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Stefanie Tsabar

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How to choose the right recipes

Are you someone who constantly buys new cookbooks or clips new recipes, but doesn’t use them as much (or at all) as you hope to?

I can relate.

As a mom who is obsessed with making family dinners as healthy as they are delicious, I know how alluring the promise of a new recipe can be.

However, collecting more and more recipes can stop you dead in your tracks from ever feeling in control of meal planning and cooking dinner.

That’s why I’m so excited to share with you my series over the next 3 weeks called: How to Organize Your Recipes & De-clutter Your Mind.

You will learn how to manage and organize all of your recipes (both new and old) so that they are easy to access, quick to sort through and streamline meal planning and dinner prep – every time!

Here’s a breakdown of How to Organize Your Recipes & De-clutter Your Mind (a 3- week video series):

  • Video 1 (today): How to know without a doubt if a recipe is perfect for you.
  • Video 2 – The foolproof way to sort through your recipes.
  • Video 3 – How to organize your recipes to perfection.

Once you’ve watched today’s video, I’d love to hear what you think about this topic.

Do you relate to feeling overwhelmed by having too many recipes? What are your criteria for deciding which recipes to try, keep or discard?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Do you have a friend who’s struggling with meal planning? Forward them this email. It could help them organize their recipes and cook dinner with so much more ease and freedom.

If you’re like millions of parents, then you are longing to stop catering to your kids every night and start cooking one meal that everybody loves.

We all know how beneficial that is, but one of the most common pitfalls is that moms (and dads, too) tend to get overwhelmed, frustrated and resentful when your kids don’t eat the meal.

As a mom who is vegan with a husband who’s a pescatarian and a son who has always loved meat, I can really relate to this issue. But, I knew I wasn’t alone.

I realized that if this issue isn’t resolved, it would take a major toll on parents’ emotional well-being and their relationship to their kids.

I went about looking for solutions and I couldn’t believe how I went from feeling drained and overwhelmed to calm and confident. It’s not rocket science, so I know it can work for you, too!

So, if you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and resentful when trying to make one meal for your family, today’s video is for you. You will learn 3 strategies to combat cooking overwhelm so that you can cook every night, enjoy the process and support your kids.

Once you’ve had a moment to watch, I’d love to hear what you think about this issue.

Do you relate to feeling overwhelmed and resentful at dinnertime? What are some things that you’ve tried that worked and possibly didn’t work to help you feel grounded, supported and connected?

Leave a comment below and let me know.

Remember, you are going to be cooking for a lot of years. You deserve to find joy in the process.

In today’s video, I’m going to share with you the magical tip for raising healthy eaters.

You will learn how to teach your children to make healthy choices, eat the right amount of food that their bodies’ need, and learn to eat the meals that you serve.

The magical tip for raising healthy eaters that I want to share with you is something I needed to figure out for myself.

I didn’t have confidence that I was making the right choices about how to teach my son to become a healthy eater.

Maybe for you, cooking is a challenge or perhaps you and your spouse don’t agree on how to feed your kids.

You know in your heart of hearts that feeding your child is supposed to be the most nurturing act as a parent, but you realize that it’s gotten far from that reality.

And, you know that if you don’t change something then you might always have power struggles with your kids over food and they might never learn to expand their palates.

But, I know that you are committed to figuring out how to help your child make healthy choices and eat mindfully while at the same time deepening your bond.

And, you’re trying to figure out how to fix your mistakes now so that your kids don’t grow up with the same body image and weight issues that you might have struggled with.

The good news is that the magical tip for raising healthy eaters has been heavily studied and proven over and over again to help kids make healthy choices that feel good to them.

And, any parent can master it.

Watch the video now to get started!

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I hope you had a fun Halloween with your little one! I’m sure, like most parents, you have a love-hate relationship with this sugar-infested holiday! 🙂

You’re probably feeling conflicted between letting your child enjoy and savor her candy and wanting to deplete her stash while she sleeps!

I bet you’ve wished that your child would be happy with just a few pieces of candy by tuning in to her body.

