Friday, March 27, 2009

I Guess I Could Post a Picture of My Cervix

I went in yesterday for a checkup and a follow-up sonogram. While I have sonograms every two weeks (primarily to check cervical length), taking a peek at the baby and seeing how she's grown is always very exciting. It's amazing the difference in a gestating infant from one appointment to the next. At yesterday's appointment, though, the doctor checked my cervix -- and nothing else.

It was so frustrating to be so close and not to at least take a peek at our growing daughter. When he was examining my cervix and cerclage, I saw a little foot flash by on the screen, so I know it would have taken little more than a flick of the wrist to show us the whole baby inside. But, no -- a quick cervical check was all he was up for. Then, to make matters worse, at the end of the appointment, he handed me a picture of my cervix. Seriously? Am I supposed to add it to the scrapbook?

Anyway, moving on...

My cervix looked great on the scan and so far the transabdominal cerclage seems to be doing its job. That was especially good news since we're leaving in the morning for a long kidless weekend away. I think we were both worried that I'd be put on restriction and we'd have to cancel our trip, but not only do we not have to cancel, the trip is now physician-approved. Yay!

I think the next two or three appointments will be the most telling for me, though. My next sonogram will be at 22 weeks -- the gestational age my cervix failed during my pregnancy with Zachary, and a week later than it failed with Gracie. I'll see my perinatologist for that appointment, and fortunately, he always spends extra time answering my questions and calming my fears. The appointment after that (at 24 weeks), I'll be at technical viability, and the appointment following that (at 26 weeks), I'll be at the gestational age where we would choose life-saving measures over respite care, were I to deliver prematurely. I think after all of those visits, I may allow myself to let this pregnancy settle in. I may begin to prepare.

Speaking of preparation, I bought a crib yesterday. I'm not really ready to begin buying things for this baby -- particularly not the big-ticket items -- but we stopped by a local thrift store on the way home from a baby clothes swap with a friend, and there it was. It's a beautiful white convertible crib that I took home for $27 plus tax.

Originally, the crib was marked $44.95 (still a very good deal), but the colored sticker indicating a potential sale price was nowhere to be found. I asked an employee in the furniture department if he knew its sale status. He said it had just been put out, so it wouldn't be on sale yet, but he could let me take it home for $30. Of course I agreed, and he handed me the sales ticket marked "Crib: $29.99." At the register, they were having some random sale where mothers took an additional 10% off their total purchase, so after all the discounts, I spent $27 plus tax for the baby's new bed. I'll scrub it down when we get home from our trip, and we'll assemble it later after we find bedding and decide on room decor for the two girls.

Cross Posted on About the Baby

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Schoolhouse Rock Live!

For our homeschool field trip this month, we planned an outing to see Schoolhouse Rock Live! The event was coordinated by Theatre Arlington, but we attended during field trip days at Texas Hall on the UT Arlington campus. We partnered with another homeschool group to secure a better deal, and with a combined group of about 40 people, tickets were $4 each.

I was excited to see Schoolhouse Rock again. I loved the show on Saturday mornings and recently borrowed a CD of grammar songs from the library. The kids were excited to go to a concert -- any concert -- but were really engaged when they heard songs they knew, like "Conjuction Junction" and "Interjections" (only now the tunes are stuck in my head).

The Stage

Hanging with the Boys

Dancing with the Girls

Homeschool Tumbling

We have great group of homeschooling friends who keep us abreast of all the local homeschooling deals. Gracie just started a tumbling class for homeschoolers and she loves it! The class is small in both size and price -- $20 a month for a once-a-week class with only six or seven other students. She enjoyed all the gym activities, but really hopes to learn how to do a cartwheel. She's well on her way...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wherein the Dog Caused Me to Contract

I'm twenty weeks pregnant now. Here's another glorious image of my increasing roundness -- such torture to post! There's something magical about moving out of the teens and into the twenties, gestationally speaking. I feel like my pregnancy is more valid here in the twenties. Still, if I had my way, I'd fast forward through the next ten or twelve weeks.

On Friday, I had a bit of a scare and considered going to Labor and Delivery. Our dog escaped out the front door and I ran out after her. I chased her down the sidewalk, and as she stopped to smell a mailbox, I reached out to grab her. As my hand touched her back, she took off and pulled me down to the ground. It all happened so fast, but not fast enough that I couldn't turn mid-air to land on my side instead of hitting the sidewalk face first.

