Could our children be anxious because of us?

There seems to be more children with anxiety in our society than ever before. This is something that I have been reading quite a bit about recently and the facts are quite staggering. In fact the research shows that as many as one in six young people in the UK suffer from anxiety. To look it another way, one in five teenagers in an average class will be suffering from anxiety (anxiety.org.uk). This is a frightening statistic frankly and it got me thinking about why this is happening.  As a mum, I know that there are many pressure of our teenagers which I have written about Here.

As a teacher and a mum I come across many, many children and their parents. I’m not a mental health expert and I’m only offering my opinions gathered from my experiences in this post. I certainly wouldn’t want to offend anyone but I wonder if the way we parent is adding to the anxiety that our young people are experiencing? In being such caring parents perhaps we are not helping our youngsters?

 

Here are my thoughts:

1. Perhaps by always telling our children that they are amazing at things, we are creating anxiety?

As parents and teachers, we want to praise our children for the things that they have done but I think the words we use are so important. Telling relatives that your child is going to play for a county team because they are amazing at sport actually creates tension, as your child is then expected to make that team. We’ve all done it; I know I have but labelling your child as ‘really good at maths’ creates a pressure for your child to always be really good at maths when their flair for maths may just be a stage. We want our children to enjoy what they enjoy or are motivated by, not become burdened by adult expectation.

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2. Do we overplay a ‘blip’?

As parents, we worry when our children get a bad grade in science or stick on a reading level but we really shouldn’t. All children plateau with their learning as that is the nature of learning! I’m often dismayed to hear that children as young as 6 years old are having tutor support because they received one poor maths grade. It may be just that they need to consolidate what they have learnt and then they will start making progress again. Tutors are great for children who need a little confidence or who have a barrier to learning such as dyslexia but all children will plateau at some point. This does not mean that they need extra tuition. If our children think the ‘blip’ is important enough to need support, they become anxious about their performance. Learning is a process that is complex and children must feel confident in their own abilities to make those next steps.

3. Do we overplay friendship issues?

One moment of unkindness is not bullying. Seeing you get upset when your child is working through a friendship issue will make them think the issue is more important than it really is. It really isn’t. All children have friendship woes, it’s a normal part of growing up. We need to help our children talk about their worries but not add to them by making small issues bigger than they actually are. I’ve noticed in my career that more and more parents are rushing in to talk about their child’s friendships when they should be allowing their child to figure some things out for themselves. Many, many children hit, scratch, kick, bite, pull hair and say unkind things. We need to teach our children tolerance, kindness and how to say sorry and forgive. Holding a grudge about a certain child that once pulled your child’s hair will also add to your child’s anxiety. They need to learn to get along with their peers and this anxiety about another child will not help them.

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4. Do we hide our feelings from our children?

I do this. I find it tricky to show my children if I’m sad or worried by something. I think that this is not healthy though. Obviously we shouldn’t be sharing things that are not appropriate with young children but if we are feeling sad we could tell our children that. ‘Mummy feels sad today but your smiley face is helping me feel happier.’ I think that children need to know that life can make us feel a range of emotions on a daily basis and that’s ok.

I’ve done all these things as parent at some time or another.
As a teacher, I know that praising effort is more important than praising attainment and I have always tried hard to do this with my own children. It does develop confidence and that is the one thing that young children need to try new things. Try it. Praise your children for the efforts they have made with a new skill rather than praising them when they achieve the end result. This is especially important for bright children when things come easier to them because they need the confidence to push themselves out of their comfort zone and learn that small failures are ok. Resilience to failure learnt young is better than feeling anxious as a teenager when exams hit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care everyone. X

 

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How can I help my young child learn to write? Building those muscles in 5 easy ways!

Writing is a complicated process that involves many, many skills yet we expect young children to become writers without giving it too much thought. We also know that parental involvement is crucial in supporting children gain the skills they need to become readers and writers. So how can we help young children to become confident writers enabling them to find their own voice and become successful communicators?

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Use different writing tools such as crayons, felt tips and pencils.

