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Panicing About Christmas Time Already.

I'm trying to think of presents for my 3 year old son. I'm glad he's not at an age of Wei's or Guitar Hero's just yet. My husband has been unemployed for about 6 months now and money is really tight. What kind of make at home presents do people do at low cost or no cost? I don't know how to sew. I am checkng on freecycle for legos, lincoln blocks, and puppets. Any other ideas? And how does one get on toys for tots?

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I just wanted to add that I recently found that Ross has a toy section- and the toys are pretty cheap. My friends two sons love Spiderman, and I found some Spiderman lego sets with characters and blocks for 3.99- and the price normally would have been $15, which I would have spent.

You have some great ideas- good thing you're starting out now with plenty of time.

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How about a used book, a bouncy ball, new shoes, crayons? Hand-me downs from a friend's kid?

I gave a friend an old Thomas Train set that my boys had outgrown, and she says her son SLEEPS with it, he loves it so much! He is three or four.

My MIL gives literal mountains of gifts to our kids every year---last year it took so long to go through the pile they got bored and wandered off halfway through!!! I see them perfectly happy when we give them gifts of new pencils, or some cozy pajamas---that's all they need to be happy, seriously.

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Do you have friends with older sons? If so, I've found that hand-me-down toys are fine for kids this age! Just clean up the toys and wrap them. He'll never know they aren't brand new, and even if he did, they are still new to him, right? =)Toys that do very well for hand-me-downs are any kind of trucks (like Tonka trucks), matchbox cars, train sets, that kind of thing. Christmas is about the spirit of love and joy, not about buying tons of cheap plastic junk from China! Please don't let this stress you out. We've actually started a trend in our family of not giving gifts at all except to kids under 18, and even then, it's ONE toy or item, and it may or may not be brand new. The kids are just as happy with this plan (maybe more so - fewer thank-you notes to write!) and it has really decreased our stress levels.

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It's not about the GIFTS!!!! It's about the family time together. Gifts are not important and kids need to learn that at a very early age. How about a date at the ZOO or Tilden Park? Many of our friends do not give material gifts, they give gifts of time. If cildren learn at an early age the holidays are NOT about $$$$$$$$$$ and gifts, you ahve done a huge service to the world.

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Sorry you're feeling stressed. I hope you get some helpful responses. Like you said, it's a great year to have a very young child who doesn't have strong or specific material leanings yet! A few thoughts I had:

-Package up some wonderful experiences for him like tickets to ride the train along with a special hat for the day. Tickets for the movies or the zoo.
-Maybe make a simple sandbox (sand in a kiddie pool) http://www.ehow.com/how_###-###-####_own-sand-box.html
- Giving him his own space in the garden along with some seeds and a shovel and the promise to do it together?
-A homemade nature kit with magnfiying glass, jar and a book on bugs?
-Thrift stores?

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Wow, you've had some great responses from wonderful moms. I was also going to suggest a swap party with your friends who have children of a similar age. A good friend of mind recently held this type of party for her girlfriends. We all cleaned out our closets, brought our old clothes, handbags, shoes, etc... and spent a fun evening drinking wine and trying stuff on. Everyone went home with something that was new to them and the rest went to goodwill. Something similar could be done with toys. Did I mention it was a potluck?

As far as shopping, I think IKEA is great and my daughter has LOVED some of the toys and stuffed animals we've gotten there. I would not encourage you to shop at the dollar store for toys because what you find there may contain lots of lead or other harmful chemicals. Shop owners can't be too discriminating when they're selling stuff for a dollar.

best of luck and it's a good thing you're thinking about this early. Hopefully you can get the bulk of the stress out of the way and enjoy the holiday!

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I'm not sure if anyone suggested this yet, as I don't have time to read all the advice (I see you've gotten lots!). In addition to Dollar Store and such (which is where I bought all kinds of craft things for my daughter's 3rd birthday present and she loved it), what about making a 'coupon book'? If you have a computer and printer, you could do it that way or make it the old fashioned way. You could draw or use clip-art for the illustrations to help him 'read' it. Example: "This coupon good for Matt and Daddy to bake one batch of oatmeal cookies" and have a picture of a cookie. You could do all his favorite activities and those fun things that we often say no to such as "Good for all the puddle splashing you want the next time it rains". Sure, you have to think of things you don't do often so it's more special. But seriously, at age 3 they haven't been too damaged yet by commercialism. And remember to start limiting what's on TV soon...the ads are coming!!! That's when we tend to watch more PBS or DVD's so we don't see commercials and I don't have to hear, "Mommy, I want that!".

