Anchors Aweigh : 2018

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On November 23rd, we celebrated the anniversary of our baby girl getting her wings. Taylor Grace has now been in Heaven, alive and healed, for four years.

This day is the hardest day of the year for me, but it's also the only day that I truly let myself feel the weight of losing her. I am a firm believer that you can't spend your whole life grieving, but on this day every year, I let myself feel as sad and angry and heartbroken as I want.

This year, her birthday fell on the day after Thanksgiving. We have a little morning tradition that we have done every year since she went to Heaven. We wake up, light a candle on a cupcake, and sing her "Happy Birthday". I have never made it through that short "Happy Birthday" song without crying, but it is one of my favorite family traditions that we have, and as long as I live, I will always sing her "Happy Birthday" on November 23rd.

It's crazy that four years have passed. I remember everything about losing her. It's funny how much we forget in our daily lives, especially now that mom brain has taken over, but I can recount November 23rd and the few days following it to a tee. I don't think that will ever change. I've never felt closer to God but farther from people than I did in those few days. It was an indescribable week but the most faith-affirming time of my life.

Four years later, I still miss her. She would be 3.5 years old. I still think about what her life would have been like. I still cry on Sunday mornings in worship because that's the day her heart stopped beating. But, life goes on. The pain of missing her will never completely go away, but the promise that I get to meet her and hold her in Heaven is enough to make me smile. Loss is so temporary compared to an eternity in Heaven, and if I didn't have that promise to hold onto, losing her would have been unbearable.

Happy four years in Heaven, angel girl. I love you so so much.


What Would You Grab In A Fire?

Happy Monday! I used to dread Mondays a little bit more than I do now. Sure, it's nice to be off work on the weekends and to have Parker home, but you can't truly unwind and relax when you live with a one year old. ;) Basically, Monday isn't so bad when you have the same responsibility 24/7/365!

Today's writing prompt is simple and probably way overdone, but I always think it's an interesting question. If your house was on fire and you had 30 seconds to grab something, what would you grab?

Assume the obvious is out safely... husband, kids, pets. Obviously, we would all grab our children and our animals, but what you grab next is where I think it gets interesting. I thought a lot about what I would grab if my house were going up in flames, and I came up with one thing that I would really want to save.



Preston's baby book.

This book is where I recorded all of his milestones from the first year, when he got each tooth, what foods he liked, what we did during the day... it holds everything that I want to remember. Some of those details are committed to memory, but many of them will only exist in this book as the years pass on. If I lost this book and those carefully recorded memories and moments, I would be so sad.

I actually took a picture of each page right before we moved just in case the Navy decided to lose it. It arrived in tact, but I am glad I took the pictures as a back up! Even so, if I had 30 seconds to save something from a fire, I would save this book.

And after the book, if I had another 10 seconds to spare, I would grab my wallet and car keys since we all know replacing car keys/credit cards/IDs is a major pain. For convenience sake, I would definitely love to save myself the agony and grab my wallet and car keys.

If my house were truly going up in flames, everything is replaceable except for Parker, Preston, and Jenny. Getting them out safely is all I would truly need. Everything else (even that coveted baby book) would be icing on the cake.

And if you're interested, I have the CR Gibson 5 Year Memory Book and LOVE it! It has the monthly milestone pages and different pages to record birthdays, daily schedules, shots, baby showers, announcements, etc. I will use this book for any baby we bring home! There's even a section to write about the grandparents and the story of mom and dad!



If you had 30 seconds and anything with a heartbeat was already out, what would you grab in a fire?

Recent Reads: October

With all the Halloween festivities going on next week, I thought I would do my monthly book post a little early this month! Once again, I read three books and really enjoyed reading all three. None were out-of-this-world amazing, but all kept me entertained.

Here's what occupied my nightstand this month...



Modern Romance
By Aziz Ansari

I became a fan of Aziz when Parker and I binge watched Parks & Rec. When we saw he had a book, we decided to listen to the audio version for a long road trip. It's basically a giant analysis on how romance has changed and how much technology has played a role in the way we meet, interact, and enjoy each other. He was really well researched and kept it funny and interesting. If you are an Aziz fan, listen to the audio version of this one for the full effect!