There are 4 stages of writing that have are clear and are backed up by various research such as Temple, Nathan, Temple 2012. These are:

  1. Drawing and making marks (scribbling). During this stage the child does not see the difference between their marks and their pictures. They do not connect their marks to meanings. They may give names to their pictures -“Mummy” but will happily paint or scribble over the top of their picture. This is from about the age of 18 months until the child is about 3. Children at this young age will often hold their crayon or pen in a fist grip.
  2. At this stage children begin to give meanings to their marks. They will begin to pick up letters that are familiar to them; these are often the letters in their names. They don’t always associate sounds with the letters but they may know their name. e.g that is an ‘a’ and its in my name. This usually happens at about the age of 4 depending upon the child. The correct pencil grip may not have been developed.
  3. Beginning sounds. Inventive spelling occurs at this age and children must be allowed to just write and not be too worried about the correct spellings. Children will write what they hear so ‘cat’ may be written as ‘ct’. This often occurs at the age of 5 but can be later depending upon the child. At this stage it is important to ensure that the child is holding their pencil correctly using the tripod grip as bad habits can form.
  4. Children add middle and ending sounds to make plausible spelt words. They will begin to add spacing to their sentences and have some awareness of commonly spelt words and simple punctuation.  This often occurs by the age of 6 or 7 but some children may develop this stage earlier or later depending upon maturity.

Scaffolding and supporting each stage can help children become more confident in their writing skills. There are many muscles involved with every stage of writing so developing strength in these muscles is essential to ensure young children become successful writers.

 

5 easy activities for building those muscles!

Young children need to develop the muscles in their shoulders, arms, hands and fingers before writing becomes comfortable for them. You know how your hand hurts when you have been writing for ages? Children get these feelings quickly when they write so it’s important to try activities that will help this. Try writing using your non dominant hand and you will quickly see what our children have to put up with!

My favourites are:

  1. Play dough. I love play dough! I use it all the time in the classroom because children love it too. Ask your child to make ‘worms’ by rolling the play dough between their hands and the table. Try rolling the dough into balls in between their fingers or hands. Think about the muscles this is helping.
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Play dough or Plasticine.

2. Play with hoops outside. Spin the hoop on your arm. This is super fun but is actually strengthening the muscles in your child’s arms and shoulders too.

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Playing with hoops

 

3. Play with beads or small toys such as Polly Pockets. The clothes of Polly Pocket are so tricky to put on aren’t they? But they are great for strengthening little fingers! Threading beads are also great for this too.

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Threading beads

4. Painting at an Easel. This is a great activity that develops the shoulder and arm muscles. Holding a paintbrush at this angle and whooshing it across the paper trying to put the paint where your brain wants it to go is skillful! Watch young children paint at an easel and they often are having to really concentrate. Encourage children to reach across the page as this helps to develop ‘crossing the midline’ ie being able to use your right hand on the left hand side of your body. We want to develop a dominant hand as this is crucial for writing development. The children who find writing tricky often have 2 mediocre hands because they haven’t developed a strong dominant hand (and it can be right or left of course). You can also see children later on turning their paper sideways to compensate for their lack of dominant hand strength.

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Lego

5. Lego. Children learn so much from Lego but have you tried putting those tiny pieces together? Tricky! I did not play with Lego as a child but love it as a parent/teacher! It is excellent for the development of the muscles in the fingers.

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I hope this is useful. Do get in touch if you want to know more.

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The End of the Summer….

As September begins there is a definitely an end to the summer as the children go back to school and a routine emerges once again for all parents. There are packed lunches to be made, children to get up and out within a certain time and bags to be packed. There are no more PJ days when we all hang out until 11am watching TV just because we can. There are no more going to the beach on a whim, days. However, there is comfort in routine and I don’t mind the getting back to three meals a day instead of eating brunch or the definite bed time. I know that many parents will agree with me.

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Teachers do this every year. It’s a strange existence in a way. After doing this for 20 years, I still get the same nerves, the same worry about “have I packed my school bag.” It’s the buying of the school shoes (yes, I have shoes that I wear to school!) or the making sure I’ve been to the dentist/hairdresser/optician. It’s like a start of the new year but in September with “this year I will resist puddings at school,” type mantras!

