Doin' It Halfway Since 1996

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Tag Archives: Parenting

At home. Mom, stay . . .

Read the title of this post like you would if you were talking to a dog.

I’m just gonna be honest with you.

Today was one of those days.

There were beads in the ears. There was arguing. There was ungratefulness (from the grownup as well as the children). There was one dress-up princess crown (out of the six or seven that we have in our dress up box) that the girls couldn’t seem to share. And there was this:

Today I wondered to myself, “Why did I decide to be a stay at home mom?” Today I started reminiscing about my working days, before I had children, when I could fit into my cute business-casual clothes. I don’t even think I have any of my suits anymore. And even if I did, none of them would fit. Some days, I wonder, if I ever decide to go back to work, what will I put on my resume?

  • Proficient at cleaning urine, feces (human and canine), and vomit, while suppressing gag reflex
  • Supplier of magic kisses; they make pain and tears disappear instantly
  • Well-versed at the art of breastfeeding and swaddling.
  • Multi-tasker extraordinaire – can email, tweet, facebook, prepare a meal, write a check, and change a diaper simultaneously
  • Fluent in sarcasm, but not the good kind.

Would you hire me?

Le sigh.

Even as I write this, the tension in my shoulders persists, my head’s starting to ache, and I still want to throw myself on the ground and have a mommy meltdown. I want to run out the doors kicking and screaming just to get a few moments to myself where I don’t have to think about where someone’s shoe is or if they’re climbing something they’re not supposed to climb or if they’re writing on the walls in blue sharpie.

But, this is MY life.

And it isn’t always like this.

And even when it is, it’s still a good life.

Because I’m raising two little girls who decided to this without prompting (even though it was the wrong cleaner and even though they actually made it a little worse):

Because they needed to clean up their little sister’s mess. Because they wanted to make mom happy. Because mom works so hard. Because, “we want to show mom that we love her.”

Hmmmmmm . . .

Maybe I’m not so bad at my job.

Or maybe, just maybe, in my failings as a parent, as a wife, as a human being, God’s grace still shines through. Somewhere in this mess of a woman is a dim reflection of Christ who reaches out to my children, who loves them, who teaches them, who nurtures their tender little souls.

So, here I’ll stay. It may be a dirty mirror, but somehow, it’s enough. Somehow, it’s sufficient.

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2011, I look forward to meeting you

I’m not a resolution girl. I try and try and try to make them, and well, being halfway and all, they just don’t work out. So, this isn’t a resolution post, even though I’m excited for what 2011 will bring. It HAS to be better than 2010. So many frustrating/difficult/exhausting/overwhelming things happened in 2010. I just have to say that I’m glad that 2010 is over and 2011 is here with the promise of a New Year.

This post is mainly an excuse apology post explaining my absence from mid-December on.

We left a week or so before Christmas on a back and forth and back and forth trip to visit our families in the Midwest. I was consumed with all things holiday (gifts, good food, family, friends, and not in that order particularly). My mother and I are in the VERY beginning stages of the ideas of what could be an incredible book and/or book series, which is really exciting overall. I don’t even know how to go about starting to get into the book business, but this idea has the potential to be incredible. In the midst of all that, Hubs and I came to a decision we’ve been mulling over for years.

After next week, we will be a homeschooling family. There is some paperwork involved into being able to homeschool legally in the state that we live. So I’ve been consumed with that lately. And the blog, it got sidelined. Love blogging and love the blogging community, but it had to be put on hold while life happened.

But, I’m back. And now I have a whole new topic to add to the mix. It’s overwhelming and scary, but also exciting and full of promise. It was not a decision we came to lightly, not at all. But we feel led to do it. When the Lord calls to obedience, it’s a serious offense to ignore. So, I’m stepping out in faith (or jumping off the ledge, if you read my last post) and trusting that this is the right thing to do. The next few months will be full of trial and error, AND a lot of praying, I am sure.

On a totally different note:

My GPS was stolen from my minivan tonight from the parking lot of Target. Boo.

