Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Return to the Flock

We have once again entered the world of chicken ownership. We are excited and nervous. Excited to have fresh, healthier eggs again. Nervous because there are still some coyotes hanging around and there have always been hawks. We successfully protected the last flock from predators though and with a little skill and a little luck, we'll do the same this time around.

Without further ado, meet the newest chicks in town: I should've upped my shutter speed, they certainly weren't willing to sit still for a clear, in focus portrait.

They did wonder why I was interrupting meal time And they seemed unable to decide whether they should attack or flee when I put the camera down in their box for a close up
We have six so far, with plans to buy another six next week. These are Rhode Island Reds (tan), Barred Rock (black) and Ameraucana (striped). Josh wanted Ameraucana hens last time and we never got any. They lay blue eggs, which will be fun to see. I just follow directions when it comes to the chickens, Josh is the one who has done all the research and calls the shots. So I'm not quite sure what other chickens we are getting, but I think red and black sex-link birds because that's what we had last time.

We posted a basic chicken primer several years ago (please excuse the typos there) if you want to read up a little more on how this goes. I will blog as we go along though!

For now, they are in the house in a large rubbermaid container with a towel on the bottom (so they don't slip, but don't eat shavings/dirt). We have a small waterer and feed trough. We dipped their beaks in the water when we put them in so they'd know where it is and we put out starter food for them. A light is hanging in the bin and always on to keep it around 90-95 degrees for them. We get to just watch them and enjoy the "ball of fluff" stage for a week or so before anything needs to change with their set up.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Keep On Keepin' On

I haven't been posting much. That's because it has been a virus-y couple of weeks around here.

Last Monday Secora woke up with what I thought was an ant bite on her foot. By that evening, more had sprung up and being a mom with a few years of experience under my belt, I was 99% sure it was hand, foot and mouth disease. We called the doctor, who confirmed HFM is going around town really badly right now. Over the next few days, more and more and more spots showed up, which turned to blisters. My poor baby was super fussy and took an awful lot of advil for a few days. This is what one of her feet looked like early on before it really broke out After this picture was taken, she developed a lot more. All over the bottoms of her feet, between her toes, pushing up under her nails. It looked terrible.

We've been through hand, foot and mouth before. It's a fairly common childhood illness and older children and adults usually don't get it (because they're already immune). So we stayed home all week, but thought we were in the clear. Until Thursday night when Josh got a fever. He took some advil, but two hours later he was up to 103 anyway. He looked pretty terrible and actually called in sick to work, which rarely happens. He spent all day Friday on the couch and then started breaking out in his own spots, thought not nearly as many as Secora had.

Friday night Sierra came to me crying and asked, "am I just cranky or am I getting sick?" Hmmmm........sure enough, she had a high fever of her own going. I made a run to the store for more advil and tylenol. About three hours later, Sedona was down for the count too. She was the happiest, still wanting to play despite 104 fevers and only getting fussy close to bedtime. She got the worst of the mouth sores: (that's basically a solid coating of blisters in her throat. Fun, huh?)

She also got them all around the outside of her mouth. Those have mostly healed up, but they're popping up on her hands and feet pretty bad.

Secora's all healed up (her spots have scabbed over), Sierra's totally fine, Josh has a few spots on his feet, and Sedona is happy-go-lucky no matter what's going on so it's hard to judge exactly how she's doing. Mostly she just wants to know why she can't go to the library or the park, so I guess she's not feeling all that bad.

Just another week with three small children!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Busy Worker Bees

We had some fabulous weather for a few days. The big kids enjoyed spending hours each morning in the backyard and yesterday Secora and I joined them so I could do some much needed weeding in the garden.

Some of our broccoli has gone to flower and dozens of bees were happily moving from flower to flower. There were so many you could hear a steady, loud buzzing, but not a single one seemed to even notice I was there.

I learned that it's hard to get a good picture of a busy bee. Out of 60 shots, these are the 4 I was mostly happy with:




Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pre-K Unit: Spring

We consider Sedona to be in pre-K right now. Practically speaking, that means she gets to more or less decide if she wants to do formal schoolwork or not. If she asks to work, I get some things out for her. If I want her to do something, I ask her and if she says, "no" we don't do it. If we get started on something and she decides she's ready to be done, we get to a stopping point and we stop.

