited when Birdcage Press offered the Crew some of their fabulous art products. We received Art Close Up: Museum of Modern Art and have been having a lot of fun with it.

About Birdcage Press

The story behind Birdcage Press is a really neat one. It all started with one mom creating educational games and books for her children. The next thing you know, the games are published, winning awards and being sold in museums all over the world. How cool is that?

Our Experience

We received the Art Close Up: Museum of Modern Art card game. This particular card game focuses on works of art found in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. There are other close up games that focus on works found in other museums.

The deck consists of 48 cards featuring 24 works of art and 24 extreme close ups of each work of art. Artists include Degas, Hopper, Gauguin, van Gogh and more.

There are suggestions for five games to play that will help your child with art appreciation, memory and matching, and pattern recognition. Your game options are "Art Memory" (concentration), "Old Master" (old maid), "Painting Pairs" (a spin on go fish), "Masterpiece Match Up" (a whole new game for you to learn), and "Treasure Hunt" (field trip!)

The first thing that we did was just look at the cards. They are bright, sturdy, and colorful. Very well made. We layed them all out and matched the pairs, noting which ones we recognized.

Then we proceeded to play Art Memory. Several times. Mackenzie is a game lover and was as happy as a clam. Kayleigh was thrilled when she was winning. And when she found a painting she recognized. lol Not as much of a fan when she wasn't making a match. That's Kayleigh.

Mackenzie and I loved them all, Kayleigh would get a little frustrated with some of them. Partly because of her age and mostly because she doesn't like rules. lol But she loved the cards and found her own way to use them. She'd pull out her special art books and go through them, matching the cards to the works in her books. She just loves going through her books and matching.

The real reason I was excited to review these cards was because I wanted to do the art treasure hunt. Essentially, you take the deck to the museum, in this case the MOMA, and go through the museum and find the works on the cards.

Now we don't live in NYC, so I had planned to go to our local art museum and do a modified treasure hunt. We were going to hunt for other works by the artists on the cards. I was so excited to do this with the girls. I was crushed to discover that they were closed for renovations. Until 2014. Gah!!!!!!!!!!! Huge disappointment.

One day, I plan to do this treasure hunt at the MOMA. We are huge fans of NYC and will make it back there eventually. So it will happen. In the meantime, maybe we'll hit the National Art Gallery in D.C. and do a modified hunt there. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that in time for our review.

All in all, we loved these cards! Mackenzie asks to play the games at least once a week. They are a wonderfully fun addition to our art studies and I plan on owning more. My Crew Mates reviewed more awesome Birdcage Press products so be sure to click the link below and see what else they offer.



Age Range: 5+

Pricing: $10.95


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Road Trip: HEAV

So me and my bestie, Andra, road tripped it to Richmond for the annual HEAV (Home Educators Association of VA). Sans children.

We love our kidlets but, I'm not going to lie, we drove the entire 90 miles with a huge grin on our faces and a weight lifted off of our shoulders. Yay us!!!!  We were super excited!!

Why did we want to go?

To get the heck out of dodge and have some fun. And we were dying to meet Mr. Demme and Canadian Andy. You might know him as Andrew Pudewa. Yes, we know he's not Canadian. :) But the nickname popped up and we just can't seem to get it out our our heads and we're keeping it. So there! And there is a Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in Richmond. To. Die. For. Just go. Worth every penny.

The Duggars were also going to be there and I thought about trying to convince one of those bigger Duggar girls to come be in charge of my much smaller and quieter jurisdiction. :) It would give them a lot more free time. lol As long as they're not afraid of needles.

We arrived, well before our appointed check-in time. Not a problem because my hubby has a lot of Marriot Rewards points. Flash the card, get in early. Woot!!  Everybody at this Marriot (Downtown Richmond Marriot) was super nice. We're talking Chick Fil-A nice. In fact, when I told one employee that he said that, it was the best compliment that he'd ever gotten. lol

Day 1

Preparing for High School

Our first stop, Preparing for High School. We decided to get that out of the way early so we're not scrambling the summer before those kidlets are actually ready for high school. Topics covered: Developing a Plan, Record Keeping, and Transcripts.

I am happy to report that we are both on top of it. Most of what she'd covered what exactly what we'd figured.

Interesting things we did learn:

*You don't necessarily have follow your local school districts plan, although it's not a bad idea.

*Colleges look most closely at 9th-11th grade. By the time your senior year rolls around you've most likely already started applying for college so they won't really get a chance to see those grades unless maybe they're unsure about you and want to see how you're doing this final year.