Apparently, the Target where I shop is right along the bus line. And it’s not uncommon for things like this to happen. Especially when I’m a dope and forget to lock the doors of my minivan that has an alarm system on it.

As I was driving home after submitting my report to the police and Target security, my inner Anne Frank came out. I know that the person who took it probably will sell it and use it for inappropriate things. However, I’d like to believe that the person who stole it has children at home to feed and they need to buy groceries. Wishful thinking, I know. But there’s a part of me that just wants to believe that someone who would do this needs the money more than I do right now. My family teased me for wanting to see the best in even the worst people. I guess they were right.

Thankfully, they didn’t take anything else (as I guess there’s not a huge market for car seats, hand sanitizer, or Christian kids’ CDs — there was little else in the van). And while I’m worried that my home address was programed into the GPS, they didn’t take the garage door opener. So, I’m hoping they aren’t interested in breaking into my home as well. I’m sure I won’t sleep well tonight. But, if I find myself awake, I’ll be praying.

Can I just give props to my wonderful Hubs? He’s so gracious when I make mistakes. He just told me that it was going to be ok and to not sweat it. What kind of husband does that? Mine does! I love that guy.

So, here’s to the promise of 2011, and a fond (relieved) adios to 2010. If I wasn’t a week late in celebrating it, I wouldn’t be me. Nice to meet you, 2011. The pleasure’s all mine.

Why I Heart Christmas: New Traditions Edition

This is No. 4 in the four-part series “Why I heart Christmas”.

Click on the links to check out previous posts, A little Background, The Sibling Edition, and The Husband Edition.

Sorry this post is a little late, folks. We had some last minute house guests, which led to impromptu grocery shopping and house cleaning. And also, I was having a hard time loading pictures and videos. I’d better get the hang of this if I’m going to ever become a serious blogger, huh?

I think this post is my favorite to write of the bunch. I think because it’s so open with possibility. The girls are young and each Christmas brings a new age with new awareness and understanding of this special holiday.

First and foremost, this will probably cause a little controversy, but Hubs and I have chosen to NOT do the Santa thing in our household. The bottom line is because we don’t want to lie to our children, no matter how innocent or fun the lie is. (I need to insert here that in between starting this post and writing this sentence, we went to Chic-fil-A for Kids’ Night. Guess who was making an appearance? Santa. The kids giggled and were giddy. Firstborn Diva Child said, “I knew you weren’t telling the truth! Santa’s real! He’s here!” And Drama Queen Middle Child said, “Don’t you know he’s real mom?” Here’s a little picture from the encounter).

We do several fun things throughout the season to prepare for Christmas.

Like most families, we decorate the Christmas tree. I think my firstborn Diva child is going to enjoy it as much as I do. She loves ornaments. Our favorite is the Peanuts ornament. It’s shows Linus on the stage. We went to great lengths to get this ornament for her after seeing it some friends’ house a few years ago. Long story short, we tried to get it at several stores where we lived and we tried to get it online. They were sold out. I asked my mom to ask around. She called all the Hallmark stores in her city and found one that had the store model left. She drove to the other side of town to pick it up. She mailed us the box. When I received the package, it was empty. I called my mom who called the store who found it stashed somewhere in the back room. Then the battery was dead. So, all in all, when you consider the time spent hunting and procuring it, the gas used going to the store twice, postage, and the replacement battery, not to mention the cost of the ornament itself, we probably spent somewhere in the ball park of $60 to $70 on this ornament. I don’t think about that. I think about how much my girls love it. And how each time they push the button, they hear the Christmas story. Here’s what it looks like and does, in case you were wondering what ornament is worth that much money (FYI, this is a video I took of our ornament).

This year, one of my favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience wrote and gave a free Jesse Tree Devotional, complete with pictures to make ornaments. If you don’t know what a Jesse Tree is, it’s a daily devotional starting at the beginning of Advent. It goes through the history of Jesus’ lineage up to his birth. It helps those of us who are believers see our own lineage of grace. This is the first year I’ve done a purposeful daily advent devotional with the girls. Sometimes I don’t think they’re listening, but they remember which stories go with the ornaments hanging on the pine branches we cut from our huge backyard tree. Here’s a picture of our Jesse Tree, in progress.

