The Odd Sock Fallacy

So I have tried to ensure that all 7 of our children not only have socks – without any holes – but that they actually have socks that match. So often I’ve been tempted to grab two pinkish socks and declare them a pair. But yet even in this I know the truth – that if anyone were to have a close look, they would see… odd socks.

socksWe don’t just have a few odd socks lying around, we have an odd sock box!  Oh I have tried it all. I have even tried pinning the socks together in the wash. This not only resulted in me spending my precious time now untangling pins from socks but we now had holes in the socks too.

Yet something keep welling up within – what will others think if they see that my kids socks don’t match? Will they not begin to question what else has unraveled within our home?

Odd socks today and rebellious teenagers tomorrow!

I have however just realised, that in the busyness of our present reality my diligence in the sock department has somewhat slacked in the last while. And to my horror I noticed one of my children at a church meeting with odd socks! But not just odd socks as in two blue socks that weren’t quite the same.

No these were odd socks!

As in one was maroon and the other white with some cartoon character upon it. I must have looked like a fish staring at her feet but when I finally yanked my stare away – oh my – I noticed that the 16 year old next to her also had on odd socks! Slowly the reality, the truth of the situation sank in. She was wearing odd socks and yet their home was not falling apart and these teenagers are some of the most awesome people I know.

It was as if scales had fallen from my eyes.

What else had I perceived as being reality and yet there had been placed over my eyes a warped hue of untruth. I see people’s clothes, homes, cars, holidays and Facebook realities and somehow feel like I know them and are able to contain them within some kind of box and yet the truth is that I cannot define anyone by the colour of their socks.

So as I’m learning to be gentle upon myself and not place my expectations beyond my reality I’m beginning to have grace with those around me too. So please don’t judge my effectiveness as Mommy on my children’s sock co-ordination. In the bigger scheme of life I’m choosing to lay down this battle for sock perfection and instead be real.

No I don’t have everything under control, no I don’t rush out to buy new clothes when a hole is torn climbing a tree, not I can’t stay up every night darning socks and warn knees….

20150117_065840But I can love my children beyond their wildest dreams, pray with them and tuck them in at night, I can chase and tickle them and run around the garden catching falling leaves or stand in awe of a butterfly. I can honestly say that odd socks are no longer able to define me! Instead they are able to free me to see that there is in fact more to this crazy life than being perceived to be a perfect mom. Instead I want to be real and revel in the freedom of odd socks!

AAAAHHH – My Ears Hurt

A quiet moment snapped between the craziness of life. A moment of pure uninterrupted thought. A moment, a mere spell of seconds or maybe an hour – until Mom is once again on call. Who would have ever thought of the pure blissful joy of meagre silence, of a consecutive string of orderly thought, being a sanctuary of sanity?  Silence – coherent and my mind fully attentive upon the task at hand I can breathe, once again finding a glimpse of myself!

Before becoming Mom, I had known the stress and strain facing a parent. The sleepless nights, homework, paying more to dine out, as well as being responsible for another person. Never however had I realised that my biggest parenting hurdle was going to be the many little voices in my head. The voice needing some milk, the one telling me they need the loo, the voice arguing over a toy, the voice wanting to know where they left their jacket. So often….. aaaahhhhh…. STOP! My ears – they hurt.

Parenting and raising these little people takes us by surprise. The surprise of our greatest difficulties and strains – the least of which we would have considered and the surprise of the joy discovered in learning to tie a shoelace or noticing a flower in the breeze. Or the pure bliss of silence.

A silence that feeds one deep into the spirit, a silence that warms the soul and draws one out, empowers one to look up and see the warm rays once again. The silence that equips one to breath long and deep, long and deep…. raising one back to your former self. Equipping and enabling one to once again rise up and take up the baton of Mom.

The solitude clears the fog, washes clear the perspective. It enables one to once again hear through the clutter of the needs and wants to the pure, undiluted, “I love yous.”

So Mom when all the little voices are briefly silent, for that brief fleeting moment, grasp the silent reprieve – drink deep, breath deep – fill your Being. Then once again the voices bombard but in them you are able to hear. Hear with clarity not only the need and want but the truth. “I need YOU, I want YOU. You are my all. I love you Mom.”

