Friday, March 30, 2012

We have a winner!

Yes, I know, it's not 5pm Mountain Time. It's 7pm Mountain time. I spent the past 3 hours with a sweet neighbor who's cat got run over and her cat was like a child to her. She was beside herself. Sometimes you just have to drop everything and be there for someone.

Anyway, the winning comment is Diane. I chose the comment number by having one of my kids pick a number between 1 and 30 - very scientific way to choose a random winner. Diane, please email me at saren(at)powerofmoms(dot)com and I'll get you all set up for your free one-day Retreat registration. Congratulations!

Here's Diane's comment:
Diane said...

I made a donation online. Wish it could be more than I did.

I would love to be entered in the drawing for the Park City retreat.

Thanks so much!!
If you didn't win, please still come to a Retreat! We'll work with you on price if need be. It's our goal to get everyone to a Retreat that really wants to be there! Here are links to the registration pages for our three upcoming Retreats.

Friday Q and A: The best posts from this past year

*** If you're looking for the announcement of the winner of my Retreat Giveaway, I'll announce that at 5pm Mountain time today (Friday) with a quick blog post.

I love your blog. I've been following it for a couple of months now and I've scrolled through some of your older posts and found some great stuff. Do you have some favorite posts I might have missed?

You can see some of my most popular and favorite posts about tried-and-true ideas for moms from the past 4 years categorized at the tab there at the top that says "Ideas for Moms" - just click HERE to go directly there.

And I thought for my readers' sake as well as for posterity, I should gather some of the most popular posts over the past year in the same post. So here goes (starting from oldest and goes to newest):

Serious Excitement about Jobs and Earning Money
Summer Deals
Ahh...Bear Lake
The Grand Teton Relay
Thirteen Years - Reflections on Marriage
Grocery Store Adventures
It could be worse...
About my Sisters
My favorite things about motherhood
My least favorite things about motherhood
Moments happen when I get out of the way
Children for Children Concert
Our Approach to Christmas Presents
Our Christmas Card
A beautiful rite of passage
Is it really so hard to feed our kids healthy food?
Maybe I'm secretly French?
Why I'm going to Australia on Tuesday
Jealous Pitty Party
Q and A: Tricky Questions (can a 7-year-old know if he's gay?)
Adventures in Sydney
Amazing Mums in Sydney, Australia

And some of my most popular posts were my recipe posts that I do once in a while but I didn't include them on the list above. You can check them out here if you like (I'll get around to doing more soon - I was trying to do one a week but that sort of doesn't happen...):

Feel free to share your favorites with friends!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Give and Get - Vision Walk Retreat Giveaway

My niece Lucy's sight is starting to go. And she's only 5 years old.  

Vision loss is one part of Bardet-Biedl, the rare syndrome that Lucy has. You can read more about Lucy by clicking on the "I love Lucy" button in the right sidebar. My sister Shawni and her family have had quite a ride with this wonderful little girl - and the ride just keeps going.

Shawni shared this little story that made me cry:
"Every so often I get smacked in the face with the reality that, like it or not, Lucy's vision is deteriorating. Sometimes it just hits me like a ton of bricks.

"The latest realization was when she told Dave [Shawni's husband] a while ago in her little sing-songy voice: 'When it's the daytime my eyes are blue, but when it's night-time they turn black.'

"My heart aches to think that some day she may not be able to see the colors she makes her beautiful art with.

"About all we can do is to try to help raise money to help fight blindness.

"And man alive do we ever want to fight it around here."

You can help Lucy and the 1000's of other people facing vision loss. Across the country this spring, there are Vision Walks going on to support the Foundation Fighting Blindness. You can participate in a Vision Walk in person (there are 51 walks all across the country going on this spring - you can find out if there's one near you HERE) or by donating whatever amount fits your budget to Shawni's Vision Walk team (even a few dollars helps!). Shawni's Vision Walk team still needs quite a bit of help to reach their fundraising goal. And the Foundation Fighting Blindness needs a LOT of help to fund the vital research they are doing that just might save Lucy's vision. I sure want to see some answers come along before it's too late for sweet Lucy.

