letter to madison

Madison and her smash cake

Today is Madison’s first birthday! I wanted to give Madison a keepsake for her birthday, and I had the idea to ask some close family and friends to write her a letter for her birthday. I’ll put them all in her baby book so that she can look back and read them once she is older. Maybe one day when she becomes a mother herself, she can do the same for her baby.

I decided to share the letter that I wrote for her last night.

Tonight is August 24, 2011 – the night before your very first birthday. I can’t believe it has been a whole year since we welcomed you into our lives. This has been the most amazing year of my life, full of moments I never could have imagined before you came along. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about love.

I started loving you from the moment your Dad and I found out I was pregnant. I’ll never forget it. It was Christmas morning 2009, at about 5AM, and I couldn’t wait any longer to take the home pregnancy test. I remember holding your Dad’s hand as he opened the bathroom door, and we both leaned in to see the results: two pink lines. It was my very first glimpse of you, and already I was in love.

All through my pregnancy, I carried you lovingly, and I couldn’t wait for the day until I would get to meet you. On August 25, 2010, at 4:27PM, you came into this world and into my heart. I can’t begin to describe the feeling I had when I first got to hold you in my arms. You were sticky and wet, but having you on my chest, skin to skin, was the best feeling in the world. My first thought was, “I can’t believe you’re here!” That would be the first of many times you amazed me just by being you.

You’ve grown and changed so much in this first year, from being a tiny 6 lb 8 oz newborn, who relied on me for absolutely everything to where you are today: walking around all on your own, feeding yourself independently and making sure all of us know exactly what you like and don’t like… You’ve taken so many leaps forward in your development, from all of the typical baby milestones like learning to roll over and sit up, to showing us your unique sense of humor and personality.

You’ve inherited a lot from me. I can see my stubbornness in you, but I also see my determination. I can see that you love animals, like I do. I can tell that you like to have things done your way, in your time, and that’s like me, too. I hope to teach you many things as you grow up, but to be honest, sweetheart, you’ve been teaching me so much in return.

I feel like I’m experiencing life through your eyes sometimes. When you said “ooh!” the first time you saw a giraffe at the zoo, I thought of how incredible it must have felt to see something that you’ve never seen before. When you looked at me in amazement after you tried ice cream, I thought of how interesting it would have been to have something so cold for the first time. I’m so happy that I have been with you for all of your firsts.

I read somewhere that for the first few months of a baby’s life, the baby thinks that the mother is actually part of its being. I can see how that could be true… everything you did was with me right by your side. I carried you everywhere, I nursed you, changed you, comforted you, rocked you to sleep, cuddled you while you were awake, sang to you when you were upset and kissed you and hugged you endlessly. Now that you’re turning one, you’re able to play on your own and put yourself to sleep, and even walk away from me. You’re starting to realize that you’re separate from me and that you are your very own person.

Just know that as you grow older and more independent, I’ll always love you and be amazed by you. Munchkin, I love you more than I ever thought was possible. Happy birthday, Madison.

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my little walker

Standing and eating an apple

Two days before we left to come back home to Vancouver for a visit, Maddy took her momentous first step! I was so excited and proud of her. That day and the next day, she continued to take a step on her own a few times throughout the day. The morning that we left, she took two steps. That was just over a week ago, and already the difference is staggering. She is walking all over the place now, much to the delight of all of her grandparents, aunts and uncles.

 
I guess it’s even better for her that she gets so much encouragement and positive reinforcement for every single step that she takes. It’s more praise than I can lavish on her by myself, and I think that it must make a difference in how confident she is and how motivated she is to try again and again. She still crawls around, but it’s probably a bit closer to 50/50 with walking and crawling now. What blows me away is how quickly she is progressing. She’ll turn one year old in just over a week and she’s already developed so many new skills.
 
When she first took those single steps, she was so wobbly and wasn’t sure how to balance on just one leg for long enough to take a second step. Now she is walking from the couch to the kitchen, from the coffee table to the bench at the front door, and everywhere in between. She’s starting to move pretty quickly and I can tell she wants to run. No doubt skating will be next 🙂 When she loses her balance and falls down, she’s very good about landing on her bum, then will often stand back up and try to walk again instead of just deciding to continue by crawling.
 
