Category Archives: health

Day 4: God this is tough

Another morning coffee avoided. Another morning of weird breakfast because I forgot about my overnight oats. Dragging a reluctant six year old around Tesco trying to work out which aisle the bloody tins of chickpeas live in was a low point. But I’m hanging on in there.

I think, given my conversation with the farmer yesterday, the only reason I’m continuing with this challenge is for re-education purposes. I’ve gotten into bad habits and I want to reset. I’m enjoying eating lots of fruit and veg, particularly cucumber and carrot sticks, I’m feeling the benefit of not drinking coffee four times a day and I’m relishing the challenge of creating tasty evening meals using new ingredients. I mean, I had never bought tofu before this week.

Today I also bought quorn. I figured if I enjoyed my stir fry that much, I should just repeat that meal with other meat substitutes. These are the habits which are likely to stick. I cannot wait to use milk again and I am definitely going to bake myself a camembert when this challenge is over. Mmmmmmmm camembert…

Oh. I’ve just checked the label and Quorn contains egg whites. Crap.

Well, dinner was delicious. More stir fried tofu, this time with spring onions, beansprouts, carrots and courgettes.

tofu stirfry

Today’s menu

Breakfast: Tin of mandarins, fresh orange juice

Snack: Cucumber and carrot sticks, red pepper humous, water

Lunch: Vegetable soup, a banana, water

Snack: I didn’t have time for a snack today

Dinner: Stir fried tofu, spring onion, courgette, carrot, beansprouts, rice, Prosecco (don’t worry, I checked, no animal products were used)

 

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Filed under Edinburgh, food, Going Vegan, health, Uncategorized

Vegan Challenge Day 3: The Farmer Speaks

I was skunnered this morning when Rod handed me a coffee, forgetting I was off the milk. I’d forgotten to soak my oats and was running around trying to get kids ready so ended up comforting myself with a trip to the local inconvenience store.

Yep, breakfast was two morning rolls dipped in olive oil and balsamic. Nutritious? I think not. I was racing to finish writing a press release before my nail appointment, so my snack was 20 Pringles. Not a good morning.

My fortnightly nail appointment is always a highlight. I travel halfway across Edinburgh to see this woman because she is excellent. She is also a character – obsessed with 195os style, owner of a gorgeous bulldog called Rose who smiles at me from her dog basket and, I found out today, she used to be the head bouncer at a notorious Glasgow nightclub called Archaos. She also grew up on a farm and spent five years at agricultural college, so I should have known better than to mention my vegan challenge.

Her rant lasted through the soak off and the first two coats of the new colour, but she made some excellent, and heartfelt points. The main one was: “The thought that farmers, whose livelihood depends on the animals they look after, don’t care and don’t look after their cows and pigs, is actually offensive. And I don’t use that term vey often cos people get too offended these days.”

She explained how strict the regulations are in the UK. There are actually laws about how much daylight, space and stimulation animals must have as a bare minimum. The picture of the sow separated from her piglets in a small pen that does the rounds on Facebook got her particularly riled up.

“Do you know how much a sow weighs? They’re twice the size of a coffee table and have about 20 piglets, if she rolls over she’s going to squash them and kill them. She goes in the farrowing pen for the piglets’ safety. They feed, they’re observed to make sure everyone gets enough, then the sow gets her own pen so she can move about safely – and can still snuffle her children through the barrier.”

Organic farming was another passionate subject for her – she derided the practice of depriving a cow who cuts itself on a fence from receiving antibiotics because lavender cream allows the farmer to claim organic status – meanwhile the cow suffers. She also pointed out the joy of UK farmers at leaving the EU because the regulations are ridiculously complex and actually prevent them from farming properly.

I won’t go on. She made some very interesting, and informed, points and given that I was still in mourning over my morning coffee, really struck a chord.

I was all set to give up on this challenge, but tofu turned my head. It’s delicious! Stir fried in soy sauce with a tonne of veg and some gluten free noodles? YUM.

I shall fight another day. Day 3 complete. And aren’t my nails gorgeous?

