To Your Health

Another area I want to focus on this year is my health. I have had medical “stuff” much of my life. 2 years ago, I felt I was getting myself on the right track. Then, I ended up in the hospital having emergency surgery. My progress stalled. I lost momentum during my recovery.

There are 3 things I plan to focus on and make changes in this area. The first area is to drink more water. Why is this SO hard?!?! I just don’t get it. This should be the easiest thing in the world. So, why do I fail so miserably? Exercise is another thing I plan to focus on. I thought I could make a habit to walk a mile a day, but this has been proven more difficult than I first thought. However, I have been fairly successful at 2+ miles 4x a week, so I call that a positive change. The third way I am working to make changes is with diet. I have seen WAY too many people die of cancer in the past 10 years. I truly believe this is connected to our diet and the junk we put into our bodies, among other things. And yet, it is still so difficult to change these bad habits. I will say I have been doing better about breakfast. I have tried several brands of shakes over the years and haven’t enjoyed any of them. I have found success in making smoothies using YourSuper mixes. I did their 5 day detox before Christmas (I am so not a detox person) and lost 7 lbs. It all came right back over Christmas, but this was the first time in 8 years that I lost weight, so I know I can do it! I also noticed that I have more energy and less joint pain while using YourSuper. Success! Lunch is hit or miss depending on if I have a veggie bowl or leftovers, and we won’t discuss dinner as I have yet to figure out how to balance what I want to eat and what my family will eat. My aim is to eat mostly plants and minimal processed foods/sugar. These habits are hard! Small changes.

Successes I have seen so far in 2021…

*Instead of having a meltdown, Mr. Man and I walked through his anger and completed a 5K together.

*Mr. Man will ask for a smoothie everytime I make one. This is a great way to hide veggies and other good stuff!

*Both boys discovered they LOVE kiwi. This is after they told me they would never try it because “That’s SO gross!”

Our kids are watching us. What changes are you making for yourself and them?

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What Are We Teaching Our Children?

You are your child’s first teacher. Whether or not we homeschool, we do teach our children. Everyday. Our children watch everything we do and, even though it sounds cliche, actions speak louder than words. What do we silently teach our children through our actions? 

How many times have you been cleaning the house, only to have your children ask “who’s coming over?”

Or is that just me?

Are we teaching our children that we only need to clean when someone will see our homes? Are we teaching them that our clutter is okay for those we love most, but it’s not good enough for others? That we shouldn’t take pride in our own homes? 

Let’s take it a step further. Are we teaching our children that the judgement from others is something they should expect? That we should fear and cater to this judgement? My children are judged constantly. Let’s face it, we are all judged on a daily basis. Sadly, it’s part of life. But I don’t want my children to accept this judgement as an acceptable norm and change because of the it. Sometimes making a changes IS a good thing, as in the case with a messy house. However, I want my children to decide to make a change because they recognize that the change will benefit them, not as a reaction to the judgement of others.

What are you teaching your children? I’m pretty sure none of my questions made it into the weekly lesson plans, but many of us teach exactly this. Are the lessons we are teaching them the ones we want them to learn? How can we change our actions to teach lessons that will equip them with the tools to create a brighter future?

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Reclaiming My Home

Last time I wrote, I mentioned the three areas I planned to focus on this year. I didn’t give specific goals because I feel that any progress is better than where I began. I want to focus on progress, not just an end result. Focusing on the goal, or end result, leaves me feeling defeated when I fall short of that goal. All progress is worth celebrating and I didn’t want to undermine the progress I am able to make. In this post I want to focus on one of these three goals. Decluttering with purpose.

This is the area where I have seen the most progress over the past six weeks, which is very exciting. We’ve been working on decluttering our home for awhile now. When I say awhile, I mean like a couple of years. Ugh! It never ends! But I can finally say that it does gain momentum and there is a tipping point where you can feel the hope.

I am almost…gasp…40 years old and I just recently realized two things about myself.