Bachelor Nation
By Amy Kaufman

I have been watching The Bachelor since the beginning and just can't seem to quit #noshame. I love the silly franchise and get into the love story each and every time. Being the fan that I am, I knew I would love this book. Amy Kaufman is a journalist for the LA Times that worked closely with the franchise, so she has an inside scoop on the inner workings. She also interviewed many past contestants on the show and printed those interviews in the book, which made it all the more intriguing. The book analyzes why America has such a fascination with this franchise and what really happens to contestants at every stage. If you aren't a big Bachelor fan, skip this one. If you love The Bachelor, pull up a chair and dive right in.


The Wedding Date
By Jasmine Guillory

This was a chick flick in a book. Although it was fairly predictable from the beginning, it was so fun to read, and you instantly liked both characters. A chance meeting in an elevator turns into a date at a wedding where they "pretend" they are together. The pretending leads to real feelings, and the book takes a few more twists and turns from there. This was an easy, enjoyable read that kept me happy the whole time.

What are you reading and loving lately?


My Passion Project

Since moving back to Texas, I've really had the itch to do something that will make a positive difference. If you know me in real life or have read this blog long, you might know that I am a huge fan of rescue dogs. Our pup is a rescue, and my heart has always gone out to those shelter pups that so badly want a family. Parker jokes that if I were rich and single, I'd have a giant farm with 100 rescue dogs. He's probably not wrong. ;)

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across an organization in my new town called Kingsville Animal Advocates. They basically take pictures of the dogs at the local pound and then network these dogs to rescues before their time is up. This is unfortunately a kill shelter, and most of these dogs wouldn't have a chance if it weren't for this awesome organization. I loved what they were doing and wanted to help. I really wanted to foster, but with a toddler at home and a dominant Jenny, that just ended up not being the right fit.

A few weeks ago, I joined their transport team, and it has been so much fun! When a rescue claims a dog, I get to go pick him up from the pound and drive him to safety (which is usually the vet, where the foster will pick him up later that day).

I seriously love it! These dogs really seem to know they are being rescued. They are so sweet and so loving and so grateful to get out of there. I always love on them and then say a prayer that they find their perfect family. Each transport takes 40 minutes out of my day but completely makes my week. I get giddy with excitement when I check my messages and realize there is a dog that has been claimed by a rescue to leave the building.

I thought it'd be fun to document the pups I've gotten to meet through this adventure!

My first transport was Lisa, a 4 month old puppy. She insisted on riding in my lap to the vet and gave so many kisses!


My next transport was Rocket, a lab mix boy who was so excited to be leaving! He gave lots of kisses too and loved riding shotgun in the car.


This bully boy is Pepper, who I called Mr. Handsome. He was such a handsome dog! He refused to ride on the sheet in my front seat and insisted on riding in the back. He knew what he wanted but was also so sweet and loved being loved on.


This girl is Frost, and she is on her way to North Texas Boxer Rescue. I get attached to all of the dogs, but this is the first one that I seriously would have taken home had it not been for Jenny. I absolutely adored her. She was so sweet and loving, yet so calm.


So that's my little passion project! The people who run the organization and the people who step up to foster are the real heroes, but I love the small part I get to play in these dogs' happy endings.

Life Lately

It is officially Fall in south Texas, and life lately has been full! Here's what's been going on lately in our neck of the woods...

When you live in south Texas, weekend entertainment includes going to the kiddie rodeo. Preston got to pet a goat and run around in the dirt. It was a great way to spend the Saturday as a family, and we got home just in time to watch the Aggies beat South Carolina!


Without a doubt, my favorite part of being stationed in Texas again is proximity to family. Here's a picture of my parents feeding Preston his third Reese's of the evening... He's not spoiled or anything. #grandparents


On our most recent trip to visit my family, Parker and I snuck away for a much needed date night! We enjoyed free babysitting and delicious sushi, neither of which exist in our small town of Kingsville, Tx. ;)


This picture sums up Preston's two favorite things in a nutshell: the outdoors and his mama.


You know what, strike that last comment. Preston's actual favorite thing is the swings. The outdoors and me are a not so close second and third. We heart swinging!


The base put on a fire safety event for the kiddos, so I took Preston. He got to climb in a fire truck and push all the buttons. Not a bad day for a one year old!