Today’s menu

Breakfast: Two morning rolls dipped in olive oil and Balsamic vinegar; pint of cucumber water

Snack: Pringles

Lunch: Vegetable soup, Bourneville chocolate bar, pint of cucumber water

Snack: Raisins

Dinner: Stir fried tofu with veg and rice noodles; glass of red wine

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Filed under Edinburgh, food, Going Vegan, health

Vegan Challenge Day 2: eyeing the ice cream

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 19.57.16If ever my resolve were to crumble, it would be right here.

Next to this freezer of fun was a mouthwatering selection of cakes and the seductive aroma of coffee. Not only did I resist all these temptations, I bought four ice creams for four small children and didn’t lick a single one.

My peppermint tea was actually amazing – so flavourful – and I experienced a small moment of smugness as I realised the level of willpower I had just displayed. For naturally, as soon as I was away from the dairy goodness and outside in the fresh air, I no longer craved it.

Two very good things happened today, foodwise. One, I realised I could eat the bag of Walkers Ready Salted offered to me after my vegetable soup, but the other was a game changer at the end of a very tiring day with my two darling, but temporarily possessed, sons.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 19.56.53

Now, I realise one of my goals this week was to avoid alcohol, but in my defence, I did. I avoided the Freixenet Rose my lovely mum had brought me at the weekend, because Mr Barnivore (see above) informed me they use “fining matters of animal origin”. As I was having the internal dialogue of whether this counts, I spotted the Corona bottles and saved myself the moral dilemma. In for a penny, in for a pound.

It’s 8pm and I am a little bit hungry – but I think I’ll have a banana and be fine. I’m quite chuffed with myself for not falling off the wagon yet. Or going to Starbucks for a caramel machiatto and a cinnamon swirl. It’s the challenge that keeps on giving…

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 19.56.46

Today’s menu:

Breakfast: overnight oats with almond milk and half a tin of peaches; water (I had a headache)

Snack: Carrot and cucumber sticks in the car en route to our day out

Lunch: Homemade vegetable soup (totally delicious, I surprise myself sometimes), half a packet of Walkers Ready salted (the other half was stolen by a small child), water

Snack: Peppermint tea, walnuts, raisins, banana

Dinner: Lentil and vegetable bake – made with passata, sweet potato, onion, celery, red pepper, carrots and peas (for colour, it was so orange.); a pint of Ribena.

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Filed under Edinburgh, Going Vegan, health, Uncategorized

The One Week Vegan Challenge

I love meat.

The vegan lifestyle was something I was always aware of but paid no attention to – a bit like Morris dancing.

Over the last year I’ve become more conscious of food choices. We discovered the Wee Man was gluten intolerant, then about six months later Rod accepted he was too. I have two close friends who, over the same period, have been through hell with their newborns, only to trace it to a dairy intolerance. What is going on? Are we simply becoming more aware of allergies? Or is there something up with the food chain?

I’m a journalist, not a conspiracy theorist. I like facts. I know how high the food standards are in the UK, in comparison to many other countries. In Scotland, in particular, we have an amazing larder and wonderful farms offering full traceability. And yet modern society demands convenience and cheap solutions – so there are bound to be consequences for the health of the animals who provide our food.

My wonderful friend Mags, who’s always been vegetarian and a campaigner for animal rights, last week went vegan. Talking to her on the phone was kind of eye-opening. I was honest with her – I wasn’t going to watch the documentaries or read the horror stories. Neither was I prepared to give up meat and dairy for good, because I love them. What I did want to do was educate myself. What does being vegan entail? How easy is it to find alternatives and make moral choices? So I’ve set myself a challenge.

I’m going to go vegan for one week.

I’m not going to force it on my family, but I will try to integrate it where it’s practical.

I’ve done a big food shop – online so I could find the right stuff easily – and I’ve done a bit of research into vegan recipes. It’s the Easter holidays so it’s either the best or the worst time to try this… Tomorrow I’m going to drop off KD at nursery then the Wee Man and I are off on an adventure with a packed lunch. Mine is two seeded rolls with houmous, spinach and cucumber – no butter – , his is a GF wrap with grated cheese and salad cream. We each have an apple, a banana and an Alpro chocolate dessert, plus a box of carrot and celery sticks. It’s a colourful lunchbox.

