Dec 23, 2011

Pre-teen Awesomeness

12/23/2011 — cori
Apparently, our boys like to show off their new and improved, buff bodies to us, their ever present parental audience.  Gavin takes tae-kwon-do 3 nights a week, Bennett practices basketball incessantly.  Thus, the reason for the improved physiques.

Gavin takes off his shirt after dinner and announces, "Look at my two pack!"  Like we should be in awe.  In case we couldn't see it, he shows us, "See...this line here down the middle of my stomach, that delineates my two pack.  Pretty soon it will be a 4 pack.  Then a six pack.  Then an 8 pack.....(ad nosium)."

Not to be outdone, Bennett lifts up his shirt and says, "Look. I'm muscular and slim.  Except for like right now after we eat, then my stomach fills out a bit more" as he proceeds to impersonate a pregnant woman.

Just a few of the daily dinner time diddies we enjoy on a regular basis.

Dec 20, 2011

Hidden Beauty

12/20/2011 — cori
 These pictures don't tell a story...they speak of so much more.  We were at one of our favorite hiking spots on a cold gray, day.  The peace of the place enveloped us.  This place is gorgeous in the fall with all the yellow leaves gracing the trees.  I wasn't excited about going this particular day.  But then I would have missed out on the hidden beauty found only on a cold, gray day.  These pictures spoke to me.  This is what they said:

Freedom

Friendship


Finding My Own Way

Dec 12, 2011

Introducing The iPed

12/12/2011 — cori

Daddy was the genius behind this Lego creation.  Apparently he left it in Bennett's room and it became Bennett's by default.  Bennett does not yet have his own personal cell phone, nor does he need one.  He decided to remedy that and introduced the rest of the family to his new cell phone.  He carried it with him EVERYWHERE for a few days.  He even had to recharge it at night he told me.  He would change the two green buttons in the top right hand corner to two red buttons.  That was the sign that it was low on batteries.

Being that this is Bennett, he had us in stitches explaining all the apps that his phone came equipped with. Since it is a combination iPod, iPhone and iPad...it made perfect sense to Bennett to christen it the iPed.  My favorite app is the "Guilty/Life Coach App".  He informed us that this app tells you how much you've wasted every day, whether that is time, money or resources.  It's sole purpose is to make you feel guilty.  Thankfully, it also includes a "LifeCoach" app which tells you when you need to brush your teeth, put on deodorant, do your homework, and fix all the stuff that left you feeling guilty.

Another of my favorites is the "What Should I Wear Today" app.  I think that speaks for itself.  I can see how men would flock in droves to this handy tool.  And like father like son, it has over 4 ESPN apps all very important and useful information (he only came up with this idea because he saw 4 ESPN apps on his father's phone).  If Dad has it, it must be super important, right?

Hopefully his iPed will keep him happy and creative a few years longer because that's as close as he's getting to actually having his own iPhone unless they start handing them out for free and giving away free data plans.

It's the little things in life.

Dec 9, 2011

What I Learned Today

12/09/2011 — cori

I love this precious girl!  I love seeing the world through her 7 year old eyes.  That's why everyday after school I have all the kids blog about what they learned that day.  It could be something academic, spiritual, an interesting fact or just about anything...as long as it's new.

This was Chloe's exact entry from two days ago:

 Hi! Do you want to know what I learned today?
  Okay, so if your mommy tells you to do something
 you should not storm off or else she might send
 you to your room and if you're too loud whining you
 might not hear her say when you can leave your room.

What practical wisdom she gleaned from her circumstances, I'm so proud of her.  I always tell her that we all mess up.  What matters is what we do after we mess up...do we learn from that mistake or do we feel sorry for ourselves.  If we choose the latter, we will most definitely find ourselves going through the exact same situation again.

Here are a few of her other posts that made me chuckle.  I think that maybe she has read one too many Junie B. Jones books.  Her writing style is very similar.

Hi.  Today on the morning announcements 
they said if you do not have snow boots/pants
you cannot play on the playground.  So I learned
even if you can't get what you want sometimes
you should still be happy.

Hi.  My reading group was today and when
the other girls just kept talking when it was  my
turn to read I just started to pout.  So then after 
that I decided that I should learn patience.

Did you know that being responsible is really
important?  Well it is and sometimes when you're
not listening and being responsible it could turn out
bad.  What if you were going to your horse lessons
and you are playing with your friend and you are late
to lessons?  How would that make you feel?





Nov 30, 2011

Don't Argue With Mom

11/30/2011 — cori
I was sharing something I had learned yesterday with everyone at dinnertime.  I was telling them how thankful I was that God kept all the passages in the Bible where people are arguing with him or questioning him or pouring out their despair, anger, confusion.  I love that he's not scared by our emotions.  He let's us argue our point.  Afterall, he named his chosen people, Israel, which means "strives (or wrestles) with God."  He knows our nature.  He created us...He's not scared or cornered by our arguments, doubts or emotions.

Apparently Gavin saw an immediate correlation to real life.  He informed me, "Mom, arguing with God is like arguing with you."

Oh really?!  Do tell...


"You're always right.  No matter how good a reason I think I have or how right I think my argument is, you always have a better one.  And I can't help but agree with you."

What a sweet boy.  If only that were true.  But in his little mind it is.  What I appreciate about him is that he actually will come to me with a disagreement instead of let it fester for hours or days.  And once he comes to me and we get a chance to talk things through, he always keeps an open mind.  He's always wanting to learn and weigh what he knows against what someone else claims to be true.

Nov 29, 2011

A Beautiful Mosaic

11/29/2011 — cori

God showed me something beautiful this morning.  I was contemplating prayer and what I have to offer God.  Why I am scared to surrender sometimes.  Why I am ashamed when I've not acted as I know I should.  Why I still try so hard to earn love or forgiveness even though I know it's futile.

There are many parts of my self I disdain.  I don't want God to see those parts.  I don't want to give him those parts.  I'm embarrassed.  I want to offer Him a 'good' Cori.  I want to hide behind my righteousness way too often.  It's humbling to give Him all you've got when all you've got is ugly, messed up and worthless.