Here's the link to Shawni's team page where you can make a donation:


And you know what? If you make a donation (using that link above - it takes about 2 minutes) or sign up to do a Vision Walk in your community, then come back and make a comment on this blog post to let me know what you did, you'll be entered in a giveaway for a FREE ONE-DAY REGISTRATION to one of our upcoming Power of Moms Retreats (worth about $150).

To enter, do two things in your comment:
1. State what you did to help the Foundation Fighting Blindness (donated to Shawni's team or signed up to be part of a Vision Walk yourself - no need to state the amount of your donation!)
2. Specify which of the three upcoming Retreats you'd like to attend. 

Here are details on the upcoming Retreats:
And if you don't win a Retreat Registration and can't get to a Retreat in person but want to experience your own personal Retreat right in front of your computer, you can sign up for one of these online trainings:
Mommy is a Person Video Training (featuring Shawni Pothier, April Perry, Saydi Shumway, Linda Eyre and me)
Family Systems Webinar Training (featuring April Perry and me, based on great ideas from my parents' best-selling books and offering lots of ideas from my growing-up experience plus tons of stuff we've gathered at Power of Moms Retreats)

I'll announce the winner of the Free Retreat Registration in a blog post at 5:00pm this Friday, March 30th!

The beauty of "normal"

I like "exciting" and "unusual" and "challenging." I've never been a big fan of "normal." But as my life progresses and I've done tons of exciting, unusual and challenging things (both in my home and in the larger world), I'm starting to love and appreciate "normal" a lot more.

After all the hoopla of Australia, this past weekend was a wonderful kind of normal. We had a family game night Friday night (our favorite game lately is "New World Carcassone" - it moves along at a snappy pace and even the twins are quite good at it). We enjoyed the gorgeous weather on Saturday by walking down town to get treats at Great Harvest and then working on our backyard together. The kids played with neighbor kids in the backyard and worked on building a fort together while Jared and I chatted with the neighbor kids' parents - nothing planned, it just sort of happened that way. Eliza and I made pizza for dinner and everyone was excited (don't be too impressed - I just get pre-made dough, stretch it out and slap some toppings on there). After the kids were in bed, I did a thorough detail cleaning on our poor neglected vacuum (I realized that maybe the reason it doesn't seem as powerful as it used to seem is because there are parts that are supposed to be cleaned out every 3 months - and I haven't cleaned those parts in the 18 months since we bought the vacuum...) while Jared finished replacing a rotted part on the front porch. Then we watched two episodes of Downton Abbey (I'm loving this show - Jared mocks my interest in British costume dramas but they just make me happy!) Jared fell asleep while watching but hey, I often fall asleep when I try to watch basketball games with him - I'm glad we support each other's viewing interests even if sometimes we do it in our sleep!

And all last week was quite pleasingly "normal." It was so great to be home with Jared and the kids. We had a nice little "honeymoon period" of a few days right when Ashton and I got home - everyone was extra kind to each other and I was just so happy to be back with the people I love most in the home I hold dear. I was extra patient and loving. And Ashton was extra kind to the siblings he's struggled with - he seemed to appreciate them more after being away from them.

But then good old reality hit again. I had a hard time waking up in the mornings (I always do but this past week was extra hard thanks to jet lag) and we were late to school a couple times. My resolution about being more on top of things so that I wouldn't be saying "hurry" all the time in the mornings wasn't upheld. And with all the stuff I needed to catch up on after being gone almost two weeks, it was hard to keep my resolution to not do any Power of Moms work while the kids were home and to get to bed on time.

Then the special Australian meal of roasted butternut squash, pine nuts, and feta-topped salad (one of my favorite things we had in Australia) didn't turn out at all. I ran to pick up kids at swimming, leaving Ashton with instructions about when to take the squash which I'd carefully cut up and coated with basalmic vinegar and olive oil out of the oven. But my instructions proved to be sadly inadequate. I came home to totally burned squash. And as I scrambled to adjust the menu and everyone was hungry and whiny, Silas dropped and broke a plate and Oliver dropped and broke a glass while setting the table, Eliza wanted to tell me every detail about her upcoming dance performance, Ashton was mad that I was disappointed about the burned squash, and Isaac was trying to explain every reason why he should be allowed to quit swim team. Mostly, I was pretty kind and patient during that crazy 1/2 hour period (have to pat myself on the back for that...). I just took note in my head of the craziness swirling around me so I could blog about this "normal" evening and remember the hard stuff along with the good.

