For the Love of Money

Laundering money

Laundering money

My kid loves money. He loves money more than the federal government does. He walks around playing with his money. Talking to it, putting it in containers and carrying it with him. Last night he was watching movies with his money–he sat on top of it in a laundry basket so he “could be close to it.”  I try to take it away but he finds it.

He puts his money in a satchel slings it over his back, walking around like a robber baron. The other day I walked in on him stacking his dollars and throwing them in the air. “Wheeeee!!!! I’m RICH!”

“What does ‘rich’ mean, Declan?” He looked at me. Surely she isn’t that stupid…

“It means I have more money than you. And I can buy anything I want on Amazon.” Good answer.

“Well, being rich means you have what you need.” I said. “That you have a family who loves you and feeds you good food, and you’re healthy and happy.”

“That’s not rich, Mommy. That’s just silly. I love you, Mommy.” He continued restacking and throwing dollars. “Wheeeee!!!!!” I left to make dinner.

I’ve never had this relationship with money. I’ve rolled money, counted money, saved it like a miser, and taken it to the bank. I’ve prayed over money, hoping it would multiply so I could afford groceries. I’ve used it to pay bills. I’ve even given it away to others who were praying over their money. I’ve never thrown it into the air.

I don’t know whether I should take the money away at night and deposit in the bank by Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 6.07.07 AMforce. He doesn’t have a bank account yet anyway–when I went, they asked me for eighteen documents and a blood sample for the FBI to crosscheck against potential terrorists and money launderers. There was that dollar I picked out of his pants in the wash, and he is a terror at home…

“Ain’t nobody got time for this…” I put his money in my account and went home. He needs his own account so he can save all his pennies for a college he ultimately won’t be able to afford.

He cries when I suggest it. He tells me he loves his money. I say that if he brings his money to the bank, they’ll give him more money.

I explain compound interest, but the fact that the “more money” will also be in the bank is too much. He says no. He needs to be with his cash. Money flowing in wire cables isn’t his thing. He’s lobbying for the gold standard.

Like the government, I take his money a bit at a time when he’s not looking. It’s not good Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 6.08.13 AMfor the Dyson. If he notices, I’ll tell him I paid his taxes. Last time I suggested the government needed their share, he picked up a broom. Shay’s Rebellion Part II.

For now, I let him play with his money. In about a year or two, I’ll roll it up and buy a penny stock or let him start his first company. We’ll see how he does. I think he has a nice career ahead of him. Better to start thinking about what his money can do for him now, rather than throwing it in the air.  That way, he’ll be two decades ahead of his peers, and he won’t have to worry about whether he can afford college. It’ll be a moot point.

And maybe then he’ll let me buy anything I want on Amazon. We shall see.

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On the Subject of Eggs, Pornos, and Tech Not Replacing Teachers

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.13.37 AMMy son is walking around talking to eggs. He takes one from the carton and introduces it to me. “This is my son, Steve. I’m finally a dad.” I tell him to put the egg back.

“It’s my son.”

“It’s not your son…” We argue.

“Kids come from eggs.” I don’t want to discuss this now. I want to bake cookies. I tell him to choose between his son and the cookies. I need the egg. After a heart wrenching moment, he chooses cookies.

“Goodbye, dear son. I love you. I’ll miss you.” He caresses the egg, a tear coming to his little eye. He kisses the egg goodbye.

“It is not your son.” I crack the egg.

He waves a sad little wave as the yolk membrane crushes and the egg blends into the batter. “Take care of yourself in there….”

I feel like a real jerk, making the kid kill his son so we can eat cookies…Is this what every mother chicken and cow feels before humans eat dinner?

No. He will not draw me into his insanity. It’s an egg…I wipe his tear. We make cookies. We eat cookies. A person can really question their sanity raising a six-year old. I start to see, talk to, and put plates out for imaginary friends

He takes another “son” while I’m not looking.

“Put that back before it…”


Too late. Eggs are impossible to get off the floor. I’m unhappy. Declan’s devastated. I clean the floor and plan a funeral at the same time–good thing I baked cookies for it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.12.58 AMOne day, my boiled eggs went missing. “Look, Mom, twins!” I was hungry, but at least boiled eggs don’t splat all over the ground. Turns out, they crumble. “This is Steve’s heart.”