But then He showed me that that's exactly what He wants.  He wants what we think are our mess ups.  He sees the bigger picture.  He sees the whole mosaic.  I am only one tile that makes up a beautiful picture.  What I think is an ugly stain may be exactly what He wants in order to fit in the exact place He has for me that makes His Big Picture breath taking. I just can't see it from my vantage point.  I only see the other cut pieces around me and compare myself to them.  We each have a unique part in this mosaic and none of us can see God's vantage point.  So it is vain to compare my piece to another.  I might be a pointy red piece and think I'm all wrong because I'm surrounded by gorgeous blue pieces.  That is when I must choose to trust God, walk by faith that He knows me, wants me (the good, the bad, the ugly), and made me to fit in this exact place.

He is teaching me to be thankful for what I see as weaknesses, mess ups and ugly stains.  I am the piece He wants me to be whether I see it or not.  I trust Him to use those things to make the big picture beautiful.

I Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness".  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may live in me.

Nov 28, 2011

A Thanksgiving To Remember

11/28/2011 — cori
For the past 4 years, we have spent Thanksgiving with wonderful friends.  Prior to that, we spent it at my parent's house.  Thus, if you follow deductive reasoning, you will conclude that I have not cooked a turkey in many, many years.  And it showed this year.  

It has become a tradition to share this wonderful holiday with Chuck's brother and his wife.  This year was full of extra anticipation of our reunion since we hadn't seen John in over a year since he was serving in Afghanistan.   We were just happy to be together.  Thankfully that happiness helped everyone overlook my lack of expertise in the ability to actually cook a turkey.

Nothing about this day was typical.  It started out wonderful enough.  All 3 kids came in to cuddle us first thing in the morning.  We hadn't had a family cuddle session for a long, long time.  It was a fun, lazy way to start the day.  When everyone parted to get ready, Bennett started yelling for us and crying in agony.  Something terrible was wrong.

His beloved bird, Azul, lay dead at the bottom of his cage.  Bennett was heart broken.  There was nothing we could say.  We just held him and let him cry.  When he could finally emerge from his room, he was wearing all black.  He said he was in mourning.  Who could blame him.  Uncle John made Azul a headstone and Bennett wrote a sweet note to put in the box with Azul.  We started the day with a funeral.  That wasn't in the plans.

On the positive side, Bennett was surrounded by lots of love and support that day.  A friend from Texas even called to encourage him in his time of sorrow.   That really helped to lift his spirits.  By the end of the afternoon he was even able to change out of his mourning clothes into football clothes.

Then came the time to eat the turkey.  It seemed to be taking forever to cook.  The directions said 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  We were working on 4 1/2 hours and the temperature gauge still wasn't at 190 degrees.  We decided that maybe it didn't need to be at 190 exactly so we took it out.  It looked nice and crispy from the outside.   However, inside was a very different story.  Chuck started cutting it and noticed alot of gelatinous white blobs.  It looked alot like fat.  But we didn't think turkeys had fat.  So we deduced that maybe the turkey wasn't cooked all the way thru - or at all for that matter.  Since the entire rest of the meal was already sitting on the table because it was ready an hour earlier, we decided to cut off what was edible from the turkey and eat it anyways.  We put it back in the oven so as to heat all the gelatinous mass thoroughly.

But now I'm playing the mind over matter game.  After seeing the gelatinous blobs, my stomach is officially turned off by anything that starts with the word 'turkey'.  I think I even felt a stomach ache coming on. Needless to say, the blueberry pie I attempted to eat also produced much anguish in my tummy.  It was not a good food day in my book.

Add to that the little revelation John decided to share with me after we finished eating.   He said, "Cori, I thought you should know, I think we cut off three legs on this turkey."  Nothing would surprise me by this time.  Of course they cut off three legs.  That's why it was full of gelatinous white blobs that weren't cooking.  We got a genetically altered turkey.  I will never be the same again.  We might just start making a Thanksgiving Ham from now on.  Or maybe spaghetti.  Unless someone has mercy on us and invites us over for their superior food.

However, all was not lost.  We had our annual football game.  Can you believe the weather here was exactly the same as it was in Dallas?!  It was a welcome relief.  It definitely made football playing easier and more fun.  The teams were The Three Leggeds: John, Bennett, Me and the Gelatinous White Stuff (GWS): Chuck, Karen, Gavin.  Chloe floated as an extra on each team's offense.  I'm proud to say the Three Leggeds won this year's championship game.  It was a proud moment indeed.  If I can't cook a turkey, I can at least redeem my self on the football field by catching two touchdowns.

Nov 17, 2011

Throw Pillows

11/17/2011 — cori
My ever creative children have given to new meaning to the term 'throw pillows'.  I have a stash of old pillows that I shove in a corner for...really, I have no idea why I have them shoved in the corner.  I guess they're 'just in case' pillows.  They've been ousted.  New ones have been put in their old resting places but I never could quite bring myself to throw the old ones away.  Thus, the stash.

Chloe and Bennett decided that they know exactly what should be done with the pillow stash.  They invented this new game where they throw the pillow back and forth trying to dodge it.  In my day we called that pillow fighting and a variation of dodge ball.  

They've chosen a nice little spot between the computer desk and the back of the sofa.  A narrow alley maybe only 4 feet in width.  They deemed this the perfect spot to chunk these pillows back and forth at one another.  Obviously, they didn't think to consult me.  They still act surprised when one of them gets hit in the face and suddenly they're not laughing any more.  It doesn't matter how soft something is, if it has been thrown at you and is still on it's trajectory course for your face at full speed, it WILL hurt.  They hold the injured spot, look over at me and realize I'm not even going there.  You make up the game - you deal with the consequences my friends.

But the most amazing part in all this that I've just written is: they look over at me.  That implies that I was in the same room as this 'game' and approved it with my tacit consent.  It's all fun and games until Mommy's floral arrangement gets hammered by a pillow.  Then Mommy leaves the room and decides it's time to blog.

Play In The Dark

11/17/2011 — cori
How do you whittle away the time from when the sun goes down (5pm) until bedtime (first one goes down at 8pm)?  Well, eating dinner and doing chores takes a good hour out of that chunk of time.  But then comes the familiar refrain, "What do you want to do with us tonight?" from the kids.

Typically, every night of the week except Friday is busy with some sort of extra curricular activity.  There is always a practice to haul someone to.  Sometimes it means getting creative with what to make for dinner and when we get to eat.  But I will not sacrifice sitting down at the table to eat together - even if all we get is 15 minutes.

