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12 Ways to Have a CHRIST-Centered Christmas

December 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments | Posted in From Ashley

I’m a big fan of the ladies who blog at They have so many creative, fun & colourful (you’ll see what I mean when you click the link!) ideas for date night, family activities and the different holidays. I hope this list sparks some creativity in your home for keeping the focus on Christ this Christmas, even with all the hustle & bustle. Merry Christmas! – Ashley

12 Ways to Have a CHRIST-Centered Christmas

Because HE is the reason for the season.  And His presence is more important than the presents.

Christ-Centered Christmas

It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of Christmas.  There are presents to buy and wrap, Christmas cards to make and send, lights to hang, and goodies to make.  It’s just easy to forget the real reason for the season.  This time of year I try to remember our first Christmas together after we got married.  It was my first Christmas away from home, and we were far away teaching English in China.  I was pregnant and miserably sick.  There was no snow or lights or carols.  No stockings, gingerbread houses, or Christmas cards.  After all, it wasn’t a holiday in China.  We tried to get into the Christmas spirit by cutting out paper snowflakes and downloading Christmas songs from iTunes.  We even found a tiny 6-inch Christmas tree in the city.  But for some reason, I still wasn’t really feeling the Christmas spirit.

On Christmas Eve I started thinking about everything our families would be doing back home and on Christmas morning we had to go teach our classes.  There were no presents under our little tree.  Money was tight and we decided we’d exchange letters instead of gifts.  But as I sat down to read my husband’s letter, my entire mood shifted.  He talked about how grateful he was for our marriage and how excited he was to become a dad in the new year.  As I continued reading, I started thinking of the first Christmas family and that little baby in the manger.  I thought of my own new family and our little baby that was growing inside of me.  And suddenly I was overwhelmed with love- Christ’s love for me.  That’s the Christmas spirit!  We didn’t have any presents to unwrap, but we had all of the greatest gifts already.   Away on the other side of the world, away from the materialism and commercialism of Christmas- I found and felt the real reason for the season.  And every year as things get crazy and chaotic, I try to remember our first Christmas and what’s really important- my family and my God.

So this year, we decided to round-up all the resources that you’ll need to keep CHRIST in Christmas!

Including CHRIST-Centered Christmas . . .

  • Music {The Ultimate Playlist}
  • Decor  {Free Printables}
  • Books  
  • Movies
  • Advents
  • “Elf on the Shelf” Alternatives
  • Crafts & Activities
  • Coloring Pages
  • Treats & Snacks
  • Gifts 
  • Traditions
  • Service

Now obviously you can’t do them all!  But hopefully as you browse through them you’ll find the perfect traditions and activities to help bring your family closer together and closer to Christ.  Because THAT is what it’s all about.


To the Single Mom at Christmas

December 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Dear Single Mom,

I have been thinking of you since Thanksgiving.

As Christmas gets closer and closer, I have been praying for your heart.

This time of year is hard for you, I know. I was a single mom for almost five years. My sister was for seven. And my mother has been a single mom for almost the entirety of her four children’s lives.

The holidays were by far the most difficult times for me, as a single mom. I can still feel the intense sadness, mixed with grief and fear, alone at the Christmas Eve service that first year. A custody agreement always includes who has the kids when on every holiday. This year, it was my turn to celebrate without any kiddos lighting candles at the service, waking me up the next morning, looking for their stockings, eating Christmas tree shaped pancakes, and playing with new toys .

Or the following year, when my boys were with me. It felt like we were surrounded by all the dads carrying kids on their shoulders at the mall, videotaping the first grade holiday concert, dragging Christmas trees out of the lot, standing in line for Santa pictures while their wives shopped for gifts.

I remember exactly how it felt. It felt lonely. It felt different. It felt somehow less than.


The most difficult part about being a single mom for me, was the intense pressure of responsibility.

Every single day, it was all on me — providing, nurturing, caring for, teaching, disciplining — it felt like there was no safe place to just be.

Then add all the holiday stuff: the shopping, the gift wrapping, remembering the advent calendar, getting the tree, hanging up the decorations. I wanted my boys to have a “normal Christmas.” And every year, I was completely overwhelmed.

Being a single mom can be crushing, especially this time of year.

So as we get closer to Christmas, I want to gently, lovingly say: You are not alone.

Even if you have absolutely no help…

Even if you have been a widow since your child was a baby…

Even if your children’s father left you without any involvement on his part…

You are not alone.


God has you in this. He is the best Father there is — for you sweet momma, and for you little ones.

It’s the reason we celebrate this season in the first place. Jesus came for you, for me, for our children.