  1. I am a collector.
  2. I am a minimalist at heart.

Wait….what?! Yep, that’s me…and no, it doesn’t work. But then I always say we don’t do “normal” or easy. Let me go back and explain. As a child, when I got one of something, I had to get the whole set. To be honest, I still struggle with this but am making progress. Even in the video games we play as a family, I find I prefer games where I have to collect items. One the other side of my personality, I have always enjoyed minimalistic surroundings. I just never understood what that meant. I love hotel rooms with their sparseness. I like tiny houses. Not because they are small, but because they force you to have very little. I remember once staying in a friend’s guest room while my parents were out of town. The room had a bed, nightstand and lamp. That was it. I remember how calm and peaceful the room felt. I never really understood until recently. I do better in environments with less STUFF.

So, I have been working hard to reclaim our home, my sanity and a sense of peace. It hasn’t been easy. I probably kept around 90% of my childhood things. Yep, it was that bad! But I am making progress. Step by step. One habit at a time. My local Buy Nothing Project group has been my best friend this month. Today, I gifted the last of the boys baby clothes. The last of the favorites kept “just in case”. I also gifted a ton of craft supplies. I don’t have the time or room to work on any of my million projects, I am spread in far too many directions. By deciding which hobby was most important, I am able to free up time and space to actually enjoy that hobby. I realized that I had to narrow my focus or accomplish nothing.

Our house is old. It has issues that need attention. This year we finally got to painting the exterior, we replaced the AC unit and had to dig through 2 feet of concrete to replace a broken sewer line. Besides realizing that I just wasn’t able to maintain our house with the amount of things in it. It also came to realization that it is very hard to accomplish any of the smaller fix-it projects when your house is cluttered. It takes too much effort to physically get to the project. We have one room of our house that still has painters tape and painting that remains unfinished because I was told, at 8 months pregnant, to get off the ladder and not paint. So there it sits, unfinished… 8 years later!

I was one of those people who didn’t want anyone over because it meant cleaning up, or clutter shuffling, and that was too overwhelming. My husband is a board gamer. He likes to have people over for game nights. In order for us to do this without overwhelming stress, I have to deal with the excess and get to a point where I can focus on maintenance. I enjoy hosting. I want our home to be the house where the boys want to hang out with their friends. Where my friends drop in for coffee. I don’t want the stress and panic of Oh, no! Someone’s coming over!

It has been six weeks since I have become intentional about decluttering and reclaiming my home. One habit I have gained… Do the dishes, every night. I know this sounds obvious… but I HATE dishes. Like, I would avoid them until I had no other choices. Partly because it took attention away from kids who either started fighting or destroying other areas of the house. However, once I decluttered down to 1 days worth of dishes, I HAVE to do them more often. Doing them daily means they don’t take as long AND they are easier because dried food is way harder to clean. Wow! I am a slow learner.

I can’t believe I am even sharing this before picture…. I am SO embarrassed!

It was THAT bad!

When I purge, I find I am not as overwhelmed or stressed. I can clean like a normal person and not feel like I have to move things and organize first. The more I minimize, the more I can breathe. I don’t feel as tense. I see progress and I see hope.

What has helped me get to this point? Believe me there is still much further to go, but I have gotten to a point of hope.

  • During the past year, I have found The Minimal Mom on Youtube and came to the realization that I am a minimalist at heart and don’t need to collect stuff. In fact, I am happier with less.
  • I have found A Slob Comes Clean podcast and listen to Dana when I clean and while I am out for my walks. Very motivating!
  • I am creating new habits, little by little. I do my dishes- every.day!

Maybe for the rest of the world this seems obvious. I often wonder why it has taken so long to start figuring this out. I don’t know, but I am grateful I am, because I am finally beginning to feel at home in my home.

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2021: An Update

As we head into a new year, it has come to my attention that i have fallen off the face of the Earth. No, I am still here, but I have been neglecting my writing and posting. Why? Excuses, excuses, excuses…. Yeah, there are a lot of reasons, but all are poor excuses. Mostly a mix of new endeavors to steal my time and focus. None of which panned out because I was trying to do things via avenues that were not me. Also, I was in a bad mood. I mean 2020….need I say more? I find it very difficult to write when I am in a bad mood.

