Parenting: Back to the Drawing Board

August 24, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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We’re hitting the summer doldrums here, those last few weeks before school starts when every parent starts to despair. Children are bored and driving us crazy. We haven’t done any summer reading and their brains have atrophied. Can’t the first day of school come any sooner? I’ve been wallowing in complete hopelessness at the state of my house, the lack of discipline in my kids, and my confidence as a mom. Where did I go wrong? And I why can I not summon the motivation to actually do something about it?

Then, sort of randomly on Facebook, I came across a free webinar about parenting, and I hastily signed up. Now, this doesn’t come easily for me. For some reason, I sort of bristle when I’m getting parenting advice. I birthed these children — shouldn’t I just instinctively KNOW how to raise them? When other moms offer advice, even rational, well-intentioned suggestions leave me feeling inadequate. “That’s a great idea!” I say, while I’m thinking, “I’m such a failure!” Even when I come across ideas that I could really use, I rarely stick with them. I’ve read books about overly sensitive children, about “spirited” children, lapping up every word, then following the suggestions in the book really well…for about a month. We have seen progress over the past few years with eating, bathroom issues, getting along with others at play dates, dealing with transitions — but I can’t help feeling a lot of the improved behavior has come with maturity. This stay-at-home mom thing is essentially my full-time job…and almost eight years in I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m sure the Bobs on Office Space would be questioning my qualifications. I have People Skills, dammit! People Skills!

Enter Positive Parenting Solutions. I was a bit skeptical at first. Why should I pay these people to give me parenting advice that I could probably figure out on my own? Except…clearly I’m floundering. And if Stay-At-Home-Mom is truly my job title, wouldn’t it do me some good to get some on-the-job training? So I signed up. Amy McCready, the woman who runs this outfit, claims she can bring peace to my family with her discipline approach. No time outs, no spanking, no undignified punishments. It’s using human psychology to train our children to be better behaved. I’ve only just begun the sessions, so no telling if it will work. There’s a 30-day money back guarantee I’ve got in my back pocket if need be. But at this point, when I’m screaming at my oldest to do what I tell him or else, and my youngest is running around the house like a free-range chicken (and rapidly approaching terrible two), frankly, I can use all the help I can get.

 

 

Violet is 15 months old!

August 11, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I am truly astounded by how much Violet has changed this month. Miss personality is walking, talking, signing and getting into EVERYTHING. Here’s the rundown:

  • This girl is on the GO. She doesn’t like sitting in her high chair long for meals now. The high chair we have in Greece lowers down, so after I take her out I lower it down and she treats the tray like a baby buffet. She’ll grab a small bite and walk all around the living room munching on it.
  • There’s a lot less teetering and a lot more steady walking going on. A woman in the airport even commented that she has excellent coordination for her age. I’m thinking of signing her up for dance next year.
  • Violet gives great big squeezy hugs and wet toddler kisses now. She can also blow kisses, much to daddy’s delight.
  • Poor girl is still teething and having trouble sleeping. A friend recommended getting her an amber necklace. We picked one up while we were in KC. It looks adorable, but as far as I can tell, does nothing. She still needs a dose of Advil or Tylenol at night in order to get some rest. Perhaps it gives her some relief during the day, though this molar-cutting is a nasty, long and painful process, so I doubt it helps very much. But she sure looks cute!

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  • Violet’s hair is getting much thicker and much curlier. It’s looking a lot like mine did at her age, except blonder. Her little flower headbands don’t really work with her new hair, and at any rate, she rips them right off her head now. As her hair gets thicker, I hoping she’ll let me clip in some cute bows.
  • She’s a chatty little thing. This month we’ve had a word explosion, going from just a few words to almost a dozen. Now she can say Nigh Nigh, Choo Choo, Thank You, This, Dog, Cat, No, Here, Baby and Cheese. We worked on getting her to call my mom Yia Yia, the greek word for Grandma. By the end of our trip, she’d walk into a room and holler, “Hi, Yia Yia!”, whether it was grandma OR grandpa. So adorable.
  • It takes her a little while to warm up to new people, but not nearly as long as her brother at this age. In fact, she happily smiled and greeted strangers on the airplane. One zealous Greek grandma picked her up, and she didn’t even bat an eye.

