Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Encouraging Kids to Cultivate Gratitude on Thanksgiving

After begging for months, your child no longer wishes to attend the expensive gymnastics classes you sacrificed your Sunday mornings for. Slumped in her chair, she glares unblinking at the table because the pizza upon it did not originate from her restaurant of choice. She refuses to wear the new black Uggs she'd previously been pining for, because her friend at school has pink ones. With bows.
And like a slowed-down movie clip you hear yourself asking the eternal parent-to-child question: "Do you realize how lucky you are?!!"

The short answer (which in a perfect world would be delivered sans eye-rolling) is "No." Of course she doesn't. Hopefully, her limited life experience has not included walking 3 miles in the snow to school every day in beat up sneakers, or being forced to sit at the table for hours until she managed to choke down her cold brussels sprouts. Everything she's ever done has been scheduled for her by somebody else (which, let's face it, isn't always fun, even if the scheduled activity is expected to be). She has very little control over or responsibility for her present situation, and almost zero perspective. So aside from asking rhetorical questions or haranguing her with tales of our own pre-internet, landline limited childhoods, how can we hope to help our kids see how good they've got it? And secondly, why should we?

According to quite a bit of research in recent years, cultivating a sense of gratitude in our everyday lives can have a significant impact on our overall happiness. Every day of the year holds opportunities to reflect on the many things we can be thankful for in our lives; however, as the name suggests, the Thanksgiving holiday provides a veritable bonanza of these opportunities. Like any lasting practice or habit, cultivating gratitude on a regular basis is the best way for it to really take hold in our minds, but Thanksgiving is the perfect moment to introduce these ideas, start the process, or check in with what we've already been doing. Here are some ideas for cultivating gratitude with our kids, our families, and ourselves this Thanksgiving holiday.

Talk about the food.

Where did the food on the table come from? Who prepared it, and how? Discuss each family member's favorite dish and why. When we immerse ourselves in our experience, and really look at why we like what we like and what it takes for us to get to enjoy those things, feeling thankful naturally follows. Letting our kids participate in cooking the Thanksgiving meal can also be fun - find some kid-friendly Thanksgiving recipes here.

Talk about why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

Ok, this is a sticky topic no doubt, and the truth about this time in our country's history is anything but pretty. Also, upon doing research for this blog post I discovered (and this may be true for you as well) that while I thought I knew how Thanksgiving came to be celebrated, I was missing a fair number of details.  Perhaps for these reasons it's even more worthy of discussion. For some guidance and ideas for broaching the topic without glossing over reality or traumatizing the children, give this article a gander. In addition to the history of the holiday, there is also the meaning it holds for each one of us, which in the end has more to do with why we continue to celebrate this tradition than the historical event that started it off.

Talk about what we are thankful for.

Just reflecting on this and discussing it tends to make us more aware of all we have. Go around the table and take turns saying one thing each person is grateful for and why. Or brainstorm a family gratitude list. Since anything and everything counts no matter how big or small, this can be a lot of fun.

Involve kids in donation.

There are ample opportunities to donate food this time of year (all year round, actually). When bringing food donations to a local charity, take the kids along for the ride. They can learn about what you're doing and why you're doing it, and they get to be a part of it. With older kids, consider participating in some form of community service, like serving food at a soup kitchen, or sorting donated items at a food bank.

Have fun being together.

For many families, this is the only time of the year that all or most family members are in the same place at the same time. While this can be stressful, bringing some fun into the mix is never a bad idea. Depending on what your family likes to do, you can start a yearly tradition : a flag footbal game, an ugly sweater competition, or a pie-eating contest (you're gonna do it anyway!)

To wrap this up, here's a link to some fun Thanksgiving games, crafts, and activities to keep the kids entertained. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Monday, September 25, 2017

Consign or Donate Your Used Kids' Items at the Parent Talk Sale!


We all see the posts on For Sale and parent groups on Facebook, and it often occurs to me that I could get rid of the piles of outgrown kid stuff in my house that way, but I rarely do. The few times I've tried did not result in the easy success I anticipated. After volunteering at the Sale and seeing how it works, I realized that consigning was actually a much better way to clear out my used stuff than by attempting to sell items one at a time online.