For this post, I will just give a short update on everyone and talk about where I plan to take this blog this year. My word of the year is Simplicity. We have been working really hard to remember to focus on the simple things. I want to continue this throughout the year.

Mr. Man

Right before the school year started (and I mean RIGHT before) we decided that, as well as homeschooling had served us, there were ways in which I could just not provide what he needed. On top of this, the additional focus Mr. Man needed meant Monkey was not getting the attention he deserved or needed. I could no longer feel like I had to choose between the needs of my children. So, we enrolled Mr. Man in a local Autism school. Yes, in the middle of Covid, when everyone began to turn toward homeschooling, we enrolled him in school. We just can’t do “normal”.

With Covid and remote learning (another post entirely) the year has been anything but normal. However, Mr. Man is currently attending in person and is happy and showing amazing progress. We have never had a time when the mention of going to school didn’t send him into huge meltdowns. He is now brushing his teeth, getting dressed and putting on shoes BY HIMSELF, every morning. That speaks volumes.

Monkey

Monkey is still a challenge. He’s very smart and very stubborn. He hasn’t wanted to do school with mom and we’ve been forced to try different approaches. At this point, Charlotte Mason and Montessori styles have been working the best. It’s been ROUGH to say the least. Mr. Man’s online school schedule threw Monkey’s routine out the window. Monkey has been begging to go to school and we actually looked into enrolling him at a nearby Montessori school for next year. Sadly, have decided against it. He is still struggling with his anger and emotional outbursts. The school didn’t sound too willing to help him with these struggles, even though they claim to work on the social/emotional development of the child, as well as the academic. They expected him to have already acquired these skills prior to enrollment. So, we will continue to school Monkey at home and focus on strengthening his skills and building habits that will help him accomplish his goals.

Mama Bean

I have been learning a lot about myself the past six months. How I function best and my limitations. It’s a slow process, but am seeing forward movement. For now, I remind myself to focus on the simple things in life. Playing basketball with the boys, watching the ducks as we sit by the lake, and enjoying a cup of cocoa with Monkey in the early morning hours before anyone else wakes up.

In 2021, I plan to focus on 3 areas.

  • My health
  • My writing
  • My house (decluttering with purpose)

I hope you join me on this journey. Looking forward to a year of self-improvement and new adventures. What are you looking forward to this year?

 

 

 

 

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What I’ve Learned in Quarantine

It’s been a weird couple of weeks. It’s funny how life can change. So fast, and yet stand so still at the same time. I’ve had a lot of time to think the past two weeks. One minute you’re waiting for your husband to come home from work to start your weekend and the next you are in quarantine.

You see my husband came home from work thinking he was extra tired. He didn’t sound right and I made him take his temperature. He never gets sick. EVER. He had a fever and a cough soon followed. Given the nature of our world right now, I immediately sent him into our room and told the boys they could not go in. The mental games that occurred the next 48 hours were awful. You can’t NOT go there….not now. We told ourselves it was silly because any germs he had were likely all through the house anyway, but we couldn’t not be cautious. The boys both have histories of breathing difficulties.

I waited. Waited for it to get worse. I heard day 4-5 were bad. I focused on the boys and reminded myself to take it one night at a time. On the evening of day two, we got word that one of his co-workers had just tested positive for Covid-19. My heart stopped. The funny thing was, at this point he was feeling better. But now, we had this threat and it wasn’t faceless. Had he actually just caught a minor thing, but now we have to worry about a bigger bad knocking at our door in the next week? So, we had him tested. At this point, his fever had gone and he really did seem fine, except for the lingering cough. We actually started thinking there was no way he was positive, he was barely sick. But he stayed isolated as a precaution. Day 6, test results came in and confirmed he was also positive.