*They don't usually look at your middle school transcripts so be careful about taking too many classes too early. Those credits might not count the required amount of credits in a given subject. For example: The college of your choice requires Algebra 1.  Your student takes it in 6th or 7th grade. That credit might not count. By 8th grade you'd probably be alright. (I sure hope so. We're slated for Algebra 1 in 8th grade barring some math catastrophe.)

*Watch out for too many pass/fail grades. Some college assign the lowest passing letter grade to a pass. Which mean that even though your students aced the class with complete knowledge and understanding, they might only be given a D if that's the colleges lowest passing grade. Yikes! This should be reserved for subjects that are more subjective and difficult to grade. Like art.

*Some electives might be better suited as extra curricular activities. Colleges love extra curriculars. Make sure you have some. While the many years of piano lessons might make a great elective they might make a better extra curricular. If you list the piano lessons on the extra curricular sheet you can also list any awards they've one, performances they've done, etc. Think about what will work best where.

*AP over Honors is generally the best way to go. The short of it is that AP classes will be easier for you, the parent, to deal with. Less hoops, widely accepted, no waiting to have your honors program approved.

This last part is common sense to me but, since she made a point of bringing it up, I'm going to share it. Don't lie about what your student knows. It will bite you on the hind end. Saying that your student is a math whiz and then having them fail the math section on the ACT/SAT is a dead give away. Nobody likes a liar. And it makes all homeschoolers look bad.

Pig Out!!!

The last thing we did, after perusing the vendor booths, was head to dinner. Our first mistake. Eating too much bread. And then our flatbread appetizer. The cheese on it was sooooo yummy! Which lead to our inability to finish the delicious Chicken Florentine. OMG! Soooo good. There wasn't even a hope for dessert. We brought it back with us so we could eat it later.

If you haven't been to Maggiano's Little Italy. Go. With at least four people so you can get the family style service. Do not eat for two days prior to going. And wear stretchy pants.

Day 2

The Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing

Canadian Andy is in the house!!!!  Super excited. IEW's writing program has revolutionized our homeschool. In the area of writing.  And science. And any subject that might require writing assignments or taking notes.

I'm happy to report that I do not commit all four errors. Only 1.75. Shew!

Best Tidbits:

*Teach editing skills separate from their writing lessons. Asking a child to edit their own work is dumb. If they could've done it right the first time they would have. Edit it for them and give it back so they can make the changes. With your mouth shut. Spare the lecture.  Note their mistakes so you can bring them into your editing and grammar lessons at a different time.

*Expectations based on age are ridiculous and set children up for failure.

*My child's best IS good enough. And when she doesn't give her best, forgive her and move on.

*There's no such thing as too much help. They'll let you know when they don't want it. And when they don't, step back.

While the session was about teaching writing, it really served as a reminder of what a blessing homeschooling is. Not every child gets to proceed at their own pace until they really know the material. That is HUGE. I love I don't have to rush my girls along because I have some test looming over my head. Okay, I do have a test looming over my head but I don't care about it. It's no more than a $25 nuisance. (That I need to order and administer soon so I can appease "the man". Oops!)

I'm sorry that I wasn't able to get you a better picture. We had grand plans for photos with Canadian Andy but we ditched them because he was hacking up a lung. Next time. They'll be epic!!

If you ever have a chance to hear Andrew Pudewa speak, jump on it. He is a wonderful speaker and has fantastic insight to more than just writing. 100% awesome. Love, love, love him. I can't wait to hang more with him next year. You know, when he's healthy.

Can You Really Learn Art Online?

Darned if I know. Painful, painful session. The speaker, while very sweet and a talented artist, was a yawn. And the session was a big (boring) push for his online art academy. I'm not ashamed to admit that Andra and I wrote notes back and forth like we were in highschool. Just keeping it real.

That's what we get for letting Andra pick. ;)

Elementary Algebra Taught Concretely

Mr. Demme, Mr. Demme, Mr. Demme!!!!! I love him. It's true. I told him so right in the middle of the session. If you happen to order the mp3, you'll hear my declaration. We love the man so much we skipped the Duggars keynote to go to his session. It was the right choice.

He's everything in person that he is in his DVDs. Silly, funny, brilliant, thoroughly enjoyable. I am now a lot smarter. And I did pretty well in college algebra. Factoring trinomials the MUS way. Brilliant!!!!

His best bits were a lot like Andrew Pudewas. His top three tips for math education:

*Move at the child's pace.

*Teach where they are at, not based on their age or some misguided idea of where you "think" they
should be.

*Parental involvement. This should be easy for a homeschooler but sometimes parents leave their kids to a DVD and their own devices.