She has adopted an interesting pose while walking, though, and it really cracks me up. Madison seems to like holding her arms up when she walks around, whether she’s got them bent at the elbows so that her fists are at her shoulders, or straight up so that it looks like she’s cheering.
 
We’re cheering her on, too!

like a dream

Happy Madison

It’s incredible. It’s working!!! It has been just over two weeks since we started sleep training Madison, and the results have been nothing short of amazing. I just put Madison down for her nap and it went something like this:

Madison starts getting cranky. It’s one of her sleepy signs, along with rubbing her eyes and yawning.

I pick her up and sing her sleepytime song as I walk up the stairs, take her into her room and turn on the sound machine, fan and baby monitor.

I give her a milk top-up in the rocking chair, then pop her soother into her mouth and give her a little cuddle.

She gets a kiss on the forehead as we walk to her crib, and I put her in gently and give her her teddy bear.

I leave the room.

That’s it! It’s magic! She now falls asleep on her own, nearly every time, for every nap and bedtime. I have to say that our quality of life has improved dramatically now that Madison has been sleep trained. Sometimes I can’t believe that it’s possible that she falls asleep on her own so well. Originally, we had only gone to the sleep consultant for help with baby’s naps, and we were happy enough with her nighttime sleep. Well, with this sleep training, we have gotten the additional benefit of better nighttime sleep as well.

Bedtime is now earlier. We used to put Maddy to sleep around 7:30 or 8, and we had to rock her to sleep. Now, I do her last milk feed at 6:45, then Murray reads her a book and puts her in her crib. She’s often asleep by 7 or 7:10PM, then we have the rest of the evening to ourselves! It’s nice that we get more time with just the two of us so we can actually relax together. The mornings are also better now, too. She used to wake up sometime between about 4-6AM, at which point we’d put her in bed with us. Now she will usually sleep in her crib till 7, occasionally 7:30AM. This morning she stunned me by sleeping until 7:45!

We are so proud of our little girl. She did it! And I survived.

sleep training sucks

Nothing to do with sleep training, but darn she's cute

We have now completed one week of sleep training with Madison. It’s been a long week… As I mentioned in my previous post, we decided to enlist the help of a sleep consultant. Ever since we moved to Calgary at the end of Feb, she has taken every nap in her carseat. That means that for 4 out of her 10 months, almost half her life, she had never napped in her crib. With such a stubborn baby, I was terrified to attempt nap training. I knew I needed help.

After some research online, I found the website for Helen Sands, a baby sleep consultant based out of BC. She had a package that included a an online and phone interview, from which she would create a personalized sleep training plan, and one month of follow-up support. The cost was just over $200. Not cheap, but for us we decided that it was worth it to have a plan that was tailored specifically to our needs. For the most part, Madison sleeps pretty well at night. Once she’s down, she usually would sleep from about 7:45/8PM till somewhere between 5-6 in the morning. It’s the naps that are the issue.

Because we are on the go every day, she always naps in her carseat. I plan our activities and meetup times around it. So, for example, I’d make plans to meet some friends at the park at 11AM. I’d leave the house at 10, so Maddy could fall asleep en route to wherever we’re going and I’d sit in the car until she’d wake up. Then, when we would leave at around 1:30, she would again fall asleep in the car on the way home. When we got home, I would leave her in the car in the garage for a minute while I’d go inside the house and let the dogs out. I’d turn the fan on in the main floor bathroom and then carefully carry the carseat inside and place her in the bathroom and close the door. Then she would nap for about an hour and a half, sometimes as long as two hours. So really, her nap lengths were not an issue, it was the method that was the problem. If for some reason, she would get woken before she should, it was impossible to get her back to sleep unless you put her back in the car and took her for another drive. Now – there are several things that could wake her before she should be getting up, ranging from bumping her foot on the dryer when carrying the carseat from the garage to the bathroom, dogs barking outside the bathroom door, or sometimes she would even wake up if I didn’t back in at just the right angle and the jostle from the street to the driveway would wake her up.

