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Want to be a Happier Parent this School Year? New Book Review and Giveaway!

What would it look like to be a happier parent this school year?

Is it really possible for us to find more happiness amidst the chaos of the hectic school morning routine, the homework, the sibling drama and once again telling your kids to put away the screens while eating breakfast?

My friend, Lori, exudes happiness in her annual back-to-school photo tradition! Isn’t she the best?

New York Times contributor and writer KJ Dell’Antonia’s tells us HOW we can regain our happiness in parenthood in her brand new book, How to Be A Happier Parent- Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute.

As a mother of four, KJ found herself wondering if this whole parenthood thing had to be so difficult on most days. She wanted to enjoy motherhood more than she was. But, the workload was overwhelming. She questioned why she wasn’t more satisfied with her life as a parent. So she set out to find out how we can bring more happiness, and even fun to the ordinary days that make up the measure of our lives.

I consider myself overall to be a happy parent. But, I learned long ago that getting in a school pick up or drop off line was not setting me up for success in the parental happiness department. Neither was helping with math homework or making school lunches for my capable 16-year-olds. So, instead, I taught my people long ago how to be in charge of their own existence.

And low and beyond this is #1 on KJ’s list of what happier parents do well.

  1. Shift from heavier involvement to fostering independence in their children as they become more capable. (Stop doing these things for your teen this school year)
  2. They don’t put their children’s everyday needs before their own. (Can I get a hallelujah?)
  3. They look for the good in the day to day experiences. (Yes, you too can find joy in the pb&j sandwich. Dig deep.)
  4. They know what’s really important and what’s just noise and fury. (Yep, we gotta remember not to major in the minor.)

I love everything about this book- from the cute cover design to choosing the chapter I need right now to help with a problem area in our family. If it’s meal times, chores, sibling rivalry, discipline, screens… you name the thief of your parental joy and it’s most likely in here.

Through interviews with educators and experts along with her personal stories, KJ gives us lots of helpful tips, strategies, and inspirations to shift our mindsets and create new habits in order to find more happiness in our role as Mom or Dad today.

And just because my capable children wouldn’t want me to be too happy, they continue to leave me plenty of reminders that I am still dearly needed.

With a new school year upon us, How to Be A Happier Parent is a well-timed reminder that a satisfying family life isn’t about hauling kids around and eventually dropping them off at destination success. It’s about finding real happiness during our journey of parenthood, and this book will help you figure out just how to do that.

COMMENT TO WIN – HOW TO BE A HAPPIER PARENT BOOK

KJ sent me a copy of her brand new book How to Be A Happier Parent- Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute. to give away to one of you lucky readers!

Comment below on why you want to be a happier parent for your chance to win! One lucky winner will be chosen at random on September 1. Must be a US resident to win.

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9 Ways to Deliberately Design Your Summer

Childhood is short.
Summer is even shorter.
Eighteen summers is all we get.

How will your family spend this precious summer season?

I wish our summer was made up of fireflies rather than Fortnite.
I wish that we could go off on big family adventures instead of being stuck in 107-degree Arizona heat for baseball.
I wish my kids still found me as exciting as they do strangers on SnapChat, Instagram, and YouTube.

I know this 16th summer of ours matters yet how do we make the most of it despite our realities and circumstances?

We must decide to deliberately design our summers.

While June, July, and August may be perfect for lazy days and relaxation, we mustn’t make the mistake of aimlessly drifting through the summer months without purposely making a proactive plan for our family.

What exactly is it that you want and need?

I love that summer provides my teenagers mornings to sleep in and time to rest and recover from their normally stressful high school scheduled programming. Yet, more downtime equates to more screen time if we’re not mindful.

How can we get our kids off screens and make this summer count?

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Family this Summer

1. Teach Life Skills
With more free time, we can take the opportunity to teach our children how to do their own laundry, cook, clean or change a tire. Perhaps you finally open that bank account or help your child start a little business. Or simply teach them to tie their shoes or handwrite, address and mail a thank you note.

