Friday, October 7, 2016

Finding Joy

I recently wrote on Facebook (excerpt below) about how I felt like my whole life is SO overwhelming that I feel like it's all stress and sacrifice, and being robbed of joy. Many commented they often feel the same.  Well, this past week through bible study Walking Toward Eternity: Making Choices for Today,  I had a Holy Spirit moment of revelation.

My original post:
I've never felt so discouraged.  So much of my efforts,  regardless of offering up my struggles and sorrows, regardless of changing things up, do not seem to be worthwhile.  Having a large family is feeling more and more like a burden rather than a blessing. I do not wish my children away,  as i love them all dearly.  But I'm tired of the same disasters that engulf our home and dampen my joy. 
Hours spent cleaning,  money and time repairing/replacing, despite decluttering. Our life is consumed with chores. I can't balance home and homeschool (which is not an option to change). School is generally going okay for the first time in years. The house disasters and attitudes are the bigger concern. We have an awesome chore system,  they'd just rather play and destroy. I could really use some advice and encouragement from the experienced mom's who've survived large families with kids ranging from teens to toddlers. 
I'm sure you've all had people say "How do you do it? " Sometimes i reply happily "With God's grace, the help of a large family, and vitamins. " On bad days I reply, "I just do what has to be done to survive, like everyone else. " I often remind myself i wouldn't trade my cross for anyone else's, I'm so blessed. I lay it at Jesus' feet and trust "If i do my best, God will take care of the rest. " Motivational signs like that are all over my house. Yet, so many days I feel crushed by the weight of the moment and it's hard to think positively and sacrificially. Again, just wanting to find the joy and rest. Thanks everyone for your kind words. I wish you all the grace to find joy in your days. Cookies and coffee helped too! 

I finally realized that I myself was resentful towards God for all the "offering up/sacrifice" moments. I robbed myself of that joy.  I wasn't "doing small things with great love. (St Teresa of Calcutta)" as I had thought I was doing. I was simply saying,  Hey, I guess my life just is going to be hard, so deal with it. Could be worse.  God will drag you through it. Just find the grace to get through it. << That's an attitude of giving up, just surviving.

The secular world will have to believe that you can be a good person and do good things, without a god or fear of punishment. Well, yes you can. However, God is explicit that all those good deeds and intentions will serve no purpose but your own. It's not pointless, but it IS selfish at the root. How much of my frustration in a day is because things are not going MY way? What do I try to get done simply for my own desire? Philippians 2:3-4 says,
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
Then I read 1 Corinthians 13 like never before.  It states that even if we do a lot of grand things,  if we don't do it with LOVE, it has NO merit. Agh! People usually skip that part and just go to verses 4-7. Here's the whole chapter.
"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;  but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
Who cares if the house is clean or work gets done if my family is miserable in the process!? Yes,  "love endures and bears all things" - BUT "it does not seek it's own interests. It is not irritable or resentful!"

Mom's joke that there is this triangle of happiness. We shouldn't have to choose! Mom must have her sanity, it shouldn't be negotiable. Children should be joyful or something is wrong. And isn't "Cleanliness next to Godliness?" Why is that last part so important, because we moms know very well, that most of us cannot function in the mess.  We may let some things slide, but overall - the chores have to get done, especially for the operation of a large family. The sacrifice shouldn't be one of these three things. The sacrifice is in striving for all of this even when it's difficult.

The world will have us believe that we need to "tolerate" people who do not live as we wish they would. I am not inclined to "tolerate" my family or anyone for that matter. However, Christ taught us to have "compassion" for each other. That subtle difference is LOVE. I need to integrate more compassion in my interactions with my children. C.S. Lewis said,

Children are not a distraction from more important work. 
They are the most important work.

I WILL find great joy in my crazy life.  But i will find it by doing everything with great love and seeking the joy in the moments.
* I plan to do this by encouraging my children to pair with siblings and look for each others strengths and weaknesses to develop a better chore partnership.  No more individual chores. We already do this with our homeschooling and it works great. Building relationships with siblings.  Someone also noted, adding music to chore time (15-30 min a day) can improve the atmosphere for chores.
* My kids ask for more of my time,  so I will focus on integrating them into my daily doings. My husband is going to step up to mend relationships with our kids by getting them involved with his activities, diving into theirs, and spending quality time with them. We also try to save Sundays as a day for the Lord and Family. We schedule in time for each other!

