Saturday, May 31, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 5/30/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy weekend! This past week we went to Greenfield Village's Civil War Remembrance event, planted flowers and veggies and got some other yard work done, and enjoyed being together as a family. There are always many reasons to Smile.

1. Jake: "I think I can read hieroglyphics."

2. Zac: "Who's your favorite kid?"
Me: "I don't have a favorite kid."
Zac: "Well, now you do, 'cause it's me!"

3. Zac: "Mom, one day, can we go to the future?"

4. Tyler got into Alyssa's nail stuff and gave himself a princess pedicure.

5. Jake: "Do you know what I want to hear? Alvin and the Chipmunks singing 'Let It Go.' That would be funny!"

6. Zac: "I'm sweating. No, actually, my hair is sweating."

7. The Wordless Wednesday post this week. 

8. Zac: "I love you, by the way."

9. Zac was innocently sleeping when Tyler climbed up on the couch with a mischievous smile and a cup of water and was preparing to pour it on the unsuspecting boy. Mama saved the day--but spoiled the fun--just in time.

10. Zac: "They have pitatas at church!
Me: "What are pitatas?"
Zac: "You know, they're full of candy and covered in wrappers . . . "
Me: "Oh, piñatas!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 5/23/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! Last weekend flew by with all the festivities, so this list is a bit late.That just means that you can expect a brand new list of Smiles tomorrow, too! It's a bonus week!

1. Zac: "I'm your second marry-er. Daddy's your first marry-er."

2. Jake: "Mom, homemade stuff is so much better than store-bought. I think it's because you put love in it. I don't know how, but you make it so good. It's like you have a secret ingredient. How do you get love in food anyway? Do you kiss it?"

3. Zac: "I'm king of the elbows!"


5. Jake, to Zac: "You can't change the rules just so Mom wins."
Me: "You can't be disgusting just because you're a boy."
Jake: "Mom, boys are made of disgust."

6. Alyssa: "I wish I had eyes in my mouth. Then I could see what I was biting."

7. Me, to Alyssa: ". . . I bet a baby brother went and dumped it."
Tyler, proudly: "Ty-Ty did!"

8. I was washing dishes and walked away to take care of something. I came back to find Tyler helping me finish up.

 9. Me: "No hablo español."
Jake, repeating: "No pablo español."

10. Alyssa tattling: "Jake bit me!"
Jake: "She was biting me!"
Alyssa: "No, I wasn't! I was getting ready to!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trident iPad Case

I have 4 young kids. My life is noisy, rambunctious, and always busy. And things get broken. (Thankfully no people parts, just personal possessions.) No matter how much you tell kids to be careful, accidents happen. That's why we as parents take precautions before something goes wrong. We put fragile items out of reach, give them plastic dishware, place things of value someplace safe. And cover the iPad with a Trident Case.    

As soon as we bought the iPad a few years ago, Leighton purchased a heavy-duty case to cover it. Things wear out over time though, especially when the 4 previous mentioned kids mindlessly play with the rubber covers and stretch the material. The review for the KRAKEN A.M.S. CASE FOR APPLE IPAD 2/3/4 (compatible with the iPad 2, iPad 3, and iPad 4) came at a perfect time.

They have many colors for the cases, and after browsing the site looking at the different options, I chose the lime green. The cover is mostly black with a few pops of color. For this particular cover, the black sections are plastic and the green are rubber. It comes in 3 layers: shock-absorbing silicone inner layer (with plugs and dust filters for power ports, audio jacks and speakers), covered by a hardened polycarbonate outer-casing, with a built-in screen protector.
Those layers keep the device so well protected that the cases meet military standards by independent testing for drop, vibration, dust, sand, and rain:
  • Drop (Mil-STD-810F, Method 516.5) – 26 drops onto concrete from 4ft.
  • Vibration (Mil-STD-810F, Method 514.5) from 20-2000Hz across 3 different axes for a total of 18 hours.
  • Dust (Mil-STD-810F, Method 510.4) – blow dust for 3 hours at 29 ft / sec.
  • Sand (Mil-STD-810F, Method 510.4) – blow sand for 3 hours at 59 ft / sec.
  • Rain (Mil-STD-810F, Method 506.4) – 7.9 inches per hour of rain at 40 mph wind velocity for 1 hour.

