Parenting….. win or fail?

In search of a new topic to blog about, I recently asked my neighbors daughter, who has been helping me with my little ones, if she could ask me a question dealing with parenting that she would want a real answer to, what would it be? She’s quite a smart girl, and more mature than most, and she knows that my sense of parenting is often riddled with sarcasm yet honesty.

Her question was a loaded one and I told her so. It was “Do you like it?” Meaning, of course, do you like parenting?

The fact I paused and laughed a little did make me feel like the terrible parent I can be at times. But then again, I am honest. Do I like it?

Yes. Most of the time.

Do I regret having my children.

No…… okay it’s not that I regret them. I love them and would do anything for them. But there are days, when I’m having yet another massive struggle with my ultra opinionated 4 year old or repeating the same sentence 5 times to my 10 year old that I often wonder what on earth I was thinking. So perhaps a better phrasing of this would be “Would I take them back?” No. Not for an instance. Though sometimes I do threaten them with selling them and just traveling the world with the money I get. But I’m only joking. Most of the time. 😉

There are days that I feel like I have gotten myself in too deep and have no idea if I (or they) are going to make until they are 18. Sometimes I wonder if I would be a better parent if I would have waited just a tad longer, in order to figure out who I really am. (of course to this day, sometimes I’m not sure who I am.)

There are aspects of parenting which are immensely rewarding. My four year old picking out flowers randomly for me. My ten year old not being too old to snuggle in bed with a book to read with me. Watching both of their minds process the world around them and start to develop their own thoughts on how the world works. For example, Zeus, Skylanders and religion are intertwined (as seen in this blog here.) Or the different stages of asking where a baby comes from (as seen in this blog here) While these discussions can sometimes be downright terrifying (since you are worried about what horrible image your child might be imagining or the therapy bills you are going to accumulate when you find you explained it completely wrong) they can also be vastly rewarding. You are watching them grow from a little life filled blob that can’t even hold up their own heads into young thinking machines capable of asking questions that you might have to google in order to find the answer to. For me, one was “why do the mountains appear blue from a distance when in fact they are brown?”

But then there are sides of parenting which are challenging. And not in the way that a good work out is challenging. They are the knock-down-drag-out-I-am-sure-my-neighbors-think-I’m-a-psycho kind of challenges. One that leave you wondering where on earth these children spawned from. Ones that leave you wondering where in the heck did they ever learn to behave that way. For example, overheard in my house the other day was, screamed screeched through the hallway like some hormone fueled rage of a teenager (I think girl just because you see it so often on media) “Why are you always ruining my whole life?”

Take pause for a moment. I don’t have any teenagers that live in my house. I don’t even have any girls who live in my house. And that phrase was not even said by my ten year old. It was my four year old whose life we were ruining. And it was because we had dared to pick up the pillow he wanted to put away. So we apparently ruined his whole life. I don’t mind admitting for a minute, as he dramatically slammed the door, that perhaps I had ruined my whole life when I thought it was a good idea to be a parent. But that thought lasted a millisecond.. okay second.. okay maybe a minute, before I laughed off the drama and just continued whatever mundane chore I was working on. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get a good recording of this and when he is a teenager and proclaiming that he thinks I am ruining his life and be able to say “hey, look, this is another time I ruined your life, and you survived it then, didn’t you?”

So, to answer the question. Do I like parenting? Yes, I do. All of the challenges and rewards are worth it. I just hope I can turn out good young men. That’s when I’ll know how good of a job I did while liking the fact I am a parent.

Life Lessons

I know my blog is suppose to be a little funny and a little sarcastic. But more than that, it is suppose to be a very realistic take on parenting. So for those of you who only want to read something witty, perhaps this is not the right entry for you. But for those of you who want to know the nitty gritty of parenting, here is a story for you. And perhaps I am speaking of something that few people want to think of, or speak of, but for years I haven’t spoken of and still I have no solace. So perhaps I am writing this as a way of closure, or solace for any other family who has dealt with the same thing and has no idea how to cope with it.

I will forever remember the day. January 19th, 2010. The exact same day I went into the ER five years earlier with my first son. The exact same day I almost lost him. When I walked through those same doors, on the same day 5 years later, I almost collapsed. This couldn’t be happening again. It wasn’t. This time was worse.