Or, separately you’ve probably hoped that your child would make healthier choices in general by choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables.

For years, I would throw away a bunch of my son’s candy at night while he was sleeping. But, it always felt bad, and as he got older, he could tell that his stash was getting smaller!

I felt like the only thing I doing was creating distrust.

Essentially, I was teaching him that he could never be trusted to self-regulate his own eating when it comes to sweets and – perhaps worse – he couldn’t trust his own mother!

None of us wants to engender a distrustful relationship with our kids, so I knew I had to figure out another way.

I finally found 5 ways that help kids tune in to their bodies, whether it’s eating sweets in moderation or choosing to eat more veggies.

This year on Halloween, my son ate some of his candy in between houses while trick-or-treating. But, by the time we got home, he looked through his bag with total excitement and awe, but only ate two more pieces before setting it on the counter for another day.

Honestly, it was SHOCKING! I never knew that that would have been a possibility a few years ago, and I was completely awestruck that the steps I’ve been following work like magic!

In today’s video, I walk you through the 5 ways to help kids tune in to their bodies. They are:

  1. Babies are born tuned in. Understand that they already have the ability to self-regulate. All babies are born knowing when they are hungry or full. And, they learn naturally as they grow up when their bodies are craving familiar and comforting foods versus the adventure of trying something new. So, we are not as much teaching them to tune into their bodies as much as we are helping them to reconnect to their inner cues.
  2. Trial and error. We give our kids so much freedom to try and fail at new things in all areas of life, except when it comes to eating. It’s understandable because we’re all so worried about our kiddos’ health and weight. But, it’s not fair or realistic to expect perfection from our kids at every meal. They need the freedom to make (a lot of) mistakes because it’s the only way they’ll learn to truly tune in and listen to their bodies.
  3. Division of Responsibility. A division of responsibility means that parents and children have distinct jobs when it comes to food. Parents have “feeding jobs” and kids have “eating jobs.” Parents’ jobs are WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE, and kids’ jobs are: HOW MUCH AND WHETHER. For example, parents choose a variety of foods to serve and then kids get to choose what they put into their mouths. Children learn how to tune in to their bodies when they are allowed to make choices about what they eat within these safe boundaries.
  4. Daily schedule. Having a set schedule for all meals and snacks allows kids to relax in between meals knowing that another opportunity to eat is coming up soon. And, when they are relaxed, they can tune in to their bodies more readily because they are grounded and present rather than worried about their next snack.
  5. Familiar and comforting foods. Kids will be able to naturally tune in to their bodies when they are given food that they are already comfortable eating. When kids come to the table and see only new food, they have a fight or flight reaction and either lose their appetites completely or start whining due to anxiety. But, if they feel supported at the table by seeing familiar foods, then they also are more likely to try new foods more readily.

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If you’ve got a child who is reluctant to try new foods, then it’s probably causing you a lot of stress.

You might worry about her health, get frustrated that she doesn’t eat the food you prepare or feel anxious watching her struggle so much.

As you know, your child’s pickiness is also causing him or her a ton of stress.

Not only is she worried about finding something to eat at a restaurant or party but she also knows that the issue causes mom and dad to be anxious. And, no child wants to be the cause of her parents’ upset.

The good news is that there are a few easy things you can do right away to start resolving your reluctant eater’s anxiety and help her expand her palate. Here are 3 quick tips to get you started:

1. Forget about “new” foods for a while.

Once a child is anxious about food, the most important thing is to reset her sense of safety. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply, forget about trying to expand her repertoire for the time being and serve familiar and comforting foods for her at every meal. (Tip: Enlist your child to make a master list of all her favorites.)

I recommend packing school lunch and snacks with comforting foods, and at dinnertime, serve enough comforting food for your child to fill up on. You’re welcome to include a new dish, but don’t make it in hopes that your child will try it just yet.

2. Stop talking about food.

The more you focus on food, the more your child will feel anxious (even if your intention is to help him). Less compliant children will whine or throw a temper tantrum, but more sensitive kids will lose their appetites, get anxious and feel guilty for letting down mom or dad.