So I'm back in the thick of things - and I'll take the "normal" of sweet hugs, calm evenings, and  a pleasant laid-back weekend alongside the "normal" of rushing to school, dealing with messed up meals, and trying to be patient with kids who need mutually exclusive things simultaneously.

I love this quote my sister Saydi shared on her blog:
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― Mary Jean Iron

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Exploring Sydney

We had two days to explore Sydney before the Sydney Retreat. What a great city! To me, Sydney is a wonderful mix many of my favorite cities - New York City, Boston, Paris, London... I loved the old stately buildings mixed in with the shiny new ones. I loved the beautiful parks and churches, the buskers (street musicians), the outdoor cafes, the fancy shop displays, the pie and kebab shops on every corner, the kids in their school uniforms roving the city starting at about 3pm, plus the friendliness and helpfulness of every person we met. I loved hearing the accents and seeing shops and products that took me back to England where I used to live (Woolworths, Cadbury's, McVitties biscuits, muesli...)

April, Alia, Ashton and I stayed at a good hotel right in the center of it all and walked all over that beautiful city thanks to a great free walking tour (check out the I'm Free tours - one of the best tours ever and we used the free map like crazy as we did a lot of wandering on our own and visited most of the recommended free attractions- I love free stuff so much). We explored the Rocks (the oldest area of the city), Australia Square, Martin Place, Pitt Street Mall, Town Hall, the botanical gardens, the Art Museum of New South Wales, the currency museum, St Mary's and St Andrew's cathedrals, and Hyde Park plus we walked across the beautiful Harbor Bridge and explored the fabulous Sydney Opera House. We were busy - and happy - so happy.

In that collage above, you'll see the word "Eternity." Here's the story. In the early 1900's, the word "Eternity" started appearing all over the city of Sydney - written in chalk on sidewalks, buildings, you name it, always in the same handwriting. They'd clean off the writing and then the next morning, it would be everywhere again. Officials finally found out who'd been doing all this writing. An illiterate alcoholic petty criminal became interested in religion. He was sitting in a church service when the minister started talking about the concept of eternity. This man was taken with the beauty of the word and the concepts it represented and when the minister suggested the word should be written on the hearts and minds of every person, this convict took it upon himself to write "Eternity" all over the place. The word became very important to the resident of Sydney and is now found here and there in the city plus it's been emblazoned on the Harbor Bridge during their big harbor fireworks display for New Years and was featured in the 2000 Olympics opening ceremonies in Sydney. I love the concept of eternity and the idea that one person, no matter how humble and broken, can really make a difference.

Here's an overview in photos:

taking the train into the city from the airport

at the old Mint with Alia (April's daughter) and Ashton

"The Strand" - the oldest mall in Sydney

The "golden bucket" tower - landmark you can see from almost everywhere
Pitt Street Mall
The Harbor Bridge
The only images I really had in my head of Sydney was its iconic Opera House. I learned there's a whole lot more to Sydney. But it was very cool to see that opera house I've seen in photos all my life! Ashton and I went right up by it and explored the inside parts you could go in w/o paying the huge tour fee - the bathrooms alone were pretty impressive - light-up alcoves for the toilet paper, curved wood doors to the stalls.... There are actually 3 buildings there that look like one from afar - a restaurant, a concert hall and an opera house. The architecture is truly amazing. Totally interesting to learn about its history. Jorn Utzon, a relatively unknown architect from Denmark, won the international competition for an opera house design for Sydney. Then the building project went way overtime and way over budget and by the time it was finished, the architect was totally out of favor and wasn't even invited to the grand opening. Crazy! But now, according to the World Heritage Committee, "The Sydney Opera House stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind." I guess that sometimes projects that are larger and harder and longer and more expensive than anyone could have anticipated can turn into truly wonderful successes - and the tough stuff fades away when you see the beauty of the final product.The Sydney Opera House sort of reminds me of The Power of Moms in some ways. I've seen the hard, long work that has often involved lots of overtime and has stretched the budget. And I've seen some exciting success in the emails we receive about Power of Moms changing lives. I do hope that this organization will be a thing of beauty for 1000's of mothers both now and in the future!
The Opera House - SO exciting to come around a corner and see it in person!

view of the city

Ashton's favorite food in Australia were the meat pies. With a "Pie Face" shop on every corner in Sydney, he was in heaven!
Here's Alia with a girl in her school uniform. They wear full-on school uniforms - matching hats, dresses, socks, shoes, everything. Made Ashton complain less about his school uniforms!

