Archive for the 'Children' Category

Fill In The Blank

Bonus Baby’s preschool had a Mother’s Day Tea and a Father’s Day Breakfast.  Bonus Baby’s face lit up when each of us showed up at her little event as she grabbed our arm and strutted around saying, “This is my mommy”, which most of the kids already knew since I pick her up there almost every day and showing off her daddy when it was his turn.  One thing they did for Dad’s day was a little fill-in-the blank sheet about their dad entitled “My Great Dad.”  Even her teacher was amused at some of the answers Bonus Baby gave. The bold print items are what Bonus Baby had the teacher fill in.  My own comments are in parenthesis:

My dad is 85 years old.  (okay, we’re not spring chickens, but really??)

He weighs 60 lbs. and is 6 ft. tall.  (don’t know how she guessed the height but weights a little off!!

His favorite TV show is bike racing & Cops. (She has obviously been here long enough to know what’s going on.  Can you believe Big Daddy actually plans his vacation time around the Tour de France so he can catch the highlights on TV as they happen?? And she is the one who races in to watch Cops with daddy as soon as she hears the music. Good grief).

He loves to cook eggs.  (Another astute observation–this Mama rarely cooks breakfasts.  In fact, Oldest Son was quite amazed when he was a young lad and spent the night at his cousin’s house.  As my sister-in-law started making pancakes, he looked at her with bewildered eyes and said “Ladies don’t make pancakes.”  haha.  A classic.)

Dad always tells me to go on the step.  (Hmmm, wonder why that is 😀  Time out, anyone?)

It makes him happy when he takes me on a walk.

When my dad shops, he loves to buy peanuts, jerky.  (Most likely because she’s pleading for bees-a-jerky–that’s how she says beef jerky–and daddy can’t say no).

If he could go on a trip, he would go to the beach.  (Well, duh!  Who wouldn’t!!)

I really love it when my dad takes me swimming.

I love my dad!

And guess what?  We love our Bonus Baby.  And she and her sister will be official members of our family probably before the end of the year from what we hear.  By official, I mean legally.  They are already part of our family in every other way.


Lounging in Limbo

Within the month, we should have a much clearer picture about two life-changing events in the lives of my family members.  The first one involves Middle Son J.  About three days before he was scheduled to be deployed, first for training stateside, and then on to Afghanistan, he and others in his unit received an e-mail saying that due to military budget cuts, about 50 soldiers would not be sent.  J’s name was on that list.  Of course, we were all in disbelief.  I felt like the death row inmate who had just been pardoned at 5 minutes until midnight.   J, however, was initially very upset, as were some of his buddies–both those who also were cut, and the ones still scheduled to go–but now without the buddies they had planned to go into battle with.  After the shock wore off, though, J began to see the upside and readjusted his battlemind back to the positives of staying home, finishing school, and not leaving his girlfriend Kathy for a year.  Until the next day…when they were informed that they should disregard that first e-mail.  No final orders were issued.  They would carry on as if nothing had happened.  If they got the final orders while they were at training, they would be sent back home.  If not, they would be going to Afghanistan.   So he’s away at training and no one seems to know for sure what’s going on.  It has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least.

The second decision is another one completely out of our hands.  We are pretty much spectators, waiting for someone else to shape the direction of our lives.  And the process leading to this decision will begin tomorrow.  We were informed last month that the family court judge who is in charge of deciding where our foster daughters and their siblings will be placed has asked that we be present at the courthouse tomorrow.  And I’m nervous.  I have no idea what to expect.  In fact, I’m not even sure if this is for real.  I have nothing in writing.  No calls from the county.  Just a call last month to Big Daddy–from the kids’ lawyer–that we were to meet with the judge.  Big Daddy is going to e-mail her later today to verify that this meeting is still on, and that nothing has been canceled.

I’m scared it may be canceled.  I’m nervous if it’s not canceled.  I haven’t seen the girls since late September.    I have no idea if they’re scheduled to be at this hearing.  I want to see them again.  I’m afraid to see them again.

Big Daddy has seen the girls since they left our home.  He showed up at one of their scheduled hearings to see what was going on (even though we are never really sure what is going on since we foster parents are relegated to sitting out in the waiting area), and to remind the kids’ lawyer to mention that we are very much willing to adopt the girls if that becomes the final determination.  We have been very lucky to find some caring people who, like us, want what is best for the kids.  It doesn’t always work out that way.

