Mama Duck
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Sunday, October 31, 2004


The duck has been feverish for days. It comes and it goes. We've measured it a few times above 103. Sometimes he's crabby, sometimes he's fine. The nights have been terrible. We took him to the pediatrician, who confirmed that his ears and lungs are clear, in spite of a juicy cough. She also said that we were medicating appropriately--only when he was miserable, and not every time his temp spiked.

He woke from his nap today with a fever of 103.5 and a rash. My dad says it
sounds like roseola, so we'll see. The book says that the rash should come after the fever breaks, which obviously it didn't. I hope that it is roseola, which is not serious and passes quickly. I also hope that my husband G. Grod and I can't catch it.

The past 2 nights have been terrible--like back at the newborn stage
where we are "privileged" to get one three hour stretch of sleep at the
end, after wakings anywhere from every 15 minutes to every hour. And
nothing seems to help. He won't accept teething remedies like frozen
washcloths, chilled teethers or even his former fave, metal spoons. And
Tylenol/Motrin are not helping for any long stretch of time.

His gums are bulging with the incoming molars and I see a little peep of white where one of the second set of incisors is finally coming in. His face and torso are covered with a speckly rash and he was screaming and crying at bathtime. My husband and I were in tears too, utterly helpless to do anything to alleviate his misery, except give him some ibuprofen and hope that he sleeps tonight and that tomorrow he'll be fever free.

posted by Girl Detective6:32 PM


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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Best-laid plans

We had planned to leave this morning for a family reunion. My husband and I were trepidatious about the car trip. The duck is not a world-class traveler. That is one reason that we chose to live close in to a city, so car trips would be short and infrequent. He had a cough yesterday, but woke this morning (after sleeping 12 hours without interruption--yay!) feverish and very upset. He was mostly miserable throughout the morning, whimpering frequently. After lunch, he went down for a nap, during which I had to coax him back to sleep 2 or 3 times. He woke from the nap crying inconsolably and blazing hot with a temp of 103.8. We gave Tylenol and Dad carried him till he was in better spirits. An hour later his temp was down a degree, and an hour after that it's down another two. He's been playing happily for most of the afternoon now.

A couple thoughts. One, it's much easier for me to handle his screams when I know what is wrong. It has been easy for me today to sing, to carry, rock, jiggle and try to assure him that even though he feels crappy now it will pass, even though he's gone on some very long crying jags. It is the non-specific, erratic fussiness punctuated with ear-splitting screams, that wreaks havoc on my nerves and balance.

Two, when I was growing up, I frequently got sick as a way of getting attention or getting out of things. When I was younger, I did this subconsciously. It wasn't imaginary illness, though, it was actual vomiting. As a teenager I sought the same results overtly, by acting destructively and faking illness. At 14 months, I hope the duck is too young to have picked up on the illness manipulation trick. It did effectively get him out of a long car ride, though. I'll have to keep an eye on this.

posted by Girl Detective3:50 PM


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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sometimes you get lucky

The duck is napping. After less than an hour, he woke, hooting with displeasure. I leapt up from the computer and sprinted across the upstairs and into his room. I patted his back, gently guiding him to lay back down, and continued to rub his back till he fell asleep again. !!!!

posted by Girl Detective1:25 PM


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I am a skilled, capable, intuitive mother

See how quickly things can change, here? During lunch, the duck looked tired, so I quickly got him cleaned up and to his room for a diaper change and the nap ritual. I left the room, he squawked and was quiet. But when I checked after 10 minutes, he was sitting up. At 15, he hollered, so I went in and checked his diaper; he had pooped. I executed a quick, quiet diaper change, sang to him, rubbed his back, then left. He squawked just a bit, but was asleep in five minutes and, after the aforementioned waking and being coaxed back to sleep, has just finished hour 2 of his nap. Woo hoo, ladies and gentlemen. I said, woo hoo.

posted by Girl Detective1:10 PM


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"It's so much harder than I ever thought it would be."