We had dinner with our friends, and they had a bounce house for the backyard. My kid was in heaven!


  Enjoying Texas' finest cuisine with the world's cutest dinner date.


And no life lately post would be complete without a little Jenny update. Jenny is living her Jenny life. She sleeps 20 hours a day, loves walks, and kisses Preston all day long. We love her so much.


My friend posted this yesterday and I was cracking up. Because honestly, how true is this?!


That's life lately!

Let This Be The Generation

There are about a million things that are so fantastically wonderful about babies, but one of my favorites is the way they see the world. They aren't born knowing hate or war or stereotypes. They are a blank canvas for acceptance and love.

The other day, Preston and I were reading one of his favorite books. He has about 50 books, but of course the free one called "I Love My Family" that he got from the pediatrician is his favorite. Riddle me that. Anyway, we were reading it for the fourth time that day, and all of a sudden he pointed to the man on the cover and said "dada!".

He proceeded to say it 3 more times while pointing right at the man, "dada! dada! dada!". The man on the cover is black. Preston's dad is obviously white, but he didn't see a difference. To him, that man looked like daddy. And that's when it hit me. Racism isn't innate. Babies aren't born seeing a difference in skin color. Those differences are taught, which means with this new generation, we have the power to emphasize that they're right. That there isn't, in fact, a difference at all.

We've all heard the term "experiencing the world through a child's eyes", and that's been one of the coolest parts of motherhood. I have fallen in love with the simple things and learned how to stop and smell the roses again thanks to my wobbling toddler. And thanks to little moments like my child exclaiming "dada" at this book, I have also been reminded how easy it should be to love and accept others. Babies aren't born seeing the differences. Let this be the generation that never sees a difference.


Pumpkin Patching With my Crew

Happy Friday! This past weekend when we were in town visiting my family, we made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch! We found a neat pumpkin patch that had hay rides, inflatables, and a petting zoo and were so excited to go check it out.

This year with Preston was easily the most fun we have ever had at the pumpkin patch. He is almost two and so interactive and FUN! He loved the pumpkins and the petting zoo, and sliding down the inflatable slide with mama was his favorite thing ever.

We went with my twin and her family and my mom, who was taking this picture. The hay ride was so fun, and Preston sat still and took the whole thing in!


When Parker found out there was a petting zoo, he was all in. He was so excited to take Preston to the petting zoo. They pet goats and pigs. Preston thought it was kind of fun. Parker was a kid in a candy shop.



Kisses for Grammy before we went to indulge in our fried oreos, fried cookie dough, and fried poptarts! We didn't get to do the fair this year, so apparently we compensated at the pumpkin patch. I didn't get pictures of the 5000 calorie food, but how sweet are these two? We just love our Grammy so much.


Since Preston was a bit too young to climb up and go down the slide by himself, I went with him. He LOVED it! I will say that the narrow middle section of the inflatable where you climb up is not meant for a grown woman holding a toddler, but hearing his giggle every time we slid down made climbing that thing worth it. So fun!


His thing this year was sitting on the pumpkins. Why? Who knows? But to him, it was a perfectly acceptable place to take a sit.


Since the first Fall after Taylor Grace went to Heaven, I have been picking a white pumpkin for her. This was my fourth year in a row picking a white pumpkin for our angel girl, and we also got a cute orange pumpkin for Preston. I love my babies.


The pumpkin patch killed it this year, and I can only imagine how much more fun Preston will have next year. My favorite Fall family affair did not disappoint!


Our Love Languages

We've all heard about the 5 love languages, right? It's a book based on the principle that we all give and receive love differently, and what one person needs is not the same as the next. I admittedly have not read the book, so I won't speak too in depth about it, but Parker and I have talked a lot about our love languages throughout our marriage.



The five love languages are: acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts. 

Parker is an affectionate guy, and we both knew pretty quickly into the conversation that his love language was physical touch. He loves to cuddle on the couch or hold my hand or give me a hug, so physical touch seemed like the obvious choice for him. It wasn't until about a year or so ago that I had an epiphany and realized physical touch wasn't Parker's primary love language. Sure, the guy loves to be close, but the love language he most gives is words of affirmation. He's constantly complimenting me, and he loves it when I stop and tell him that he looks handsome or that he's funny or that he did a good job.