This time I was too late and the baby was too young. This time I got the news that I’d already lost the baby. It couldn’t be. Why?

I racked my brain for answers. I’d done everything I was suppose to. More so than the things I had done when I was pregnant with my first child. Yes, the one who I got so sick with in my 6th month that doctors recommended my husband call his family for support in case he needed to make a choice between his son or his wife. And yes, that’s right, we were just finding out for the first time that we were having a son. The next time, with the second baby, we never got to find out. I was just shy of 3 months pregnant. Somehow I had convinced myself it was a girl. And somehow I had convinced myself it was my fault.

It was my fault that my body failed at the MOST BASIC thing a woman’s body should be able to do. I could see myself holding the baby that suddenly wasn’t even viable. That’s the word I kept hearing. It was okay because perhaps “it” had not been viable. I could tell you about the doctors… about the coldness of dealing with an “it.” About the apologizes that meant little. But I couldn’t help but feeling like I had did something wrong. It didn’t help that unless one has had a baby that it’s a lot harder to know how much attachment is felt. It is very different for an outsider to feel kicks; a completely other to feel the baby kick you.

Why do I write this? Because it’s been 5 years. And still 5 years later, I feel the pang of sorrow anytime I see a show or reference to a mom who has lost a baby. I want you to know that I worked the entire day while in miscarriage~ and not because I wanted to. Because I had no idea. Could I have prevented that? I don’t know. That’s a question I have to live with. It’s not just a miscarriage. It’s a baby~ no matter what science and doctors tell you. And it’s ok to feel sad. It’s okay to cry and feel lost over what you imagined could’ve been.

The truth is, we got lucky. We ended up with what some call the miracle baby. We go pregnant with our second son a month after I was cleared to try agin. Were there doubts? YES. Do I still have a slight superstition about the date January 19th? Yes. I do. I can’t fix that. I can’t go back and make everything picture perfect. But look to the friends who can at least say “I can’t relate, but I do understand.” In the end, there is part of you that has to believe there was a reason and there has to be a part of you that accepts people who may not understand but will still hug you and try to.

Sibling differences….

When we were getting ready to have our second child, we did have a slight idea that no two children are alike. In fact, I remember the night before we actually had our second, I had this sudden surging of anxiety. What if my second was too much like my first? With panic gripping me, I remembered the nearly 18 months of sleepless nights, a baby that didn’t nap for more than 20 minutes twice a day, and hated eating. All of this was slightly manageable because I didn’t work for the first year so I could at least zone while the baby slept for those few meager moments. However, with our second, I was already running my own home child care, found out I didn’t qualify for maternity leave (nor my husband for paternity leave) and faced the fact I was going to be working from about the time my second was 10 days old.
As it turned out, however, my children are as opposite as can be. I can remember thinking when they were little, how much they looked alike, but as they continue to grow into their own people, I begin to see that despite the fact that they have the same parents, they are very very different. Here is just a small list of the ways that I see how much contrast there are between the two of them.
1.) My oldest was extremely difficult until he hit the 18 month mark. He didn’t like to sleep or eat. My youngest however, was great until 18 months. He slept well, ate well and played well. We are still waiting for the youngest to grow out of his tantrums…. 18 months later.
2.) My oldest likes to crumble food into itty bitty pieces. (A HUGE pet peeve of mine) My youngest likes everything whole. For example, he won’t eat strawberries which are neatly cut up, he prefers to eat the entire thing, including the stem. For the oldest, it’s better if it’s cut.
3.) My oldest rarely threw tantrum and when he did, a simple stern look and a raised voice would do the trick. My youngest will raise his voice back or laugh in our faces. Still trying to figure out how to work around this one.
4.) My oldest was always very good at walking away from conflict even if he had the right to stand up for himself. I worry sometimes that my youngest will be the one doing the bullying, but at the very least, he won’t allow himself to be bullied.
5.) My oldest was known for screaming for hours in the car. My youngest sleeps in the car.
6.) To this day, my oldest will rarely spend any time playing in his own room. The youngest will gladly play in his room, but I do realize that many times it’s because he is doing something that perhaps he shouldn’t be doing, like shown in this blog here.
7.) My youngest loves spice! He loves to eat jalapeños, chili (you name it, he will at least try it. My oldest will say that even a sprinkling of pepper is way too hot for him. Hopefully someday he will grow out of this as our entire family is one of spice eaters.
8.) I am constantly asking my oldest to speak up because we cannot hear what he is saying. The youngest, we are constantly reminding him we are not hard of hearing.

