Tag Archives: family discipliship

Pigeon Milk

A few months ago, Alex and I had a disagreement.  He asked what baby pigeons eat and I told him they eat bugs and such. He disagreed and told me they eat milk as babies. I calmly explained that, no- birds are not mammals and only mammals produce milk for their young. He said he’d seen on a nature show that baby pigeons eat milk. I explained that he’d misunderstood- birds are not mammals and only mammals make milk. He insisted that baby pigeons eat milk. So, I said that he misunderstood and just let it go without further exploring the idea since I knew I was right (bad homeschool mommy!). Even though he was willing to drop it, I knew he still believed that pigeons make and drink milk.

Alex was right. Pigeons make and eat milk.

I recently saw this on Facebook:

 

 

And it got me thinking… the teacher above (if this isn’t just a mock-up to make a point) wants the student to be quiet and allow erroneous teaching, likely so the class can run smoothly. But the little boy refuses to allow an incorrect teaching to stand. He won’t allow the falsehood (intentional or mistaken) be left alone. I can imagine that the teacher felt the boy was being disrespectful, questioning his reasoning, his ability to think, his authority over the class even.

This picture made me think of that event with Alex- he’d insisted he was right about the pigeon milk. He knew what he’d seen- had been taught and had demonstrated before him- and he wasn’t willing to allow me to dissuade him…

In some ways, I guess it would be easy to have a pliable kid- really, Alex is generally pretty easy-going. But when I read the letter in the picture above and I remember that my son was willing to stand up for what he knew was right, it makes me feel good. I want my son to question. I want him to think independently and to take the sum of his knowledge and experience and to stand firm when he knows he’s right. There’s never a need for genuine disrespect (which I believe the teacher above is showing to his students)- disrespect is a failure to appreciate the imprint of God in others and to treat them without regard for that imprint. Questioning is not disrespect.

The flip side of that coin is humility. Alex needs to allow others to find their own path to Truth- he can’t spoon feed it (like pigeon milk) to others. Sometimes they have to find things out for themselves- like his mama did when I saw the nature program myself a few weeks later. Humility also demands that we question ourselves and our own understandings and beliefs when others challenge us. Instead of stubbornly sticking a point, humility allows us to ask the question again- even if our original answer is confirmed.

I hope that my son is gleaning from Brian and I the ability to stand firm, to allows others room for their own exploration and the ability to graciously accept correction when we are wrong. I hope these are the kinds of lessons that my kids are getting from us- their imperfect teachers and parents.

But I am really proud that Alex stood his ground. And pigeons make milk- who knew!?!

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The place of virtue in the Christian home

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how children become the adults they become. Specifically, I’ve been pondering the ways in which ‘unpleasant’ things like responsibility, duty, and honor are learned. I know that some families have specific instruction in these topics, selecting stories or studies that focus on a specific character trait. But people were responsible long before someone wrote a curriculum about it. People displayed duty and honor without being told they should be dutiful and honorable. Even people who aren’t Christians can be and are responsible, dutiful and honorable… How? How have some people been able to instill these qualities in their kids? Install? Perhaps it’s just gleaned?

I have heard a lot of derision against the idea of Christian parents raising ‘righteous pagans’ almost as if we parents, by the quality of our parenting, can somehow convert our children into Christ-followers (look- no saving relationship required! Just be sure to read the Bible every night and don’t squash their little spirits and souls and they’ll love God!).  I don’t believe we can ‘raise up’ Christians. We can certainly ‘raise up’ church-ified kids who know how to talk the talk, but we cannot create salvation in our children. Ultimately, their spiritual state is between them and our Father.

So what does it mean to raise up’ children in the way they should go? What can it possibly mean since people don’t inherit holiness or salvation from their parents?

I’ve been thinking a lot about those righteous pagans. Sometimes (thanks Literature degree), I think about Dante’s ‘virtuous pagans’ who occupy the first (least horrible) circle of hell. These people are composed of the good people of the world who don’t know Jesus (perhaps an imagining of where He went during His 3 days in the tomb?). People like Virgil and Homer and Ovid- people who did nothing ‘bad’ and actually did some good things and yet, due to the basic corruption of all flesh apart from Christ, cannot enter Heaven…

Can Christian parents do anything BUT raise virtuous pagans? Since we can’t ‘save’ our kids- they need their own personal relationship with Jesus to do that (and we don’t control their hearts)- what ‘s the best we can do for our kids?

