emi in the middle & a gift for your teenager

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for all you young mamas, i will tell you, that toddler who is wearing you out and is learning to shout say sweetly ” NO, I do it!”. well. that sorta comes back around again circa age 16. i’m sorry. true story. i realize you know this in theory. however,  that cognitive developmental stage piaget believes occurs from birth until 24 months. ish. well it sorta rings true for teenagers. take a look.

“During the early stages, infants are only aware of what is immediately in front of them. They focus on what they see, what they are doing, and physical interactions with their immediate environment.

Because they don’t yet know how things react, they’re constantly experimenting with activities such as shaking or throwing things, putting things in their mouths, and learning about the world through trial and error. The later stages include goal-oriented behavior which brings about a desired result.”

umm hello? sound like an average day with a teenager right?

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in all honesty i will readily admit we have had an easy-ish time raising our girls. we have not had any major dramas. and i realize that what has worked for me might not work for every teen. i do.

i won’t list the “oh my gosh,surely my child would never” type things because we all know them. and honestly i think we each assume, if we’re honest, that our child will…well….never do many of the things on the list. but i’ll be honest. i’m not a helicopter mom. i’m not one to micromanage my girls. i extend trust to them and give them freedom ( before they actually “earn it”)…because i trust them and i want them to feel that i trust them.. if they prove me wrong, i take away the privilege. and i don’t think i’m stupid either. and i was 16 once too. and “there but by the grace of god go i….”. so i’m aware what’s going on out there. my husband is a principal in a large public school. we’re not sitting here with our heads deep in the sand.

do you understand what i’m trying to say?

for example, if i make my girls call & text me from every event. if i drive by and scope out the scene. if i send out “spies”. if i follow their ever loving words, tweet after tweet, at what point will they think that i think they make good choices?

i’ll tell you when— like never.

do i expect them to be perfect? well of course not.

do i expect them to never break any rules or act differently than i’ve raised them? get real.

do i expect that they’ll believe everything i believe and always say “yes ma’am, let me get the door for you, and have a great day” and “no thank you, i don’t smoke weed”…well i’d like to think so…i hope so…but who i am to sit here at my little desk and think that. do i blindly think that they’ll never do anything wrong…that i define as wrong? no ma’am.

what do i want?  i want my girls to know- that they know- that they know- that i believe in them. i believe they’re good. i know they’re trying. i know they live in a generation much tougher than anything i grew up in. i want to gift them the glorious freedom that is the benefit of the doubt. i want them to be proud of their decisions. i want them to have priorities and convictions.  that their mom and dad think the good of them.

your kiddos want the benefit of the doubt. they want to know that you believe in them. not doubt them. they want you to actually respect them. or at least they do in our home. it seems the more we try to dominate their every thought & every decision the more they need to pull away & thus shut down…and not talk. and friends, if you have a teenager in your home, you want them to talk to you. they’ll spend hours and hours on that little iphone. they’ll spend hours & hours on facebook….when they plunk down beside your bed when you can barely keep your eyes open another moment, you want them to talk to you. ( oh and another free tip for you. don’t over react or freak out when they share something with you that deserves a jaw drop. you know, sorta like that commercial about ‘never let them see you sweat’?—yes. so when you want to over react and freak out. please don’t. thank me later)

you might call me naive?  i beg to differ. and honestly, i’m 2.5 years shy of 50 so at this point, if you send me a “are you stupid” email or comment, i won’t reply. that’s the beauty of old age. ha! you might say ‘this won’t work with my child’. i’m not a child psychologist nor am i licensed therapist, i’m simply sharing how i do what i do, on most days.

i want my girls to be in the world and experience the world-this beautiful diversified world that is sometimes messy and scary and different. i don’t want them to grow up and never know what it’s like to communicate with someone who’s religion is different from their own. i am not shielding them from the cussing and the drinking that goes on at the age. that is not the same as raising them with convictions and beliefs…beliefs that become their own…not just mama and daddy’s. i want them to not want to drink underage ( and all the problems that follow along with that choice). i want them to WANT to be christ to their friends–of all races. i want them to be HOPE and GRACE to a world that needs it, not sheltered away from the world. i want them to WAIT until marriage. blah blah blah.

i want them to learn how to navigate relationships…..they’ll learn while they live under our roof and then the confidence that they develop ( while under our roof) will hopefully send them out into the world, equipped and with a love and mercy and genuine interest in those around them.