Now, I’m sure that there are many other ways in which these two are opposite, some of which are escaping my mind at the moment. I marvel at the fact that they can be so different. I mean, I realize that children cannot possibly have the same set of parents. It’s not to say that their parents become entirely different people, but there are so many things vary in the environment. Even though I truly believe I am trying my utmost to hold my children to the same standards at the same ages, the environment has changed. Two parents with one child are very different than two parents with two children. The second child comes into the environment where already it isn’t all about them. They have to learn to share from an age earlier but also working on their side is that the parent can’t be on top of their every move because they are busy with the other aspects of family life (helping with homework or negotiating drop offs for sports, sleep overs, whatever). I often find myself questioning if someday they will act more alike or if we will continue to shake our heads and wonder about their uniqueness. I guess it shows will make us stronger parents in the end because we will have dealt with several different scenarios. Even if the scenario is similar, the personalities and the reactions from both the parents and the children are unique to each situation. =)

Memorial Day thoughts… (a little late)

Memorial day is something different to many people. Memorial Day to so many people is a three day holiday; I can be convicted of this too. What do I truly know? I live in a world of retired service men and what I’ve come to discover is they don’t have a voice.
Yesterday my little (younger) brother laid out two open beers. I had seen an earlier post of his which recognized two names. Names personally I didn’t know. But I know my “little” brother (and yes for the record I will always call him that.) and I knew as “big” sister I was suppose to do something. Tonight I plucked up the courage to ask him (and yes, courage for anyone who has lived with a serviceman) what the bottles meant. My husband is also a retired serviceman, and rarely have I been able to get him to talk about any of his time in service, so I know how hard it can be for them to speak about any thing they know or feel. This is why I thought to ask; if he wanted to talk about it, he could. If he didn’t, he didn’t have to. I just thought it was important enough for him to place the beer bottles there that I thought I should ask. They sat cold, unopened and in full light (normally he keeps his blinds closed) as he told me they stood for two very brave young men who simply had given their all. They had been friends of his from our hometown. I stood in the doorway, wine glass in hand, and wasn’t sure what to do. Awkwardly, as I stated out loud that I felt awkward, I walked away. Memorial Day to my brother means something far more intense than it means to me. To him, recalling friends who have passed. To me, a thankfulness of service. Different paths, different outcomes. Eventually, I returned to see if he wanted to discuss it more and we did for a bit. What stuck with me is that he said at least I cared enough to ask why he placed them there.
I started reading through several veterans posts on various social media platforms and began to see a trend. Many service men and women felt that few of the population really cared or could possibly even appreciate what Memorial Day meant to them. Some mentioned even that pre 9/11, they hadn’t ever even gotten a thank you for their service. But Memorial Day, as my brother said, is more about remembering the fallen. It didn’t matter how they fell, whether directly from the war or affected from the war and so full of desperation that they felt there was only one way they could escape, it is (and always should be) about remembering that they did die in service for our country. I guess I just never thought of it this way.
Next year, I’m going to make sure my sons and I participate in an event that honors those who have served and fallen due to the service. And on Veterans day, I will make sure to thank all who have served and can hear my thanks. So, to all the Americans who have lost the battle while fighting in the many of ours, I thank you for your service. Even if you can no longer hear my words, I hope you are never forgotten and that more people recognize this day is about you and not about a nice day to BBQ.

Reflecting…

*note: these are simply my views on a recent event. They are in no way meant to condemn anyone and are more musing of the types of things I can teach my children in hopes that I will turn out into this world good men. I truly don’t wish this to become a forum for political discussion and hope not to offend anyone with my reflection. Thanks. 

 

 

It has made national news, I’m sure many of you have already seen it. I heard the sirens all that night; I only live a few miles away and know students who live in Isla Vista. Even as my heart goes out to that community, I wonder what needs to change?

Don’t think for an instant that I am blaming the victims or their families. Even as I think about the fact that they were just going about, starting their Friday night, looking forward to the end of the academic year and the prospect of a long weekend, my heart hurts for them. For six of those young people, this never came true. And many others who had no plans on spending their holiday in local hospitals. Even those who weren’t injured but were witnesses, their weekend was also irrevocably changed.