I’ve been thinking about my parenting instincts- why is it important that my kids learn to clean up after themselves? Why is it important that they know how to complete a project, offer people basic respect, understand how to accept ‘No’ without a melt down? It’s because the BEST I can give my kids is virtue- not holiness.

Virtue (perhaps Dear Charlotte would have called this magnanimity?)- is the ability to choose a way that is higher than base flesh. It’s the ability to exercise some control over the corrupt flesh. Virtue tells the man- Christian or not- that he must provide for his family and be faithful to his wife, even if his flesh pulls him toward self-indulgence and lust (second and third circles of hell, by the way). Virtue is what tells a woman she should give out of her own need and strive for a patience, even when she wants to hoard her money and scream whenever her will is frustrated (fourth and fifth circles). Instilling (allowing children to glean?) virtue in our children does two things for them:

First, on a completely material level, virtue allows our children to live quiet, peaceful, secure lives whether they become Christians or not. Since we can’t ‘bestow’ salvation, regardless of how well we parent, virtue literally IS the best we can possibly do for our kids. Virtue is what creates reliable employees (who then have some job security and basic material needs met), peaceful families (who then have fulfilled personal lives) and strong communities (who are then able to care for one another when times are hard). Virtue is the key to peace with this world.

Second, practiced virtue is a support to a Christ-following lifestyle. The child who has been taught to complete a task in honor of his parents has an easier time completing a task in honor of his God. The girl who understands what it means to deny her flesh and clean her room even when (especially when) she doesn’t feel like it, will better be able to deny her flesh and honor her God even when (especially when) she doesn’t feel like it.

Our witness of God’s intervention in our own lives is lived out in spirit and truth, word and deed in front of our children every day (Lord please cover my failings!) to invite our children to remember their Creator, to accept His invitation to make them new. But a careful and intentional focus on virtue is  the most loving gift we can give our children of our own power. Let’s not overlook it.

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Lessons Learned In The Meantime…

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted and, as of today, it’s been weeks since we’ve ‘done school’. I look at my wonderful 36 week curriculum schedule with all my subjects neatly lined up and realize that we’re weeks ‘behind’. I say ‘behind’ even though the beauty of this system is that it holds a fantastic amount of flexibility for my family. We can easily move days around, or work within a specific subject- it’s just awesome like that (thanks to the original Ambleside Online moms who actually created the schedule)…

And yet, I’ve been feeling ‘behind’. Life has gotten in the way of school. Oh, I know that education is the sum of what our children take into themselves and that includes all the lessons learned along the way that are not planned or scheduled, but still, lately, I’ve been asking myself what has been worthwhile during this pause in our official schooling? What have my children been learning while we’ve been away from school?

At the end of March my 15-year-old niece came to live with us. The situation has been unsettled and there is much healing to be done in her heart and mind. When Selena came to stay, all of us in the household had to make adjustments. School time became shorter as I handled phone calls, doctor appointments and therapy sessions. We think that perhaps this week the custody agreement might be finalized and Selena might legally be in our care for the forseeable future.

I ask myself ‘what have my children learned from this new living arrangement’?  It doesn’t take much to see they’ve learned that there’s enough space and love for everyone in our home and that no one gets left behind. They’ve seen that we all matter and that doing the right thing is sometimes hard and requires sacrifice. The atmosphere of this home lately has demonstrated that family is deeply important, but that ‘doing’ family isn’t always easy. Sometimes there is conflict, and we need the Lord so much to know the right way to behave and respond.

Then, about a month ago, our little family traveled to my in-laws to assist them after my mother-in-law’s knee surgery. Since they live just south of Erie, PA we took the opportunity to do some Charlotte-y things like visiting the lake and collecting lake-stones from the beach, spotting red-winged blackbirds for the first time, and visiting a small homestead to discover how the family lives almost completely self-sufficiently (lots of handicrafts going on there!).