Good luck--and remember, he'll like the box just as much as what came in it!

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at age 3 he's not concerned about it so dont you be!! my sons favorite xmas gift was the box whatever he got came in. the bigger the box the happier the kid. one year my dad brought him a huge box (they got a new stove) wrapped with one end open (but still wrapped) and talked him into running into the wrapped box. when he burst thru the wrapping into the almost empty box i thought he'd never stop laughing. tapped to the inside top was a box of crayons. we spent the whole day drawing on that box and playing in it. another year we got several large boxes from behind the sears store and made him a box city. he thought it was the best present ever! at 12 he still loves boxes. is there something like that your boy loves?

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Hi T.: You just hit a hot button for me.
We have 5 children and now several grandchildren. When our children were young we were military and if any one checks they make less than anyone!
My Grandchildren are STILL playing with the blocks he made out of scrap wood, that was cut, sanded, some have the paint worn off now but the memories will always be there. We have never been ones to give tons of presents. We give each child 2 main gifts and then the stocking is the grand prize. Even as adults they say they never know what mom will put in there-- bubbles- tennis balls - toys from the ceral boxes alll those things that come with childrens meals. We make it for fun. On the 8th birthday we make it a really big deal. For that person they get a tent and lantern, and then each year we add one item for camping. When each child moved out they had all of their own camp items.
3 y/o are not impressed as you are with piles of things. It is over whelming. Lots of story books that you can have one on one time are good. My girl friends are getting together becasue several of their family members are out of work-- and they are having a swap meet-- with no money exchanged JUST TRADES--- it cleans out the things we don't need and helps someone else that does need it. I just went to a consignment store and bought 2 large sontainers of leggo's for 6.00 each. Leggo's are a gift that can be played with by adults-- our family doctor says that it releves stress.
We have a son who has a birthday, the day after Christmas, we have made it a tradition to get him a small tree FREE from a tree lot later we got him a funky fake one, and put his birthday cards on it and his 1 gift goes in the middle.His friends always were jelouse. The things that we center on is doing things for others at Christmas. We find a family that we can everyday leave a small gift for on the porch. When we had no money my kids would write notes to say thank you for the things they do, and draw pictures. We don't sign them because we want them to think its from everyone they know.At age 3 they like to dress up so why not get things for dress up clothes-- pirate, cowboy, spaceman, teacher, janitor, whatever-. Heck my little ones have me go to the grocery store and we get empty boxes and they decorate them and they are 2-4. My friends and I also started a special thing years ago where were would get a fake tree after Christmas, we were blessed to have store managers donate several over the years and we collected decorations and left it on a familyies porch. My children are still carrying on this tradition in all the states that they live in.Nana G

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If I think of more ideas I'll pass them on to you but how does homemade playdough sound? There are recipes online, just search or maybe someone who has made this will pass on some tips,

After Halloween the stores will cut prices on costumes, I've seen up to 90% sales in the past.

Great that you know about Freecycle! You can ask for specific items when you find The idea that you know will fit your child best

It's all hit or miss, but think of it as a treasure hunt and for a child that age, you really don't need much. It's a stressful time for your family so try to make this part fun for you and give yourself a pat on the back when you are successful.

Some of the things that have been a big hit for my dauther and haven't cost much or at all are, A homemade castle from left over boxes idea from http://familyfun.go.com (Family Fun magazine online), Big boxes to color and use as a playhouse, The blankets over chairs idea. She will make trains out of chairs. We all have to get on the train and pretend to go somewhere. She also loved baking with us from a small age, just be prepared for the mess little hands can make ;-).

I made a tent for my daughter out of 5 long dowels/poles. I sewed the cover but you could certainly just drape lightweight blankets or sheets fleece material over it.

Take care and I hope there's a big silver lining in this and you have great fun with this challenging project!

1 mom found this helpful

T.,
I know how you feel.I am in the same boat,however my kids are grown or teenagers & finding things they want isn't always easy.....
When they were small I always used K-Mart/Walmart layaway program.....A few years back they discontinued layaway.....
Just last night I heard a commercial that said both K-Mart & Sears are NOW offering laywaway again....This might be helpful to you...Atleast you don't have to pay for the item ALL at once. If that was the case I could only afford a small gift (less than $20.00) per week.
There are also several charities in the Sac area the help with gifts for smaller kids....They will start advertising these on the news around Thanksgiving time. Or contact your local church, most of them have charity programs this time of year......
Please don't worry about being too proud to accept charity!! It's not easy BUT it can be rewarding...especially nxt year or the year after when you are able to give back....been there done that.....
I think you can contact the local Red Cross/or Salvation army to get on the list for toys for tots...Good Luck mom & don't worry, you are not the only one in this boat...Luckily IF we all help eachother MAYBE the boat won't sink....hang in there,it gets better..