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my emi girl. smile. she is gentle and loving and finds fault in like…you know… no one. she’s happy and silly and has some serious school spirit. she loves big & deep and wide. she wants to be a school teacher or maybe a missionary. she’s wonderful with little ones and has always had a maternal spirit. she has huge brown eyes that see the good. she has a heart that genuinely loves. and loves well.

when i read those words by piaget– i’m just kidding about emi. she’s not internally focused. not at all. she has a heart for the world. for real. so much so that i’m sorta worried she’s going to leave atlanta & be a missionary…in another country! ( i kid. sorta. my mama heart would be nothing short of PROUD…but ya’ll know i want my girlies close by!)

she’s making good choices. in the last week alone, i have had FIVE –(actually, this post was in my drafts & last night i had one more, so SIX ) adults reach out to me ( all from different areas of her life) and share something they see in emi.  what a great example to younger girls she is. what good choices she’s making. how she’s always loving and kind. i haven’t had six people tell me anything consistent in the last week other than that. how cool is that?

sometimes with teenagers its hard to share all about their world on a blog where their friends actually drop in and read, but emi girl, i’m so proud of you. we bang heads because…well, you’re 17 and that’s just part of growing up….but i love you dearly & will always be proud to be your mama…even if you move far far away  to peru and become a missionary!


( let me insert here for those of you who just made it through an epic long post. i do NOT share these type things to bring any light on me. or dan. i whole-heartedly believe our kids deal with non-stop pressure. non-stop “you’re not enoughs” in their life. i am using this as a platform to encourage them. this is also not any verbal condemnation on parenting styles that are different than mine. i pinkie promise. )

go forth and gift your teenager with the benefit of the doubt. it may not change the very next thing ya’ll are going to go through, but i fully believe it will bring change. it will.

October 2, 2013 - 7:35 am

geri - hi. have you done something different with how up put pictures on your blog? for a while now, I only see the first pictures that you take and the rest of the entry is blank. I enjoy seeing the pictures, it is what makes your blog enjoyable. thanks geri

October 2, 2013 - 7:46 am

Lucinda - Great post esp the part about not freaking out. I have to remember not to micromanage my last one so much. I have 2 girls. I’d love to know how you manage jealousies between them. My two have different talents and always seem to compete for attention which leads to some major fights.

October 2, 2013 - 7:54 am

Kellie - Yes! My Em is almost 15 and I agree 100%. Well said!

October 2, 2013 - 7:59 am

Lori H - Well said, Paige! I now have a 21 year old and an 18 year old, both in college. Whenever I am asked for a piece of advice, I have two that I feel are pretty universal: the don’t-freak-out-when-they-tell-you-things one, and for girls, I suggest a “conversation journal” that my daughter and I used (mostly in middle school, early high school) when talking was just too hard. At any time, one of us would write our thoughts in it and pass it on to the other to read. Works especially well when you are mad at each other but you still want to explain yourselves. The other person can read it and not feel distracted by the need to defend their point.

October 2, 2013 - 8:16 am

Jennifer - you know i love this post right?!?!
having had one teenage boy already in the house and now a 1 yr old in the home…i totally understand the don’t freak out.
boys are such a delicate one to walk around with this. we get a few talks…but i’ve learned it’s a “i keep my mouth closed the entire time…listen and then the conversation is over”. i’m ok with that…because like you said…they are still talking. now with two girls…i have the same desire as you posted above. i have found myself saying the exact words to ppl at church and others…that i don’t want my girls to go to church because i say so…or not drink because i say so…or live an unmoral life because i say so…i WANT them to WANT and DESIRE not to do these things. there is no book on how to do that. i just PRAY alot now even while they are little and let HIS word direct me. and have women like you to look up to for guidance and good Christian advice!
love you sweet friend!