I took the impact on my hand, elbow and hip, and scraped up the side of my leg. Bub, who was chasing the dog after me, was worried, asking again and again if I was okay. The dog even knew she'd messed up and stopped running to cower. I drug her home to her crate and closed myself in my room to cry for a while. James called to tell me he was coming home early about the time I shut my bedroom door. When I answered the phone still sobbing, he made it all the way home faster than ever.

I soaked in a warm bath to clean up and calm down, but I began contracting not long after my fall. I had five or six contractions an hour for the first couple of hours. They were obvious enough and uncomfortable enough that I considered going to L&D. However, after lots of water and plenty of rest, they went away. I had no other threatening symptoms and the baby sounded fine on the doppler, so I stayed home instead of spending the evening at the hospital. If the dog escapes again, I'm not chasing her -- she can just run until she finds herself a new home.

As for the present, I'm still taking injections to prevent preterm labor, and despite the discomfort of the shots, I'm glad they've been ordered. The nurse comes every seven days, but by day six each week, I'm having some definite uterine irritability with a contraction or two here and there. I've mentioned them to the nurse and they're very common among her other PTL patients right before injection day. I've mentioned them to my doctor and he's unconcerned, provided I'm not having five or more and hour. I'm not having even two an hour -- in fact, it's rare that I have more than three in an entire day -- and they're always resolved with water and rest. The post-fall contractions I had on Friday were two days after my injection. I can only imagine how bad they would have gotten had my uterus not been medically forced to relax.

Other than that, I have a checkup and repeat sonogram in the morning. Even though I'm scanned every two weeks, I'm still excited to have an ultrasound. Time between appointments passes so slowly. I really don't know how people have only one or two sonograms over the course of an entire pregnancy when one or two a month is still not enough! James and I are both very curious about cervical measurement since my cervix changed dramatically in both of my previous pregnancies by 21-22 weeks. I'm anxious to see this transabdominal cerclage doing its job. Updates to come...

cross posted at About the Baby

Monday, March 16, 2009

This is Why the Dog Needs a New Home

I love my planner. At the end of each year, purchasing a new planner is one of my happiest moments (and that's sad -- I know). I carry a Palm so I don't really need a paper planner, but there's something so satisfying about using my Papermate Sharpwriter #2 pencil to jot down each and every obligation. I like to preview my life with the turn of a page instead of with the click of a stylus. I'm old school like that.

As I spent my Sunday afternoon upstairs painting, Sadie spent her afternoon eating my existence. I came downstairs to find this heartbreaking sight:

I called James who was working in Omaha to tell him the dog had finally done it and she needed to find a new home. He thought I was being rash and a bit silly, but I suggested he think for one minute how he would feel if his Blackberry were passing through her lower intestine at that moment.

He understood my point.

Instead of giving her away, though, I took some time to calm down. She knew she was in trouble and had no whining complaints about spending the evening in her crate. I was able to piece the planner back together enough to get myself through the next week or two. Now, I have to set aside a day to transfer my future into something new.

As for the dog's future, she's not going anywhere right now. She's really a good dog -- I think she just made a really terrible decision during a normal puppy stage. At least, that's what I hope. She won't survive another planner being destroyed, that's for sure.

Starting Spring Break with a Slice

To kick off spring break, I took the kids and Bub's little friend Ramsey to Pizza Hut for $5.99 Pizza Mias. I normally wouldn't document a regular ol' meal (or maybe I would), but they were so excited to eat out with a friend without the friend's parents that I couldn't resist.

Let the Nesting Begin...

For the last several days and all day Sunday, we spent time reworking the upstairs layout. I'm not working on the nursery yet, but I am working on getting the general area ready to make room. On Friday, the kids and I completely emptied the scrapbooking room into the game room and began transferring Bub's stuff into the open room. The space is smaller, but little boys (at least my little boy) seems to need a little less space.

On Saturday morning, James helped us move the large furniture into Bub's new room and together we got the room entirely reassembled. I again realized how fortunate it is that we have the kids keep their room so organized. All of Bub's things transferred in in their regular bins. A room was disassembled and entirely reassembled in a matter of moments. It was the smoothest thing ever. After the big move, Gracie and I went to Lowe's and bought Oops paint for the new scrapbooking/guest room.