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  • But she still wants her mom. We got portraits done, and I had to hide behind a curtain while my mom held her so she would cooperate. Otherwise she just clung to me and wouldn’t look at the camera. Perhaps next year she’ll more easily pose for a family portrait. We’re about due. (hmmm…I think I can hear James sighing from here.)
  • I complained last month that Violet won’t baby sign. Now, with very little prompting, she’s signing More and All Done — probably because she’s so frustrated when she’s seated in the high chair and I’m clearly not understanding what she wants. I’m going to see about teaching her a few more signs to help make life easier — Water and Help come to mind as useful ones. Though she’s learning new words so quickly, we may not need signs for long.
  • Little Miss Independent wants to put on her own shoes, spoon out her own food, fasten her own seatbelt and brush her own teeth. She’s not terribly pushy when I step in to help, but she’s very keen to learn this stuff for herself.
  • This girl is quiet…and fast. Before I turn around she’s out the door and getting into something. She’s very inquisitive, pulling things off shelves and opening cabinets to explore. Turns out baby gates are ESSENTIAL for her personality. At a play date in KC she managed to get away for a second and tried her hand at a small set of stairs. Thankfully they were carpeted and she just landed on her cushy butt. She cried, but not for long.
  • In fact, Liam and I marvel at how little crying she does when she bumps her head or falls down. Liam was the opposite — I used to call him my little Brazilian soccer player for all of the injuries he cried foul about — but Violet is one tough chick.

Twenty years and back again

August 2, 2016 at 12:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Not much has changed in my hometown since 1996. Birkenstocks are back in style. Tune into 98.9 The Rock and you’ll still hear Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. And there’s a Clinton running for President.

Some things have changed, though. The house I grew up in has changed color, the décor and furniture have been updated, and the backyard looks completely different. I’m sleeping in the same bed at my parent’s house as I did in my youth, except now I share it with a fussy toddler. And, of course, my fellow graduates of Lee’s Summit High School and I have, shall we say, aged a bit.

Our twentieth high school reunion this weekend was quite an extravaganza. A two-day event, even. Friday night, about fifty of us met at the tiger head with our parents, siblings, spouses and children for a tour of our alma mater. I brought my mom and the kids. I was sad to see the classroom where we put together the school newspaper every month was completely gutted. In fact, most of the upper-classman section (called Div 2 in my day) was under construction. In the PAC, Liam ran around on the stage with some of the other kids. When one of his friends asked him to join her up the stairs of a stage set, he decided against it. He deemed it too dangerous…didn’t trust the builder. This kid.

I saw many familiar faces on our tour, gave many a warm embrace and fawned over many an adorable child. The lunch room was smaller than I remembered it…and one section in the back was completely rebuilt. The breezeway from the lunchroom to the under-classman section (Div 1, see what they did there?) was completely enclosed and air-conditioned. Back in ’96 our school only had air-conditioning in the PAC. Kids these days have it so easy! I found my old German classroom…which appeared to be used for band practice now. Climbing the stairs from the PAC back to Div 2, I suddenly remembered standing right in that hallway as the OJ Simpson verdict was read. As I mentioned it to my mom, a guy piped up behind me — turns out he was actually with me when that happened! I’d completely forgotten. We were doing a poll for the newspaper, and we could hear the TV on in all of the classrooms we were passing. I remembered hearing them all echo in the halls as we peeked our heads inside to find out the news.