I just have to interject here that if you haven’t discovered Ann Voskamp and A Holy Experience, take a few minutes today to peruse her blog. Everything she has ever posted that I have read has left me hopeful and encouraged. Her’s is a quiet voice in the noisiness of the internet. A quiet respite, a salve to the wearied soul. I have read her blog for years and as long as she continues to write, I will read.

In the past I have made these pancakes.

I may try my hand at Rudolph or Santa-shaped pancakes (see we still talk about and do Santa, we just don’t teach that he’s real). We actually have a family tradition that goes along with pancakes. It’s another from my mother-in-law. She reads “Little Black Sambo” (which is about a little boy in India whose mother makes him pancakes out of tiger ghee – you have to read it to understand it). She would read it on Christmas Eve and then fix pancakes for Breakfast on Christmas morning. Then we use Alton Brown’s recipe for Instant Pancake Mix. So good. Yes, pancakes are in order soon.

When I became a mother, one of the gifts my mother gave me for Christmas was “The ADVENTure of Christmas” by Lisa Whelchel. It’s only until recently that I felt that I could use some of the ideas in this book with the kids. There are all sorts of recipes (we’re SO trying Wassail this year), crafts (we might make some “Reindeer Evangelists” – candy canes made up as reindeer), and historical facts and stories about the traditions of Christmas. The artwork is fun and captivating. Most importantly, it takes some of the well-known holiday traditions and points them toward why our family celebrates the season, Jesus. I’m so excited to get to use it this year (here it is on her website, here it is on amazon.com).

Here are some websites I’ve found with some great ideas for this season:

Check out my friend Sarah’s blog, Mashed Bananas. While she is an incredible writer, she’s even a more incredible mom. Here are a few things she did one year with her kids. Really. She’s uber-mom. Uber-fun-mom. Indoor “paper snow ball” fight? Fun. Homemade snowflakes and hot chocolate? Yum. Then there’s the Santa pancakes I’m totally stealing. Here’s what she did the year before that, a homemade advent calendar made out of match boxes. I’m not nearly that ambitious, but if you are, it’s a super cute idea.

I love what this homeschooling mom (Our Homeschool Fun) has done with her kids. Check out the Christmas Trees made of wooden craft sticks. Love it!

Family Fun Magazine always has creative homemade gift ideas that the kids can do. I actually purchased the supplies to make these fun felt pens last year, but didn’t get to it (we had a lot going on). I think the girls would love to do it this year and give them to the relatives. I also saw these little bowling boys that I thought would be fun to make for my nephews.

And finally, there’s World Vision. We support a little boy named Jose in El Salvador. Because we do, we receive mail from World Vision throughout the year. We’ve been leafing through their Christmas 2010 Gift Catalog trying to figure out what the perfect gift to purchase might be. Do we buy a chicken or a goat or clean drinking water or a Ger for a family in Mongolia? The girls want to buy baby chickens. I’m thinking about a goat. It’s a great way to give to those in need out of the great abundance God has given our family.

While I have always loved Christmas, I think I love it more now. Being a mother and watching my children experience it is far better than experiencing it myself. It is my earnest hope and sincerest prayer that they learn the reason why this holiday is so special. It’s about an all-powerful, infinitely loving, exceedingly just, all gracious God humbling himself into the form of a helpless infant to save the fallen world he so lovingly created. I pray that as our family grows and matures that our faith will as well.

Grace for This Moment; Grace for Eternity

I hesitate to write this because it’s not pretty. It’s downright ugly and muddy. But it’s real. And I need to write it because I need to hear it. Maybe someone else does too.

I’m having a less than stellar parenting day week.

There are a lot of changes going on inside my heart right now. I began a Bible study that focuses on a certain area of my life with which I struggle, a lot. And while I’m finding it encouraging, I’m also finding sin’s greasy fingerprints on every area of my heart.