So you can imagine our complete and utter shock at finding a free night on our calendar this week.  We didn't know what to do with ourselves.  No where to rush off to after scarfing down our food.  This was odd.  So Chuck came up with the brilliant plan of "Hide And Seek In The Dark".  Who wouldn't love that?

We moved all shoes out of the way to discourage any unnecessary tripping.  We turned off every single light in the house.  Since it was pitch black outside, that added an extra 'cool factor' allure.  Of course we knew Chloe would never in a million years go hide in the dark all by herself.  So she and Chuck were a convenient team of two.   That's always fun...trying to find a hiding spot for two people all at the same time while someone is loudly counting down seconds within earshot.  We like to up the ante in the stress department.

We had our main 'base' and discussed the rules.  We have a bunch of law abiding citizens in this house who take rules very seriously.  So this was an integral part of our evening.  Afterall, if you're going to let your children run rampant in your house in the pitch black, you've got to lay some ground rules.  When everyone seemed satisfied, we let the games begin.

However, I forgot to mention one thing.  Ninja, ever the loyal pup, decided all on her own that she wanted to play and that she wanted to be on my team.  First off, she doesn't hide.  She just follows me and sits and stares at me where ever I am.  I couldn't shoo her away to save my life.  If I sat under the desk, she sat to where she could see me, boring a hole through me all while wagging her tail.  She's nothing if not serious about this game.  Another time, I found a great spot behind Bennett's door.  Too bad there wasn't room for both me and my partner.  She thought the second best option was to keep her eye on me.  Afterall, I was in the Bird's room now and she still doesn't trust the bird all that much.  She's still a tad bit jealous.  She was not about to let that bird have all that alone time with me.  Yet again, all one had to do was look for Ninja and there you would find Mommy.  Something tells me the game was rigged.

I am happy to report no one got injured and everyone got found or made it home to 'base' safe and sound.  The older the kids get, the more a competitive game this becomes.  Looks like I should plan on being 'it' the rest of my life...I don't see myself winning any time soon with Ninja's help.

Nov 15, 2011

The Gift Of Forgiveness

11/15/2011 — cori

Our children have been privy to many of our every day disagreements.  Ones that arise from miscommunication or a misunderstanding that are quickly resolved.  I personally think it's healthy that our children see that we are not perfect and neither is our relationship and that they see us work things out.  Relationships are messy, not easy. One person is not always right.  They need a visual of how to talk through and work out problems.  As their parents, we're supposed to be that visual...when things work the way they should.  Apparently, we (I) gave them a lesson I didn't mean to.

A few months ago, Chuck and I had a doozy of an argument.  Not just a little misunderstanding, but one where we each took a stand and wouldn't budge.  We've only had two arguments this bad in our marriage and this was the second.  It was not a pretty sight...or should I say, sound.  Weapons of choice were words and tone of voice.  The kids were asleep (or so we thought), so we didn't guard our words.  It was ugly. It was the opposite of love.  It was not honoring the other person like we both promised to.  It was not giving one another the benefit of the doubt as love does. It was a perfect lesson in how not to treat the one you love.  I must confess, it was more on my part.  I used my words like daggers, my tone of voice like steel.  

However, after taking some time apart the rest of the night to cool off, God did a number on my heart. I couldn't sleep a wink.  I knew I over-reacted.  I knew I was wrong.  I knew I didn't show love and the weight of what my words must have done to my husband was threatening to bury me.  I confessed and apologized some time around dawn.  Always the gracious and forgiving one, he accepted me with open arms and a giant dose of forgiveness and left for work.

But unbeknownst to us, Bennett was awake through the whole thing.  His bedroom is across the hall from ours.  He heard every word.  My heart dropped to my feet upon this realization the next morning.  It was like being caught in your sin.  You know you're wrong and there's nothing you can do to hide or recover.  You just hang your head in sorrow and regret.  The weight I carried that day (and many more to come) was more than I could bear.

When Bennett came to see me in the morning the first thing he said was, "No kid should have to hear their parents talk like that."  I asked him what he heard and he just hung his head, got tears in his eyes and said, "I'd rather not say."  I felt like the biggest heel in the world.  He said, "Let's just keep this between us.  Gavin and Chloe don't need to know about this."  I hugged him and told him how sorry I was (which sounded too lame for what we both felt) and how Daddy and I had worked things out before he left for work.  He said, "I hope when I get older I fight like Daddy, patient and nice."  Low blow - but true.

How humbling it is to be at your child's mercy because of your own bad choices.  If I had a whip, I would have lashed myself with it over and over and would have gladly given him the chance.  I felt the burden of guilt and it was too heavy to carry.  Bennett couldn't get past it and felt the need to remind me over and over that day and the next about how sad he was and about how wrong I was.  When Chuck found out he was doing this, he talked to him.  He told him that he needed to release Mommy from her guilt so she could be free.  That constantly beating someone over the head with their bad choice does not cause growth.  He told Bennett that he forgave me and now Bennett would need to search his heart to find out if he could honestly forgive me and not mention the incident again.  

Bennett wrestled with this for several hours and then came to find me.  He said, "Mom. I release you from your guilt.  I don't want you to walk around feeling bad anymore. I forgive you.  I want you to be free."  Even writing this again brings me to tears the way it did that day.  The breath of fresh air I was able to finally breathe knowing I didn't scar my child for life.  I thanked him for the gift of forgiveness.  I don't know that I ever experienced the depth of forgiveness as I had that day.  I now know what it truly means to not be worthy of love, forgiveness and grace, but be shown it anyways.  I always thought I knew...but now I felt it.  And oh how good it feels.

Why do I write this?  Why do I want to leave this confession for my children to read when I'm no longer here?  I want them to know how imperfect I am.  How I lived at the foot of the Cross and it was only because of the mercy of God that I was able to accomplish anything in this life.  I want them to see and know that they will also mess up.  And then they will get up and move on and learn from their mistakes.  I want them to know that their best striving is not enough.  God wants us to surrender and let Him have his way in us.  Sometimes, because of our free will, we chose the harder path, the harder way to learn a lesson....just as I had done.  But if I hadn't gone thru that, I would never cherish and know the gift of forgiveness in that way.  Now I know how to offer it to others when maybe I wouldn't have before.  Now my children know that I can relate when they tell me how mad they are at someone.  I can relate my story and ask them if they're ready to travel that same humbling path or if they want to listen to my advice and give up the anger.

