Friday, April 29, 2011

Road trippin' with my two favorite allies

What a week!  We are worn out from three road trips in four days time.  And the youngest half of our family has been dealing with some major overtired-cranky-tudes lately.  The rest of us are just beat.  Beat and behind.  I think I'm behind in just about every area of my life right now - my house is a disaster, the ironing pile takes up half the laundry room, I only got to 1/3 of my 30 phone calls for work today and I haven't been keeping up with my blog.  But we'll work on that now.  Because it's Friday, the kiddos are in bed, I spent the better part of the day folding clothes with one hand and returning phone calls with the other, the Royal Wedding is on TLC, and I treated myself to some tea biscuits and sparkling grape juice just for the occasion.  So while the fashionistas are covering the attendees dresses, I'll cover the exhausting yet fulfilling events of the past few days.

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Handsome grandboys!

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Our first roadtrip was, of course, to Pennsylania.  After Jude's birthday party we celebrated Easter with Jon's family. 

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Jude is wearing the same Easter outfit at 12 months that Jack wore at 6 months.  So convenient!

Although it was drizzling, the mountains were still exuding spring and new life.  After church, the grandboys had a little Easter Egg hunt at Nonnie and Poppie's.  It was Jack's first experience, and after a little encouraging he really caught on!

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It was a bit tough keeping up with the older cousins, but that's okay.  We didn't need all that candy lying around the house anyway!

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Assessing his bounty.


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This is as close to egg hunting that Jude could get.

Of course, it wouldn't be Easter without our traditional Egg Fights.  Both Jack and Jude got to participate this year.  Jude had no idea what was going on, but Jack was pretty excited.

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Poppie (with assistance from Jude) was the winner!

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We ended up taking two cars to Pennsylvania for the weekend so we could bring a truckload of things for my parents yard sale and so we could bring back the antique hutch we bought during our little anniversary trip in March.  So Jon drove up and back by himself with the truck, and I had the honor of driving with the boys on my own.  It wasn't easy, but it certainly wasn't as bad as I thought it would get.  Jude was the most difficult, and the main reason we ended up pulling over several times on this trip.  But sometimes pulling over just wasn't an option for several miles, and I quickly learned just how difficult it is to concentrate on driving with a little one screaming in the backseat.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when both boys finally drifted off to sleep... until we hit a major rainstorm.  We ended up getting back to Maryland around 11pm, which is a bit late for this mama, who was more than ready to crawl into bed and stay there until well into the next day.

Of course, the boys had a different idea.  Do kids ever sleep in??  Jon had class on Monday and came right home to work on a final presentation for the next day.  He ended up coming to bed at 2am, and then waking up a 5am for class.  He was so exhausted by the time he got home that he spent the rest of the evening vegging on the couch.  Which meant I was on my own with our two little offspring, who were still recovering from the weekend. 

But there wasn't much time for recovering because we were up again at 4am the next morning for a trip to Virginia Beach.  I had a meeting at work and since we'll be moving another hour farther from my office, and I'll have a new little one to care for in a few months, I figured I should get my work visits in now while I can.  Rather than stay home alone with the boys all day, Jon decided we'd make a family day of it.  And I'm glad we did, because it was so good to visit our old grounds and catch up with some friends!

With the big move coming up Jon and I have been reminiscing about old Virginia days and all the things we miss about our first home.  The conversation usually turns to food.  I've been longing to visit our favorite seafood restaurant - Dockside, and Jon has been dreaming about his Yama sushi.  So these were two things on our hit list.  And of course we couldn't go all that way without a visit to the beach! 

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Jon entertained the boys while I took care of things at the office, and then we at lunch with my boss and co-worker at Dockside.  I'm sure my British professor boss was really impressed with my sons' abilities to fling food, spill drinks and escape highchairs.  Certainly made for an interesting dinner.

We drove through our old neighborhood, noted all the things that had changed and all the things that were so familiar, and parked on our old block for a little beach visit.  Jack was too cute.  He's been talking about the beach for months now.  He knows where we keep the sunscreen and every once in a while he'll bring me a bottle and ask if we can go to the beach.  I bought him some flip flops this week and he was tickled pink with his "beach shoes."  So as soon as we let him out of the car and pointed him in the direction of the water, he grabbed his little bag of toys and headed off on his own.  He knew just what to do!