I pray this year, that He would help you feel lighter and so lavishly loved.

I pray that no matter how difficult your circumstances may be right now, He would remind you that He doesn’t make mistakes. You are exactly where you are supposed to be in God’s economy. So are your children.

I pray you get some rest, somehow.

I pray you get a sweet handmade card or craft from school.

I pray the people who love you shower you with attention and help around the house.

I pray your children give you an extra hug, sweet snuggles, and plenty of smiles.

And even if none of this happens, I pray that deep down, you would hear me, would believe me when I say:

You are a mother. You are so very special and important and powerful.

I am celebrating you this Christmas.

There is no one like you in your child’s life. You can do this and, by the grace of God, you will do this.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
Love, Shawna

Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas

December 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Ashlyn

Now that it’s December it’s time to start thinking Christmas! Some of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever given required that I burn myself multiple times with a hot glue gun :).  I found a bunch of really amazing homemade gift ideas (there are 39 of them!) so your gifts will have that extra special touch this Christmas. – Ashlyn

1. Terrarium Kit

Terrarium Kit

It’s like a tiny jungle you can own. Directions here.

2. Painted Camera Strap

Painted Camera Strap

For the one person in your life who doesn’t just Instagram everything. Directions here.

3. Instagram Coasters

Instagram Coasters

And for everybody else. Find out how here.

4. Studded iPhone Case

Studded iPhone Case

Directions here.

5. Decorated Tea Towels

Decorated Tea Towels

That nobody will ever want to get dirty. Directions here.

6. Nebula Pillow

Nebula Pillow

Because the only thing better than a pillow fight is a SPACE PILLOW FIGHT. Directions here.

7. Geode Ring

Geode Ring

Directions here.

8. Shark Hoodie Towel

Shark Hoodie Towel

Directions here.

9. Fabric Clock

Fabric Clock

Directions here.

10. Personalized Cork Coasters

Personalized Cork Coasters

Find out how here.

11. Artsy Mug

Artsy Mug

Directions here. Again with the German.

You could also make these easily with a Sharpie.

12. Gold-Leaf Papier-Mâché Bowls

Gold-Leaf Papier-Mâché Bowls

FInd out how here.

13. Chalkboard Tray

Chalkboard Tray

Directions here.

14. Catnip Feather Toy

Catnip Feather Toy

For the feline who has everything. Directions here.

15. Painted Pouch

Painted Pouch

You can put ANYTHING YOU WANT IN IT, like an engagement ring or a Snickers. Directions here.

16. Fabric Painted Mousepad

Fabric Painted Mousepad

Adorable baby not included. Directions here.

17. Stamped Tote

Stamped Tote

You can use potatoes as the stamp! Directions here.

18. Gold Bead Bracelets

Gold Bead Bracelets

Directions here (they’re in German, but ay yo, Google Translate).

19. Lace Cement Votive Holders

Lace Cement Votive Holders

Directions here.

20. Homemade Cat Treats

Homemade Cat Treats

Directions here. And here is a recipe for dog biscuits, just to prove that we’re not totally cat-biased.

21. Gold Leaf Notebooks

Gold Leaf Notebooks

For anyone with thoughts they need to jot down. Directions here.

22. Lana-del-Rey-ified Sunglasses

Lana-del-Rey-ified Sunglasses

For divas only. Directions here.

23. Laptop Case

Laptop Case

Directions here.

24. Peppermint Sugar Scrub

Peppermint Sugar Scrub

It looks edible. It is not. Directions here.

25. Honey Lip Balm

Honey Lip Balm

It’s nicer than saying “Your entire mouth is gross and chapped.” Directions here.

26. Magnetic Tote Bag

Magnetic Tote Bag

Spell out a crytic message with alphabet letters. Get the tutorial here.

27. Dip-Dyed Candles

Dip-Dyed Candles

Directions here.

28. Skinny Tie

Skinny Tie

For a dapper dude. Or a dude who you wish were dapper-er. Directions here.

29. Planter Box

Planter Box

Directions here.

30. Travel Art Kit

Travel Art Kit

For long car rides (and short ones too). Find out how here.

31. Printed Leather Jewelry

Printed Leather Jewelry

Because sometimes someone just really loves her cat, and you should acknowledge that. Directions here.

32. Floor Cushion

Floor Cushion

Beanbag chairs for grown-ups! Genius. Directions here.

33. Handmade Soap

Handmade Soap

Everyone will be unbelievably impressed and also they will smell however you would like them to, which is really a great deal of power. Directions here.