Alex, Selena & Fae at the Lake

But during this trip they also learned how to sit quietly next to a fragile loved one and just spend time together. They learned that their presence and beautiful hearts can truly lift the spirits of someone going through something hard. They learned that we can all work together to get the job done and that fun happens in spite of hardship.

The day after we returned from our 9 day visit with the in-laws, I traveled to Albany, NY to collect my youngest sister and her two children. She has an almost 2-year-old daughter and her baby girl is about a month old now. For the past two weeks, we played host and opened our home to them. In this case, my kids learned something about generosity and being hospitable. They learned how to expand their circle of two to include their young cousin. They watched my sister faithfully care for her sweet newborn. They saw how we simply swept them into our daily life and made more room at the table. I think they saw how joy can come from giving one’s self to others. We all cried a little this past weekend as we waved goodbye to the plane that carried this precious little family away to Florida to my mother and grandmother.

As I sit here writing about some of the lessons I think my kiddos might have been receiving from Brian and me (and, mostly, from the Lord Who is their Great Teacher), I realize that the past two months have been opening and deepening the way my children understand family. They are seeing how we, their parens who are trying to live a life that is pleasing to our Savior, seek to serve and care for those around us. I am not patting myself on the back- doesn’t scripture say that even pagans care for those who care for them?- but these are good lessons for any child to learn…

These past months have been filled with lessons about faith, family, service, love, hardship, pain, joy and hope. The kids have learned these from real life instead of our beloved living books, from the script the Father has provided instead of the curriculum I’ve out together. And I’m ok with that; I’m ok with Life being my children’s Teacher.

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Taking Inventory…

It’s that time of the year- in PA Spring is definitely here. For the past three weeks, we’ve had unseasonably warm weather. My hyacinths have bloomed, the trees are budding and we’ve been doing lots of yard work and basking in the warm sun. It’s *also* the time of the year that my local MOPS group sets up their semi-annual consignment sale. So I begin my semi-annual Sorting of the Clothing…

Clothing Management is one of those ‘mom jobs’ I never heard about before I was pregnant and immersed in buying clothing for my little one. There I was, round and expecting in the middle of BabiesRUs, realizing that all these cute little clothes for 0-3 months were WAY too summer-y for a baby expected in mid-October. It hit me that, as a mom, I had to match sizes and clothing with seasons.

Thus began my spring/fall clothing management project. Each spring/fall, I pull out the clothes from the previous spring/fall, try everything on the kiddos and set aside whatever doesn’t fit to either give away or consign at the MOPS sale. Then I take an inventory of what the kids need for the upcoming season- boots, hats, coats, scarves, gloves/mittens and other cold weather attire for the fall & winter and bathing suits, rash guards, sandals, wind breakers, hats, shorts and eyewear for the spring & summer seasons.

So out goes the outgrown and in comes the new (to us) items- I buy probably 80% of my kids’ clothing at the consignment sale. Since Fae is a petite little thing, I only spent about $25 to outfit her for this spring/summer. Alex is in a weird ‘in-between’ stage where it’s hit or miss if a 5/6 will fit him correctly. When the new(er) items are purchased, they are washed and then get put in the closet along with the rest of the clothes for the new season. Any items that may still fit the following spring or fall, get stashed away in each child’s clothing storage bin to be tested for fit at the appropriate time…

So what does this have to do with homeschooling? I was thinking of the many ways we teach our children what is important in a family. In my family, this twice a year inventory & rotation has become part of our spring/fall cleaning. My children take it for granted that mom takes care of making sure they are outfitted for the coming season (Proverbs 31 anyone?). And this simple (laborious) task of making sure my family has well-fitting, seasonal clothing is one thing they will be accustomed to as they grow.

To my children, parents anticipate what the needs of the family will be- they look ahead into the coming months and they prepare the family to successfully navigate what’s ahead. This semi-annual familial habit of taking stock of what we have and what we may need is something that we should implement in a spiritual sense as well.