Here we are sure to find joy. Everyone can be a part of the Body of Christ.  Each person has his or her talents, strengths, gifts, and grace to do something well and fruitful. In order for this Body to grow and be Love to the world (at home or elsewhere), each person needs to be encouraged to do their part.
* Am I encouraging my children each day to give their best to their tasks and relationships? Am I so overwhelmed with a task list or calendar, I forget to tend to those who are not finding joy or acting with Love? Am I slow to anger, and quick to love?
"..Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God." James 1:19-20
Here it is so clearly in Romans 12:1-2,4-6
"I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mine, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since w have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them."

I can have joy. It is a conscience effort of putting Love into action, where joy can be found. If I focus on my tasks, my anxieties, and let stress consume me - there is no room for joy. Philippians 4:4-9
"Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and hear and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you."
* And when we are not feeling joyful,  we will be immediately attentive to changing our priorities if necessary.  Do we have to do the dishes right now? Can we stop and pray?  Should we run away together to a park or library to refresh? Is it simply a pizza night?  This is what some call "Living in the Moment." Only took me this long to connect that phrase with my spiritual life.

Dear God, Creator of all things, 
I ask that you send your grace upon all of us
blessed, burdened, broken, barren and bereaved. 
Help us be drawn to seek your grace through the sacraments, prayer, adoration and sacrifice. 
Mary, Mother of Jesus, wrap your mantle around us 
so we may feel your comfort and say yes to following the path ahead. 
Bless us with supportive spouses that share in our joys, sorrows, trials and faith in you, God. 
Thank you for your abundant grace, freeing mercy and unconditional love. 
Without you, this life with all it's challenges would be for nothing. 

Our Family Prayer

SING IT! Musical Inspiration
When I Let it Go (Sierra)
Trading My Sorrows [for the Joy of the Lord] (Darrel Evans)
The Joy of the Lord is my Strength (Rend Collective) Nehemiah 8:11
Do Something [If not me, than who?] (Matthew West)
For the kids - I've got the joy, joy, joy song


There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.


There was an old woman Who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children, And loved them all, too.
She said, "Thank you Lord Jesus, For sending them bread."
Then kissed them all gladly and sent them to bed.

I hope you found this insight helpful.  If you already had this figured out,  hey,  please share more ideas with us!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Our 11th Year of Homeschooling

It's our ELEVENTH year of home educating our children! This year is off to a good start. We have a new plan, new planners, and some new books/curriculum. I have high hopes that this will be our best year! We have just about everyone sitting at the table with us this year. I'm teaching Grades 9, 6, 3, 2, K and PreK. 

This is our newly revised family prayer that is on the front of their individual planners. We grab those first thing and start our day with prayer!

Keep watch for details on
about the Printable "Relaxed Home Education Planner" for teachers and students.

Here's our curriculum not including our library of reading books and other learning activities. Hopefully a glance will show you why I'm so excited! We've never used Teaching Textbooks CD-roms and the kids are devouring it with such joy. I've never had kids watch other kids do math and have it be the first thing they ask to do in the morning. All the newness of high school learning is so far enjoyable, adding in group activities. Then we have the good ol' books we use every year. My other favorite addition is having my high schooler create once a month preschool classes and lead busy activities for the little kids.

GRADE 9 (M.A.)
Language: Jensen's Grammar DVD/Bk, Wordly Wise 6, Marie's Words
Social: Declaration Statesmanship, World Religions CLEP, Child Development
Math: Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1  (Backup: Life of Fred Beginning Algebra)
Faith: Chosen & Alteration through our parish faith formation
Art: Artistic Pursuits High School Bk1, Sewing
Music: Music Theory, Teen Choir at church
Science: Apologia Physical Science, Nature Center classes
Geography: Get Mapmaking, The Ultimate Geography & Timeline Guide
Health: Wellness Warriors weekly class/bible study/book club (The Dirt Cure & The Rhythm of Life)

GRADE 6 (S.T.)
Language: Language of God E, My Catholic Speller E, Writing Our Catholic Faith 6, Wordly Wise 3
Social: Our Catholic Legacy vol1
Math: Teaching Textbooks Math 6
Faith: Encounter Bible Study & Faith and Life 6 through parish faith formation
Art: Artistic Pursuits Middle School bk2
Music: Music Theory
Science: Behold and See 6, Nature Center classes
Geography: Map Skills F
Health: Various Activities
Other: Pilgrims of the Holy Family

