Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Brotherly Love

With a husband who works shift work and most holidays we have had to adjust our Christmas a bit and so we enjoyed our gift exchange on Christmas Eve. We all gave and received thoughtful and funny gifts. The funniest gift had to be the remote controlled fart machine that our 15 yr. old received. We were all rolling for about a 1/2 hour straight and we were not able to gain control of ourselves until we had called Grandpa and Uncle Randy to share the hilarity with them as well. 

Due to the weather the boys were told that we were going to do our grocery shopping and Christmas shopping at one store. They were set loose in the local Safeway grocery store in which they had to locate the perfect gift for everyone. Mom was easy with lotions and bath salts. Dad wasn't too difficult with some goodies and motorcycle magazines but it was the gifts that the boys bought for each other that were the most thoughtful. 

The younger one fell in love immediately with the musical snow globes. He chose a reindeer one that played Jingle Bells because it just "put you in the Christmas spirit!" However, he felt that this was not enough for his older brother. He also felt compelled to get him some little finger skateboards since they were Plan B boards and it is his brother's newest hobby and favorite board. Tim shrieked with joy as he opened his gifts and Nathan was very pleased with himself.

Tim's search for the perfect gift was not as simple. He wandered aimlessly through the store unable to decide what to get Nathan when he struck upon the idea of creating a bit of a treasure hunt. He excitedly went through the store looking for items that would provide good clues. Needless to say, we were at the store for about 2 hours as Tim and Nathan wandered the aisles trying to avoid one another and agonizing over their gift choices. 

Tim's clues went something like this; it started with a Farmer's Almanac magazine with a bookmarked page with the word, distilled water circled. Nathan was instructed to go to this item in the kitchen and find the next clue. He did this and found a Symphony chocolate bar which led him to the guitar amp, which led him to a bottle of Thyme, which led him to the clock (time), which led him to where he lays his head. Nathan raced upstairs to his bed and found a felt gift box chock full of goodies that Tim carefully chose for him. 

It was difficult to get Nathan to go to bed tonight only because he wanted to keep practicing the yo-yo that his brother had given him. 


For a hilarious look at the sweetest little guys check this out! 

Nathan's Native American Button Blanket


For Nathan's art class he was asked to create a Northwest Indian button blanket. The assignment suggested that the kids use foam sheets and felt pens to create a blanket design. He did this initial assignment but then decided that he'd like to make a real blanket that he could keep. So, using the book, Northwest Native Arts Creative Colors 2 by Robert E Stanley, Sr. he chose an eagle pattern.

We then made a copy that he colored with felt pens. Using red and black he left some white space. We then scanned the colored copy and made two copies (one being a mirror image) to create the symmetrical effect. We then printed these copies onto iron-on transfer paper and used part of an old sheet to affix them as a base.

We wanted to attach the eagle pattern to a black circle which would then be sewn to a larger red circle. This decorative piece would then be sewn to the blanket. Nathan wanted the blanket to be soft so we selected a soft black fleece for the base and use red felt for the trim and background for the eagle design. We "measured" the width of the blanket by using Nathan's arm-span as the measurement.

Not having a circle pattern the exact size we wanted (we did check all the bowls in the house first ;) we fashioned a type of compass using a white oil pastel crayon tied to some dental floss. We positioned it and created a circle the size we needed. Nathan spent quite a bit of time getting everything in place just right with straight pins so that we could then sew everything.

Nathan did some initial practice runs with some scrap fleece on the sewing machine. The blanket took a lot of sewing so mom did a majority of that part for him. Once we got the blanket all put together Nathan learned how to sew a button onto fabric. This is actually a lot harder than it looks for little 11 year old fingers but he stuck with it and between the two of us we got all the buttons attached. It took about 3 days working on this in the evenings to finally complete. 

Creating an actual button blanket was a fun alternative that gave us a little more insight into all the work that is involved in making these beautiful blankets.