What life skill will you purposely teach your child this summer?

2. Prioritize Play
Summer is the time to strengthen family relationships and sibling bonds. Deliberately purchase new indoor and outdoor games that give your family members a reason to play together. Check out my Parent on Purpose Amazon store for our family favorites.

Where are your family playgrounds?

Fun can be found at your dining table for card games or going to the pool. Perhaps it’s fishing at the pond or hiking in the mountains. Maybe it’s bike riding to seek out geocaches together in your hometown. One of our favorite family playgrounds is the beach in California.

Where does your family enjoy playing together? Go there.

3. Strengthen family values and purpose
Summer is a great time to strengthen family values and purpose which may have gotten buried under the reality of a busy school year.

We send our kids to sleep away summer camp for a couple of weeks to strengthen every aspect of their lives as well as for my husband and me to begin to successfully separate from our children.

Our family also goes on a medical mission trip to the Yucatan to serve the beautiful, yet impoverished, community together. We also seek out ways to help locally when we can as well.

What is it that you do that says this is who we are as a family. This is what WE do.

What have you purposely planned this summer to strengthen your family purpose?

4. Cultivate an atmosphere of growth
Summer can be a time for family members to learn new skills as well as strengthen existing ones. Take advantage of camps, classes, clinics or unique opportunities that can help grow passions and personal interests.

What is something new each family member can learn this summer?
What passion will each person continue to pursue and grow?

5. Sacrifice personal pursuits
Make sure you are also willing to sacrifice personal pursuits once in awhile to carve out family time together. Don’t be afraid to have your child miss some training, classes, practices or opportunities so that your family can enjoy quality time to bond together.

What are you willing to sacrifice this summer so your family can spend quality time together?

6. Make mindful entertainment choices
Binge watching television shows or non-stop video game play isn’t a good use of our child’s time. Sure, there may be space for mindless entertainment choices this summer, but we must purposely set boundaries on them, so they don’t consume our days.

Make reading a priority in your home this summer. If your kids have required reading for school, help them make a plan to proactively get those books finished. Be sure that your kids also see you taking the time to read as well.

What healthy entertainment choices will you choose for your family this summer?

7. Go on adventures
You don’t have to venture further than your hometown for family fun. Most of us take for granted the exciting places that surround us locally that we’ve never taken the time to visit… yet.

You don’t even have to leave the comforts of your own home to create meaningful memories either. Or maybe you’re at a stage where your family would thrive on an epic vacation.

What adventures will you create this summer that will add to your family narrative and strengthen your relationships?

8. Clean, organize and get rid of it
The summer months might be a perfect time to clean out bedrooms, closets, and garages with your kid’s help. Purposely decide where to donate your treasures. Maybe have a family garage sale to support a cause or just to have fun together earning some extra summer spending money.

Where can you purposely take your donated treasures to benefit an organization you believe in and want to support?

9. Save space for spontaneity
We don’t want to be so scheduled and entertained that we have no space for spontaneous fun this summer. Purposely leave open spots on the calendar for boredom and time to decide on a whim to take a day trip or to go try a new ice cream or donut shop.

Don’t get to the end of summer and realize that you didn’t take the time or make an effort to differentiate this special season at all.

How will you deliberately spend this summer?

Questions to Ask Yourself-

  • What does each family member need this summer to strengthen them physically, mentally, emotionally and relationally?
  • What frustrated you the most this school year? Work on improving that area this summer so when school rolls around again you may have established better habits.
  • What summer family tradition will you repeat again this year? Summer wouldn’t be summer without this…. bike rides to the bagel shop or boating on the lake. What are the simple things your family does each summer together?
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How 936 Pennies Can Help You Parent More Intentionally

Nine hundred and thirty-six weeks from birth until our children turn eighteen.