34. Tassel Bracelet

Tassel Bracelet

Directions here.

35. Stenciled Jar Vase

Stenciled Jar Vase

Directions here.

37. Jewelry Storage Frame

Jewelry Storage Frame

The perfect place to house all those glitter-filled necklaces. Directions here.

38. Candle Luminaries

Candle Luminaries

These are made from decorative aluminum sheets you can easily find at Home Depot. They’d also make really nice desk organizers or pen holders.

39. Animal Bookends

Animal Bookends

Because nothing says “I love you” like a bright-blue hippo. Directions here.


Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar

December 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Care

Such a simple way for anyone – individual, families, groups – to spread kindness this Christmas. Sometimes we just need a practical idea to get us started & here it is! – Care

Feel like you could be doing more to teach your kids how to be kind but don’t know where to start?

The answer could be as simple as downloading a free printable Random Acts of Christmas Kindness advent calendar. Sound too good to be true? Then you’ll be amazed at the difference one little piece of paper can make in your family’s or classes’ lives.


2016 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar

This time of year activities need to be easy and fun or they just won’t get done. This is what makes the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness calendar so popular. I’ve taken the thinking out of it so you can get on with the doing!

Family-Friendly Christmas Movies for the Holidays!

December 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family
The weather outside might be frightful, but inside it can be delightful! Grab some blankets, hot cocoa and snuggle up by the fire with your family as you enjoy the spectrum of Christmas movies that are perfect for this time of year! From classics to comedies to films geared towards the kids – we have gathered the best of the best Christmas movies for your family to enjoy this holiday season! PLUS – many of the Christmas movies listed have links to fun activities, games and more!

The Best Christmas Movies

If you are looking for more details on the content of any film you show your family, a great resource is Internet Movie Database website (aka: IMDB). Within this site, you can search any particular film and select “Parents Guide” to view content advisory. Most films list, in detail, content issues regarding language, violence/gore, profanity, sex & nudity, alcohol/drugs/smoking and even frightening/intense scenes!

Another great resource that my husband and I recently discovered is VidAngel. This is an amazing site that allows you to stream a movie for only $1 and most importantly, it allows you to have complete control in filtering content from the film. With a click of a few buttons, you have access to hundreds of films and the option of choosing filters for nudity, violence, language and more! Plus, the selection is so much better than Netflix! (Side note: if you want to protect your family on the internet, too, be sure to check out Circle.)

So, let’s get started! When choosing a Christmas film for family movie night, you may want to start with what type of film you are going for. Below we have links to all the film suggestions and a description (thank you!)

1. A Christmas Story – In the 1940s, a young boy named Ralphie attempts to convince his parents, his teacher, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect Christmas gift.

2. Miracle on 34th Street – When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

3. Christmas Carol (1951 Original) – An old, bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

4. It’s a Wonderful Life – An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

5. White Christmas – A successful song-and-dance team becomes romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general. For a fun date night based on this classic flick – try our White Christmas Date Night For Couples!

6. Holiday Inn – At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer.

7. Christmas in Connecticut – A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.

8. The Bishop’s Wife – An angel in human form enters the life of a bishop in order to help him build a new cathedral and repair his fractured marriage.

9. Smokey Mountain Christmas – A country/western singer on a trip through the Tennessee mountains runs into a reclusive backwoodsman–and a witch.

10. Bells of St. Mary’s – At a big city Catholic school, Father O’Malley and Sister Benedict indulge in a friendly rivalry and succeed in extending the school through the gift of a building.

Christmas Comedies

Christmas time gives us plenty to smile about, but here are a few movies that are sure to make you chuckle as well!

11. Elf – After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.

12. Deck the Halls – Two neighbors have it out after one of them decorates his house for the holidays so brightly that it can be seen from space.

13. Jingle All the Way – A father vows to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas; however, every store is sold out of them, and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else in order to find one.

14. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.

15. Christmas with the Kranks – With their daughter away, the Kranks decide to skip Christmas altogether until she decides to come home, causing an uproar when they have to celebrate the holiday at the last minute.

16. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – A college student experiences difficulty in getting home for Christmas after being hazed by his friends. While Struggling to get home in time for Christmas, he learns quite a bit about himself and the true meaning of the holiday.

17. Home Alone – An 8-year old troublemaker must protect his home from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

18. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – One year after Kevin was left home alone and had to defeat a pair of bumbling burglars, he accidentally finds himself in New York City, and the same criminals are not far behind.

19. The Santa Clause – When a man inadvertently kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place. We love these movies (all three of them!) so much that we created a Santa Clause Movie Marathon Night! Now you can snuggle up for some Christmas fun AND have interesting activities to make it a fun family night!