Back to cleaning floors…

I still need to eat so I attempt a frittata . As soon as the carton comes out, there’s Declan, reaching in…

“I’m having another child. I’m a good Dad.” If that were true, Steve wouldn’t be on his fourth life.

“No more children!” I say. “Dinner!” His little lip quivers. He wants to be a dad.

“But eggs are where children come from.” This question’s not new. I’ve answered it–we watched medical videos on YouTube. YouTube is where every parent turns when they don’t want to answer. If I don’t answer, he’ll just ask Siri or Google. He thinks they’re real people. I think they’re jokesters–they sometimes show inappropriate things.

When Declan has something on his mind, he’s all in. He’s focused. He gets the answer. If he’s not interested, there’s nothing I can do to keep him on task. It’s no different in my classroom. We’re so busy standardizing curricula, we don’t see the tree through the forest. Each individual tree is a beautiful thing to behold.

People ask me if technology will replace teachers. No, it won’t. Technology won’t replace teachers because not all teachers have technology that works. Mostly, it’s broken, blocked, and banned. But when it isn’t, kids still need a guide–someone to help process the information. Someone to who will clap, say “great job,” guide them to the next level, and tell them the amazing things they can be.

There are many paths to the top of the mountain. Tech allows kids to meander around looking at the flowers and trees on the way. They’re engaged. They learn. And sometimes parents get a moment of rest.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.13.22 AMDeclan still wants eggs. I try something different. Plastic Easter eggs.

“Here’s your egg.” I pick a shiny blue one.

“Thanks, Mom!” He hugs the egg, “I missed you, Steve.” He turns to me. “I need four more. We’re going to school.” I get them. Soon, the egg-kids are lined up efficiently in school. Steve gets broken. I explain we can’t keep replacing Steve. Good moms and dads take care of their kids. Declan cries. I get him a new Steve.

Steve’s the troublemaker at school. He stays in for recess.  He’s a lot like his “dad.”

“Hey, Mom,” Declan says. “Kids come from eggs. Let’s watch those videos again!” We watch medical videos that speed up nine months of pregnancy. We skip the ones that show how the baby got in there and how it gets out. No pornos here! Nothing to see!

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 5.13.17 AM“Hey Mom,” he says. “Can we watch a video about how the baby gets in? And how it gets out?” Kids don’t miss a thing.

“No. And don’t ask Siri or Google.” I pick another plastic egg out of my pocket and tell him Steve’s friend is here to play.

“Come on, Steve, you can get out of time out. Hondo’s here to play…”

Steve and Hondo play, I eat my frittata sans guilt, and I hide Siri…so she can’t make trouble later on.

That Moment Where Kids Discover Life’s Not Magic

Declan’s six. Every time I say, “no,” which is quite often, he says, “Can I do that when I’m a teenager?”

“I’m going to watch every show when I’m a teen,” he says. No. No, you’re not.

I’ve banned cartoons with a strong correlation to acting out and one that revealed a girl’s chest hidden by blurry stars.  “HAHAHAHAHA, those were her boobs!” Inappropriate–error in supervision.

“I’m going to swear when I’m a teenager. I’ll say ‘crap and…'” I break this train of thought.

“Nope. Not gonna happen.”

“Dad swears,” he negotiates. “Brittany swears.”

“Well, you don’t.”

“I’m going to eat all the candy when I’m a teenager. Can I?” This answer’s more important than permission to say a thousand f-words. He leans in for the answer.

“I suppose. Once I ate a pound of M&M’s I bought with my babysitting money. If you earn your own money, you can buy candy.”

“I have to use my own money?” This concept is extremely disturbing. Money, you see, comes from the pockets of parents, from the magic machines we drive by, and from the card in every adult’s wallet that lets us get all the stuff we want.

“Sure. I don’t buy unhealthy food a lot. If you want it, you can work when you’re a teen. Spend your money.”

“Can I pick up my puzzles and get five dollars?”

“It doesn’t work that way. See, I’m paying for your food and house. You should give me money. But I’m in a good mood, so I’ll let you stay.”