At first the kids walked right past him in the courthouse, without a hint of recognition.  It was early, they didn’t expect him to be there, they had just moved on and forgotten about us???  For the first time Big Daddy wasn’t sure we were doing the right thing by trying to get them back.  But we had to let them know.  We hadn’t abandoned them.  We were fighting to get them back.  It was NOT our lie that they were going to be living with their siblings–and then dumped somewhere else–away from not only their biological family, but now also the family and friends that had loved and nurtured them for the last year and a half.

And then he saw Bonus Baby–sitting on her bio mom’s lap–chattering away and pointing at him across the room.   He walked over to them and said, “Who am I?”  Her mom laughed and said, “Yeah, she keeps pointing and asking ‘Who is that?’.”   “You know who I am,”  Big Daddy said, and all his doubts melted away when Bonus Baby reached out her arms to him and said, “Daaaaddy!”

Then it was like she never left.  She talked about the black thing on the pool (the winter cover).  Then she talked about J’s leg and how he hurt it.  She asked him where Mommy(me) was, then put her hand on her hip and asked with a sneaky grin, “Is she still sleeping?”  Of course Big Daddy got a kick out of that!

It was funny in a been-there-done-that kind of way when the new foster mom related how, when Bonus Child came in to tell her that Bonus Baby had put her lotion on her bed, that they had no idea at first that she’d meant she had actually slathered a whole bottle of lotion on the bed sheets.  And it was heart-wrenching when it was time for Bonus Baby to leave the courthouse, and she wrapped her arms around Big Daddy’s neck and said, “I want to go home wif you, Daddy.”

And tomorrow, my emotions , too, will be getting a vigorous workout.






Took My Breath Away (The End)

Some of you already know what happened.  Others may have guessed.  The final loss in the “year of losses” was the abrupt exit of our two beautiful foster daughters.  You realize this is a distinct possibility when you take in foster children.  In fact, in most cases, it is the desired outcome.  It is usually the goal of the state, county, and foster care system to improve the home situation of these children so that they can be returned to their biological families.  We understood that role and were fine with it.  We were naive.

First of all, I never expected our very first placement to last over 15 months.  I figured we’d take someone in for a few months, keep them fed and happy, comfort them and play some games, and send them home when things were better.  We had specifically asked for an elementary school-aged child, one child (boy or girl–although all the guys in this house said they would PREFER a boy–so I fully expected to get a boy), with no major abuse in their history.  (Yes, I know they’re all there for a reason–but you probably know what I mean).  I wanted someone old enough that I could converse and interact with, but who would not be big enough or scarred enough to kill me (and I’m just being honest here).  I figured the child care situation would be easier during the two months I work if the child was in elementary school with our after-school programs.  I definitely did not want an infant because to me, that is just endless busy work with very little personal connection.  I really didn’t think there would be that much of a personality to work with in a pre-school aged child, and I thought a slightly older child would be easier.   Life is full of surprises!

I fell in love with Bonus Baby the moment I laid eyes on her teeny-tiny pint-sized body with her big brown eyes and coke-bottle glasses.  She came as an extra bonus along with her eldest sister.  She was “almost three”, as the caseworker stated, trying to convince me to take them, but she was the size of an 18-month old, still in diapers, and busier than a tornado.  And she was loaded with personality.  At first, okay, even later, she was a lot of work.  Physical work–changing diapers, potty training, keeping everything out of her reach, trying to meet her constant demands for food and entertainment.   When these kids came, they were very needy–for time and attention.  They never just chilled for even 5 minutes to pause and watch TV or sit still and play.  It took a lot of energy.  It was a great exercise plan 😀  (I lost a good 10 lbs. those first 2 months)!

Bonus Child was a big help to me from the very first day she came.  She was very much used to being in charge since she was the eldest of five surviving children.  She came with me to the supermarket to help me figure out what size diapers to get Bonus Baby since she’d arrived without a spare and I had no idea how much the darling weighed. Bonus Child knew exactly which package to get, and also accurately informed me what kinds of food to buy.  She also showed me how to fix Bonus Baby’s hair properly.  Raising three boys, I was pretty much all thumbs at making little braids and pony tails.  As a not-too-girly mom who thought I’d dodged a huge bullet by having boys, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed buying clothes and hairbands for the girls!

