Archive for the ‘School’ Category
Any time we make a big change or upset the schedule in our house, we experience a period of what my husband and I have dubbed as “blowback.” Spend the night at grandma’s? The break is nice, but then there will, without fail, be a day of fallout afterwards that includes, but is not limited to, epic periods of screaming and crying, protests over dinner, refusals to go to bed on time and unprecedented messes.
Enter school. Now, not only are we all having to get up early, but the kids are back on structured days and having to spend time learning instead of painting themselves in mud in the backyard or coloring the walls. And the blowback has begun.
Blowback Round 1:
Last week, I was rejoicing because Norah finally went to school and didn’t throw a tantrum. I rode that high all day, thrilled that we were making progress. Then, I got home from work. At first, I didn’t notice anything was amiss. I jumped into taking care of kids and Sarah was snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, watching TV. Then I turned my attention to her to ask her a question and gasped, “Sarah, did you CUT YOUR HAIR?!” A half smile spread across her face as she nodded in affirmation.
“Mama,” she said, “I was tired of my unicorn mane bangs, so I cut them off.”
“Where are the scissors and WHERE IS THE HAIR?!”
At first she tried to pretend like she had done this days ago and had no idea where the contraband items were. But after seeing my rising ire, she quickly complied, ran into her closet and produced the small pair of scissors and the giant chunk of missing hair.
I was upset. Mark chocked it up to, “it’s hair, it will grow again,” but all I could see was that my girl now had some sort of mullet/ Maria-from-The-Sound-of-Music hybrid haircut. And this was on the heels of us finally halting her anxiety-induced behavior of years of yanking out her own hair. Finally, finally my little girl was starting to get thick hair that almost looked like a bob and now it was all gone.
But while I was upset, Sarah embraced her new do, telling me that she liked that her hair is out of her eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t be so vain. So, after I had a solid glass of wine, we dug around, found some headbands and started trying to figure out how to make the mullet work.
Blowback Round 2:
In protest to having to go to school and do things she didn’t want to, Norah staunchly refused to nap on Saturday. Finally, to my great relief, I thought she had fallen asleep. I got up to use the bathroom and walked in the room to find a toilet full of toys, wipes, cups, bowls and two empty bottles of Burt’s Baby Bee wash, each emptied into the toilet and bathtub respectfully, but not before being slathered all over the toilet seat and bathroom floor. Worse still, I didn’t realize it was on the toilet seat until I later sat on said seat, and when I went to stand up, well the seat tried to come with me.
Blowback Round 3:
Norah has now started sneaking into the kitchen when she thinks we are occupied to secure any and every kind of food for herself. Sunday morning, Mark and I were recovering from the week’s events and were particularly lazy about getting out of bed. We had already gotten the twins out of their cribs and had them in bed with us, but they quickly scampered out and ran into the living room with their sisters. It took us a few minutes to get out of bed, but no one was screaming so we weren’t too worried. Then I walked into the living room, grabbed a baby and my hand came away sticky from the back of his pajamas.
One sniff told me it was maple syrup. Further exploration lead us to find that Norah had half emptied a bottle of maple syrup on to the floor, on to about seven paper plates, which she had then distributed and laid on top of random items around the kitchen and living room, and on the backs and heads of her twin siblings.
It was not pretty. While I stripped and scrubbed babies, Mark took control of the Norah situation. When I came back in the kitchen, Norah had a full mop bucket and a washcloth and was scrubbing the floors while Mark stood guard. Our normally defiant child was dutifully scrubbing every inch of the floor where that syrup had landed.
And there have been other incidents: while I tried to shower, Norah grabbed my mascara and painted the door with it because I wouldn’t let her in there with me. Last night, over the course of two hours, I kept having to go into Norah’s room to remove cliff bars and popsicles that she was sneaking into her room at 9 and 10’oclock at night.
So it seemed like some sort of divine justice that Sunday morning, when we were late to Mass, we got seated on the very front row. All I could think was that Norah was either going to kick and scream and have to be carried out in front of everyone, or that she was going to run onto the altar and take part in the liturgy or knock over the communion wine. But, to the great surprise of all, that girl shined her halo, held our hands and stood, sat and kneeled when she was asked to. I thought her good behavior was because she was nervous in front of the priest and deacon, but Mark thinks she was just so darn pleased to be in a spot where she was getting plenty of attention from everyone.