All that said, Sedona has gotten much more interested in doing seat work lately. She asks for more of it and works longer at it. She often bounces in her seat and has conversations with herself while she's doing it, but she wants to do it. So, I've put together a unit study for her to do over the next few weeks and thought I would share the plan with y'all.

Pre-K Unit Study: Spring

Objectives
  • Sit still through a entire project (half a project? 5 minutes? This child is always moving)
  • Learn the 4 seasons and basic characteristics of each
  • Learn the colors of rainbows and when rainbows form
  • Learn the function of roots, stems and leaves
  • Learn the basic plant life cycle including flowering/pollination by bees, fruit being eaten by birds, seeds being dropped on the ground, germination and plant growth
  • Get outside and have some fun
Activities
  • Hand print seasons: Use her hand print as the branches of a tree and paint or otherwise decorate a tree appropriate for each season. Discuss the seasons and learn them in order.
  • Grass people: Fill stockings with a little grass seed and soil, add googly eyes and decorate an empty yogurt container to set it on. As the grass grows, it will look like hair on the people.
  • Rainbow drink: make ice cubes out of different flavors of kool-aid to represent colors of the rainbow. Have Sedona put the cubes in a tall glass (in order) and pour sprite over them.
  • Rainbow mobiles: cut a paper plate in half. Glue cotton balls on it so it looks like a cloud. Cut strips of construction paper for each color of the rainbow and have her glue them to the bottom of the plate in order.
  • Nature color hunt: paint each space in a paper egg carton a different color. Have Sedona find something outside to put in each space that matches the color.
  • Leaf rubbings: use crayons and paper to make rubbings of different types of leaves.
  • Seed mosaics: use dried beans and other seeds to create a picture.
  • Plant parts: learn about roots, stems and leaves and what each part does. Do a worksheet labeling each part of a plant.
  • Visible roots: grow beans in a visible container so she can see the roots as the plant grows.
  • Roll pine cones in peanut butter and bird seed to make bird feeders.
  • A rainbow cake. Maybe, if we have the time to enjoy doing it rather than it being a chore.
  • Trip to the library: we'll be reading some books about plants, bees, birds and butterflies

She will keep working on her math (her favorite subject and always her first choice), and I will also keep making handwriting worksheets for her that keep to the spring theme. She's still doing her BOB books for reading, but we'll include some reading practice with these activities whenever we can. Do you have any great pre-K or K resources on spring or the seasons in general?


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Looking Forward to Monday

I'm looking forward to Monday for the first time in a while. 'Cause honestly? This weekend kinda sucked.

It all started several weeks ago when I found out about something called The Color Run. It's a 5K series where they throw colored corn starch on you at every kilometer along the route. There were a races coming up nearby and I posted about it on my facebook wall. A few friends decided it sounded fun and agreed to sign up with me. So Josh and I signed up, I got these other people roped in, travel plans were made, hotel rooms were reserved.

Friday, I drove the big girls to meet up with my parents and they went off for a weekend at grandma's.

Friday night, we noticed a little bit of blood on the dog's fur. I should preface this by pointing out that Angel is a lab mix and she's 13.5 years old. She's gone deaf, so she often curls up in a corner somewhere and doesn't hear you calling her. Most days I creep around looking in her favorite spots just knowing I'm going to look in a room and find a dead dog. I've nudged Josh awake in the middle of the night to ask if he can hear her breathing. But blood is usually a particularly bad sign. And when we looked around, we discovered she had a mass that the blood was coming from. I worked as a vet tech for several years when I was younger and I wasn't positive, but I was fairly certain this all added up to "not good".

Saturday morning, we took her in as soon as the vet opened. 2 hours and a fine needle aspiration later, we know it's a tumor and chances are it's malignant. Given her age, there's nothing to do about it. She is not in pain or refusing food or anything like that, so we have a little more time with her.

We were planning to be gone just overnight for this race and had already arranged to have friends come over and take care of her, so we went ahead and packed up (in quite a rush) and got on the road. We made it to our destination, picked up our race packets and met up with our friends at the hotel. We enjoyed dinner out before everyone headed back for an early night.