Before you knew it, these little strangers were a part of our family.  Surprisingly, all the expectations were topsy-turvy.  The younger one was the easier one, in so many ways.  She made the astute observation one afternoon on the way home from preschool that “I have two mommies.  And two daddies”.  And that was just the way it was.  No problems.  No issues.  She loved all of us and she loved life.

I learned that it’s harder for the older kids to accept their situations.  Sometimes they feel they are being disloyal if they’re having too much fun.  Often they’re afraid of bonding to new people because they never know when they’ll be leaving.  They are stressed and angry about events in their young lives and sometimes act out without knowing why.  You learn a lot when you’re a foster parent–by reading, researching, observing, and talking to other foster parents.  No matter what, though, by the end of the second summer we were a family.  Bonus Child had finally turned the corner and had firmly bonded with me and seemed to genuinely want to be here.  I felt this bond would help get us through any little bumps in the road.

But that was not to be.  The unfortunate “perfect storm” of events occurred.  The kids were once again “in between” case workers at the overworked understaffed county.  The agency we worked with had just assigned us a new case worker.  My eldest son’s wedding in California was coming up and of course since we’d never even dreamed we would still have the kids in September when we had to make travel plans in the spring (although the case worker at the time had assured us that we could get respite care for the children during the trip if we DID still have them) I kept checking to see if arrangements had been made.  You can’t just leave foster kids with anyone; they must be watched only by an adult with clearances.  Since my entire family was going to the wedding, and even my neighbor, who is a CASA volunteer and has clearances, was going to be out of state that weekend visiting her son, I had to rely on the agency.  And they couldn’t come through unless the kids went to another county and Bonus Child would miss 4 days of school.  And that just didn’t sit well with the supervisor-acting-as-interim-caseworker at the county.

I spent the weekend before my son’s wedding packing up over 15 months worth of toys, clothes, books, school supplies, etc. for two little girls who had a lot of things!  I still didn’t even know for sure what I was going to wear to the wedding and for the rest of the time we would be in California and hadn’t started packing my own stuff.  I was grieving for them while I packed up boxes and backpacks to send with them to the foster mom who had expressed that she wanted to adopt all 5 of the kids to keep them together, trying so hard not to let the girls see me cry so I could put the positive spin on it that they would get to be with their brother and sisters who they really loved and missed.  The supervisor from our agency picked up the girls the day before we had to fly to California to take them and most of their belongings to the county, and Bonus Child made me promise to write and call as soon as I got back from California.  I sent a note with her to give to their new foster mom promising to get the rest of the kids’ stuff to them and thanking her for keeping all these precious children together in one home.  I included our phone number and address so the kids could keep in touch.   It was during this frantic week in my life that I found it impossible to take a full complete breath.  I’m still struggling.

Took My Breath Away (Part I)

The massage therapist knowingly nodded, and said several of her clients complained of similar symptoms.  “The body remembers,” she continued, “even long after the triggers are gone”–which is what baffled me.  When I went to her, the week after Christmas, I should have been a model of health and tranquility.  I had started working out at least three times a week, had no major deadlines or responsibilities, and the things that had me so stressed out were months behind me, or at least at the point where I’d done everything I could to make things right and had no personal regrets.  I had wholeheartedly resigned my fate to a higher power, feeling certain that not only what will be will be, but will be for the best.  Yet I still had trouble taking in a good deep cleansing breath.  I was hoping she could rub out some of the knots in my back that seemed to be blocking the air from fully reaching and filling every bit of my lungs.

Hosting foster children is something we had thought about doing for a long time.  Big Daddy seemed to be more apprehensive about it because he was worried we might become attached  to a child that we would have to give back.  I was less worried about that because I expected from the start that it would be temporary and was OK with that.  I only wanted to be a safe port in a child’s stormy life until things calmed down.  In fact, I like temporary arrangements.  I love my two-month a year job.  I prefer open-ended contracts.  I figured we’d provide some fun for a child that needed to laugh and then he or she would return home after a few months.  I had no way of knowing how challenging and unpredictable this choice would be.