Either way, at least we are capable of putting on our good faces for Jesus.
Imagine that you’re laying in your bed, having some weird dream about a politician trying to convince you to vote for them, when you distantly hear a scrambling and scuffling noise coming from your kitchen. You have two dogs though, so it’s not too out of the ordinary. Then comes the “pat pat pat” of little feet running down the hall, little arms and legs scrambling into your bed… and then a freezing cold, dripping fudgcicle is planted onto your nice, warm arm. HELLO 6AM!
And that is how we began Day 3 of school.
Me: “Norah, WHY do you have a popsicle at 6AM?!”
Norah: “Mama, I can finish it after breakfast?”
And her early wake-up was on the heels of us finding her in her sister’s bed at 10PM the night before, having moved her pillow, all her stuffed animals, and all of her sheets and blankets into the top bunk, on top of her sleeping sister, in an attempt to wake her up to play with her.
Needless to say a morning started on sleep deprivation and sugar did not go well. There was more screaming and crying when it was time for Norah to go into her classroom that day, but it was over in less than 2 minutes – a new record!
Though I very nearly ruined it. The school has Mass on Wednesday mornings. It just so happened that our bishop was saying Mass and so, in my work capacity, I was there to photograph it. I didn’t realize the K3 class was in the church until I turned the corner and saw Norah pressed up against the teacher, chattering away.
I never knew I possessed an inner ninja and that I could move so efficiently or so quietly until I had to back peddle my way down the aisle and out of the church before she saw me and her screaming could halt the homily.
Later – in what is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day – we had our usual after school driving home discussion. After Sarah carefully outlined both of the girls’ entire days, telling me how Norah cried all day, especially at recess, I took a deep breath and tried a different approach. “So,” I said, “Can everyone tell me something happy that happened to them today?”
Sarah immediately launched into a story of arts and crafts and the bishop visiting her class. She was so proud that when he asked if anyone knew his first name, she had the answer ready and waiting. (Turns out having the bishop over for dinner at our house had a big impact on my kiddos).
Then it was Norah’s turn. I asked her to tell me something happy that happened to her during the day. She sat quietly, pondering. And right as I started to repeat myself, she quietly murmured, “The bishop said ‘ello to me.” My heart melted and I started to get hopeful about school again.
Last night we decided that we were going to do everything in our power to make Day 4 better – and that started with Norah going to sleep before 10PM. So, Mark and I took turns standing sentry outside her bedroom door. Every attempt to get out of bed was met with time out in the corner. An hour in, just as I was giving up all hope of it working, she caved and went to sleep. 9PM was late, but it was still an hour earlier than she’s been keeping herself awake for.
This morning’s wake up was notably better: No time-outs (and no fudgcicles for that matter). For the drive to school, we let Norah hold her stuffed buddy Snoopy and we put on dancing music. The protests still started when we turned onto the street our school is on, but we pressed on. It was starting to rain, so we quickly grabbed our backpacks and made a dash for the school, leaving Snoopy to wait patiently for his friend’s afterschool return in the car.
As soon as we walked inside the school, the pleas continued. “Mama, I don’t want to go to Sarah’s school. Mama, I want to go home with you. Mama, hold me.” I braced myself for the moment when morning assembly was over and she would have to go to the classroom – the moment when the tantrums have started every day. We got her backpack and as she watched her classmates line up to leave, I saw something click in her brain.
Suddenly she was dashing off towards her classmates, elbowing her way to the front of the line where she defiantly declared to her teacher, “I want you!” And then proceeded to, matter of factly and without tears, lead all of her classmates down the hall to their classroom.
I think my dear child must have thought, “Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, lead ‘em.”
And that, my friends, is my wild and strong girl in a nutshell.
After she walked through the door, when I recovered from my initial shock, I danced in celebration right in the middle of the gym for everyone still filing out to see, high fiving my friend Stephanie and the assistant principal. By gosh my girl, we are going to get through this.
Let’s talk about Day 2 of school.
So yesterday when I picked the girls up from carpool, Norah’s rather harried and worn out teacher desperately said to me, “WHAT IS KIKI?!” And I had to quickly explain the blankie lovie that Norah sleeps with and takes comfort from whenever she is upset. She looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “Put Kiki in her backpack tomorrow. Norah is loud.”