At this point, I had to laugh out loud because I knew how lucky we were. To say he had a mild case is putting it… well, mildly! But we knew the boys and I were not clear yet and we settled into our 14-day quarantine. We were lucky, we know that. Our battle was much more mental than physical. My husband was going more than a little stir crazy. Mr. Man, who has his own emotional and mental struggles on the best of days, was not understanding why we were keeping daddy locked in his room. He started to test me, big time! I became the enemy. I was screamed at, spit at and had things thrown at me, often. Just a typical day. Monkey, who is pretty independent by nature, became ridiculously clingy and whiny. I have seen him hug on his dad more in the past week, post-quarantine than I have seen him do his entire five years.

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Monkey needed to play a game with daddy.

Quarantine life doesn’t look much different for us. I prefer to stay home and avoid going out when I can. But it felt different. It was so odd to know that you can’t just go to the grocery store when you forgot to order something. No one is going to stop in and help you if you need it or give you a break when the kid is having a REALLY unstable day.

I learned a few things this month. I learned that there are a lot of people in this world who are jerks. I have other words, but I’ve settled for that one. People who are quick to treat you as though you have a scarlet letter, but also sit there and tell you you are stupid because the hell you are going through in your mind isn’t real.

I learned that we have some amazing friends. Truly. Friends who will keep you fed, not because you are too ill to cook for yourself, but because you are exhausted from sleeping on your crappy couch and trying to suddenly handle everything as a “single” parent who can’t even hire a babysitter so you can have a coffee break when you need it.

We are lucky. We are blessed. I tell myself that every day. We tangled with this threat and are still here. We both still have our jobs. Life is pretty much the same. But maybe that’s the problem…

Because along the way, I also realized something else.

My life is busy. It’s full of Pokemon, Mario, Zombies, and Avengers. One of my kids has decided that he IS going to be King when he’s older. There’s wrestling, farting, and burping. It’s loud and it’s crazy. Most of the time, I am okay with that. Most of the time, I love it. I certainly wouldn’t change that. BUT.  But, I have also realized that even though I love being surrounded by my boys. There is no sparkle. There is no me. I realized today that I had a list of things I needed and wanted to do, but spent the entire day doing for others and never got to my stuff. Even if I had the time at the end of the day for the things I planned, I was far too exhausted. I realized that some of the things on my list have been waiting for me for over a year. This.is.not.okay.

I know I’m not the only mom who feels that way. I know I’m not. We spend our days pouring ourselves into everyone else and all that is left is exhausted and defeated. We’d rather crawl into bed than attempt to do any of the things that would put a little bit of sparkle back into our day. So, I decided to do something for me….

I have recently been introduced to Color Street Nails. You may be familiar with it, you may not. But for me, my nails have always been an issue. They are brittle and break easily. I am rough on them and I refuse to spend a ridiculous amount of money to make them look good. I don’t really spend much on anything like that. However, my job is on camera and I cringe when I hold something up and notice my nails. It’s silly I know. But once in a while, I want to pamper myself. I NEVER get to do anything girlie and Color Street has given me a way to have a little sparkle in my overwhelmingly BOY life. I know I am not the only one who needs a little reminder that it’s okay to take some time to do YOUR thing. It’s okay to pamper yourself and it’s okay to have a little sparkle.

So for today….my family is fine. They are healthy, life is returning to normal and we pray it stays that way. For me, I have decided to do something for me. I have decided to re-open my old Etsy shop with some new reminders that its okay to pamper ourselves. We work hard, Mamas! I’ve also decided to become a Color Street Stylist. Maybe I can make a little to do something fun, maybe I just work toward getting a discount on my own sparkle. Either is good, because I enjoy it and it’s for ME. It’s okay and I refuse to feel selfish!

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Geoboards: A Timberdoodle Review

Mr. Man uses Geoboards as part of his Occupational Therapy. Every time they come out, Monkey wants to be part of the activity. So, we decided to get a set of our own geoboards from Timberdoodle and post a review on them.