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I knew Jack would love the beach, but I just wasn't sure what Jude would think.  I was surprised to find that my sensitive, doesn't handle new situations too well little guy LOVED not only the sand, but also the water, which was freezing!  He played on his own with a bucket and sand for a while, and then giggled with his toes in the frigid ocean.  He was adorable and I'm already looking forward to our family beach vacation this summer!

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But the trip did make me a little sad.  We miss our old backyard so much.  I so wish my boys could have days like this just a little more often.



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Of course, we couldn't go home without touching base with our Virginia Beach besties - Janine and Brian.  And get a peak at their new house!  It's been so long since Jack and Abbie have hung out, I wasn't sure if they'd remember eachother.  But they seemed to hit it off well.

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And this cutie!  Sweet little Nate has grown up so much since I've last seen him!

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The day ended too quickly and we soon found ourselves back in the car.  I'm sure my kids are beginning to think we live in the car and occasionally visit our house, because after pulling in the driveway at yet another late hour, we pulled back out again less than 14 hours later for a house-hunting trip in upper Maryland. 

By this point, our kids were pretty well maxed out.  We took a second look at our favorite house.  The current owners have tiplet boys, which means they have lots of cool boy toys and a great backyard playset that Jack refers to as "the park."  You can imagine how excited he was to be there again ... and how not-so-excited he was when it was time to go.  His sentiments carried out well into the rest of the day.  Both Jon and I were exasperated by the time we got back home.  We just kept having to remind ourselves that our kids were suffering from severe overtiredness/lack of routine/too much Easter candy... and so were we. 

So today was "lay low and catch-up" day and tomorrow will be too.  Actually it will probably take the whole of next week to catch up, but it should happen because there are no more road trips scheduled for the next week and we have an awful lot to take care of during our last few weeks in the 'Burb Nest!

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jude's O-Fish-all Birthday Party

... and some tips in case you ever want to throw your own!

We went home to Pennsylvania this weekend to celebrate Jude's birthday and Easter with our family.  Despite the damp, chilly weather, good times were had by all.

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Even though we didn't really start working on plans for Jude's party until recently, it's something I've been thinking about since long before he was born.  Our second baby's due date fell right before opening day of trout season in Pennsylvania last year.  Which is kinda a big deal back home, and definitely a big deal in my little family of fisherman.  So when we started wondering if Jude's arrival was going to interfere with Poppa and the Uncles' fishing plans, I knew we had a party theme.

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Originally we had planned on a breezy outdoor party in the springtime, with real-live fishing at the nearby creek.  But the weather forecast convinced us otherwise, and we moved the party to my in-laws' basement. 

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The vinyl tablecloth rainbow fish, starfish and seahorses were made by Marmie a few years ago for G.G. Ma's beach themed 80th birthday party.


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And my favorite party planner/wedding coordinator/cricut guru outdid herself with the paper goods again.  In fact, she designed, printed and cut the menu cards, tackle box labels and faux fishing licenses the morning of the party, whilst 3/4 of her brood was suffering from the stomach bug.

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A personal favorite of many - dill pickles wrapped in cream cheese smothered ham.  Mmmm.


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Otherwise known as Rosa Marina or Frog Eye Salad.


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Sand a.k.a. vanilla pudding and Nilla wafers.

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Pickled blowfish ... or pickled eggs and beets.

I'd like to say I had this party all worked out weeks ago, but alas it was not so.  Things have been so busy and stressful in our house these past few weeks, I just haven't been able to get to everything that I wanted to.  Plus my pregnancy hormone-marinated brain was just not functioning at its peak.  I somehow managed to write up a menu, go shopping, create a fishing rod pinata set-up, put together tackle boxes, tag licenses on to hats and assemble a few plates a food ... all in a few hours before the party.  The grandma's took care of a lot of the cooking.  And Marmie proved her creative cake decorating mastery yet again with Jude's fish cake.

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And Jon and his dad took over the balloon blowing and decorating.  I'm still not quite sure how it all came together.

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Hats from Oriental Trading, ordered by the dozen they came out to around $2 each.  The nice thing about these is that they are kid-sized.