Here are 3 important DON’TS to keep in mind:

  • Don’t offer your child (or ask him to try) the new dish. He’ll ask you to pass it when he’s ready.
  • Don’t make any comments about how good the food tastes or smells.
  • Don’t many any comments about what he eats or doesn’t eat.

Once you get the hang of it, your child will relax and reach out on his/her own to try something new. You will be shocked! But, it will happen. 

3. Plan, Plan, Plan for eating out.

An anxious child does not like surprises and most of these kids will verbalize their concerns repeatedly.

My son is an incredibly adventurous eater now… BUT in the past, he had a huge amount of anxiety over food. Before going out to eat, he would always  ask me in a panic, “what will happen if I don’t like anything at the restaurant?”.

Here’s what I’ve found to help when going out to eat:

For restaurants:  Pull up the menu online before going anywhere new and go through the menu with your child. If you legitimately cannot find something he’d like, go somewhere else or bring him something to eat from home.

For parties: Call the host in advance to see what the menu will be and offer to bring something that will fit in with the menu and also be comforting to your child.

So, to recap: 1) Forget about “new” foods for a while, 2) Stop talking about food and 3) Plan, plan, plan for eating out.

Some kids are just naturally more hesitant in all areas of life, and it’s important that they never feel like we are pushing them out of their comfort zones. 

They will naturally become curious to try new foods once we stop trying so hard and instead help them feel comfortable where they are today with their familiar foods.

I hope these quick tips help you and your reluctant eater find more peace at the dinner table. For more on this topic, check out my post 10 Mistakes Well-Meaning Parents Make at Dinner.

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

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Meal planning is deceiving.

I’ve worked with incredibly talented home cooks and food bloggers. And, I’ve also worked with moms who considered themselves “terrible” cooks – parents who didn’t have confidence cooking or those who started hating cooking only once they had kids!

All parents have the same challenge. What do I make for dinner tonight?! How do I plan and prepare a healthy meal that everyone in the family will enjoy in a way that reduces my stress and time in the kitchen?

The problem is not about the recipes or our cooking abilities. What’s really at play is multilayered and complex and varies from family to family.

Everything from worrying about wasting food because of a picky eater to being utterly exhausted after a long day to follow through on a set menu plan are just a few things plaguing parents.

What ultimately helped me overcome my angst over meal planning and serve meals I was proud of was to create a plan that I could follow no matter how tired I was.

It is my free Family Meal Planner PDF, and it has 2 simple parts:

  1. Make familiar – even repetitive – recipes the central focus of dinner.
  2. New recipes should be considered a bonus, NEVER the main attraction.

My planner helps you accomplish both of these. It also takes all the guesswork out of planning dinner, ensures that everyone will eat, and guarantees that you will feel less stressed every night!

I shared my Family Meal Planner PDF on the blog this summer. IF YOU DIDN’T TRY IT OUT THEN, I HAVE A CHALLENGE FOR YOU.

Download your copy right now, fill it out and then use it to make dinner for one or two nights. Then, leave a comment telling me and the other readers what worked, what you learned and how it felt.

I hope you give it a try. You might think it makes common sense… but, have you actually filled out the worksheet and followed it through? That’s my challenge for you. Download your copy now and try it.

GIVEAWAY: To incentivize you even more, I am giving away one free 60-minute phone consultation with me to the person who gives the most detail about their experience with my planner. The deadline to leave your comment is Sunday, Oct. 16 at 11:59 pm. I will email the winner on Monday.

I guarantee that you will be more confident and less stressed if you follow the planner. Download your free Family Meal Planner PDF now. (Here’s a sample of my planner for this week.)


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I bought my first can of pumpkin yesterday on the hottest day we’ve had in Los Angeles this year.

I’ve officially dived head first into fall, and regardless of the weather, there’s no turning back. Here are my current fall favorites, including recipes, new products I’ve discovered and an old favorite cookbook that I love more and more each time I dust it off.