Science Club

Earlier this year we realised we were slacking in our science lessons – and as Dad is a scientist it made sense to start a science club. So every Tuesday afternoon we have a group of about 10 join us to do science. This has been fantastic as it ensures we get our science done but it also brings in a little extra cash which we then use to pay for our children to do other lessons.

We asked Lord Dad to write a little about the science club so you can hear straight from the scientist what it’s all about….

(To find our more about our Lord Dad and his fun science lessons visit his webpage at http://www.good-science-fair-projects.com/ )

“Contrary to popular belief, science does not only happen in a laboratory with test tubes and microscopes – it happens everywhere. Science is about being able to explain why things happen, or don’t happen. It is about understanding our world, seeing things that amaze you and then making sense of what happened when you understand. Science is about life!

Science Club is a place where I get a chance to pass on my passion for the world of science. It is a place where science is relevant, practical and within reach to the young scientists who attend. It is a place where the equipment used for the experiments are things that are either in the house, or can be bought from a local shop. It is a place where concepts are explained in simple everyday language, but at the same time where important jargon and scientific terminology is used thus expanding the scientific vocabulary.

Each term consists of 9 science lessons with the final lesson being an opportunity for parents to come and see what their children have been learning and for the children to teach what they have learned to their parents and siblings.

My vision for the Club is to make science relevant and accessible and to see young people engaging with science and eventually being able to apply it to solve problems and make this world a better place to live in.

However – most importantly – it is about having fun!

Our Senses Made for Learning

senses

As parents and educators we are forever asking ourselves how we can increase and create an optimum learning environment. In all this we often forget that humans are created to learn and the body comes with all the hard and software required for this to take place.  The key factors, which we often tend to forget about, are the senses. These are an integral part of the body and how we are wired to access information, process it and learn from it.

The ability to see is a truly remarkable gift. Therefore when we think of teaching something or imparting information one will often use visual aids. The ability to see allows one to derive one’s own conclusions and after viewing something one is more likely to remember it. Visual stimulation is one of the most used aspects in teaching and learning.

Almost every teacher will tell you the ability to hear and listen are fundamental skills for a child to thrive within our 21 century classrooms. This is because our schools tend to be built largely around the concept of auditory learning.

As the skin is the largest human organ, within our own personal lives touch is probably the most used and influential sense. We use touch to discover all sorts of things about ourselves and the world around us and yet it is probably the least utilised and acknowledged sense!

We are forever telling children to take things out of their mouths – rightly so – however we often forget that this “misbehaviour” is in fact often a natural instinct to discover more about the world in which we live. The sense of taste plays a vital influence in creating meaning and developing understanding, especially in the young child.

We may not often consider smell to be of much importance and yet the ability to smell not only tells us more about the world in which we live but it can in fact save one’s life. We need to take time to encourage children to learn to use and develop this sense in order to detect a stuffy room, smoke and the beauty of a flower’s fragrance.

Our senses are not simply available to help us retain academic information instead they are designed to teach us more about our world, sense danger as well as allow us to rejoice and simply revel in the beauty of the world around us. Our senses allow for us to connect with others and the world at large. They are the fibres that bind us to anything beyond the private walls of our personal existence, they are the channels that allow us to feel and link with everything around us and therefore allow us to create a comprehensive image of what the reality around us truly is.

One must however note here that over stimulation of the body senses can in fact cause “shut down” and prevent, rather than promote learning! We need to be aware of this within all learning situations. We are often so desperate to “get the message across” that we go all out with actions, music, flashing lights and jumping from one activity to the next. The result is however not that the child learns more but that they in fact become over stimulated and basically shut out everything.

We do therefore see that these precious senses, allow for optimum learning to take place, and allow one to absorb and retain information forever. Therefore it’s our responsibility to utilise the senses as much as possible so that children are able to truly embrace and engage the world within which we live.

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Love is a Verb

Parenting and education is not all about “doing the right thing” and “getting our discipline just right,” often it’s simply about enjoying each other’s company and creating forever memories. We can tell our children we love them. We can demonstrate that we love them. But nothing speaks as loud as simply living out love with them and this often occurs by simply having fun together.

