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The summer before I got married, I adopted a dog.


I say “I’’ and not “we” because my soon-to-be-husband, Adam, was not keen on the idea. He didn’t really understand why we would want to saddle ourselves with the responsibility of a pet when we were just beginning our lives together and loved to travel to far-flung places.

I was insistent about it. I had fallen in love with my roommate’s dog when I was in graduate school. While my roommate was at work, I would be the one to walk the dog and keep her company while her owner was away all day.

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My knowledge of dogs was nil and frankly, I was a bit afraid of them after a bad experience as a six-year-old. Our neighbor’s Alsatian jumped on me one Halloween, his nails scratching angry red lines down my thighs.

I didn’t trust any dogs after that. I thought I was a cat person. But this lovely mutt, a Doberman mix named Sasha, won my heart, day after day, month after month with her sensitivity, playfulness, and intelligence. Before I knew it, I had been converted into a dog person.

Growing up, I had always wanted a pet. As the youngest of four children I didn’t have a baby sister or brother to take care of and I desperately wanted something, anything, to care for and to be in charge of. We did have a cat for a couple of years (she met an early demise), then, for a briefer period, a pet skunk (yes a real skunk, but that’s another story), and never had a pet after that.

As I walked through the humane society on a chilly day in May 14 years ago, I had no idea what I was in for, or that this dog would precede many moves to different cities and would be the constant as we brought one, then two, then three, and finally four children back from the hospital into our home to join our family.

What I learned from Diego, a Rhodesian ridgeback mix, in those three years before we had our first child, laid the foundation for my next 12 years of parenting.

How?

First of all, being the diligent and conscientious learner that I am, I got as many books about dogs and dog training as I could from my local library. Then I got to work training my dog.

I was sure that if I knew as much as I could know about the subject of dogs, I would most certainly rein in his wild destructive behavior. It was a matter of education and will.

Wrong.

1 | You can’t mold your child into something you want

Your child comes out of the womb with a personality and you have to learn how to understand who they are and then do your best to guide them into the world. Apparently, I was a slow learner.

I would take Diego out for walks – three times a day since I worked from home and I needed to get out, too – we ventured into wooded trails for long walks. I tried out my newfound training techniques. Nothing made me angrier than when that dog ran away and ignored my commands.

I raged at him, screaming myself hoarse. Why wouldn’t this being let himself be sculpted like wet clay? To be molded to my needs and ideas of the kind of dog I wanted him to be?

This was extremely handy when our first baby came along. She would not be easily calmed, she would not stay asleep no matter what we did, she would not adapt to the schedule I wanted her on. No, she was her own being with her own way of doing things.

All I had to do was look at Diego and be reminded that this was not a battle I would win. I had to surrender to her needs and accept her for the strong-willed, stubborn, high maintenance, incredibly smart being she was (and still is at almost 12).

2 | Different ways of discipline

Discipline is necessary, but just what kind works is different for each dog, as it is for each child.

After further reading , I discovered that some dogs respond to “harsh corrections” while others are indifferent to your yelling and still others react in fear and run away.

My dog was the latter.   I didn’t realize this until months had gone by and I had worked myself up into a frothy lather of anger and frustration. Adam would look at me with alarm, wondering just who he was about to marry, this thunderously angry person locked in a battle of wills with her young dog.

This lesson of dogs needing different correction techniques was helpful when we had our second child and my assumptions that I just had to do the same with the second as I did with the first child proved completely inaccurate (and useless).

While our first daughter would stick close by me and never leave my side in a grocery store, for example, our second child would get distracted by almost anything. I would turn around and she’d be gone. My second daughter wasn’t afraid of losing sight of me the way my first child was, she wasn’t interested in approval the same way the first child was.

When I remembered through my sleep-deprived and addled brain that different dogs needed different kinds of discipline and basically were driven by different desires, it was much easier to be calm and rational about this. Try something different. With Diego I had to stop yelling and scaring him and instead gently but firmly correct him.

If I let my daughter pick out a treat while shopping, promising it at the end if she stayed by my side down each aisle perhaps it will work.  It did.

I later caught on quicker with potty training and incentivized her with M&M’s rather than say, telling her I was disappointed in her (which actually did work for the first child). I knew what motivated her and I ran with it. Now that they are older, bad behavior for my first daughter results in losing out on activities with friends, where taking away my second daughter’s iPod works best.

3 | The Mess

Everyone has his or her weak spot and for Diego it was his stomach. When I first set eyes on him in his cage at the humane society in Montreal, he was sitting in his own diarrhea. Adam said, “You want that dog? But he’s covered in shit!”