I take great comfort in this Psalm:

A man's steps are established  (ordered) by the Lord,
and He takes pleasure (delights) in his way.
Though he stumble, he will not utterly fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand (power).
Psalm 37:23-24

Not if I fall, but though I fall.  Not a matter of if, but when. He knows I'm going to mess up.  But He upholds me with His hand.  He won't cast me aside, shun me, accept me back only after I learned my lesson.  No, He holds my hand.

May I remember to hold my children's hands while they still live with me.  May I remember to be as gentle with them in their failings as God was with mine.  May I lead them to the one who can hold their hand for the rest of their lives.

Nov 13, 2011

Leaves And Wind Are Not Friends

11/13/2011 — cori
Yesterday was the day we decided it was time to finally take care of the multitude of leaves that decided to make our backyard their new resting place.  The easiest way to describe how our backyard looked was:  think of a million and 7 leaves, now think of them scattered aimlessly over the grass without allowing any grass to peek out.  It was pretty at first, maybe even a bit nostalgic.  Having never really had to rake leaves in the past, we thought it would be fun.  But let me preface this with: fall is a season.  The leaves don't fall off all at one time.  They keep coming and coming and coming.  Thus we keep raking and keep raking and keep raking.  We decided to wait for every last leaf to make it's final decent before we picked up the rake for the last time.  We deemed yesterday "The Last Time".

On a side note, all of our neighbors (who are all native to this region),  have this funny looking contraption that actually sucks up all the leaves into a bag.  I'm thinking that will be an excellent birthday present for Chuck next year. The only rakes in the neighborhood appear to be ours.

So here we are family bonding all day Saturday in the backyard working our butts off.  We're cutting down brush, dead tree limbs and raking leaves and raking more leaves.  We raked so many that we had 10 massive piles.  Yes, I know, we wanted a lot with trees and we got just that.  We just didn't remember that there is a season called Autumn since we've kinda skipped that one for the past 25 years down in Texas.  Lots of trees mean lots of leaves.  The first time we raked, it was for the sole purpose of jumping in the leaf pile.  And boy was it fun (and itchy).  We thought that would be it.  But we thought wrong.  We could have jumped in a leaf pile everyday for 2 months if we wanted to.

So there are our 10 ginormous piles scattered randomly over the backyard.  We didn't have any lawn bags to dump them into.  We decided to leave them there and run out and get the bags after dinner.  What we forgot was that after dinner it would be pitch black out already because of the time change.  It also seemed we were having a little change in our weather pattern.  The wind decided to start gusting at some obscene speed.  It also decided to start creeping dangerously close to the freezing point.  Freezing weather and cold wind do not a friend make.

While the kids are all snuggled up watching "Over the Hedge" inside, Chuck and I are outside battling the elements.  First of all, I'm armed with a flash light that has the diameter of a penny.  The largest we could find.  The lighting back in our wooded backyard is about the color of pitch black.  So we were thankful for the pin point of light, but it was making it awfully hard to see where the lawn bag was when one was trying to dump a shovel full of leaves inside a small hole in the dark.  Add to that the wind gusts and our little charade was quickly developing into a nightmare.  The wind was blowing ALL the leaves off of our 10 gigantic piles and re-spreading them over our beautifully leaf-free lawn again.  It was a race against time and wind.  At one point Chuck & I were standing in front of one of the piles trying to block the flow of any more leaves out into the yard with only our bodies as a shield.  We were not about to let a whole day of work be blown away.

We managed to fill 10 lawn bags with leaves.  However, that only took care of 4 of the 10 piles we had spaced strategically all over the yard.   We had to cut our losses and go in for the night.  I think I dove in head first into my tub of boiling hot water.  I don't do cold well.  I know... it's going to be a long winter. But at least we won't have any leaves under all that snow (once we finish picking up the rest of the piles tomorrow).  And that's all that really matters.

Nov 10, 2011

Solitude

11/10/2011 — cori
Ever since we moved and put the children in school, my world has been turned upside down.  I went from Homeschool Mom/Stay-at-home Mom to....nothing.  Those things are what defined me.  Now I don't know what defines me. I'm still not sure what to do or what to call myself.  Am I this?:



I actually don't mind doing all the household chores.  This is all I wanted to be when I grew up.  I actually take great delight in serving my family.  But that doesn't keep me busy all day long.  And there's the problem....the word BUSY.  I guess I used to be so busy homeschooling and then taking care of my family 24/7 that I became accustomed to having every free minute of time accounted for.  Free time?  What's that?

Another unfortunate thing is, sadly, I had taken too much pride in what I did.  I often failed to see anything good that I was able to do or give was solely because of what God was accomplishing through me instead of actions based on my own merit.  Pride is so ugly and deceptive.  I tried to guard myself against it only to be blind-sided by it when all was stripped away.  Broken.

When we first moved, I filled all this new free time with decorating the house, painting, cleaning, organizing...that way I didn't have to think about the void. I could just stay busy and not have to deal with my heart.  Isn't staying busy the curse of our modern times?  Noise creates superficiality.  I was afraid of solitude and had become very superficial.

Henri J.M. Nouwen says:
“We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with Him and Him alone. Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. Solitude is a place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world.” 

After coming to the end of myself (again and again and again), I find all I need is Jesus.  I don't have to have a title, a ministry, a high paying job, homeschool, work, or volunteer to make a difference.  The difference starts in my heart.  In letting go of all my self-sufficiency, of all I have to offer.  All I have is my life to give.  Am I willing to be a nobody for Him?  Am I willing to spend my entire day praying if that is what He wants of me?

When I ask Him what He wants me to do now all I hear over and over is, "Be still and know that I am God."  Being still is not my forte.  I never sit for long.  I have to do.  It's part of how He made me.  But right now, the greater lesson is in the solitude.  Quiet time.  I have alot of it now.  I'm getting better at sitting still and waiting for Him and resting in Him....not because I'm trying harder but because I quit trying.  I'm letting go.  I believe that is called 'dying to myself' and dying in any form is always painful, but the beauty that awaits on the other side is priceless.

Nov 9, 2011

Outraged

11/09/2011 — cori

I can't believe I had to learn this awful, sad truth from a table full of 2nd graders.  Nevertheless, that is how it happened.  I was told, are you sitting down, that Cookie Monster is no longer on Sesame Street.  What an outrage!  They informed me that they replaced him with Veggie Monster.  Seriously?  What kid is going to want to watch a monster that formerly ate cookies, suddenly change his tune and start eating veggies?  This is ridiculous!

