Monthly Archives: February 2014

Calling All Moms: The Mother of all Celebrations

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I’m breaking a bit of news here.

Fair warning:  It’s the kind of news that I will likely sneak into countless conversations for the next twenty years or so (because, well, the statute of limitations has run out on my Reality TV fame and my kids and spouse and friends and family and strangers say I’m not allowed to talk about that anymore).

Lucky for me I get another chance to become the Norma Desmond of the Suburban Sunset Boulevard.

You say insufferable …

I say …

(cue in visual of a victorious Mary Katherine Gallagher)

SUPERSTAAAAAAAAAAR!

(hey now, if one is repeatedly called lame by their children on a daily basis, this is not bragging.  Just wishful thinking.)

Honestly, we all know I have been (pitifully) regaling in my fifteen minutes of television notoriety for more than a (gulp) decade.  It turns out I now have something different to go on and on (and on and on) about for the next ten years.

While not exactly Eyerollingmom: The Musical, a most humbling of honors has come my way.

One of the obvious pitfalls of being a writer/blogger is the unavoidable consequence of personal exposure.  You put yourself out there with every written word and – if successful – you can incite genuine feelings in your readers.

If you’re me – and have made the conscious decision to divulge personal parenting truths AND at the same time raise literate children  – you know at some point these kids might actually read some of your stuff one day.

And likely … they’ll be pissed.

Eventually, though, your kids might mature (might) and perhaps if you’re lucky, one day think you’re kinda sorta (a lil bit) cool.  Fingers crossed, this will become one of those times.

A while back I wrote about my daughter, who was thirteen at the time.  When the piece, “The Thinking Girl’s Thong,” was published, it duly enraged her once she caught wind of it.  Naturally since that time I’ve found countless and creative other ways of ruining her life so really, we’re good now.

Still, it was – and is – one of my favorite pieces of writing I’ve ever produced.

Here’s why she can’t be mad about it ever again:  The essay has been selected to be a part of the “Listen to Your Mother” series of shows that have been staged throughout the country for the past few years.  “LTYM” is coming to Boston for the first time later this spring and I have been invited to be one of the inaugural “performers” and read my adored ode to my favorite teen queen.

I will be joined by fourteen other inspirational writers shining a deserved spotlight on all that is good and real and true about the phenomenon of being moms.  The good, the bad (the wine?) and the lessons needed to be shared.

So … if you are a friend …

Or a (blog) follower …

Or a (Reality TV) fan … (I kid, I kid)

I cordially invite you to “Listen to Your Mother, Boston,” a show devoted to “Giving Motherhood a Microphone,” on Saturday, April 26.

Get gussied up …

and grab your guy …

or grab a girlfriend (or seven) …

or better still (if you are so, so damn lucky) grab your mom

And come commemorate Mother’s Day the way it should be:  with moms, praising moms, celebrating moms.  Truth:  Nobody rocks the way we do.

At the very least, check out the event (in 32 cities!) and raise a glass to tales of motherhood, warts and all:

http://listentoyourmothershow.com/boston/

(…and, a promise:  if I do not faint on stage, I will be graciously accepting celebratory beverages after the show — at which time you may absolutely hand down a cease and desist order of when I must stop talking about this)

Spread this awesome news, share my Facebook page and treat yourself to a mighty mom time!

www.facebook.com/eyerollingmom     www.tinadrakakis.com     www.twitter.com/eyerollingmom

WooooooooHooooooooo!!!!!!!!

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(Too Much) Food for Thought

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            My college friend, who had graduated a year before me, came back to visit me one weekend during my senior year.  Still clinging to my freshman fifteen (cough, 3 years later), I was stunned to see her svelte figure.  What the…?  I could’ve sworn she was just like the rest of us — chunky from chicken wings and puffy from pizza — just the last time I saw her.   What was her secret?, I demanded to know over pitchers of full-caloried, non-lite beer.

 

            She shrugged.  “I eat to live — not the other way around.”  She was burning the midnight oil with her first teaching job and sometimes (deep breath here) forgot to eat — at times opening up a single can of corn and digging right in with a fork.  Dinner.  Imagine that. 