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Make trips to the thrift stores on a regular basis. You are likely to find some of the things you want your son to have and they may well look brand new. Also be alert whenever you see a yard sale, as they often have toys at really inexpensive prices... sometimes if you get to one later in the day when they are ready to close up, you'll find people want to just get the stuff out of their way enough to almost give it to you.
I remember our son's first Christmas. We were in terrible financial shape too, but we ended up with a great looking bunch of gifts for him, just by my being resourceful at shopping thrift shops and yard sales. We got a lot of good exercise too, as I would take him and go on walks looking for the yard sales in our area. Depending on where you live, you might be able to do the same thing.

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Call your local Social Services Department. They should be able to help you get on a list. Also, some local fire departments collect toys - check with your fire department. And remember, he's only three - he doesn't really know what's going on. Just a few small gifts will delight him. and don't forget - kids are the same now as they were 100 years ago - they love the simple stuff. There is truly no need to spend tons of money. Don't stress - you'll take all the fun out of the holidays for yourself. You might find that you love doing xmas on a budget as you will find yourself doing things with your children that you wouldn't have thought to do had you had mony to lavish on him!

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Hi
At 3, a child isn't likely to care so much about a price of a toy so you needn't spend much, Nowadays, consignment shops have many toys for sale that have been barely used. If you don't want to go that route, then just do something special, setup a tent (using sheets) and cover the furniture so that it looks like a tent.. I used to LOVE playing that game when I was little.. Make him a little costume to wear (you said you sew) and make it into an adventure. Bake some cookies with him and put on some fun holiday music and dance around with him. It's those FUN family times that he will remember.. believe me, it's true. my son who will be turning 8 already remembers the simple pleasures we have shared together as a family. What counts is QUALITY not QUANTITY..

best of luck!! :)

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I hear ya'. I've been unemployed since May 1st. I'm taking this time to get back to basics and just enjoy my family and friends. Our plan for an inexpensive gift from Santa for our 2 year old is to create a "reading nook" for her. She LOVES to read and LOVES her books. We are either going to get inexpensive shelves or use a few baskets from around the house and put her books in those. We will buy her an "anywhere chair" from Pottery Barn or some comfy chair and when she gets up Christmas morning she will have a special place in our living room for her to do what she loves the most.
I think creating a space just for your son would be exciting for him and inexpensive. Our goal is a Christmas for under $50, we'll see if we stick to it :O)
Best of luck,
C.

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Hi T.,

The good news is that at 3 yrs old, your son will not even remember this Christmas. Post a request on freecycle, I guarantee you will find lots of great toys. Also, asked your friends if they're ready to unload some toys. One more suggestion...don't let him watch tv with commercials and he'll never know what he's missing.

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You might want to check our Once Upon a Child for toys. They have used toys that are in excellent condition and really low prices. The Dollar Store is great for books, coloring books, crayons and art/craft stuff. Instead of making the presents under the tree the focus, how about starting new family traditions such as doing just Christmas stockings. You can do lots of small gifts that fit in the stocking instead of big gifts. (We always give new toothbrushes to everyone in the stockings). Another idea is to figure out your budget, buy one "big" gift of about $30 and the $20 in small items. Good luck.

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If you have a group of friends, you can do a toy exchange. Each of you bring toys that your children are tired of (and will probably never play with again). Exchange toys with your friends - one toy for one toy, or a couple smaller toys for a large toy (toys must be from the same person). Now you have "new toys" and didn't spend a dime! Just make sure that the toy exchange is without kids so that they don't know that they are getting someone else's old toys.

The Dollar Tree or Dollar store is a great place for books, coloring books, crayons, bubbles, puzzles, and toothbrushes. I've even found Fiskar's brand sissors which usually run over $2. Sometimes you can find neat toys, but the quality may not be there. Be picky with the toys here.

Check out your local library. Often there is a section to purchase books. Children's books are 25 cents each and movies are $1. This is cheaper than Goodwill. It also supports your local library.

Goodwill has a bigger selection of children's books so if you don't see anything at the library to purchase, you can probably find it here. Books are $0.50 and I I think videos are $3. There are usually a good selection of toys, but many could be missing pieces. You can probably find mega blocks or legos for an inexpensive price. I've even found some brand new toys for under $2.00. However, you never know what you are going to find so start looking now. Also, make sure you clean them before you give your son the toys.