It’s still Lent for another week or so. During the remainder of this season, I am going to take spiritual inventory- what do I have in my life has been outgrown and needs to be set aside? What new things do I need to bring into my life to be prepared for what lies ahead? We anticipate a move out-of-state before the end of the year; Alex will be completing Kindergarten this summer; Fae will turn 3 and will no longer be a baby (she’ll always be my baby!!); Brian will be taking a new job. What will each of us need during the remainder of this year to be successful?

How to prepare according to the Word...

We are all growing in this family. We are all shedding the old and donning the new. As a mother, I think I bear witness to the growth of my family. I am keenly aware that the clothing that was once so roomy is now pulling across the chest. I notice when the shoes lose the wiggle-room in the toe. And I think I need to be really looking for the way my family is growing spiritually as well- where has someone had a breakthrough? Where is a child in need of a new responsibility or privilege? What do I need to let go of? What do I need to embrace?

I pray that my kids see their parents being serious about spiritual inventory and spiritual preparation. I pray that Brian and I can carefully prepare for the spiritual season that’s coming. It’s time to take stock, to repent, to rejoice and to get ready…

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Real Family Liturgy: Lent 2012

Hello friends!  This past Wednesday began the 2012 Lent season. If you didn’t know, my family really enjoys the cyclical nature of the liturgical year. I say that without ever having been part of a liturgical church. My husband and I use the church calendar to make seasonally appropriate family devotions and here we are again at Lent…

I realized the other day that some may feel that liturgy is a heavy thing- don’t you have to be serious and formal if you’re doing liturgy? How does one celebrate Lent with a 5 and a 2 year old? The focus of Lent traditionally is the need for mercy and that Jesus chose to die for our sins. How can our kids understand these deep issues?

Each year, we pull out our Lenten Wreath. It’s pretty cool- we simply picked up candle holders, added tea lights and glass beads and put it all together in a tray. Beginning on Ash Wednesday (and each Sunday thereafter) we light an additional candle right after dinner. On Good Friday, all the candles are darkened and they stay that way until Ressurection Day when the large white pillar candle- the Christ candle- is lit and we celebrate Jesus’ victory over the grave! When we light the candle each evening, we sing ‘Amazing Love’ . This year, we’re using ‘Lord Have Mercy’  by Amy Edwards as our family devotional. Brian reads the selected scripture passage and I say the included prayer. It’s simple and fast and it gives us a focused opportunity to once again present our kids with the gospel. And as our children grow, these are the holiday traditions they will remember- this is us trying to ‘raise them in the way they should go’. But it doesn’t have to be formal or opressive- I can’t tell you the number of devotions we’ve done with kids sitting half naked on the kitchen table (they like to strip right after dinner). That’s ok- we don’t have to expect perfectly still little bodies, solemnly listening as Daddy talks about salvation (oh, wouldn’t that be nice?). No- we can let our kids be who they are as the liturgy happens. They sit on laps, they finish up their dinners, they hold a baby or a stuffed animal and that’s fine- we make liturgy part of our daily life during this time of year.

I want to encourage you to give liturgy a try. Throughout the year, there are lots of liturgical celebrations. Some holidays we celebrate and use as devotions include Lent, Passover, Easter, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas. We have special symbolic devotionals we do for each of these and I hope to find more celebrations to center around Jesus!

May you and your family have a blessed Lenten season. May you understand the enormity of our Father’s sacrifice and our Savior’s victory. May you repent of old sins and move forward into the new way the Lord has for you. Blessings to you all as we approach Easter!

Bet you can't even tell Fae isn't wearing pants!

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Little Boys, Young Men and the Church

Earlier this week, I came across this article by David Murrow which discusses why young men seemed to have abandoned the church. As the mother of a five-year-old son, I spend a LOT of time thinking about how I want my son to grow up, how I hope to share my faith and what kind of history I want him to have when he leaves home to make his own life. The idea that something is ‘chasing’ young men away from the faith piques my curiosity. Along with several other issues, Murrow lays the responsibility for this phenomenon at the feet of female youth leaders and the accompanying tenor of their groups which, he says, alienate young men and Sunday school programs whose design either ignores or oppresses boys’ inherent make-up.