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A few days later I found my own hat at the Dollar Store.

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Each child also got a "tackle box", also from the Dollar Store.  Each box had some fish, worm and frog candy "bait" as well as a light stick, bouncy ball "bobber" and bug that grows in water.  This is also what the kids used to store their pinata swag in.

But it did come together and we had a fun time, despite the fact that weren't planning to go as "big" as we did.  I mean, it's a 1 year olds' birthday, he's not going to remember a thing.  And the 48 hours leading up to the party found me vowing to never do it again.  But I will, in 18 months, because I did with the first two and I'm determined to keep things as fair as possible.  Jack and Jude's next birthday parties may be a much, much longer way off though.


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Jude was more concerned with getting the hat off his head than with his birthday cake.
After spending an hour scrubbing cake out of the carpet at Jack's first birthday party, Jon was much  more prepared this time around.  He put a plastic tablecloth under Jude's chair to catch the droppings.  ... And then Jude threw the cake and icing over his shoulder and completely superseded the plastic boundary.

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 He really wasn't that interested in the cake.  He rubbed some in his hair and then threw the rest out of the way.  Jude is very much into making healthy choices these days.

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Despite the fact that we couldn't go fishing in the real creek, the kiddos had an opportunity to try their own little hands at the plastic pond.  At the end of the day the little party-goers could take home some of their "catch" to use in their own bath tub ponds.
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Magnetic fishing rods were from Marmie's classroom.  The bath toy fish were from the Dollar Store (3/$1).  We just poked a hole in the top and slipped in a paper clip.

Turns out Jude is quite the pro. Who knew the Birthday Boy was such an avid sportsman?
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Jude's shirt:  $4 from Target that I sewed a few pieces of felt onto and added a button for the eye.



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He caught one!


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This is the part where my thrilled birthday boy starts telling me how big the fish he caught was.

Our other activity was a fish pinata.  I had a hard time trying to balance celebrating a 1 year olds birthday with his other kiddo guests - ranging in age from 18 months to 10 years.  I don't think the boys' older cousins were really in to using a magnet to snag a rubber tubby toy in a bucket, but just about everyone enjoys a pinata.  To even the playing field, instead of whacking the poor fish with a stick, I cut a trap door in the bottom, attached 12 fishing lines to the inside of the door, and tied them off to individual "rods."  On the count of three everyone pulled to "reel" in the big one.  Surprisingly, it took a few seconds for the door to open, which only added to the suspense.

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Fish Pinata from Amazon.


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Good thing Jack brought his light stick so we could see our line!

The big kids knew what to do right away.  This was Jack's first pinata experience but after some coaching he soon caught on ... and immediately collected all the boxes of "Dots" for his Mama, since they are her favorite.  All the commotion was a little much for our sensitive Birthday Boy though, and he just kinda sank into Nonni's arms and cried.  Poor boy!

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But for the most part he did very well with all the attention and activity that comes with being star of a party.  And in the end the hard work was worth it.  Worth celebrating this amazing little guy and all the joy he's brought us this past year.  And worth getting to party with some very special friends and family, whom we wish we could see more often than we do!  Happy Birthday baby Jude!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Measure Up

Well I wasn't going to do another pregnancy post so soon, but while reminiscing through my blog earlier this week I rememebered that I compared belly shots at 16 weeks with both boys, and figured I couldn't leave my third offspring out.  I even donned the same faithful sweatpants that have stuck out multpile semesters and finals weeks, three months abroad, several years of lazy Saturdays and now a third pregnancy.  Let's just say, they don't fit like they used to.  So here it is, a 16 week comparison shot (from left to right - Jack, Jude, #3):

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Can I just say that Jon and I have really been missing Viginia Beach this week, and the fact that my latest belly shot wasn't taken in our old master bedroom, right between the door and closet, makes me even more sad?  Shake it off Janine.

Anyway, hopefully the background don't throw off the scaling.  I keep going back and forth, but overall think I look slightly bigger, or maybe "more pronounced" would be a better description.  Two days ago I thought I wasn't showing at all, then I look at this picture and think I'm "huge", and then I leave my house and a lady today said she would have never guesssed I was pregnant because I'm so small.  I just don't know anymore!!