Here I am blogging (or trying to blog - bad internet connection) on the rooftop of our hotel while Alia and Ashton had a nice little swim.
View from the rooftop of the hotel - that's Hyde Park and St Mary's cathedral - the largest cathedral in the world built in modern times.
Ashton and I in Hyde Park
St Andrew's cathedral. I love cathedrals. I love the coolness, the calm, the quiet, the stained glass, the hard work and faith they represent. And the fact that they're free to visit is pretty nice too.

This picture in the Art Gallery of New South Wales totally reminded me of the gorgeous Gold Coast beaches were we'd just been. So beautifully painted.

Beautiful Aborigine art - sad to hear about how their population was almost totally wiped out by European settlers - sort of like the American Indians. Loved seeing their art and culture celebrated many places we went. The sound of the diggery doo from buskers was a great thing to hear as we walked around the city.
Ashton presenting the Sydney Opera house as we headed up to walk the bridge
walking across the harbor bridge just before sunset - amazing views, perfect weather, great times

After our walk across the bridge, Ashton and I sat down on a bench to watch the opera house light up on one side of the harbor while the sun set behind the bridge on the other side of the harbor. We enjoyed some great take-out Thai food and Ashton turned on a perfect song on my phone - "Good Life" by OneRepublic. It was so beautiful - a crystal moment. As we sat there smiling and tried to get I said I wished Jared could be there with us and Ashton sighed and said, "I'm going to bring a girl here some day and do this same thing. Maybe I'll even propose here." Clearly the magic had sunk in.

We tried to get some decent photos (none of mine worked out so the one above is one from Wikipedia that looks just how it looked as we sat there together) but I really can't capture the feeling of being with my wonderful boy in such a wonderful place after days of enjoying so many exciting adventures together and building memories that will last forever.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Amazing Mums in Sydney, Australia

We had a truly fabulous group of bright, interesting deliberate mothers gather for our Retreat in Sydney this past weekend. I learned so much from everyone I got a chance to talk to and all our presentations came off beautifully. It really couldn't have been better.

Here are some of my photos of the Retreat including the TV appearance we had the morning before the Retreat started. It makes me miss my new friends to post all this!

We started off the day with an appearance on "Breakfast" on Channel Ten (sort of the the "Good Morning America" equivalent in Australia). We got a chance to talk about how Power of Moms is different from most blogs because it brings together so many voices and follows a different theme each month plus we offer online programs and in-person get-togethers as well as the great online content (unfortunately the link to our segment only works in Australia or I'd post it). It was fun to bring Ashton and Alia along - they loved seeing the behind-the-scenes view of a TV show.

We're so grateful to our fabulous Australian publicist, Sarah Osmotherly (on the right in this photo), for setting up this TV show as well as some great radio shows. Sarah is one fun and accomplished mum!

The make-up lady got us all polished up as we headed onto the set. 
After the show, Sarah drove us around Sydney a bit and introduced us to beautiful Bondi Beach where we had a scrumptious breakfast.

Then we were off to the Retreat in the hills above Sydney. Here's the gate leading into the beautiful property where the Retreat was held - thank you wonderful Hobby family for your kind hospitality and your gorgeous home!
 Beautiful road leading to the Retreat home:

And at the end of the road, we found this gorgeous home - such a great Retreat location!
Here are the beautiful, wonderful mums we got to spend Friday and Saturday with:
 We had lots of small group discussions and panels along with large-group presentations. Everyone was so receptive and had so many of their own great ideas to share - truly dynamic women!

Friday evening, we had a great dinner together followed by lots of laughter and games. "Reverse Charades" is always a big hit (one person guesses and everyone else acts out the word - you can get the game in a box or as an ap on your phone - we play it at all the Retreats and at all our family reunions - never disappoints!)