20. The Santa Clause 2 – Scott Calvin has been a humble Santa Claus for nearly ten years, but it might come to an end if he doesn’t find a Mrs. Claus. These movies were so fun they even made a third one: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause – Santa, aka Scott Calvin, is faced with double-duty: how to keep his new family happy, and how to stop Jack Frost from taking over Christmas.

Christmas Movies For Kids

For those of you with little ones at home, there are many great, quality Christmas movies specifically gears towards kids. Some of these are classics from my childhood that I still love to watch today!

21. The Nightmare Before Christmas – Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn’t quite understand the concept.

22. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Live Action) – On the outskirts of Whoville, there lives a green, revenge-seeking Grinch who plans on ruining the Christmas holiday for all of the citizens of the town.

23. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Cartoon) – A grumpy hermit hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. Whichever version of this movie you choose to watch (or both!) we have some fun ideas for a Grinch Dinner and a Movie that your family will love!

24. The Polar Express – A young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. During his adventure, he learns about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. This movie is totally one of our favorites. So much so that we created a fun family night with tickets for your own Polar Express family outing!

25. The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Muppet characters tell their version of the classic tale of an old and bitter miser’s redemption on Christmas Eve.

26. A Christmas Carol (Animated 2009 Version) – An animated retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

27. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Repelled by the commercialism he sees around him, Charlie Brown tries to find the true meaning of Christmas.

28. Frosty the Snowman – A living snowman and a little girl struggle to elude a greedy magician who is after the snowman’s magic hat.

29. Prancer – A farm girl nurses a wounded reindeer she believes is one of Santa’s, hoping to bring it back to health in time for Christmas. Her holiday spirit inspires those around her, something her disheartened father is having trouble understanding.

30. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer – A misfit reindeer and his friends look for a place that will accept them.

31. Mickey’s Christmas Carol – The classic Disney animated characters play the roles in this animated retelling of the Charles Dickens masterpiece.

32. Arthur Christmas – Santa’s clumsy son Arthur gets put on a mission with St. Nick’s father to give out a present they misplaced to a young girl in less than 2 hours.

33. Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas – A poor otter family risks everything for the chance to win the cash prize of a talent contest for Christmas.

34. Jack Frost (Live Action) – A father, who can’t keep his promises, dies in a car accident. One year later, he returns as a snowman, who has the final chance to put things right with his son before he is gone forever.

35. Jack Frost (Cartoon) – The Groundhog tells the story of how, for once, Jack Frost became human, and helped a knight win his lady love.

Romantic Christmas Movies

There is just something so romantic about the holidays! These movies are romantic to the core and would make perfect films for enjoying by the fire with your honey!

36. Let It Snow – An executive examines her company’s new property and prepares a presentation to transform the rustic lodge into a new hot spot.

37. The Christmas Card – A US soldier visits the town from where an inspirational Christmas card was sent to him by a church group that mails cards out to servicemen as a goodwill effort.

38. While You Were Sleeping – A hopeless romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient. And if this movie alone were fabulous enough – we have a few ideas to go along with this film in our While You Were Sleeping Date!

39. The Holiday – Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other’s countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love and, yes, we DO have ideas to accompany this film too! Our Holiday Date night includes activities to go along with the theme!

40. The Family Stone – An uptight, conservative businesswoman accompanies her boyfriend to his eccentric and outgoing family’s annual Christmas celebration and finds that she’s a fish out of water in their free-spirited way of life.

41. Four Christmases – A couple struggles to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas.

42. The Christmas Lodge – Mary Tobin has wonderful memories of family gatherings at the Christmas Lodge. When she arrives for a weekend vacation, she quickly realizes that the lodge that she loves has fallen into serious disrepair. With a lack of funds and a looming deadline, she not only restores the Christmas lodge’s charm but finds love along the way.

43. Holiday in Handcuffs – A struggling artist working as waitress kidnaps one of her customers to bring home and meet her parents at Christmas.

44. 12 Dates of Christmas – A story that follows Kate, a young woman who after a horrible blind date on Christmas Eve, wakes up to find she is reliving that same day and date all over again.

45. Hitched for the Holidays – An attractive pair agrees to be each other’s supposed significant other throughout the holidays to keep their meddling families at bay.

Christ-Centered Christmas Movies 

With all the hustle and commercialism in Christmas, it is nice to know there are good quality films to remind us (or teach us) the reason for the Christmas holiday – Christ. These films focus on Christ and his birth.