And as I deal seriously with one sin in my life (or rather, allow the Lord to have access to that part of my heart that I’ve tried to hide from him for so long), I find others grasping to take its place.

Like anger. I’ve been angry this week. I’m angry that I’ve been so stupid and run to all the wrong places to try to resolve this sin in the past. I’m frustrated that I’ve lost so much of myself to it. I’m mad that I’ve been so blind for so long.

But this anger comes out at every little annoyance. And when you live in a house with three little girls, there are many little annoyances. Things have been said that should never have been said in tones that should never come to the surface.

I’m finding myself apologizing to my little ones for losing my temper, asking for their forgiveness. And they do forgive their wretched mama. Their hugs and kisses and I love yous are healing, salves for my soul. May the Lord bless their forgiving and resilient little hearts.

I keep hearing the phrase in my head, purposeful parenting. I keep thinking of all the Type-A’s I know out there who seem to be purposefully parenting their little blessings and doing an excellent job at it. I wonder why I can’t seem to follow suit.  Some Most days, I feel so behind all the time. There’s always something to be done and not enough time to do it all.  Some Most days, my children find themselves at the end of my priority list.

And I’m wondering why. I’m wondering why my little blessings from God get my worst when they should be receiving my best. It’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to me. We are all being robbed of the joy of the mother/daughter relationship. I’m being robbed of the joy that comes from doing the job ministry God has given to me.

People, I NEVER do things perfectly. NEVER. And when I do things decently, it’s only by the grace of God.

About a month ago, something my pastor said during the sermon really stuck with me. He was talking about how God gives us grace to deal with conflicts. That he protects us in the moment. He quoted 1 Peter 1:3-5:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will NOT fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (NASB)

And so I wrote it down. And then I taped it to my cabinet.

And I put my new motto above it: Grace for this moment; Grace for eternity.

Isn’t that what life for a believer really is? Moment after moment after moment, covered in grace. Sometimes we focus on what’s to come and forget that right now is the foundation for what’s to come. Life, lived out in faith, can come only to the conclusion that it is sustained by grace.

My sister sang “In Christ Alone” at her church this weekend. It’s one of my favorite songs. And one that helps me to remember that “sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.” Click on the link and listen. The song is powerful and encouraging, especially when you have days like I’ve had today . . . the days that make you feel less than stellar.

It doesn’t matter the situation. It doesn’t matter the person. It doesn’t matter the conflict. It doesn’t matter the circumstances surrounding whatever “it” is. It’s all covered by grace. Each moment that we live, each moment that has already passed us by. Covered. By Grace.

I’m not a perfect person. I’m not a perfect parent. But my best and my worst are covered by grace. YOUR best and YOUR worst are covered by grace. I’m going to rest in that today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And for eternity. I hope you’ll join me.

And in this corner . . .

I’m wondering about something.

Why are moms battling against each other? It’s like we’ve never left the high school arena. There’s a cattiness out there fitting only to sixteen year-old girls. We’re still battling it out, trying to compete against each other and I’m still trying to figure out what we’re trying to win. Bragging rights? A feeling of superiority? The need to be right? I’m confused.

I’m talking about the stay-at-home versus working mom battle out there. When did we decide that we played for different teams?

I spend most of my time with stay-at-home moms. It’s more convenient that way. We don’t work, so we can meet up during the day at the park or play group or at each others’ homes and spend time together. We talk about our kids incessantly, trade parenting war stories, and ask each other advice on a myriad of issues. It’s what we do. We don’t dress up (usually) because our business is changing diapers, doing laundry, drying tears and raising our family. Our clothes don’t have to be dry cleaned (they’re probably going to get spit up or pooped on anyway), we wear jeans and t-shirts and flip flops.

I’ve never been a working mom, so I can’t speak for what their days are like. But I know that they still have to come home and do a lot of  the same stuff that we stay-at-home moms do. And because my schedule runs on a completely different clock than theirs, I don’t have many friends who are working moms. It’s just the way it is.

However, I recently was put in a situation where I was the only stay-at-home mom in the bunch. And it felt awkward. I was also the only one who had more than one child, but these women were the same age as me. It felt weird.