 

            It’s been a long time since that unsettling day but it turns out, away from the excess and decadence of all-you-can-eat cafeterias and 24-hour sub shops, I’m not much of a food person myself;  today her words seem hardly profound anymore.  Sure I’ve got  my favorites (I defy anyone to pass up a pig in a blanket) but I’ve realized that, like my friend, I’m not such a big fan of well, food.  In fact, I rarely ever even think about it let alone obsess over it like a few people I know.  

 

           I couldn’t tell you what I’ve eaten at any wedding (and definitely can’t recall what was served at my own) and it takes way more than a strand of hair in my plate to make me send any dish back.  I don’t salivate over brownie sundaes and I can’t even think about Chinese food in the summertime.  Going out to dinner is a simple joy based solely on the fact I’m not home scouring the sink.  Actually, as a mom, a dinner out is clumped into the same luxury as getting my teeth cleaned without simultaneously rocking an infant car seat with my foot (who hasn’t done THAT?).  For me, food’s always been an afterthought.  Lunch?  I don’t know, just how many leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts constitute an actual lunch?

 

            When I became engaged I didn’t register for china.  What for?  I’d argue.  Or better:  have you met my friends?  What in the world was I supposed to serve on expensive and delicate dinnerware to a group who typically raced the rising sun home to their beds after a night out?

 

            My take-it-or-leave-it (not to be confused with my take-out) attitude has little to do with cooking.  I can cook and I do cook.  I’ve thrown dozens of parties but not once have I ever stressed out over a menu (my sister’s left eye is twitching right now at this admission; she, dear readers, is a foodie:  one who will stir homemade risotto for hours until her wrist snaps off).  Not me.  I’ve scanned hundreds of recipes in an attempt to try something new, only to get to an ingredient I’ve never heard of and turn the page (what exactly is bulgur?).   And, like millions of others, I’ve watched the Food Network in amazement, truly believing that my kids would develop a fondness for (pick one) beets, turnips or summer squash if only I knew how to julienne.

 

            Once for my birthday my husband thought it would be faaaaaabulous to treat me to a fine dining experience.  You know, one of those “It’s a surprise — just look pretty, honey, and get in the car.”  He found a unique French bistro that a local couple ran out of their home.

    The husband was (according to them) a renown European chef and the wife was (according to mildly nauseating innuendo and touching) his biggest fan and cheerleader.  Because various fine wines accompanied each course, (and because “wine tasting” is my own personal oxymoron) naturally we got shattered.

     Before too long, we couldn’t wait to leave.  By the time dessert was being presented we were offering up fake apologies and explanations of babysitter problems and texting friends underneath the table “Where R U?”  I know, I know, you can take the girl away from the Big Mac but….

 

            I must add that in no way is my family suffering from their mother’s lack of culinary class. They appreciate and embrace all kinds of foods.  One eats mussels while the other grabs the chair farthest from them.  One uses Tabasco on everything and the other has never once felt a lettuce leaf in his mouth.  We all fight over the last mozzarella stick.  Every.  Single.  Time.

 

        But it’s taken me far too long to realize my family is just as happy with omelets for dinner as the balanced array of protein, starch and vegetable I was falling down with exhaustion preparing for them each night.  It’s not that the effort wasn’t appreciated; it’s just that I finally noticed the banter (and burping) was exactly the same regardless of the caliber of the meal.

 

            The sheer width of my backside attests that I truly do love food.  I just don’t want to spend precious time talking about it.  Or thinking about it.  OR SEEING PICTURES OF IT ON FACEBOOK…..  

 

     The truth is I don’t care if it’s a baked potato or fries on the side and I think there are far too many salad dressings to choose from.  I want my dining experience to simmer with laughter.  I want my meal to boil over with glasses clinking and forks dropping and knees touching.  I want to pass around warm stories, not warm bread.  I want to share mouth-watering moments found in every day living.  Like when my little guy’s Spongebob underwear showed clear through his white tee-ball pants.  Delicious.  Like when I discovered that a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser will poof!  vaporize the scratches off my fender after I’ve screeched against the garage door.  Delectable.  Like when torrential downpours completely freed up my scheduled afternoon of back-to-back ball fields.  Scrumptious.  Like when friends are genuinely surprised at how late it is because the night just flew by.  Undeniably lip-smacking.