Before I even heard the 936 Pennies message, I knew that the time I had to raise my children was fleeting.

Every time I walk into my kitchen, these glass jars on the windowsill greet me. I’m grateful for their visual reminder that what I do today matters.

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God willing we get 936 weeks with our child from the time they are born until they turn 18.

This set of penny jars is a tangible reminder of how fast kids grow up.

We know it’s true, but somehow in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we simply take this precious truth for granted. When we remove one penny from its original jar and drop it into the spent jar each week, we are reminded of how well we are investing in our son or daughter’s childhood.

Eryn Lynum’s new book 936 Pennies- Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting, is based on her viral blog post about the power behind these glass jars of copper coins.

I get asked to review a lot of books, but I actually reached out to Eryn to be a part of her book launch team because I believe in her message so much.

I was afraid that her book wouldn’t necessarily apply to a mom at my stage of parenting kids in the high school home stretch. But, it most certainly does. This book applies to every parent who takes for granted the fact that today does indeed matter.

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Sprinkled with Bible scriptures throughout, Lynum’s book inspires the reader to slow down and prioritize what really matters. She says, “we can’t control time but we can slow it down by living each day intentionally. We only have so much time to teach our kids, to make memories, and to love them while they are at home.”

No Pain, No Gain

Our pennies are dwindling down toward the end and if I’m honest, it doesn’t feel good. It would be easier to choose to ignore the truth of our kids growing up and protect our hearts from the painful reality that our full-time parenting season is coming to a close soon.

“Removing pennies hurts, and it is supposed to,” writes Lynum. “A constant reminder of the shortness of time is meant to stir up a response within us.”

Our jar on the left screams that my time is almost up. I’m down to 81 weeks until my sons turn 18. Lynum’s book encourages me to continue to deliberately invest in my children and the time we have left together.

That near empty jar coaxes me to relax and take the time to look into my teenager’s eyes, to listen and to speak love into him, to reach out and to step back. It beckons me to laugh more and to find peace in the moments I get with my busy teenagers.

What You Do Today Matters

That jar of remaining pennies begs me to teach my child one more thing about life. Or inspires me to make one more special treat. It tells me to say yes to more time to play and say no to more time distracted by screens.

It can be difficult to look at the jars and question if I’ve invested my time well.

We must let dropping yet another penny into the spent jar change us. Let the transferring of each weekly penny remind us that the way we spend our time does matter.

4 Ways to Create Meaningful Traditions in a Glass Jar

“When we set our souls on slowing that time and expanding it by taking notice and appreciating the moments that make up those weeks, we do it,” writes Lynum. “Suddenly a jar of worn pennies transforms into a treasure chest of countless moments, all building on one another to form a childhood bound together by beauty and significance.”

Lynum’s simple, yet powerful message is a great reminder for all of us that no matter the age of our children we must be intentional with the time we have left.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

Lynum writes, “Parents face this overwhelming pressure to make every moment matter, to cherish every second of the journey. But, I don’t believe that this idea correctly portrays our calling. I don’t think our job is to make every moment memorable. Rather, I believe that our job is to open our eyes wide and sink our feet deep down into those moments when we spot them.

Instead of fabricating and trying to control the memory making, we simply utilize the beauty all around us to cement lasting memories. When those opportunities avail themselves, we are ready and eager to snatch them up and hold them with awe. We’ll be ready to turn them into dog ears in the story of our sons’ and daughters’ childhoods.”

Comment below if you’d like to win a copy of Lynum’s new book 936 Pennies- Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting!

One winner will be chosen on February 16, 2018. US residents only, please.

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Why You Need to Say Yes to the Thin Mints

It’s that time of year when we’re asked to buy tagalongs, thin mints, and trefoils.

I remember the first time our neighborhood Girl Scouts showed up unannounced on our doorstep sporting their patched vests, adorable smiles and a cart full of cookie boxes. The only noticeable thing missing was a parent by their side.