Anyway, if you want real data.  I'm measuring bigger around at this point than I was with Jude (I didn't start measuring with Jack 'til 21 weeks).  In fact, I'm measuring the same size that I did with Jude at 19 weeks.  But on the flipside, I've gained less weight.  But who knows, I could've just eaten a lot of Chipotle right before I measured.  I can't even remember.  So all this to say ... nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  But it sure is fun wonder!

Anyway, no more baby news.  I don't get to meet my new OB for another two weeks.  So still haven't got to hear the heartbeat, not feeling any movement yet, and I'm practically forgetting I'm pregnant until I try to tie Jack's shoes and it feels like I'm bending over a football.  Okay, maybe not that bad, but close.  We've got a full weekend ahead of us celebrating with our little birthday boy, who is cutting another tooth and pretty much displaying all symptoms of teething known to man - clingy, not sleeping well, drooling, gnawing on my sholder, snotty, nasty diapers, even nastier rash, etc, - at one time. 

Happy Easter to you and yours!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Jude!

My soon-to-be middle child turns 1 today.  And I'm feeling a tad sentimental.  In fact, I've been feeling sentimental for the past week.  Reading back through old blog posts has certainly hastened those emotions along:  "Today was Jude's due date last year!" "At this time last year we were walking along the beach wondering when you'd show up!" "A year ago Daddy was busy writing his final papers and Mommy was anxiously cleaning the house!" "A year ago tonight Mommy started having contractions!" ...

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And what a year it's been!  I have to smile when I think back to Jude's first week of life - treks to the beach, a trip to the zoo, family visits, dinner out.  And then a few weeks after his arrival we moved to another state, two weeks later took the entire family camping and spent 40 degree nights in a tent!  And a few weeks after that we spent a week at the beach.  The first few months after Jude's birth were truly a testament to his flexibility and easy-going demeanor.  God knew what he was doing when he blessed us with our Jude-bug.  And he hasn't stopped being a blessing since the moment he arrived (and 9 months before). 

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He's growing up, becoming more of a boy and less of a baby.  Every day he's stretching his muscles, striving to do that one thing he couldn't do the day before.  And that's what I love about being a mama - the newness of every morning, the constant change and growth, the daily surprises.  I get to experience it all firsthand.  And it's truly an honor.

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So the first year is behind us.  I'm feeling part relief to finish off those precarious early months and part sadness at folding up and putting away the latest set of clothes.  The littlest ones just change so much in so little time...  Jude has proven that he will likely never crawl, at least not in the traditional sense.  He's mastered the "army crawl" and is able to slide himself through three different rooms until he finds his mama.  And he's showing all the signs of soon-to-be walking.  He's pulling himself up in the crib and bath tub, loves clinging to my legs while I'm working around the kitchen, gets a kick out of holding onto someone's hand while walking, and just yesterday stood for 10 seconds all by himself.  Jack and I awarded him with a hearty round of applause.

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He's also showing much more interest in his toys.  He does so well playing by himself, but not so well playing with just his brother.  Then again, I don't think anyone enjoys having toys taken out of their hands, being stepped on, jumped over or pushed down.  The poor kid just doesn't stand a chance.

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Jude says "mama" and "dada", but very selectively.  And I'm almost certain he says "Jack".  It comes out more like "Dack" but it's always when Jack is around and always with a huge smile and a few fist pumps, so it must be true.  And my favorite is "uh-oh."  He says it in the highest, most sweetest voice.  And he's been saying it a lot lately because he's in the dropping stage.  "Dropping" is putting it mildly.  My sweet, innocent little boy has been caught deliberately throwing food on more than one occasion this week, much to my dismay.  And no amount of "no no-ing" or hand swatting seems to deter him.  So I just pick the food up, put it back on his tray and then he eats it.

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And eats it and eats it.  Jon and I have been shocked by Jude's mealtime abilities lately.  Shocked.  He's eating 2-3 times as much as his older brother.  And he never seems to fill up.  I just eventually stop feeding him when I run out of options.  For instance, this week he ate 3 servings of roast chicken, 3 servings of cous cous, 2 servings of peas, a banana and a cup of milk for dinner.  Jack ate about 4 bites total of his meal, and that was with Daddy's "encouragement." 