With Valentine’s Day popping its head around the corner we are presented with so many creative and exciting ways to celebrate real love with our children. Over the generations Valentine’s Day has become an exclusively romantic celebration, when in fact it provides the ideal opportunity for us to celebrate real love and demonstrate that love to our children.

Spend some time thinking through your day on 14 February and what little moments you can snatch up to woo and love your children. Some suggestions may be to decorate the breakfast table with hearts and flowers the night before and then get up that little bit earlier and pop some scones in the oven for breakfast (or buy some yummy muffins.) Candles go really far to create a special ambiance that even our children will appreciate. Have little paper hearts upon the table with each person’s name on them. During the day every family member needs to write something they love about that person on their heart so that they can be distributed at dinner time. With younger children you may want to build up to the day so that Valentine’s Day provides us with no only opportunities to love our own family but to let our children demonstrate love for others.

Children often feel that the world is all about them. Yes, they are aware of others and that they need to care for them but it’s seldom that we provide opportunities for them to do this and grow in their love for others. Valentine’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. You may not be able to do anything on Valentine’s Day owing to work and school commitments but there is always the weekend. A few ideas would be to make cards to drop off at an old age home, take a cake to an orphanage, make cupcakes and cards and drop them off with librarians, police officers or firemen. A child could make special cards for their teachers and friends. they know what it is all about. You can make crowns for them to wear with hearts upon them and laminate place mats onto which they have stuck hearts or drawn a picture of the family having a fun time together.  If the morning is a rush there is still the evening in which to do something special together. You may want to have a special meal or as a family choose someone that you feel needs to “be loved” to share dinner with you. Simply spend some time doing something fun and different together. Have a picnic supper in the garden, play a family game together,  go for a walk, pop secret notes into each other’s lunch boxes or place beside each of your children’s beds a single rose with a handwritten love note. The ideas are endless. Yes, they do all take time but that’s part of loving one another – the fact that we take time to do it.

By simply taking a few moments out of our busy schedules to make a day special or different for our families we are speaking volumes. We often forget that concepts such as “love” are actually verbs and that our children can only truly learn about them by seeing them in action.

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Giftedness is Very Real

There I said it! My Son is gifted!

Unlike Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome or Dyslexia, Giftedness is something we don’t talk about. It’s something we dare not utter a word about because when we do we are shouted down for boasting and being proud. (As we see the author of “I Hate Hearing About Your Gifted Child” just did.) Thank you Laughing at Chaos , AwayFromTheOven and LifeWithinIntensity for your inspiring blog replies. They made me ralise it’s time for me to be bold enough to let others to hear from us too.

I am not sure why people feel so judged and threatened by gifted children when in fact that’s just who they are. They function differently from the rest of us and see and hear the world from an entirely different perspective. Why is different so intimidating and somehow wrong?
It’s how you think, how you perceive and how you breath. Being gifted isn’t something you can turn on and off, it isn’t something you can work hard at and become, it isn’t being talented or skilled in an area such as sport or music. Instead it’s just who you are.

Gifted children are not at the top of the class, they often the “plebs” who’ve been misdiagnosed with ADHD and are sitting on Ritalin. They are often the trouble makers and those just skimming through each grade. These are not children to be threatened by instead they are an endangered species that we need to save. These children are able to offer so much and yet we are pushing them aside, discriminating against them and drugging them. So many resources are available for Learners with Special Needs – who battle through the system and yet there are none available for my learner with special needs.

He began reading at 22 months, when he was 5 he was reading encyclopedias. I called a school to enroll him in grade 1. I asked what they would do with him while the others learned to read their response, “He’ll just need to suck it up and wait for the others to catch up.”

So we homeschool – by choice – well yes… Until I hit a real wobbly last year and wanted to send them all to school. Again a phone call. “I have a 9 year doing grade 7 maths and high school reading and language.

Can we enroll him next year?” Reply: “Well, he’ll need to go into grade 4 and we’d try extend him but he’ll need to do grade 4.” Imagine! That’s like telling a 3rd year varsity student that they need to go back and start varsity over again. So yes we love homeschooling but it’s no longer only by choice, we are kind of out of options.