It got to the point where I realized this just wasn’t going to work for us anymore. A couple of things accelerated this thought process for me. Number 1 – we’re coming back home to Vancouver for most of August. Staying at Murray’s dad’s house means we can’t do this whole bathroom sleeping routine. We tried it last time and it just doesn’t work. We can’t park in the garage, so the sunlight and the distance from the driveway into the house almost always woke her up. Secondly, I’ll be going back to work soon and we can’t expect any daycare to drive her around to put her to bed, and I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to expect them to sleep train her there. I’d be worried that she would be kicked out or not accepted because she’s not sleep trained.

We began the training last Saturday, beginning with her first nap of the day. The plan is basically to put her down according to her sleepy signals (yawning, rubbing her eyes). When she inevitably starts to cry, you do some soothing methods like shushing and patting (five pats only, then stop – no continual patting) to get her to calm down. If that doesn’t work, you reach in and give her a scoop cuddle, but never pick her up out of the crib. When she pulls herself up to a stand, you calmly grab her beneath the arms and sit her back down, then lay her onto her back or side each time. If she calms, you leave the room, but if she is freaking out, you may stay for up to 5 mins. After that five minutes is up, you leave anyway. This continues for a cycle like this:

Put into crib, stay up to 5 mins

Leave for 10, return and use same techniques to try to calm for up to 5 mins then leave

Leave for another 10, go back in if needed for another 5

Leave for last 20, go back in for 5 mins

If she doesn’t fall asleep at all through this process, then she just misses the nap and you try again at the next nap time.

As you can easily guess, Miss Stubborn didn’t sleep at all the first day and she was a massive grump. Bedtime was a breeze as she was absolutely exhausted. Day 2 was not much better. By Day 4, I had thought she turned a corner as she went down for her first nap immediately with no crying and slept for half an hour. Unfortunately, she was back to the fight for her afternoon nap. I can see that there is progress, but most of the time she still fights for half an hour before she will nap. The good news is, though, that she WILL eventually fall asleep in her crib now, each and every time.

The big progression is actually with me, though. I think the hardest part of this sleep training has been for me to get over my fear and frustration with Madison. Because I have a detailed plan (15 pages!), I’ve been able to keep more of a level head and keep my emotions more in check. I say “more” because it’s still really tough. It sucks to hear her crying so often and so long every day. It’s brutal being stuck at home all day long because I’m not allowed to take her out in the car or in her stroller during training. (This is because she is used to sleeping in motion, so part of our plan was that I have to stay at home.) It’s still a bit frustrating to have to deal with her crankiness because she only slept for 40 mins in the afternoon instead of two hours. However, I can see that both of us are coming along, and I hope that in a couple of weeks, we’ll really be where we want to be.

Wish us luck, we’ll need it! And if anyone would like a review on Helen Sands or get more information on the sleep plan she gave us, please feel free to get in touch.

catchup

Mia Wallace tells her one and only Fox Force Five joke

The movie Pulp Fiction is full of great lines. One of the lines that comes to mind today is the Fox Force Five joke that Uma Thurman’s character tell to John Travolta. “Three tomatoes are walking down the street- a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and a little baby tomato. baby tomato starts lagging behind. poppa tomato gets angry, goes over to the baby tomato, and smooshes him… and says, catch up!”

I know it’s been almost literally forever since I last blogged. Sorry about that. Things have been crazy, and obviously so much has happened since my previous post, so this is going to be a series of little updates so that we can get caught back up and hopefully I can start posting more regularly again.

 

a big month

May was a big month, full of firsts for Madison. She started to crawl, she started to wave, she started to point, and she started saying “babababa”. Before that month, I really believed that she would never crawl and that she would go straight to walking. All the books and nurses and health care workers always told me: Put her on her tummy! I would, but immediately, she would roll onto her side and push herself up into a sit. Then, if there was anything nearby, she would pull herself up into a stand. Eventually, though, she did start doing the worm, pulling her knees up underneath her and then flopping forward with her arms. She did this for a couple of weeks and would make slow progress around the living room, usually with the dogs as a good incentive to get to a new spot so she could tug on their fur. One morning, we went to the play area at CrossIron Mills, a kick ass mall just north of Calgary. She sat in her usual spot next to this little green bug and was looking over at the big blue sea monster. She lunged forward and started making her way over, on all fours! She was a bit wobbly to begin with, sort of stalling and figuring out the whole concept but she kept at it! She crawled all the way over and then patted the sea monster as if to say “Tag!” then sat up and gave me a big wave. I am thrilled that I was able to get it all on video, too. Thank goodness for iPhones, right?