GRADE 3 (S.R.)
Language: Language of God B, Writing Our Catholic Faith 3, Mad Libs
Social: The Catholic Faith Come to America, Tea & Cake with the Saints
Math: Teaching Textbooks Math 3, Prodigy Game, apps and board games (backup: Life of Fred math)
Faith: Faith and Life 3 through our parish faith formation
Art: How to Draw books (Catholic), Sewing with Saint Anne
Music: Piano Lessons (Alfred's All-In-One Sacred Piano & Basics)
Science: Behold and See 3, Nature Center classes
Geography: Map Skills C
Health: Various Activities

GRADE 2 (J.B.)
Language: Voyages in English 2, Writing Our Catholic Faith 2MC
Social: Great Saints in World History
Math: Singapore Primary Mathematics 2A&2B Textbooks US Ed (and Life of Fred math), Prodigy Game, math apps, dot-to-dots
Faith: Faith and Life 2 and 1st Rec/Comm Prep through parish faith formation
Art: Art 2 for Young Catholics
Music: Piano Lessons (Alfred's All-In-One Sacred Piano & Basics)
Science: Behold and See 2, Science 2 for Little Folks, Nature Center classes
Geography: Map Skills B
Health: Various Activities

Pinterest - lots of Pinterest!
9th Grader lead Child Development Classes
Language: Little Stories for Little Folks readersEarly Literacy for Young CatholicsCatholic Icing Preschool, Writing Our Catholic Faith: Writing Readiness PreK, Basic Strokes & Letter Forms, Coloring Book
Math: Star Wars Math, Dot-to-Dots
Social: Lift the Flap General Knowledge
Science: Brainfood Doodle Mats, Nature Center classes
Faith: Catechesis of The Good Shepherd through parish faith formation
Music: Piano Lessons (Alfred's All-In-One Sacred Piano & Basics), basic instruments
Health: Various Activities

You can follow our everyday moments, activity ideas and more on:

God bless you in your family's faith and education endeavors.
 - St Brigid's Academy

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Courage In Our Finest Hours

One of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer. It's something I can say in a moment when I have no idea what to do next.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen
Courage is a virtue that is not typically natural but rather it is pursued. defines Courage as:
  The virtue of bravery in facing difficulties, especially in overcoming the fear of consequences in doing good. As moral courage, it enables a person to pursue a course deemed right, through which one may incur contempt, disapproval, or opprobrium. As physical courage, it is simply bodily or emotional strength to withstand opposition. It differs from fortitude in being more aggressive in undertaking, whereas fortitude is more patient in undergoing what is virtuous but hard.

As a child I looked to the adults in my life for examples of courage. In school we learned about those in uniform that protect us in our communities, and in my reading and watching I saw many super heroes. Often courage was about what I saw others doing on the news. It looked hard and sometimes unreachable for a gal like me. But as a young adult, after the Sacrament of Confirmation, it finally connected that I had a greater purpose and potential, talents that can touch the lives of others, and that I should seek moments to be courageous. That in the midst of our ordinary lives, with no background music, no grand fare, sometimes with no one watching - we can be courageous. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there is no doubt that each one of us has the potential to make such an impact on the world.

I had the privilege to watch the movie The Finest Hours before it's release this week [May 24, 2016] in exchange for a review. The Finest Hours is a wonderful family film with an inspiring story of courage.  It is based on a true story of the greatest small boat rescue that happened in 1952 Massachusetts. Approaching the East coast was the worst winter storm, with the Coast Guard on full alert in their city of fishermen. That bitter cold February day, two oil tankers just miles away were in need of rescue. Previous experience had them settled that a rescue in this weather would bring imminent death to many if not all. 40-60 foot waves and hypothermia would welcome them their ocean grave. An order from their chief sent them anyway, with loved ones sitting on edge. Are they doomed to fail this mission, or could it be their finest hours?

The main character, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), is an excellent example of someone who is courageous.  He sets aside his everyday ways of conformity to embrace the side of himself that is confident, hopeful and inspiring others to take risks. When I saw this great moment, when he realizes his full potential, it just brought on the goosebumps. When the Spirit stirs within your soul, will you respond with the courage to be whom God intended you to be? Oh, what a gift of grace there is in that moment!

Another well played character is the senior officer on board the tanker, first assistant engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck). He's the humble guy who's really good at what he does. Ray also has a turning point where he steps up to lead, despite aggression and disapproval from a few on his crew. While you see the fear in the sweat on his brow, he takes bold initiative to engineer new solutions, inspires the crew to work together, and still takes the time to show personal care for everyone.

This story grabs at your heart strings
for the man who persists with his ingenuity despite opposition,
for the woman trying to be a lighthouse to her finance,
for the people ashore standing by to help,
for the team that volunteers in the face of terrible danger,
for the people trying to overcome fear in order to follow,
for the man who embraces his purpose and potential!