Ignorance on TV

There are a number of shows on TV that I simply refuse to watch. My body physically reacts when they come on.  One of them is Oprah and the other one is The View. I'm not a big fan of Barbara Walters to begin with but when you get Joy Behar going off on Elisabeth Hasselbeck it is almost more than I can bear. 

So, while taking my morning walk and listening to the news on the radio I heard a clip of a comment made by Joy Behar while on The View. I feel that her comment exemplifies the ignorance and misconceptions that many people still hold regarding homeschoolers including this educated talk show co-host who just happens to be a former teacher!

The comment takes place at about 7 minutes into the clip. 

 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Cold and Flu Tea

For those of you looking forward to the chance of snow here's a dandy little herbal tea recipe to help combat the sniffles. This recipe was take from "Herbal Antibiotics" by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

The Best Cold and Flu Tea

2 teaspoons sage

Juice of one lemon (or 1 teaspoon lemon balm herb)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey

Pour 1 cup boiling water over sage and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain out herbs, add remaining ingredients, and drink hot.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow in the Forecast

With all this talk of possible snow I thought I'd whip up some delicious butternut squash and leek soup to eat by the fire. Here's the recipe - Bon appetit!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND LEEK SOUP 

4 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, halved lengthwise
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 lg. leeks (white and tender green), chopped
7 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
5 c. chicken stock or unsalted canned broth
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. sour cream
2 to 3 tbsp. chives, chopped
8 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash, cut-side down, on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Scrape the squash from the skin.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs.

Stir in the stock and the squash. Simmer over moderate heat for 20 minutes. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in patches until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pan and season with the salt and pepper. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 2 days ahead. Reheat the soup before proceeding.) To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 teaspoon chopped chives and a sprinkling of the bacon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Born To Read

We've heard the statistics, reading to your baby is incredibly important for brain development and their ability to learn and read later on. The evidence is indisputable. There is the saying that in grades 1st - 4th children learn to read and that from 5th grade on they read to learn.

I loved to read as a child but I don't really recall my parents reading to me on a regular basis. This was also a time, however, when I was like thousands of other kids growing up in the 70's where exposure to second-hand smoke, no seat-belt laws, and bad fashion were the norm. In fact, as a kid I could actually walk into a corner market without a parent, a note, or anything and buy cigarettes. What were parents thinking? How did we survive? As the old adage goes, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. So, even without the ritualistic bedtime story I survived and even thrived in spite of it all.

Part of the reason I loved to read was that I discovered nursery rhymes, oh yeah, and I adored my third grade teacher, Mrs. Prange at Washington Elementary. I know this sounds kind of simple and you might question my first love but nursery rhymes were my foundation. So, if told that I could only choose one book in the entire world I know the right answer should be the Bible and it probably would be for me, the adult, but for the kid it would definitely be a big huge edition of Mother Goose nursery rhymes. In close second would be Father Fox's Penny Rhymes and Free To Be You and Me. These were staples to my reading diet as a child. I could play with the language, memorize, and share with my younger siblings at will. This was back in the day when we could get three networks on TV... sorta and a Canadian station when the weather was conducive, so being able to entertain ourselves was vital.


Siblings were mentioned and I will share that my younger sister enjoyed reading as much as I did but my two younger brothers did not. One of my brothers will even tell you, with a touch of pride in his voice, that he did not have to crack a single book in order to graduate from high school. Yeah? I guess that's another story for another time. But I do know that I always bought him a nice book for his birthdays. I would go to my favorite and only book store in town and choose a classic of some sort. One year it was Shel Silverstein's, Where the Sidewalk Ends or the next it was The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I am happy to say that although my brother may not have read in high school, he is reading now as an adult and recently I had the pleasure of listening to him read to his children and I like to think that I'm a small part of that. 