On the go!

size matters

Speaking of those play areas, I have to say – they rock. In Calgary, I’d say the two best malls for babies are CrossIron Mills and Market Mall. They have nursing rooms and big play areas. Market Mall has underground parking (obviously a MAJOR plus during the winter) and the food court washroom has a whole row of the big bathroom stalls that can accommodate a stroller, not just one. On any non-sunny day, the malls are packed with mothers and their strollers. The play areas are often quite busy, but Madison loves them. One big plus is that she gets to see and hang out with lots of other babies. I get to chat with other moms. The downside to this is that you also get lots of unsolicited comments and suggestions. The one that continues to drive me nuts is how people will always comment about Maddy’s size. She’s small. I get it. She’s now 10 and a half months old, but she still fits into 6-9 month clothes. Some of those are even still a bit big, too. I don’t understand what it is with people and big babies. Just because they are bigger doesn’t mean they are healthier or thriving more or are more advanced or anything else. They’re just bigger. I had one person tell me Madison was “too small” when I told her how old she was. How would she feel if I did the reverse? Oh, wow, your baby looks too fat. People never say that. I’ve also had people ask me if she was premature. This is a major pet peeve of mine. I wish people would just look at me and look and Maddy and make the connection that I’m not a big person, so why should she be?

home sweet home

At the end of May, Murray and I held our breath watching the last game of the Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks series. If the Canucks won, that meant we had plane tickets home to watch a game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Madison was already in bed, and we had PVR’d the game, as usual, so that we wouldn’t miss anything while putting her down. Blackberry and iPhone carefully tucked away with the ringers off, we watched as the last few seconds ticked away and we heard those beautiful, wonderful words: The Vancouver Canucks are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals!!! We jumped up and cheered as quietly as we could so that we wouldn’t wake up miss Mads. We were thrilled, not only because the team that we live and die for were headed to the Finals, but because we were coming home. I even got a text from my Mom, who actually watched the game, saying hooray.

One thing that struck both of us was how green it is in Vancouver. The trees are huge and line the streets…It’s beautiful and lush. I miss that. As nice as our neighborhood here is in Calgary, it’s a new development and the trees are just little saplings. They’ll need 25 years to look close to as big as they do back home.

It was wonderful to see everyone, and for everyone to see how much Maddy had grown and changed since they last saw her. They were amazed at how she was crawling everywhere – nothing is safe anymore – and how much she could eat! When we moved at the end of Feb, she was just starting out on solids, eating very runny rice cereal. It was cute to see how blown away Grandpa was to see her grabbing a piece of cheese and popping it into her mouth and being able to feed herself.

A highlight was also getting back on the ice with our coed hockey team, the Huskies. I packed my skates and borrowed the rest of my gear from Vicky and Chris, and we played on our first night in town. It was so great to be back on the ice with everyone. Although the guys on my new team are great, it obviously is totally different playing with the Huskies. We’ve been a team for almost 10 years now, and it was such a great feeling to be back, if only for a couple of games.

Outside Rogers Arena

Obviously, the huge highlight was Game 2 of the Stanley Cup. We had seats up in the Best Buy Club, which meant free food, pop/water and a private bar. This free food ain’t no chicken strips and nachos, either – we’re talking salmon sashimi, oysters, steak and scrumptious desserts. It was bliss. I stuffed my face and filled my wine glass. Glorious! I did my best not to worry about Madison, who was in the loving arms of Grandma for the night. It was going to be the longest period of time I would be away from her during her waking hours. I felt better once Murray told me that she was asleep, so I could finally really relax and enjoy the game. The night was capped off by an amazing goal by Burrows just seconds into OT. The crowd went wild. It was deafening and exhilarating! I’m so happy that we were able to go to this game and see the Canucks win. It’s just too bad we lost to Boston in the end. I can’t believe we were so close but we missed the mark once again. Hopefully next year!!