Where in the world was the girls’ mother?

This week the sisters who live at the end of our cul-de-sac showed up and confidently handed me a card listing all of their offerings. They told me about their new flavors, informed me of their gluten-free option and explained that the thin mints are vegan. They also suggested I not buy the Smores ones because they’re not very tasty.

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If you tell the girls that you’re watching your waist and not eating cookies right now, they are ready for your excuse. They say you can buy the cookies instead for the troops and they will ship them overseas.

Gracie and Maya bravely stop by annually to sell their Girl Scout cookies without a parent by their side.

Where is their mother and why is she not involved?

Actually, Mom is their troop leader and is exactly where she is supposed to be- encouraging and empowering her daughters from afar. In a culture of helicopter parenting, Girl Scouts allows parents to step back and let their young girls build confidence, character, and courage through their cookie selling program.

Even though my daughter isn’t a Girl Scout and I have no personal experience with the organization, I find the tradition of a sweet young girl boldly asking us to support her cause very refreshing.

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In an age where children are more often seen strapped into the backseat of the minivan racing off to their organized activity rather than traipsing around the neighborhood, I welcome this change of childhood pace that Girl Scout cookie selling provides.

My neighbor Angela Kisner said she grew up nervously hiding behind her parent’s legs and was anxious about having to talk to anyone in person. When she had her daughters, she wanted to empower them to have a voice and found Girls Scouts as one arena to help her raise confident young women. Angela also encourages her troop parents to allow their girls to do all of the cookie selling by themselves.

“The biggest sellers year after year are the girls who sell themselves rather than the parent being the leading factor,” said Jennifer Roman, Arizona Cactus-Pine Council volunteer troop leader and service unit cookie manager. In my training, I also emphasize the importance of the financial and business skills education for the girls, not the actual quantity of cookies sold.”

Did you know that the Girl Scout Cookie program is the largest girl-led financial literacy program in the country?

Do you realize that by buying that $5 box of cookies you are not only receiving a familiar special treat, but you are helping a young girl gain confidence in her leadership abilities?

Girl-Scout-Cookie-Program-Quote

The Girl Scout Cookie Program: Learning by Earning program teaches five essential skills that prepare a girl for future career success.

  • Goal Setting – Girls set cookie sales goals and, with their team, create a plan to reach them.
  • Decision Making – Girls develop a basic business plan for cookie sales and decide as a team what to do with the money they earn: like Girl Scout activities, camp, traveling or service projects.
  • Money Management – Girls develop a budget, take cookie orders, handle customers’ money, and gain valuable, practical life skills.
  • People Skills – Girls learn how to talk to, listen to, and work with all kinds of people while selling cookies.
  • Business Ethics – Girls are honest and responsible during every step of cookie sales.

Because these five skills are embedded throughout the Girl Scout Cookie program, cookie sellers learn in a hands-on, fun way how to set goals and meet deadlines, work well with others, understand customers, and be trustworthy and reliable.

So when you’re asked to buy tagalongs, thin mints, and trefoils from a smiling Girl Scout this month, remember that what you’re really buying is so much more than a box of cookies.

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Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning SnapChat – BOOK REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY

Over the holiday break, my husband and I continuously threatened to shut off our kids’ cell phone data plans, the wifi, the cable box- anything that might get our relaxing students to do something other than stare at a screen in their downtime.

How badly we want 2018 to be the Year of Successfully Parenting Our Screenagers.

Our family has tech boundaries. We have rules for the devices. We even made a cell phone contract when we allowed our kids to purchase their first phones three years ago. How come it’s so hard for our teenagers to follow the guidelines we’ve set and even more difficult for us as parents to uphold them?

Parenting children on screens can be absolutely maddening. 

Thank goodness for the release of the new book Be The Parent, Please Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning SnapChat- Strategies for Solving Real Parenting Problems because I need all of the advice I can get when it comes to this subject!