Children become readers on the laps of their parents. - Emilie Buchwald

Standing In the Way

Last night we attended a local home-schooling group potluck. They meet once a month so families can get together, eat, visit, and play board games. This was our first time so Steve and I didn't really know any of the families but we wanted to be sure to give the boys a chance to play with some of their friends from Spanish class and perhaps, we could possibly get to know some new families. We ate and had a great time playing Guesstures, especially when Steve was trying to act out "Fairy" for Tim. Well, after a while we were ready to go since we had worked all day and Nathan had an early basketball game the next morning. 
As we got up to leave there was  a woman standing in the walkway speaking to another woman. As we approached I said, "Excuse me". Nothing, so I said it a little more loudly..."Excuse me". At this point the other woman that she was speaking to tried to get out of the way a bit but the other lady remained in the walkway totally oblivious to us. The interesting part was that as we passed by her I heard her tell the other woman how serious she is in telling others about the gospel. That got me thinking about how we'd like God to use us for his glory but sometimes the very thing standing in our way is ourselves. We get so caught up in what we're are saying or doing that we don't take the time to notice what's happening around us...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Teenager is Perfect!

I want to shout it to the world - My Teenager is Perfect!!

Okay, don't shut down your computer yet because I need to explain how "perfectly normal" my teenager is...he does not always understand what we tell him even when we speak in English, he needs to be reminded repeatedly to do things and then gets annoyed and insulted that we would even think that we would have to ask him twice, he likes to stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open, he thinks there is nothing out of the ordinary about farting loudly and expecting us to ooh and aah at his latest accomplishment, he can't believe that we can't easily see and marvel over the same armpit hair that is so obvious to him, he conveniently goes into hiding when he knows that chores need to be done, he is under the impression that putting his clothes away consists of taking his folded clothes, unfolding them, and randomly arranging them throughout his room, he believes that his younger brother loves it when he picks on him, makes him upset, and then creatively makes him out to be the instigator, and then there are those times that he gets moody and likes to sulk - but not without an audience! I've been told that these behaviors are "perfectly normal" for a teenager.

I have always loved the Zits comic strip. It used to be that I related to the teenager...now I relate to the parents...AAARRRGGG!!

There was the day he made the comment that he didn't think he was cut out for college. This was met with some sincere curiosity where we thought perhaps he was really thinking about what he'd like to do with his life and that perhaps it didn't involve higher education. Wow, tell us more...

But then we soon found out that there was some ill-conceived and logistical timing to it...shortly after this comment was made his mid-terms came out and we found out why he didn't think he was cut out for college...we helped him change his mind.

What's a mother to do? 

Google it! 

I know that doing "the google" is not as researched based as Proquest or what nots but I don't have time. 

So, like I said before, I google it; "teenagers, insanity, abnormal behavior" and what I keep finding over and over is that all of these behaviors are "perfectly normal". 

Basically between childhood and adulthood the brain’s “wiring diagram ” becomes more complex and more efficient, especially in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. In the meantime the body is busy focusing on physical growth.

The greatest changes to the parts of the brain that are responsible for impulse-control, judgement, decision-making, planning, organization and involved in other functions like emotion, occur in adolescence. This area of the brain (prefrontal cortex) does not reach full maturity until around age 25! 


Perhaps you have a perfect teenager too!



Monday, August 25, 2008

Strike One!

Aaahhh, back to school sales, haircuts, and teacher strikes. They all beckon the start of school. It's common news fodder each year as teacher contracts are hammered out, eventually there is a school district that "has to" go on strike. This year it sounds like teachers in Bellevue, WA are in favor of such a motion by 94 percent. From local news reports the two major issues for teachers are compensation and district-mandated use of Web-based curriculum.

Everyone tends to agree that we can never really compensate our teachers adequately for a job we hope they are doing to the very best of their ability. It is always gut wrenching when you ask your child how their day at school was and they quickly answer you with any of the following; we watched some movie, we had a substitute and colored pictures, or we just played heads-up seven-up. What?! You sent your child into an institution of higher learning and they're walking out of the equivalent of the local grocery store childcare.