October 2, 2013 - 8:19 am

Deb - You are spot on Paige! Thans for sharing your family’s life for the encouragement of others

October 2, 2013 - 8:20 am

Margaret Esterer - What great words of wisdom! Thank you for sharing! I did this so much better with the second child. As a teacher and a mom I agree with you! My daughter sent a text from college and told her dad and I thanks for trusting her and allowing her to figure the world out. She was glad she could call us and tell us anything without us over reacting. She said it made going out on her own to college easier and less scary! I made a lot of mistakes in my life! I never say never and I thank God for forgiving me! And I try very hard not to listen to the haters! Have a great day!

October 2, 2013 - 8:21 am

Jen - Thank you for the lovely advice! My oldest is nine (I have two girls) and already I’m struggling with trying to determine how much “freedom” to give her. I am so tempted to micromanage, but I know that will not help her in the long run. Parenthood is a scary thing, but it sounds like you are doing a fabulous job!

October 2, 2013 - 8:25 am

Susan - Amen and amen!!

October 2, 2013 - 8:37 am

Cynthia - As a mom of a 12yo only son, I agree with you 100%… all of it! I believe that in the world we live in it can be difficult for us “moms” to “watch out” for our kids in a way that is just too much. Giving them the benefit if the doubt IS what they want and need! Good read…

October 2, 2013 - 8:44 am

Susie Harris - I’m a mom of three. The oldest is days shy of turning 23 and my middle is a fresh new 21 yr old. My baby, precious baby, just entered into the teen years in July. I read your post shaking my head the whole way through. It’s tough being a teen and its even tougher being a parent. It’s also refreshing to read a honest post like this. I believe in your “trust” parenting philosophy and so far it has worked for our family as well. I won’t say it’s it been all candy land and “leave it to Beaver” but when you put “trust” in them, they strive to not disappoint. Yes, they do make mistakes and give us those “jaw dropping” moments but God’s love and Grace have always been enough to carry us through. My oldest is working full time, my middle is a junior in college and my sweet peanut is trying to find her way. I could not be more proud of them and just wanted to say for the record “trust” is a good thing. Without it, my kids would have had nothing to stand on. With trust, you will need Grace and forgiveness from time to time but that’s Gods gift to us… And don’t worry young parents, His supply is never ending. And those with terrible twos… The best is yet to come!

October 2, 2013 - 8:45 am

Peggy - OH dear Paige, you are a dear sweet mama and your girls are blessed! You know I have to agree with you on this one (ok I agree with you on far more than just THIS one, haha!) Has it worked 100% with our boys? NO, but that doesn’t mean we still aren’t trying to live by this! Have we had our trust broken? Have we been greatly disappointed in some of their choice? Have we been hurt when we discovered that they intentionally made bad choices as a means of thumbing their noses at us… if only behind our back as a means of willful defiance? Yes but the wonderful thing was that they came to us, ON THEIR OWN, to admit their mistakes. To admit they were wrong. To confide in us. To ASK our forgiveness for things we did NOT know about! Could we have justified going into a full fledged “hissy” fit? Probably! But do you know what? It wouldn’t have helped… in fact it would have been a hinderance. Because we didn’t (okay because I didn’t… because they love to come to me for the deep, shocking secrets of their souls privately, then come to us both…) It has actually opened doors! There have been times when I’m up until 3:00 a.m. listening to one of my boys pour his heart out. And yes we have folks come up to us and tell how much of a blessing they are… and know what the youngest just confided there was a time when he “couldn’t stand me.” Did it hurt? Yes, but he feels comfortable and confident enough to know that I won’t fly off the handle, that I will still love him, and he also told me that he is “so over that now.” Because of my own past and the path that I took as a teen/young adult I try so hard NOT to be shocked! But to let my boys know that I love them, admire them, am proud of them, and will always, always be here for them. That no MATTER what I will ALWAYS love them!! THey are my sons!

Thank you for sharing dear Paige!

October 2, 2013 - 8:50 am

Angela - Wow those girls are blessed to have you as their momma! I am sure lots of days they don’t believe that but hopefully one day they will. What a great post of encouragement!

October 2, 2013 - 9:07 am

Dana - I am right there with you girl! But I must admit that i haven’t always parented this way. Maybe that’s why God blessed me with so many children…because He knew that I am a slow learner and would have to really trust Him on this parenting job. (seriously…I could “find my friends” before there was an App for that!!) I was so determined to make sure they didn’t make bad decisions!! Then God had to teach me about TRUST…
Sometimes I think that I learned more from their immature decisions than they did!
You speak words of wisdom gained from experience and love! Thank you for sharing!