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When I was asked if I wanted to receive a copy of Be the Parent, Please to review- they had me at the title alone. Ban Snapchat. Where do I sign up? Be the Parent. Yes, please. I’m all over that. I know it’s my ‘job’ to lead my children well, but somehow I still feel that I’m failing them when it comes to tackling technology.

Author Naomi Schaefer Riley is an acclaimed author and mother of three. She brings her experience, research, and no-nonsense candor to the book to help families retake control over technology’s influence.

I am so grateful for the wisdom I gain from books like Riley’s and other books I’ve read on parenting kids on screens.

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Riley challenges us to examine how we really want our children to interact with the world and gives us realistic tips on how to accomplish those goals. Be the Parent, Please motivates us with oh so many reasons to take back control of the screens in 2018.

The book is full of real-life relatable situations and lots of research to get us thinking about being the parent we really want to be. I love that the author talks about the benefits of technology free sleepaway summer camp. Being in nature without devices for several weeks is just one of the many reasons to consider sending your screenagers to camp.

It’s up to us to lead our children well this year and this book is a perfect start to helping us figure out how exactly we want to do that.

Leave a comment below on why you need to read this book!

One lucky winner will be selected at random to receive a hard copy of Be the Parent, Please by mail. US residents only, please!

Winner will be announced on January 23!

 

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6 Ways Parents Can Help Keep Teens Safer

It’s a boy. A boy. And yet another boy.

The ultrasound confirmed that I was officially a Mom of triplet sons which meant I was going to have my work cut out for me. It wasn’t the dirt and grime or nonstop action of raising young boys that scared me. The thought of having three sons who would grow into teenagers with a natural ‘need for speed’ is what intimidated me.

Our trio is now sophomores in high school and the new book Born to Be Wild interested me to review because I want to know if we can really help our teenagers navigate risky choices more successfully.

Can parents make a difference when it comes to minimizing risk in their child’s life?

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According to Born to Be Wild Author, Dr. Jess. P. Shatkin, we can absolutely make a difference by being proactive in our parenting.

Shatkin is a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine and also a Dad of two teenagers. His new book tells us why teens take risks, and how we can help keep them safer.

Enter to win your own free copy of Born to Be Wild now by commenting below!

How can we positively influence our teenager to make the best choices?

When our kids are young, we need to make many choices for them. As they age toward the teenage years, we need to curate their choices. Adolescence is an enormous developmental opportunity. During these years, we must allow our kids to practice all of the many things that they will one day need to do independently as adults, but we as parents must also continue providing close supervision.

How do we help our kids make healthy decisions when it comes to risky behaviors?

Dr. Shatkin recommends we take Wayne Gretzky’s advice and skate to where the puck will be. See the reality of the road ahead and be proactive in designing strategies to reduce upcoming risk factors in your child’s life.

We’re only kidding ourselves if we choose to believe that our adolescents won’t face risky situations each day. Instead of waiting for those risks to happen, we can anticipate the dangers and be ready for them.

Texting while driving, binge drinking, bullying, unprotected sex, vaping and many other risk factors are real concerns and keep us worried about our growing adolescents today.

Here are 6 proactive parenting strategies for reducing risk in our teens’ lives.

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Could your family adopt from foster care?

You are raising your kids and you think your family is complete. But, there are many children living in foster care who need you.

These kids have no stable place to lay their heads at night and are living in the midst of uncertainty.

There are many older children waiting and wondering if they will ever have a loving family to call their own before they age out of the system at 18 years old.

May is National Foster Care Month and over 400,000 kids are in foster care here in the United States at no fault of their own. No child should have to grow up without a family to care for them.

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Parents Are You Properly Pushing Your Kid?

Parents we need to be properly pushing our kids.

Your son doesn’t want to do it, so he doesn’t have to do it.

Whatever he wants.