This quote from Jennifer Weiner's new book, Little Earthquakes, resonated painfully for me when I read it. In my head, I am a Bad Mother; I am just about every Bad Mother there ever was. Here are things I have done, in my head: shaken the baby; slapped him; punched him; hit him upside the head with his sippy cup; dropped him; screamed at him--to shut up, that I regret having had him, that I'll give him something to cry about. In my head I have committed suicide, gotten drunk, taken pills. I have left my husband and the baby to fend for themselves.

I have only actually done one of these. On some recent bad day, I was gritting my teeth and trying to do something around the new house that I could also do with a fussy, active baby under foot. I settled on watering the plants. As I climbed over the baby gate for the millionth time that day, then tripped over the recycling and spilled the water, the baby let out his Glass-Shattering Shriek of Random Rage. I didn't even turn around, it just poured out of my head, out of my mouth, "Shut up!" Immediate shame washed over me. I wondered if one of the neighbors had heard. I certainly would have earned condemnation from myself in the olden days, something like, "Some people just shouldn't be parents."

Things have been particularly difficult for several days, now. The weather is cold and gray. The baby has gone from waking later in the morning, which gave me some precious, necessary time to myself, to waking before dawn. He screams during the night, needing comfort to get back to sleep. His naps get shorter each day. Yesterday's was barely an hour. The baby is ill-tempered, probably because his molars are coming in. It's only logical that bone punching through flesh would make him irritable, sleepless and out of sorts. Yet there is no logic in my response. Only anger as I feel my stress levels spike as he screams. Frustration as he refuses teething remedies. Aching wrists as I try to comfort him and he attempts to squirm out of my grasp. Annoyance as I fight so he doesn't crack his head against the floor. Disbelief at the irony when he smacks me, hard, in the face with his sippy cup. I have never been so tired for so long. I never knew how angry I was until I had a baby, till I had to keep it in my head and not act on it. This is payback, I think, for every judgmental thought I ever had about mothers back when I was a smug DINK. My husband never hesitates to remind me, to say I told you so.

Today is better than yesterday was, than the day before and before. I got time to myself this morning, and have time to write, now. I talked to some other moms about getting out, getting together, getting help. I need the time not only for me, but also for him, so I can stop reacting on such a visceral, basic level. So I can think, "He's screaming because he hurts, not because he's angry at me." So I can come up with another plan when one fails. Motherhood _is_ so much harder than I ever thought it would be. Some days I wonder if I can survive it.

Here is where a writer would normally finish with a sunny, compensating conclusion, but I'm not going to. I'm writing this because I wanted to to get these thoughts out of my head in a way that isn't hurtful. The only hopeful conclusion I have is that today is better, and that I've been able to respond to him without anger, even when he's been fussy and difficult. I'm the parent. I only wish that this meant that I knew what I was doing.

posted by Girl Detective11:55 AM


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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A parenting success

We've been in chaos around the move, these past months. One of my fervent hopes was that our family would begin to establish routines. After a month in the new house, things are still chaotic, but we have had some success, most notably at dinnertime. We start cooking dinner early, around 5, then sit down to eat as a family around six. After that, it's bathtime for the duck, then naked time, then bedtime books and bed. Our new routine has worked especially well for the duck, who recognizes his bedtime and even embraces it, chatting happily to his two lovies after we turn out the lights. But it also works well for my husband and me. We now have the rest of the evening for ourselves, separately and together. It takes some planning and focus, but I think everyone's happier for it.

posted by Girl Detective6:54 PM


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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Newsflash: teeth don't arrive in order

Which I would have known, if I'd consulted the baby book BEFORE I saw the honkin' molar in the middle of the duck's mouth.

In the month since we moved into our new old house, the duck has been sleeping well at night, for a stretch of about 12 hours. During the past week, though, he began waking around midnight, often acting as if in pain. Since he hadn't gotten any teeth since July, I've thought that he's been way past due for some new ones. He's got four on top and two on bottom. I'd been expecting bottom rectangles, or upper vampires. Not random middles. Imagine my surprise when I caught a flash of gigantic molar in the back left middle of his mouth. Turns out you're supposed to get the front rectangles, then the middle molars, then the vampire teeth.