Maybe I’m making it up in my head, and maybe I’m not. But I felt like I was an unwelcome outsider treading too close to their territory of busy schedules and the art of juggling parenthood with a career. Perhaps they had the impression that because I don’t work, I’m not educated. When they asked how I met my husband and I mentioned that we met at college, and I worked full-time so he could finish college before we had children, they seemed to soften a little.

Maybe I was feeling weird because I didn’t know these women. Maybe I read way more into it than I should have. Maybe they weren’t thinking what I thought they were thinking.

Regardless of the possibilities their misplaced condescension, right then and there I began to question my and my husband’s choice for me to be a stay-at-home mom. Maybe I’m not as good as they are. Maybe they would like me better if I worked like they did. If I could talk about my job and my profession, they would respect me. Maybe if I had chosen to get my advanced degrees before having children, I might be interesting to them.

Whoa. Back up that horse a little bit. How old are you? And why are you asking yourself these questions?

Looking back on it, I’m wondering if I didn’t put off a little “stay-at-home mom superiority complex” myself. Maybe as we conversed, they heard, “I raise my children and don’t expect someone else to do it for me” or “my job is the most important one in the world” or “I choose to stay home because my children are the most important thing to me.” I didn’t say those things to these women. I didn’t even think it. But, maybe it came out?

I am guilty of judging working moms for their choice. I’ll admit it. In the past, I have considered my choice to be the superior one. And I had a big cheer leading section for my choice in other stay-at-home-moms. It’s easy to praise each other for making the same choice.

And what about working moms? Do they not pride themselves on the choices they’ve made too? It has to be easier to keep friends who also work because they can understand the obstacles and hardships working moms face.

My question is when was this invisible battle line drawn? Why the need to justify to the opposite party why we made the choices we made? When did we start allowing ourselves to be offended by the choices that someone else makes for their family?

Am I making all this up? Am I seeing something that’s not there? I don’t think so. The truth is that I think we all want the same result: children, when grown, who are capable and responsible citizens that contribute positively to this world. So why are we so busy condemning one woman for working or staying home, when we should be helping each other reach the end goal?

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that. I believe it because my family has been transient since its inception and I’ve had to find villages wherever we go. I have never lived near my or my husband’s extended family in a way that allows my kids’ grandparents to be constantly and actively involved in the raising of my children. But God has given me many friends and friends who have become family to help me along this crazy journey of parenthood. It’s true that many different types of people are needed to raise a child.

So why? Why are we too busy arguing about what women who are moms should do instead of spending time raising up the next generation – together? Daycare, stay-at-home, work outside the home, work in the home . . . who cares? It’s not what we do that matters when it comes to being a parent, but how we raise our children.

I’m just putting the questions out there. I don’t have an answer. I just know that in the end, my responsibility is to my children, to my family. I have to answer to God for the choices I make concerning them. I have to focus on raising my children the best way I know how, and stop second guessing whether or not I made the right decision.

Should I be given the opportunity, I will consider it a privilege to walk alongside and help other parents (working or staying at home) on this journey as they raise their children. I hope you will too.

The Fruit of the Spirit in Mothering

I wrote this a few years back for a baby shower I hosted. The intended mother was having her first baby as I was getting ready to have my third. Now she’s mom to three (one two year-old and three-month old twins – yeah, she’s pretty amazing, but mostly because she relies on God to give her the strength to do that job). I had forgotten that I had written this and I stumbled upon it again. Still applicable. Probably always will be, seeing as I’ll be a mom for the rest of my life.