My overnight oats are soaking in almond milk, so breakfast is easy, but I’m really going to miss my coffee in the morning. I mean I can try it with almond milk, but I’ll probably have to substitute peppermint tea. Well, I like peppermint tea, so maybe I’ll be OK.

My goals this week are:

  • to succeed in eating only vegan food for seven days
  • to drink loads of water
  • to avoid alcohol
  • to record how my body reacts – specifically improvements in sleeping and mood – but any difference to my skin, weight or general well-being will be very interesting to monitor.

Just as well I had a barbecue and meat overload today, not only am I all proteined up, I have three baked potatoes left over which will probably turn into three dinners. What on earth am I getting myself into?

Wish me luck!

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Filed under Edinburgh, Going Vegan, health

First Aid for babies and toddlers

Unless your workplace offers it, it’s surprisingly difficult to organise First Aid training.

It’s something I’d always intended to do, but time flies in and suddenly you’re phoning an ambulance and fully aware of your ignorance.

The British Red Cross was my first Google, though I was also aware of St John’s ambulance. There was a centre near me, but it was going to cost £45. If I could get 15 people together and find a suitable venue I could bring that down to £25 each. So I did.

Luckily the Wee Man’s school was happy to host and other p1 parents were happy to come and so there we all were, grinning at having a child-free Saturday morning, and feeling rather smug to boot.

Our trainer, Steve, was excellent. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect – perhaps some lying on gym mats performing CPR? But no. It was all very professional and informative. Plus there were adult and baby dummies, so no embarrassing close encounters.

Steve took some time at the beginning to find out what we wanted from the course, which was enlightening. Most people said their main priority was to learn how to not panic. When it’s your own child, it’s your worst nightmare to have to give first aid. I’m not a panicker, but I am someone who will hesitate in case I do the wrong thing, so my main priority was to feel confident in my skills, so I don’t waste time second-guessing myself. Others were more specific – “how do you treat a burn?”,  “what do you do when your child is choking?” and “what if someone has a seizure in a swimming pool?”

The biggest chunk of the course was concerning what to do when someone is unresponsive but breathing and then unresponsive and not breathing.

From memory, here’s what I learned.

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Roll them onto their side and tilt their chin up or, if they’re under 12 months, hold them like a rugby ball, on their side, tipped slightly downwards
  • Call an ambulance

If they’re not breathing

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Tilt their chin up pinch the nose, administer 5 breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions using the heel of one hand (or two if they’re larger) directly in line with the armpits
  • Administer two breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions
  • After one minute call an ambulance

In the case of a baby, we have to create a seal over the nose and mouth and breathe into them.

I think focusing on these key skills before our coffee break was a good way to do it. We practised on the dummies and talked about using your body weight instead of arm muscles for compressions – it can be quite tiring. We also received a handy wee mouth guard in a packet to stick in our wallets, in case we ever had to do this to a stranger.

I found it quite sobering practising these life saving skills on a little baby doll.

We chatted about it over carrot cake and brownies. Everyone has a story about a child’s head needing glued, or a burn or broken bone – we all just wanted to feel like we could handle whatever our kids threw at us. Other tricks we learned included:

  • hold a burn under cold running water for 10 minutes then wrap it in cling film
  • if a child is choking give them five hard smacks on the back, between the shoulder blades, with the heel of your hand, then two Heimlich manoevres, which are copywritten, so I think the Red Cross call them chest thrusts. With a baby, hold them down your leg and support their chin while you smack their back
  • If a child won’t let you use ice or cold water, cuddles, kisses and reassurance are just as good. It’s important to keep them calm.
  • If a child has a temperature, strip them down and open a window. Cold cloths on foreheads are for comfort only
  • if a child has a seizure, put something soft under their head, clear the area of any obstacles and don’t interfere while the seizure is ongoing. Afterwards, lay them on their side with their chin tilted up. Call an ambulance or for help if necessary.