I replied, “So what? He’s so adorable!” Those amber eyes and huge floppy ears were irresistible.  We were given permission to take him out for a walk and he promptly jumped up on Adam, smearing his blue sweater with excrement.

From that day forward, I spent many, many hours cleaning up poop. In his crate, on our floors, our rugs, all over our home and of course on walks in the park and later, when we bought a house in New Jersey, our yard. I also spent many hours cleaning up vomit on the floor of our Brooklyn apartment and other strange substances that leaked out of the dog.

What better way to prepare you for the onslaught of mess that happens when you have a baby?  The spit-ups and the explosive poops up the back and all over, the projectile vomiting and the sick days of diarrhea-filled diapers or soaked-through toddler pants. Let’s face it, babies and toddlers are a mess. Young dogs are too.

It really does help to have experienced it somewhat beforehand. You get the gross factor out of the way pretty quickly and realize that bodily fluids are normal and get over it.

5 | Acceptance

Having a dog allowed me to try being a parent without the high stakes of a real kid. I remember leaving the house tentatively in those first few days of getting him, going to a yoga class and thinking, “There is a life I am responsible for now.” I felt both exhilarated and terrified that another being depended on me completely for its life.

I spent the first couple years of his life comparing him to the previous dog I had lived with and kept finding fault with him. Why couldn’t he be more like Sasha? Why wasn’t he as smart as her? Why is he so anxious? Why did he have to pick a fight with that other dog at the park? I could train him not to jump up on people and to sit or lie down, but that was about it. As much as I tried, I couldn’t control him fully.

Then when my first child came along I realized, wow, it’s not about trying to control your dog or your kid, or about comparing them to anyone else’s kid. It’s about appreciating them for who they are.

And the next realization was, man, Diego is so much easier to care for than this baby.

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 30, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

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When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

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Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

SHOP

Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

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This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

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Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

SHOP

Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

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With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

SHOP

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

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Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

SHOP

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

SHOP

This article was sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Kid's birthday parties can be great: There's lots of playtime for little ones to wear themselves out, the entertainment is free and it's the perfect time to bond with other mamas. But when it comes to gift-giving, everyone's interpretation of these unwritten rules is different which can create unwanted stress.

You know the scene: Some mamas prefer to give handmade gifts, others like buying popular toys and some only contribute to the child's college tuition.

If you haven't already heard, the trending theme for kid's birthday parties is "the fiver" and it takes the guesswork out of gift-giving. Rather than spending $20 on a toy they probably won't play with in a month the hosts ask for a $5 bill. The money is pooled together and can be put towards one big, much more significant gift, instead of many smaller, less meaningful things. The idea is simple, and it turns out, hosting one is similar to throwing a traditional birthday party.

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Here are six ways to throw a seamless (and fun!) fiver party:

1. Don't do it alone

Many moms tend to plan everything for their kids' parties all by themselves. They write down a list of things that they need to do and feel accomplished after checking off every single item. But, when the special day finally comes, moms stress over the details for fear that something might go wrong.

When planning a fiver party, delegate tasks and responsibilities during the planning process. Having a helper or two for the big day cuts down on having to clean up a big mess afterward.

2. Create a distraction-free environment

Though this sounds like a tip for doing homework, it applies to throwing a party, too. If you book a show for 3- or 4-year-olds, it's better to hide all the toys and snacks beforehand so they can sit longer and focus better on the activity you planned. Best of all, with fiver parties, you don't have to worry about designating an area to open a bunch of gifts.

3. Remember that hand painting is better for toddlers

Many children like to get their faces painted for their birthdays or for special events. Though face painting is a popular activity, children who are less than 4 years old will often start moving, fidgeting or crying in the middle of it and turn the beautiful butterfly on their faces into a mess. Because of this, try hand painting for the younger ones.

4. Always keep them busy

Fill your fiver party with activities so that the guests will always have something to do. Maybe this sounds a bit difficult, but you don't necessarily need to book 10 shows for one party. Simply prepare a few easy games (like a treasure hunt, musical chairs and sack race) for them to play beforehand. Keeping the children occupied will make your fiver party fun and memorable.

5. Less is more

A shortlist of guests will keep your little one from feeling overwhelmed by the attention. For toddlers, a party that lasts about an hour and a half is perfect. If they're a bit older, add another hour. Just remember children don't need much to feel happy and loved.

Bonus! Here are two ways to save money while making your kids' fiver party memorable:

1. Host the party at home.

Sure, venues are great, but they can be pricey. Having a party at home is inexpensive and intimate. Also, kids are more likely to interact with each other if the space is smaller.