As mom’s we are always in the trenches. While sometimes it feels like we’re a one-woman army taking on the world, our children, and laundry, we often forget that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

When we walk with the Lord, the fruit of the Spirit should be evident in our daily lives. When we become mothers, the fruit starts to grow and mature in ways we never expected or thought possible. It manifests itself in surprising ways and we realize our children our teaching us about our relationship with the Father, just as much as we are teaching them. As we raise our children, we must lean heavily on the giver of these fruits, not only for our benefit, but also for the benefit of our children.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Love: As soon as a mother begins to love her child, she finds that the love endures for the rest of her life, even in the most difficult circumstances. When the mother looks into her newborn’s eyes for the first time, she can’t imagine loving that little person any more than she does in that moment. As the child grows, the mother finds that her love grows as each day passes. As she realizes that her love for the child is unconditional, she also begins to understand that this human love pales in comparison to God’s gracious and abundant love for her. As her love grows for her child, she starts to understand just how great God’s love for her really is when she ponders how he gave over his son for her sin.

Joy: Most of the time, the joy a mother feels is during the quiet and uneventful times of life. She finds herself overjoyed when her baby smiles at her for the first time. She beams when her three year-old sings a praise song to Jesus. She sees the fruit of her labor when her teenager makes a right decision based on the foundations she taught. She cries tears of joy the day her child marries and begins a family. The joy a mother feels never ends. The joy a Christian mother feels is deeper than mere moments of happiness because even in sorrow, the joy of her Savior sustains her.

Peace: Sometimes, the only peace a mother gets is while her child is sleeping. When life bustles all around, a mother must find her peace in the one who whispers, “Peace, be still.” Her body may be tired, but her soul can rest, knowing that he who calms the waters can also calm her heart. She must cling to the promise he has given “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Though she may face trouble in this life, she can “take heart”, knowing that Christ has overcome the world.

Patience: Some days, the mother finds that her kids are ridiculously out of control. One child is teething and whines non-stop. The other just flushed her favorite pair of earrings down the toilet. Or they keep taking their clothes off and running around naked. Or they just emptied a brand new box of cheerios onto the kitchen floor. Or . . . Some days it’s difficult to find patience in the craziness of motherhood. In the midst of it all, she must remember to ask direction from her perfect father above, who knows better than anyone how to love a disobedient, stubborn, and rebellious child. God is the perfect model of patience. She finds that when she seeks his council and asks for patience, he graciously grants it to her.

Kindness: The kindest thing a mother can do is to bring her child to the Lord. She teaches biblical truths to her child so that the Good News will always be in the forefront of their conversations together. She knows that God’s kindness leads to repentance, so she, in turn, shows kindness to her child. She shares the hope of salvation with her child. Her lips are filled with grace and kindness as she instructs her child in the way of the Lord.

Goodness: A mother’s goodness is evident in how she treats others. She is always aware that little eyes are watching her every action and little ears are hearing her every word. She gives to the needy, and teaches her child to do the same. As an example, she works diligently and discourages idleness from her child. She recognizes that the goodness she gives to her child is merely an extension of the goodness that God gives her. As she experiences God’s goodness, she shares it with all the people in her life.

Faithfulness: A faithful mother stays in the Word, which allows her to faithfully give instruction to her child. She remembers how Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” She daily brings her child to the Lord in prayer. She teaches them to love the Lord, by the way she lives her life. Each day brings new opportunities to trust her Savior’s faithfulness to her, as she gives her child to Him. As she labors for her child, she remembers God’s faithfulness to her throughout her life.

Gentleness: A mother’s gentle touch is often all a child needs to feel comforted or safe. While she dries the tears of her child, she remembers the times her Father has wrapped his loving arms around her and gently consoled her when life seemed too much to bear. Her speech is filled with gentle words for the members of her family as she remembers that a “gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” It becomes evident that the presence or absence of gentleness in her words and actions determines the tone for her entire family. She is aware that the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth in God’s sight and she strives daily to give that to her child.

Self-Control: It’s difficult to have self-control on the days that are out of control. A mother often finds that her depth of self-control is tested on a continual basis. Regardless of how she is tested, a mother learns to lean on her Father to give her self-control in the harried and stressful times of life. She remembers her Heavenly Father who gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. She asks for His help to imitate him as she interacts with her child.

Scripture references: Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 11:28-30, John 16:33, Romans 2:4, Proverbs 31:26, Matthew 9:14, Proverbs 15:1, 1 Peter 3:3-4, Psalm 103:8

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