Murrow says that Sunday school systems are geared toward girls/women in that they require verbal, social interaction in which girls usually excel and boys sometimes don’t . He says that the system itself is hostile to how boys learn…  Hmmmm- as a homeschooler, this sounds familiar…

Sunday schools ARE systems based on government school models. Children are separated from their parents, age-graded, and are set homogenized tasks that are generally acknowledged by some outward reward like stickers or points. Now, I think there are some very nice things that children can learn in Sunday schools, but as a homeschooler, I have a hard time defending a system that is not Biblical (there are no Sunday schools in Scripture) and is based on a system that I believe is inherently flawed.

Give it your best guess- is this a Sunday school class at church or a government school class?

Sunday schools do not personalize a discipleship program geared toward each boys’ unique abilities and interests, just as government schools don’t personalize the academic education of their students.  Why would we expect a system that doesn’t work on even an academic level to have deep impact on a spiritual level? Just because Christian materials are used and people of honorable intent do the teaching doesn’t mean there will be significant differences in outcome. If the best students are generally held back by the lowest common denominator in public school, doesn’t it stand to reason that the same thing would happen in any public school based educational system? Sunday schools don’t encourage kids to excel or to explore deeply as God leads. That’s just not how the curriculum is designed.

Murrow goes on to say that women-led youth groups which focus on feelings, emotion, and expression alienate young men. Whether women should be teaching or in leadership positions over young men is a different post entirely (lol!), but the idea is the same as it is in Sunday school: where is this kind of discipleship- this kind of spiritual training- found in Scripture?  It’s NOT. There is no such thing as youth culture in scripture. The Bible doesn’t cast young people as a strange breed of human, separate from the main body of believers (or unbelievers) and needing special (and often ridiculous, twaddley, insulting) programs to introduce them to Christ.

So how *are* boys and young men designed to hear and respond to God?

C’mon, homeschoolers- we know this, right?

God designed people to learn in *families*. Children learn how to be fully socialized, integrated adults (of each gender) by modeling their behavior and ideas after their parents and the other trusted adults in their intimate family circle. For a Christian family, the child is introduced to Jesus through family-based evangelism, that is, the parents/adults model a relationship with God and encourage the child to make a decision to follow Jesus for himself. The actual relationship is between God & the child (oh, how like dear Charlotte’s assertion that the teacher must not interfere with the young student’s interaction with an author’s great thoughts!).

Boys learn to be men by watching their fathers, uncles, brothers and trusted family friends being men. By being *with* their adult male family as they minister, study, fellowship and lead at home, in the church and in the wider community. This is how God designed human beings to learn and is fully supported by those Deuteronomy 6 verses we Christian homeschoolers love so much.

Imagine a church in which every boy  is personally discipled by his father (or a primary surrogate if his father is not present for any reason) and several other strong Christian men. The young man ministers along-side his father when his father responds to some need in the Body, he has continuous opportunity to discuss personal issues with his mentors and to receive guidance from them, and he has authentic relationships with these mentors so that his true personality, gifts, weaknesses and callings are apparent to them. He can’t hide or be polite- they KNOW him and they love him. As this young man grows and becomes a man himself, he is accepted as an equal- fully integrated within the Body as an adult member.

Multi-generational, God-loving, world-changing... and oh so manly!

Young men aren’t abandoning the church/faith because they don’t like talking in Sunday school, or because youth group worship songs are too sappy or because they don’t get their flesh tickled enough by the girls at church- young men are abandoning the church because the church is utilizing non-Biblical methods of instruction. The problem isn’t that the church doesn’t understand ‘maleness’, the problem is that the church doesn’t understand God’s design for family-centered discipleship and, therefore, young men haven’t been taught how to BE men in the church.

If we want to see young men staying in church and influencing the Body in wonderful ways, we have to make sure families worship and learn together so young men know how to BE the church as they come to maturity. We have to return to New Testament styles of worship and discipleship and we have to recognize that God’s design for family is perfect for bringing children up into Him…

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Family Reading: Lions and Spiders and Bears, Oh My!

Ok, so this is a quickie post. Between the holidays, my computer breaking (fie on you, fan motor!) and being on call for my job (as a doula) I’ve had almost no time to work on the second part of my 20 Principals post as I’d wanted. But that’s coming soon! (Really!)