All that sounded great. But then came the real test--my 4 kids.  Hubby is the techy one in the family, so I let him assemble the case. The pieces easily snapped together and he was done in a minute or so. After we each ogled it, we handed it over to the kids. The case definitely adds extra weight to the iPad, but they're used to that anyway. Over the last many weeks that we've been using the Kraken case, I've not heard one negative comment from the kiddos. And of course, they even did some of their own drop testing--not purposely of course. Like I said, accidents happen, and this poor iPad has seen some accidents. We've not had one issue with the iPad though, not a scratch or a crack or issues with the screen. Nothing. This tough, American-made case truly protects it.
One thing to note is that the case does have an attachment port on the back. This supports a twist-and-lock feature to securely fit a variety of interchangeable accessories: stand holder, windshield mount, bike mount, headrest mount, hand strap, and more. If you have need of those things, I'm sure it's a convenient option. Without them though, the attachment port just leaves a raised section of the case. It's not a huge deal--it doesn't make it wobble or become unstable, but it also doesn't sit flat. My main issue with it is that between the raised port and the slipperiness of the polycarbonate, the tablet easily slides across the counter and table. It's not something that would keep me from buying the case, but I wanted to point it out.  

Something that I was impressed with is the patent-pending audio technology that redirects the sound to the front of the device to provide an enhanced audio experience. No more do I have to flip the iPad over when listening to music to get the most volume or have the sound directing away while watching a video. It's the details like that that make this a quality case.
I love that I don't have to worry about the kids using the iPad with this case on it. Even seeing my 2-year-old walking around with it doesn't make me flinch. I am confident that this case will keep it protected. Even if you don't have little ones, this case is great for all ages.

This case can be purchased from the Trident Case website for $69.95 with free standard shipping to the United States and Canada.

Trident Case carries so many options for cases to protect smart phones and tablets. If you'd like to read more reviews of this case or one of the other cases, head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 5/16/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! This was one of those weeks when I wasn't very good at taking the time to write down the cute things right away. And everyone knows if you don't write it down immediately, you'll forget. I try so hard not to do that, but it happens. Even though it's a short Smile list, we did have a great week. Leighton and I went to the Tigers game and had amazing seats. (He would want everyone to know that his Twins beat the Tigers, but we won't mention that.) Tyler was his typical self: putting Goldfish crackers in my cup of water; getting yogurt from the fridge and eating it with his hands; emptying kitchen drawers; smudging the front windows with a baby wipe (trying to wash them, ha); drawing on the kitchen table, counter, and all across the couch with a dry erase marker; plugging the sink in the bathroom, filling it with water, and splashing his little feet in it . . . and that's just the beginning. Busy boy. And he's lucky he makes me Smile. 

1. Zac, matter-of-factly: "Did you know that pajamas dont have pockets? Some people say they do, but they don't."

2. Zac: "Why do you always wears rings?"
Me: "These are my wedding rings. They show people that I'm married to Daddy and that I love him."
Zac: "Oh, because married people love each other."

3. After I woke up to breakfast in bed on Mother's Day, the kids gave me cards. Zac drew a picture of his present for me. That's me holding 2 bags of money!

4. The older kids were working on their cursive handwriting. Tyler didn't want to be left out, so he grabbed a white board and marker. Every time he'd draw a line, he'd flip it around and shout, "Mama! Mama!"

5. Jake: "Who invented gum?"
Me: "Hmm, I don't know."
Jake: "I bet Papa knows. He knows almost everything."

6. Alyssa, reading: ". . . The turtle and the lizards and the snake and the dragonflies and the field mouse all sat on the river bank and waited . . . Why does the river have its own bank? Do people throw money in there?"

7. Me, suspiciously checking on Tyler because he locked himself in a room: "What did you do?"
Tyler, trying to act innocent: "No! No. No, Mom! No." 

8. Our first family walk to 7-Eleven this season.

9. Jake, because Alyssa had spent the night at my parents': "I wish Alyssa was here."

10. Zac: "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Zac: "Green bean."
Me: "Green bean who?"
Zac: "Green bean I'm gonna kiss you!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Heroes & Heroines of the Past

My 8-year-old loves history. He's interested in reading about people that actually lived and what they did. His favorite books are biographies: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Daniel Boone, Ulysses S. Grant. He absorbs the information and flies through the books. I love listening to him learn interesting facts and eagerly relaying them to me. I knew he'd be excited when Golden Prairie Press  sent us the Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: America History Curriculum to review. And I was right.

Amy Puetz, owner of Golden Prairie Press, publishes books that show history at its best and from a Christian worldview. It is her desire to "bring encouraging, uplifting, family friendly resources to Christan families and individuals." Audio books, cook books, books specifically for boys or girls, costume books for various time periods, curricula, and more--there's something for everyone. Most of the resources are e-books or digital downloads, but there are some options for printed books, as well.

The Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum was created for students in grades 1-6, but can be adapted to be be used for kids both younger and older. I've been using it as the main history curriculum for my 3rd grader, kindergartener, and preschooler together. The curriculum collection has many components: part 1 & part 2 of the actual America history e-book, additional materials download, historical skits e-book, sing Some History CD download, and Listen to Some U.S. History MP3 CD download. 

Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Part 1 & Part 2 E-books
This 30-week curriculum can be easily used with different ages and grades. Most lessons have a section for 1-2 graders that contains a larger font and basic overview of the stories. Immediately following that portion is the material for the 3-6 graders, which contains the same information just more advanced and more detailed. There are many options at the end of every lesson for review: questions, writing topics, geography, recipes, timelines, Scripture memory, examining historical art, period games, and more. Because I was using this for all my young children, I decided to use the 1-2 grade section. I fully believe that they could understand the more advanced reading, but not be able to do the accompanying work. Because of that, we adapted the review section at the end to work for us. Instead of having my little ones attempt to write out the answers on their own, we used it as a question and answer time, answering as much as they could. They love answering the questions about the art and race to see who can find the answer first. They also enjoy the fun activities like projects (creating tee-pees, Viking ships, hornbook, etc.) and recipes (play dough, succotash, rye and Indian bread, etc.). View a sample.

Additional Materials Download
This is full of supplemental materials for the lessons. It includes printable timelines, color artwork,  game boards, coloring pages, instructions, videos, and more. It is written at the end of the lesson if you need to pull a resource off the download. Some lessons require the materials; others do not.

Historical Skits E-book
This book contains 19 skits from the time of Columbus to World War II. Skits are a great way to bring history to life. The only problem is that I am using it with young kids who can't read very well. They certainly cannot read their parts and act it out at the same time. I tried reading each part myself, using a different voice for each character. It made it interesting, to say the least. The kids found it humorous and got a little better understanding of the stories. I'm sure the skits would work much better with older kids who can play the parts. View a sample.

Sing Some History
This download has 20 songs that are mentioned throughout the book along with some sheet music. It has some more well-known songs, such as "Yankee Doodle" and "Pop Goes the Weasel," and some lesser-known ones, such as "Sweet Betsy from Pike" and "Uncle Sam's Rich Enough to Give Us All a Farm." My kids are used to listening to music through the day, while performing various tasks or just for entertainment. They enjoy when I play this, as well. Listen to a sample.     

Listen to Some U.S. History
This is an audio collection of 20 original speeches, poems, sermons, and documents that are mentioned throughout the book. It includes "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," "Bill of Rights," "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death," and more. There is a lot of important information included in this collection. It's just not appealing to little ones though. I found that my kids were lost and tuned it out while it was playing. It's definitely better for the older crowd, and even a good way for dad and mom to learn, too. Listen to a sample.

play dough Viking ship
This curriculum package is extremely thorough. It has so many components that enhance the learning and make it enjoyable. The lessons can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, but I find on some days, it doesn't even take us that long, because parts are a bit advanced for my little ones. (Remember, I'm using this primarily with kids younger than the recommended age.) I do plan to use this again in a few years when they're older and use the more advanced sections. I love that I can adapt this curriculum to fit our needs. It contains so many resources that it's easy to use what works for us now, and then save it again for when the kids are ready for more. I am excited to continue to work through this now, and even more excited to pick it up again in years to come.

The entire Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum costs $98.99. I think it is well-worth the price. There is also a physical version of the curriculum and many additional materials on the site. If you're looking for an American history curriculum for your homeschool, I suggest you check out this one.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Rhythm of Handwriting

Handwriting--you either love it or hate it. And I am not in the loving camp. I remember my friends in school writing in bubble or block letters and creating word designs just for the fun of it. Yeah, that was not me. I write only when I have to. I much prefer to type. And given the choice between manuscript or cursive, I'll choose manuscript every time. (Well, ok, it's more like a connecty combination of manuscript and cursive.)  My husband, on the other hand, loves to write, so much so that he used to write just for the fun of it. (The fun of it?!?)  While I do not share the same opinion, I do understand the importance of writing and writing well. Cursive handwriting is not being taught in most of the schools anymore, yet there have been studies that show how important the skill is for your brain development. When we had the opportunity to review the Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive, it wasn't a product that I necessarily wanted to use, but one that I knew I needed to.     

The Logic of English offers a variety of products to aid teachers, parents, and students in the journey to reading proficiently. Their curricula is designed to teach reading, writing, spelling, phonics, and grammar in an easy-to-follow way. We used the Foundations A package in the past and had good results, so I was interested in using the handwriting curriculum, as well.

The Rhythm of Handwriting set ($65.00) is for ages 4-adult and includes everything your student needs to learn to write cursive.