I told the kids that we should boycott Sesame Street.  Come to find out, they're too old to be watching that kind of stuff...but they're still in the 'know' because of younger brothers and sisters.  I asked the kids "why?" thinking they had some inside scoop since they totally blind-sided me on this.  One child said, "Maybe they think he's being a bad influence on us and encouraging us to eat too many cookies?"  You think?  So, are they planning on retiring Oscar the Grouch because of his negative influence too?  Should we change his name to Optimistic Oscar?

Seriously, they are all MONSTERS.  Kids are scared of monsters.  Plus, as Gavin so aptly pointed out, "Who is going to teach us the letter of the day if there is no Cookie Monster?"  Excellent question.  The kids around the lunch table were all well aware of where I stood on this issue after our little discussion.  I sure hope they don't go home and ask their parents what 'boycott' means.

Update:  Thankfully, a friend who loves Cookie Monster as much as I do, actually took the time to dig deeper and find out if this sordid information handed to me by my 2nd grade informants is infact true.  Thank God she did.  After reviewing snopes.com, I have now learned the real truth that seemed to be lost on the children.  Cookie is not being replaced, he's just eating fewer cookies.  Whew!  He's trying to make healthier choices, which I can understand, given the whole child obesity problem.  

The Dog That Won't Bark and The Bird That Won't Chirp

11/09/2011 — cori

Of course we ended up with the dog that won't bark and the bird that won't tweet.  It's our family and that is just par for the course.  Why would anything be normal in this house?

 The dog (Ninja)


The bird (Azul)

You will never find these two in the same picture together.  That is because when we "introduced" them, Ninja thought we bought the bird as a snack for her.  She instantly tried to seize the bird thus putting their relationship in a very tenuous situation.  

Since I have been the co-owner of The Bird, as I affectionally refer to it, for a week now, I feel as though I can speak with some authority.  Technically The Bird is Bennett's.  It sleeps in his room (in my house), in a cage (that I bought).  He does all the feeding, playing and cleaning of it.  In it's week of living with me, I have heard it tweet like 5 times only.  What's up with that?  It's a bird.  That's how they're supposed to communicate.

Then there's Ninja.  It would be better to describe her as a stuffed animal that just happens to be laying in the same room I'm in at all times.  She expects me to read her mind (which I can).  There are only two instances that would cause her to bark: 1. it is the weekend and she feels we are sleeping in too late and have forgotten about her 6am breakfast time or 2. she has sat at the back door for over an hour with out me sensing her need to go out.  At one of those two times, she'll let out one demanding bark.  Other than that, it's radio silence all the time.

What's next?  A fish that won't swim?

Nov 8, 2011

A Teachable Moment

11/08/2011 — cori
After school Bennett and Chloe decided to play football together.  I guess he was desperate.  I heard lots of laughs and fun screams coming from the front yard, so I just assumed it was all working out.   But as they were coming in for dinner I heard Bennett dispense some useful advice to his sister, "Chlo, you might want to think about being a good sport when you play."  There you have it.  Drop the bomb and walk away.  Leave her sitting there contemplating her actions that she see's absolutely nothing wrong with.  She yelled after him with, "I am too a good sport Bennett!"

When I asked him about their conversation later he said, "Oh that.  I just wanted to tell Chloe that she would have more fun if she had a good attitude when she played.  She normally gets all mad when things don't go her way."  Good luck - I'm still working on trying to explain that one to her.

I thanked him for his patience and encouragement of her. He seems to understand she's just 7 and not quite as mature as him yet.  Maybe she will listen to him when she doesn't listen to us.

But as I type, the teacher has yet again invited the pupil outside for a second chance at redeeming herself. Maybe there is hope.

Nov 6, 2011

Undermining the English Language

11/06/2011 — cori
Gavin has decided to write a novel.  Because of this monumental decision, he has deemed it necessary to come up with a pen name.  And because he never does anything the normal way, he has decided that his pen name must exploit the English language.  His goal is to use all the silent letters in one name.  This is what he came up with:

Phough Ptognemknote
(pronunciation:  fuff toe-nem-note)

If you ever happen to come by a book written by this author, I highly recommend it.  He will most likely exploit and bend and trivialize all the rules of our crazy, English language.  And he will have fun doing it.

Nov 3, 2011

The Perfect Storm

11/03/2011 — cori
October 31 is the Perfect Storm for us:  Bennett's Birthday, Halloween, and DUFDN (Dress Up For Dinner Night).  But this particular one was even more special because we had special visitors.  My parents came to see us and celebrate the perfect storm with us.  I think the pictures speak for themselves of our love of dressing up as a family.

Let me introduce to you: Grandpa (Bob the Builder), Grandma (PBR Cowboy), Gavin (The Hippy), Bennett (The 80's Rockstar) and Chloe (1700's Girl)


Chuck decided to go with the old stand-by of Cooter the Redneck and I wanted to do Princess Lea, but didn't have a white, flowy gown (besides my wedding dress which I was NOT going to use as a costume), so I ad-libbed, I've got the Princess Lea hair and the wardrobe of a Jedi Knight.  However, one trick-or-treater asked if I was a librarian.  Go figure.


Thankfully it wasn't too cold yet so the kids didn't have to wear coats over their costumes so that you get the full effect.



And here is the birthday boy picking out his present: a new parakeet.  It was love at first sight.  His name is Azul even though he is green and yellow.  He is on the fast track to living his dream: becoming a falconer.  Now that he knows how to deal with a parakeet, it's all downhill from here.

Nov 2, 2011

The Inside of Gavin's Brain

11/02/2011 — cori
The other day we were all talking about something we were afraid about.  Gavin knows my propensity for the 'worse case scenario' mentality.  So obviously I was talking about some unfounded fear and taking it to the n'th degree when Gavin tells me, "Mom, you just let your fears ferment."

Hmmmm....I had never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, yes...I will be sure to no longer allow my fears to ferment.

Today I had asked him to turn on some music for me while I was preparing dinner.  He gladly turned on Grooveshark.  Instead of putting my playlist on, he put his on.  I had asked specifically for one song.  He came up to tell me, "Mom, I increased the probability that you will hear that song by adding it to the list 7 times.  So, since I have approximately 49 songs on my playlist, the probability that you will hear it again is about 1 in every 7 songs."