I'm certain many will be inspired by this story.  This film is certainly action packed, with a hint of romantics, that will be welcomed by your whole family. Great scenes and cinematography really capture you and bring you to this small town and out at sea. I was also impressed by the talented cast which had a few familiar faces.  If you're fortunate to purchase this DVD/BluRay, the backstory in the bonus features (not incl on a rental) is worth your time.  If your children are sensitive to tragedy, endangerment and suspense - perhaps they best wait until about 10 years old to see this film. I personally will be watching this again with my family, including my younger boys ages 4 and 7 who are no strangers to action films.

God bless your journey!

This heroic action-thriller is based on the extraordinary true story of the greatest small-boat rescue in Coast Guard history. In 1952, a massive winter storm strikes off the coast of Cape Cod, ripping a T-2 oil tanker in half and trapping more than 30 sailors inside its rapidly sinking stern. When word of the disaster reaches the U.S. Coast Guard, four men led by Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) set out in a 12-seat boat on a daring mission to rescue the stranded men, braving freezing cold, 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds, and guided by Webber’s vow that “We all live, or we all die.” Packed with thrilling, larger-than-life action and anchored in a belief in the strength of the human spirit, The Finest Hours is a triumph. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Blog Changes

I am so glad to have a way to share about our family's journey through homeschooling over these past 10 years. I've been trying to make it easier for my blog visitors to find the great lesson plans and activities I share randomly through my posts. It's been so random thus far, and if you know me - I'm all about organization.

So - If you haven't already, come see all the ideas at
I will continue to journal about our adventures here, and leave old posts where they are. However, all future activities will be rounded up onto the other blog site. You will be able to tell which site you are on, based on the web addresses (this is and the header images. On the HomegrownCatholics website, you'll notice that there may not be a lot of new posts, rather I add new things to posts with similar themes. So all the Lent activities are in one post, all the Marian activities are in one post, etc. It's a work in progress!
After you visit, please be sure to comment here what you think of the change - good or bad! I'm open to suggestions as I've just begun.
Also, it's still in the works, but I've opened an
Homegrown Catholics Etsy Shop
to share some of my projects and documents.

Many things I post are free to print, but a few I've added a small fee to make it worth the all the time I put into it - as you will find with other fellow bloggers. If you cannot afford a file, or wish to print multiple things, please contact me at and I'd be happy to work with you on a price or gift.
God Bless,
Bloglovin' Link for: StBrigidsAcademy  &  Homegrown Catholics

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Large Family Laundry Challenge


We have no shortage of laundry in a family of 9. I remind myself that many of them are still little, and the piles will be taller and wider as they grow. Since they’re growing at lightning speed, I knew I had to prepare myself. Washer capacity, chore assignment and a method to the madness is being established. I hope you find some of these tips helpful!

Laundry Rule #1: Limit the number of clothes each child has.

In theory, it will require him or her to wear something more than once if possible before throwing it in the hamper. If you typically do wash once or twice a week, each child only needs a dozen shirts, a few pants/shorts/skirts, pajamas, a handful of socks and underwear.

Note: Due to an overwhelming amount of hand-me-downs, we are still working on this rule. It also varies on your area’s temps, and we’re in Minnesota. We have multiple “seasons” of clothes.

Laundry Rule #2: Can it be worn again?

If it can be worn again, it can be hung over a chair or end of the bed for the next day. Each child has a laundry basket, a little over 1 cubic foot in size. It sits in their room for them to toss in the “actually dirty” stuff. It shouldn’t ever heap, except possibly in the winter months where clothes are bulkier. All pocket items and stickers MUST be removed before tossing!

Homegrown Catholics: Laundry Baskets Homegrown Catholics: Laundry Baskets

*Use whatever fits your needs or decorating style. You could choose from the Sterilite 1.5 Bushel Basket or the Mainstays Flex Basket we found at Walmart for around $4 each, which we hope will last years of abuse, because we all know, baskets can become rockets, cradles and cars.

Laundry Rule #3: Sort it all out.

This is a simple life skill! This method keeps clothes brighter and fresher in my experience. At the end of the week they are responsible for sorting their clothes into the laundry room hampers for me (or assigned person) to wash. I’ve always divided loads into 5 categories: Whites/Lights, Darks, Reds, Towels, and The Stinkies (undies, socks, cloth diapers). Delicates are rare. Bedding is on its own and washed immediately when we’re in potty training phase, or reserved for Fridays when I wash bedding and towels.