Cookbook

The Family Cooks

This doesn’t feel like a traditional cookbook; it feels like your dear friend – who happens to be an amazing cook- is teaching you how to cook, one step at a time. The tone is very colloquial (e.g., “All you need to make your own croutons is…”), which I find refreshing as I navigate a new recipe.

I’m in love with the healthy recipes, the gorgeous photos and the way the authors guide you step-by-step by engaging the reader and building confidence in you by asking questions along the way (e.g., “Does it need more salt? Or lemon? Make it taste how you like it best.”

My favorite part of the cookbook, though, is the bottom of each page where they include fun and useful sections to encourage your child to cook with you (“kids in charge”), encourage you to test new flavor combinations (“play with it”) and simple explanations for why they include certain steps in the recipe (“why ? ‘cause…”).  

Products

Five Seed Almond Bars

I’m not sure how I’ve missed these bars in the past, but they are amazing. They are healthy, taste homemade, and have fish oil for Omega 3s (which you cannot taste!). I’ve been giving my son fish oil in the mornings, which he’s not in love with, but now he can still get his Omega 3s with these amazing bars.

Nutty Bits

These are also from Trader Joe’s. My family eats these all year round, but they seem perfectly suited for fall. They have few, whole ingredients and a nice amount of protein. My husband snacks on them all day long, but I usually give a few to my son (and myself) in after-school snacks along with some fruit.

Recipes

Fruit-filled bars

This recipe is so simple to make and feels, smells and tastes like fall. They are rich and hearty, yields a large batch of 14 bars, and since they are nut-free, I can pack them in my son’s school lunch. I’ve made them even healthier than the original recipe without sacrificing any flavor whatsoever. I replace the sugar with coconut sugar, the whole wheat flour with sprouted spelt flour and the butter with Earth Balance. As a bonus, they freeze perfectly, so I can always have a batch on hand.

Baked Black Bean or Chicken Taquitos Recipe

I made these taquitos a few weeks ago as our “new” recipe when I also served Trader Joe’s Black bean and cheese taquitos. Since I’m dairy-free, I used vegan cheese for some and cow’s cheese for the others. We loved them, and now I can serve them as a “comforting / familiar” food. Plus, these freeze well, too!

Can’t wait to try:

Julienned Root Vegetables

You can find these in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. I’m not sure how I’ve overlooked these. Apparently, they appeared over a year ago! They are completely free of preservatives, and the ingredient list is pure.

Cheesy Cauliflower Rice & Broccoli Bake

To me, this recipe has fall written all over it. Plus, it’s dairy free, and comes from Minimalist Baker, whose recipes we’ve been loving.

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

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Think about the last time your kids pushed your buttons.

I’m going to guess that it was in the last 24 hours, and it probably had something to do with food.

I’ve learned that kids seem to know exactly what bothers us on a guttural (not conscious) level, even if we’ve never articulated it to them.

They are not aware of what they are doing by pushing your buttons, and so they are not manipulating you.

They simply have learned what it looks and feels like when mom/dad is emotionally preoccupied, and it makes them feel unsafe. So, they push your buttons to “wake you up” and pay attention to them on an emotional level.

Let me give you an example…

You are sitting around the dinner table asking your kids about their day. On the surface, you seem fine and present, but inside you are worried and angry that they are not eating any vegetables.

Even though you are not “acting” angry, anxious, etc., your kids feel it. And, they experience it as a threat to their own safety.

They are feeling something like, “Mom/dad seems really shaky. They can’t take care of me when they are shaky, so I’m not safe”.

Then, before you know it, they’ve started pushing your buttons by complaining about the food, refusing to eat, getting up and running around the table or scarfing down all the bread.

Of course, we cannot attribute all of their misbehavior to this, as healthy kids are meant to test boundaries. Plus, it’s vital that we serve dinner in a way that’s supportive to how kids learn to eat well.

However, it’s helpful to have this lens to peer through and consider as an option when trying to figure out why our kids are acting out.

One clue is that time-outs and consequences don’t work. The reason is that your kids are needing you to become centered so that they can regain their sense of safety and stop pushing your buttons.