  • Student Workbook -- $15.00
  • Quick Reference Chart -- $10.00
  • Tactile Cards -- $28.00      
  • Student Whiteboard -- $12.00

Student Workbook - The book begins with a step-by-step guide to teaching handwriting. It also includes many tips to help along the way, explains why it's best to teach cursive writing before manuscript, and describes how you use all 4 learning modes while writing. There are also different schedules to choose which one works best for your student and 10 fun games to help with the process. From there, the book has practice pages for each letter. The letters are categorized by type and starting with lower case: swing letters, curve letters, loop letters, bump letters. Next are the capitals: curve letters, roll letters, loop letters, circle letters, slash letters, and miscellaneous letters. Each individual letter has its own practice page with 2 lines each in 4 different sizes. This leave the opportunity for the student to choose his own line size. There are also practice pages throughout the book that focus on connecting letters and making words.

Quick Reference Chart -- This colorful foldout chart includes systematic directions for forming each letter. It also has instructions for each of the strokes that are combined to make the letters. Just like the book, the chart groups the letters by type, making it easy to follow.

Tactile Cards -- These Montessori-inspired sandpaper letters provide a sensory experience for learning the letters. On the back of each card is the same rhythmic instructions that are seen in the workbook and the reference chart. Each card also includes the sounds made by each of the phonograms and sample words written in cursive.

Student Whiteboard -- This high-quality whiteboard is double-sided. The first side has one large spot for large-motor practice. The other side has multiple smaller lines for small-motor skills and writing words, phrases, and sentences. It is stain resistant and will not peel.

I primarily focused on Jake (8) for this curriculum. He had been asking me for a while when he could learn cursive. When I told him we were starting, he was very exciting. He had tried drawing some letters in rice or using the tactile cards, but he really just wanted to start writing on the whiteboard. He sat at the table and began to write letter after letter. By day 2 (picture above), he was connecting them to make words. He had never written in cursive before, so I was very impressed with how easily it came to him. I do have to encourage him to practice more and work on his technique (because in his mind, once he write it 2 or 3 times he's ready to move on) but he is doing wonderfully. He is even reading cursive in various places and quite proud of himself.

I have started Alyssa (6) on the program as well. She is requiring a slower pace and more practice, and that's just fine. She gets discouraged when she can't keep up with her big brother, but gets excited when she makes a letter better than he does in his haste. It's been a good challenge having the 2 of them practice together. We all enjoy using the tactile cars, and it's helping me improve my skills as well. Who knows, maybe I'll love writing eventually after all! All right, let's not get carried away, haha. This program is very thorough and is working well for our family. We will continue to use this and make it a point to write more.

You can find Logic of English on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter

If you're interesting in checking out the the other products or in reading more reviews of this one, head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 5/9/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! We've had a great week, and I hope you have, too. Why not share a memory of something that made you Smile this week. We'd love to Smile with you!

1. Jake: "Ugh, they ran into my leg and now it really hurts. It made a weird sound. They may have puncture one of my blood vessels."

2. Going to the Mother/Daughter luncheon at church with my grandma, mom, and Alyssa.

3. Me, while talking about nicknames: "We call you Jake even though your real name is Jacob. And we call him Zac even though his name is Zachary."
Leighton: "And we call him Ty, but his real name is Tyler."
Zac: "And we call you Dad but your real name is Daddy."

4. Going shopping alone with Alyssa and letting her pick out an outfit. 

5. Alyssa: "I neeed candy!!!"
Jake: "Actually, people don't need candy to live."
Alyssa, sincerely: "They don't?"

6. Me: "I need to put some makeup on so we can leave.
Jake: "No, you don't. You look beautiful like that."

7. Tyler's fortune inside his Chinese cookie: "You have a keen sense of humor and love a good time."
8. Getting my first dandelion bouquet of the season.

9. I was washing dishes when Tyler walked up, with a huge smile on his face, and sprayed me from behind with a squirt gun that he had gotten out of the bathtub.

10. Zac: "Mom, e-s-t-u: yogurt."
Me: "That's a funny way of spelling yogurt." 
Zac: "I spelled it in karate."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Maestro Classics

We were blessed to review two titles from the Maestro Classics collection: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music.

We are a big music-loving family. My husband majored in music in college and leads both the choir and the congregational singing at church. He and I have both been in multiple singing groups and a traveling handbell choir. (Actually, it was that choir and playing our parts next to each other that brought us together!) It is our desire to give our children a love of good music. One great way of doing that is through Stories in Music from Maestro Classics and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This series, meant for children an families, uses music to tell stories. You can listen to the music from a soundtrack without ever having seen the movie itself and get an idea of the emotions taking place. Music moves you. Just the other day while watching something, my 4-year-old asked, "Why is she mad?" After I explained that she wasn't, he questioned, "Then why does the music sound like that?" Music tells a story.