46. The Nativity Story – The story of Christ’s birth is turned into a full-length film in “The Nativity Story.” The movie can really help bring the beloved story to light for older children, but I recommend pre-screening it before showing it to younger children.

47. VeggieTales: The Ultimate Christmas Collection – The entire VeggieTales gang put on a Christmas movie marathon that also teaches Christian values. The collection includes: It’s a Meaningful Life, Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving, The Little Drummer Boy, The Toy that Saved Christmas, and The Star of Christmas.

48. What’s In The Bible? Buck Denver Asks…Why Do We Call it Christmas? – Join Buck Denver and his friends for a fun and unusual Christmas party. Everyone loves Christmas, but have you ever wondered why we celebrate the birth of Jesus by putting trees in our houses? Or hanging stockings by the fire? And how did Santa Clause become a big part of Jesus’ birthday party anyway?

49. Joy To The World – This movie is filled with wonderful scenes of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, and ministry, and accompanied by beautiful music performed by the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

50. Mr. Krueger’s Christmas – Mr. Krueger is a lonely widower, played by Jimmy Stewart, who finds comfort through a group of carolers singing outside his window. His interaction with them places him in a fantasy where he imagines himself in the stable on the very first Christmas.

51. Silent Night – A touching re-telling of the true story behind one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time. Set in 1818 in a small Austrian town near Salzburg, it tells the story of Joseph Mohr, the new assistant priest who organizes a church choir, including outcasts from the local tavern.

52. The Perfect Gift – Max is a young girl who just happens to have her birthday on Christmas – and she does not like it. She also does not like her school assignment to write about Christmas. But Jes helps Max to see how important God’s perfect gift to us was.

53. Christmas with a Capital C – The mayor and citizens of Trapper Falls, a small Alaskan town, are in a legal battle to keep the spirit and traditions of Christmas alive. The movie explores the culture wars between secularism and Christianity and is a reminder of the real spirit of Christmas, peace on earth and goodwill to all. Even to this whose hearts seemed closed to Him.

54. The Fourth Wise Man – Based on the classic book, “The Other Wise Man,” this fictional story is set in Biblical times. It tells of a Magi named Artaban who sees the sign in the heavens and starts his journey to find the Messiah. With three precious gifts in hand, he seeks Jesus, only to keep missing him. After 33 years he finally finds him, on Easter Sunday.

55. Jacob’s Gift – Eager to participate in the construction of a new synagogue, a young boy works diligently to create a manger to convince his rabbi he is qualified for the job. But when a needy couple takes refuge in the stable behind his family’s inn, Jacob offers them a precious gift instead.

Hopefully, you found several films to watch this holiday season (I know I did!). In fact, you probably have enough for a full-blown Christmas movie marathon! Maybe you could make this one of your Family Christmas traditions!

If your family loves watching movies together, you should definitely check out our list of 101 Family-Friendly Movies that are perfect for any time of year!

FROM BILL: Christmas Comedy Video

December 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in From Bill

Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments with 2 Ingredients

December 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
The Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments will come out of the ornament box this year still smelling fabulous again.  Every year, I enjoy their scent and love making more.  I get just as excited about these ornaments as I do about our Keepsake Handprint Ornaments (click here).  I’m always so happy when they survive year to year.


Recipe and Supplies

  • applesauce  – 1 cup
  • cinnamon – 1.5 cups
  • Cookie cutters (we found that smaller cookie cutters work best)
  • Straw (to make the hole)
  • plastic wrap
  • rolling pin
  • ribbon


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Mix cinnamon and applesauce in a small bowl.  Add 1 cup of cinnamon first, mix, and then add the last half cup.  Use your hands to get the cinnamon fully incorporated into the dough.
  2. Take a handful of dough and roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Peel off the top sheet and then cut the dough with cookie cutters.
  3. Make a hole at the top of the ornament with a drinking straw.
  4. Bake 2.5 hours.  Cool on wire rack.  You can also dry ornaments at room temperature for 1-2 days.
  5. Decorate with ribbon and hang.  Some children enjoy puffy paints or sequins to further dress up their ornaments.

Christmas cinnamon ornaments

I remember making them when I was a child.  This recipe doesn’t make a ton of ornaments, but I had at least 30 small hearts and a variety of different larger ones as well.  My kitchen smelled wonderful and my husband thought they looked good enough to eat… glad he didn’t try it!

Save this easy 2-ingredient recipe for the rainy, snowy, wintery-mix kind of days.  You’ll be happy you had the ingredients on hand.

The ornaments make a great garland too.  (above)

Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments

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