Celebr-eight-ing the Moment

Katie will always remember a spontaneous gathering her mother once planned in honor of the calendar date 8/8/88. The idea grew out of the fact that the number eight had always held great significance for them since they had eight people in their family.

The kids in Katie’s clan knew something unusual was up when they were all called home to eat dinner together without notice. Each of the many lessons, sports practices, and activities were quickly cancelled as her family members gathered around their kitchen table, still curious.

After greeting her puzzled family, this clever mother announced that she had placed eight beautiful flowers in the centerpiece, that she had made stir-fry with eight different, delicious ingredients, and that she would be serving ice cream with eight yummy toppings for dessert—all because india cialis the cialis kaufen date 8/8/88 was so very great!

“It was rare that we had our dad home for dinner since he owned and operated a small retail business, but somehow he managed to sit at the head of our table that evening as we all enjoyed our little ‘party’ together,” Katie fondly recalls. “The spontaneous nature of the evening and my mom’s excitement and creativity really stand out in this memory for me. In her joy to give to us, we all felt joy ourselves.”

I’ll bet Katie’s mother would never have dreamed that her efforts that day would eventually become one of her daughter’s fondest thoughts and memories of life in her parents’ home. It just goes to show, we never really know what will happen when we choose to make the effort.

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Slow as Seeds…

Gardening is an exercise in patience.

If we ever wonder why the scriptures are rife with examples of vineyards, seeds, sowing, reaping and harvesting, I think we only need to come back to this.

And also this: the things worthwhile in life, like growing personal faith, nurturing relationships, connecting with the Divine and raising a family, all take a great deal of patience, season upon season of patience.

I garden to learn this patience.

Every time I study a packet of seeds, I am tortured by the “days to harvest.” Sixty-two days for garden-fresh tomatoes seems like a veritable lifetime, an entire summer of pool parties, lemonade stands and cross-country road trips. I always wonder if my little plants, and I, will survive through it all.

It’s how I felt in the very early stages of motherhood, when I had a farm-sized vision of the family I wanted to create. I knew I wanted to raise bookish children who loved music, learning, hard work, nature and the Lord.

Then I had a million little boys who wanted nothing more than to clobber each other in the back seat of the minivan. There were days, no years, when I thought we’d have a Cain and Abel story in our future. There were times when my kids wailed through an entire morning of Saturday chores and got pulled out of Sacrament meeting by their heels. Their creativity expressed itself through shattered Christmas ornaments and live wires in the electric socket.

I was a young, impetuous mother. The first time I sat down to teach my oldest son to read, I wasn’t sure we’d make it off the couch alive. Now this same son gets in trouble in school because — he reads too much.

Through all those knock-‘em’-dead years, I tried to breathe deep and stick with the long-term vision. I tried to keep our home fertile with learning and music. I tried to water with love and patience. (Though once, in a moment of impatience, I watered my son’s head vigrx reviews by people VigRX with a pitcher of ice water.)

We’re in a different phase now. My husband and I remark often that it’s the Golden Age of parenting: that sweet spot with no babies and no teenagers. Our kids are independent but without attitude. They all speak in full sentences and cook their own scrambled eggs. We are still rock stars to them. Playing with Mom and Dad, or venturing on a special outing is highly coveted. And — we know it won’t last.

But the seeds I planted long ago, seeds of learning and spirituality, are beginning to bear fruit.

Don’t get me wrong. Getting my kids to do chores is still like wrestling alligators. We could fill a small lake with the tears shed over music practice. Creativity usually means scraps of paper and pillow forts all over my house. Our miniature Stripling Warriors could double as a circus act.

But I’m glad I stuck with the long-term vision. When you become a parent, you’re in it for the long haul. The reward for all of it seems 62 years away. But I know it will be worth it. I tell myself this now, on the cusp of having teenagers, so that I can remember to buckle in for the next wild ride.

The other day I spent five hours planting seeds. Five hours under the sun, spreading compost, gridding out the vegetable rows, studying seeds packets and guiding children through tomato cages, squash hills and pea poles.