“Will you let me stay if you’re in a bad mood, Mommy?” I shouldn’t have said that. He doesn’t yet realize nobody ever really moves out of their parent’s house. We’ll be celebrating Brittany’s 21st birthday tomorrow. Well, not really, because when you’re 21, you don’t celebrate at home.

“Yes. You can stay even if I’m in a bad mood.”

“Well, when I’m a teen, I’m going to do whatever I want!” He stomps away. Note to six-year olds–getting the last word doesn’t mean victory. Carry that pearl into your teens.

I get to school and recap this conversation with my teens. They come to a general accord that teens cannot do whatever they want. That being a teen sucks.

“All we do is clean and do homework.”

“I have to babysit all the time.”

“My parents are stupid.” Yes. Yes, we’re all stupid. Until you’re 30 or run out of money in college.

I decide to let them into The Parent Inner Circle. “I’m going to tell you the truth. From a parent point of view…” They listen. They’re about to learn the secret of life.

“The reason we have you is so you can find the remote control when it’s lost. And do the dishes. And get our drinks. And watch the other kids we continue to have so that when you leave there’s always someone available to take out the trash. You babysit those so we get a break. That’s the real reason we have you.”

They stare–I might just be telling the truth. I figure I’d better iron this out.

“Everyone spends life wishing to be someone else. Kids want to be teens, teens want to be adults, adults want to be kids again. Being an adult sort of sucks, to be honest…we’ve got to pay the bills, listen to you whine, make sure you get some kind of food and don’t grow up to be criminals…If something bad happens, it falls on us to fix it. That’s a lot of pressure.”

A couple nod. Teens ready to agree?

“You’re just getting a taste of that pressure. Believe me, the pressure increases…you ain’t seen nothing yet…” I continue, “There have been rough times for me. Ask your parents, maybe for them, too. Some of your parents work more than one job…they do a lot for you.”

I get a “That’s true.” I’m being heard.

“So, yes, if I want, I can leave here today, drink two six packs and hit the clubs. I can eat anything I want, say anything I want, and do anything I want. I’m way over 21. But do I?Nope. Because I’m an adult. The pressure’s on me. I work hard to be better just like I tell you to do. We’re all playing the same game. I’m just on a different level.” Smiles. Good sign.

“The truth is, most adults want to be teens again. Not me. I work hard at things I love and feel passionate about. I didn’t always–but it’s what makes the difference. Doing things that you love–especially work…it’s the secret to having a good life…being great. Does anyone master it? I don’t know…Life’s about being under pressure. The wrong kind of pressure crushes you. The right kind turns rocks into diamonds. Find positive people–good friends. Work hard. Do things you love. Be great–let pressure turn you into a diamond. Being a teen won’t be so bad…being an adult will be even better.”

They smile. I feel a little like Mel Gibson after the “Freedom” monologue, and I wonder how long they’ll remember…I go home and inform the six-year old that teenagers don’t want to be teens. He doesn’t believe me. He continues listing all the things he’ll do when he gets there.

Having won one intellectual battle, I sit down to do something purely adult. No swearing, partying, or candy. I make tea, and sit down to write. Heaven.

Training The Boy to vacuum. I said, “If you’re a really good boy, you can vacuum.” It worked. 

Stop Teaching Reading!

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 5.17.24 AMWhoever’s teaching these kids to read–stop. I know, you’re amazing. You have a magic about you. One day, I put Declan on the bus. Seven hours later, he got off spelling. Mysterious!

I like that he’s lying on the floor reading books about bugs and dinosaurs. I have to pull out “Hooked on Phonics” to help.  Understand, though, having kids who read makes parenting a whole new game.

I can’t spell to get around him anymore. “Want to go to the z-o-o with us if we have time?”

“THE ZOO!” Now we have to go.

“Hey Mom? How do you spell ‘ass’?” Who around here was talking about Biblical donkeys?

We always read a story before bed. “Before bed” can be any time up to, or including, my own bedtime. I get no rest. He pops out for a variety of reasons. “I need water.” “My leg is itchy.” “The Red Sox should’ve lost.” “How ’bout that global warming?”