I thought I’d quickly share the books that my family has used as read alouds since last summer. We just began ‘formally’ schooling Alex in September, but we’ve been doing family read alouds… well, forever! However, we transferred to real chapter books which have a story that is carried between chapters in August or so- so I’ll count these.

1. Edgrr, The Bear Who Wanted to be Real, by Alexandra Kurland.

This was cute. The story tells of a toy shop group of bears who find themselves out on an adventure. The father-figure bear, Kenyon, tries to take an unruly bear, Edgrr, in hand. Edgrr has a harrowing experience in the woods when he attempts to be a real bear and he learns the value of being ‘home’.  My kiddos enjoyed this and it certainly qualifies as a living book in my eyes as the language is not at all dumbed down.

2. Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne.

A no-brainer. These books are whimsical, funny and gentle. My son laughed out loud several times and both of my children now have a special place in their hearts for the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood. My advice is to read the first few stories to yourself first so you can get an idea of the pacing and sentance structure. It threw me for a loop for the first couple of stories, but once I understood the cadence of the language and syntax, it made for wonderful, lively reading. If you are anything like me, you WILL cry at the end of The House at Pooh Corner when Christopher Robin gets ready to leave for boarding school (sniff!!)

3. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White.

Another excellent book. My son loved this and was able to remember details from the book much more clearly than we expected. Funny and sad all at once- wonderful coming-of-age, circle-of-life feel.

4. A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond.

This one I purchased at my local library’s ongoing book sale and then searched around Ambleside to see if it was recommended. I turned up nothing so decided I’d best just plunge ahead- and it was wonderful! Again, intelligent language and humorous adventures of an adorable, marmalade-loving bear from darkest Peru (who knew!). The way Paddington misinterprets everyday circumstances had me in stitches and I was totally delighted whenever Paddington gave someone a ‘hard stare’. Great book- can’t wait to read it again when Fae is older.

5. The Little Bear Treasury, by Else Minarik.

Lovely drawings, whimsical stories, but in all honesty it was a step down for us. By this summer, I expect that Alex will be able to read this book on his own, so it just felt too simplistic for our read alouds. The children both listened intently, but the chapters ended so quickly and with such little drama, I think they, too, wanted ‘more’. Ah well, a lesson for me- stick to books that are labeled for children aged 8 to 12 and we’ll have just the right level for my 5 and 2 year old for our read alouds (lol!).

6. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.

Yes, dear Reader, I have initiated my children into the wonder that is Narnia. I sat in my bed with my children snuggled around me and read the first line: “Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.” and immediately started crying and couldn’t continue reading for a few minutes (grin). You see, the Chronicles embody everything I hope to pass on to my children- imagination, intelligence, adventure, goodness, justice and a heart that longs after Aslan/Jesus (to me, Aslan is a fictional Jesus in Lion form). I deocrated my childrens’ nursery in the Chronicles complete with full-sized lamppost nightlight and pencil drawn/pastel colored reproductions of the pictures from the original books. I hung a banner with a picture of a castle and underneath I hand-stenciled ‘Cair Paravel’. A framed parchment map of Narnia set on one wall and a framed pencil drawing of Aslan’s face rests above a reminder that ‘he’s not a tame lion’… Sigh… So much of my soul resonates with the simplicty of Narnia and I’m now sharing this beautiful story with my children. If you haven’t read them, start with LWW- read them in the order they were published (not in Narnia-chronological order). You have to discover Narnia just as Lewis himself did!

So it’s been about four days that we’ve been reading LWW and both kids simply love it. My son has already been making comments (unsolicited!) about how the witch was tricking Edmund and how he wasn’t nice to his sister, Lucy. He’s listening and the ‘moral’ of this story is going to deeply impress him (thank you, Lord!!) He will hear the gospel message here- sin has us frozen, sin corrupts us, but JESUS is our hope and our salvation and He has a wonderful plan for us!

A note: we actually own this Easton Press copy of The Chronicles of Narnia. This is also the first time my kiddos are getting to read from one of our ‘fancy’ books. How nice to have a special set of books as we share this special story!

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