We had planned, and splurged, on renting the beach house in July.  One of the reasons was so the girls could see the ocean.  But all along, we never knew for sure if we would still have them by the time July rolled around.  We hoped…but that is the nature of foster care.  We rented a house that slept 8 just in case, though, figuring we wouldn’t have much trouble filling up the extra beds if something happened.  Then J came home with his horribly crushed leg…and with only a couple of weeks to go, we faced the possibility that none of us would be going on vacation.  We spent days keeping his leg iced, helping him with everyday life, and watching helplessly while he dealt with pain that even his prescription pain killers couldn’t dull.  The girls were so sweet, tiptoeing around quietly and trying to help by making ice packs and bringing him water.

Although we had to watch for what could have been gruesome developments, J’s leg seemed to be improving enough that we decided to make the long drive to North Carolina.  J stretched out in our old van that we luckily never sold while Youngest Son did the driving.  J’s girlfriend and my 15-year-old niece rode along with them.  Big Daddy and I took the girls with us in the SUV and we kind of followed each other.  We had a great time there–even though Big Daddy had to lose a full day at the beach shopping around for a competent repair guy–miles from the little island we were staying–to replace the muffler that had decided to fall off the van two days before we had to leave.  Meanwhile, Youngest Son had been struggling all week, long distance, to find out why his car was still sitting untouched and unrepaired back home when he had left it a week ago.  They still hadn’t gotten the part they needed and Youngest Son was stressing big time about having to start med school in less than a week with no car to get him there!  All of these annoyances were quickly forgotten, however, when Big Daddy took a call on his cell phone the night we were packing up to leave for home.  The guy that was watching our beautiful 7-year-old Boxer dog, Sky, called to tell us that he was rushing her to the animal hospital with what appeared to be Bloat, which is a twisting of the dog’s stomach and which we knew immediately was a very bad thing.  We waited teary-eyed and in stunned silence for further news, and our worst fears were confirmed when he called to say she hadn’t made it after suffering from two heart attacks, one while en route, and the other at the hospital.

RIP Baby Girl


Fostering Hope…or Sabotaging Self?

For weeks I’ve been forming a blog post in my head about the positive reasons to host foster children in one’s home–especially for couples who want children and haven’t been able to have any.  I was going to write about how these children can really benefit from a safe and loving home, how perhaps these children can see a better way to live and stop the endless cycle of issues that result in generations of poor parenting, and maybe even fulfill the adults’ own needs to nurture a child without having to resort to other more exhausting and expensive methods.  But then reality keeps getting in the way…

I used to post on my blog quite frequently.  That was when I had time to think.  It’s been almost a year that we’ve had our girls…about the time when my blogging (among other things) slacked off.

It’s been an interesting year.  We’ve seen many changes in both the girls and ourselves.  I thought I was going to die from exhaustion the first month or so…but the upside was I lost a good 10 pounds while still shoveling in my normal daily truckload of food that I so enjoy.  Some days, everything that could go wrong did.  Bonus Baby was a tiny hyper bundle of energy that got into EVERYTHING!  If it was within her reach, it got dumped, spilled, torn or broken.  She was dropped off with her sister with only the diaper on her butt–and I only realized this after the caseworkers left and I didn’t have a car seat yet to go out and get her more.  Luckily Youngest Son just happened to stop home on his lunch break so he got to watch her spit cracker crumbs everywhere while Bonus Child helped me figure out what size diapers to buy.  That first month also brought about a frenzied drive to a family visitation an hour away that completely slipped my mind until reminded about it a half hour before we were to be there and I had only a vague idea how to get there; hosing off poopie undies and finding little brown commandoes in the pool during the summer months of toilet training; finding Baby had puked in her bed one night and managed to get chunks all through her hair (blech); and Baby waking up the morning she was scheduled for surgery with a fever and me not knowing what the hell I was supposed to do because the one thing everyone had stressed was not to cancel this appointment–and no one was around to take my call so I could tell them she got sick overnight!!

Then there’s the age span.  My boys were all very close in age and could entertain themselves and be amused by the same things.  We got baby dolls and Bieber fever here.  And sibling battles and mom as referee are once again part of our family life!!