 

            These are the flavors I choose to savor and these are (mozzarella sticks aside) my favorite foods.  Bon appetite indeed. 

 

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My FAMOUS Friend (of a friend of a friend)

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My friend Linda posted a photo a while back.  In the picture was her cousin with his lifelong best friend – who just happens to be David Axelrod (Barack Obama’s senior advisor at the time) — and well, Obama.  They all attended the Bulls/Wizards game one night.  Her cousin toured the White House, saw the oval office (smaller than people imagine, and — did we know —  Obama uses JKF’s old desk?),  and then joked and chewed the fat with the Prez at the basketball game like it was no big deal.   He said the entire night was electric — when Obama walked into the arena it sounded like a rock concert.

 

Best friends with the president’s senior advisor.  Now THAT is cool.

I looove the friend-of-a-friend connection.   My husband’s buddy’s brother was in Animotion, that one-hit-wonder band of the 80s.  Today, every time “(you are an) Obsession” comes on, my kids will crack up and shout “Hey, it’s Jerry’s brother!”  (Of course my kids know 80s iconic music.  If yours do not ….  tsk, tsk ….)

My former boss had two sons who grew up with Jerry O’Connell, the chunky little kid from “Stand by Me” who is now a hunky TV and B-movie star.  She told wonderful stories all the time: Jerry grew up eating dinner at her house, getting in trouble with her boys and today they are all still friends.  I love that.  I know someone who knows Jerry O’Connell.  I’ve heard so many stories about him I feel like I know him, too.

My father always told us about the time he dated Rosemary Clooney.  As a kid it didn’t really register as anything fantastic but now I think, wow…. pretty cool.

Knowing somebody famous is hugely different than just meeting somebody famous.  And funny, aren’t we always in a wee bit of competition to have the best brag?

My sister was once asked to dance by Chad Lowe — brother of Rob — in some college bar (the only thing I find remotely interesting about this – in an ironic kind of way — is that at this exact moment in time, hundreds of miles away – on my own college campus – I happened to have a poster up in my dorm room of the way hotter brother.)   Let’s not mince words:  he is still kinda hot.  I digress.

My brother-in-law will brag that he went to college with Meg Ryan (who was known as Peggy).   Oooh, what was she like?   Don’t know, never hung out with her.  Fizzle.  No points for that one.

Thankfully, together they’re raising children off to a WAY better start:  in his freshman year my nephew became friends with Evan Springsteen.  Of course I mean that one.   Please … my heart palpitates at merely the idea of crossing paths at some point in time.  I once received a very hushed and covert call from her.  In what was likely not as stealth as she’d imagined I heard her whisper (from her basement), “Evan Springsteen is eating … my … MEATBALLS!”  Props.  That totally redeems the Chad Lowe tale.

 

Here’s my one funny story:  In my early professional life I once had to spend some time with a (C-list) celebrity who was promoting her rather lame memoir —  a tell-all of her hidden struggle with alcoholism.  It was my first book convention, it was in Vegas, and well, I was really (really) young.

Translated, “convention” means “unlimited free alcohol” to a twenty-something.

It was bad:  I’d gotten in from my night out only hours before her morning book signing.  I’m certain I still reeked and my head was spinning, but I made it through the signing.  I thought I was home free as I took my seat next to her at a luncheon but right in the middle of it she totally lost it.

 

She couldn’t take it anymore — in a diva-like moment, she furiously demanded that the dessert cake be sent back to the kitchen because she insisted she smelled liquor in it (“Ummm, no.., that would be …  your publicist…”).

 

I wanted to die.  I sat motionless as the restaurant staff was severely admonished.

 

I guess it’s probably best that I don’t know too many famous people because —  hello, — look where all my stories would end up….

 

 

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Do(uche) We Really Need to Discuss This Now?