At the end of the five hours I brushed off my sunburned arms and stood back to admire my work. What I saw were four garden beds filled with dirt. After all that time, you couldn’t tell I’d done a lick of work.

But I’ve traveled this path before. I nodded in understanding and turned to go inside.

“They will grow,” I told myself. “They will grow.”

Tiffany Gee Lewis lives in St. Paul, Minn., and is the mother of four boys. She blogs at thetiffanywindow.wordpress.com. Her email is tiffanyelewis@gmail.com

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Know This (Before Mother’s Day)

Everything beautiful always begins with a willingness to suffer…

Just ask any mother.

When you’d bake up raspberry kuchen for Sunday afternoon dinner, you’d make two pans and you’d make more of who we are.

You made double batches and you made beds and you made more of heaven on earth and a mother can do that with just two hands.

I saw how you folded yours.

A wise mother knows what powerful men can forget — that the way to move heaven and earth isn’t with a strong arm but with a bowed head.

I saw how you learned to pray. Us kids were helpful that way.

We stayed out too late at Gilley’s Pit and you stayed in knots too long and we put you down and somehow you put up with us. And we were wild and you showed us how grace can be wilder still.

When I lost your diamond wedding ring, we went around for days on our knees patting the carpet and you undid the vacuum’s pot belly and sifted through all the sediment we’d left behind and you’d gathered up– praying to find just that one gleam of diamond-hard promise. When you came up right empty-handed, I could see it in your eyes.

How much of you did you lose to make all of us?

You still kept the vow to love when all the starriness was lost and you’ll never know how sorry I am and how glorious you are.

How many windows and lamps and dishes and gizmos did we break and how many times does a mother’s heart break to fix a world and I heard you cry sometimes behind the hollow panel door.

How many times did you-know-who get in trouble and you got the call from the school and you stood there listening and nodding to the whole embarrassing thing that involved your bloodlines and some strange warping of your DNA in a child who was all obviously like his father and that’s the story you stuck to. And mothers, they never stop believing in the miracle of metamorphosis.

Because believing in the miracle of metamorphosis is the sum total of a mother’s job. The theological term for that is faith.

To have faith that the baby in arms will become the toddler toilet trained before 18, that the cocky juvenile hipster with the big attitude will become the concerned citizen with a baby on the hip and a big heart on the sleeve, and that kid who can never find his shoes or matching socks or math homework will be able to find a girlfriend, job and Jesus.

To have faith that what’s nearly expired in the fridge at 5:30 order valium online can how long dose valium stay in your system do wonders with the last can of diced tomatoes in the pantry at 5:47 to astonishingly become dinner by 6:00. (And the miracle would have happened even sooner but there were those 17 minutes in between that had a telemarketer, a bandage and tourniquet application, and 2 and 3/4 fights, catastrophes and middle east (of the living room) crises to negotiate.)

It’s always the mothers, preachers and prophets who doggedly believed that leopards can lose spots and grace and angels can make pigs fly.

Mothers were made to have faith.

I don’t want to imagine if you hadn’t.

If you hadn’t heaved desperate through the contractions over a belly swollen as tight as a basketball, if you hadn’t sacrificed sleep, comfort and pride to keep me alive, diapered and fed, if you hadn’t made me take that miserable typing class with Mr. Biesel when I wanted a spare with Melanie and Dana and Sibille Menzi.

Thank you. Mothers give up much and never give up.

Thank you. Mothers never stop being with child. You always make a space for me within you.

Thank you. Mothers do hard things when the kids are hard: The parent must always self-parent first, self-preach before child-teach — because who can bring peace unless they’ve held their own peace?

Thank you for brushing yourself off and the tears back and always opening the hollow panel door again. Mothers can be more courageous than entire military squadrons.

A mother’s labor and delivery never ends and for years she has to remember to just take a deep breath. Whole battles can be won by one breath and a prayer at a time.

I can close my eyes and see your hands. I can smell your baking and taste that last spoonful and how sweet it is going down. I can remember how you wore Chanel No. 5 on Friday evenings and planted double impatiens and ivy in big baskets for the front porch and when I couldn’t sleep at night, how you’d sing me “Mama’s going to buy me a mocking bird.”