Those are the technical terms, you know.

posted by Girl Detective1:28 PM


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Thursday, October 14, 2004


We bought food books so we could get ideas on what to feed the baby, since I was feeling so inept. Breakfast today went well. I gave him his usual yogurt, plus O's, plus diced peaches. He ate it all; he liked it all. For lunch, I made pasta with tuna and peas. I also re-heated the baked sweet potato with leftover peach juice from the breakfast fruit--clever! The pasta recipe, which said it took 20 minutes, took nearly 45. During that time the duck rampaged about the kitchen, flinging tin foil and ziplock bags hither and yon. I dirtied about a zillion dishes making the meal. Then, when I put him in the chair, he refused it all, together and separately. So I gave him some milk and put him down for a nap. When he woke, I tried again. He refused again. So I got out applesauce, which he ate. I snuck a few peas in it; he ate those, though he spit out some of the skins. I gave him a hunk of baguette. He liked that. I gave him jarred baby food sweet potatoes. He liked those. Then I made a roll up of a slice of turkey bologna and a slice of co-jack cheese. He ate some bologna and all the cheese.

So at the end of the day, I spent a lot of time cooking and cleaning, and he still likes what he likes: fruit, bread, cheese, select meats and pureed, jarred veggies. I may have to keep buying baby food veggies in jars. He is eating some people food, just not solid veg quite yet.

posted by Girl Detective6:14 PM


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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Food isn't fun

Feeding the duck is driving me crazy. Or, rather, I am driving myself crazy feeding the duck. I finally stopped buying baby food, figuring it was time to make a serious effort to get him to eat people food. All well and good, but he doesn't like real vegetables. I've tried canned and frozen peas and green beans, both of which he liked as purees. One night he liked baked sweet potato slices, one night he didn't. Complicating matters is that he veers between being cranky because he's constipated (because he does love both banana and cheese) or cranky because he has several poops in a day after I've given him prune juice because of the constipation. And every few days he gets a red ring around his anus, indicating that we've given him something that he's allergic or sensitive to. Because he eats a lot of different things each day, and some of those have multiple ingredients, it's very hard to isolate problem foods. The doctor and the book said "Give him what you eat." Easier said than done. We try, and most often he refuses it. We made soup and tried to give him the chunky stuff. He refused. And since we made enough soup for three nights, then we're scrambling for three nights to find something else for him to eat, that he'll agree to eat, that's reasonably nutritious and that won't give him constipation or a red ring on his bum. So far, we're not doing so well. He woke this morning with diaper rash, having been asleep in a very poopy diaper for who knows how long, plus having eaten something that disagreed. His poor little butt is as red as a monkey's. One of the women at the coffee shop recommended Burt's Bees diaper ointment, and I may try to give him extended naked time today, especially since it's rainy and we can't go to the park anyway. And now he's woken after only a 45 minute nap. Sigh.

posted by Girl Detective1:37 PM


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Monday, October 11, 2004

Book fiend

We'd read to the duck since before he was born, and he's been turning pages since he was about four months old. Lately, though, he's taken a more active role by getting a book, toddling over and holding it up with a pleading look on his face. It's quite endearing. The other day he had a go at the mass market paperbacks. I turned to find him holding up Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Excited, I thought this meant he was ready to move beyond Baby Faces and Hop on Pop. Alas, he put it right back down and crawled off in another direction. So we're back to reading board books, multiple times. But if he gives me another opening for a more interesting (to me) book, I'm going to take it.

posted by Girl Detective10:14 AM


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Friday, October 08, 2004

Watch where you aim that small talk, lady

The duck has been markedly fussy the past few days, letting loose with frequent, high-pitched screeches, and doing his darndest to lay his hands on every single thing in creation that would bug me. I stopped in a deli the other day to pick up a few things. I picked up just enough that I couldn't juggle the things and the duck, so while we were waiting in the VERY SLOW checkout line, I had to do a lot of shifting while I pulled him off the glass soda bottles conveniently located at baby eye level. I kept glancing at the cashier, wondering what the hell was taking so long, then back to the duck, then back to my pile of stuff.