Er, yea. So prior to starting pre-school, we received a note of things they were not supposed to bring with them, which included a list of toys and items from home that might get messed up or cause fights. For some reason, in my infinite and exhausted wisdom, I extended this to mean Norah’s Kiki. Because obviously she would do just fine in a completely new environment and be expected to nap with no issue without Kiki. What was I thinking?!
Fast forward to Day 2. We had Kiki safely and securely packed away in Norah’s backpack. I was going into the day with more confidence and optimism. I kept chanting my new found mantra, “We have Kiki! We can conquer the day! Yes we can!” with great positivity and gusto.
And all was going well. The pouring rain stopped as we pulled up to school and both girls even enthusiastically let me take their photo together in front of the school. “Yes,” I thought, “Behold the power of the Kiki!”
We walked into school without trouble, made our way into the multi-room for morning assembly. Sarah bolted off to her section and I went to follow and take Norah with me… and then the meltdown started. That little Norah howler monkey scurried up my leg and onto my torso and next thing I knew I had a screaming little girl clinging to the side of my body and I was saying a quiet thanks that I had worn pants that morning as I physically pried her off of me. I stood by her side during morning assembly as she periodically turned around and begged me not to close the door – which meant leave her in the classroom with the door closed.
I soon got a full report of Norah’s attempts on the first day to make every teacher there do her bidding. So despite the waterworks, obviously she hasn’t lost all hope of bringing the entire school under her will just yet.
But as soon as it was time for us to make our way to the classroom the tears started rolling. And when we caught up to her classmates, she let out a howl that instantly spread to her fellow three-year-olds and several of them started crying as well. Bless our assistant principal’s heart, because she gallantly scooped up my screaming little girl and wrestled her into the classroom.
Off I went to work, head held low, questioning whether putting her in K3 was indeed the right move.
The day wore on. I continued to worry and question myself before finally emailing the assistant principal and checking in. She got back to me instantly and assured me Norah was doing just fine. Relieved, I tried to rally my morning optimism for the car ride home. But once again, when I got to carpool pickup, she was screaming and crying and making me feel generally terrible.
On the car ride home, Sarah told me that Norah cried throughout recess while her little friends stood around her and asked her why she was crying. Sarah, in great detail, explained how the three-year-olds cleared a path for her, the big sister, to make her way to her sobbing little sister. Norah, however, was having none of it and told Sarah to go away. So Sarah, not wanting to waste any moment of playtime with her new found unicorn soul sisters, scampered off and left her to it. She told me Norah spent recess next to the teacher because she was sad. Part of me kind of wonders at this point if this is all an elaborate ruse to gain attention. But still.
So as we’re discussing this issue on the way home, Sarah says, “Hey Mama! I have a great idea! Let’s read The Kissing Hand tonight before bed and you can give Norah a kissing hand to take to school with her tomorrow!”
(Note: The Kissing Hand is about a mama raccoon and a baby raccoon who is about to start his first day of school and he’s scared, so she kisses the palm of his hand and he can press it to his cheek and feel his mama’s love any time he’s upset at school. A beautiful, generally tear-inducing book).
I think Sarah may be a better parent than I am sometimes.
After I dropped them off at home, finished up my work day and darted through the downpour to my car and make my way back home, I walked into the house and everyone burst into tears. I have no idea why the sight of their mother brings all my children to tears, but without fail the youngest three lose their minds when I walk through the door.
What followed was an overwhelming amount of things to do in a three hour time span. Sarah had her first homework assignment, and even though it was very basic kindergarten math, my mind immediately began to spiral to all the homework I’m going to have to help four children with in the short time between getting home from work, cooking and somehow getting them into bed at a decent time over the coming years. Maybe it was the children holding onto my legs screaming while I tried to cook, or maybe it’s adjusting to our new wake up time, but this felt like a very real serious life crushing thing.
Somehow though, I read the homework instructions to Sarah over the screams and in between stirring pasta and she made quick work of her homework and asked me to make up some more homework for her and Norah to do. I hope this bodes well for her future.