1. I can get everything out of my house at once.
2. Everyone who sees my items will be specifically looking to buy these types of items, and there's a ton of people at the Sale. That's much better exposure than to people who may or may not be seriously looking to buy anything, may just see the post by accident, scrolling through a thousand other posts on their phones on the couch at night. Check out all the ready to go shoppers in the background:

3. If somebody buys my items, they take them right there. We don't have to schedule a pick up that may or may not go down. I've waited for someone to pick up free stuff and been stood up before, I imagine that happens more frequently when it isn't free.
4. If somebody buys it, I get some $$, while also supporting this fantastic organization - both financially and by contributing my really cool items to make the Sale the awesome event that it is.
5. No negotiation. Nobody is going to show up, dig in their pockets and say "Oh, I've only got a 5 - is that ok?"
6. If nobody wants my stuff, it's still out of my house. And it goes to charity.


This is the first time I'm consigning things at the Sale, and probably like many people who've never done it before I kind of assumed it would be a big project. One I might never actually get around to. I decided the best way to test this theory would be to actually do it, and for motivation, try to write a blog post about it. Which is working.
SO . . . I'll break it down and make it EVEN easier for you than it has been so far for me :

1. Click on this link CONSIGN AT THE SALE. It will take you to a page with all the info you need about consigning.
2. Download your SELLER'S KIT. This document is yet another testament to the mind blowing efficiency and organization that is the legacy of 25 years of ParentTalk planning. Don't be overwhelmed by the sheer size of it - it's not because this is complicated. It's because this pdf is an easy-to-navigate compilation of the answers to every question posed by sellers over the last 20 years. It practically consigns your stuff FOR you.
3. Get yourself a Seller's ID by emailing the following information to ptsellerkits@gmail.com :
Full Name
Address including zip code
Phone Number
Preferred Email Address
4. Decide what's going. The Seller's Kit has guidelines as to what will and will not be accepted. For the Fall Sale, I'm consigning fall and winter clothing, a shelving unit for organizing toys, and a baby carrier, among other thing. Here's my pile so far:
You don't see any toys, because I'm hiding them.
5. Print out your tags from the template, also found in the Seller's Kit.
6. Label them clearly with price and Seller ID - pricing suggestions are included in the Seller's Kit. To make it easier and make sure your labels are readable, we'd suggest typing in your Seller ID before printing the tags. Some people type in all or a few prices before printing (for example, "$4 shirt" if you're consigning a bunch of shirts) to save time and avoid having to write the same price over and over for similarly priced items.
7. Attach the tags to your items. You might want to purchase a tagging gun like I did. If you are volunteering as well as consigning, this gun will come in quite handy later on - veterans know what I'm talking about. If you don't have a tagging gun, make sure the tags are fastened securely with strong tape so they don't fall off, as items do get moved around quite a bit as people are shopping.

8. Bring your tagged, priced items to the Christ Episcopal Church at 1132 Highland Ave on Friday October 13th between 9am and 8pm. Place them in the areas where they belong, ie. clothing downstairs on racks with the appropriate size, toys upstairs - the Seller's Kit also includes a sizing guide for clothes, and explains where everything goes.
9. Wait for your check. You will receive 50% of all proceeds collected before 11:45a.m. on Sale day, which is Saturday October 14th this year. All items not sold prior to 11:45 a.m. will become a tax deductible donation to Parent Talk.

If you're looking for an even faster way to clear out your gently used items, you can donate them to the Sale and we'll do all the work for you! Donations are currently being accepted at our two drop off locations (6 Birds Hill Ave and 10 Noyes St), or you can bring items directly to the church on Friday October 13th.

If this sounds good to you, check out this other blog post about consigning your used kids' items :
How To Consign and Donate to PT's Sale

Once you've gotten your consigned goods cleared out, it's time to buy more! Consider volunteering 2 hours at the Sale for preferred shopping hours. Check out this post about how much fun it is :
Do Good, Have Fun, and SHOP

See you at the Sale!

About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Beating the Back to School Blues

It's that time of year again . . .

Stay-at-home parents are popping corks and putting their feet up as the obligatory first-day-of-school photos upload to their Facebook profiles; working parents are singing along with Pharell Williams as they drive to work ("because I'm happyyyy ...") ... ok, maybe that's a mild exaggeration. But some of us ran out of good ideas for kid-friendly parent-tolerable things to do before the end of June. Even if you're a summer-loving master cruise director who actually ENJOYS pushing your child on the swing for 45 minutes a day, it's nice to be able to complete a task without being interrupted (ever get to the beach before you realize you only shaved one leg?).

We hope that our children are as overjoyed to get back to business as we are, but they're usually not. After months of loose schedules, playing outdoors, and spending extra time with family, going back to school can be a difficult adjustment. Even more so for younger kids, or kids starting a new school. But there are things we can do to make it easier and less stressful for kids and parents alike.