"Oh, you can go ahead of me. I think you were here first," cooed a high-pitched voice to my left.

Surprised, I turned to find a woman with a cart standing where she hadn't been before. Damn straight I'm going ahead of you, lady, I most certainly was here first.

Alas, in the moment she distracted me, the duck managed to get hold of a glass Nantucket Nectar bottle (why not the plastic bottle of Diet Coke? Why?) and I had to wrestle it away. I've lost patience with the substitution game. It never works, and I feel like a sucker for trying it again and again. He's smart enough to know when he's got something I don't want him to, so getting it away quickly seems to be the best solution to a bad situation, like ripping off a Band-Aid. The duck threw his usual "you took something I really, really wanted, you mean mommy" tantrum. I closed my eyes for a moment.

And the lady chimed in again, un-ironically, "It's such a fun age, isn't it, with all the motor skills developing?"

I looked over at her in disbelief. Did I not look as tired, harried and cold-ridden as I felt? Was the duck not gushing snot and wailing as if under torture?

Taking the path of least resistance, i.e., not punching her, I twitched the edges of my lips up in what I'm sure barely resembled a smile, and said, with full-on irony, "Yeah, it's just great."

posted by Girl Detective10:30 AM


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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Some perspective

I've been feeling a bit down on myself as a mom...

OK, how many moms ever feel like, "I've been feeling I've been doing a GREAT job as a mom lately..."? Gotta say, for me it's pretty rare. Anyhoo.

I've been feeling a bit down on myself because of how ragged I've been at the end of some recent days. Tired, bitchy, and feeling like my major accomplishments were not losing my temper and doing something damaging to either the baby or to myself. The common thread on these days? A short, one-ish hour nap by the duck. It happens more than it doesn't, so I felt I should be better able to handle it.

Yet caring for the duck is a twelve-hour day--about 7 a.m to 7 p.m. How many jobs have you working a twelve-hour shift, full on except for an hour break?

Some certainly, but not ones whose labor practices are on the up and up.

I now feel perfectly justified in feeling tapped out at the end of a day that contained any nap less than two hours. And justified for collapsing in front of the TV rather than unpacking, cleaning or organizing our new house. Though I do fear for our future here if we don't make some progress.

Now, if I can only find the magic formula to get two-hour naps. Or, gasp, something even longer. Sigh. Heaven.

I don't think it's going to happen today. I peeked in on him after he'd finally fallen asleep and there was an unmistakeable whiff of poop to the air. Argh. Why couldn't he have gone before I changed his diaper, before the nap? Now his dirty diaper will all but ensure that he doesn't sleep soundly and long. So many nap variables. Such a short, short window of time to myself.

Again, sigh.

posted by Girl Detective11:40 AM


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Last night at our house during the duck's naked time

Me: He's pooped.
My husband: How can you tell?
Me: Because he's got shit hanging out of his ass.

It's a glamourous life.

About the time the duck started to walk, I began to let him have naked time after his bath so he could air dry after being cooped up in diapers all day. I was torn between doing naked time before bath when he was still dirty and after, to allow for the air drying. I've stuck with after, in spite of a fair number of out-of-diaper occurrences. We just clean it up. If we had a diaper on him, we'd have to change it anyway.

posted by Girl Detective10:56 AM


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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A review of Desperate Housewives, by a desperate housewife

I watched the pilot for ABC's much touted new nighttime soap Desperate Housewives, and it made me realize I've got some work to do.