The stars always sing.

The real stars are always so small and so large.

You lit my whole life.

So how could I let the sun set today without thanking you —  for my beginning and your endurance, and for all the thousand ways you shaped me, and for being a one in a million because you were mine, and my today is in part because of all of your faithful yesterdays.

And I see it again in the dark and in the valleys and in the mirror….

You a star and your light going on and on and on.

via A Holy Experience – Ann Voskamp

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Growing Into Motherhood

I love spring.

It’s a magical season of transformation and renewal – not only for the earth, but also for each one of us.

This spring, I received an unexpected and inspiring gift – a beautiful, bright yellow daffodil sprouting through the center of my front lawn.

At first I didn’t recognize this peculiarly planted flower as a tender mercy. Yet as I began to notice the extraordinary affect it was having on all who graced my path, those blooms seemed anything but accidental.

Upon seeing this flower, my front door visitors often chuckle, quickly surmising that an unsuspecting bulb must have been inadvertently moved from a flowerbed to that innovative spot prior to winter snow.

Curious admirers have marveled how this outwardly delicate plant ever managed to press through the thick, dark sod when it felt the instinctive drive to grow and become literally reborn after weathering the cold.

Sound like a metaphor-in-the-making?

Well, if you’re anything like this brave daffodil, there have been countless times when you’ve felt alone or displaced – times when you’ve stood tall instead of blending in, when you’ve struggled to emerge victorious through a seemingly insurmountable barrier, or when you’ve discovered that you’re suddenly WAY outside of your comfort zone.

Personally, this flower is a striking symbol of my own motherhood.

In fact, I’ve never felt more out of place than I did after giving birth to my first child.

Now it’s important for you to understand that I had dreamed, planned, and prepared to become a mother ever since I was an embryo. (Or, in keeping with our metaphor, ever since I was a tiny seed or bud-of-a-girl.)

Motherhood was that for which I’d hoped, prayed, yearned, and even babysat free-of-charge on multiple occasions Viagra – just viagra equivalent for the sheer “experience” of it all!

But when I was actually at home, with a colicky baby, recovering from a C-Section, away from my career, my friends, and the fast-paced lifestyle I had created – I found myself to be unexpectedly out of my element.

Feeling oh so insecure and alone, I wondered how I could ever possibly blossom into the mother I had always imagined I would become.

Everyone else seemed to be thriving.

What was wrong with me?

Was I reaping what I had sown?

After MANY hours on my knees in earnest prayer, and after daily nourishing my faith, testimony, and my young son with patience and love – even when I didn’t feel completely natural while doing it – slowly, steadily, instinctively, something inside of me began to change.

I began to be transformed.

My mother-heart began to blossom!

And as I learned to push through my occasional dark feelings – like that daffodil pushing through the thick, heavy sod on my front lawn – I was, and still am, repeatedly renewed by heaven-sent, revitalizing light.

I now recognize and truly appreciate my God-given mission. I really do.

And I can genuinely say that I love being the mother of children. (Even though I’ll forever be cultivating refinement in my stewardship.)

Without question, the Master Gardner sees each of us perfectly – sometimes struggling to fulfill the measure of our creation, occasionally feeling as though we are destined for something far different than our present setting here on earth, perhaps wishing for something less stressful, more exciting, and much, much simpler.

But when we nourish those skills that will help us to bloom and thrive…

We can then “arise and shine forth.”

WHEREVER we are planted.


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Your Children Want You

There’s this crazy phenomenon going on right now. Good, devoted mothers get on Pinterest . . . and blogs . . . and Facebook . . . and Twitter . . . and then they flip through parenting magazines and TV channels (full of advertisements and media hype) . . . and they’re convinced they’re not enough.

They’re convinced that everyone else has magnetic, alphabetized spice containers,

Photo source: Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/pin/274086327292186801/)

and unless their garden parties are thematically accessorized with butterfly lanterns,

Photo source: Pinterest, http://tinyurl.com/6lsuurc

and they’re wearing the latest fashions (in a size two, of course), there’s no point in even showing up for the day.

Last Saturday, this happened to me.