Sunday, when we came home from the slumber party, Gracie and I began painting. James came into check our progress and both Gracie and James stuck around long enough for the blog photo shoot. After pictures were taken, Gracie's arm and neck began to hurt and James had to pack for his trip to Omaha. Both legitimate excuses, but the timing was impeccable. Gracie would come in to roll paint on the walls from time to time, but for the most part, I painted the entire room. I normally hate painting, but for some reason, the process of painting this room was very peaceful. It was pleasant to focus in a quiet, empty room. Maybe hormones mixed with paint fumes has an unusual effect on me.

Today, the kids and I will reload the room with the guest bed and all the scrapbooking furniture and supplies. Later, we'll probably head out on a hunt for new bedding and material for curtains. After being groggy all these weeks, it's unusual to have such an abundance of energy. I hope I can keep it up until the baby comes -- I'll get so much done!


I'll be 19 weeks pregnant tomorrow, and that's my official halfway mark. Even though I'm still hardly willing to acknowledge I'm pregnant, at the MFM appointment last week, James had the audacity to talk birth plans with the doctor. The doctor said we'd deliver sometime between 36 and 38 weeks, provided there are no complications or hints at uterine rupture before then. He suggested an amnio around 36 weeks to check lung maturity followed by delivery if all looks well. I'm sure my OB, though, will want to wait until 38 weeks if there are no adverse symptoms (something about hospital standards). They'll work it out -- someone just needs to let me know where and when to show up.

Last night as I was praying, I realized I still feel like I'm holding my breath. Though in my heart I feel at peace, in my bones I still feel so unsure about this pregnancy. I've been working upstairs the last few days and I was walking up yesterday, I had this flashback to two years ago. Two years ago, I felt just as secure and sure of an ending, and everything I thought I knew was wrong. I felt tempted to stop what I was doing and to stick my head in the sand, but instead, I pressed on. I finished the task at hand, and I intend to continue doing that.

I will prepare for this baby instead of living in fear of what could be.
I will love her in spite of the pain it could cause.

Cross Posted on About the Baby

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Crashed a Slumber Party

Last night, Gracie went to her first slumber party. Mommy also went to Gracie's first slumber party. Yes, I'm a little nuts like that.

Here's how it happened:

Gracie cheered on an Upward team this year. There were three total teams at the church nearby -- one team of little bitty girls, one team of girls Gracie's age, and a third team of everyone else. Gracie was on team #3. The team was made up of girls all years older than Gracie, and at six years old, she was the baby for sure. The next youngest was eight, nearly nine.

As the season was closing, the cheer coach handed out party invitations and Gracie herself was concerned. She still gets scared sleeping away from home, even if she's spending the night with her Nanny who keeps her all the time. She really wanted to stay with her friends, but was worried she'd be afraid. Regardless of how she felt, I knew I was afraid! In my mind, she's six going on six months. She's much too young for a slumber party -- especially a slumber party with ten and eleven year olds.

At first I said she couldn't go, but right away I knew that was a mistake. James and I talked about it, then Gracie and I talked, and we all decided it would be better if I let her go, but picked her up again before bedtime. The next week when we came to cheer practice I meant to talk to the coach to let her know our plans. Before I could, she announced to all the parents that she'd love some to stay over and help. Problem solved: Gracie could spend the night without being scared, and Mommy could stop freaking out.

Gracie had a fun evening with her friends eating pizza, making Icees, watching movies, and doing all things giggly girl. She played with her friend's baby brother who followed her around with hugs and kisses. I helped prepare pizzas and monitor the girls. At the end of the night when the girls dozed off, Coach Tanya and I talked about cloth diapering and homeschooling. She gave me diapering tips and I gave her some (limited) tips on choosing a curriculum. In all, it was a fun night for both of us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Can a Sandwich Be Called a Burger? You Decide.

Arby's has added a new sandwich to the menu. It's called the Roastburger and is touted as "the burger done better." I'm not sure how a roast beef sandwich can now be called a "burger," but whatever. Regardless of the terminology, get a free Arby's Roastburger with the purchase of a soft drink using this printable coupon. Offer good until 03/14/09.

photo credit:

Thoughts on Our Daddy by Gracie and Bub

My friend Leslie posted this meme as a note on Facebook, and I've seen it on blogs from time to time. I think it's fun to read and I'm always curious about how my kids will answer. (In fact, I asked them the questions separately and was shocked by the similarities!) If you have a kiddo old enough to answer, feel free to take this for yourself... it's worth it for the laughs!

(Cut and paste these questions and ask your kids their answers, typing their responses. Change it to Mommy or another family member if necessary.)