Ross is one of my favorite places to look for toys. You can find quality toys, like Melissa and Doug puzzles, for under $5 - $10. I've seen Thomas, Dora, Deigo, Spiderman and other commonly liked character toys. I usually find toys to give as gifts at Ross.

I always hit the after Halloween sales for majorly discounted costumes. My girls love to play dress up so I get a couple of costumes from Toysrus (good selection) or Kohls (small selection, but good prices) on Halloween or the day after (depending on whether Halloween falls on the weekend. It is easier to get costumes if Halloween is a weekday since the stores are less busy). You can get nice costumes for under $7 if you shop carefully. Purchase one that he can grow into and you have next year's costume, too (as well as to wear through the year)!

Keep an eye out for good deals. Once I found Dora's magical Castle at Kohls for $13 (It was on clearance. Normally $100 at Kohls). I bought the entire furniture set from Toysrus.com for $20. (If I were to buy the individual rooms, it was $100.) It was my oldest daughter's Christmas present. 3 years later, she's still playing with it.

2 years ago Toysrus had free playdough with a coupon that we sent in e-mail. No purchase was neccesary. I got 2 of the 3 packs and are still using them. If you look on the internet, I'm sure you can find a good recipe to make your own playdough. My daughter's Kindergarten teacher has parents making the playdough for the classroom. If I had the recipe, I'd forward it to you, but unfortunately I don't.

You may want to use this time to get things that your son needs. Sure it may not be very exciting, but if he needs the other set of clothes or a jacket, toothbrushes, etc. This should be the time to get him what he needs. Have 1 or 2 things that he will enjoy and the rest what he could use.

You could also spend this time for quality time with your son. Bake cookies, make a paper Christmas tree using his handprints and contruction paper. You can find some great activities on the internet. He'll really enjoy seeing his work in the house. You can even use some of his projects to use as presents for your husband and your son's grandparents. Since he is 3, he will really enjoy spending time with you and your husband.

Here is a few websites you can check out for fun and inexpensive activities.

http://www.familyeducation.com/search/results/?keywords=c...#

http://www.dltk-holidays.com/

http://123child.com/act/

Sorry that this post is so long, but I hope you get some good ideas from it. Good luck! Enjoy your Holidays!

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The Dollar Store would be perfect.

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Hi T.,

Stop the panic...check craigs list, people have stuff to sell or give that sometimes has never been used. You can also sign up with your church and they will provide a present for your little one.

With all the real problems, husband with no job and money problems...please don't stress over this. Money and presents are not what Christmas is about. It is to celebrate the birth of Christ and the meaning of his life was to bring light, love and peace to this world. If you have a loving husband and family and can stick together in good times and bad..If you take the time to help someone else who is having a hard time...that's the best present of all for your child.

Blessings.....

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It looks like you can register for Toys for Tots through their website. Although with only on young kid I would try to come up with something for him on your own and save the toys for families with multiple/ older kids.

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Try the Salvation Army. Right after Halloween, in my town, you can sign up. You go a couple of weeks before X-mas, and someone either picks you namw off of a tree and buys gifts for your kids or you get to shop inthier shop. They even give you groceries, based on your income.

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aww, hugs to you and your family. At age 3, I think your son would be happy with the "fun" atmosphere of playing and spending time with family. Borrow some holiday themed books, videos/DVD's, & music from your library. Check your library for books on how to make playthings from recycled items. Bake cookies, make popcorn, make your own play dough (recipes online), make puppets from paper bags and scrap paper, make musical instruments from dried beans and empty plastic bottles, make forts from cardboard boxes(or use them as a stage for your paper bag puppets), etc. Try not to feel that he's getting cheated out of Christmas if you don't have a lot of store-bought gifts - remember that at this age most kids can have just as much fun (if not more) with the empty box than they'd have with the toy inside it.

Also, please remember that the most valuable and lasting gift you can give your child is your love and attention. Spending time with him, playing with him and making him feel loved in the process is something that can't be bought in a store, and starting to make memories of special times together now at this age can help both you and your son learn to see through the advertising and hype, and to know in your heart that it's NOT the store-bought gifts that prove you care for someone, but it's the gift of your time and attention.

And above all - you're a loving mommy to your son - that's THE best gift any child could have!

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Go to WalMart and just get some small toys. Your son is 3... he will be happy with anything. If you have a KMart in your vicinity, they have layaway... I think Target does too.