Establish Regular Routines

The more repetitive and consistent, the better. Establish an early bedtime and stick to it, despite the temptation to let it all hang out on the weekends. Use printables to help kids get themselves ready in the morning, and cut down on the nagging. Prepare for the day the night before - let kids pick out their outfit for the next day, pack lunches the night before. Get everybody up early enough to relax and eat breakfast, rather than running out the door with a pop tart and a bad attitude.
A consistent after-school routine can be helpful as well. Most kids are starving and worn out by the time they get home, so follow a routine that allows them to unwind and unload, in that order. We should give them a chance to have a snack, a drink, and some time to themselves before we start grilling them about their day.

The Goodbye Routine

With younger children in particular, the goodbye routine is a biggie. Especially if we want to avoid them creating their own goodbye routine, which usually involves crying and clinging to our legs for dear life. I ask my daughter how many kisses and how many hugs she wants when we say goodbye, and if she's particularly clingy that morning I also ask her to wave goodbye to me from a window. I tell her I love her, remind her to have fun, and that I will see her at pick up time - I know it seems odd telling her the specific pick up time when she can't tell time yet, but it's more reassuring than "See you soon!".

Back to School Anxieties

As much as we'd love our kids to happily trot off to school with nary a backward glance, it would be weird if they didn't miss us at least a little. Unfortunately many kids miss their parents so much, going to school is really difficult for them. Other causes for kids to feel anxious going to school can be if they have a new teacher they haven't connected with yet, don't know or feel comfortable with the kids in their class, or feel overwhelmed being in a new place with new rules to adjust to. All of these things are to be expected; however, it's important to determine if your child's anxiety is the result of a more serious external cause like bullying, or if your child is exhibiting symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and would benefit from additional help or intervention.
As always, when we practice what we preach our kids catch on fast, so we should also be mindful of and manage our own anxieties - the kids aren't the only ones going through this transition. When my daughter started "school" - daycare, really - I used to cry every day in the car after I dropped her off. But I kept a smile on my face until I was safely in the car and out of sight. I reminded myself every day of all the reasons why this was a good decision, like a mantra, and I took time to vent with other grownups who could relate. Kids are ultra sensitive to our emotional states, so if we want them to feel secure and relaxed, we need to cultivate those feelings in ourselves.

Morning Nerves

One way to cope with these anxieties is to talk about them, try to determine what the specific worry is and then find a way to manage it. Another helpful strategy could be meeting up with another child before school, either to travel with or just meet upon arrival. Some kids will complain of stomach aches when they have morning nervousness before school; letting them stay home is more likely to make the problem worse.
At breakfast or in the car on the way to school I try to get my daughter talking about her friends and teacher, about what she might do that day at school - have snack time, take a rest, go for a walk, read a book etc. Sometimes I talk about the kind of day I want to have, then ask her what kind of day she wants to have. Yes, this can elicit less than positive responses, but even then it seems to get her mind in the right place.

Throughout the Day Comfort

While we can't be there with our children during the school day, and checking in or showing up is more likely to be disruptive and upsetting than helpful, there are ways we can provide comfort between drop-off and pick-up. Taping a family photo in their lunchbox or slipping it in their backpack for rest time is one example. Or make them a special fabric heart that they can keep in a pocket to hold onto at scary or sad moments during the day; I've also seen small worry stones with phrases carved into them, like "You are loved", that might also serve as a sort of talisman to ward off anxiety throughout the day.

Letting Off Steam

Talking is always a good way to let kids get anything that's bothering them off their tiny chests, and maybe work through the things that bothered them that day or that they are nervous about in the future. But while we should definitely encourage them to talk, we need to give them a moment to relax before we start interrogating them after school. A good after school routine that gives them a little space can allow them to process their day before dinnertime or bedtime presents an opportunity for sharing it. I've found in my daughter's case that at bedtime she just starts relating the day's events and dramas without any help from me, all I have to do is listen. As well as listening, we can always help them along by eliciting with specific questions. Rather than "How was your day?" we can ask things like "What was your favorite part of today?" or "Who did you sit next to at circle time today?"

Give it some time

Change is hard for all of us, kids and adults alike, and adjusting to it doesn't happen overnight. Playdates with classmates outside of school can help develop a more comforting class environment. Getting to know a new teacher, and talking about that teacher in familiar terms with our children can also help them feel more secure in the classroom. Above all, our patience and positivity will go miles toward our kids settling into a happy school year. So let's dig our heels in and brave the beginning storms of nerves and grumps, they too shall pass.