I mean, this is for reference, I’d really recommend doing a course for yourself. We all agreed we felt more confident afterwards, especially as our children have more playdates now and more independence from their parents, so we need to feel confident looking after kids that aren’t our own. Steve’s mantra “Doing something is always better than doing nothing” has stuck with me. I just hope I don’t need to use most of my new skills any time soon.

Hey you know what we didn’t cover? What to do when your child slams a car door on their thumb.

Which the wee man did, precisely 24 hrs later, in a car showroom. I was distracted by his brother, who had locked himself inside another car.

Of course he was too upset for cold water or ice – so it was kisses, cuddles and McDonalds.

Some things you don’t need a course for.

ouch

ouch

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What Would the Wee Man Do?

When I found out Edinburgh schools go back on the 10th of January, I was tempted to call the council.

What on earth was I going to do with them? When would I ever get back to work?

When in doubt - balloons

When in doubt – balloons

Rod probably wouldn’t admit it, but he must have been glad to get back to work on the 3rd. No one pulling anyone’s hair, repeating his name over and over and over or undoing everything he did… Actually, he works in the car trade, maybe that’s exactly what he went back to.

Thank God the nursery reopened on the 4th – only the Wee Man to entertain for three out of the six extra days.

Two days in and I’m kind of astonished to realise I’ve loved it.

What? So we're at the park again...

What? So we’re at the park again – what’s your point?

If anyone is struggling to stick to their “Healthy January” resolution, may I suggest hanging out with my son? He makes every minute of the day count – and I love that about him. Some of my friends’ kids are content to watch movies, play with their Christmas presents and generally hang out at home. Not him.

Yesterday, after dropping KD at nursery, we went straight to soft play. We were the first ones there and he whooped with delight. One other family arrived, with two small kids, one of whom introduced herself to the Wee Man and off they went. She was adorable. I played football with them and cheered them coming down the slides. They got on so well that her mum and I swapped numbers and arranged a playdate.

After a couple of hours at home we were off again, to visit Auntie Kaka and play with all her daughter’s toys. Then it was the big one: his first swimming lesson. That half hour in the pool made me so proud I could burst. For once his general lack of fear played in his favour – he was leaping into the water, swimming valiantly as he sank lower and lower and laughing the whole time. I think his instructor fell in love with him a wee bit – I could see she was proud too.

Today we went back to the pool after the nursery drop off and practised. To say he was delighted was an understatement, I actually feel bad for keeping his arm bands on this long. There was an aqua aerobics class going on at the same time and he kept trying to join in, dancing even as he drowned a little bit. There’s a soft play at the gym so I managed a quick coffee as he played, but soon we were off again, home for lunch and a wee bit of telly before donning full waterproofs and heading to the park.

A dot in the distance

A dot in the distance

As he shot off across the field with his football in the sunshine I thought “He’s just a free spirit,” somewhat indulgently. With no KD to slow us down we must have covered the length and breadth of that huge field several times over. He only stopped to hang over the fence and chat to the woman poo-picking in the horses’ field. She’d heard the rumour JK Rowling owned the sprawling stables across the bypass too and we commiserated in our jealousy.

After an hour in the zero degree cold we headed back to the car and popped in to see his great pal and her brother who, in his mother’s words, is “mad on the Wee Man” (rather than mad with him)… His energy was undented. They tore around the house, laughing their heads off, as Allison and I drank tea and discussed whether boys or girls were more of a challenge to parent.

"You be Anna and I'll be Elsa"

“You be Anna and I’ll be Elsa”

In the end the only thing that stopped us was a clamp on the wheel. Yes, they may be saving paper by doing away with tax discs, but they have opened up a whole new cash generator. I had just loaded KD into the car seat and was going back for the Wee Man when I realised the junk mail on the windscreen was in fact a £100 fine.

Drinking through the pain...

Drinking through the pain…

We have a joke in our family. Whenever we’re stressing about something we think of Big B, my so-laid-back-he’s-horizontal brother in law, and say “What Would Brian Do?” I’m thinking of adapting it to “What Would the Wee Man Do”? He is joy personified. It’s exhausting, but when it’s all about him, it’s incredibly uplifting. And fat burning.