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All I remember is that it started with sperm.  There I was, frying up some egg sandwiches and before I knew what was happening, there were giggles and roars and it dawned on me that the boys were using the word sperm in their banter.  Third and fifth grade.  Terrific.  The thing is, I probably should’ve seen it coming – just last week one came in to rat on the other that he’d just been accused of having a mangina (you know, instead of a manhood).

 

Joyous.

I took a breath.  I can do this, I thought.  I’ve done it before.  A couple of years ago while driving around with my then-fifteen-year-old he referred to someone as a douche bag. (Flash-forward to today and this word has appallingly become part of the teenage vernacular, used in movies and television and sooooo not a big deal.  But back then it was merely on the horizon and I was aiming to halt it.)  In the best smart-ass-y voice I could muster, I asked,

“Hey, do you even know what a douche bag is?”

“No.” was his shrugged response.

“Well,” I started cheerfully, “it’s actually a bag of cleaning fluid a woman squishes up into her vagina to clean it out.”  Cue in wide grin.  “Cool, huh?”

He would’ve jumped out the window had he not been temporarily struck by mortification paralysis.  But I think it went well:  I never heard the word come out of his mouth again.

So apparently here was my déjà vu.  I had to dish out some more blunt, in-your-face reality but I was ready.  I was the master.  This was going to be cake.    Plus, as an added bonus, I had BOTH of them right there – I wasn’t going to have to go through this twice.   I looked at the two of them and began.

What I said was, “Do you even know what sperm is?”

What they heard was, “Unleash the titans.”

I spent the next twenty minutes fielding their questions…. and then extinguishing their subsequent fits of laughter at my responses.   When they weren’t falling off the counter stools in hysterics (at the thought of sperm shooting  out of the hot dogs they bite into) they were squealing at situations their sharp little brains conjured up (“…..so then Mom…where do….gay men…. put their… penises….into?”)

Good God.  All this and an explanation of porn before ten in the morning.

I did my best, answered truthfully and stressed the seriousness of taking all private matters well, seriously.  It’s a tough paradigm shift:  Kids are exposed to so much junk in such comedic ways it’s no wonder they think every sexual scenario is out of a “Superbad” movie.

Chivalry may be dead but  now modesty is on a respirator.  Good times for kids.

So it was a morning for the books.  And —  for Mom getting through it —  an evening for Bud Light.

For the record, the discussion didn’t end at the kitchen counter.  My husband found a reason to grab my 10-year-old for a Sunday car ride and got through a much needed follow-up-father-son discussion without the added distraction of a younger brother (or – cringe — food references).

And alas, before the weekend came to a close, that crazy karma came sniffing around again.

 

“Mom, I have a question…..”  My son’s voice trailed off when he noticed his brother within hearing distance.  I gently inquired if it was a question which might be best asked in private.  “I don’t know… I just don’t understand a word.”

“It’s okay, just ask.”

“What does douche mean?”

 

Baaaaahhhhhh!

 

I got this one.

 

 

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You’re Number 1 (… and so are YOU, and YOU and …)

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I’ve been paying close attention to the ubiquitous catchphrase “Millennials,” which refers to the new crop of young adults who will be entering the workforce and taking over for the tens of thousands of retiring baby boomers.  Born between 1980 and 1995,  it seems this group has had the dubious distinction of being coddled their entire life and has subsequently spent the last two decades hearing doting parents and teachers alike insist “You’re special!” and “You’re number one!”

Funny.  It turns out if kids hear something like this long enoug,h kids tends to believe it:  according to the grumblings this future working class apparently has little regard for authority and worse, a less than reverent approach to protocol and procedure.  Look out people:  when the Millennials take over, flip flops on Fridays will be the least of their demands.

I’m becoming increasingly interested in this subject for a couple of reasons.  First off, my husband’s profession is smack-dab within employee recognition and – specifically – employee retention.  This oncoming cattle rush of E-Bay employees willing to take their services to the highest bidder whenever something doesn’t go their way concerns a corporate America that relies heavily on longevity and loyalty.  But that’s just him and his white collar world.  My main motivation for concern lies in the significant fact that I am presently nurturing two creatures that fall into this well, coddled category:  yep; teenagers.