Unfortunately, words of affirmation is not my love language, so I have to consciously make sure I am giving that to Parker. It's always nice to hear nice things, but I care much more about the time someone gives to someone else. Parker and I realized early on in our relationship that my love language was quality time. I think someone taking time out of their day to spend it with you is the ultimate compliment and what builds relationships.

Ironically, a few months ago, we realized my love language is not quality time, but it's actually acts of service. I do love quality time, but what I really love is when Parker does something nice for me. Clean the kitchen, take our son so I can go relax for a few minutes, etc... that's what keeps me the happiest! It's also the love language I like to give.

I feel like the love languages talk is one that should be brought up again and again in marriages. I mean, in our mere 7 year marriage, we have both already switched love languages. Our love languages aren't the same, which makes it fun but it also means we both have to make an effort to give the other what they need. I don't care as much about compliments, but he does. He doesn't care as much about someone making him lunch or doing the dishes, but I do.

Marriage is the ultimate adventure, and I am a firm believer that knowing your partner's love language and knowing your own proves invaluable over the course of time.

So tell me, what is your love language?

Baby Let The Games Begin

This shouldn't come as a surprise or count as a riveting confession, but I am obsessed with Taylor Swift. I have every album and just think she's the greatest. She's such a talented songwriter and entertainer, but beyond that, I like that she has stayed true to herself since becoming famous. If I had a daughter look up to Taylor Swift, I would count that as a win with so many less ideal role models out there. 

My twin sister and I went to TSwift's 1989 concert back in 2015, and it still ranks as one of the top 5 greatest moments of my life. I wish I could relive it! When Taylor Swift announced her Reputation Stadium tour earlier this year, I called my sister and said "we have to go". So off we went!


We had a running joke that there must be a pole in front of our seats or something because the tickets were a lot cheaper than they should have been. We got there and just about died. Right in front of us was a fairly non-obtrusive but still very much there giant pole. Nailed it. Oh well!


I will admit that Reputation isn't my favorite album that Taylor has done, but it's still amazing, and the concert was off the hook fantastic! She just puts on such a good show. Like the 1989 tour, she dabbled in some motivational speaking about being yourself and banding together in this world. She also took time to thank her band, dancers, crew, and all of the people that work at the stadium for making the experience possible. I don't go to a lot of concerts, but I feel like most artists wouldn't take the time to do that, so I love that she does. 


One unique thing about this tour was that she did a surprise song at each location. She went back to the archives and did old hits or sometimes old songs that weren't even really released as singles on the radio. Danielle and I were so excited to see which one she selected for Houston because we really do know all of her early stuff. The song was Wonderland, which was a bonus track on her 1989 album that wasn't on our version of the album that we own. That really is probably the only song she could have picked that we wouldn't have known every word to... you win some, you lose some! We still knew the song a little bit and loved listening to her play it!

All in all, it was such a fun night. Taylor Swift knocked it out of the park, and I am so glad we were there to witness it! We were also so grateful for Grammy and Aunt Natalie who were the real MVPs of the weekend. Thanks for watching the littles for mom's night out!


Recent Reads: September

It's the end of the month, which means it's time for another edition of Recent Reads! If you aren't a fellow bookworm, no hard feelings if you want to hit the snooze button on this post and hop back over on Monday.

As always, I am recapping my latest 3 reads. One had me hooked from the start, one had me giggling as I listened to it in the car, and one made me feel like I needed therapy from the emotional exhaustion it gave me while reading it. Here's what occupied my nightstand this month.


Hopeless
By Colleen Hoover

I've said before that Colleen Hoover is my favorite author right now (It Ends With Us is my favorite book I have read this year!). I just end up loving and connecting with everything she writes. My favorite thing about this book was the depth of the characters. She wrote two really interesting main characters, each with their own painful pasts and secrets. I don't think a recap will do it justice, so I am simply going to say: read it. This book had so much more depth than the standard "chick lit" novel. It was easily my favorite book I read this month!