Violet got a little sidetracked at the lockers, toddling down the row and spinning all of the combination wheels she could reach. The kids spent the rest of the tour running around the Field House and the football field. By the time we got home they were ready for bed…and I was ready to continue the celebration at a bar downtown. Drunken merriment ensued. My girlfriends and I kept pointing out people to each other, “Who is that? Was she in our class?” It was hard to tell our classmates from the bar flies. Thankfully everyone would be wearing name tags for the reunion Saturday. It seemed most of my classmates wanted to stand outside…right next to the band. So we had to shout at each other, “What have you been up to? Where are you living now? How many kids do you have?” Sheesh. I’m too old for this. I was back home before midnight.

Saturday night, the main event, was held at Stonehaus Winery at 6 o’clock. I was “fashionably” late (putting a baby to bed…nothing fashionable about that), and I was met with a line out the door for booze. Better get in line then! Immediately I recognized the people around me: Mary and Kara, Adam, Katie, and Toji!! So many more passed by to say hi with a hug. Thanks to Facebook I’d kept in touch with most of them, but it was still great to hear more details about their lives now. Grunge music filled the hall — my musical tastes are still stuck in the mid-90s, so I was loving it. Angst! Yeah! A wine glass in each hand (so I wouldn’t have to stand in that long-ass line again), I set about to mingle. Lots of Hi-Life alums, IB classmates, and theater folks I had to talk to. I surprised a lot of friends when I told them I lived in Greece now. Turned out to be a great conversation-starter. Outside on the lawn I took a much quieter seat to catch up with Joanne and Bernadette. Many of us are moms now, and I even discovered one grandma (Wow!). One friend I didn’t even recognize she has changed so much. It was great to catch up with her.

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4-eva…whoever “eva” is, lol.

I spent a fabulous half hour taking selfies with my best friend, Katie. I remember we sat together on the first day in Mrs. Long’s fourth grade class at Westview Elementary. She had big glasses and an even bigger personality. I was the smallest kid in the class. By the end of the day she told me were going to be best friends. I happily agreed, and the rest is history. We both worked for the high school newspaper, we both went to J-school at Mizzou, and we both had our kids at about the same time. After graduation, our relationship ebbed and flowed, as friendships often do when you don’t live in the same town. We lost touch for a little while there, but somehow reconnected as adults. And I’m so happy we did. Now we do play dates whenever I’m in town. Our oldest kids are the same age, and they played so well together on this visit! The next generation of best friends, perhaps?

The class of ’96 was the last class to graduate before the new high school opened, and I think that instilled some comradery among all the different clichés. Sure, we had jocks and brains and all of that, but I felt like our circles comingled. That being said, there were still an awful lot of kids I never got to know, and quite a few at the reunion I had never met. My memory is such crap now, though, that sometimes someone would know me and I’d have no idea how I knew them. Thank god for the nametags! Near the end of the night I locked eyes with one girl and instantly recognized her…and yet I couldn’t remember her name or why I knew her so well. Curse you, mommy brain! This baby is sucking out all of my brain cells.

As the party started winding down, I turned to see about a dozen tired husbands sitting around mostly empty tables. What a priceless visual! And it made me glad I’d left mine back at home. I’m sure he was glad, too, ha! With more than 200 guests, this reunion was going to go down in the record books for sure. I don’t think we had so many at the last one of these I attended a decade ago. I was there four hours, but I could have stayed so much longer talking to people. Alas, I had that cruel toddler wake-up call in the morning, so at midnight I knew it was time to scoot. I’m sure there were after parties, and I’m sure they were fun. Sigh. Perhaps in another ten years when Violet is 11 (yikes, I can hardly imagine that!) I’ll go to one of those.

 

Violet is 14 months old!