For anyone under a rock, the show begins when Mary Alice, one of the Stepford-y women of Wisteria Lane offs herself. She is found by the Nosy Neighbor, and the wake is attended by her four friends: Bree (Melrose Place alum Marcia Cross), in major Martha mode; Susan (Teri Hatcher), completely unbelievable as the desperate single mom, and on whom low-rise jeans are strangely unflattering; Gabrielle (Eva Longoria), essentially playing the slutty housewife with the heart of gold; and Lynnie (Felicity Huffman), the former executive ground down by four kids in three years. Lynnie's impregnating husband is played by another MP alum, Doug Savant, in an effort, perhaps, to distance himself from his role as the Gay Guy. Rounding out the neighborhood is the New Single Guy, the potential love interest for Susan who's got a secret, and Nicolette Sheridan, sporting some
awful plastic surgery, playing the Nasty Slutty Single Mom. We are shown in the middle that Mary Alice's husband has a Secret. In the end, we learn that Mary Alice had a Secret too. Note to producers: postmarks show when things are sent, NOT when they arrive.

There were fun moments in the pilot, but what struck me mostly was its meanness to the women. Their desperation is played for laughs, and too often, at least for me, what they showed was too sad to be funny. Susan shoving her daughter's project down the sink to create a clog, Lynnie jumping in the pool at a wake--these were too painful to be funny. The husbands are not shown in a more flattering light, though, so perhaps the show is misanthropic, not misogynistic.

Lynnie had my two favorite moments. One, when she was in the grocery store and had to chat with a former co-worker, who asked the inevitable "Don't you love being a mother?" My response to this facile piece of idiotic small talk is to say shortly, "Sometimes," then get away from the insipid questioner as quickly as possible. Lynnie did what she had to; she lied. In my opinion, this is another socially acceptable alternative to what the questioner deserves: to get her lungs ripped out.

My other favorite moment was when Lynnie's husband returns to find her covered in strained peaches and under siege. He bribes the kids to play outside for 20 minutes, then initiates sex. When she tells him she's off the pill and they have to use a condom, he grins and says they should risk it. She, rightfully, punches him. And I laughed. Because that was funny.

Satirizing the suburban lifestyle goes back at least to the original Stepford Wives. This show, like the Stepford remake, doesn't seem quite clear in what it's satirizing. Desperate housewives and hypocritical husbands have been done to death--they're not funny anymore. Perhaps this show is taking a deeper jab, at those of us viewers who are entertained when perfect-seeming people suffer.

What I am left with, though, is the uncomfortable knowledge that I am a cliche. I'm a stay at home mom who quit her executive job to look after the baby full time. I complain about finding time for myself and time to write. I'm frustrated and tired. I'm wearing a sweatshirt of my husband's and spent the morning wiping my son's runny nose, then feeding him cookies while we watched Sesame Street. My adult interaction is at the counter of the local coffee shop.

When I resigned, I cannot count how many people said to me with envy in their voices, "You're so lucky." And I am. I'm glad not to be working in corporate America anymore. I'm glad that my husband makes enough money so that this choice is possible. (NB: it's not luxurious, it's sometimes not even comfortable, it's just possible.) I used to get a salary and benefits for what amounted to quite a lot of busy work and not a lot of valued content; I struggled to find time to write. Now, I'm still struggling to find time to write, but here I am, typing away happily while the baby naps. I am more likely to find time to write now that I am at home. Being a mom and housewife is hard--physically and emotionally. But so was being a corporate drone. I had a choice, I took it, I'm glad and I've got work to do--embrace the stay-at-homeness and quit griping about it. I would like to believe there's a way to be a stay-at-home mom that isn't desperate, and isn't pitiable. I'll let you know as I find it.

posted by Girl Detective11:38 AM


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Monday, October 04, 2004

Naptime, naptime, wherefore art thou, naptime?

I have just spend a blissful hour and twenty minute catching up on blogs.

Our past few months have been fraught with upheaval: I resigned my job, we spiffed up our condo, the duck and I left town while we sold it, we looked for a new place, found one, lost it, found another one, then had to wait 25 days between closings, so the duck and I went to a hotel, then out of town again, then back to a hotel, then into the new house, where we've been for 2 weeks plus a weekend. Is it any surprise that we're all feeling a bit discombobulated, here?