When saying my day is tough other homeschoolers have turned around and said, “but at least your child reads what do you have to complain about?” Well my gifted child is reading – but he reads anything and everything he lays his eyes on. That includes billboards, newspapers and the Bible. Maybe that sounds like a dream, but is it? When your child is 5 and having sleepless nights because of world hunger or trying to understand death and eternity at 3 years of age. How do you explain to a 6 year old about government taxes and the economy crashing when he wants to know about why the government is repossessing houses? The best yet is trying to explain God’s judgment, justice and grace to a 5 year old.

How about seeing the world only as black or white. Everything is either good or bad. There is no grey. Everything has to be justified and fair. The rules, every rule needs to be kept. The world is so loud and bright and the sensory overload can be so great that melt downs are apart of ones reality. One who needs to move to think. The pressure of thinking one needs to be perfect and not being able to sleep at night as their mind is so alive. So the list continues.

The intensity so great that Mom and Dad fall into bed exhausted every night. And they say siblings are usually not far behind each other. As our little ones are growing they may not fall into the profoundly gifted category, like their brother, but they too are following close behind. Can you imagine to intensity of these little people trying to all help me make supper, tell me about their day or work on an art project? No it’s not horrid just very noisy, opinions flying, conversations heated and everything being analysed. Nothing can just be “because it just is.” But why?


Looking at just a few of the gifted “symptoms” mentioned above would it make everyone feel better if I say my son has a “syndrome.” May I mention that besides doing grade 7 maths, he’s just finishing writing his first novel at 9 and that he’s busy building a birding website, he plays the violin beautifully, he writes wonderful poetry and he is the most amazing big brother. Or am I only allowed to dwell on his “syndrome symptoms?” We have been blessed with an amazing little boy who is tender hearted and loves with his whole heart – another symptom I suppose: Gifted children either do something completely or not at all.

For 9 years I have kept quiet but I can’t let others tear down something so beautiful and pure as the gifted child – without which there’d be no Mozart, theory of relativity or Starry Night. Just as I see every human as a unique creation by God and rejoice in who they are, don’t see our gifted children as a threat, simply see them for the beautiful people they are and celebrate that you too may one day benefit from what they have to offer this world.

So just aswe need to raise our voices to save the rain forests so we need to raise our voices to save the Gifted Child who is just like everyone else – just wants to be accepted and loved for who they are. Instead of trying to box them and feel threatened by something new just try to understand the gifted child and you maybe pleasantly surprised with what you find!

Pearl Buck sums giftedness in the most beautiful way….

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: 

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. 

To him… 

a touch is a blow, 

a sound is a noise, 

a misfortune is a tragedy, 

a friend is a lover, a joy is an ecstasy, 

a lover is a god, 

and failure is death. 

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – – – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”


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Homeschooling Rocks

Whenever anyone questions me on our decision to homeschool I find myself trapped between a rock and a hard place. I believe it is right for our family and could spend hours discussing the benefits homeschooling has poured into our lives. However, at the same time I realise others have different convictions and are in a different place, therefore they may choose to view our choice to homeschool as a criticism or judgement on them. For this reason I usually hold a fairly neutral ground regarding the benefits of homeschooling and stick to, “it’s what works for us.”

Last night however lifted my heart and soul to such a degree that I fell asleep with a deep conviction that home education is what God intended for our homes, lives, communities and families.

As 2011 drew to a close one of our homeschool families decided to host a barn dance to see in the New Year. Their garden was transformed with hay bales, a bonfire and strings of lights, apricots for snacks and barn dance music filling the air as the tables began to fill with the food brought by each family to share for dinner. Jeans, flare skirts, hats, plaits and boots were the order of the night. Hugs, laughter and joy filled the air. Heel, toe, heel, toe, woops, spin around – mind my toe – off to the left we go. Change your partner, now find your own – where did he go? Heel toe, heel toe…  Rain began to pour, laugh some more, shoes shed, mud galore – let’s go around more and more and more. So the evening was spent by 20 adults and 40 children ranging in age from 4 to 80 years.