Can't wait to start teaching algebra. But we'll wait a year or so. lol

Combing Classical Education, Charlotte Mason, and Unit Studies with a Biblical Perspective

A great, big commercial for My Father's World. We walked out.

Keynote Speaker, Jeff Myers on Why Kids Leave the Faith

Over an hour into the session, I was wondering if I'd ever actually get to hear Jeff Myers. Over an hour of my time wasted on the HEAV 30th birthday  celebration. HEAV is awesome. They have helped move mountains for the homeschooling movement. However, I came to hear Jeff Myers.
I spent the first hour flirting with an adorable baby boy across the aisle. I forever christen him "Carlos". I miss you Carlos!!

Jeff finally made it the stage. He was awesome for the 20 or so minutes he finally got. Unfortunately he didn't really get to go too deep into the topic. Boo! I did hear of a few books to add to my reading list.

Disappointing though.

On the Bright Side

Guess who we found on the way back to our hotel? Jim Bob, Michelle and some of the kids. There were staying in the same hotel. Jackson held the door for us. Bless his heart. Then we had to hurry him along because Jim Bob was hauling booty and poor Jackson was about to be left behind.

Michelle is a lot shorter than I expected. Pink was the color of the day. Those kids are even cuter in person. Even when tired and rumpled. Michelle was sporting a new 'do. And seemly just as sweet in person as on t.v.

Jinger, my Duggar of choice, was also there. They all looked tired and frazzled so I decided not to try and convince her to come home with me instead. I don't think Jim Bob would thought I was funny at that moment in time. (I am though. I really am.)

They had to bolt because they had another engagement the next day. It was time to pack and load the bus.  Drat! I wanted a picture of myself in front of the bus.

It was late. We were tired. We went to our room and ate cheese corn for dinner. Yum! Lemon cookies for dessert.

Day 3


We were running late and missed our first session. Cat and Dog theology. Bummer. It looked great. We hear that Sonlight is considering it so that even intrigues us more. Loved the people at the booth and what we saw.

We had a leisurely breakfast with our favorite waitress, Arsonia. She's the bomb. She deserves a big raise. Love her!

Then we hit the vendor hall and did some shopping. Hit the IEW booth. LA complete.  Found some cute drawing books to go along with Mackenzie's history. Score!


I don't even want to talk about the Miller Pad and Paper store. Who knew paper could be like crack? Love, true love.... sigh.

The Hidden Gem

Next we hit How Art Can Transform your Child's Future put on by the Creating a Masterpiece company. We ran across this booth while shopping over at IEW the day on the first day of the conference. There were two kids at easels working on these beautiful pastel sunsets. I asked the dude at the booth how long they had been working on them. 15 minutes. How long have they been taking lessons with your company. They haven't they are just visiting the conference and we asked them if they'd like to try a lesson.  

Holy cow! It was amazing. In one hour they had the most beautiful pastel drawing that anyone would be proud to hang on their wall. Every hour they would have 2 new convention goers try the lesson. I was simply mind boggling at how beautiful and easily these were created. We came back to this booth a million times and stared in wonder. We looked at their display showing the work of 4/5 year olds that would blow your mind. Just check out some of the work.


Impressive, right? We were even more impressed after the session. We got to see Sharon's (the instructor) heart behind the program. We got to see her art work. We got to see what students have been able to produce after completing the various lessons. Amazing!!!

Each level includes 6 DVD lessons covering a different medium. She offers feed back via email or their facebook page. The family who runs it is just delightful. 

Each level is designed to last a year and is a great deal when you consider the cost of art lessons. At our coop we pay approximately $300/year and this year they completed 2.5 projects. The same projects they did last year. For half the cost my girls could be doing work like this. Both of my kids. This discovery made the conference for us. 

If you are looking for an art program that will give your child incredible confidence while producing beautiful art, this is it. 

Last But Not Least

We skipped the last session. There was nothing that really interested us. So we hung out by the MUS booth in anticipation of stalking waiting for Mr. Demme. We felt we really connected at our session and that he'd like to hang with us for a while. (We were right.) While we waited we helped Howie and Bill Manny (he did not look like a Bill) peddle their wares. Love you crazy guys! (I'm sure they thought we were the crazy ones. lol)

Naturally Mr. Demme found us to be awesome. And said to make sure that we posted this photo on his pages because it was his first photo bomb. He's been bombed but never been the bomber before. And now we're all the Three Best Friends That There Ever Was or, as Mr. Demme named our trio, BFF squared. He's our kind of people. Our children were so jealous. Ha!

The End! Until next year.



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