The good news is that the duck has been sleeping well at night. I think we have a lock on our bedtime routine, he recognizes it as such and he embraces it: Dinner, Bath, Naked Time, Milk with Dinosaur's Binkit and the Going to Bed Book, then lights out.

The same, alas, is not true for naptime. Most parent books say that a kid will transition from one nap to two, and will usually start to skip the morning nap. The duck, however, is the opposite. He still gets sleepy about 3 hours after he gets up in the morning, but will not go down for a second nap in the afternoon. This was fine in PA when he would wake up at 8 a.m., we'd have lunch at 11:30 and he'd nap right after. Back in MN, things aren't going so smoothly. He's crying every day at naptime, and he's only sleeping for just over an hour. I need his naptime in order to eat lunch and write. His awake time is very active and doesn't allow me much independent time

So I am persevering in trying to establish a nap routine. We wake up, I change his diaper and dress him, then we have breakfast, I get dressed and we go to the coffee shop. We get back, watch Sesame Street (or rather, I watch Sesame Street while he runs to and fro in the basement) I read some books, he acts tired, I give him some milk, read Snoozers, Pajama Time and Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball, pull the shade and listen to him cry. I'm thinking I should add playtime in the park in there, between coffee and Sesame Street. This morning was too cold, though. Plus he and I both have colds, so we stayed inside.

The good news, though, is that he's just passed the hour and half mark, so perhaps things are looking up today. Ah, he hoots. It's been 2 hours. Better. Plus I've blogged. Yay!

posted by Girl Detective11:02 AM


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Sunday, October 03, 2004

New toy

For months now, the duck has been coveting remote controls, phone handsets and our cell phones--anything with buttons, that lights up and beeps. I put off buying toys until we had moved, not wanting to juggle/pack/remember one more thing. On our first post-move trip to Target, though, new toys were on the list. My sister Sydney and I found a set of metallic keys with noise-making buttons and an Elmo cell phone. I had a moment of quandary as I stared at the Elmo cell phone and compared it to the rolling Fisher-Price rotary phone of my childhood. Shouldn't I get him the classic? Was I being a horrible yuppie parent if I got him the cell phone? Could I still be a yuppie since I'm a stay-at-home mom?

Then, a moment of clarity. The cell phone is like any phone we actually use. The rotary phone is all but extinct. Most people use cell phones or electronic handsets. A cell phone is not a yuppie accoutrement, but rather an artifact of everyday life. I felt no qualms as I placed the Elmo phone in our shopping cart.

The duck has very much enjoyed the Elmo phone. It's portable, so easy to put in the diaper bag. He even sometimes accepts it for a substitute when he has something else in his hands that I want to take away. When he flips open the bottom, it plays the opening bars of Elmo's World. We had a surreal moment, though, when I caught the duck repeatedly pressing the 6 button, with Elmo's cute squeaky voice going "six, six, six."

Elmo is red. He tempts little children. And their moms. Hmm.

posted by Girl Detective8:44 AM


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Saturday, October 02, 2004

What have we done?

We're back from our extended baby adventure. We went to visit the in-laws for three weeks between closings. The duck had a good time, loved being with his grandparents and even got into some serious naps--from two hours to a record four and forty-five minutes! Sadly, now that we returned to MN and moved into our new old house, he's putting up a serious fuss every nap time. I don't even bother trying for a second nap anymore. And we're lucky if he goes beyond an hour and ten. Just enough time for me to eat. I'm dyin', here.

Plus we both have colds that I think we picked up from our first moms group. I joined in spite of not having a great feel for the group and figured I would give it some time. We'll see. For now, I'm feeling peevish and unwell.

There are a zillion things to do in the new old house, and writing has fallen to the bottom of the list for our first two weeks here. I will try, though, to push it higher. All those cobwebs can wait indefinitely, I'm sure.

posted by Mama Duck6:37 PM


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