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Jude's completely weaned and we went straight to a sippy, of which he is now a proficient.  Skipping the whole bottle thing definitely has its perks.  And in the past month he's really bulked up again.  Between his newly acquired chunky legs and less liquid intake, I've re-launched cloth diapering efforts and we've been experiencing wild success! 

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And Jude just lets me go with it, because that's how he is (most of the time), and it's just one of the gazillion things I love about him.  There's really just so much to love.  Happy Birthday Buddy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our Story, Part VII: My First Valentine

When Jon and I headed back to school after Christmas break, we weren't sure if we'd see each other again until well into the summer.   Things didn't turn out that badly, and I was quite thankful because only a few days after saying goodbye, I soon realized how much I would be missing this boy!

We talked much more often than we had the previous year.  Which made things that much more difficult.  Our friendship continued to grow, but so did the number of differences between us.  I soon learned that being in a relationship was just as much hard work as fun, and maybe more.  But the worst part was that we still weren't in an "official" relationship.  This was by mutual choice at this point, since we both had some things we wanted to work on as individuals first and also because our future was so uncertain, a theme which has carried out well into our marriage.

After spending over 6 weeks apart, Jon decided a Valentines trip to Pennsylvania was in order.  He rented a car, drove home and thoroughly surprised his parents with his arrival.  I came home for the weekend as well and we planned out our first "date."  This was also my first real Valentine's Day with boy.  And that particular boy did not disappoint.  The day started with the Fed Ex man delivering a dozen roses.  We then spent a day skiing/snowboarding at Big Boulder and got back with just enough time to change and head out for dinner at a local hibachi grill.  I was excited, it was my first time at such a restaurant and I was just as properly impressed with the flames, volcanoes and food throwing as any other newbie. 

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But the most interesting part of our evening was our fellow company.  I thought it was quite ironic that on my very first Valentine's date of all time ... I ended up sharing a table with a church group of about 13 older singles.  I gotta say, it kinda sucked the romance right out of my own evening.  But we did find their conversation slightly entertaining.  And the particularly chatty single sitting next to me made sure to share one of the special lollipops she had brought along to pass out to the rest of the group.  By the end of the evening we were practially one of them!

We didn't hang around any later than we needed to since we were both exhausted from a day full of skiing and chatting with single strangers.  We crawled back into Jon's rented SUV and drove back to his house to watch a movie.  Jon commented on the way, "I feel so old, like we're going home to relieve the babysitter."  And now, 7 years later, I can verify that I think he had it right!

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So it was back to school, back to papers, back to work, and for me, back to babysitting this lovely little brat that continued to hit me, spit on me and lock herself in her room.  But alas, that is another story.  We both got busy with life and too busy to keep up with each other, and the lack of communication was beginning to take its toll.  So I was excited to hear that Jon was headed to DC for a school trip and would be stopping by to visit me on his way back.  Of course, I got horribly sick a few days before he arrived.

I was coughing, gagging, snotting and not sleeping.  I skipped class and spent two days in bed willing myself to be completely normal by the time Jon arrived.  It didn't work.  I did manage to put on some decent clothes before rushing out to meet him, but as to the rest of my appearance I cannot say.  What I do know, is that by the time he left the next day I was feeling much, much better.  Something about spending the day with a handsome man who bought me flowers must have helped, as well as the medicine he insisted on picking up and all the meal he took me out for.  It was nice to be babied.

But soon is was back to the grind, back to work and papers and babysitting brats.  Back to wondering when Jon was going to call, or if I should call him.  Back to arguing and worrying and simply wishing we weren't so far apart.  It was a stressful semeser, and more than anything I just wanted to see him again.
March 13, 2004
Whenever I think about Jon, I feel all quiet and comfortable.  I've never felt so stable as I do when I'm with him.

Jon was hoping to get sent to Baltimore for his summer training and I was planning to stay at college and keep on in my job in the admissions office.  I was more than eager for the semester to end and some more time to spend with a very special guy.  But first there was dress shopping and final preparations for a big event that spring ... because Jon had asked me to be his date at the Coast Guard Academy's Ring Dance.
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