October 2, 2013 - 9:15 am

Sarah L. - Good stuff Paige. I don’t think I found anything that I disagree with, in-fact I saw things that hadn’t occurred to me or that reading it form your view point has me thinking. I may need to consider making some adjustments. We’ll see. But I want my kids to see & hopefully as best they can understand the world, and want to be a positive part of it.

Thanks for sharing & so honestly! Have a blessed day!

October 2, 2013 - 10:06 am

Holly K - I love this post. I’m on the cusp of the teenage years with a 13 year old girl, and 11 and 10 year old boys. I’m terrified because of all the things you mentioned (the alcohol, the sex, the drugs, the mean people) but also excited to see the incredible adults they will grow into. Bookmarking this post for the years to come. Thank you thank you thank you.

October 2, 2013 - 10:13 am

Jenn - I’m pregnant with my first baby… It’s a girl- and that has me worried and praying seriously I can remember this when she is “that age”…
My parents raised me with very much the same philosophy and just the other day I thanked my dad for being that way… Trust is huge.., and when a girl is 16 and she knows her parents trust her, I only wanted to do better for them… (Of course, let’s be real, we all had our times..) 😉
Keep on…

October 2, 2013 - 10:28 am

beth cleary - Paige,

i too am NOT a helicopter mom..i have a 17,13 and 10 daughters. Now the 10 year old i keep tabs on..for safety reasons. My 17 year old is so responsible, i also think she has made good choices because her girlfriends are all good girls too. my 13 year old is like your Emi, loves children..she is my social butterfly..she spent the weekend with a friend, and honestly she called me once..i was not worried once. love your family..wish i was your neighbor..for photography reasons also!!

October 2, 2013 - 10:51 am

Jen - Oh Paige–this post is going to be printed out. for me. for my hubby. it hits “home”…like a “homerun” hit home! we are just entering into the “middle school years” and quickly finding there is just…well…SO much out there. but you’ve graciously reminded me what one of the most important jobs, as parents, we have. we are raising adults. and in this day and age when there ARE so many helicopter parents…there are so many societal influences bombarding our children every day…it is our job, as mom and dad, to help foster and build the confidence needed for our children to navigate their own life through it all. will they falter? certainly. will they question? certainly. but in the midst of growth…in the midst of success…in the midst of failure…comes strength. comes courage. comes belief in one’s own self. and I truly thank you for reminding me that we want our boys to know we believe in them. through all their choices. through all their ups and down. with the mere hope, ultimately, they believe in themselves.

October 2, 2013 - 11:45 am

Kelly H - Paige – such great thoughts, I don’t know where to begin – I know that you said this wasn’t to show/brag on the job you and your husband are doing with your girls, but that statement in itself shows what wonderful parents you are to your girls! I struggle with how to do this parenting thing – especially as my kids get older (my oldest started middle school this year). The way you describe your relationship and parenting style with your girls is something that I work hard to have. My husband is a youth pastor, so we see many different aspects of how people choose to raise their children. My fear is that we will force our beliefs and feelings onto our kids without even realizing it. I just want you to know that your willingness to share how things work for your family is a huge encouragement to me! If gives me hope that we, too, can not be the helicopter parents and allow our children to learn and experience things on their own (and obviously praying daily that they will make the right decisions). I also think that my middle child is very much like Emi – hoping and praying that she continues to have the passions and desires to follow the Lord with her mission passions as well!

October 2, 2013 - 12:05 pm

Sophia - She’s a wonderful young woman, you’ve done a fantastic job raising your girls, God bless!

October 2, 2013 - 12:26 pm

Matty - Oh my goodness, you nailed it!! I am a former middle school teacher with a 13 year old and what you described is exactly how I choose to parent my daughter. I joke with her all of the time that she raises herself, ha.. Seriously though, I see these children that have been smothered all of their lives go off to college and crash. It is so so sad.

Teach them at a very young age to make choices. For example, when my daughter was a toddler and fussed about taking a bath, I would say you can take a bath and go straight to bed or you can take a bath and we will read for 30 minutes after the bath, your attitude, your choice. Every action has a reaction.