About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Monday, July 3, 2017

Keeping Cool with the Kids This Summer - Area Splash Pads, Sprinkler Parks & Wading Pools


As summer temperatures rise, what better way to get the kids outdoors without overheating than hitting one of the many splash pads, sprinkler parks and wading pools in the area!  

Massachusetts is home to a few full-on water themed resorts, most of which offer day passes, with the exception of Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, which is an overnight-only resort. In no particular order:
CoCo Key Water Resort in Danvers
Hurricane Harbor at 6 Flags in Agawam
Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis
John Carver Inn and Spa in Plymouth
Water Wizz in Wareham
Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg

Looking for a place you can just stop by and cool off on the fly? Try one of these great spots:

Artesani Park & Wading Pool (free) in Brighton - my personal favorite, Artesani is not only free - it also has loads of parking, clean restrooms, life guards, a sprinkler park AND separate wading pool, playground, picnic area, and is located right on the beautiful Charles River. The entire facility was upgraded about 2 years ago. IT'S AWESOME.

Rings Fountain on the Greenway (free) in Boston - located right near the Aquarium, it's a great place to stop by and cool off after a trip to see the fishies. Every summer my daughter and I hit the Figment Art Festival (this year planned for Saturday and Sunday July 22 & 23) on the Greenway to check out the music and interactive art installations, and we always visit the Rings Fountain for a good soaking. In fact, there are fountains all along the Greenway, so you can take dips the whole way through.
Frog Pond on the Boston Common (free) - it's easy to spend the whole day on Boston Common with the kiddos, whether there's an event going on or not. Check out the enormous wading pool, the sprinkler park, the playground, the carousel, maybe even take a ride on a Swan Boat - not to mention the gardens are stunningly beautiful, great for a stroll with an ice cream cone before you head home. There are also lots of fun activities planned for the summer months, like free evening yoga, so check out their website to find out more.
Minot Rose Garden Playground (free) in Brookline - I live near this one, so we hit it a lot, and the roses are in full bloom right now. The splash pad is the usual playground sprinkler set up, nothing fancy. The fancy part is its location - right next to a fantastic playground that is itself located inside a large, shady, fully fenced in park with a paved loop perfect for scooters or bikes. This park is named and known for it's gorgeous rose gardens, and makes a great spot for a picnic or catching a free morning yoga class on a Sunday.
Daniel Ford Playground at Emerson Park (free) in Brookline - another great Brookline playground, along with a separate sprinkler/fountain area, in a large sunny park where summertime often finds my daughter and I (and a hundred or so other families) sharing some takeout pizza with friends and listening to some live music at the Brookline Summer Concert Series Wednesday evenings.

Those are my personal favorites, but there are so many more:

Soule Recreation Center (free) - Chestnut Hill
Charlesbank Playground & Spray Deck (free) - Boston
North Point Park & Splash Pad (free) - Cambridge
Danehy Park Splash Pad (free) - Cambridge
Johnson Playground & Stonybrook Spray Deck (free) - Jamaica Plain
Bradley Palmer State Park & Wading Pool $ - Topsfield
Beaver Brook Spray Deck & Playground (free) - Belmont
Luciano Park Spray Pool (free) - Arlington
Artemas Ward Wading Pool (free) - Marlborough
Nelson Memorial Park & Splash Pad (free) - Plymouth
Davis Farmland $ - Sterling (Yes, this is a farm with a spray park. I cannot WAIT to take my daughter here.)
Petersen Splash Pad at Watson Park (free) - Braintree
Cellucci Skate & Splash Park (free) - Hudson
Lynch Park Splash Pad (free) - Beverly

Or look them up yourself:

Waltham alone has 9 parks with splash pads, so depending where your day takes you, there may be a place to cool off nearby : Spray Parks and Pools

Wherever you go to stay cool this summer, be safe, have fun, and don't forget your SPF!

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Do Good, Have Fun, and Shop! Volunteer at the Spring Sale Saturday May 13th