The Timberdoodle geoboards come with 4 boards, 20 activity cards, and 96 rubber bands. The boards themselves are of good, sturdy quality. They are smaller than I have seen with other boards, at 7.5 inches square. However, I found that I actually preferred this compact size. The cards are brightly colored and fit onto the frames well. There was one card that was not usable because the holes were not punched correctly. I really liked that the rubber bands were colored and could coordinate with the patterns. In comparison with other geoboards I have seen, I definitely prefer the boards that include patterns. One problem I had with this particular set of geoboards was many of the rubber bands snapped the first use out of the box. I don’t know if this is typical or if we simply got a bad set of bands, but it was very disappointing. After one use, we already need to replace the bands and this was not due to excessive roughness on the boys part (for once!)

This kit was a bit of a flop for us. Mr. Man sees them as a chore, so he wasn’t overly excited about this set. Monkey played with them but tired quickly. So overall, they serve their purpose but were not a huge success. My biggest pro was the quality of the boards themselves and my biggest con was the low-quality rubber bands. My overall feeling towards them was that they are typical geoboards, nothing overly exciting. They do their job. If you are looking specifically for geoboards this is a good sturdy set that looks like it will take some wear and tear (with back up rubber bands), but in the end, they are simply geoboards.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted set of geoboards in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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Artistic Patch Cosmos Foil: A Timberdoodle Review

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We recently reviewed Artistic Patch Cosmos Foil by Djeco. This craft kit, for ages 6-10, is sold by Timberdoodle and is included in their 2020 First-Grade Curriculum Kit. This Kit would be an excellent addition to your Space themed units. The kit includes 8 sheets of glue patches, 10 foil transfer sheets, and 12 background pages.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of pages that were included with this kit. There are enough to allow several for several crafting sessions.

 

The boys enjoyed the effect created by the metallic foil. They loved picking out their glue patches and watching the foil bring the design to life. A somewhat softer touch is required to rub and transfer the foil onto the glue patch. This was hard for the boys, who have no idea how to use soft hands. When they went to rub the foil, they often ended up crumpling it. I also noticed they had a hard time placing the foil in a way that would allow them to get the most uses from the pages. This required spatial planning they have yet to master.

Overall, this was a fun project which allowed the boys to practice a variety of skills in a fun and creative way. We would love to get some of the other Artistic Patch Kits by Djeco, as well. Hopefully, Timberdoodle will start carrying a variety of these kits, because they are so much fun!

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Smart Cookies: A Timberdoodle Review

265-750-3_800x800Bored? Like puzzles? Love cookies? Look no further… I am always on the lookout for activities that my boys will like but also get them to think. Smart Cookies is a single-player puzzle game that helps children learn to follow step by step clues to solve puzzles and build deductive reasoning and logic skills. The game contains 9 quality made cookies in 3 colors and 3 patterns. The players use a clue book to follow the clues and figure out where all the cookies are placed on a 3 by 3 grid. The suggested age for Smart Cookies is 6+ and is part of Timberdoodle’s First Grade Curriculum Kit.

I must admit, the first time we tried this game I thought I knew what I was doing and didn’t read the directions. Wrong! I thought the game was a Sudoku style game in which no row or column could share a similar attribute with another cookie. This is how I originally taught the boys to play and I was pleasantly surprised by how well they did. Mr. Man struggled some with his attention to the attributes, but after several attempts, he really started to get it. Monkey had no issues and was placing cookies at speeds that (pleasantly) concerned me… I definitely need to get him some Sudoku puzzles!

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THEN, I realized we were playing the game incorrectly… oops! I thought each clue was an individual puzzle. However, the book gives step by step clues that you must follow to solve the entire puzzle. As long as you do not violate one of the clues, colors and shapes may share the same rows and columns, unlike Sudoku. This need to follow the clues step by step was great practice for Mr. Man, who often reminds me of a ping pong ball. However, it was very difficult and tiring for him. Monkey was still able to solve the puzzles easily, but they didn’t hold his attention as long as our first attempt. The puzzles get harder as the children move further along in the book and new rules/clues are added.