I came home from a lovely day out with my extended family and had serious intentions to spend the evening dyeing Easter eggs and making bunny buns.

By the time I got everyone settled and fed, however, I was so tired that I just laid on the couch and dozed while my children played and got themselves to bed.

Around 8:30, when I finally had the energy to sit up, I decided to try out Pinterest for a few minutes until my husband got home. There it was–1,000 reasons why I’m failing at all things domestic.

I don’t make grilled cheese sandwiches look like ice cream.

Photo source: Pinterest, http://kitchenfunwithmy3sons.blogspot.com

I don’t even have seasonal throw pillows on my couches or live plants anywhere in the house.

Is it really so hard? Can’t I pull myself together and wrap some candles in green foliage and bring happiness to our decor with bright fabrics and hand-crafted photo frames?

As I was trying to calm my frenzied state of mind, my husband came home and held me tight. We talked about our day, and he told me how much he loves me and that he wants our boys to marry someone like me. I fell asleep snuggled under his arm.

The following morning, our children enthusiastically bounded into our bedroom and tucked themselves into our covers. My four-year-old gave me an arm massage, and we all sat there together–joking, laughing, planning the day ahead, and enjoying that special feeling of family. Reflecting on the discouragement I’d felt the night before, I realized that my family doesn’t care about what I see on Pinterest. They care about me.

My daughter Grace loves me to sing “Baby Mine” to her each night before bed. When I go to our Power of Moms Retreats, she misses that special ritual. We have recordings of Michael Crawford and Allison Krauss singing their versions, but Grace doesn’t want those. She wants me. So I recorded myself singing “Baby Mine” and emailed the audio file to her and to my husband so Grace can hear “her song” before she sleeps. As far as she’s concerned, my untrained voice belongs at the top of the charts.

My daughter Grace is my “snuggliest” child.  Back tickles and “Baby Mine” each night are how I show that I love her.

A few months ago, I was practicing sideways dutch braids on my two daughters. They had found these great “how-to” videos online, and we set up our comb, brush, and hair bands in front of the computer so I could become an expert.

Photo source: www.cutegirlshairstyles.com

Half-way through the braid, my fingers got all tangled up, the hair was too loose, and one of my daughters had been sitting with her head to the side for several minutes.

Feeling extremely frustrated, I said, “That little girl in the video is so lucky to have a mom who knows how to do hair.”

My daughter stopped me in my tracks when she responded, “But I have a mom who is trying.”

These are my two girls with the braids that took me FOREVER to do.  (But I’m getting faster now, and they appreciate the fact that I’m trying.)

My mom is in her 70s, and her memory is starting to go. Her sweetness and love are as strong as ever, but when we talk on the phone, she can’t remember the last time we spoke or the last time we saw each other.

At the end of one phone call a few weeks ago, I whispered, “I miss you, Mom.”

She said, “Oh, I miss you, too! But we’ll get together soon. You can come down to the park, and we’ll get an ice cream cone at McDonald’s.”

I replied, “Yes, that will be fun.” But then the tears started, and I had to use every ounce of control to keep my voice even so she wouldn’t know I was crying.

What I really meant was, “I miss being able to talk to you, Mom. I miss laying on the grass while my children make a hopscotch and savoring our long phone conversations. I miss you remembering all those secrets I used to tell you. I miss you asking me if I’m okay. I miss seeing you read books and hearing you sing while you do the dishes and having you drive out to my house without getting lost. I miss you remembering how much I need you.”

My mother didn’t specialize in home decor or gourmet cooking, and she didn’t lift weights or run marathons. But she makes me feel like I am the most important, wonderful person ever born. If I could pick any mother in the whole world, it would be my mom.

There’s something deeper going on in family life than can ever be expressed on a social network. Whatever it is we feel we are lacking, can we collectively decide–as deliberate mothers–that we are not going to sit around feeling discouraged about all the things we’re not?

Can we remind each other that it is our uniqueness and love that our children long for? It is our voices. Our smiles. Our jiggly tummies. Of course we want to learn, improve, exercise, cook better, make our homes lovelier, and provide beautiful experiences for our children, but at the end of the day, our children don’t want a discouraged, stressed-out mom who is wishing she were someone else.