Thanks.  Um...but I didn't ask you to do any math, just put on a song.

At dinner tonight he told us how awesome RNA is.  He said he just loves amino acids and went on to explain and detail what an RNA chain looks like only using scientific terminology.  It's as if he had a tape recorder on during science class today and he just pressed play when he got home.  I cannot even begin to imagine how awesome it must feel to have a photographic memory or a tape recorder for a mind.  He went on to excitedly tell us all about the different parts of a cell (as you would see in a college text book) and then ended with, "I just love microbiology!"

And I just love you Gavin!  I love how you see the world and your excitement for learning. I love how you drink it up and share it with such excitement.  Thank you for always teaching me.  And thank you for still asking me questions thinking I know any answers at all.  Google, I love you.

Oct 31, 2011

A Decade

10/31/2011 — cori

Turning ten is special, I know
I'm always amazed as I watch you grow
In character, stature and grace
All while keeping that handsome smile on your face.
I love who you are and who you're growing to be,
A young man with a tender heart towards God and his family.

You care about others, their feelings and fears
And are a loyal friend by choosing to stay near
To the underdog and downcast, hurt and sad,
Never judging but loving, even those who are 'bad'.
You let your light shine, for that I am proud.
Maybe that's why wherever you are there's always a crowd.

I love watching you learn and teaching yourself
About mythology and birds and anything else
Animal related because you're obsessed
With everything a young zoologist loves best.
You read and you learn and you share your joy,
That's what makes me proud of my 10 year old boy.

One of your gifts is being good with a ball.
It doesn't matter which one, you're good with them all.
There's so much to learn and practice with sports,
Like teamwork and discipline and playing on the court
With a good attitude and a teachable heart
Because that is the place where character starts.

On your journey to becoming a man, 
There will be many you'll learn from who'll give you a hand.
Watch and listen and soon you will learn
About how to make decisions and to whom you should turn.
Stay humble and honest and teachable too.
These three will carry you all the way through.
Remember to be thankful everyday.
These are my reminders to you today.
Put God first in all you do.
This is my heart's prayer for you.

Love, Mom

Oct 27, 2011

Weirdo

10/27/2011 — cori
We have a saying in this house.  It's called: "I think you're acting weird today."  Anyone is allowed to bestow this saying on any other house-hold inhabitant at any time as long as that person is bona-fide weird that day.  I'm fond of using it on Chuck on numerous occasions.  Anything qualifies as weird.  Here are a few actions that would cause one to initiate 'the saying': staring off into space, being too quiet, being too loud, not wanting tea, giving weird answers in response to simple questions, you know... pretty much anything 'not normal'.

Well...as of late, Gavin would qualify as 'not normal'.  Seeing as though I've never been through the adolescence stage with any of my children before, I'm not exactly sure what to expect when.  I never know if how he is acting is normal or not.  I'm still a 'first time mom'.

My quiet, laid-back, unassuming, thoughtful, articulate, considerate, loves-to-sleep-in child I've known for over 12 years now has apparently morphed into another creature all together.  I even asked him today if they were feeding him bags of undiluted sugar while at school.  He said "no".  So I have to believe that another force is at work.  I'm blaming on-coming teen-age-hood.

The son who could sit still and read for hours now can't stand still to save his life.  The one who used to value silence and solitude now needs to constantly bang his hands on any and everything like a drum beating out some rhythm known only to his brain.  The child who was so mild mannered has become the adolescent who is climbing the walls and seriously has me contemplating the question of "What does ADHD look like"?

It is as if we've flipped some imaginary switch.  He has also become a 'stands-too-close-loud-talker'.  He has no volume control, not even when 6 inches from my face.  I love that he still loves to talk with me about his day, life, dreams, etc...but not at full volume.  I have noise issues.  I also have sensitivity to too much motion issues.  I know that is not a technical term. I don't know if there even is a name for my condition...yet.  But it involves going literally crazy when someone is moving way too much around me.  I can't handle too much motion.  It makes me confused.  As does loud music.  Or too many people in a room talking at the same time ( I hear every conversation and can't really pay attention to just one ).   It's not necessarily motion-sensitivity... that's more like getting car sick.   It's much deeper than that.  It's called: I need people to sit still and speak softly while around me.  Okay, it's sounding more and more like I'm the weird one.  Hmmm...maybe we need to explore this a little more.

Anyways, all of this to say that the beginning of our journey into adolescence is fun so far.  You never know what to expect from day to day.  One day he will sleep in till 10am so he can grow another 2 inches right in front of my eyes.  The next day, he's up at dawn and talking as fast as a chipmunk with as much energy to boot.  This just proves the age old adage, when you think you know what you're doing-everything changes.

Oct 24, 2011

Rubber Bands, Whining & Salvation

10/24/2011 — cori
What in the world can those three things ever have in common?  Well, I'm about to tell you a little story that will tie them all together perfectly.

It seems like we've been 'teaching' Chloe that whining and complaining is not an optimal behavior for a long, long time.  This lesson doesn't want to seem to sink in.  Sometimes I despair of her ever learning it.  It's that bad.  We've tried everything to stop it.  Some things appear to work for a bit, but then the whining returns.

Whining and complaining and pouting are just a form of manipulation and control.   It's an understandable  and common trait found amongst the babies of the family.  Even so, in our opinion, it doesn't justify the behavior.  We need to teach her a better way to communicate her frustration.    It would be an injustice to her to allow her to continue on in life thinking this was an okay way to deal with people and situations.

Then it hit me...by constantly focusing on the 'bad' behavior, we're not reaching her heart.  The problem lies in her heart condition.  It is a choice she makes that comes from an ungrateful heart.  But how can we teach her to have a thankful heart?  The answer is easy...by example.

We constantly focus on what we are thankful for in our house - especially when things aren't going our way.  It's super important that Chuck and I model this attitude of thankfulness so that the kids grow up seeing this as 'normal' and hopefully it will be their default attitude without much thought or effort.