Looking around I found my 4 year olds were being looked after by a 15 year old boy and my 9 year old had partnered himself in a dance with a 17 year old girl. My 5 year old son was discussing cricket with an 18 year old while my 14 year old was somewhere in the mix with her friends. None of the teens were coupled off instead they shared friends, dances and partners throughout the evening. No one was left on the side lines, no one rejected or excluded. Boys and girls were free to be themselves and not worry about appearance or expectation. Their feet covered in mud they could lean on one another and laugh and just simply be.

Age, race, status, background – nothing mattered. Ten year olds were leading dances. They had all ages arranged and listening to their clear instructions on how to find our places. And listen we did as we were instructed who to dance with and where to turn.

Shortly before midnight we broke into families and spoke about our dreams for 2012 then broke bread and prayed for each other.

What pure joy the evening was. Age groups mixing. Children and adults respecting each other. No arguing or fighting. Good healthy food. No pairing off. No cell phones in sight. Children involved only in friendships and not the complexity of relationships, seeing their parents dance and laugh and flirt with each other – seeing marriage is good.

Yes many others may have had similar evenings but there was something special about these kids. They could mix, be free, my little ones weren’t in the way. The adults could also be free to talk, dance, pray for each other and be real together. This is true family, community and life abundant about which God spoke when he said he’s given us freedom to be free.

So as we stand on the brink of 2012 I rejoice that we are free from systems, free from expectations and limitations, free from curriculums, free from social pressures, free to be and do all that God created for us to be and do.  I will shout from the roof tops, “Homeschooling Rocks!” I’m so glad that as a family we’ve embarked upon this path where our children are not only able to experience true, unadulterated socialisation but they are also free to stay children longer and enjoy  true, real friendships and become all that God created them to be whilst living life abundantly.

Unexpected Christmas Eve Magic

After a full month of Christmas preparations it was finally time to sit down and begin our annual Christmas Eve traditions. As we had indulged in a huge braai over lunch time we had decided to forfeit out traditional Christmas dinner for snacks instead. The evening was to run that we’d begin by lighting our Hanukkah candles and reciting the blessings; this would be followed by acting out the Christmas story. We would then have our snacks before having a time of Christmas carols. Knight#1 had spent the past 3 weeks typing out carols to make us each a carol book and he’d spent every spare minute practicing them on his violin so we were all looking forward to this part of the evening. We were then to have pudding before trying to herd 5 very excited little people into bed.

Well that was the plan….

Just as we lit our first candle and begun reciting the first blessing the house was filled with the most awful, painful cry. On jumping up Lord Dad and Grandpa discovered our Labrador puppy had fallen into a full convulsion. As they tried to help it onto a softer surface it began foaming at the mouth and then turned on them. At that moment Lady Mom arrived to witness our adorable pup turn into a ferocious animal that wanted to only attack. The puppy then took off running around the garden barking hysterically.

Having worked in a rabies laboratory Lord Dad had seen movies of rabid animals and Christmas Eve or not he’d take no chances. As we had all played with and been nipped and scratched by Molly in the past week he insisted we were all to be inoculated against rabies. Knowing all the vets were closed we managed to coax the puppy into an outside room. We then quickly made brown bread and peanut butter sandwiches and herded the entire family into the car to try find some rabies inoculations for the family.

Prior to leaving we’d called various hospitals to only discover each private hospital only kept one or two vaccines and we’d need to pay at least R800 per person to walk into the emergency room and then R500 per injection. The rabies course also runs over 4 injections so we were looking at about R2800 per person! With this all in mind we headed off to our local government hospital.

What a joke.

Our adventure began with a clerk who could not spell and kept mixing our names up. I offered to help fill in the basic details but he said he had to fill it all in. An hour later we had our files and now had to speak to a nurse – before we saw a doctor who would do the injections – she was not amused with the situation and simply told us, “Do you realise how busy I am and how many forms I’m going to have to fill in?” She then disappeared and arrived 15 minutes later with another sister. She explained to us that as it was Christmas Eve and they would deal with the stabbed, wounded, accident cases and dying first we would not be seen to for at least another 6 hours or so! Having already been there for 3 hours we sat in the car park in desperation and phoned anyone and everyone we thought could help. We eventually discovered another small government clinic open 24/7, which were referring all their patients to the hospital and were therefore pretty much empty. We quickly rushed across to them. An hour later we had all had our injections and were heading home.