If you ever find yourself looking in the mirror at a woman who feels badly that she hasn’t yet made flower-shaped soap,

Photo source: Pinterest, http://tinyurl.com/82k5vow

please offer her this helpful reminder: “Your children want you!”

April Perry – PowerofMoms.com

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To Mothers of Missionaries

Giving to Solomon

I see the son whom you cannot watch
He arrives exhilarated and confused
Sleepy from 2 a.m. packing
And long flights next to strangers who stare
He wears his name and religion on his chest
You would be so proud
To see what I see
I want him to be my son too

He is born again into a life of discipleship
Learning to walk in the shadow of Christ
Not flinching at slammed doors
Returning good for evil
And letting the Spirit place his steps
His bends his will through discipline and pleading
And closes his eyes to rest counting
Scriptures like sheep

Waiting for divinity
He opens his mouth
With words of rescue
To an uncertain world which churns
Aching hearts
You would be so proud
To witness his love
For those who reveal their hope to his faith

It doesn’t seem fair
I see these things and you don’t
You having walked through that valley of shadows
And death for this boy
Replaced lost CTR rings, imprinted his name on scriptures
And called Seminary more than once.
Yet I see his refining and fire
Burning dross and forging honor
All his good manners remembered
And you are at home on your knees

But I have a missionary too
My first
In a foreign hospital without me
To sit in his room and check his fever
I do this for others, but not my own
It doesn’t seem fair, isn’t my love his strongest medicine

We are in good company
Mary and Eve
Watched their sons go to battle
Arms aching while prices were paid
Every mother a triage in waiting
Each of us
The mother of all living

(By Sister Kathleen Nilsen – Mission Mom to 185 missionaries in the Columbus Ohio LDS Mission)

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“Hold On…”

“The formula of faith is to hold on…work on.”

“There is no problem that you cannot overcome or dream you cannot realize.”

“Step up!”

“Awake and arise from the dust.”

“The race we are really in is the race against sin.”

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Got Questions?

I’ve been pondering which question I’ll be bringing to General Conference this weekend.  But it seems the more I ponder which question to chose, the more questions I seem to have. I reflect upon questions about my own life, about the lives of my children, my marriage, and what is the best and highest use of my time at this moment and season.

And while I’m certain that God will direct my path as I ask for His help, I think the process of questioning and reasoning things out in my mind – what’s left of it – is all part of His plan. For each one of us.

Does it seem like every conference there is ONE talk that seems to be written just for you? One that speaks to your heart and soul and helps you know that God IS actually involved in the details of your life?

For me, that one talk is usually delivered by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, my favorite apostle. (I know it’s not right to have a “favorite apostle,” but he is definitely mine.) Jeffrey Holland was the president of BYU while I attended and he once gave me a fabulous nickname. When Pres. Holland passed me on campus one morning, he smiled and said, “Good morning, Queenie!” And it just stuck. From that moment on, I was Queenie to him.

So when my husband asked me to marry him, I told him that I wanted a relationship like Elder and Sister Holland’s. And that I wanted him to treat me with great care because I’d been “queened” by a king.

(Interestingly enough, at my last TOFW event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, FIVE of the seven presenters quoted Jeffry R. Holland in their messages. Now that proves he’s a king.)

So this weekend, I hope we will each listen carefully as we seek answers from the King of Kings…

…via Elder Holland, or Elder Eyring, or Sister Beck, or Sister Cook, or President Uchtdorf, or President Monson, or Sister Dalton, or any of the inspired leaders we will hear.

Because I believe we will receive what we need. Now.

“Whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” D&C 1:38

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Are Kids Getting Smarter?

Have you ever noticed that your children seem much more intelligent than you were at their age, or that they more quickly absorb new concepts? Well, perhaps you can chalk your astute observations up to the “Flynn Effect.”
What is the Flynn Effect?

The Flynn effect is a theory which emphasizes the fact that average intelligence quotient (IQ) scores have risen over generations. James R. Flynn was the first person to systematically classify the IQ level comparison between successive generations.