I often make plans in the summer to get fit or to lose weight but it never happens! I enjoy the summer like a teenager (apart from all the cleaning and dog walking!) and make the most of the long sunshine filled days and lazy time with my family. I am lucky in so many ways and I feel blessed. This year was no exception and we have enjoyed a fun-filled summer holiday. This will be my last year as a parent to two school children as my daughter is in her last year.My last year of watching hockey matches in the cold or enjoying a sneaky hot chocolate whilst we wait for her brother to finish rugby training. I will miss that.

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My funny kids cooling their feet in the 42 degree heat in Seville!

I wonder how I will feel this time next year?

So to all of you making new beginnings, whether it be starting a new job or watching your child go off to their first day at school, I wish you luck and happiness. I also hope that you have made strong and fun memories of your summer to look back on with a smile. Have a lovely September. x

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6 Teen Sayings of the Summer

I read an excellent post by Four Princesses and the Cheese Here

A brilliant post about the things Kirstin’s little children have repeatedly said over the summer. It made me laugh as I thought about what my teenagers have been repeatedly saying over the summer. So here is my version….. thankyou Kirstin for the inspiration!

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1. I’ll do it in a minute…..

Well you clearly won’t though will you?? Whether it be chores (my kids get chores each day) or taking your dirty dishes to the kitchen you won’t “do it in a minute!” You will leave it until I remind you and then get cross because I am apparently nagging you to do your chores! Sometimes your chores need to be done so that I can get on and do mine. For example, I would like you to walk Dottie dog so that I can mop the floors when she’s out….actually hang on, you don’t walk Dottie because that would mean getting out of bed before lunch. Doing it ‘in a minute’ means doing whatever the ‘it’ is when you are ready to do it. Perhaps you should say, “I will do it when I want to?”
2. Is that what we’re eating??

Yes, clearly this is what we are eating! Actually, I’ve decided to lay the table with food that I think you may like to eat but if you don’t I’ll just go and prepare something else…….obviously. We have actually eaten this before as I’m not a cook and I have about 3 things that we eat in rotation. Dad cooks more than me and you know that so yes, this is what I am eating and this is what is being offered to you. Eat and be happy.

3. There is never any food in this house!

Clearly as I let you both starve. Let’s look in the cupboards…..oh look! There is lots of food in there. In fact, there is also lots of food in the freezer. No, we haven’t got any treats/snacks/cereal left as you have eaten all of that in 2 days since I went to the supermarket. Why not eat an apple? No? Try toast then and why not drink more milk! I only bought 6 pints yesterday and I will have to go later to buy more bread and milk.

4. Where is my blue top/black jeans/clean sports socks?

I have no idea. Perhaps the clothing fairy has taken it?? The clothing fairy takes all sorts in this house and will sometimes wash and dry clothes too if she feels like it. Or perhaps it is in the washing basket having been already washed by the washing fairy aka me, and needs to be put away? Oh, that was your chore was it? Ok, well that’s where it will be unless……oh look it’s stuffed at the back of your wardrobe where you stuffed it!

5. You are so annoying!

Yeap. It’s my life ambition to be annoying. I love to be annoying so much that I go out of my way to be annoying, just for you. I’m not particularly annoying to your Dad or friends or even work colleagues. I leave that especially for you. Call me annoying mum! Do all of the things you need to do and I become not annoying mum. She is much nicer and less annoying apparently.

6. It’s only like £50…..

Yes. I also love that top/jeans/makeup brush for “only £50.” It doesn’t mean that I’m going to buy it for you. You’ve spent your allowance/earnings by August 1st? Oh! sorry to hear that! Yes, it’s only £50…a bargain apparently. And no, I won’t lend you the money until next month because you already owe me money and I told you not to buy that make-up/pair of ridiculously expensive socks. Yes, I know I’m annoying, you already said that!

So there you have it! The 6 teen sayings of the summer thanks to my lovely children. They are great really and I have enjoyed the summer with them but they can go back to school now please. Thank you. 😉

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6 Reasons why your teenager needs a summer job.

Both my children are teenagers and they have both got themselves some work for the summer holidays. I’m really pleased that they have taken this step as it teaches them so much. I remember working on a Saturday and in the holidays to earn some extra money. It was a little different for me because I started working like this from the age of 13. Nowadays, children can’t get many jobs until they are 16 due to employers needing to let the Local Authority know if they take on anyone younger than 16. This is due to child protection issues and makes things tricky for employers. This also makes it much harder for our teenagers to get work during the weekends or during the holidays. My son has some work experience with a family friend and this has worked out well. My daughter is doing some volunteer work this summer which is something younger teens can be involved with. However, whatever summer work experiences your teenager can get, it teaches them really important life skills.