My daughter knows that she has a very long leash and that I will not hesitate to yank it back if needed.

Sometimes I feel like I am not a good mother because I do not micromanage my child’s life so thank you for making me see that I’m not crazy.

October 2, 2013 - 12:42 pm

chrissi - well said. wise words♥

October 2, 2013 - 1:37 pm

Maddie - I am SMK’s age and my mama was just like you! She had the occasional text for “proof of life” and at the tender age of 16 I thought she was “controlling” and “hovering”. But I realize now all she did was love me unconditionally and actually helped me be the person I am today. I couldn’t thank her (or my daddy) more for how they have helped shape me into a young woman who has so many dreams and goals in life! A “pat on the back” to you Mrs. Paige!

October 2, 2013 - 1:49 pm

Lemonade Makin' Mama - Big sister Paige- It’s like you read my mind and knew exactly what I needed to read. I seriously soaked up each and every word you typed like I was starving. I have honestly been in this awful place with my son of not knowing what to do. Because of his Asperger’s and AdhD and so many other issues, I HAVE been a helicopter parent to him. But now he is growing up a bit and I’m having a HARD time trusting him because I somehow feel that if I give him freedom, he will most definitely crush it in my face. I never know with him, if he will be in “mature” mode or “explosive meltdown” mode and so it’s really hard for me to figure out the mother thing. I’m always walking on egg shells with him. Last night was an explosion of huge purportions from the time he walked in the door til bedtime and I went to bed broken, angry, hurting, confused and SO frustrated not only with him, but with myself and my man. I just woke up feeling an ache that this is NOT fixable and never will be. I don’t know… the point is… (longest comment ever) that I apprecaited your take. I guess I need to walk a balance of keeping him safe and giving him the boundaries that he personally needs… while also extending freedom beyond what I am comfortable with so that he feels our trust. The idea of giving trust BEFORE it’s earned never occurred to me. I am always yanking it back and I feel that I’ve done so much un-doable damage to this relationship already. I hope not… he isn’t like most boys… and he has been a challenge since birth. It’s exhausting. I must figure this all out. Thank you for sharing what has worked. I love your heart. SO MUCH!

October 2, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Brittan Mullins - I love this. I have three little ones under the age of five and teenage years completely stress me out…now!!! I am always asking people with older strong Christian children what the secret is and what formula I need to use. Haha! My mom was just like you are with your girls and we are still best friends. She was always on our side and usually saw the best in us. She wasnt on our case all the time and she did trust us. I’m hoping I can “laugh at the days to come.” Thanks for sharing!!

October 2, 2013 - 4:30 pm

Natalie Stanfield - Paige! Wow! Love the words of wisdom and encouragement! I can’t help but think of “hard lessons” I would have missed had my own parents parented this way… how differently my upbringing could have been. But God is good and faithful and has blessed us with our own little lady to guide through this crazy world! Thank you for your encouragement and for being a light in this dark world!

October 2, 2013 - 4:48 pm

ashley eiler - I just love this, love your family, and love you!!

October 2, 2013 - 5:18 pm

becky - that’s good stuff right there! such wise words! i’ve read your blog for a while and think your girls are amazing. i’m taking notes on all your parenting advice for my own girls. 🙂

October 2, 2013 - 5:39 pm

heather - Oh you know how I love it when you post about parenting teenagers! Thank you for more of your wisdom! And I just love it when God gives us those moments when our teenagers open up. Just had one a couple nights ago… and a jaw dropper too. And I played it sooooo cool! I guess I’m sorta on the right track! thank you paige! xo

October 2, 2013 - 6:43 pm

Lea - This is the first time I have, by chance, dropped in on your blog and I am grateful that I did. For me, (a young 20 something) it made me smile becasue it’s parallel to the way my parents raised my sister and I. They trusted us unless we proved otherwise. They let us fall and make mistakes, but within the safety of their home. They reared us to be Christian women, but never once forced it upon us. Rather, they lived the life they wished for us to hopefully live. I owe everything to the way we were raised, and I know that your daughters probably will feel the same way soon!

October 2, 2013 - 6:58 pm

Krista Box - LOVE this post. So much. God has given you such wisdom on raising girls. I am so thankful to call you friend and be able to soak up any words you have on raising my sweet Della. Love you friend!