The latest scheme we came up with to try to get the whining to stop was to place a rubber band on Chloe's wrist every time we heard her whine or complain or pout when she didn't like our response to a situation or didn't get her way.  She would have to wear them all day, every day, everywhere.  It would be a constant visual reminder.  The hope was that she wouldn't want to always see it and would stop and think before speaking.  The first few weeks it worked great.  She would start each week anew and see how little she complained by how few rubber bands were on her wrist.  But then she stopped caring.  Uh-oh...now what?

As we were cuddling in bed the other morning, God showed me exactly what to do.  I asked her if she could please put all her rubber bands on my wrist.  "Why?" she asked.  "Because I want to teach you about grace and about what Jesus did for you."

She placed them all on my wrist hesitantly (she had accumulated about 8 or 9 already).  I told her, "Honey, these represent your sin.  This is what Jesus did for you.  He took your sin and made it his own.  Then he took your punishment you deserved for that sin.  He did this for you because he loves you so much. By taking your rubber bands, I'm taking your sin.  When you see your sin on me, I want it to make you thankful that someone loves you so much they are willing to take your punishment.  I want it to make you think really hard before you speak.  Because if you sin again, I have to bear the punishment.  I know you love me and I know it would make you super sad to see me have to hurt because of your sin.  Think of mommy before you act.  Just like, when we accept Jesus' gift, we think of Him before we act and our actions constantly show him how thankful we are for gift he gave us that we didn't deserve."

She was sad.  She didn't want me to wear her rubber bands.  But I wanted to.  I wanted her to see Jesus and his grace every time she saw those on my arm.  I wanted her to have a visual of how he takes our sin away, even and especially, when we don't deserve it.  She reached over and gave me a huge hug and thanked me over and over.  She told me how much she loved me.

Jesus knew exactly what she needed.  He reached down and touched her heart.  He put a picture in her mind that she will never forget.  He's showing her who He is and how He can change her life.  I just love how He works.  So gentle, so kind, so perfect for each individual need.  It is my prayer that one day Chloe will open her heart up to Him completely.  Not to make me happy, not because she's been cajoled, not because everyone around her is, but because she couldn't imagine living her life without Him and she can trust Him completely for everything.

I bet on that day, there will be no more whining or pouting.  And we can finally throw those rubber bands away.

Oct 21, 2011

Type A

10/21/2011 — cori
I just need to clear up a little something here...I AM NOT a Type A personality.  Whew... that feels better.  If I were, I would enjoy these following activities:

1. making lists
2. keeping an immaculately clean desk
3. being a rule follower to a T
4. being highly detail oriented
5. being very opinionated & a wee bit stubborn

I might also look like one of these two people:


These are my favortite Type A personalities.  Neither one of them can start their day without a list.  On any given Saturday, Chuck has his list of what we're going to do that day so that he can check things off as they get done.  Chloe likes to write a list of all the different fun activities we can do on her days off or things to do with friends.  I find lists all around the house.  And when and if I ever make a list - like for the grocery store, I forget it on the counter and inevitably leave it at home and not with me where I need it.

Chuck hates my desk at home.  I see him twitch just having to sit down and check emails.  There are loose papers everywhere.  Random notes, pens, sticky notes, business cards, receipts.  I like to call it an organized mess - I know where everything is and what it means, I just don't have a place for it all. If I put it out of sight, I'll forget where I put it and why it was important. If I leave it on my desk in plain sight, I won't have to worry about that now, will I?

Chloe HAS to follow the rules.  We have to start anything over again if we didn't start it out the 'right way' the first time.  She is a stickler for this.  This makes her feel safe.  I, on the other hand, like to do things my own way, which I always think is better.  I never follow a recipe, I make up my own.  I don't like following step-by-step instructions, I like using my brain and doing what makes sense.  I do however, like to follow the speed-limit rule.  Okay, so maybe I go 5 over, but that's it.

People seem to confuse detail oriented with efficient.  At least that has been my experience.  I am HIGHLY efficient and that often means being thorough with the details.  But that's a very selective process for me.  I don't mind the detail of some things, but most things I would rather not worry about the details.  I prefer the big picture and can easily see all the steps it takes to get to the big picture.  Chuck, however, likes to break down those 'steps' into smaller, minute steps and make a list about the steps.  I don't have time for a list.  The list is in my head and what I can't remember, isn't important or we didn't need it.

Okay, so maybe I'm a little opinionated but only with those who know me really, really well.  The same holds true for Chuck.  Chloe wins the award for stubborn.  NO ONE will dissuade her from the path she is on.  Good or bad.  I pray God uses this wonderful quality for good in her life.

Truth be told, I think we all have a little of both Types in us.  Chuck is far from your Typical Type A, but he exhibits alot of it's strengths combined with his easy-going, laid back personality, I'd say he has a win/win situation.  Chloe definitely doesn't have the 'neat & tidy' part of a Type A - she's the messiest kid I have.  But I love how they both show tendencies towards the list making - that's what started this whole thing.  And certainly wasn't me who taught her how to make a list - that's for sure!

Oct 17, 2011

Anger Management

10/17/2011 — cori
As we were eating lunch the other day, Bennett looks admiringly at Chuck and me and says, "It's hard to get mad at you guys cuz you're both so nice."

Really?!  So many thoughts are running through my head.  I find this topic of conversation fascinating.  But I'm horrible when it comes to giving an astute, timely and/or funny comeback.  The only thing I could think to say in response was, "Does that mean you're mad at us right now or were mad at us earlier?"

Gavin, ever the logical one, heads Bennett off at the pass and explains, "Bennett, what I think you mean to say is, it's hard to stay mad at mom and dad cuz they're both so nice.  It's easy to get mad at them.  But it's hard to stay mad at them."  To which Bennett was nodding enthusiastically as if to say that's right brother you speak the truth. 


Of course Chuck pipes in with, "It's because of all my awesome jokes that you can't help but laugh and then you can't stay mad at me cuz I'm so funny.  But don't worry, I don't have a problem staying mad at you."  Tongue in cheek here - obviously.

You just really never know what's going to come out of these kids' mouths next.  One thing I do know is that I will be showing them this post each and every time they are mad at me and remind them that they just can't stay mad at me because I'm too nice and then I'll bat my eyelashes and smile real pretty.  The perfect anger management tool.