Bonnie and Stephen Simon understand the importance of music. They want families to be not only entertained by their productions, but also educated. They both have many years of professional experience (to name a few of their numerous accomplishments: Bonnie as the former executive director of the Washington Chamber Symphony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Stephen as the music director of the same organization for 25 years). Now, they work together to create and compose these symphonic works.    

The story Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton is brought to life through this presentation. As the steam shovels are becoming outdated and replaced with newer engines, Mike stays loyal to his own steam shovel, Mary Anne. They work harder and faster than they ever had before and attempt to prove that they are still profitable. The music, along with the Irish bagpipes is beautiful and catchy. The story leaves you rooting for the underdogs. My kids (8, 6, 4) were immediately sucked into the tale. They had never heard the story of Mike Mulligan before, so it was fun for me to watch them as they became nervous, wondering if he and Mary Anne would succeed. The music perfectly matches the emotions the character feels at the story takes place. But that is just the first track of the CD! The rest of it is filled with so much information, such as the conductor himself (Stephen Simon) explaining why he chose certain instruments and pointing them out in the story. Those sections truly help you understand the music and give you a greater appreciation of it. My little ones asked to listen to this multiple times over the past few weeks.

Along with the CD is included a 24-page activity book. It contains biographies, a small portion of sheet music, info about the music, games, and more. This little book is great to teach the kids more about the music, instruments, and people, but I found myself soaking up the information as well. This package costs $16.98 and is good for ages 4+ and families.

I'll be honest, I chose My Name Is Handel: The Story of Water Music for my husband. I knew he would appreciate the music as he loves classical composers. I knew Handel only because of the "Hallelujah Chorus" and Messiah, so everything about this story was new to me. It explains who Handel was and why he wrote "Water Music." Just like the other title, this story is told on the first track of the CD and contains 5 more tracks of learning. They explain concertos, suites, and oratorios. They talk about how Handel was a showman and what he did one opening night to prove it. And they explain why everyone stands when the "Hallelujah Chorus" is sung. While I found the facts fascinating, I could see that my little ones were tuning it out. They just weren't drawn into this story as they were the other. I suppose it does really surprise me. The other was an adaptation of a children's book and this one was more of a biography. I'm sure they appreciate this one more as they get older.

This CD also come with a 24-page activity book with pages describing the instruments, talking about Handel and the time period, and more. This package costs $16.98 and is meant for ages 5+ and families.

My kids and I listened to these works many times: driving, folding laundry, coloring, or whatever. They enjoyed listening along and learning and reading through the activity books, as well. They've even asked if we could get more. Maestro Classics has other titles such as Peter and the Wolf, Casey at the Bat, The Tortoise and the Hare, and more. They even have fun things on their website like games and coloring pages as part of their Kids Club. If you'd like to give your family the love of music, I suggest heading over to listen to some samples. We've been impressed with the Stories in Music.   

To connect with Maestro Classics, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

You can read more reviews of these titles or of the others on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 5/2/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! Some highlights from this week are going to The Henry Ford Museum, trying to keep up with Tyler and his shenanigans, and starting potty training. It's been a busy and productive week. I hope you've had many reasons to Smile.

1. Zac: "When we go nowhere, can we go somewhere?"

2. Zac, while eating dinner: "This tastes amazing."

3. Jake: "It's too late to change the past."

4. My mom let Jake use her point-and-shoot camera at the museum. He had so much fun documenting things that were important to him. This was one of the shots my mom captured.

5. Jake: "What kind of doughnut do you want?"
Zac: "Powdered. 'Cause I wanna turn into a snowman."

6. Jake: "I know how to spell mer."
Me: "Mer? What's mer?"
Jake: "Mer: m-e-r. You know, gold frankinsence, and myrrh."

7. Jake, excitedly: "Hey, I have an idea! We can go wild cow hunting!"

8. Alyssa, running in the house, completely out of breath: "Mom! You have to come outside! Now! Hurry!!!"
Me, thinking something is wrong: "What is it?"
Alyssa: There are purple flowers growing! You have to come see! They're so pretty."

9. Jake and Alyssa made the cake that he invented by himself when he was only 6. They were a little impatient as it baked, so they found a way to pass the time.

 10. Zac, while eating dinner: "Your cooking is g-o-o-d."

11. Alyssa, about 2 cats cuddling: "They must be married!" 

What made you Smile this week?

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