2. Only serve snacks.

A common way to stay on budget is to invite people between meals and prepare snacks, not a full meal. Most kids are usually so busy playing they'll just graze anyway.

This article was originally published on Partify by Natalie Wong and it has been republished with permission from the author.

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When your toddler is screaming for milk, a toy or a snack in the middle of the grocery store, it may feel like your world is closing in on you. It might not seem like it in the moment, but tantrums are a normal part of your child's development—it's a child's way of expressing how they feel.

But regardless of why little ones throw fits, it can be tough to navigate. We looked to the parenting threads on Reddit where mamas discuss the ins and outs as well as ups and downs of child-rearing. We were all ears.

Here's the best tantrum advice Reddit mamas swear by:

1. Wait it out

"Tantrums are a toddler's way of venting excess frustration, energy and emotion. Just wait it out and once it's dying down, offer some comfort. After, talk with them and verbalize and validate their emotions."— StayAtHome478936

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2. Don't entertain it

"Do not engage with them at all during a tantrum. It's tempting to try to calm them down and introduce some reason to the situation, but don't give in to that. Screaming is a one-way ticket to being completely ignored. They're allowed to be frustrated and upset, but you're not obligated to listen to it."— VoteyDisciple

3. Give yourself a mommy break

"I give myself mommy time outs if I'm getting frustrated or angry and even though no one is enforcing me, I still get the benefit of calming myself down, and my daughter sees me proactively taking care of my mood/behavior."— ChandrikaMoon

4. Let them explore their world

"If you have patience with misbehavior, you open the door to your child escalating until she has your full attention. I let my toddler explore her world and do anything I deem safe, but I am strict about enforcing safety rules and I do not allow her to misbehave without consequences."— soMuchToFind

5. Focus on the real issue

"Rather than punishing the symptom of the issue, work on the actual issue. For my 4-year-old son we are working on breathing and counting as a coping mechanism for when emotions become too overwhelming. For him, it works well. He responds to most minor and medium emotions by breathing now."— Hiitskai

6. Say 'no' less

"There is a school of thought that if the child reacts terribly every time you say 'no,' say 'no' less. Instead of no cookie you say you can have carrots or cheese now. Always offer one or two good choices when you can and it will head off at least some of the fits."— toasterchild

7. Take away things

"My kid started showing signs of being low-level obsessed with a game so we took it away cold turkey. We explained that the game makes him behave in a way we don't like, so we are going to take a break. Sure he wasn't happy about it, but we are the adults and he is entitled to feel any way he wants to."— greenpotatoes9

8. Offer breaks

"Daycare helped us so much with tantrums. They taught her the phrase 'I need my space.' So, when she has her tantrum, she goes away for a moment, and then comes back in a calmer state of mind. Often, the more we try to help her, the worse it gets."— dave moe dee

9. Play music

"The main thing that almost never fails is listening to music during a tantrum. I'm really into music myself so I guess this is no huge surprise but my girl just cannot cry while Beyonce is playing."— PavLovesDogs

10. Do something unrelated

"As long as the kid isn't actively endangering themselves while throwing the temper tantrum, I completely ignore it. I make a point of going about my business and doing something wholly unrelated to whatever lead up to the tantrum. It didn't take long for my kid to learn that the screaming and fussing won't get them what they want."— PerestroikaPal

11. Compromise

"If you give into a tantrum, find a way to make it seem like you're compromising for some other reason, but not because of the tantrum. I always tell my 3 year old 'You know how to ask. If you want something, use your words, ask nicely."—athaliah

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When kids enter puberty we warn them about the change. We tell them their bodies are changing and that it's normal and natural and they're beautiful just as they are. But when women become mothers and their bodies—and brains—change, we are not offered the same affirmations and comfort as adolescents. Society tells children to accept the ways their bodies stretch, grow and shift to carry them through adulthood, but it tells the women who carry these children in their own bodies to fight change at all costs.

Luckily, that is changing. Women are standing up and saying what society should have been telling us all along: Yes, motherhood changes your body, but that change is beautiful.

And now, in a brilliant move that is both excellent marketing and empowering, hundreds of women are putting their postpartum bodies on display. The act is a powerful statement to themselves and to other mothers: Our bodies are meant to evolve and change, and you are normal and natural and beautiful just as you are.

Knix is selling underwear, but the brand is also creating real change with a project called The Life After Birth Project, which saw 250 photos of real moms exhibited in an NYC gallery before rolling into Knix's hometown, Toronto, Canada, this week.

The photos are refreshingly real and exactly what women need to see in 2019.