So whenever you’re fed up, go ahead and borrow my new catchphrase. At least it will get you through January.

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There’s a new boy in my life…

I seem to have acquired another boy to look after – but this one is only two days a week. Meet Lucas:

LUCAS

I can’t quite believe my luck.

Since I was seven years old, I have longed for a horse of my own. I used to actually shake with excitement before my riding lessons. Every year from the age of about eight to thirteen I asked for “Pony for the Week” for my birthday – it was the highlight of my year to spend five whole days at the stables, grooming and feeding and riding the ponies.

Of course around the age of 14 it became more important to spend my money at Topshop than the tack shop. I’d spend the weekends planning, going to and then analysing who we’d kissed at the Archaos unders. My purple grooming kit lay forgotten in the garage, I outgrew my jodhpurs and my horsey days were over. I always tried to go for a hack on holiday – I still loved it and it’s a great way to discover a new place. My friend Dionne and I rode ponies western style across the Andes in Chile in 2005 and my friend Mairi and I would randomly book a three hour hack on the beach – took us days to recover.

But now I am right back there in the midst of my childhood obsession and I am happy as a pig in shit.

It’s all thanks to Facebook. A friend reposted Louise‘s request to find a new person to horse share and I happened to see it. I saw how close her stable was and thought I’d just send her a message and see what happened. The next evening we met up, had a chat, went for a ride (she has another horse called Corky) and it all just fell into place. It was as if it was meant to be.

Lucas and me

It has taken a fair bit of juggling to find the time to properly commit to this. Luckily Louise is flexible and I work for myself, so between us we make it work. I turn up, I muck out his stable, I lay new shavings, I fill his haynet, I collect him from the field and bring him into the stable where I take off his rug and groom him. He is so affectionate and easy to be around – the only thing he’s not too keen on is having his rear hooves picked out – we do a wee dance round the stall while I try to persuade him. When he’s gleaming I tack him up and have the joyous freedom of what happens next. For someone who’s only ever had lessons on riding school ponies, this is definitely the best bit. Today we did some work in the school without stirrups so I could improve my balance and then we went for a hack through the fields in the sunshine. Bliss.

IMG_6485

I’ve come to realise that horse riding is the ultimate exercise in mindfulness. While I’m out with Lucas all I think about is him and me. He’s a big horse (16hh) with plenty of energy and strength, you can’t afford to lose focus. But more than that, when I’m out in the countryside, with the sound of the birds and the gorgeous views up to the Pentlands and across empty hayfields, you lose yourself in the experience. It’s exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. It’s one of the only things I do that doesn’t involve any technology. No one talks to me. I don’t need to say a word (except maybe “whoa” or “good boy”). It’s very far-removed from my noisy, harassed daily life, and I appreciate every minute of it.

I even got that old grooming kit out of the garage.

Now, where’s the nearest tack shop? I need some new jodhpurs…

 

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Survival tactics

The Buggyboard, the electric pump and the tumble dryer.

If you took those things away from me right now, I really would fall into the abyss. You know, the one whose edge you dance around as a new mum? Yesterday morning I was clinging onto the edge by two fingernails, with sore boobs, red eyes and a pickled brain, having had three broken hours sleep. I’d also STUPIDLY had a curry the night before so every feed was making KD crankier and crankier. I didn’t get near the shower until midday – and even then he was in the bouncer seat by the toilet wailing.

THANK GOD for the electric breastpump. I had only found the window to use it three nights previously, having finally pried off the limpet that is my second son, so three bottles of that white gold were sitting in the fridge. And they were non-curry flavoured. A bottle of that, as my hair dripped all over him, was the magic cure, so that he actually lay quietly in his pram while I whipped up scrambled eggs and ate them. Hot! AND put the dishes in the dishwasher afterwards.

Of course I then realised I had nothing to wear. I’d been so busy washing baby clothes in non-bio, towels and sheets for visitors and the Wee Man’s soiled clothes separately (the potty training has reversed since KD came along, though it is improving every day) that all my laundry was still heaped in the basket. I pulled on a pair of joggers that bit into my 6 week post natal belly – a cruel reminder that ‘getting fit’ was yet another thing to add to my endless list. I pulled all the leggings out the basket and chucked them in a quick wash, then tumble dried them, delighted to be able to breathe properly again.