But while I was proud of myself for cooking, helping with homework and hurdling over screaming toddlers while Mark mopped up the mud and dog pee filled hallway, that joy was soon crushed when I discovered Norah had snuck off with Sarah’s homework scissors and lopped off a chunk of her hair. I mean, WHY? Fortunately it isn’t terribly noticeable and I can probably braid that section back in a discreet fashion.
And then, before bed, per Sarah’s suggestion, we read The Kissing Hand together and all practicing kissing hands and pressing them to our faces… that is until we got to daddy and he told Norah she couldn’t kiss his hand because it still had dog pee all over it. Fair point Mark, fair point.
So, tomorrow, I think my new mantra will have to be: “We have Kiki! We have a kissing hand! We can conquer the day! Yes we can!” And let’s hope that works. If not, Starbucks and I have a date, first thing.
Today was Sarah’s first full day of Kindergarten and Norah’s first full day of PreK3 – both at the same school.
I’d love to say that the whole event went off without a hitch, but it was more like driving full speed down a road full of potholes that we just kept falling into and stumbling out of over and over again.
It began the night before. No, let me back up, it started Friday. Friday was kindergarten orientation, which was fine. Lots of listening to policies and procedures while sitting in bleachers and tiny 5-year-old sized chairs. But it was good, that is until I took Sarah home and realized Luke was running fever… one that quickly escalated to over 104 and sent me into panic mode and left me feeling off balance the entire weekend. There were sleepless nights spent trying to cool an exhausted sick baby down in a bathtub at 3 a.m. and lots of panic adrenaline that left me feeling tired and empty.
Fast forward to last night. I was busily trying to gather all the things two little girls would need for school the next day, do dinner, take care of all four very busy children and get my anxious energy under control. Norah, during the hustle and bustle, secured a green marker, which she then used to color her eyebrows green, thus earning her the name “little Grinch” for the remainder of the evening. The good news is that the marker did mostly come off. The bad news is that she was left with a green tinge that looked like bruising all around her eyes. Happy First Day of School and no-I-don’t-beat-my-kid-I-promise!
Not to be outdone, as I continued to prepare for the next day, I thought all four of my little angles were sleeping, preparing the way for a great first day. It was only when Mark and I made our way to the bedroom at 10:00 and discovered that his Kindle was missing that we realized Norah had snuck into our bedroom, stolen the Kindle and was watching YouTube videos under the covers in her bed.
Needless to say the first morning of school was… well, not exactly wonderful and lovely. I had to physically pry her exhausted booty out of bed, fight her into a uniform that she did not like, attempt to comb through the rats nest she made out of her hair and get to school on time.
As I was finally making my way out of the neighborhood this morning, late and trying in vain not to take out long-stalling school buses on my way to school, I realized I had left their carefully packed lunchboxes sitting on the kitchen counter at home. This might not have been that big of a deal, but Norah, ever the child of hand-me-downs, got to pick out her very own special brand new Snoopy lunch box for school and it was the one exciting thing she kept talking about. Too late to turn around though, I pushed forward knowing that I would have to make another round trip and be late to work.
We did manage to arrive on time, however.
Sarah scampered off to her new Kindergarten class in the assembly room without so much as a look back at me. I probably should have been emotional and weepy over my girl starting kindergarten, but honestly I was just so relieved that she was so happy and excited about it.
Norah was cautiously excited, but stuck to me like glue. I stood with her during morning assembly and walked her to her class. But when I got ready to leave, well you would have thought I was really and truly bruising up her eyebrows. She exploded. First thrusting her head onto her desk and screaming, and then bolting for me and having to be retained by both the principal and her assistant teacher. I felt terrible. TERRIBLE. But I left, because I knew that was the only way.
After the round trip of securing the lunch boxes, I sat at work anxiously all day. I figured they would surely call me if things were going terribly, but the phone didn’t ring. At carpool time, they brought her out to me screaming and crying, but assured me that she had been fine all day.
As I drove the girls home, my heart was heavy. I had tried to do everything right and felt like such a failure. But then I began asking the girls about their day.
Sarah, wearing her first day of school crown she made, was exuberant. She told me all about the new friend she made, enthusiastically telling me that she now has “TWO friends” and all they did together that day. My poor little introvert has been at the school for three years, all that time only managing to make one real friend. So this was a big deal and it absolutely made me tear up.