But still, I have to read to him. Reading together is good. They tell me to log the stories we read. This, I don’t like. First off, who believes a kid who read Dr. Seuss for six weeks in a row? Does it count for “twenty-five books?” And if he reads “The Hobbit,” do we need twenty-four more? I can’t help it if he fixates. Second, it’s my job to give homework not do it. I forget and fall asleep.

I tell him we’ll read a short story, since it’s late and he hasn’t gone to bed. He hands me a long one. “READ!” This wasn’t a problem in the past. I skipped pages and said “The end.” Now, he knows. He waves his little finger and says, “HEY! You missed a page!” He knows when I shorten pages, too. “It says, ‘he said,’ Mommy. You forgot to read that part. Do it again.” 

He can read captions on advertisements, like the number to call to order As Seen on TV toys. He keeps a logbook of words he needs to spell into Netflix search to get his favorite shows, sounding out the ones of which I do not approve, asking me word by word when I least suspect it. He writes them secretly on pieces of paper hidden throughout the house.

I check his shelf. No “Steal this Book.” No “Anarchists Cookbook.” Just a bunch of dinosaurs whose names I can’t read properly. I think we’re safe for now.

But it got me to thinking about this moment–the moment where a child learns and becomes more independent, less simple to control.

I’ve been teaching skills I call “Big Money Skills.” Things students can use in the real world–data analysis, public speaking, writing, a touch of entrepreneurial spirit. These are dangerous things. Public speaking may give them the confidence to mouth off, learning about the world could teach them to use a GPS and be out after curfew. Writing might make them use big words, then we’d all have to pull out our dictionaries while they run haywire doing whatever they want. The entrepreneurial spirit could give them big ideas. Soon they’ll be filling out tax forms at the Sunday dinner table.

Watching Declan learn to read made me realize I owe all my parents a big apology. I hope I haven’t given you too much homework or taught your kids things that annoy you. From now on, I’ll focus on skills that will get them to be independent and move out of the house, that’s all. Standards be damned. Then, you’ll have a moment of peace that I crave, and you’ll like me once again.



I’m Gonna Write about You

When I started writing, I was told never to befriend a blogger because I wouldn’t know when I’d end up in print. Next, that I hadn’t made it till I woke up and found myself in someone else’s blog. Both are true. The first time I woke up in a blog or had myself retweeted, I was horrified. Now, I realize it’s par for the course–fun even.

Now, I do it to other people. Sometimes I leave clues so the people I’m writing about can find themselves, and other times I disguise them completely. Once in a while, I mention them by name. I haven’t found my close group of friends has dwindled out of fear, but I do wonder if my son will hate me one day. I tend to write about him a lot. He doesn’t listen very well and he has a mind of his own. That part he gets that from me. His athleticism and ability to blow up in a second–that’s the other side of the family. It can be a great combination when it goes well–creativity, intellect, athleticism, and entrepreneurial drive. Or, it can be quite deadly–stubborn, rage, digging heels in–a recipe for a lot of time out.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 10.02.23 AMOne day, I’d reached my limit. I looked him square in the eye and intellectualized. “You do realize I’m going to write about you.” The ultimate punishment. Worse than time out. A permanent record of misdeeds. He didn’t seem to notice. Only pictures get his attention–a picture is worth a thousand words–for him, it’s worth a thousand bucks. He charges for pictures whenever he can.

He saw the picture I posted on the first day of school, and the words below. I hadn’t paid for the rights for the photo so he insisted I read the caption. I’d written that while most parents get a smiling picture of their Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 9.59.23 AMkid coming off the bus, mine was receiving an admonishment for being inappropriate. My troublemaking friend shared the picture, saying “Don’t listen, buddy. Always be inappropriate. Be highly, highly inappropriate.” Declan smiled. I should have told him it said, “Always listen to the bus monitor.” I was stupid to read it.

“I like your friend better than you, Mommy. I’m going to be inappropriate.” He references that quote often. He lives up to it. His life in the public eye.

Six-year olds are fickle. They’re becoming sentient beings. He is aware. He gets embarrassed and doesn’t like people to laugh at him. We left basketball tryouts in shame because he felt the world was laughing. That’s either narcissism or paranoia. I probably need to get him treated for both.

I use it as a threat. “If you keep that up, I’m gonna write about you.”