This morning we were up and ready to go when I got sick. I'm not sure if this was a result of my lack of gallbladder or stress catching up to me, but I kept trying to convince myself I'd be fine and I was not fine. We sent our friends on ahead thinking we'd catch up to them. Josh and I hit the road a little later, got about halfway to the race site, and had to turn around again. I tried to convince him to just drop me off and go on to the race, but he (being the good man that he is, even though I really would've been fine with him going) wouldn't leave me. A few hours and long hot shower later, we loaded up the van, I stretched out on the back seat to go to sleep, and we headed home. End result: 2 t-shirts that cost about $100 a piece. Yay.

Really would've rather stayed home and picked weeds in the garden if I'd known the weekend was gonna turn out this way. Oh well, tomorrow starts a new week. I plan to lay around, love on Angel and drown my sorrows in girl scout cookies.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dr. Mom On The Road

I'm packing up the big girls for a weekend visit to Grandma's house. Okay, I'm not. I have very little packed and will be rushing through it tomorrow morning. But one thing I do have packed is the traveling medicine chest.

My kids aren't real sickly, but when they DO get sick, they tend to do it in a fabulous, over the top fashion. 105 fevers? Pshaw, no biggie, we've been there multiple times. I have learned through experience that it's best to just bring a little medical kit with you when you are traveling with kids. Sometimes a hotel clerk can point you to the nearest 24 hour pharmacy, but who wants to drive the streets of a strange town in the middle of the night when you could just stumble to your suitcase instead? I have also learned from experience that when you carry an extremely sick baby into an ER, it doesn't hurt to ask, "hey, is there a children's hospital half a mile away?" turns out they don't just offer that information up and it's a bit annoying to find it out the next morning after a night of making do with tongue depressors as arm splints and other fun things.

But back to the meds. We have used our little medical kit (okay, it's a box at this point) many times and I'm always glad we have it. Providing a kit for a trip to Grandma's is just a nice thing to do. What I decide to pack depends a little bit on the current situation. If my ear infection child is just getting over a cold, I'm going to send the ear numbing drops so they can get through the night. If my asthma child has been coughing, I'm going to send the nebulizer and some albuterol so they can do a breathing treatment if needed. If it's summer, I'll send the sunscreen and some hydrocortisone to help out with bug bites.

For this trip, everyone's healthy and we've just got the basics
There's a fever reducer/pain relief medicine, a cold and allergy medicine (sometimes things in Grandma's town give them grief even though they were fine at home), a thermometer, some antibiotic ointment, and kid friendly bandaids. Now, Grandma hasn't had to be up to date on the latest dosages for kid's medicine in quite a while and even I can't remember how much each kid weighs half the time, so to make things easy, I also include a little paper with how much of each medicine each kid could get if needed.
Also included (but not shown, too much personal information), is a paper with a copy of our health insurance card at the top and a signed statement that I authorize either of my parents to give consent for care in the event either child needs medical attention. That paper includes each girl's name, birth date, current medications, allergies, and the name and phone number of their pediatrician. Thankfully, this piece of paper has never been needed, so I'm not sure how necessary it even is. Nonetheless, it makes me feel like the hospital would be a little more likely to go ahead and treat something like a broken arm even if I couldn't get there for a few hours.

When we travel as a family, I pack all the medicine in a shoebox size plastic storage bin. It usually ends up being full by the time I throw in the infant and child version of each medicine and the various things Josh or I use on a somewhat regular basis. Half the time we never open the box. But we have been struck down with stomach bugs, colds, terrible ear infections and minor injuries on trips and it's really nice to just have everything right there with us. Saves a lot of added hassle during what is already a somewhat stressful event.

Being a mom has definitely changed my packing habits. Before I was married, I once went on a rock climbing trip with nothing but a box of power bars, a water bottle, a change of clothes and a borrowed sleeping bag. My how the times have changed!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Drama Queen

While we don't believe it's beneficial to socialize a kid solely through putting them with a group of kids exactly their age all day long, we DO believe they need chances to be around other people. To hang out and build friendships with other kids, to take instruction from other adults, and yes, to occasionally be put in their place if they forget the golden rule. We homeschool to educate them at home, not to keep them out of the world.