We used to have a 3-compartment cloth hamper. It’s on its way out the door, because it collects smells, it falls apart, and worst of all – my arm cannot reach the bottom. In its place, I’ve selected these flex hampers whereby I can individually dump a load into the washer. It will also serve to carry the clean load for sorting. Use whatever fits your needs or decorating style. (In our dream house, we would have a “family closet” with built in laundry area so there will be no need to relocate the laundry – as pictured at this link.)

Mainstays flexible laundry hamper

Laundry Rule #4: Have a machine and cleaner that can handle the load!

We have a large capacity washer and dryer (LG top loader) which has served us well. Our washer holds a week or so worth of each category.


Line dry the big stuff and cloth diapers. We enjoy our clothes lines!

Homegrown Catholic Laundry Lines

We choose Melaleuca, Inc product for all our cleaning needs since 1995. Our sensitivities are well met with their laundry products that keep our clothes bright, clean and soft without being caustic or expensive. Even my cloth diapers have done very well in the unscented version. I personally trust these products, and have no desire or time to make my own. Let me know if you’re considering these eco/family friendly products.

Laundry Rule #5:  Monday is “Laundry Day.”

While in the midst of reading “Large Family Logistics” by Kim Brenneman, I’ve adjusted my schedule to include themed days such as this.  On Saturday evening, the children are required to round up their dirty bins and sort it. Sunday evening / Monday morning the washing commences.

Mondays will be my seamstress days for mending and sewing. My husband is a carpenter, so I tend to only iron for special occasions.  This theme day extends to evening hobbies of sewing, crocheting, embroidery, etc. It’s a good day to teach the kiddos these life skills.

Laundry Rule #6: Laundry is a chore, not an activity. It will NOT consume my day.

This is where efficiency and cooperation come in. If everyone has done their part, the rest should be a breeze. When all the wash is done and dry, it is tossed or quickly folded into each person’s basket. They are responsible for matching sock pairs, neatly folding items into drawers/shelves, and hanging the rest. In our home, everyone has drawers for socks & undies, shorts/pants/skirts, and pajamas. Shirts, dresses and long skirts are hung. This eliminates a lot of need for ironing.


This must be the most controversial topic amongst mothers of many children. What to do with all those socks!? You could toss socks into each person’s basket as you pull them from the pile, or start with a pile of socks then choose a method:

6. Everyone has their socks and mom just knows what goes to whom. They’re matched, bundled and sent to the sock drawer. Aw.

5. Each person gets a drawstring mesh bag for their socks. They are washed together, therefore no hunting for pairs is needed. However, socks must not be bunched when tossed in.

4. Each child has a color, style, brand sock that is unique to them. (Dad gets black, Mom gets white, Big sister gets striped, Brother gets blue, Sister gets cuffed, Baby socks are undeniably cute.)

3. Children are responsible for sock sorting on laundry day. They learn to sort by size and color/pattern. Children grab the socks they think are theirs. (What’s left is for Mom & Dad)

2. Everyone gets white tube socks. The sock that grows with you  :-)

1. All socks go into one bin. Good luck!

*Note: We wash our socks with “The Stinkies” category. This load is washed in a hot/cold cycle, unscented detergent, no fabric softener. We use the dryer, but you can choose to line dry to prolong their life. If there are no cloth diapers or its not sock season, go ahead and throw it in with the other loads.


Again, I hope that this system we’ve created inspires you in your laundry endeavors. Please share your favorite tips from this post or elsewhere in the comments!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I’m Back

Well, it has certainly been awhile since I’ve been able to really get back into the blogosphere. Our computer died and it was devastating. Fortunately we were able to save and buy a new computer and my cousin, God bless him, volunteered to recover all our files from the deceased PC. What was I most worried about? Pictures. All our family pictures that didn’t back up on our external hard drive as I had hoped it had. As well as my Modest Mommies business files. Hours, Days, Years worth of information and work is finally being restored. The file upload is not complete so I’m not 100% getting excited yet. Worst fear, my daughter’s 1st birthday photos are gone.
So with that mini freak out episode almost past, I’m ready to start sharing again all the wonderful things that we have been up to. I hope you’re ready to pin you’re favorites, starting with my next post about our Cat Chat VBS Wilderness Adventure through the Sacraments Craft Ideas! I made some originals I’m quite proud of.
Something else you may have missed if you are not a part of my Homegrown Catholics Facebook page, is that we have a new baby! I’m looking forward to sharing how being a mother to 7 amazing people has changed everything in our homeschool approach and daily activities.
God Bless you on your journey! Come back to read about ours!


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