Despite all the craziness, there are priceless moments.  Bonus Baby has grown into a bright precious assertive little girl that sometimes has us doubled over laughing at her comments and observations.  Bonus Child, when not trying to get on my last nerve, is helpful, sweet and very loving toward me.  I never thought I’d have so much fun shopping for girl clothes, and the boys never thought they’d be buried alive in glitter!

Then there was last weekend.  No school on Friday.  Both had friends over.  Mom breaking up fights all day.  Them squirting the hose everywhere.  Getting in my car when they know they’re not allowed and throwing “caterpillars” (tent worms) in my back seat.  Sticky floors and door knobs throughout the house.  Baby dumping hundreds of tiny sticky pieces of candy all over their bedroom from her sister’s candy making kit while I thought she was taking a nap.  Dad and Youngest Son enjoying a lovely game of golf…while I have yet to use the tips I learned from the golf lessons I took last spring.

Sometimes I feel like I was led to this decision.  And other times (like last weekend) I wonder if I secretly hate myself.  We were home free.  We could sleep in, go out anytime we liked, and try new recipes without little people saying “yuck.”  We were done with homework, Scout meetings, and chauffeuring.  We were done catching every stinking cold that was making the preschool rounds.

Where is this all going?  I don’t have a clue.  Just be sure you’re very flexible if you plan to take in foster children.  Your life will be very unpredictable.  And busy.  And you just might fall in love!

Been There; Not Doing That

Just like I thought, I can still be a good parent.  As a matter of fact, in a lot of ways, I can now be a better parent.  First of all, I have experience and confidence.  I know the basics from raising my own boys; I am confident in my abilities because they turned out fine.  On top of that, shows like Supernanny gave us even more knowledge and strategies for dealing with temper tantrums and bad behavior although with Big Daddy’s booming voice and authoritative presence, we didn’t get much of that with our little guys.  Finally, I’m just so much more laid back these days.  Parenting is still hard work, but it’s just not so stressful anymore.

I’m happy to say that Bonus Child seems to have settled in and is actually allowing herself to enjoy living with us.  She hums and smiles a lot, has had friends from school come over, and even has confided in me to having one or two schoolgirl crushes!  Instead of shouting at us about how we’re ruining her life and then sulking, her occasional bursts of anger now usually are followed by a contrite apology–from her–without us even asking for one.  This is HUGE!  Sometimes she has these fits of giggles, and I ask her if she’s eaten feathers with her lunch.  I can’t figure out what’s tickling the child so much!  She sometimes even acts like she likes me!

Bonus Baby is still a piece of work–and we love every energetic ounce of her.  She’s got Big Daddy wrapped around her little finger.  This is exactly why I was happy to have boys.  I know Baby loves me, but I’m not much more than chopped liver when “Daddy” is around.  Her face lights up when he comes home from work, and of course he just eats that up.  “I miss my daddy,” she wails, and when I tell her we’ll be visiting him (her bio dad) next week, she’ll cry and say, “My daddy outside,” and points to where Big Daddy is working in the yard.  My two younger boys confided recently that they used to feel the same way about me.  Whenever they were visiting grandma, they always hoped that I’d be the one to come and pick them up.  “Hope it’s mom, hope it’s mom,” they told me they would say, although their daddy was an awesome dad and I know they loved him very much.

I can be a good parent to these children, but I can’t be the same kind of parent I was with the first batch of kids.  It has nothing to do with them being girls instead of boys, nor do I believe it has to do with them not being my biological kids.  I just have to do things differently–for my sanity!    We’ll go to open houses and teacher conferences, but I’m not getting roped into PTA meetings and events.  I’m not bugging the neighbors and relatives to buy the crappy overpriced fundraising junk so the kids can win some cheesy prize that falls apart in two days.  I will happily find an extracurricular activity or two for the kids and will enjoy watching them participate, but I refuse to serve on any more committees.  I did this all once, and I’m tired.  I can’t even imagine living at that pace again.  It’s someone else’s turn, and I think the kids will be just fine.

Respite and Relaxation

They have this blessed thing in foster care called respite care.  When we signed up with our agency, we told them we would do long-term family care, emergency care, or respite.  Our girls are with us as long-term care (meaning more than a few days), so we are currently not available to provide respite or emergency care because we now have no more room.  But now, the agency encourages us to take advantage of respite care.