With this in mind, we keep an eye out for activities they can do that do not, for the most part, involve us. Sierra took a theater class while we were living in Montana and she loved it. So when we got back, one of the first things we looked for was a theater class. We got her signed up with Brazos Valley Troupe and she has loved it. It took me a little longer to come around. Things seemed very disorganized at first and I was getting very annoyed with the whole thing, but I've gotten to know the theater schedule a bit better and Sierra also took the initiative of being sure she found out from the director when she needed to be somewhere (she heard me mumble I might not sign her up again and decided she needed to do what she could!).

Last fall, Sierra auditioned for her first play and got a small (one line) part. Right after Christmas break, they were holding auditions for another play. We thought Sierra was too young to be in this one, but when we signed her up for class, the director said to bring her up for auditions....that night. She had one hour at home with the script and away she went. She did well and was offered 2 small parts.

Then the fun really started. I can't even tell you how many compliments we got from the adults that run the production. We were always hearing how far she had come already and how well she was doing. That she was willing to do the work that needed to be done, not just have fun on stage. That she should definitely audition for more plays. Opening night a friend came over to watch the little girls so Josh and I could go see Sierra in her first big part. She rocked it. And the play was hilarious. She was in The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet.

My parents came to the last show and took some pictures. No flash photography allowed, so they're a little blurry, but you get the idea.

Here she is as a servant And here she is as the prince (saying, "Easy there girly girl, I call the shots, I am the prince here, believe it or not.....")


Sierra practiced her lines so much, Sedona's walking around saying them now. She also likes to go stand on the stage when we take her up there. She's looking forward to joining the class in the fall. It should be interesting to see both of these dramatic girls on stage!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Few Of My Favorite Homeschooling Things

When you start homeschooling, there are some things you know you're going to need. Paper, pencils, books. Then there are the things you don't think too much about until you really get in the swing of things. I am starting to collect supplies for next year, so I've been thinking a lot about those little things that I need to restock because they've become must haves!

1. Small Whiteboards. We have these small whiteboards that are blank on one side and have handwriting guidelines on the other side. I bought them as an impulse buy when they were on sale one day. They have turned into a necessity. We use them several times a day every single day. I use them to write or draw examples for math or have the kids do a review problem without wasting paper. I draw diagrams to clarify points. The kids draw on them when they're bored, they practice spelling on them. I like that they are so portable because we often move around to different areas in the house depending on when we're doing school and who's napping. We have a bigger whiteboard and we even have an overhead (that I primarily use for part of my lactation workshops), but these small lap boards can't be beat for daily homeschooling use.


2. Good Erasers. Of course you need pencils, but you also need erasers. Lots of erasers. That piddly little eraser on the end of the pencil? That's not nearly enough. Some of those erasers don't work very well either and the last thing a child who's already frustrated needs is to keep scrubbing at a line that just won't disappear until they tear a hole in their paper. The regular ol' pink pearl erasers seem to work the best and are easiest for the kids to use.

3. A Good Pencil Sharpener. I have wasted more money than I care to think about on pencil sharpeners that don't work. They gouge at the wood, or break off the tips, or get clogged with shavings. More importantly, I've wasted a ridiculous amount of time trying to get these sharpeners to do a half decent job. I've finally decided I need a good, heavy, manual sharpener (so I don't have to keep up with batteries or always have it near a plug) that has a burr-type mechanism inside rather than just a flat blade. I have my eye on that one up there and plan to get it when I put in my next Amazon order.

4.Glue Sticks. And more glue sticks. And even more glue sticks. And then some extra glue sticks. Elementary aged children go through incredible amounts of glue. An art project doesn't hardly count as an art project unless they get to use up an entire glue stick. We use some liquid glue too, but I usually give them a glue stick to minimize mess, so we go through a lot of glue sticks. I have one of the giant glue sticks that is only mine to use. I buy the regular sized ones for them and I buy large quantities when I find a sale.