The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo
By Amy Schumer

You either think Amy Schumer is funny or you don't. My husband and I happen to think she's hysterical, so we listened to this audiobook on a road trip. We were cracking up! She tells stories of growing up, working in the industry, and manages to tackle serious issues in this off-beat novel. If you are a fan of Amy's, you'll love the book. Listen to the audio version though. She reads it herself, so it's just that much funnier.


Dark Places
By Gillian Flynn

I (along with the rest of America) loved Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, so I was excited to read one of her other novels, Dark Places. All I can say is this book is DARK! As someone who typically wants to read happy things or at least happy endings, it was fairly unsettling. To sum up, Libby Day survived the night her mom and two sisters were murdered in cold blood, and her brother is in prison accused of the crime. 25 years later, she starts investigating what happened and realizes there is way more to the story than she could have bargained for. This book is suspenseful, it's deep, and it's dark. If you like thrillers and murder mysteries, this one will definitely keep you on your toes.

That's it for this month! Have you read anything amazing lately? I'd love to hear about it!

Life Lately

Life lately can best be summed up with all the toddler giggles, college football, and family time. I absolutely love this time of year. Fall brings cooler weather, pumpkin bread, and Aggie football in our house, and we love it!

Here's a few pictures of what life has looked like lately in our neck of the woods. 

On a rare morning where Parker was off and Preston was at school, the three originals got to take a nice walk. We missed our little guy but enjoyed a some quality time with our fur born!


Parker sat down to read his son a story. This is about how it went... toddlers!

Parker was over the moon excited to watch football with his little man! Granted Preston lost interest about 2 minutes in, but it was a sweet little bonding moment while it lasted. Jenny loves Aggie football too. ;)

I like to jump into bed with Preston in the mornings, and it's just the best way to start our day. Gosh I love this giggly little boy.

If you have kids, you know that these carts are the biggest goldmine ever. Our local commissary has these and I am over here like "excuse me while I become a commissary shopper for life!"


That's life lately!

Football Food: Cheesy "Crack" Dip

I didn't come up with the name for this one, but this recipe saved me when I needed to make a dip for a football party in a pinch. It was so easy, so cheesy, and so perfect for football season! If you're having some friends over to watch the big game, this is a dish that will be gobbled up quickly!

Bonus: It takes 5 minutes of prep time and is ready in under 30 minutes. That is my kind of dish.



Ingredients:

8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 oz packet of dry ranch dressing mix
3 oz bag of bacon bits
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
16 oz sour cream
tortilla chips or fritos for dipping

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
3. Transfer mixture to a baking dish, and bake dip for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.



Five on Friday

Happy Friday! Another weekend is upon us, and to keep things nice and easy on this fine Friday, here are 5 things that happened in our neck of the woods this week.

1. I asked Parker what he thought I should blog about, and his response was as follows: "You could blog about the weather and all this rain we've been getting". I got ready to laugh until I realized he was serious. He really wanted me to write a blog post about the rain. Husband, would you want to read a blog post about the rain??

2. We had a date night this week and saw A Simple Favor. I tend to think Blake Lively can do no wrong and Anna Kendrick is always funny, so I was so excited to see it! I loved it! Parker hated it!

3. I've started videoing my child's tantrums because I think they're funny. I'll just be over here filling out my application for mother of the year.

4. Jenny has gained the toddler 15... you know, the weight a dog gains from eating all the food said toddler drops onto the floor. I noticed the other day that she is eating less of her food, and now I realize it's because she's holding out for the good stuff that she knows her kid brother will drop. Well played, Jenny. Well played.

5. The weather has finally started to cool down, and if it weren't for the 10,000 mosquitoes that have taken up residence in our yard, we would be living outside there days. Ugh, shoot, I just blogged about the weather. Oh well, the south Texas mosquito infestation has been a big part of our week. I promise to have something slightly more riveting for you next week.

Have a great weekend! Our crew will probably be doing some variation of this. I'm not mad about it!


Our Experience Starting Daycare As A Toddler

Last night, I published a few posts over on Instastories about our experience with starting daycare as a toddler, my initial reservations, and how our son handled it. So many responded that this was something they were considering or could relate to, so I thought I would write a quick blog post on what the daycare journey has looked like for us. 