The final trial of the day was collecting the Wee Man from nursery. The rain had eventually stopped so, mindful of the Jogger Incident, I walked up to collect him. I had dreaded this task throughout my pregnancy. He is always knackered after nursery and likely to scream, throw a tantrum or just plain run off into the sunset. I’d tried every bribery tactic and restraining gadget in the book (and often just driven the 500 yards) when turns out all I’d needed was a Buggyboard. Now he kisses KD, jumps on the board and yells “BRRRRRROOOOOOOM” all the way home. I bought it for £25 from a woman on Gumtree who’d never used it and it even came with a little lead to clip it up and out the way. Amazing invention. I’m grateful for it every day.

Oh yeah – and there is one more thing you couldn’t ever take away from me. I mean I suppose I could manage without those three things, if there was a power cut or something, but this thing must always be in my cupboard. There must also always be the two things that go with it, otherwise I’d just end up sitting in the corner rocking and mumbling “twinkle twinkle”.

Lime.

Diet Pepsi.

Golden Rum.

Best buds

Best buds

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No room for the muse…

The muse has temporarily deserted me.

I used to really look forward to writing a new mum blog post, those days something funny happened or life taught me a valuable lesson. It would be a treat to open the laptop, upload the photos and indulge my creative writing hobby while the wee man slept.

Maybe that’s been the problem – the lack of sleep.

The naps – those wonderful oases in our crazy days – are long gone, and this summer the 12-hour-straight slumbers from 7.30pm have also disappeared. Some nights it’s been 9pm before he’s finally conked out, only to be up again three hours later. Those nights there’s just time to eat something before passing out ourselves.

But something else pretty big and important has taken over my life recently, and it’s no exaggeration to say it has totally floored me. Pregnancy.

It’s been a totally different experience from first time round. I haven’t enjoyed it at all. I’ve felt generally under the weather the whole time – bone tired, over-emotional, nauseous, achey and completely lacking in energy. I’ve fought it, of course. I’ve taken the supplements, eaten healthily, drunk lots of water, tried to stay active (even though my pelvis has had to be realigned and I’m doing physio every day) and clung to my perspectacles. I’ve made huge efforts to stay rational, to count my blessings that the baby’s been growing healthily, to control the tears and rages, and to continue to be a good mum to the wee man. It’s been a huge effort, especially for a woman with no energy.

Filming for the local business news broadcast - and hiding the bump!

Filming for the local business news broadcast – and hiding the bump!

My business, meanwhile, has taken off. It’s been the best trading year yet. It’s been my escape, living three days a week in a world where success can be measured and to do lists can be achieved. I’ve formulated and delivered effective strategies, returned to some proper journalism, met interesting new contacts and received praise for jobs well done. I’ve felt in control and successful, a nice contrast to toddler battles and a body that challenges me in some new way every day.

mummykimmy press call

Now though, I am four weeks away from my due date. I have finally, and reluctantly, gone on mat leave. The wee man has moved up a class at nursery and now goes three and a half days, which are more evenly spread out during the week. We have found a second babysitter – a trainee paediatric nurse who lives locally – and who the wee man loves. The sleeping has improved – though he is still up once or twice through the night – and even I have to admit that the headspace freed up by not working has allowed me to relax a bit.

Four weeks to go...

Four weeks to go…

I’ve bought myself a new notebook, glued the scan pictures into the first pages and started writing lists. Baby names, suggestions from other mums, things to organise before the wee one arrives… and I’m excited! I’m looking forward to having time alone at home to nest. I can’t wait to go through all the wee man’s old baby clothes and wash anything white, yellow or green. I’m delighted the joiner is coming to build a fitted wardrobe in the baby’s room and paint the whole place white. I’m even up for the challenge of scrubbing the pram and car seat.

I feel a sense of achievement already. And maybe the muse is returning…

 

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Protected: It’s time to start potty training – part 3

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