     This weekend myself and countless others will be volunteering (and, of course, shopping!) at the 2017 Parent Talk Spring Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale, happening Saturday May 13th at the Christ Episcopal Church in Needham. The founding members of Parent Talk put on the first Sale in 1993, and since then it has mushroomed in both scale and popularity. Now it's held twice a year, with shoppers and volunteers returning again and again, some for most or all of the Sales over the past 24 years.
       If you've never been to the Sale before, it's what I can only describe as an extravaganza of deals on quality gently used kid's items. You can find everything from books to bikes, strollers to swimsuits. Proceeds support the Parent Talk organization, and all the items that remain after the Sale are donated to charities and non-profits. If you've been, but have yet to volunteer, know that a meager 2 hours of your time is all that is required to reap the reward of early shopping hours before the general sale is opened to the public. And if you've taken advantage of the early shopping, but have yet to join the Sale Committee, I'm here to tell you you're missing out.
       So here's how the Sale happens from a general shopper's perspective. Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and everyone can have at all the fantastically priced stuff until 11:45 a.m. Then everyone cashes out, and those who'd like to take part in the Clearance Bag Sale are provided as many bags as they want, at a flat rate per bag. At 12:00 p.m. the doors reopen, and the shoppers have until 12:45 to cart out as much as they can fit in their bag(s); anything too big to fit is automatically reduced to half the tagged price. It's fast, it's fun, and everyone gets great stuff without spending a ton.

Sounds good, right? It is. But volunteering at the Sale is way, WAY better.

You get first pick of everything. 

 This is the most obvious perk, but I'd say not even close to the best. Still, allow me to share with you the mindblowingest of the many bargains that I personally found at the last Sale. Number one is a pink princess vanity table with mirror I snagged for a cool $20. I saw a similar one at Home Goods a few weeks later priced at $99. Number two is a full kid's drum set, complete with little stool, pedal and drumsticks I scored for a jaw-dropping $35. I looked it up online later; $180 new. (On a side note, I'm aware that buying something like that for a 3 year old might be considered evidence that I've lost my mind - the truth is, my kid's just got a really cool mom.) I also picked up a beautiful velvet dress with the price tag still on it, suede winter boots (in 2 sizes, you never know), puzzles, a box of wooden train tracks . . . . Let's just say Santa was VERY good to my daughter this year.

You will be fed delicious food.  

Breakfast this year will be donated by Cafe Fresh Bagel, and the lunch spread will be provided again by Sweet Basil restaurant. YUM.

It's exciting. 

The Sale is basically a pop-up, and as such a ton of energy, planning, and hard work goes into organizing and setting up a pretty large-scale event for a remarkably brief period of time. The past 24 years of mistakes, solutions, and ideas has fine-tuned the strategy and organization of the sale, resulting in an event that for all it's many parts runs like a well-oiled machine. As someone who appreciates efficiency and preparation (in other words, as a mom) this is inspiring to witness. It goes by quickly, with never a dull moment. I feel weird saying this about volunteering at a fundraising sale, but it's a rush.

You get to hang out with your friends. 

And don't tell me none of your friends are going to be at the Sale. I moved back to this area from NYC three years ago, volunteered at my first Sale this past October, and not only did I make new friends doing so, I ran into neighbors and people I didn't even realize I knew at the Sale. This has to be the best perk of volunteering, whether you do the 2 hour gig or join Sale Committee for all the fun get-togethers too; you will have a great time socializing and meeting people in your community.

Your faith in humanity will be restored.  

Maybe that's a bit dramatic, and maybe your faith in humanity is fully intact, but if you wouldn't mind a little positive upswing to your perspective, this could do it. There's really nothing like working with other people toward a common goal to make you feel more connected to the world. Especially when you know that everybody is there because they want to be. It feels good to be a part of something positive, and to be supporting not only Parent Talk but the other great charities and non-profits that benefit from the Sale, including Cradles to Crayons, Circle of Hope, Room to Grow, Bayong Kulturang Pinoy Inc, Jeremiah Project and others.
       In addition to all the aforementioned benefits, I personally get a great sense of satisfaction from the Sale because I abhor waste, and almost equally despise clutter. So I love that I can easily clear my closets of outgrown items guilt-free, and that something I want or need at the moment is there for me to use, instead of becoming more garbage. I also love saving money (don't we all), and while I suppose I could buy a drum kit for my child at $180, I'm not about to. But now she has one, and she loves it. Almost as much as my neighbors do.
       The Sale is almost upon us, but it's not too late to sign up for a volunteer shift! So if you'd like to give some of your time to a good cause and have fun doing it, see how below. See you at the Sale!

Volunteer:  email ptsalevolunteers@parenttalk.info to get a link to the Sign Up Genius shift schedule

Check out this blog post with great tips on how to donate, consign, and utilize the Sale to declutter and clear out your outgrown children's items : How To Consign and Donate to PT's Sale

More info : Parent Talk Spring Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale
Saturday May 13, 2017
Christ Episcopal Church in Needham
1132 Highland Avenue (across the street from Needham Public Library)
General Sale: 8:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
Clearance Bag Sale: 12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator! Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Call for submissions:

Would you like to write something to be featured on the Parent Talk Blog? Send me an email! Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

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