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Meeting new people

1. Meeting new people

I remember working with a whole range of people of all different ages when I was a teenager and I loved it. My daughter worked in a cafe last summer and this meant that she was dealing with the public all day. This teaches teenagers important social skills about how different people communicate with each other. My daughter was quite shy but will now happily chat to anyone. I think dealing with some quite difficult customers has also given her coping strategies when dealing with tricky social situations. Seeing when people are rude can help our teenagers realise that they need to be respectful themselves. It helps to develop empathy and certainly builds character! Having to be away from their phones is also a massive positive in my book!

2. Knowing their own mind and developing a positive mindset.

Let’s face it, most teenagers haven’t got a clue what they want to do with their lives. Having a summer job can help them to decide what aspects of their summer jobs they enjoy and what aspects they don’t! Children can speak terribly to their parents but they wouldn’t dream of speaking in the same way to their employer. I believe this helps to develop a positive mindset in our children. Knowing that they can do a job well helps them to see what skills they actually have and are good at.

3. Developing Confidence

Both of my children have developed more confidence by having summer jobs. Confidence in their own abilities but also confidence when talking with adults. They are naturally quite shy people so learning to cope and being out of their comfort zone has been good for them!

4. Independence

Getting up for work, making their own sandwiches, travelling by bus, making sure their clothes are clean and ready or getting somewhere at certain times. All of these things obviously started at school but having a summer job has really helped my children to become more independent.

5. Developing new skills

There are so many different skills that teenagers learn by having a summer job and it obviously depends upon their job. I think the most important skill that summer jobs provide are to teach teenagers the value of their hard work and this is so important. They are learning that hard work means something and I am hoping that this will encourage my children to keep studying. They are learning about the working world and how hard it is! I hope that this will encourage them to strive for what they love rather than having to take any work to pay their bills.

6. Money Management

This is their motivation! Earning some money. Being a working teen is awesome! You get to spend your own money on whatever you want to. My daughter spent most if her earning last summer on make-up! And why not? You are only young once! My son is eying up some trainers but the difference is that he will look after them if he has bought them for himself as he knows how much they cost in hours worked.

I actively encourage my children to get weekend and holiday work. Do you? Do share your experiences with me.

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Our Awesome Adventure series: A Greek revelation in Kefalonia.

If you are a reader of my blog you will know that we often try to create our own holidays each year, booking a flight and then finding our own accommodation.

You can read about one of the other Awesome Adventures here

This year, we decided to try a Villa holiday on the island of Kefalonia with James Villas

We really weren’t sure what to expect as we do like to create our own holidays but James Villas do just what you expect; you get a villa, flight and car so it’s easy to explore and find your own way around the island. Both teens were happy to just go somewhere to relax, sunbathe, snorkel and we were too so we booked up for a week. What we didn’t expect was to fall in love with this little piece of Greek Paradise…..

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Villa Aphrodite II near Lourdas
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The view from the upstairs balcony
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The pool with a view towards Zante.

We could not believe our luck when we arrived at the villa! It was absolutely beautiful! In fact, it was so much nicer than we had imagined. It had 3 air conditioned bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a lounge and a great outdoor, shaded seating area with a barbeque. There was also Wifi. The nearest beach was a 25 minute walk away but just 5 minutes in the car and behind the villa were 2 fabulous Tavernas serving yummy Greek food. Perfect! So, what did we get up to during our week?

Activities for Teens (and their parents!)

  1. The Beaches. There were loads of great beaches nearby; some were sandy and some were pebbly but the beach at Lourdas had lots of cafes, easy parking and a lovely gentle shelving beach. The snorkelling here was great as the water was so clear.
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Lourdas

We loved another beach too which we found near the villa which you had to get to by climbing down some very steep steps! This beach was perfect and the one we visited three times.

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The steep steps down to our secret beach!
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There was a kitchen garden half way down! What a view….
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The water was so clear and perfect for young children as it was warm and shallow.
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Our secret beach!