For the record, I believe my kids are far from coddled.  I’d like to think I’m doing my part to keep society sane because – get a load of this: I don’t give my kids whatever they ask for — but it turns out I’m not exactly the majority.  Some days I feel as if I’m swimming against a tide of teenage entitlement because absurd entitlement abounds elsewhere in their lives.

On town ball fields my kids learned to play scoreless soccer.  Seriously.  Did it ever occur to anyone that if kids are old enough to understand the rules of a team sport…  they might also be able to count the number of times a ball gets kicked into a net?  And while official play books are manned and statistics are recorded during their little league games, nope, there’s no score kept there either.  Everybody plays.  Everybody runs around the bases. Everybody gets a big shiny trophy at the end of the season – just for participating.  For real.

I recently attended a school concert which began with not one but four vocal solos in a row.  None were outstanding.  At first I thought it was me; perhaps my benchmarks for preteen warbling were unrealistic (damn that dreaded “American Idol”) or worse, perhaps I’m completely tone deaf from all my screaming about chores.  When I casually looked around and saw other parents with pained, confused expressions, I knew it wasn’t just me.  While it was uncomfortable enough to sit through, it was more mind-boggling when the reason became clear:  those teenage girls were shamelessly standing alone at a microphone simply because they had asked to.  No exceptional talent was required because really, everyoneone is talented, right?

My kids have stayed after school to “finish” taking tests.   They’ve also taken a test and then have re-taken it again and again until the grade is acceptable to them.  Whatever happened to “time’s up/pencils down”?  And where were these teachers twenty-five years ago when I was taking my Calculus final?

It may not take a village but it’s certainly going to take more than just me to get things turned around here.  If I’m willing to endure round-the-clock declarations of unfairness or continuous accusations of “worst mom ever” I’d like a little support from the trenches.

I don’t need Dr. Phil; I just need other parents (and maybe the occasional coach or music teacher) to band with me and tell these kids that real life provides rewards for hard work.

And it is NOT okay to return to our homes indefinitely once college is over (God help me).

And there IS something wrong with showing up late to work.

And by the power of Thor, flip flops are always going to be wrong, wrong, wrong in a cubicle.

 

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Little Baby Fug

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I should have seen it coming.

I should have known.

I should have been prepared.

But why would I ever think the odds were going to tilt in favor of irony when Fate had been so kind to me before? I had tested her and tempted her on three separate occasions, and now fickle Fate was sending me a message: the well of good fortune had run dry and that was it.  We were done.

So my fourth baby came out, well, ugly.

He was tiny—for us—a scrawny eight pounds compared to his robust siblings, my smallest yet. My runt. I remember calling my bestie  Betsy and whispering into the phone from my hospital bed, “No… he’s really not like the others.” There was more surprise than shame in my voice, but it was okay; I could tell Betsy these things—we’re that close. Truth be told, she was the only one I did tell. We often joked that if either of us ever had an ugly baby, we’d be the kind of mother who knew it. None of this isn’t-he-beautiful-just-ignore-the-lazy-eye nonsense.   We had a clue. We would know. And so I knew.

“I’m sure it’s not so bad,” she soothed across the miles. But I could tell what she was really thinking: It’s about time, bitch.

She was right. My first three kids were beautiful. Not beautiful in the  “all kids are beautiful” sense of things but seriously, really beautiful. The kind of beauty that may very well garner them an extra day for a term paper. Or perhaps a cab right away. Or maybe an undeserved second interview. That kind of beauty.

I suppose it was bound to happen eventually, but boy, did I feel bad for this little guy. Everyone—everyone—notices the obviously ugly, the decidedly different sibling. They’re the stories of legends. The Cinderella stepsisters. The Ashlee Simpsons, racing to plastic surgeons to keep up with sexy sisters. The sad little Shaun Cassidys forced to belt out lame pop ditties just to measure up to teen idol brothers (who doesn’t shudder at “Da Doo Ron Ron”?) The Titos, Jermaines and La Toyas of the world. What about all those other Baldwin brothers? Anyone know any of their first names?

This baby was doomed.

“He looks just like the others!” my mother shrieked with delight. But I knew the deep, dark truth.