July 11, 2016 at 8:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My girl is officially a toddler! Here’s what she’s been up to this month:

  • Violet has mastered the art of walking. Unlike her brother, she seemed to catch on a little bit at a time. But once we got back from our Malta trip, she really started taking off. And it is the cutest thing you ever did see.
  • It’s not Mama or Mommy, it’s Mom. And she says it like she’s from Chicago.
  • We’ve had a rough month of teething. She got two more bottom teeth, one more top tooth, and 3 molars in the past 30 days. She’s had a lot of trouble sleeping.
  • When I was a baby my mother used to put books in my crib. I’ve passed on the tradition to Violet. She loves turning the pages in her board books while waiting for me to get her in the morning. I have a video monitor, so I can watch her switch from book to book as she makes her way around the crib. So cute.
  • Even though she can walk on her own, she still wants to lead me or daddy around by a finger. Parents aren’t allowed to sit, evidently.
  • Along with “hi” she can say “hello.” Except it sounds more like “Heh-row.” She also likes to wave…with both hands.
  • No more baby signing — either I’ve gotten lazy with the teaching, or she doesn’t want to do it. Probably a mix of both. Throwing food on the floor means “all done” apparently.
  • I’m trying to teach her to be gentle…to no avail. She still pinches, hits and grabs at her family members, much to Liam’s chagrin. We had a play date with her little buddy Jaxon, and she spent most of the time abusing him. He’s a tough nut to crack, though, so he didn’t mind too much. While I’m nursing her she loves to grab my nose and my ears. Sometimes I have to hold her hands down when it gets especially annoying.
  • She’s discovered how to pick her nose. Learned that from her brother, I’m sure.

Violet is 13 months old!

June 10, 2016 at 3:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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DSC_0072 (2)This girl is getting some personality…which is both good and bad. Here’s what she’s been up to this month:

  • After weeks of sleepless nights and general crankiness, tooth number six finally made an appearance this week. Now she has three on the top and three on the bottom, sort of catty-corner from each other, so her smile is going to look adorably crooked.
  • She’s back to sleeping in the crib again, thank heaven! It takes a little more effort — after nursing, oftentimes I have to stick around and pat her back. If her little head pops up as I’m trying to sneak out, I have to walk over and rub her back some more. But it works! That is until she wakes in the middle of the night, which still happens every third night or so.
  • Violet loves to smile. She breaks out into a big grin whenever anyone looks at her. Her grins are infectious, especially on the bus. Oh, they love her on the bus! It also helps that she says “hi” to anyone and everyone she sees. She also says ouch, ohi (the greek word for “no” pronounced oh-hee), and I got her to say “Geia sou” (Greek for “hello” pronounced ya-soo) one time. She hasn’t quite gotten the gist of waving, but she sure loves to greet people!
  • My baby is a carnivore! She loves chicken, bacon, hamburgers, ground beef tacos, cold cuts, shredded pork, and I’m sure if she could manage it, she’d happily gnaw on a Kansas City Strip. But the only fruit she’ll eat is avocado, and the only vegetable she seems to like is corn. I gave her a raw mushroom to try, and she looked at me like, “This isn’t really food, is it?” She wouldn’t try it, and instead tried to put it in my mouth. How did I get cursed with another picky eater?!
  • Unlike her brother, Violet does not seem to care much for milk. But it kind of makes sense…with him I almost seamlessly switched from formula in a bottle to milk in a bottle. I’m still nursing her, with no plans to stop in the immediate future, and she’d much rather get milk from me than cow’s milk in a cup. I’m not too concerned as long as she’s still nursing. She’s getting old enough to tug at my shirt and do a little nose-dive at my cleavage to let me know she wants some mommy milk. I’m always happy to oblige.
  • This girl loves to cruise. She recently got the hang of her push walker, but she still prefers to hold my hand. She’s down to holding just one finger now, and she can take as many as six steps on her own before she sits down. When she gets to the edge of a table or wall, she’ll emit a single, ear-piercing screech and thrust her hand up, scrunching her face like she’s using every ounce of her being to reach me. Who could refuse that?