And I, like so many other communities members, ask why? Why does this happen?

I have seen several places online which suggest it has to do with media portrayal of women. Perhaps. Perhaps we are so inundated with the expectations that women should behave one way or look one way, that we believe it to be so? Maybe we are use to seeing it as comical when a guy hits poorly on a woman in a bar that it’s to be expected in real life.

Perhaps. But as I look at my two sons, I wonder what I have to do to teach them that no matter what they see portrayed in media they should know how to treat not just women, but all people. It’s scary to hear so many people think that this is just such a pandemic, and as a mother of two boys, I want to stand up and say not all men are like the ones who rail against, abuse, and demean women. How often do you see the chivalrous acts shown in media? Almost never, unless it comes on the heels of covering a tragedy. Admittedly, I never did finish a blog I was working on about not judging from appearances. Granted, I don’t know this young man (or anything about his life), but as I was coming back from shopping, I saw a man (probably late twenties, early thirties), tatted up, nose ring, shaved head racing to the door of the bank, where an elder lady was also heading. As much as I wouldn’t like to admit this, I thought for certain that he was racing so he could get ahead in the already busy bank. To my surprise and slight embarrassment for what I thought, he was rushing over to open and hold the door open for the woman. She smiled at him and seemed surprised as well and thanked him for being so thoughtful. That was one simple act. Seeing that act of kindness made my day. But did anyone else acknowledge it? No. Did I come home and tell the story so that people could see that there is some good left in this world? No. In fact, I forgot about it until the moment I was watching the news and heard all of the comments about how “men” act. And why was that one act so surprising in our society today?

I think it comes down to that we, as people, no longer see it as mandatory to respect life. Any kind of life. I know that I tend to be strict with my children on how they treat anything with life. For instance, I once saw my son shooting Nerf balls at a stunned lizard on the tree. While his curiosity might have been at the head of this act, I still took my son aside and asked him why he was doing that. Did he know that it could kill the lizard, since the balls were much bigger than this little lizard? It might have seemed silly to some, but what I wished more than anything was to impart to my son that this is life. Something that is living and breathing and if it can so be helped, who are we to determine that it’s okay to devalue that life? We don’t see ourselves as a society, at least in my opinion, who need other people. We figure we can get what we need from technology: we don’t necessarily have to value the person behind the counter at the local grocery store because there are so many other choices. I say “we” because I know that all too often, I treat people with a sort of indifference. A sort of “well, there are tons of people in the earth and you are just one of them.” I think this kind of apathy, combined with the fact that all too often people assume things are owed to them when they have not earned them is part of what is creating our thread bare society.

I will not speak his name (he doesn’t deserve the fame), this individual who railed against women and blamed others for the life that he thought he deserved instead. But it brings me to my other point, a point which I am constantly aware of and try to make sure I don’t do with my own boys. He thought the world owed him something. It owed him a good life, all of the girls he wanted, and popularity. There are times, when my son asks me for something and I chose not to give it to him and he cries, that I wonder how much he thinks that I owe him. I realize that because it’s so easy to buy things, one click on Amazon, that we aren’t teaching, as much as we should, the fact that life doesn’t owe our children anything. Even love, which needs to be earned and respected, is not owed to them. We need to teach them the value of hard work for the things we want, we need to teach them to respect the life that surrounds them, and cherish the relationships they have formed. We should not be pointing fingers just at surrounding media, but inward at what values we are giving to them. What values are we showing them? Are we showing them that we are respectful of life too?

Even as this community heals, I hope that there are parents, friends, teachers out there who hear my words and maybe, just maybe, see some truth in them. Until we ourselves learn to respect and truly value life and impart that upon our children, I fear that more tragedies like this will come. And to those victims, who shall not remain nameless here, George Chen, 19, Katie Cooper, 22, Veronika Weiss, 19, Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20 and Weihan Wang, 20, my sincerest heartfelt prayers go out to your families. Although I may not have known you, I’m certain that you were loved and valued by those in your lives; I’m just sorry that not everyone in this world seems to understand those concepts and that you were victims of this senseless tragedy. I hope that the world will soon only remember your names and reflect upon the lives you lived. May your souls be at peace.