During all this time the children had dozed in and out of sleep. As we headed home now the clock struck midnight and it was officially Christmas morning. Amazingly enough no one was upset or moaning instead as the clock struck the older children burst into song – rocking the neighbourhood with Joy to the World. As we negotiated the thickest mist I’ve ever driven in we crept home to our Christmas Eve – now forever changed.

Not sure whether we should have more peanut butter sarmies or tuck kids straight into bed we gingerly opened the door and put on the kettle. Then the most amazing evening began to take place. The children headed to the supper table and began eating the Christmas treats, another began to play the piano and while others collapsed on the couch and began to nibble on some chips. The next hour was spent in a surreal dream of laughter, song, jokes and ice-cream. The children then drifted off to bed whilst we finished wrapping gifts and ensuring everything was ready for when they woke.

Yes, Christmas day was quite a blur but no one fought or moaned. Something special and magical had happened the night before and in the words of Knight#1, “Our adventure last night made this my best Christmas ever.” Well let me add, “It was my best too, my boy, mine too!”

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Postscript – Looks like the puppy may have simply had a convulsion and is still in isolation and under observation to determine if it is rabies though it is looking more like it was fit.

Christmas Decorations

As we spent this year celebrating Christ as our king we decorated our table in red and gold. To do this we made crackers, serviette holders and angels as part of our Christmas decorations. I’d say above all the serviette holders were easiest to make and yet so effective.

All you need is some gold cardboard, scissors, glue, tape and sequins.

We simple cut some gold card with zig-zag shapes and then cut the strips in half.

Using wood/cold glue, we added 3 red and gold sequins to the strip.

Lastly we taped the strip shut to make the ring and added the serviettes.

We then make a thinner and longer crown to add to the top of our Christmas cake. It was decided that we’d simply make a small Christmas cake this year, so we cooked it in a bowl that looked a bit like a crown. We then iced it with royal icing and added gold and red balls to it, with the odd red icing flower. The crown was the final touch. The cake was so simple yet so effective in summarizing our advent celebration of Christ our King.

As a final gesture and touch we added little gold gift bags that was personally tagged and had a chocolate and homemade magnet inside – each magnet had a Bible verse on it celebrating Christ our King.

Although the decorations were simple and easy to make the theme and colour scheme meant a lot to the children and not only made it memorable but helped them remember why exactly we spent a day celebrating a baby born 2000 years ago birth today.

Household Helpers

Ever wonder what the easiest way to stimulate a little ones hand-eye coordination as well as their attention span? Well one of the best tricks is to get your child to do whatever you are busy doing! Try include them in your everyday chores as well as other household activities that they will enjoy. Recently our 4 and 2 yr olds helped squeeze a bucket of grapefruit and then we spent a whole morning freezing bananas to make banana ice-cream!

The activity involved them peeling the banana, throwing the skin in the rubbish bucket, dipping the banana in lemon juice and then placing it in the freezing tray. This required them to recall a method and a procedure, they had to focus for a length of time on one specific task and constantly use their hand-eye coordination. This was obviously developing their fine motor skills too. There was no pressure to join in or stay with the activity but they all enjoyed it so much. Some came and went while another say for about 45 minutes working in the task. It was a most enjoyable time for us all – and we now have banana ice-cream to look forward too!

You may not have stacks of bananas to peel and freeze but look at your day and see what routine tasks you perform and where your child could either help you or even do them for you. They love working alongside Mom and being of use. They also really enjoy doing “big people’s” activities rather than playing with plastic pretend toys in another room when they could be involved in the real deal. Let them wash dishes, just take out the knives and glassware, show them how to use a cloth properly and you’ll be amazed at their capability. Let them help you hang up washing on a smaller line or a clothes horse. They can help wipe tables, put dishes away and tidy cupboards. Even a 2 year old can carry their own clothes to their cupboard and learn to put them away.

All these activities are so vital to their fundamental development and coordination skills and yet so often we over look them. Before long they will be busy with school work and friends treasure these special times with your little helpers.

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