The food was really fabulous - beautiful morning and afternoon teas plus a lovely lunch and delicious dinner.

Here are a few end-of-Retreat shots with our new friends:

Always some very cute babies on hand at Retreats 

Above are the wonderful women who stayed at the end to discuss becoming trainers. We're so glad we could leave Australia knowing there will be wonderful women who'll keep Power of Mums workshops and Retreats going there!

Finally, here's the Retreat through the eyes of Corrie, a great "mum" who runs a lovely blog called Retro Mummy and who served as one of our panelists at the Retreat. Corrie captured great photos and it was so fun to read about what she learned and experienced at the Retreat. 

Power of Mums Sydney Retreat Day I
Power of Mums Sydney Retreat Part II

*** If you'd like your own Retreat experience, we've Retreats coming right up in Palo Alto, California and in Las Vegas, Nevada. As always, we'll work with you on price if cost is keeping you back. And if you can't make it to one of these locations, we've got some great new online trainings available at The Power of Moms - check them out here if you like and you can create your own "virtual Retreat" in front of your computer! The special introductory pricing is good for ONE WEEK.
Family Systems Online Training 
Mommy is a Person Online Training

Monday, March 19, 2012

Home is a great place to be

Yesterday was a LONG day - we left Sydney, Australia at 11:00am on Sunday, flew for 14 hours, then got into LA at 6:00am on Sunday. Pretty weird to spend 14 hours in the air and then get off the plane 5 hours earlier than you got on the plane.

It was hard to say goodbye to our wonderful new Aussie friends. We seriously met such fabulous people on this trip - and we know it might be quite a while before we see any of them again. But the great women who helped organize the Retreats and the media stuff we did insisted that we put 2014 on our calendar for the next round of Australian Retreats. I have a feeling we will be back there before too terribly long. But 2 years is a long time!

April and I with Felicity Aston, our amazing Retreat organizer. She did a truly fabulous job with everything and after exchanging literally 1000's of emails with her over the past years to plan these Retreats, she's become a great friend. So fun to finally meet her in person and work with her in person on the Retreats - so hard to say goodbye!

The flight was fine. I edited all my photos, Ashton got the rest of his homework done, April and I had a good planning meeting plus I watched most of a couple good movies (The Iron Lady and The Artist - good stuff and not movies Jared would really love watching with me - such a luxury to sit there and watch movies and have people bring snacks around every so often - but I did fall asleep through parts of them - sleep is all over the place in random snippets these days!). My seat sure got uncomfortable and it's frustrating to know you need to sleep but not really be tired at the right times. The luggage got very heavy as we trekked through airports and security lines and passport lines and customs lines. But overall, we had nothing to complain about.

After getting off the plane in a daze in LA and having to half carry Ashton off along with both of our luggage (after claiming he was NOT tired, he finally crashed hard the last hour of the flight and I had the hardest time waking him up - I almost had to ask the flight attendants for a wheelchair!), we said our fond farewells to our wonderful traveling companions, April and Alia, and got on our final flight for SLC.

Oh, it was so good to see Jared and the kids at the airport! Wow, those hugs felt good and I swear they all got way cuter and bigger (or simply more handsome in Jared's case) while we were gone. The last few days I was really getting homesick - between the time difference and conflicting schedules (Jared and the kids were heading off on their own adventures - skiing with relatives who were in town and going to the bull sale at the farm where Jared grew up Ashton and I were having all our own adventures in Australia), we were only able to find a few precious times when we could use Skype to catch up with each other.  So by the end, Ashton and I were really really missing Jared and the kids!

The kids had this beautiful banner waiting for us when we walked in the door

Here are the kids with some of their cool Australian souvenirs (Thanks Felicity for lots of them!). 
They loved the sand and sea shells and Asutralian licorice and Cadbury's "lollies" we brought back as well 
(Those are mini koala and kangaroos clipped to their shirts - a bit hit!)  