1. What is something Daddy always says to you?
Gracie -- I love you!
Bub -- I love you!

2. What makes Daddy happy?
Gracie -- Watching American Idol.
Bub -- Obeying.

3. What makes Daddy sad?
Gracie -- You (meaning me, Amanda) going somewhere without him.
Bub -- Disobeying.

4. How does your Daddy make you laugh?
Gracie -- He plays funny games with me.
Bub -- By telling us jokes.

5. What was your Daddy like as a child?
Gracie -- Really, really poor. (He wasn't.)
Bub -- I think he was blessed.

6. How old is your Daddy?
Gracie -- Maybe 37 or 38.
Bub -- 38.

7. How tall is your Daddy?
Gracie -- About eight feet.
Bub -- About eight feet, because he's a full quarter, we're a half-quarter, so if we're four feet, he must be eight feet. (What??)

8. What is his favorite thing to do?
Gracie -- Go on dates with me, or maybe work.
Bub -- Talk to us.

9. What does your Daddy do when you're not around?
Gracie -- Go to work.
Bub -- Watch TV.

10. If your Daddy becomes famous, what will it be for?
Gracie -- Getting lots of money.
Bub -- It would be for money.

11. What is your Daddy really good at?
Gracie -- Tying his shoe.
Bub -- Going on trips.

12. What is your Daddy not very good at?
Gracie -- Cheerleading.
Bub -- He's good at playing basketball, but he's not good at building.

13. What does your Daddy do for a job?
Gracie -- Finds jobs for doctors.
Bub -- He travels and earns money.

14.What is your Daddy's favorite food?
Gracie -- Sushi or maybe Hot Pockets.
Bub -- That kind of fish he's allergic to (catfish).

15.What makes you proud of your Daddy?
Gracie -- That he is my Daddy.
Bub -- He helps me. He cares for me.

16. If your Daddy were a cartoon character, who would he be?
Gracie -- Yogi Bear.
Bub -- He would be Squidward.

17. What do you and your Daddy do together?
Gracie -- Practice Golf.
Bub -- Hang out or play golf.

18. How are you and your Daddy the same?
Gracie -- I have his nose.
Bub -- We both like catfish and video games.

19. How are you and your Daddy different?
Gracie -- I'm shorter than him.
Bub -- I don't like Sushi and he does.

20. How do you know your Daddy loves you?
Gracie -- Sometimes he does special stuff for me, like takes me to the mall.
Bub -- He prays for me and hugs me and kisses me.

21. What does your Daddy like most about your mom?
Gracie -- That she's the Mom of the family.
Bub -- You (meaning me, Amanda) cook dinner for him.

22. Where is your Daddy's favorite place to go?
Gracie -- Church.
Bub -- To sports places with me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Upward Award Ceremony

The kids have practiced and played hard, but basketball season has come to an end. Time now for the Upward Award Ceremony. The kids were super excited as they anticipated a clown and cookie buffet, and we were anxious to see the cheer routine Gracie has been working on for the last four weeks. Gracie did wonderfully -- she smiled all the way through and didn't miss a single step. The ceremony was a great end to a wonderful season...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flying Again: Our Trip to See FlyLady

On Saturday, my friend Amy and I drove to Moore, Oklahoma to meet my other friend (Amy's sister) Sara for a FlyLady engagement. FlyLady (a.k.a. Marla Cilley) is a modern-day organizational guru. Her goal is to help people who aren't naturally organized get that way. She encourages taking on tasks in small bites, doing things in 15-minute increments, and developing and sticking to daily routines.

I love FlyLady. She was a huge help to me when I got married and had to deal with a home filled with things courtesy of my pack rat mother and James' pack rat father. James and I both struggled with what to do with the "precious treasures" they'd collected and kept over the years (i.e., macaroni art, pictures of people we didn't know, third grade perfect attendance ribbons, etc.). If those things were special to them, surely they must be special to us as well, right?

Before we took the time to deal with the all the stuff our parents passed on, we began having children. Bub came to live with us just after our one-year anniversary and very quickly our home was filled with bottles and diapers and toys and gear that consumed so much space we needed a bigger house. We bought a house and moved less than four months later. I was already pregnant with Gracie and went on strict bedrest not long after our move, so not only did I not get the chance to pare down the things that had been passed on to us or organize the already-present baby supplies, even more stuff was added when Gracie was born.