Oct 11, 2011

Hello Fall

10/11/2011 — cori
Now that we live in a state that has 4 seasons, we are enjoying the newness of watching trees change color, the leaves fall like rain gently from the trees, the sound of loud, crunchy leaves under our feet and the invigorating smell associated with fall. The best part is, Minnesota decided to initiate us into fall so thoughtfully. Instead of the weather being in the typical 50's for the past two and a half weeks, we have had Texas weather since fall began. They refer to it here as Summer Part II around here. But to me, this is what I'm used to for fall. It has been in the 80's and sunny. I couldn't be happier. Now I get the best of both worlds....my love of the heat and sun from Texas and my love of the beauty and smells of fall color.



My Obsession

10/11/2011 — cori
I just can't help it. I'm in awe of sunsets. If I am anywhere within view of these majestic settings, I have to stop whatever I'm doing and stand in awe. I've even pulled the car over on the side of the road to catch a few of these photos. I'm amazed that God would deliver a new piece of art each and every morning and evening that makes my heart full to overflowing with thankfulness.

This was one where I pulled over in order to admire the beauty.


This was taken at Chloe's horse lessons.


This was taken at a local lake where we went to play frisbee.
Frisbee was fun, but this was better.


The perfect way to end a day.
Focused on God and not myself.

Oct 10, 2011

A Sign of the Times

10/10/2011 — cori
I eat instant oatmeal for breakfast EVERY morning. Yes. I know. It's boring and predictable. But that's me. Apparently I like routine. Anyways....the other day, I get up and get my breakfast like always. I go to the cupboard, pull out the instant oatmeal packet and walk over to the sink where I prepare it. I empty the oatmeal packet into what I thought was the exact same bowl I always use. I turn on the hot water to pour into my bowl. I didn't notice until I went to pour the hot water in that I had a PLATE of oatmeal in my hand, not a bowl. Why didn't I notice this sooner? This question has plagued me for days now. Granted the small plates and small bowls sit right next to one another on the same shelf. But seriously, why didn't I notice once I emptied the contents of my breakfast onto a PLATE that something was awry? Apparently I'm having some synapse connectivity issues. I'll keep you updated.

Sep 26, 2011

Grace

9/26/2011 — cori
This past weekend we went somewhere where we knew the kids would probably want to buy things (trinkets). So we told them to be sure and bring their own money with them on the trip. This admonition was repeated several times. Despite our generous reminders, Chloe still "forgot" to bring her money. This goes back to some listening issues we are growing through right now.

You can imagine her breakdown upon realizing she didn't have her money with her when we got to the exciting location. Chuck and I held steadfast in our determination not to cave in and 'loan' her some money. The lesson was much more important for her. She needed to feel the consequences of not listening. It was going to be a one time lesson that she would not soon forget.

But we didn't count on Bennett suddenly feeling compassionate. Once we got to our location, Bennett pulled me aside and said, "Mom, I brought two $5 bills. I can give one to Chloe."

I was taken back. I replied, "Honey, that is very gracious of you. You know you don't have to do this. Mommy and Daddy can't give her money because then we would not be helping her learn this more important lesson. But if you feel God is prompting you to do this, you may."

"Ya Mom. I know Chloe doesn't deserve it. But I kinda feel bad for her. I kinda feel like God wants me to do this."

"Honey, that is exactly what grace is...giving someone something they don't deserve. Thank you for listening to God and doing something very loving. She's going to remember this for a very long time."

When we got home, Chloe wrote Bennett this thank you note:


Gooseberry Falls

9/26/2011 — cori
Nature...can you ever really get enough of it? We certainly can't!




These falls are so fun! You can climb all over them. The rocks go on forever. The kids were in heaven. There were a few slips into the cold, cold water by an unnamed middle child who from then on told us constantly that his feet were wet. His swamp foot was later confirmed by all of us in the car as he later took off his shoes for the ride home.

Sep 22, 2011

Word of the Day

9/22/2011 — cori
EVERYDAY, without fail, Gavin asks me this question, "So Mom, what word do you have stuck in your head today?"

Some of my better answers are, "Well...seeing as I just woke up, I haven't even thought of words yet." And, "My mind is blank right now, Honey."

Ask me if I have a song stuck in my head and I can type up a list for you. But I don't go around with individual, random words floating through my brain. Gavin does. He only asks the question to be polite. What he really wants to do is tell me the word he has stuck in his head...because he ALWAYS has one. I can't even remember what this morning's word was. He'll come home from school and have yet another word to share with me that has been plaguing his over-worked brain again all day.

I guess if I was immersed in words as often as he is (non-stop), I'd probably get a few bouncing around in my brain all day too. But my advice is, if he ever asks you this, just say the first word that pops into your head. It works everytime.

No TV

9/22/2011 — cori
Our tv died 2 weeks ago. Very sad, I know. But amazingly, we've survived. Some of us better than others. The kids have done awesome. Not one complaint. Me on the other hand...I'm having a hard time. Who would have thought? My one tv vice - House Hunters. Everyday. I have not lived vicariously through anyone else and traveled to far countries or even within my own looking at the insides of random houses for two weeks now and I am about ready to have a cow. I need this little 30 minute (20 if you fast forward thru commercials) escape in my day. Just thought I needed to tattle on myself.

Sep 15, 2011

Heaven

9/15/2011 — cori
I think we found it. It's name is Duluth, MN. Sounds kinda silly, I know... but maybe it was because I was with my favorite person in the whole world. Or maybe it was because the weather was perfect and the sun was glorious, the sound of the water soothing, the woods peaceful and the rocks majestic. Whatever it was, it was perfect. A perfect place and time for Chuck and I to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We are very simple. We don't need or want alot. We don't need to be entertained. What we desire most is the gift of time - time together. That is exactly what we got while out in nature, exploring, enjoying and living each day to its fullest.

The gorgeous B&B where we stayed

This just screams: Come relax over here! Doesn't it?

The glorious sunrise over Lake Superior

The rocky shoreline


Living in Love

Fun climbing the rocks along the shore

Split Rock Lighthouse perched atop a 100 foot cliff

Interesting rock formations

A real dress up for dinner night. Enjoying a walk in the harbor
under the brilliant light of the full moon reflecting off the water.

Such smooth rocks and such frigid water

The view we were greeted with when we woke up each morning.

The cliffs protruding out to Lake Superior

Childhood

9/15/2011 — cori
I love this. This is their activity of choice. They each get their target bags filled with books, climb up the tree (affectionately named Bob) to their 'spot' and then commence reading in the afternoon sun. Perfection.



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