Now I've got piles of stuff to catch up on for Power of Moms and lots of exciting new things to pursue based on the great people and exciting new connections from this trip. Plus I need to catch up on a little more sleep (but jet lag is seeming better in this direction so far, thankfully - it was pretty brutal when we first got to Australia!). But mostly, this week is going to be about catching up with Jared, Isaac, Eliza, Oliver and Silas - while re-stocking the house with food, working on the dust that seems to have taken over the house while we've all been mostly gone, and doing all the good, basic stuff involved in being a mom.

After talking about motherhood at the two wonderful Australian Retreats, I'm just so excited to be back in the full game of motherhood myself. I love my husband and kids more than ever. I'm re-committed to so many things I talked about at the Retreat and have lots of fresh new thoughts and ideas thanks to the great Aussie moms I had the chance to talk to. I'm so grateful for the new perspectives this trip has offered about so many things! And I feel so grateful that I get to be part of The Power of Moms - it's hard, hard work but it's so worth it as I see it help me become the mom I really want to be while helping other moms - and mums - do the same.

Prior to every Retreat, especially these ones with all the travel and extra work and stress involved in our first international Retreats, I always wonder what in the heck I'm doing. I wonder if all this work and stress is worth it. But every time, especially this time, I come away from Retreats feeling so fulfilled, so empowered, so glad to be able to be a catalyst and a recipient of the beautiful experience of Retreats.

I'll get photos of the Sydney Retreat plus our site-seeing in beautiful Sydney up soon. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Australia Part II: Wildlife and Beach

(I wrote this 3 days ago but now I finally have a fast enough internet connection to get this post finished and posted. I'm appreciating the internet speed I usually take for granted at home! Since this post, we've spent 2 perfect days exploring Sydney, did a radio show and a top TV morning show here - pretty exciting - and did the first day of our Sydney Retreat - going beautifully so far - one more day to be with this fabulous "mums" and we head home Sunday morning. Will be so sad to leave so many dear new friends and such a beautiful, fun, exciting country we've grown to love. But will be SO good to see Jared and the rest of the kids again - missing them so much!)

What a perfect day!

We got up early and headed to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the southern end of the Gold Coast. We spent the day petting and feeding kangaroos plus seeing great reptile and bird shows and seeing koalas and wombats and all sorts of crazy and cool creatures. We also did this really fun and challenging ropes course through the jungle of the sanctuary.

After a great day at the Sanctuary, we had dinner at this amazing place right on Currumbin Beach - the Currumbin Surf Club. Then after our early dinner, we had a great time swimming (Ashton) and wading (me) on probably the prettiest beach I've ever seen until the sun went down. Warm water, gorgeous white sand, the prettiest colors in the water, tide pools, perfect weather. Happy happy happy.

I'll let photos fill in the details.
Of course Ashton was the first to volunteer to hold the snakes in the reptile show (Did you know 1 in three houses on the Gold Coast has snakes in it? And Australia has 10 of the top 10 species of deadly venemous snakes? But luckily most house snakes are innocent and do a great job eating any rodents around.)  
Ashton had to climb every tree he could find. See him up there? This tree was a favorite.
Koalas really are terribly cute. Fun to be about 3 feet away from them.

These guys were wandering all over the place - they are about 3 feet long!
 Those are koalas in the trees behind us.

We went into this enclosure where there were like 200 kangaroos and we could feed and pet them - pretty cool!

Ashton and this Emu became best friends.

As well as awesome wildlife and beautiful grounds, Currumbin Sanctuary had this quite amazing ropes course. We put on snazzy jump suits and had a very challenging and fun and exciting time tight-rope walking and zip-lining through the jungle. I did the easy and intermediate courses with Ashton and bravely ziplined and climbed all over the place. But I was a bit shakey and tired after that so I opted out of the "extremely challenging" level course and watched Ashton do it. He's brave. And strong. I was impressed.
This is Ashton WAY up there. I was zoomed way in for this photo.
After plenty of good times at the wildlife park, we headed to the beach that was just a few steps down the road. We started off by climbing a big rock where we could get sweeping views up and down the coast.
Beach at Currumbin - amazing views both directions,
gorgeous baby-powder sand, clean green water
View down the Gold Coast towards the big buildings of Surfer's Paradise

delicious dinner with amazing views at the Currumbin Surf Club 
 We played in the waves as the sun set - pretty darn beautiful stuff.


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