I remember the same things happening in the classroom when I was a kid though. The year we went to other 6th grade teacher's classroom for math and he had no management skills. Students spent the entire time throwing spit-wads on the class ceiling and this was with him in the room! There were the numerous times where the class would engage the high-school Spanish teacher into a 40 minute diatribe on his 67 Mustang laughing all the while at the holes in the armpits of his sweater. Or the well-known and over-used trick of students everywhere when seats were switched because there was a new substitute that day. It often times wasn't until after lunch that someone fessed up to the deception and things finally got straightened out but during that time everyone was distracted and giggled so much that it prevented any real learning from taking place.

At it's very best, regardless of how much you are paid, teaching can be the greatest job in the world or at its' very worst it can be horrible for everyone involved. So, in the end, compensation becomes a moot point to some degree since everyone is pretty upfront about not going into teaching for the money. As a teacher one has to rely on themselves to make the job worthwhile. I personally believe that either you are or you are not cut out to be a teacher, regardless of the training you receive in college.

It's interesting to look into the statistics of "education dollars". Only $.57 of every education dollar sees the classroom. Much the rest goes to administration and capital costs. There are tons of startling facts about the way money is spent in education (and it's not necessarily spent for the benefit of the kids...) but one glaring example of this is that in Ohio top union leaders had pay raises that increased 9-1 in comparison to teacher salaries.

In the meantime teacher's are compensated fairly well overall in comparison to let's say, law-enforcement (my husband is in this line of work). It's interesting to note that law-enforcement officers often have to work without a contract and can only hope to get compensated for the difference in pay from that time period - they are not allowed to strike. Isn't the education of our children just as important? Let's just hope that the teachers and administration involved in considering this strike will realize that it is the kids who suffer. If grown-ups could only learn to get along then maybe we could teach our children.


Monday, July 7, 2008

The Year in Review


Well, the boys have completed their school year, we've been on vacation once, and we are preparing to go for five days to Wenatchee. The boys have completed one golf camp and have two more that they are looking forward to. They are playing golf pretty much everyday. We have an upcoming "book signing" for the youngest one and his book club that all published their stories. We've just been contacted by a new homeschooling family in the area who would like to get together. Our problem, like everyone else, is there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. I've put off weeding the front flower bed, painting the house, and finishing staining the back fence but I do have time to write this post. I have put off cleaning out my closet or under my bed but I did find time to complete the boys' yearbook. It's all about priorities and as I look back over the year I can see that even when it felt like we were busy, rushed, or bored, we had our priorities in the correct order. At the top of that list was family. As long as we keep that were it belongs everything else just seems to fall into place.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kiss of Death

"Hmmm, what would you recommend?" Easy question. It's just your opinion but you know the old adage, everyone's got one. Don't answer it! It's a set-up! Fine, go ahead, everyone does but guaranteed, it's the kiss of death. If you want someone to choose the one you want then recommend the opposite.

When I was in high-school I worked at the local theater. I loved that job! As I moved up the ranks from lowly concession worker to the pinnacle of success as the "Head Cashier" I also took on the responsibility of recommending and giving my opinion to the average movie goer.

Mistake #1: Thinking that they value my opinion.
Mistake #2: Thinking that they would like the same type of movie that I enjoyed.
Mistake #3: Taking it personally when they invariably chose the "other" movie.

I think this goes for books as well. There are "those books". The ones that we connect to on some deep and personal level. We wonder how that author knew that we had felt that same emotion at some point and how in the world were they able to express it so simply when it was so complex. I enjoy seeking out and "discovering" my next most favoritist book but I would be less likely to put that same book on my favorite list if it was told to me by someone else first, that it was an excellent book. I think it all comes down to ownership. I am not able to own something to the same degree if someone "gives" it to me. I want to seek it out, find it, and then take it or leave it. It's my choice and I own it!

"It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny." -- Jean Nidetch”

Death March

It's human nature. If someone tells you to walk, it's forced. If you decide to walk, it's lovely. This is a broad generalization but think about it. If someone had told Forest to "Run", would he have? Yet, within himself he was able to do the unthinkable because he was searching to fill a need, a want, a desire. This might be why everyone loves Forest. We can all relate to him on some level and perhaps, wish we were a little more like him.