And, when you are present and grounded at the table, you may be surprised to find out that much of your kids’ problematic behavior simply fades away. Your kiddos are sitting longer at the table, tasting more of the new foods and not complaining.

But, how do we ground ourselves during dinnertime, when stress is usually at the highest?  Here are 3 ways:

#1: Identify your personal “triggers”

Dinnertime is stressful for most parents, but if you have a history of an eating disorder, family dinners growing up were stressful (e.g., you were forced to finish your plate, there was a lot of yelling) or you have struggled with body image, then it’s likely that you will have recurring emotional triggers during dinnertime.

According to Psychcentral.com, “A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.”

What that means is that you could be serving dinner calmly, but then your child screams, “Yuck!” and suddenly, you find yourself yelling and dinner feels ruined. (If this happens, don’t beat yourself up. Click here on how to do a healing repair.)

A good therapist can help you identify and process what your personal triggers are so that you don’t have to work so hard to stay calm at the table. It will happen naturally.

It will not only benefit you, but your kids as well. Sadly, here’s what it looks like when a parent is unaware of his own triggers: Plenty to Lose in Discussion of Weight and Self-Esteem, By Philip Galanes, The New York Times.

# 2: Traverse the gut-punches like a zen master

If you don’t experience the types of triggers I described above or once you’ve become conscious of any triggers that you do have, you will experience frustration at dinner (e.g., kids’ whining, not sitting down) without feeling completely derailed.

In other words, you’ll be able to experience the initial gut-punch feelings without reacting to them.

Also, mindfulness training, meditation and yoga can help you feel more grounded and present before dinnertime begins or help you move through those painful feelings when they come up.

Then, instead of yelling at dinner, you might simply say out loud to your kids, “I think I’m triggered right now. I need a moment to ground myself.” And, then, take a few breaths, go to your room and sit quietly for a few minutes, etc.

My favorite book about becoming grounded in the moment is Amy Cuddy’s Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

# 3: Choose the “right” parenting book

I’ve found that part of being able to keep ourselves grounded is feeling like we are responding to our kids in the most effective, yet nurturing way possible.

Like me, you’ve probably read plenty of parenting books. But, how many of them are the perfect fit for the child(ren) you are raising?

Throughout the years, I’ve worked diligently through renowned parenting books and courses. Nothing really worked until I discovered Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach, by Howard Glasser.

Although I highly recommend this book and believe deeply in its merits, I believe more strongly in choosing a parenting approach NOT based on reviews or popularity, but rather based on how good of a fit it is for the child you are raising.

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Dinner, yelling and repairs

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Imagine this scene:

After telling your kids to sit down for the fifteenth time, you hear yourself screaming at them.

Then, they start to complain loudly about the food, and you threaten to send them to bed without dinner.

There’s no question that our kids can trigger us into reacting in regrettable ways (especially at dinner!), and once we calm down, most of us feel pretty badly about our overreactions.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up, though.

The real problem is not our mistake, but forgetting to do a “repair” with our child.

A repair is a more in-depth apology; it’s not a simple “I’m sorry”.

It’s a conversation that communicates to our kids that they may have done something that we didn’t like. Something that needed a time-out or a consequence. But, something to which we wish we had responded to in a calmer way.

A repair is extraordinarily healing and empowering to children. It makes children trust parents deeply, removes blame that didn’t belong to the child and teaches kids that adults are not perfect (and kids don’t have to be either).

Knowing how to do a repair will keep you from going into a shame spiral (because that won’t help anyone – trust me, I know), and instead mend the hurt and build a stronger bond between you and your child.

Here are 5 steps that I recommend for making repairs that can heal our kids’ hearts and bring peace back to the dinner table. Feel free to change the wording so that it feels organic to you.

# 1: Calm yourself down first.

Nothing will make matters worse that trying to talk to your child when you still have emotional feelings about what they did to cause your trigger. Even if you have created some space and have more awareness that your reaction was inappropriate, you still need to wait until the tension is gone. This can be hard for good parents because they want to make things better right away. But, you will be more effective once you are completely grounded.