She then told me about every time she saw Norah throughout the day – at lunch, at PE, leaving music class, recess – and how every time they saw each other they ran and hugged one another. Sarah told me how they got to play together at recess, playing “Team Unicorn,” and about how “Norah didn’t even get in trouble once or have to sit on the line by the teacher.” She was the proudest, kindest big sister and Norah told me how much better that made her feel.
I may not have been emotional at first day kindergarten drop off, but first day kindergarten pick-up melted me into a gigantic puddle of goop. Our school has the phrase “kindness is practiced here” emblazoned all over it, and I’m so happy and so proud of my kindergartner for being kind and caring so much for her little sister when she knew she was scared and upset.
Thank you, my sweet Sarah, for showing me what’s really important. Look out Day 2, we’re coming for you.
Around the time the twins were born, Sarah started asking me to let her take dance classes. She seemed to have an aptitude for it and I was excited about letting her try. Then the reality of life with two new babies set in. It was tough just to get out of the house, never mind the juggling to get everyone to school and back each day. Throwing another place to be, especially in the evenings, on our plates was starting to look grim. I know we can’t give our children everything they want, but I knew she wanted this badly and I wished I could do it for her.
The deadline for registration was approaching when we got a note from school saying that K4 could sign up for Angel Choir if they so desired. It would require staying after school one day a week and several performances over the course of the school year. Ever the performer, I wondered if she might be interested. We sat down and talked about dance and what it would involve and we talked about choir and what it was. I let her make the choice. She could choose one. And to my utter surprise and relief, she chose choir.
Angel Choir has been one of her greatest joys these past few months. On Thursdays, Sarah will wake up and say, “Mama! What day is it?” When I say, “Thursday,” she cheers and says “Yay! I have Angel Choir today!” and then tells me all about her teacher’s beautiful voice. She skips through our house singing songs and constantly asks me about her next performance.
One of the most fun parts of Angel Choir is that performances are not just for parents. They regularly sing at church, for special lunches and, my favorite, for nursing home residents.
Yesterday was performance day at a local nursing home. The kids, ages K4-2nd grade, put on their best green “Irish” clothes and prepared for their St. Patrick’s Day themed singing. We all crowded into the common room and took our seat next to the residents. The choir was fantastic. There were hand motions, scarf waving, show tunes and even Irish dancing.
The kids had a blast, performing with enthusiasm. I was impressed with how many songs they had learned and even a little teary as they belted out songs from The Sound of Music. And while I loved watching my daughter truly enjoy her performance, my gaze kept wandering to the elderly guests in attendance. Together they leaned forward, hands clapping, smiling brightly and singing along with familiar tunes. They cheered with gusto after the kids finished a song and even offered up a few of their own takes on some of the songs. Mom and Norah came with us, and Norah enjoyed dancing right along with the choir to the delight of the many guests there. I can honestly say that watching the glowing faces of the old people there was one of the purest forms of joy I’ve ever seen.
When the children finished performing, one resident stood up, cheered and said, “Oh please do come back!” Another ran off (and I do mean ran – she was quite spry) to grab a basket of St. Patrick’s day goodies they had made for the children and they invited them to stay for juice and cookies (some of the gooeyest and softest I’ve ever had).
My girls didn’t want to leave! When one old lady asked for a hug, Norah joyfully ran into her embrace. The same lady insisted on high fives and had stuffed her pockets full of quarters to hand out to the kids. If ever there was a more appreciative and captive audience, I don’t know one.
And while I hope that Sarah can still do dance one day if she wants to, I am so grateful that Angel Choir has turned out to be such a joy and blessing for Sarah, for the audience and for myself.
I get really excited about doing stuff with the kids during the holidays. This year was particularly overwhelming though, with work and events planned every weekend for nearly three months in a row. It made it hard to take time out and do things especially for and with them. So I was very excited that Sarah’s school was having a Christmas program, complete with required shepherd costume made by her aunt MC and months of song practice.
As the anticipated week approached though, something started to go very wrong. It started with my brother-in-law, and then my sister, and then my nephew: the stomach bug was rearing its very ugly head. Still though, about three days had passed since we had been around them and I held out hope… until Wednesday when Mark went down hard. We confined him to the bedroom and stayed away. But by Thursday afternoon, I started to feel really bad.