2. Speed boats and Snorkelling…

We rented a speed boat for the day from Katelios. This was so much fun and our favourite day.

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The boat…..
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It went fast!
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Swimming in the crystal clear water.
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Snorkelling!

Beyond Poros on the East coast there are no roads. The coast is very rocky but has some lovely little coves to discover. The water is amazingly clear and is between 30 and 10 metres deep right until a few metres from shore. This meant we could anchor the boat and swim in the deep yet clear water.

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Some of the coves were quite desolate. You could hear the call of birds of prey in the trees above.
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The snorkelling was amazing and the visibility was approximately 50 metres. It was a shame we didn’t have an underwater camera as we saw plenty of sea life.
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This was a cove in Ithaca, the island near Kefalonia. The water here was very cold as we swam in real depths here.

We managed to motor for 70 miles in the day -to Ithaca and back. We couldn’t believe how far we had gone (typical for us to go so far and fast……)

3. Turtles in Argostoli.

In the capital, Argostoli you can watch the Loggerhead turtles in the harbour as they come to eat the scraps from the early morning fishing boats. It’s such a lovely site! The turtles are permanent residents as they dont need to migrate away for food. You can learn more about them here

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The fishing boats at Argostoli where you can buy their catch.
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Go early to watch the turtles

The town itself has 13,000 residents and is a lovely place to visit and have a coffee after your early turtle encounter.

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View down one of the little side streets
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Lovely cafes and shops (there is also an Earthquake Museum)
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Beautiful churches
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The Promenade and views

4. Visiting the Lake and Cave of Melissani.

These were only discovered in 1953 when the roof collapsed in an earthquake. They are worth a visit even though you will be in and out within 30 minutes as the boat ride is short.

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Yes, the water really is that colour!
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Its stunningly beautiful and our guide was so friendly (as are all Greek people!)
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The cave was beautifully lit as we went at noon (this is the best time to go apparently)

5. Chilling around the pool and the free Wifi.

We don’t usually just chill so being around the pool for an afternoon was lovely. We stocked up on food and cold beer and settled in for a few days. Bliss! Grab a Lilo and a good book and R E L A X. The Wifi was useful as it was the last week of Love Island……

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Lilo heaven
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Wifi is useful and I tried not to check social media honestly!

All in all, Kefalonia was fabulous! Truly. I keep telling everyone what a great time we had! We may have to book another island holiday next year….the teens think Ibiza may be fun but give me Greece any day!

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Near Sami
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The view from our bedroom in the evening.
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10 signs it is the almost the end of the school year

It’s the end of another school year and everything is rush, rush, rush!

You know it’s the end of the school year when:

  1. If someone asks you for anything, you lose the plot…literally. Do NOT ask me for one more thing! Triple this for teaching parents…..
  2. The kids look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. Their shoes don’t fit, trousers up to their ankles and hair needs a cut. If your child is in Year 6 or 11, times this by 10. Then they want your child to look “smart” for the end of term assembly. Hmmmmm
  3. The school send home “stuff.” It seems that every picture and book has been hiding in some drawer has been released and brought home in the customary plastic bag (so that’s what that huge plastic bag was for!)
  4. Talking of drawers….your child tidies their school drawer and finds several pound coins (oops that was the charity hair day money), 20 hair slides, 4 erasers, 16 chewed pencils and a party invitation from Sam dated 4 months previously.
  5. You keep getting emails from Mrs Organised for money for Mrs Teacher, Mr Head and Mrs Lovely the TA. In the end, you forget to give money to Mrs Organised and end up getting chocolates from the garage.
  6. Pack lunches get really, really boring as you haven’t had time to go supermarket shopping for 3 weeks.
  7. Your child’s teacher looks like she/he may pass out with tiredness or has the “I’ve only got Johnny in my class for 10 more days” look of glee on their face.
  8. Even the Headteacher looks like they need a stiff drink or a hair brush.
  9. You have overslept every morning for the last week.
  10. You realise that in less than 2 weeks, you have the children at home for 6 weeks…..and you’ve spent all your extra money on those gorgeous shoes….

So there we have it!

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Happy Summer everyone! I will be taking a blogging break at some point in the next few weeks so have a safe and relaxing break!

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