Consider the 10,000+ men who died while walking the Death March of Bataan in the Philippines during WWII. They didn't die from walking but rather the conditions in which they were forced to walk. The distance was a measley 60 miles but it's all about location, location, location. The tropical heat, lack of food and water, physical abuse, and disease made this such a deadly stroll.The difference between being forced and the ability to choose.

These examples may be two extremes and you could easily argue that one has nothing to do with the other but I ask you to think about the power of choice.Every day in classrooms across America children are either being given a choice or they are being forced. Forced to read a book that they have no interest in...the horror! Or, hopefully, given the choice in what book they'll read next, ah, the joy! Teachers can be the dictator or the liberator. Which will you be?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Hero!



Did you hear the one about the teacher who took a stand and refused to subject his students to the WASL? He is my hero!! Consider the quote,"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer."-- Ralph Waldo Emerson. Now read the following article, imagine Mr. Chew's thought processes...the first year he gave the WASL, the second year, the seventh year, and then finally, the eighth year.It was in those "five minutes" that he made a choice. This is an example of the power of one person who takes a stand for what they believe in. When I read this article, I just beamed. I'm now imagining all of the teachers who feel the same way that Mr. Chew does and, perhaps, will finally be emboldened to act! Momentum is a powerful tool.

P.S. As of 2006 the cost of creating and administering the WASL has been estimated at over 150 million dollars!!

Apr, 22, 2008
SEATTLE TEACHER REFUSES TO GIVE THE WASL, GETS SUSPENDED

By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP
AP State
SEATTLE -- A Seattle middle school science teacher has been suspended for two weeks without pay for refusing to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in his classroom.

Union officials and education leaders say Carl Chew of Nathan Eckstein Middle School might be the first teacher in Washington state to be suspended for refusing to give his students the high-stakes test.

"Every year, I said to myself this is the last time I'm going to do this," said Chew, 60, who has been teaching for about eight years and said he has seen kids struggle through the test with few positive results to show for the time and effort expended over two weeks each spring.

He made a decision to stand up for his beliefs as he was walking down the hall to pick up this year's test booklets.

Chew said the process was all quite cordial: He wrote a short e-mail to his fellow teachers and school administrators, they set up meetings to hear his story and try to talk him into changing his mind, his principal wrote a letter outlining his insubordination and sent the case on to the school district and the district superintendent wrote back to say he was being suspended.

"Our expectation is that teachers will administer any and all state-required tests," said Seattle Public Schools spokesman David Tucker, who could not comment on Chew's punishment because the district does not talk about personnel issues.

Washington state requires its public schools to administer the WASL to students each spring. Beginning with this year's high school graduation class, students must pass the reading and writing portions in order to graduate.

Chew went to school on the first day of WASL testing, knowing in advance he would be asked to leave. Now Chew is at home, talking to reporters, responding to supportive e-mails from around the state, and hoping for better weather so he can do some gardening.

"I had no idea what to expect at all," said Chew, who estimates he will lose about $1,000 in pay for missing nine days of work.

School officials asked him what he wanted to have happen. Chew said he wanted to be back in the classroom with his students. That, apparently, wasn't an option.

"I see this very much as a win for all of us. I'm happy that the school district didn't send me packing," he said.

He said he has welcomed e-mails of support from parents and educators from around the state, but has turned down their offers of money. He asked them to make a donation instead to an organization searching for a better alternative for assessing the state's education system.

Chew said his wife makes enough money working as a medical doctor and researcher at the University of Washington to keep the bill collectors away.

Neither the Washington State School Directors Association nor the state teachers union could recall any previous cases of teachers refusing to administer the WASL.

"I know a lot of teachers have objections," said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association. "Every day I get e-mails from our members all over the state who express their deep concern over what this test is doing to their students in the classroom."

Chew said he thinks there's got to be a better way to help students reach their potential.

"All we have to do is have faith in these kids and work as hard as we can with these kids and their families and they're going to do fine," he said.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I'm sorry?