My oldest son, eight, was the epitome of Gap commercial cuteness. My daughter, six, was a sassy, stunning siren. My toddler, 18 months, sported delicious ringlets and smiled constantly. Was it any wonder that I’d become jaded by perfect jaw lines and bedazzled by blue eyes?

When firstborn arrived, naturally he was perfection personified (as all firstborn are). There is no scrutiny or comparison with a firstborn. Ever.

When second-born came, she was the prototype First Girl in the family. She could have been born with antlers and we’d have eaten her up all the same.

When third-born joined us I hadn’t held an infant in my arms for a stretch of four years, so it was like having a firstborn all over again (only with two little potty-trained elves running around helping me fetch things). It was bliss. Third-born could have been Rosemary’s Baby, but I was so thrilled to have him I never would’ve noticed.

This fourth time (my predetermined final time) when forced to look at three other adorable frames of reference, I noticed.

I’d been traveling a precarious road all along, waiting for the other shoe to drop because really, our family is an oddity. My husband and I absolutely should not have the kids we do. Really. My husband is Greek, Puerto Rican, Irish, geez… too many more to mention. I am Irish, German, Italian, a dash of Hungarian… you name it, and we’ve got it. We are the United Nations of genetics. Also, we are dark—and not exactly, er…shall I say, slight (visualize a chunky caricature of Gabby and Carlos from Desperate Housewives.) Yet all four spawn are miraculously light and—how about that irony again—remarkably thin. Our children turned out wrong by every account.

So I imagine it was time. I loved my littlest creation and held him tightly for his first two years as he cried and cried and cried. I’d silently question the sincerity of people when they’d remark how cute, or delightful, or lovely he was (clearly they were just being polite). And life went on. Fourth baby got toted around to school assemblies and soccer fields and play dates like all other youngest siblings—like a little piece of Samsonite.

Ah, but it turns out that Fate’s got a grand sense of humor.

Somehow, sometime, when I’d stopped paying attention, my littlest creation sort of fell into line. He became un-ugly. Today, many years into his happy little life he is as easy on the eyes as the others and (perhaps for greater irony) may very well be our standout swan.

Which makes me wonder: Was my ugly duckling actually an ugly duckling all along, from the beginning? Probably not, judging by his photos (which are naturally fewer than his siblings.  Naturally, tthis is okay; it is the documented rule of birth order). And did he cry as incessantly as I remember, or was I perhaps a bit more frazzled and older and less patient to handle him? Likely. More, was I just being judgmental and shamefully hard on him? Regretfully, yes. (Paging Joan Crawford?)

But, oh, that fickle Fate. It’s funny how she works. My perfect firstborn? He’s a teen right now and sure, he’s a hottie. But let’s just say if I had a dollar for every missed homework or incomplete assignment Boy Wonder tosses into the big black hole of his life, I’d be sitting pretty right now. He is clueless beyond reason, without a strand of street smarts running through his veins. His beauty was a tradeoff: I gave him life, and he gave me a facial tic. And stunning second-born royalty is still a stunner, but her sarcasm is insufferable at times, bound to repel unsuspecting nice boys. She is destined for spinsterhood in the future if she doesn’t watch it. Third-born’s luscious ringlets are long gone, but he’s still a looker, only the laziest child I’ve ever met. Presently he’s attempting to complete the fourth grade without lifting his head off his desk. I watch the three of them and thank my lucky stars they are blessed with good looks, because I fear they will desperately, sorely need the boost in life.

And that ugly little fourth-born? He’s having the sweetest revenge of all. Not only is he smart and respectful and motivated; he is, well,if I have to admit,  my sweetheart. A living doll, enjoyed and loved by all who meet him. I’m hoping he never knows my first impression of our first meeting until he’s old enough to laugh about it.  And I am financially able to cover his therapy costs.

My ultimate confession to Betsy has become a running joke that continues in our lives. For years following our private exchange, she remarked in wonder every time she saw him, “Ah, here he is, Baby Quasimodo.” Her eyes twinkle with sarcasm, but I can always detect the dig in my good friend’s voice: It figures, bitch.

 

 

 

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