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  • Thanks to Gymboree, she’s gotten very good at helping me clean up. She loves putting objects away or giving me the toys out of her bath, all while I sing our special clean up song. She’s also helping me get her dressed with her arms and legs, she prefers to feed herself with a spoon, and she just about won’t let me brush her teeth for her. I want to do it myself, mama!
  • Also related to food, she likes to have a variety at her disposal at mealtimes. I find myself littering her tray with odds and ends, then going back to the kitchen to see what else I can find in the pantry. Finally I’ll find the thing she seems to want to eat, and she’ll tuck in… at least until she’s sick of that and wants something else.
  • Violet’s hair continues to get thicker and curlier, especially in the back. She’s got little wings of blond behind her ears. She looks just like the Gerber baby.
  • Her interest in climbing has only grown stronger. I caught her trying to climb the inside of the pantry, using her toys to climb up to the fireplace, hooking her feet to the side of the pack ‘n play to climb out, and I know it’s only a matter of time before she figures out how to climb over the chairs I’ve laid down over the small set of stairs in the living room. I had to put away both of her little rocking chairs because she kept standing up on them, and the other day she toppled the rocking horse on top of herself when she tried to mount it by herself. The embassy is sending some guys to hang pictures for us this week, and we’re going to have them anchor all of the bookshelves and the tall wardrobe in the foyer. And we plan to mount all of the TVs. This child is going to keep us on our toes!

 

And just for fun, here’s what Liam was up to at 13 months. Funny how different they were at the same age…and also how much the same. Oh, and two weeks after I posted that, Liam was full on walking.

Violet Turns One!

May 10, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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DSC_0004Oh my goodness, look how big my baby has gotten! We had a little birthday party for her on Saturday with some new friends we made at the Embassy. She had a wonderful time, and we adults had a wonderful time with some wine and beer! Liam had some older siblings to play with at the party, and he loved helping her blow out her candle and open her presents. So much about her has changed this month! Here’s the rundown:

  • My girl had five teeth now! Three on top and two on bottom. And the way she’s been drooling lately, I think number six is going to pop through any day now.
  • Just lately she has decided napping in her crib is NOT for her. I hope this is just a phase…and does not spell doom for that morning nap. She’s been sleeping in my lap twice a day, and she’s been getting up in the middle of the night most nights, too. She used to calm herself, but now she can pull herself to stand in the crib, and she refuses to lay herself back down. We’ve both been very tired!

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  • Oh, this girl is a CLIMBER. She puts her foot up on every available surface she comes too. We have an old rocking chair of Liam’s in the play room. It took him over a year to figure out how to sit in it. I think he was three before he gave it a go. Violet managed to pull herself into it in no time flat. She got back down all by herself, scooted it around the room until it was next to the baby gate, then climbed into the seat and stood up with a leg perched to climb the gate! Thankfully I was watching her do it, so I was able to stop her. This one is going to keep me on my toes!
  • This girl is also tenacious. We blocked the stairs from the living room to the kitchen — just two little steps up — with a couple of dining room chairs. In less than a week she had figured out how to get around them. Now we have them tied with jump ropes. Not sure how long that will hold. I’ve got some baby fencing on order. Hopefully it will arrive before the dam is breached!
  • She has added the “oh” sound to her repertoire. She says what sounds like “ouch” sort of randomly, and we got her to say, “Uh oh.”
  • Violet is the cutest little hand clapper you ever did see! She just grins and claps, claps and grins.
  • She’s just started picking up her baby signs. She’ll sign “more” and “all done” when she sits at the high chair….more or less. It’s still a bit of a work in progress. Usually I know when she’s finished a meal because she takes each piece of food on her tray and drops it on the floor.
  • No first steps yet, but she’s well on her way. She can cruise all around a room on her own now, and when she holds my hand, she can do it with just one hand.
  • I have to say, Liam has been an awesome big brother. He walks her around the room, he keeps an eye on her for me when I ask him to, and he even helps her up the stairs all on his own. (Don’t worry, I’m always right behind.) He loves on her every chance he gets, and she doesn’t seem to mind when he gets all up in her face. He jumps around like a crazy person just to get a laugh…and she usually obliges. He says he wants to marry her, and I have to keep reminding him that he can’t marry his sister. “But I LOVE her SO MUCH!” he always replies. Indeed do we all🙂

Here are more photos from her birthday party. Thanks to Lisa for taking all these great photos for me!