It usually starts out with someone asking with sympathy and concern showing on their face, "How are the boys doing (with homeschooling)?" I need to explain that the implication is, how are the boys doing with not having any social interaction, being held hostage by two needy and controlling parents, and not actually having any challenging academics provided to them?

My question to them is, "How is your child doing having to function within the dysfunction of the classroom, not getting to interact with their siblings and parents other than at a rushed dinnertime so they can get started on homework, not having the freedom to decide when to do school work and when to have fun, and not being able to work ahead in their favorite subjects at school because that would screw up the teacher's lesson plans for the year?"

I find that when they ask, they really are wanting to hear all of the gory details of our failings at trying to educate our children at home and how we plan to enroll them into a regular classroom setting as soon as possible.

They don't want to hear that our 8th grader, who, when tested in math, tested low and was placed in a 7th grade level math book and that he just finished his 7th grade math with an 89% average and has begun his 8th grade math with the intention of finishing by the end of the school year. They don't want to hear about his week long road trip with his dad and grandpa to see his Uncle Randy, our plans for week long vacations in February and then again in May.

They don't want to hear about us taking the day to go down to Olympia to let our legislatures know about how much we enjoy and value our homeschooling experience. They don't want to hear about how some days we all sleep in until 10:30 because we were just "tired". They don't want to hear about the workshops that the boys will attend at the University of Washington in March.

They don't want to hear about our older son participation in the Missoula Children's Theater production of Robin Hood and how it does not impact his ability to "do school". They don't want to hear that both boys are playing and enjoying basketball. They don't want to hear that the boys are not required to take the WASL because of their "part-time" status through Washington Virtual Academy. They don't want to hear about the boys' participation in a computer animation class at the local community college. They don't want to hear about our younger son's participation in a writers group which then inspired him to begin another writer's group with his other friends. Did I mention that they are going to each publish books and invite friends and family members to a book signing?

They certainly don't want to hear about Tim doing his schoolwork on a Sunday so he can go snowboarding on a Monday with his Uncle Johnny up at Mt. Baker, repeatedly, and not have to worry about "making" his work up. They don't want to hear about the songs they've learned and composed on the guitar with their dad and uncle.

After all that, I'm fairly certain that they don't want to hear us say that we actually like homeschooling. That it provides our family freedom, flexibility, and fun. As a mother and a former teacher I know that the education that my children were receiving at a private school was compromised at times by what was going on in the classroom, the teacher's mindset, and the pressures we felt with our different schedules that we faced as a family. There were times when teachers told us that although they were sorry, there was not any flexibility on due dates for various assignments, they were unable to review materials in class just because your child had not mastered it, or that they could not prevent your child's grades from being negatively impacted by unexpected absences (vacations, roadtrips, and educational outings) at various times of the year. They were sorry but if they made exceptions for one then they'd have to make exceptions for everyone...we had little control...it was not our classroom...now it is...and we love it! What can I say, I'm sorry?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Keep An Eye Out For Scott Lynch

Today at the library a patron asked me if we had the second book written by Scott Lynch. I looked and told her that no we didn't but asked her to describe the first book, which she read in Arizona and she absolutely loved it.

It's title was "The Lies of Locke Lamora" - Book I of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence.

"Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,And cry 'Content' to that which grieves my heart,And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,And frame my face to all occasions."
--William Shakespeare, Richard II, iii, ii.

The second book is "Red Seas Under Red Skies" - Book II of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence.

"All your better deeds
Shall be in water writ..."
--Beaumont and Fletcher, Philaster, v, iii

There are interesting comments posted on Grumpy Old Bookman. here's the link: http://grumpyoldbookman.blogspot.com/2006/03/scott-lynch-lies-of-locke-lamora.html
I'm excited about it...how about you?

Nathan's Native American Button Blanket

Nathan's Native American Button Blanket
Eagle patterned button blanket designed for beauty and warmth. To see more pictures of how he made this click on the picture above.

Rick Miller - Bohemian Rhapsody

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