 

Jellyfish

With my oldest son’s 9th birthday shortly around the corner.. (and now the panicked voice inside is screaming, “Wait, if he’s that old, how old are you?!?!) Anyways, ignoring that, with his birthday right around the corner, I thought it was a good time to share a story about why we tease his uncle (my brother who is younger than I) about the jellyfish incident of 2005.

Imagine with me if you will, my son was born in May and by July, the June gloom had ebbed away, meaning it was finally time to introduce my little man to the beach. Baby stroller, UV blocking shirts, hat, umbrella, a stockpile of diapers to last an apocalypse, and plenty of things to keep my then teenage brother occupied at the beach for some time. We were prepared for everything (as much as a newbie set of parents can be). Everything except my brother.

I don’t know if you all know this, but teenage boys are STUPID. I mean, I think even the ones who might be considered smart (as I kinda always thought my brother was reasonably smart) are just slightly less stupid than the stupid ones. (Ok, I know I might be rankling some feathers here of parents who don’t think this, but I’ve gotten a chance to witness this first hand and man, if they aren’t, then they sure do a lot of actions which are.. well.. dumb.) Anyways, back to my story.

I was laying on the blanket under the perched umbrella, enjoying a book while my little man watched the umbrella ruffling in the wind. (Ok, who am I kidding, I was likely dozing a little since I hadn’t slept since before my nightly screaming bundle of joy was born.) My husband was kicking back in the chair, probably enjoying the sunlight which we hadn’t gotten out to truly see since our son was born when my brother, who had been boogie boarding, came bounding up to us, an ecstatic grin on his face. (I still picture that look that a dog has in anticipation of you throwing a ball or them bringing it back to you. And yes, I did just compare my little brother to a tail wagging puppy with a grin on his face. I figure I’m his older sister so I have some entitlement to do so.)

I remember asking him what he was so excited about and he stated that there were tons of jellyfish just down the beach a ways that had washed up on shore. All different kinds. (We are from the desert, so I can see why this would be something cool for him to see.) I was intrigued so I asked him to stay with the baby while we walked down for a few to look at the jellyfish.

It was not too far of a walk down the beach but far enough we couldn’t see our blanket. My husband pulled out his phone (camera more likely, did phones have cameras in 2005 that most of us could afford?) to snap a few pictures. As I bent down to look at a purple and blue jellyfish, I caught the movement of someone running towards us from a distance. I squinted and remarked how much this boy looked like my brother. As he came nearer, I realized it was my brother.

Anyone who has children knows that instant panic, especially when it’s your first and they are a newborn. Assuming that something bad had happened to the baby (but why wouldn’t he have the baby with him?!) I stared at him. Instead, he leaned down and said with great enthusiasm “So, I see you found the jellyfish!!”

I’ll admit, there was probably about a 5 second gap between him saying these words and my realizing what he had actually just said. Then, in an eerie calm, I said “Um, where is my newborn?”

The look on his face, as my husband went quickly up the beach to the now unattended newborn.

I think about a million things went through my mind at this point. Could he really have been so dumb and short memory term that he literally forgot in 5 min his only job was to sit on the towel with a newborn? Should I push him onto the pile of jellyfish since he found them so fascinating? Should I yell at him or just continue to give him the death stare?

Perhaps none of this seems too big of a deal, but with the fact that a newborn had been stolen from a local hospital a couple of weeks before my son was born, the very idea that someone could do something like that was fresh on my mind. Not to mention we could get the police called on us for parental neglect.

Instead, I merely opted for shaking my head, calling him a moron and threatening to call our mother and let her know what he had just done to her first grandson. I figured he had to go back home to her, so he would get an earful.

So, that’s why we tease my brother about the jellyfish incident. He was lucky the mommy hormones didn’t rage at him too much and I was thankful truly nothing happened to my baby, you know, like a random stranger walking off with him. It was a long time before we trusted my brother with the baby… I wonder why. And someday, one of his gifts is going to be a t shirt with my sons picture on it and captioned, “The Jellyfish Incident of 2005.”Image

I mean, seriously, how could you forget this cute little face and leave him alone on the beach? 