“DON’T WRITE ABOUT ME, MOMMY!” He stopped the bad behavior. I reneged–I’m writing about him now.  The way I see it, this will be a nice chronicle of childhood for him when I leave this planet. Before I do, however, it’ll be a series of links to send all future significant others and maybe his future spouse. I told him my plans.

“When you get married your family can read this.”

“I’m not gonna get married. I’m going to be a paleontologist. But I think I’ll marry you, Mommy.” I explain that while paleontologists can get married, only Oedipus can marry his mom. It’s a problem. I told him he’d have to wait till he was older to hear why.

“When I’m a teenager?”

“Yes. Maybe.”

“When I’m a teenager, I’m gonna do whatever I want. I’m going to watch Total Drama Island and swear. I’m going so say ‘shit’ when I’m a teenager. Teenagers can do anything you know.”

I explain that he can do anything when he moves out or hands me a rent payment. I pay the bills and I set the rules.

He puts a quarter on the table. “I have lots of money.” That’s true. He got it fleecing me for pictures and walking around the house and car scouring for all money not deposited in a bank.”Can I say ‘shit’ now and do whatever I want?” This is going badly. Very badly.

“No. Save that money. I’m not saving for college, you know.”

“I have to go to college. I’m going to be a paleontologist.”

“There’s a shovel outside. Dig. It’s cheaper.”

He grumbles and whispers “shit” just one more time. I correct him and he says, “I was saying ‘ship.’ You know, like the ships that go in the water?” I’m vaguely aware of what a ship is, and that he has not said ship. He does something similar using a couple other words that cannot be said. I tell him to knock it off. He smiles the sneaky smile that indicates if I give this more attention it’ll continue.

I tell him, “I’m gonna write about you.” I’ll win this one in the end.

He asks, “Will you write the word ‘shit?‘” I glare. I’m not winning. “I mean, ‘ship?'”

Yes. I guess I will.


Even the Devil Gives a Moment of Peace

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 7.01.57 AMHe puts his little arm around me. I snuggle in. He sighs. He smiles. Then…laughs. A manic laugh that only a little boy dreaming about whatever little boys dream about can laugh. He recites his favorite TV show. He laughs again–staccato. Loud. My heart skips a bit in that moment where I was about to resume a good dream. My mind returns to the darkness and checks. All is well. Relax.

Every night since we’ve been in this house–precisely fifteen months–I feel it coming. Step, step, step, door opening. Silence as he ninjas on the rug. Then, boing, boing, hop. Like a gymnast on the vault. Perfect ten in the middle of the bed. I get whacked in the face with Fluffy–the grey-once-white-sheep with the pink bow that is “definitely a boy.” Contradict and risk the wrath of God. Next…silence. Until the laughter and sleep talk begin.

I never allowed such things in the old house. Kids have their own beds. I read parenting books. I took advice. I got up every time and put him back into his bed from the beginning when I’d pick him up to feed him and tuck him back in with all his “buddies” in the days before Fluffy emerged as The One Not to Lose.

“You cannot sleep in Mommy’s bed,” I’d say, “Sleep in Declan’s big boy bed.” He stayed. I told him it was magic. It had special jumping powers.

I’m the best parent in the world. Couldn’t help but high-five myself. We escaped the pacifier and co-sleeping. My kid was going to be amazing.

Amazing–it’s not quite the word. He sneaks dog biscuits and licks the dog’s face. He does “science” experiments while we dare to rest for a moment. Yesterday, he mixed chemistry kit chemicals in a corner of the farthest room. Fake snow and giant silicone balls poured from beakers and vials. I saved my computer. To hell with the ski slope in the house–maybe we can market it and make some cash.

Night falls. Just when I think it’s safe, boing boing boing, hop. He’s in my bed again. His room isn’t close for the quick toss-and-return. And I’m sleeping sounder these days for the twenty minutes anyone lets a mother sleep. He can stay. For now. At least that way, for an hour or two of my life, I know that no one is lighting the house on fire or using all the soap products in the house to make bubbles or “clean the dog.” And I can rest. Until the giggling turns to maniacal laughing again. He quotes Dickens. He argues with Alvin and the Chipmunks. Then, all’s quiet. Briefly.

I’m awake. I smile. I pick up his little hand. I hold it.