5. A Printer/Copier/Scanner. Depending on which curriculum you use and how you set things up, it could definitely be worthwhile to have a real copier. Real copiers are pretty expensive, so I haven't taken the plunge yet. I have made do with our regular printer/copier/scanner/fax. It's not exactly ideal, but we already had it and it gets the job done. The printer is a necessity because there are a lot of great websites that will assist you in creating your own worksheets, but you'll need to print those worksheets out. The scanner can be useful to get completed worksheets back on your computer. I am considering scanning the things I feel we should keep and keeping electronic files on the girls' work to minimize the storage space needed on the bookshelves as time goes on. If you are needing to purchase a new printer, be sure to compare ink prices as well as hardware prices. A cheap printer that eats expensive ink cartridges isn't going to save you much money. If you use a laptop or multiple computers, you might want to consider a wireless printer so you don't have to be tied to the printer to print. Also pay attention to what options are available. Double side printing/copying is an option I don't have that I often wish I did. I do have the option to print/copy in either color or black and white and in different quality levels. I really like being able to do a high quality color copy when needed, or a low quality black and white for something like a basic worksheet so I can save ink.


6. Poly Folders. I have folders like these that I use all the time. The last two years I've picked them up on clearance after school starts. I like to lay out the full week worth of school work at once and put each day in a different folder. I write everything that needs to be done for the day on one paper (usually the back of worksheet we're done with) and then put in any worksheets needed for the day. Sierra knows she can grab the day's folder and get started on the work she can do independently, which means my morning person daughter can do her work in the morning while her night owl mother is still blearily looking for caffeine. Even though it can make it a little difficult to get papers in at times, I like that these folders have a little crease and can expand because it makes it easy to throw in a pencil, scissors and glue stick if we're going somewhere that day and Sierra's taking her schoolwork with her.

Like I said, these are all things I didn't give much thought to before we started homeschooling, but I would hate to do without now! What about you? Is there something you didn't really think about before you got started that's become indispensable over time?

NOTE: All pictures are from Amazon and all links are affiliate links. No one asked me to write this post or directly compensated me with money or product for the post. I will receive a small compensation if you click one of the links and make a purchase. All opinions are my own.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Out For A Hunt

We had a visitor show up in the backyard today
I snapped some (not so great) pictures from inside first in case it flew away
Then I stepped outside as quietly as I could and snapped a few more Which did indeed cause it to fly away

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In Like A Lion....

This spring is definitely roaring in like a lion!

A week and a half ago, we had a big early morning storm with some strong winds that broke the electric pole behind our house.
See where those shards meet the ground on the right hand side? That's where the pole is supposed to be. It snapped off right at the ground and ended up looking like this:

The only reason it didn't fall was because the lines to our house were holding it up. The nice guys from the electric company came out and put in some temporary supports and fixed the lines so we were only without power for 6 or 7 hours. A few days later, they came back and shut the power off again for a day so they could put in a whole new pole.

Then Friday night rolled around. We are on the edge of a flood plain, but our back yard slopes downward quite a bit so even with heavy rain for days on end, we've never seen water come anywhere near the house. It hasn't even reached our garden beds before.

But this storm brought us 7.5 inches of rain over a period of about 8 hours. Most of that happened in two big bursts. At one point, our rainfall rate was 3.5in/hr. So the water came up much higher than we've ever seen it

Our shed raised up off the ground quite a bit, but it was completely flooded. That blue barrel is a 55 gallon barrel that's sitting on 4x4s. The hills in the bottom of the picture are the rows we planted potatoes in last week.

The garden wasn't looking so hot:

The beds closest to the house seemed pretty okay, but the ones further back were completely under water.

The next morning, things were looking a little better. The water did drain out well. Unfortunately, it went right over/through the fence

And the water line on the girl's playhouse was pretty impressive:

Several of the garden bed frames got picked up and had some of the soil washed out from under them. This one got completely moved (there are/were onions planted in both of those beds):

Overall, it really wasn't so bad though. Most importantly, the house stayed completely dry. Josh had to spend quite a bit of time cleaning up out there yesterday. He got all the leaves and trash off the fence and he and the neighbor were able to fix it. I'm still not sure how well the things we had already planted in the garden are going to hold up with it being SO wet out there, but it looks like we won't lose as much as I thought we were going to when it first flooded. I have more respect for those real homesteaders who were depending on their garden to feed their family. Something like this could have been devastating for them. We also haven't had much cold weather this year. Between that and the rain, I think we might be facing fungal problems all spring and grasshoppers all summer. Shaping up to be a pretty challenging growing season!