 

 

 

rock a bye no more

Sleep has never been a strong point of Maddy’s. I don’t know why. I love to sleep and so does Murray. So how come our baby hates it? If you’ve been reading for awhile, you’ll know that we’ve had our struggles with both naptime and bedtime. I’ve created a bit of a monster when it comes to naps, but honestly, I had to do it in order to survive. Ever since we moved to Calgary, Madison has been taking all of her naps in her carseat. In order to keep my sanity, which admittedly is delicate at times, I have to go out each and every day. I just can’t be home all day. I can’t do it. I can’t fathom how other mothers do it. Anyway, because of this, I’ve gotten us into a routine of going somewhere, anywhere, every morning. Madison naps on the way to whatever our activity is, whether it’s a water park or the library or a playgroup, and then falls asleep again on our way home from said activity. The morning nap is anywhere from half an hour to an hour, taken in the car, and her afternoon one is usually 1.5-2 hours. That second one is tricky. When we get home, I leave her in the car so I can let the dogs out, open the door to the main floor bathroom, and turn on the fan. Then I go back out to the car and carefully take her carseat out and take her inside, put the carseat on the floor of the bathroom, close the door, then exhale. I know that might sound really odd to some people, but it’s worked for us. That afternoon nap is my lifeline. It’s when I can actually have some time to myself to relax, or eat, or do whatever. When it’s cut short, it’s killer.

I’ve come to the point now, though, where I just don’t feel like it’s working anymore. We’ll be going back home again for a visit next month, and so this bathroom gig won’t work there. Also, I’ll be going back to work in a few months, and no daycare is going to take her out for a car ride each day to put her down for a nap. So it’s training time.

I’ll admit that this absolutely terrifies me. Madison is not an easy baby. She is hot tempered and stubborn. I know that crib training her is going to involve screaming and crying and sleepless days and nights, and I’m not looking forward to it. It’s going to be hell. To help, I’ve gone to a sleep consultant, Helen Sands. She took nearly two weeks and it cost us over $200, but she has given us a personalized sleep plan for Maddy. I’ll do a full post on that some other time. We haven’t started yet as we just got the plan this morning, but it’s going to require a lot of willpower from both Murray and I to implement all of her rules. I hope it works, because Madison is going to have to learn to fall asleep on her own when I go back to work.

end of an era

Coastal Christmas party 2006

Speaking of work, I am saddened by this last piece of news. I knew it was coming, but it’s a sad sad day nonetheless. I’ve been with Coastal Contacts (clearlycontacts.ca) for 8 years. I feel like I have been there forever. When I started, I was CSR #6 with a full staff of about 20. At the time I went on mat leave in August last year, I was Advertising Manager and part of a marketing team of about 15, with a full staff of over 300. The company has continued to grow like crazy during the time I’ve been off, and even though we made the decision to move to Calgary knowing I was most likely leaving my career at Coastal behind, it was still very tough to hear the final word a couple of weeks ago. After some additional discussion over the start of the summer, I was told that unfortunately I would not be able to work remotely from home. I’ll miss my Coasties a ton. I can only hope that I can find a new position at a company that treats it’s staff as well and has a culture to be proud of.

life beyond baby

Yes, I actually used to go out before Maddy was born. Taken at Hastings racetrack

We’ve been settling in pretty well here now. Most days are filled with various mom and baby activities, or playdates. However, there’s still a piece missing – life beyond baby. I’m with Madison all day, every day. This was also the case back home, but at least then I still had some time and opportunity to be other things: a wife, a friend, a hockey player, a colleague. It’s been challenging here to be anything but a mother, and occasionally a wife. Last weekend, Murray and I actually had a night out to ourselves and went to the hockey game. (And yes, it was awesome to watch our Canucks beat the Flames… again!!) Still, it’s been even rarer to have time just to myself.

I’ve connected with a few other moms, but as expected, all or most of the discussion is around babies. What does your baby sleep like? When did his teeth come in? Is he walking a lot? How is she with eating her solid food? Oh, yeah, Madison has done that, too…. I have been missing non-baby conversations. Well – that’s about to change.

Last night, I went to the Northeast Arena for the Hockey North America meet and greet. Summer season starts at the beginning of next month, and Murray and I are both being placed on teams. I went with a cheque to pay for our spots, go over the league rules, and meet some people that we might be playing with. There were only a few people that showed up, but it was still great to talk hockey! The other females there were, uh, how do I put this gently…. Well, let’s just say that I was the only one who probably owns a pair of heels. When the organizer said that there might not be enough players for a women’s only team, I thought to myself: It wouldn’t matter anyway! A couple of these chicks are bigger than some of the dudes in this room anyway. Yikes.