Google Toys for Tots... they should have info there.

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I agree with the pp. Check with any charity that may already be helping you out during this difficult time. Groups such as Salvation Army and Toys For Tots can help (I would look up their websites, since you're online, to see how you can get on their lists). Many do the "Giving Tree" programs to help families in just your situation. Don't hesitate to ask for the assistance, because it's out there for a reason.

Also, at three years old, your son doesn't understand how expensive things are. Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars are really inexpensive and you could wrap those individually.

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Hi T.,

I would check Goodwill. I have found legos, lincoln logs, and other toys still in the package. Also, cars and puzzles, and books. He is only 3 and his expectations are not that high yet. Oh, and if you have a cosco membership, sometimes they put out really good coupons for some of the bigger toys.

D.

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Hi T.,

I just finished purging too many toys from my daughter's collection and in the process it really made me think about the volume of toys that we buy for Xmas and other holidays. It's ridiculous. I do go to thrift stores alot and do run across toys, but it's not a sure thing. I would second the idea of children's resale shops - many toys there are still in there original packaging...people get duplicate birthday gifts, etc. and take them there to sale. Also visit thrift stores. Some don't take toys but many do. There's a place in Martinez called The Hall Closet (thrift store) and they take toys. Look for church rummage sales and garage sales. I've never had much luck with garage sales myself but did find a great doll for my daughter from a community rummage sale for .50. It was naked but we could fashion clothes. Also IKEA has inexpensive but well-made toys - blocks, wooden train, even stuff animals. You might also check Craig's list. If you want to get book, most libraries have book sales once a month or so and picture books are usually sold for about .25. Think of this as being a green gift giver (by recycling) and not as not having enough money. This is how we should all be shopping. M.

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The dollar store, like Dollar Tree, is a great place to get toys.

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Hi T.- You have some great advice here. Craig's List, Freecycle, Ebay, thrift stores & the dollar store are really all you'll need. You have plenty of time to find great stuff for a three year old. Set a budget and have fun, don't stress. The little guy will have no idea about how much you spent or whether or not some stuff is used and even if he did there is no shame in that, it's a good thing to reuse and recycle. I got my 11 year old a huge box of chapter books for her birthday by an author she loves for $14 including shipping off Ebay. On the back of each book the new price is $6.95. The total was something like $110 if purchased new. We laughed that anyone would pay full price! Like another Momma said our family puts practical stuff in stockings, a fun toothbrush, new socks or slippers, some sweets it'll all be exciting if it's sticking out of a stocking on Christmas morning. Your boys eyes will light up with the joy of Christmas no matter how much you spend!

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Sacred Heart is located on Alma Avenue/South First Street. I do not know thier phone number. You can phone them as they do alot for children at Christmas. They also help all during the year. You can phone the food bank for food, Cathedral of Faith Church and Church of the Chimes for food.
They all give freedly. Little kids like crayons, paper, books, hot wheel cars, etc. I wish I could give you things for your son. I have a day care and the kids have more than they need. God Bless you and your family.
F. P.S. You can get The Best Play Dough Receipe Ever on the internet. Craigslist is great. I buy things for my grandkids at garage sales and they are cheap and like new; clothes too. But Sacred Heart is the best; free.

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I just wanted to add that I recently found that Ross has a toy section- and the toys are pretty cheap. My friends two sons love Spiderman, and I found some Spiderman lego sets with characters and blocks for 3.99- and the price normally would have been $15, which I would have spent.

You have some great ideas- good thing you're starting out now with plenty of time.

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Girl, I have soooooo been there and mine are 16 and 20. First, keep in mind that now is the time to start stressing the true meaning of Christmas to your son. Whether it is the religious meaning or just family and togetherness. Concentrate on what you can do with him instead of what you can give to him. However, on the present front, keep in mind that at his age, used is new to him. Check the thrift stores and places like Once Upon a Child. Now is when moms are going through toys and giving away the stuff that thier kids don't play with to make room for new stuff at Christmas. A lot of times, you can find things are are practically brand new that the kids just didn't get into. Clean them up, wrap them up and put them under the tree. Also, keep in mind that layaway is a really good program for the one or two "big" presents that are saved for last on Christmas morning. As for not sewing, you don't have to anymore. There are TONS of products out there that you can just glue stuff or iron stuff together. Search the internet for stuff that you can make with glue like sock puppets, finger puppets, picture books with your own pictures, etc. One last thing, check the dollar stores and Big Lots. Good Luck

T.

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