# 2: Approach your child without eye contact.

Wait until you are tucking your child into bed at night with the lights out, taking a walk outside, or even in the car the next morning. Emotions can be very scary to kids, especially when their feelings have been hurt. Talking to them without eye contact gives them the emotional space to engage or simply listen.

What to say: “I feel really badly about about what happened before and I want to apologize.”

# 3: Make a specific apology.

Simply stopping at, “I’m sorry” doesn’t communicate to a child that we really understand the impact of our actions. That’s why we need to be specific.

What to say: “I’m really sorry that I …”

  • Yelled at you for _ (whining, not sitting down, not trying my new recipe, etc.)
  • Forced you to eat something you didn’t want.
  • Took away your food before you were done eating.
  • Made you feel badly for eating a cookie.
  • Threatened to send you to bed hungry.

# 4: Give your child an opportunity to express his/her feelings.

Some kids are comfortable using words, crayons or dolls to express themselves, while other kids won’t want to express their feelings at all. Don’t force them. Simply giving them an opportunity to do so now – or later – is the most important thing.

What to say: “I can image that that didn’t feel very good. Is there something you’d like to say to me?” Then, wait and let them respond and talk about their feelings.

# 5: Paint a brighter future.

After making a specific apology, it is important to let our kids know in concrete terms how it will be different next time. This helps them feel safe and builds more trust in you.

What to say: “Instead of yelling, I wished that I told you in a calm voice that you had to sit down at the table for 5 minutes and then if you still weren’t hungry, you were free to get up and clear your plate. I will try hard to do that next time.”

Putting it all together

Here’s how a full repair might look.

“I feel really badly about what happened earlier, and I want you to know that I’m really sorry for yelling at you for not sitting down. That must have felt pretty badly. Is there anything you want to say to me? [PAUSE] If this happens again, my plan is to try to stay calm and simply let you know that our family rule is that we all sit down for dinner together. If you are still not hungry after 5 minutes, then you could get up and clear your plate. Would you like to do a ‘do-over’?”

I hope these steps are helpful the next time you are looking for a way to reconnect with your child after overreacting to a trigger.

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

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When my son was a baby, I was going through extraordinary circumstances that caused me to have panic attacks.

None of us were getting much sleep, and I was anxious all the time. I developed sores on my hands from so much stress and such little sleep.

My husband had the job of putting our son to sleep at night. It would take hours.

That is, until we tried something new.

My husband noticed that when I was able to calm myself down, however momentarily, our son would fall asleep instantly.

So, we did an experiment. I went into our bedroom and meditated, while my husband stayed in our son’s room rocking him to sleep.

The moment that I felt myself relax and release my anxiety, I would look at my clock. In the baby’s room, my husband would look at his clock the moment our son fell asleep.

Night after night, it was exactly the same time. We would walk out of our respective rooms and meet in the hallway with both a smile and dumbfounded look on our faces.

Gratefully, I have gotten the help I needed to overcome my panic attacks all those years ago.

But, still, anxieties do linger and trigger me sometimes – especially with food – and my son’s calmness at the table appears to be correlated to what I’m feeling.

What I’ve learned is that parents’ anxieties can disrupt children’s natural rhythms, whether it’s with sleeping, eating, socializing, etc.

So, instead of focusing on how I can fix these “problems” in my son, I’ve learned to turn my attention toward healing my own triggers.

Once I am calm and present, those “problems” tend to disappear.

Of course, it’s important to recognize that kids are their very own people and don’t do things solely in reaction to their parents’ emotions. And, of course, they need our help for many things. 

That said, the most powerful way I’ve learned to teach my son to tune in to his body, eat mindfully and make healthy choices is not with feeding strategies (although they are important).

It’s by working on my own triggers with food, body image, etc.

The good news is that the longer I work on myself, the calmer I am at the table and otherwise, and then the more my son is able to find his own natural rhythms in all regards.

Can you relate? Do your kids sit at the table longer, eat better, sleep better when you are feeling more grounded?

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