A little background on our situation: I work from home full time and have for almost 8 years. When I had our son, I took 3 months of maternity leave and then continued to work from home with my baby home with me. I did this for a year, and I credit being able to work full time with a baby at home to several things: a content baby, a strict schedule and routine that said baby had down pat, knowing how to be efficient with my time while I was working, and being willing to work after that baby went to sleep at night. 

Fast forward 14 months, and with our son only taking one nap a day at this point, there just weren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. I had a decision to make: either quit the job that gave me so much flexibility with a company that had always been wonderful to me, or start daycare. 

I didn't grow up going to daycare. My mom stayed home with my sisters and I until the youngest went to kindergarten, and I loved that, so this is what I wanted for my kids. Unfortunately, "daycare" can sometimes have a negative connotation, despite just how amazing it is for kiddos. There are people (like me) that didn't know anything about it and never wanted to explore it any further. I read the book "Bringing up Bebe" earlier this year about French parenting, and it was interesting when they talked about daycare. In France, it was a prestigious, common practice to take your kids to daycare, and moms (working and stay at home) threw elbows just to get them into a program. It's not always perceived that way in America.

A little background on my child: From day 1, he has been a mama's boy through and through. I don't just mean that he prefers me. I mean that I am his person, and when I am around, he doesn't really care to have anything to do with anyone else. He doesn't want anyone to hold him and screams when someone takes him from my arms. We had weekly playdates with friends, so he was accustomed to being around babies, but I was always there, and you can bet he never strayed more than a few feet away from me. Sounds like he's going to thrive in daycare, right? ;)


I decided to try part time daycare. At that point, our son was 14 months old. My plan was to send him for 3 hours in the morning so that I could get some work done. I only wanted to do it a couple of days a week, but my husband was adamant that we send him all 5 days for the first few weeks until he was acclimated. This just about killed me, and I won't pretend we didn't argue and fight about this fact for the entirety of those first few weeks. In hindsight, he was right, and had we not done it every day, I think it would have taken that much longer for our child to "get it". 

I dropped him off the first day, and he screamed. He cried. I cried. And I watched that clock all morning. When it was time to go pick him up, he basically collapsed in my arms and just clung to me. I thought maybe it would take him a few days to warm up. That was wrong. It took him weeks. For weeks, I left a crying baby and often picked up a crying baby. For weeks, I asked his teachers how the day went and heard "It was rough" in response. One thing I really appreciate is that his teachers didn't sugarcoat things. They told me when he had a hard day or when he cried, and I liked knowing they would shoot straight and tell me the truth. 

I wanted to throw in the towel so many times, but I had faith in my child that he could do this. He would get this. Around week 5, something clicked. He stopped crying when I dropped him off. He still leapt into my arms with joy when I picked him up, but he didn't cry anymore at drop off. His teachers said he was clapping his hands and dancing to songs. He was eating foods he had never eaten with me. He was interacting on his own with the other kids. He was having fun!


I honestly wondered if we would ever get to this point. It's been 5 months since we started daycare, and it has been amazing for both me and my child. My child has blossomed and learned things I wouldn't have even thought to teach him. He isn't as picky of an eater. He understands what it means to wait his turn and to sit at a table with his friends. As for me, it's allowed me to do my job and do it well. It's given me the gift of a little more time to get things done. It's recharged my batteries so that, when I am caring for my son, I am functioning at 100% and giving him the best version of me. 

Daycare isn't for everyone. I would never sit here and tell someone whether or not to do it. It's such a personal choice, and for many, it's not a choice at all but a necessity. But, I wanted to be honest about our experience and maybe give hope to the mamas that are currently struggling with it. My only advice is to stick with it if it's something you want to do. I wanted to throw in the towel for weeks. I didn't care about the benefits or keeping my job anymore... I just wanted my child to be happy. But, by the grace of God, I stuck with it, and I am a better mom for it now. My child is happy and thriving, and we are still the best of friends. 

And if you're wondering, my little man is still every bit of the mama's boy he always has been. He still only has eyes for me and doesn't appreciate other people holding him. It definitely hasn't hurt our relationship, to say the least... #stagefiveclingerforlife ;)

Here is a screenshot from a video of me picking him up from daycare. We both had a great morning, and we are both overjoyed to be back together.


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