Thursday night was miserable. I didn’t think having the stomach bug could get worse, but I had never had it with two one pound babies inside my body, laying on my stomach and sucking up all calories and nutrition I managed to conserve. Needless to say, there was no way I could make it to the Christmas program Friday morning, despite my weak effort to get up and put my shoes on. I was heartbroken. I helped Sarah get into costume, and we both cried as daddy pulled out of the driveway to take her to school. Mark was still feeling bad, so he had to drop her off and come back home, too.
Thanks to Team Grandma though, Sarah had a loyal fan base in attendance. Both of her grandmothers were there to witness her star performance as one of many tiny shepherds singing Christmas songs and acting out scenes from the songs.
Right before the performance was due to start, I remembered that the Cathedral where the performance was to be held, had a webcam. Thank goodness it was up and going! We got to watch Sarah on the front row, performing her little heart out in her shepherd (or according to her, “Mary shepherd”) costume from the quarantined safety of our home office. It was amazing. I was so proud of her and she enthusiastically waved to her grandmothers when she walked past them.
And perhaps, best of all, the school’s development director and I know each other very well, and she snapped some beautiful pictures of my girl’s performance.
So while neither Mark, nor I could be there in person, the webcast, the pictures and the grandma fan club certainly went a long way towards making the day special.
I’m glad she had a great Friday, because on Saturday evening she and Mimi both had their short, but fierce, turn with the stomach bug. Ah well, at least we got that nastiness out of the way in time for Christmas to still be healthy and special.
It should be no big deal, starting Sarah in Pre-K. After all, for almost her whole life she’s been in day care and away from me during the work day, but we all had a huge change to make. We moved Sarah from her daycare, where we were comfortable and knew everyone, to a full on Catholic school. Fortunately, through my work, I know a lot of the administration, but our shy Sarah knew no one.
We took her to Pre-K orientation a couple of weeks ago, and it was overwhelming for her. All the parents and children were there, along with many of their siblings. It was loud and crazy and utterly different. Sarah clung to me like a lifeline and I began to get anxious for her.
After the orientation though, later that night, Sarah told me about all the wonderful things she had seen in her new classroom with repeated references to a “castle with a pink snake on it,” “a princess kitchen” and a fish tank. My worry started to ease.
Still though, over the past two weeks I’ve been anxious. She is so shy and it’s such a big change for all of us.
Last night I organized everything, from our lunches and change of clothes to my gym bag and a folder of forms I needed to turn in. I was like a restless little bird frantically organizing everything and pre-loading the car. When I finally went to bed, I had nightmares all night ranging from Sarah choking on caps of water bottles to her seeing bodies at the bottom of some invented swimming lessons she would be doing in preschool.
This morning though, I woke up everyone 45 minutes earlier than usual so we could be on time before the 7:45 a.m. tardy bell rings. Sarah was excited to wear her new uniform (which she adorably calls her “unicorn”), and put on her fancy new red shoes. Per usual though, we were running late and hit every red light and got behind every cement truck on the way to school. Not to mention the THREE school zones I had to drive through to get there.
We made it with two minutes to spare and we walked in, hand in hand, into her new classroom.
To my utter surprise and delight, all the children in her new class were happily and quietly playing in their various stations. Only one little boy was crying loudly, but he didn’t seem to bother Sarah too much. The teacher’s aid, Mrs. G, asked Sarah if she liked princesses. Sarah nodded enthusiastically and Mrs. M handed her a Cinderella book. Just like that Sarah took the book and marched over to the reading center where she sat down with a group of little girls and began looking at the book.
I asked her for a hug goodbye, and she obligingly gave me one and then returned to her book. I left her in her classroom surprised and happy, no sign of tears on either of our faces.
I thought about her throughout the day, and was excited when it was time to pick her up. They have carpool, but I took mom in to show her Sarah’s new school and classroom. We found her little class all waiting on the carpool line, sitting quietly.
Sarah hopped up and gave us a big hug. Her teacher, Mrs. Robin, told us that Sarah had a great day and was the class leader – a role, she said, Sarah took to naturally. In the car on the way home, Sarah told us about the things she played with throughout the day. When I asked her what she learned, she told me, “F is for fire trucks and fishes.”
And though, at first, I was nervous about the big change, Sarah showed me today that this change is going to be good for all of us. So proud of my big girl.
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