The Life After Birth Project shows the beauty and reality of postpartum healing 

One of the most damaging myths about postpartum recovery is that it is quick. It isn't. It actually takes about six to eight weeks for the uterus to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. The bump doesn't instantly disappear because it took 9 months to grow. A mother's body needs time to heal after birth, whether it was a vaginal delivery or a C-section, but too many mothers aren't given that time.

In the United States, so many working moms are back at their job within five weeks of giving birth, and even if paid work isn't a factor, unpaid labor and family obligations can have mothers doing too much too soon.

As Diana Spalding, midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor and Birth Expert, has said, "You would never expect someone to clean their house a few days after having surgery, or to run errands when they are getting over the flu—so why do we expect ourselves to snap out of giving birth? Pregnancy and birth are not ailments, but they are the real deal. Be gentle on yourself, and allow your body to heal."

Mothers should not be embarrassed by their changing bodies 

A recent survey found more than a third of women (37%) felt embarrassed by what their body was going through after birth. This is not okay, and it is why we need more projects like the The Life After Birth Project and more companies doing what Knix is doing.

That is why celebrities like Jillian Harris, pictured above, stepped up and shared photos of their own postpartum experiences for the Life After Birth project.

Yes, Jillian is wearing mesh panties and a giant pad in the above photo. But that's part of the journey and nothing to be embarrassed about.

We need to see our stories represented and know that this is normal.

More photos from #LifeAfterBirth

Four pregnancies in four years. This mama has been through so much and has some serious advice: "I wish our always busy culture recognized it more and gave new mothers patience and grace."

So do we Amy, so do we.

See the gallery in person

The Life After Birth Project is currently in Toronto but the next stop is Los Angeles on October 24.

The gallery will keep touring the US, too.

Stops are planned in Portland, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Minneapolis. if you want to submit your own photos, tag @lifeafterbirthproject on Instagram and use the hashtag #LifeAfterBirth, or email your photos to lifeafterbirth@knix.com.

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News

You know that moment when you find yourself standing in line at the grocery store next to the "All-Together Woman"? Come on, you know the one.

She very well may have just stepped out of a magazine centerfold, while you are fairly certain you resemble something more along the lines of a real-life muppet. This woman is flawless. Her makeup is spot-on, her clothes are wrinkle-free. Her toes are manicured and her fingernails look like they never once, in the course of her what-must-be-a-dream-life, scrubbed a single dirty bathtub, poopy toilet or messy kitchen floor.

Okay, seriously, I know you know what I am talking about now.

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But, here's the thing. I don't hate her. I don't even envy her. Because I don't know her. I have no idea what her personal struggles are. I applaud her for her obvious fashion skills and mad makeup abilities. I will probably even tell her I love her hair. Or her shoes. Or her something.

And, for all I know, while I am admiring her trendy jacket and cropped top she very well may be admiring my children and my life. Maybe, just maybe, she thinks my yoga pants paired with a hoodie and clean-ish Converse shoes along with my ridiculously huge diaper bag that seconds as my purse and kitchen fridge on-the-go are totally adorbs!

I will most likely scrounge up the courage to drag myself to a mirror sometime in the next hour or so just to see what exactly I looked like next to this magical being. Chances are I had green and blue fruit loops bits stuck somewhere between my teeth, a messy bun that closely resembled a bird's nest and overly unplucked eyebrows. Chances are also extremely high there was not a lick of makeup to hide my exhausted, sleep-deprived eyelids, either. My breasts will still be saggy and my tummy will still be loose.

Listen, my seasons will change. All too soon my kids will be older and I will have more energy to prep myself before going out in public. I will be more rested and will probably (hopefully) have lost some pre/post-baby weight. I won't be rushed to pick up peanut butter and milk after school drop-off but before nap. Brushing my teeth in the morning will no longer seem like a luxury. I may even become the "All-Together Woman."

But, in this season, today, I am going to tell myself "I am enough."

Because I AM enough.

My babies don't see her, they see ME, their mommy and #1 person. They love me unconditionally. And I am enough.

My husband respects me as his partner and the mother of his children. He tells me I'm beautiful and loves my body, including all of the wreckage and battle scars left behind from eight babies. And I am enough.

My friends see me for who I am. They know I'm clumsy, goofy and imperfect. And they don't even care that I wear Pajama Jeans. And I am enough.

It is easy (entirely too easy) to look at ourselves as the lesser version of our reality. We can be our biggest critics and shamers. Our own worst enemies.

It's so important that we begin teaching our daughters that they are enough. That who they are in the inside will manifest itself into what they are on the outside. Let's teach our girls, together, to claim their beauty, their strengths and their sense-of-self from within. First and always.

Everything on the outside is literally just the surface. It's time, ladies. And I know you can do it. Because you are enough.

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