“Yes, buddy…go to sleep. It’s the middle of the night.”

“I snuck in your bed.”

“I know.”

“Mommy…” He takes his hand back and puts his whole arm around me. “I love you.” In the dark I can see that he’s smiling. The world stops…for a minute.

“Enjoy these moments. They’ll be gone before you know it,” say all the empty nesters. They’re right. It’s hard to appreciate when I’m getting shot with a homemade dart gun constructed from pom poms and wrapping paper tubes. Can’t I spread the “enjoy” over a longer period instead of cramming it into one?

Hahahahahaha, I GOTTCHA, Mommy!” I’m trying to write for a moment. Must I be ready to defend myself at all times? The answer–an unequivocal “yes.”

But now it’s dark. Silent. Peaceful.

“I love you, Mommy.” The kind of I love you that has no agenda, wants no candy, isn’t asking to stay up later. It just is. I give him a kiss on the nose–it’s what I find in the dark.

“I love you, too, Declan. Be a good boy. Get some sleep.”

He rustles. He sighs. In two more breaths, he’s fast asleep.

I look at the clock. I get up to write while the world is still quiet…because even the little devil gives a moment of peace sometimes. Coffee on my desk, sun rising–I take advantage of every second I can.

That’s what moms do.

Bad Mom Ruins Elementary Christmas

I’m an urban secondary educator who’s moved out to the sticks. Although I grew up in a small town, Christmas changes from location to location. Things definitely aren’t the same in the city.

I got Christmas all wrong.

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What I wanted to give as gifts…What they deserved…

I knew I must get something for Declan’s teacher, the saint who calligraphies two-paged notes prolifically, ending each with, “But I know tomorrow will be a better day.” I negligently missed the collection the parents organized, but no mere collection could equal the amount of hell Declan’s put that teacher through, so we made something with love and loaded as much caffeine as possible onto a nice coffee card. Everyone in Rhode Island has stock in a Dunkin Donuts, so I figured that’d raise the local economy.  This teacher really deserved a fifth of vodka, but I don’t know if you can get elementary teachers such things–high school teachers perhaps, and college professors, yes, but first grade’s a little early to start drinking. Even for a teacher.

I swung by the local Dunk again because it occurred to me that the bus monitors deserved something, too. From Day One, they had been “working with” Declan on bus manners–Day One being the day they advised him not to be inappropriate, through weeks later when he finally earned his way into Bus Jail, aka “the front seat,” with the monitor.  Since I didn’t think a monogrammed flask would be appropriate for a lady who drives and her partner who’s required to hold up traffic looking for children doing chin-ups on axles while my son Supermans on the top step threatening to fly–they got as much caffeine as is ethical too.

My colleague, who lives in the same town, said, “Did you get something for the reading specialist and the aids?”

No! Nobody told me that. I don’t know these things. We don’t do gifts at the high school. A friend suggested this morning, “We’re lucky not to get the middle finger on the way out!”

Most of my kids are happy customers. If everyone is, they say, I’m doing something wrong. We had a good day, surprise guest in my class, pizza in the cafeteria, and I found a bunch of thank you cards from students in my box on the way out. Made me smile–exactly what I would’ve asked for.

I rushed home to give the monitors their “I-wish-it-were-a-flask” gifts. Declan got off the bus, held up traffic one last time before vacation, and waddled to the door, backpack stuffed with…stuff.

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 7.44.40 PMWhat my colleague didn’t tell me about Christmas in the Sticks is that EVERYONE does something for EVERYONE. Declan had gifts, cards, candy, and notes. And I had to go and mess this system up–I didn’t give a crumb too small for a mouse to even a single classmate.

There were a million candy canes each with a bite out of them then he struck gold. “Oh, look, Mom! A RING POP! How did she KNOW I love RING POPS?”

Um, because they’re sticky and make a mess? That equals awesome!

“That was very nice of her.” I wished I’d thought of Ring Pops. Next time.

For now, I’m letting him eat all the candy since I was a bad mom and didn’t send gifts. This way, he’ll only have to brush his teeth once. Later, I’ll plan my strategy so I can absolutely rock Valentine’s Day and really make the bus team earn that caffeine.


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