So, Murray and I will be playing on different teams, so that we don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch Madison. He’ll be in net, and I’ll play out. We should have our schedule by the end of the week, so I’m looking forward to seeing when and where our games will be. The weird thing about hockey leagues here is that you don’t have a regular rink like back home. You drive all over the city to different arenas, just like in minor hockey. In a way, it’s cool, because you get to play in different facilities, and for us it will be a good way to see other parts of the city. But on the other hand, it stinks because you could have to drive all the way to the other end of town to get to a game. It’s a 16 game season and ten of our games will be before 10PM and the other six will be after 10PM. I’m grateful that I’m not working right now, because that would stink to have to play an 11PM game in SE Calgary and then have to drive all the way back up here to the NW.

Anyhow, as much as I’m enjoying all these mom and baby programs that I’ve signed up for, and trust me, it’s what’s keeping me sane, I am really looking forward to getting some time to be me again. You know, being competitive, talking some trash, and shoving aside some D who’s trying to keep me out of the crease… it’s gonna be great.

make it thru march

Before we moved, I did a lot of research online to try to find mom and baby groups, storytimes and playgroups. Since we don’t know anyone in Calgary, I was counting on these kinds of things to meet new people and get out of the house. Back home, I had a group that I went to every week on Mondays, and I went to see my mom every Wednesday. Other than that, I would meet friends for playdates. In Calgary, I had to start getting out right away to meet people, otherwise I would go crazy. To my disappointment, it seemed like all of the programs in Calgary were pre-registration only – no drop ins! Plus, to make things worse, all of the programs were either already in progress by the time we were going to move and therefore full, or they didn’t start until April. So, I knew I had several weeks to fill somehow, with something… anything. In my head, I had the mantra M.I.T.M. “Make It Thru March”

The very start of the month was not bad at all, since my mom was in town to help us get settled in. However, once she went home, I was on my own. Murray was at work, and since he needs to learn his new building, new staff and new operation, it requires him to work long days, usually not getting home till 5:30 or 6PM. I found one drop-in program that ran on Tuesdays, and through that I met a mom that I got along with well, and also found out about another website for mom and baby meetups. When Madison had her 6  month immunization shots, the nurse also passed along some other resources for drop-in programs. From these, I’ve pretty much filled up my calendar with something to go to every day except for Fridays. I’m so glad that it didn’t turn out to be too difficult to find things to do! To my surprise, March has actually gone by extremely quickly.

For weeks, I had 10AM this morning marked off in my calendar as a priority appointment. I had been waiting for March 28th since before we moved – it’s registration day for the Mother Goose program. They have these in Vancouver as well, and they are supposed to be fantastic. Moms rave about them, and since they are so highly thought of (and free…) they fill up extremelyquickly. I was told by several people that you need to be at your computer at 10AM sharp otherwise you would miss out.

I did my prep last night. I had the program page for the library up on the screen, ready to hit F5 for a refresh at 10AM sharp. I also added it to my Favorites just in case something went wonky. I had typed in my library card number and Madison’s library card into an email draft so I could quickly copy/paste it into the registration field instead of having to type it in manually and possibly make a mistake. I kept the cards next to my laptop just in case something happened to that email draft, too, of course. Lastly, I had written down a list of library locations, from my first choice down to my sixth.

At 9:55 this morning, I had eaten my breakfast and had Madison playing in her playpen. I was ready. Finger ready on the mouse. At 9:59, I tried refreshing the page just in case. Nope. 10AM rolled around and I hit F5 again…. Boom. The page changed from “Registration begins at Mar 28 10AM” to “Register”. My prepwork paid off and by 10:03 I had the prize: Registration Complete. I got the third of fifteen spots, and by 10:07, all of the spots at the Country Hills library were gone. I felt like I had won the lottery!

We’ll repeat this process again tomorrow morning, for Baby Storytime. Wish me luck.

Once we’re registered for that, we’ll have programs to go to every Wednesday and Thursday in April and May, and various drop-ins and meetups for most every other day of the week. Looks like I made it through March!

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