The Flynn Effect

The noticeable difference between generations has been scientifically put forth by James Flynn, a political scientist from New Zealand. It has also been substantiated by various other psychologists and academicians, and has been observed across cultures, although in varying degrees.

“A standard IQ test administered to people from various generations has conclusively proved the fact that there has been a linear and uninterrupted increase in the average human intellectual capabilities. These test scores were normalized for every study being conducted. Normalization gives the average score for a particular group of people. The same test was administered to the next generation and the normalized result was compared with the previous test. The results have confirmed a higher intelligence quotient (IQ) level. According to Flynn, these effects are due to a combination of factors which undergo a drastic change with each successive generation.”

“The cognitive psychology of a succeeding generation has a lot of stimulation for the abstract mind, and hence a better interpretative ability to assimilate these ideas. This demands a lot of thinking and reasoning from an average human brain. A simple example can be the scientific advancement which has undergone a sea of change. A person now in his 40s had limited access to technological inventions, the web, or mobile communication in his childhood. In stark contrast to this, consider his son born in the 1990s, who is quite adept and comfortable using these advancements. Even though he is using these technologies unknowingly, (his brain comprehends more facts than what his father’s did, at his age) the average effort put in by his brain to understand a particular system is higher than his father’s brain. This can be due to variety of reasons like better nutrition, large-scale exposure to many concepts at a relatively tender age, interactive media and so on.”

“The Flynn effect is more evident in a rapidly developing country like India. The prior generation had a relatively easier access to its premier educational institutions, as the number of applicants for the seats was relatively less. India’s economy, health facilities, exposure to new facets of development and various such parameters have risen at a much faster pace in the past decade. This has created a huge demand for skilled professionals and an increased awareness among its burgeoning middle class about the importance of getting into premier institutes. Thus, although the intake has been increased negligibly, there has been an astounding rise in the number of students clearing the tests. This, despite the fact that the entrance tests have increased their difficulty level, which reiterates the fact that the general level has increased for a given set of population.”


Read more at http://www.buzzle.com/articles/what-is-the-flynn-effect.html

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Noticing Hearts

I was once asked to interview a highly respected woman for an important video project. This production was to be a motivational presentation for a large annual women’s event in my area. And as I began the interview it became immediately apparent that it would not be a quick and easy assignment because this woman’s personality, by all accounts, appeared to be…well, dull.

All during the interview I can remember thinking to myself,  “Wow, I wonder why a more lively candidate wasn’t chosen for this piece?” Her responses were each so lackluster that I began subconsciously energizing my questioning tactics, hoping to spark some more enthusiastic and interesting answers.

Years later, through a small twist of divine fate, I was asked to direct the music at this well-loved woman’s funeral. And to my amazement I learned that she was, indeed, a genuinely extraordinary woman.

After losing her only child in a tragic accident when the girl was merely a teen, this gentle woman chose forgiveness and peace rather than bitterness and resentment. For years she worked long hours, yet she decided to enjoy her job and those with whom she associated instead of feeling weighed down and overwhelmed by her lot in life. She served as a senior missionary in a country where hardly anyone showed an interest in her message, yet she remained cheerful and optimistic, consistently seeking out and remembering the “one.”

As I sat listening to the inspiring triumphs of this humble, unassuming woman, I was struck by both awe and shame because I had missed the whole point of my previous interview with this outwardly unexciting woman. I viewed her with only my worldly eyes and stony heart instead of seeking to recognize who she actually was…an angel, an example, and an honest-to-goodness believer.
I thought of the prophet Samuel, when the Lord said to him, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature… for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Regrettably, I think we’re often tempted to take one quick look at another person and think we have them all figured out. We may unfairly judge them; even dismiss them, because they simply don’t seem similar to us, or because we just don’t have enough patience to try and understand them. Then sadly, we miss out on those potential friendships and on beautiful life lessons. I’m also quite certain that we miss out on some very sweet blessings our loving Heavenly Father had waiting just for us.

Happily, I have re-discovered that appearances are often misleading.

So I’m now trying MUCH HARDER to look upon hearts.


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