Big Daddy was very adamant about us not using this service.  (Easy for him to say–he’s at work all day and taking 3-hour bike rides in the evenings while I’m cleaning up pee accidents and managing mini-meltdowns!).  His logic was that we would never have sent our own kids to a stranger for a weekend.  I could understand his logic, and I know that these poor kids have been shuttled around enough in their young lives.  I had no intention of sending them anywhere until they were comfortable here and knew that we’d be back for them.  But I realized also that anyone selected as respite caregivers had been thoroughly screened (as we were) and had clearances.  Our agency seems very stringent in its requirements.   Also, we had grandma and pap-pap to give us a break with our kids, and we could find other suitable non-family members to babysit our own kids.  My mom is 20-some years older now with a heart condition and could never keep up with my sweet three-year old, my dad is no longer with us, and we are only allowed to leave these kids with people that have clearances.  My boys fill in enough when I have to run out here and there, but Youngest Son is now back in college and Oldest Son just stops by to do his laundry sometimes between his work gigs all across the country.

I guess foster parents frequently use respite care early, when the “honeymoon period” is over.  I’ve heard this term often since being involved in foster care.  At first, the kids are adjusting and maybe on their best behavior, the parents are just so excited and happy to finally have these young lives in their home, and everything is hunky-dory.  The kids’ case manager even asked me early on if I needed a respite weekend.  We were fine and I said no.  These kids are pretty normal kids and although they’ve kept me very busy (have I mentioned that I’ve lost about 8 pounds since they’ve been here despite the fact that I’ve done hardly any formal exercise AND have eaten more fast food than normal), I haven’t really needed the mental health vacation that I’m sure some of the more saintly foster parents, who are brave enough to take kids with serious problems, would need.

But I did need a break.  Bonus Baby is in preschool now, but when she’s home, she requires constant supervision.  We’re totally in love with her, but she’s very demanding and likes a lot of attention.  The only thing she’ll sit still for momentarily is the one very irritating episode of Barney (God help me!) about bugs which is on On Demand until the end of August.  The few times she’s been quiet are the times I found her slathering my insanely overpriced Bath and Body Works sunscreen all over her tiny body, or pulling all the diaper wipes out of the container.  Big Sis has finally realized that she may be here longer than she thought she would be, and sometimes lashes out at us in frustration.  Although in our heads we understand the conflict she is going through, it really burst my bubble the first time she told us she doesn’t want to be here.  Her first loyalty is with her birth family, which is normal, but we’ve tried so hard to make sure she has fun that it still stings a little when she gets mouthy or says hurtful things.  I know it’s not about us, but hey, we’re still human.

So, although respite is not meant to be used as a babysitting service, when my best friend from middle school wanted to have me, hubby, and my mom over for dinner and drinks at her home with another friend from high school this Friday night, and Youngest Son needed our help moving the rest of his furniture into his big dorm room on Saturday, I decided to take advantage of respite.  I had a wonderful time with my friends on Friday (even though my friend seemed hell-bent on putting that 8 pounds back on me with her wonderful dinner and appetizers), enjoyed every moment of my three-mile walk in scorching heat on Saturday and spent way too much time sleeping in and even taking a nap.  I tried to redeem my decadence by using the steps instead of the elevator to carry Youngest Son’s lighter-weight possessions to his 4th floor dorm room.

We’re picking the girls up at 5 today.  I hope they had a good time.  When I dropped them off, the usually clingy Bonus Baby was too engrossed in all the new toys and baby dolls in the pretty girly room to give me much more than a quick hug good-bye.  Bonus Child chatted to me the whole way there and gave me a big hug before I left.  When she’s not trying to reject us, I know she actually kind of likes us and despite her Dr. Jeckyll moods, she does have a good time.  I can tell by her girly giggles and when I hear her singing along with the Justin Bieber videos (God help me again!) that we’ve found online.

I’m just hoping these respite parents are still as excited about having the girls  visit them as they seemed to be when we first got there.  We know all about those honeymoon periods.  I’m hoping they’ll be more than willing to take them in November for the high school reunion weekend.  Future daughter-in-law has offered to babysit that weekend–but she’s a busy girl.  Besides, there’s an open bar and I know I will not feel like waking up at 7:00 am the morning after to “Mommy!  I want to watch Barney!”  Ugh!

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March 2020

Pittsburgh Bloggers

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