Everyone really enjoyed Smart Cookies and it definitely exercised their minds and made them think. Anything that I can find that helps Mr. Man reign in some of his impulsivity and force him to follow step by step direction is a win as far as this Mama is concerned. These are the skills we need to work on daily in our home and Smart Cookies is definitely a fun way to do that. It is also a great activity to help recognize attributes and build spatial awareness.

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Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted copy of Smart Cookies in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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Deep in the Jungle Sticker Mosaic Kit: A Timberdoodle Review

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We had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s new product Deep in the Jungle Sticker Mosaic Kit by Djeco. This kit was a lot of fun. The kit comes with 4 Jungle pictures and metallic foam stickers which are added to the pictures to create a sticker by number style work of art. Each boy picked a picture and set to work. The instruction booklet was easy to follow and showed which numbers/colors should be completed first. My only complaint with the kit is that the sticker sheets are not labeled in any way, so you have to guess which sheet is which color/number. Some of the colors are very similar and it was quite tricky. I was concerned that if we used the wrong sheet we would run out of stickers for the other two pictures.

IMG_2223I was pleasantly surprised that this activity caught Mr. Man’s attention ard REALLY kept his focus. He was persistent, despite the fact that this activity is challenging for him due to fine motor weakness. This ended up being a great activity for him! It really had him working on many of the skills he focuses on in OT. He was able to work on fine motor skills, processing/planning skills, and it slowed him down enough to help him work on his difficulties with impulsivity. I would definitely purchase more of these for Mr. Man.

IMG_2222Monkey, on the other hand, surprised me for a different reason. Monkey loves art, but he showed little interest in this activity. In fact, he did one color (with much encouragement) before walking away completely. Monkey usually loves art, but I think this project was a little too structured for him. He enjoys a more free and messy approach when it comes to his creativity. Monkey is also a bit on the outside of the 7-13 recommended age range for this activity, so that may have been part of his disinterest, too. Although, Mama is definitely beyond the age range and I wanted to do my own design!

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Overall, the Beans were very impressed with the quality of the Deep in the Jungle Mosaic Kit and would love to see more kits similar to this with a variety of designs. Like I mentioned, my only improvement would be for the sticker sheets to be labeled with their matching number. Other than that, we thoroughly enjoyed this activity and will be proudly displaying Mr. Man’s final product.

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My Epic Life Word Book: A Timberdoodle Review

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We recently had the opportunity to explore and review Timberdoodle’s new My Epic Life Word Book. Mr. Man has always had a difficult time with vocabulary, he struggles to use a variety of words when speaking. The My Epic Life Word Book is a 235 page 2019 National Parenting Product Award winner and a 2019 Tillywig Award winner. It is a IMG_2208colorful and simplistic way to introduce children to a variety of new words. Each page is illustrated with engaging and fun cartoons that easily capture the children’s eye. The vocabulary words are clearly visible and the definitions are simple and straight forward. I really liked the use of the appropriate amount of empty space on the pages so the words do not get lost in the illustrations. The book is divided into eight different sections by topics such as Words for Time, Words for My epic everyday life and Words for My epic outdoor adventures. I will likely add using this book into our school day by using it to illustrate a “Word of the Day”.

Monkey thoroughly enjoyed looking at the illustrations and loved the humor in them. IMG_2205Both boys loved the word cartoons section located in the back of the book. In this section, you are able to scan a QR code and watch a short cartoon video that shows the meaning of the words. This was very engaging for them. However, I do wish that these codes were located on the pages with the words throughout the book, instead of all on a two-page spread with reference back to the page number which included each vocabulary word.

If you are looking for a simple way to incorporate vocabulary building into your day, My Epic Life Word Book is an excellent resource. For extra fun, Bogart (the bookwork larva) is hidden throughout the book. There is also a QR code to scan that will take you to an Epic Word Adventure game. At the time of our review, this game wasn’t available yet, but it looks like a fun way to reinforce the vocabulary and we will definitely be checking it out when it becomes available.  IMG_2186

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