 

From Your Neighboring Asylum

To any Neighbors (past, present and future),

I’m certain that you probably think you have moved in next to an asylum ward, even if you are a new neighbor, this thought has probably crossed your mind more than once. And to be honest, I think it’s true. Most days, I feel as though I’m running my own private asylum, where the caretakers are more likely to be found in the padded cells than the inmates.

See the reason for this is two fold. I have two boys: a three year old and an eight year old. I also run a childcare with four infants. So there is likely for someone to be having a nervous breakdown at some point during the day and unfortunately I cannot exclude myself from the list of people likely to have a breakdown.

It’s not that this is what I want. I don’t want to sound like I’m expelling demons in the morning as I send my children off to school with an exorcist voice. I don’t want to have to close all my windows to try and spare your ears of my three year olds 10th tantrum of the day. I don’t want to have to repeat myself for them to hurry to the car as my eight year old is jumping spastically around fighting whatever invisible sources I have now grown up too much to see anymore.

The thing is, I think my three year old read the same article as I did the other day. The one I almost felt guilty for liking but it just rang too good to be true. It was an article titled three year olds are a**holes. I was laughing out loud at the article, nodding my head in amusement and feeling slight twinges of self-reproach at the fact I’ve thought the same thing (even some of the language) when dealing with my three year old.

It was slightly vindicating to know that there are other people out there who are dealing with the same thing. Yes, I thought the twos were terrible, but three has been worse. Why worse? Because now they have language. They can talk back and, as the article states so clearly and many times over, they really have no remorse. I really don’t feel my oldest was this bad. Or maybe he was just as testing of my patience and for some forsaken reason, I blocked it out and convinced myself that having a second was a great idea. Yeah……..

Just to give you an idea of how my days usually go, so you can understand why you might walk by me and I’m muttering things under my breath which may or may not make sense, here is a glimpse into my morning.

7am: Wake both boys up. Oldest groans and tries to hide underneath the covers. Eventually gets up reluctantly and takes care of himself. Toddler, however, screams adamantly at the top of his lungs that it is not a school day. He wants to go back to bed. He wants his milk cup now and in the microwave.

7:02: I patiently (sometimes) explain to him that yes it is a school day and it’s very rude to yell at me. He may have his milk cup after he uses the potty and asks me nicely.

7:05: Oldest steps over the three year old, who is laying on the hallway floor adamantly demanding it’s not a school day.

7:10: Finally get the three year old on the toilet, who is telling me that I’m not being very nice. My only response is that he is the one who is not being nice.

7:15: Find an outfit for the three year old who insists on wearing the same shirt every day. He asks me why my bangs are swept off to the side, to which I reply, because that’s how I’m wearing it today. He informs me he doesn’t like it.

7:18: Hand him his milk cup, tell oldest to hurry up and eat. Three year old insists his milk cup be warm, to which I have to repeat five times that I already warmed it up.

7:20 I wonder if it’s bad to drink a bloody mary before work. Decide it’s probably better not to.

7:24 Get three year old in shoes, ones he claims he doesn’t like. Try to find a sweater. There are none even though I know he has at least 5. I even check the dirty hamper. Put him in a long sleeve that he says is too small, too tight and too blue.

7:26: Three year old insists on cuddling on my lap. Part of me wants to say no because of the plethora of crap he has given to me this morning, but allow him to anyways.

7:29: Send them off to school with their dad, hearing my three year old yelling the whole way to the car that he doesn’t like school, he doesn’t like our car, he doesn’t like blueberries, he doesn’t like the cat.. whatever.

7:29 and 30 seconds: Sit on the couch for a moment and try to regain my calm composure before taking in another 4 children and will most likely have to sit through at least one tantrum through the day.

So, that’s sadly a typical day in this house. Threats for timeouts are issued and reluctantly followed through since cutting three minutes out of our preparation time is wasted. And I get to look forward for similar situations from 5:30pm-8pm.

It’s not that I’m not trying to raise a demon child. In fact, part of me wonders if my life would be easier if I just gave into his every whim. But then he would be an awful adult to turn out upon the world and that would be much worse.

I just keep trying to remind myself that his rather stubborn and assertive nature can be a good thing if he learns to use it with good intentions.

So, I apologize to my neighbors who probably think I have the worst kids in the area. I promise I’m working on them and hopefully, if you have a three year old, your child hasn’t taken to heart the manual of how three year olds seem to behave.

 

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