Violet is 11 months old!

April 11, 2016 at 9:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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What the what? This totally snuck up on me. And this girl…oh, this girl. She has gone through some amazing changes this month. Here goes:

  • Violet has four little chompers now, two on top and two on bottom. It amazes me how it changes the whole dynamic of her smile. Those big top teeth with the wide gap…precious!
  • This girl is cruising like nobody’s business! In fact, she gets quite cross when the adult (ahem, mommy) stops walking her around by her hands and makes her sit down. Liam even gave it a try at the beach, but Violet wasn’t having it. Adults only, please!
  • I might have been hearing things, but the other day I really thought she said, “Hi.” I didn’t record it in her book because she hasn’t replicated it. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this is her first real word. I say it to her all the time, both in English and Greek, but the word for “Hi” in Greek, which sounds like “Ya Sou” is harder to say.
  • We started a Gymboree class this month, and she absolutely loves it! Liam did a similar class when he was this age. He would dutifully sit in my lap, but he would shy away from interacting with others. Violet is just the opposite! She wants out of my lap, and she’ll either insist that I walk her around, or she’ll scoot herself right into the action. The teacher will put toys in the middle of the circle, and she’s one of the first ones to jump in a grab stuff. She’ll even scoot herself right up to the teacher or around to other moms and dads and give them her dazzling smile. And they ADORE her…just pinching her cheeks and stroking her hair and feet. In fact, everyone cuddles all the babies here…perhaps when I’m finally over my back-to-back colds, I’ll join in.
  • Just this week, Violet has started handing me things when I ask for them. Which comes in handy at feeding time. Instead of dropping her spoon on the floor, I can usually ask for it…a couple of times…and she’ll thrust it into my hand. Or she’ll drop it on the floor and grin at me mischievously.
  • Today at Gymboree Violet stood on her own for the very first time! She made it about five seconds before sitting down. Everyone cheered, “Bravo, Violet!”

Liam’s Science Experiment

April 8, 2016 at 8:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Liam had to present a science experiment at school today. Our little scientist enthusiastically embraced the assignment…though you almost can’t tell with his presentation. That was pretty par for the course — most of the kids spoke quietly and shyly. I think they each got a little nervous. But Liam did a very good job. Thankfully one of the moms shot this video for me. You can hear Violet babbling in the background. I love that Liam wanted to sniff his concoction, and  he told the class how lovely it smelled. First graders are so cute!

 

Easter at the Ambassador’s

April 3, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Saturday we got to spend the afternoon at the Ambassador’s residence for an Easter party. The kids got to hunt for Easter eggs, and they had little tables set up for crafts. Liam saw quite a few school chums there, and though he hung back a bit at first, he did get to play with at least one of them once he got a little more acclimated to the crowd. It was a good turnout — I think there are a lot of embassy employees with kids at the moment. I saw quite a few familiar faces, as well. It’s amazing to think we’ve only been here two months and we’ve all made such fast friends. We’re feeling very well taken care of, thanks to the good ol’ US of A.

Look at these cuties!

 

Lunch Problems Solved

April 1, 2016 at 11:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So it turns out Liam can have a ham sandwich from the ala carte if he doesn’t like what his school is offering for lunch. This has eased our lunchtime woes considerably. Of course, I could pack him a ham sandwich instead, but he stubbornly refuses to eat any sandwich I pack him. These must me some ham sandwiches at this school. They cost enough. Still…worth it so I don’t have to fret about it as I’m packing his snack for the day. I went ahead and bought him enough meals to get through the rest of the school year.

Violet got her fourth tooth! She’s just chomping away — her favorites are avocadoes, string cheese, and crackers. I’ve been trying to feed her as much fresh fruit and veg as I can get from the Laiki. I keep meaning to try strawberries, except I’m not really a fan of them, and you have to buy a whole big box. I’m hoping blueberries will come in soon. I prefer those.

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