I'm thinking we need to get more rain water collection barrels too. If the season is "in like a lion, out like a lamb", we may be sliding back into drought before too long.

A Sight Word Pretzel

I had a new idea for practicing sight words recently and finally got the time this weekend to try it out!

You could do this just on the floor, but I utilized a certain game that includes a spinner and a mat with colored dots on it. I put a piece of painter's tape on each dot on the spinner (so I could easily remove it later) and labelled each piece with a sight word we've been working on:
I decided to use eight words and I just made sure I had all eight on the hands spots (we didn't specify left and right, just said "hand" or "foot"), and then all eight again on the foot spots.

On the mat, I put a piece of clear packing tape on each dot and then wrote the sight words on the tape with permanent marker. There are 24 dots, so I wrote each word 3 times.

Next, we reviewed the words and how to play the game. She's only 4, so we went with modified rules...no right and left and it didn't matter if she sat down.

She had a little bit of trouble at first, and she gave a fly a serious talking to, "quiet fly! you're interrupting my thinking!"
But it didn't take long for her to figure it out:

Secora tried to get in on the act too. "Head on was!"

I think it will be a fun game for her to play this week. It's one Sierra can play with her when I'm busy, so that's helpful. You could use fewer or more words depending on how far along your child is. You could also play the game with blends instead of sight words, or use a smaller play area so there isn't so much information for the child to process. Change it up to make it work for you!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Non-Teachable Moment

As homeschoolers, we learn to recognize teachable moments. Something as simple as a question like "why does the sun go down?" can easily turn into an indepth discussion about the solar system, rotation and revolution, photosynthesis and how our eyes see.

But sometimes? Sometimes you just have to marvel at these amazing little minds. Sometimes you need to stop feeding them more information and just be amazed at what's already there.

Sometimes, your 7 year old creates a paper like this just because she felt like it, without using any books, maps or globes. And it's not time to turn it into a spelling, geography or physics lesson. It's just time to say "wow. That's really amazing that you wrote all that all by yourself!"
The homeschooler inside is definitely making note to check out a book on gravity during the next library trip, and keep up with those spelling words. Not every moment is a teachable moment though, sometimes kids just need to know that what they've already absorbed is truly amazing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coming Up For Air

It has been a heck of week around here!

I lost a friend over my patience/perspective post late last week.

Things picked up over the weekend, though. Another friend and I are training for a half-marathon together and we totally rocked our long run on Saturday. I've done a half before, so I kind of feel like I'm just retracing my steps. My friend is brand new to running though and has also made some major diet changes lately. She is very clearly healthier and in better shape and I'm very proud of her for getting out there and doing it. Change is hard, but she's doing great and keeping me accountable for my own goals too.

We got 7 rows of potatoes planted.

The electric pole behind our house broke during a storm a little over a week ago (it snapped completely in two at the ground and was only upright because the lines attached to our house were holding it up). The electric company did a temporary fix just to get our power back on then, but they came back this week to replace the entire pole. The foreman of the crew told me the power would be off about 5 hours, so we might want to find something else to do. Are you kidding me? It was prime entertainment for the kids. We went out for lunch, but besides that, they were glued to the window and asking me 10 million questions about what was being done and how electricity works.

We've shuttled Sierra to the theater every single night. She is in a play that puts a fun twist on Romeo and Juliet and it opened tonight. The play was hilarious and she did an absolutely awesome job. There's one time in particular where she is front and center and ALL of the focus is on her and she delivered her line like a pro. We got several comments about how well she is doing and I'm so so so proud of how she did. She practiced hard, she conquered her nerves, and she got up there and acted her little 7 year old heart out! She's got 3 more shows to get through and then she'll probably need to sleep for a few days to make up for all these late dress rehearsal and performance nights!

Tomorrow, we finally close on a refinance of our house we've been trying to take care of since the first of the year. We're dropping to a 15 year note and our payment will still go down. I've been crunching numbers and barring any major income changes, I think we can actually pay it off in about 8 years. I can't wait to have payments that actually make a really big dent in the principle each month. I'm looking forward to making some extra payments and watching that balance drop like a rock! Owning our house outright has been a goal of mine for a long time and it's finally looking feasible.

And then we start a whole new week with another long run and more gardening time!

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