October 2, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Sherry - High 5 Paige, no, make that a HIGH 10!

October 2, 2013 - 8:41 pm

Ally - Bless you my sweet friend for sharing your stories of being a mom to a house full of daughters. As always, I am soooo proud of you for raising your girls to love The Lord and being a role model to me over and over again! I love you 🙂

October 2, 2013 - 8:52 pm

Flower Patch Farmgirl - I’m officially obsessed with every word you wrote here. And just, YOU.

This is what I aspire to, but my “spot on instincts” tend to make me a bit…distrustful. Especially with my teenager.

Thank you for pulling my head out of my read. In love. 😀

October 2, 2013 - 9:43 pm

Andrea - What a beautiful young lady……I love her smile and her love for children has always been evident….she radiates love for them. Boy, would she make a truly amazing teacher….we need more so badly (I work at a college)….. I can see why you are so proud of your sweet Emi…..

October 3, 2013 - 12:15 am

Mimi - Yes! Yes! Yes! I parented a similar way — my children were good but they had their moments. They were polar opposites so it took different parenting skills. We tried to teach them discernment so they could make choices. Parenting isn’t for sissies. I think you’re a wise and wonderful parent and your girl sounds awesome!

October 3, 2013 - 8:38 am

Carol - Love this post! Mom of two~ages 19 and 24…Both daughters have told me “thank you for letting me learn how to make decisions early on in life” Both felt that when they got to college or were on their own or were on mission trips in foreign countries or studying abroad or in tough “friend” situations, each felt confident and trusted themselves to do the right thing….I asked what did your father and I do that helped you in this process….both laughed and said “You allowed us to choose our own socks and hair bows” True….even as toddlers the question was always “pink or blue” and my oldest would say “Fuschia, mommy” or “stripes or dots” and the youngest would say “I want to wear cats today”….and out the door we would go…no sweating the small stuff but definitely empowering them with decisions that were within their maturity level!

October 3, 2013 - 12:56 pm

Leah C - WoW! I really LoVed this post!! I am 47; I have two {beautiful, wonderful, challenging, smart…} teen girls. And when I “grow up”, I want to be a wonderfully wise momma like you:) Thank you, dear Miss Paige.

October 5, 2013 - 11:15 pm

patty - paige!
excellent post.
i’m doing a 31 days series {at http://www.pearls-4-girls.com} on helping her thrive through her teen years and want to link to this post… several times you mention things i’ve written about in the previous 2 days… i hope that’s ok with you!

October 6, 2013 - 12:36 am

T H R I V E , Day {5} :: Benefit of the Doubt - […] because this post belongs  * r i g h t   h e r e * , I’m inviting you to hop over to Simple […]

October 8, 2013 - 6:37 am

a crown for imogen » simple thoughts from Paige Knudsen Photography - […] meant to thank you for the “we’re all on the same team” comments after i shared a glimpse into parenting a house full of teenagers. each of whom couldn’t be any more different from each […]

October 20, 2013 - 10:14 am

Jen - Every word is true. Thank you for writing the words I believe in my heart.

October 20, 2013 - 5:22 pm

tara - I don’t know how I missed this, but I did.
I love your wisdom.
I feel like I need an every day reminder to give my kids the benefit of the doubt.
It’s SO much a part of my story to be a little suspicious.

Luke has said several times over the past year that he needs me to trust him.
It is such a HUGE need for our kids…and you’ve confirmed it.

I’m trying. I’m being honest with him about how hard it is for me…telling him it’s MY issue…not his. He’s done nothing to merit me being a helicopter. 🙁

It’s me letting go of more control…me trusting their stories (mistakes and all) to God.

I’m glad I have you in my life.

October 21, 2013 - 10:49 am

Jen - LOVE this! Our philosophy has always been to trust our kiddos (21 (and happily married), 18, 16, 14) until they give us a reason not to. And they have, occasionally, and then we walk the long, hard road to rebuild the trust. They are learning that poor choices have consequences and we are learning to trust them again-and love them anyway! Just like our Father God does for us! 🙂

November 23, 2015 - 11:02 am

Weekend Faves - […] can’t stop loving and thinking about Paige’s post on parenting teenagers with trust rather than skepticism. This was written for me. Especially during […]

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