Your daughter doesn’t feel like doing something, so she doesn’t have to.

Whatever she wants.

Heaven forbid our children ever feel disappointed, afraid, unhappy or uncomfortable. We wouldn’t want that now, would we? Or are we doing our kids a disservice by allowing only what makes them feel safe, happy and comfortable?

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4 Books To Help Parent Your Tech Addicted Kids

Parents are scrambling for advice on how to handle digital devices in their homes.

We are losing our kids to technology, but what can we as Mom and Dad do about it?

We must acquire wisdom from knowledgeable sources and implement boundaries and rules based on what we learn. When we know better, we do better.

The following four books were given to me to review and are each beneficial in the i-parenting journey. With five kids on screens, I’m open to any positive advice I can get right now on how to best handle technology in our family.

Disconnected-Book-How-to-Reconnect-Our-Digitally-Distracted-Kids

1. Disconnected- How to Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids is a call to action because we (adults and children) do not have control over electronic devices and screens; they instead have control over us.

The author Thomas Kersting is a rock star parent because he has no intention of getting his 14 year old son and subsequent daughter cell phones. I’m sure what he witnesses as a public school counselor by day and private practice therapist at night helps him in that decision. Kersting consistently sees firsthand the problems that kids are facing due to technology overuse.

I love that this book is a quick, informative read with less than 100 pages and is broken into three parts- the impact of electronic devices on kids’ brains; technology’s effect on social, emotional and family growth and what parents can do- tips, techniques and solutions.

Kersting lists warning signs and how to tell when your child is spending too much time using any form of electronic media, including television, video games, handheld devices and computers/tablets. He states ways to help your children (and yourself) cut down on electronic media consumption and he also states when is the right age to get your child a smartphone. I wish I would’ve read this one line alone before handing over phones to my kids.

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2. Unplug- Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World is another self published short read by psychologists Dr. Lisa Strohman and Dr. Melissa Westendorf.

The book dives into the difference between technology addiction  and overuse as well as states guidelines that can be established around using technology. The authors’ candid approach helps parents sort through the pros and cons of technology use and helps parents better understand the effects it can have on children.

Unplug helps you determine how to better manage raising children with technology and to provide insight and practical tools for the challenges and choices our children are facing. I really enjoyed the call to action To Do lists at the end of every chapter and the idea of designing a Technology Use Log.

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3. A Parent’s Guide to iPhone and iPad is a must have read for any parent of kids who own an i-device. My kids have had iPhones for nearly two years and I had no idea many of the tips and tricks that I learned in this book. I wish At&t would’ve given me this book when we purchased the kids phones.

This book reminds me of a smaller, updated version of something from the “for Dummies” series. There are easy to follow instructions and visual photos to help guide you through the process.

The Andrew duo crafted this book for the parent, not the tech wizard. Think of it like a cookbook for your device with detailed step-by-step recipes on everything you can do and control on the iPhone and iPad. The tutorials are detailed and simple to follow. Your child’s future will be increasingly connected online, and you owe it to them to understand the tools they will use and how to protect them.

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4. I was part of the launch team back in 2014 for the book Growing Up Social- Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. My kids didn’t even own cell phones at that time so it was a great book to read to help us proactively create boundaries and limits on screen time before they actually owned the devices. You can read my original review here.

Parents, don’t be afraid to be in the know and set boundaries according to your family values and beliefs. Our kids are depending on us to lead them well.

FYI- I will receive a few pennies if you purchase any of the books with the Amazon links provided in this post. 

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Just say NO to the Homecoming Proposal Production!

Star light. Star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish you may. I wish you might. Be my date on Homecoming Night.

As if Teenage guys don’t have enough on their plate, they must now come up with a cheesy proposal presentation to ask a girl to Homecoming. He’d better not think of asking her to the dance without at least a decorated poster board in hand.

Why are our sons expected to put on a proposal production to ask someone to Homecoming today?

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