I was so overwhelmed that first year after Gracie's birth. Not only was I overwhelmed by having a toddler and a newborn at the same time, I was overwhelmed by the fact that there was no escape. There was stuff everywhere. Baby stuff, hand-me-downs, things we'd collected together. When I got a break from taking care of the children, I was taking care of the clutter, and I felt like I rarely ever had time to take care of myself. It was a hard, hard time.

Along came FlyLady. I honestly don't remember how I found her, but was so glad I did. I subscribed to her e-mails and pored over the message boards on the FlyLady website. I immediately longed for the freedom people felt just by flinging all the things they were dealing with time and time again. By reading the stories and following the plan, I was able to give myself permission to get rid of the things we kept in those early years. Five-year-old me was not in the macaroni art my mom kept all that time. James was not in an FFA belt buckle. Our kids were not in the clothes they wore once upon a time.

I kept photographs of people we knew and tossed all the rest. I kept a few hand-me-downs that had special personal memories, a couple of meaningful baby items, and some of the things that we'd added together and I purged most everything else. Not too much time later, we moved to a smaller place here in Texas, so I got rid of even more stuff. Though I've had to deal with accumulated clutter from time to time (outgrown clothes, unused toys, surplus items we'll no longer use), I never feel guilt or an emotional attachment to the things that hold us back. FlyLady played a big part in the freedom I now feel.

I haven't followed the FlyLady program quite as faithfully over these last few years. We've had fewer things to deal with, so I let my routines lapse. Now that we have a new family member coming and space must be found for her, I've been feeling the pinch with regards to our present belongings. I've been contemplating resubscribing and taking even firmer control of my zones. What better way than to feel inspired than to hear about the FlyLady program than to hear from FlyLady herself?

The conference environment was very good. We met a couple of sweet older ladies who just gushed over Sara's sweet baby Ainsley and shared some stories of their lives. The church that hosted the conference was well-staffed, beautifully appointed, and thoughtful with guest provisions. The catered lunch was delicious and ample for such a minimal cost. The speaking portion of the engagement, however, was a bit disappointing.

I came to the event hoping FlyLady would share some of her story, but more than that, I was hoping she would touch on all the high points of the FlyLady program. I needed a refresher course and enough inspiration to kick me out of this energyless pregnancy funk. Instead of finding inspiration, we listened to FlyLady and her friend Pam Jones (one of the original Sidetracked Home Executives) tell stories, sing songs, and promote product. I enjoyed hearing them speak and hearing their stories, but as a list maker, I came expecting bullet points.

Fortunately, just being in the room with 840 like-minded people, I came home to inspired enough to clean. I've cleared a couple of kitchen cabinets and the kids and I have filled four large boxes with unloved dress-up clothes and unwanted toys taking up space. Over the weekend, I'm hoping to conquer our closet and sort through the scrapbooking room. I'm not to the point of letting FlyLady fill my inbox again, but I am slowly beginning to imagine where I may someday be able to house a baby.

Images From the Day

Monday, March 2, 2009

On Injections and Being 16 weeks Pregnant

I'm now 16 weeks pregnant (17 weeks tomorrow), and am still as shocked as ever that this is my life. Please enjoy (if you can) a very rare profile picture of my ever-expanding midsection. Moving on...

I saw the doctor a couple of days ago, and while my MFM does an ultrasound at every visit, the OB didn't plan to scan me at every visit until 18 weeks. With all the early complications, I had scans at every visit, but the 16 week appointment was scheduled to be routine. Instead, I came to the appointment just sure that there had to be something wrong with my cervix. I had no actual proof that there would be anything wrong -- just an overwhelming sense of dread. 16 weeks is the magic number for a lot of people with cervical incompetence to begin having problems, and while I now have the transabdominal cerclage that should make IC irrelevant in this pregnancy, it's difficult to move out of that old mindset. This is my first second-trimester on the TAC -- I'm not used to this new normal.

When I had the TAC placed, I was the only person my OB knew who'd undergone the procedure. Nearly two years later, he has another TAC patient who is just as pregnant as I am. He didn't bat an eye when I asked to have my cervix scanned because evidently the other patient is freaking out in the same way I am. He indulged her a few days before, and he indulged me right away.

As I might have known, my cervix was fine and has lengthened even more. The baby, since she's bigger, is closer to the cerclage, but there's plenty of length on the internal os, as well as on the cervix below the cerclage. From now on, even despite the positive report, I'll be scanned at every visit. Not only is it important to continue watching the cervix and how it may or may not change as the baby gets heavier, it's also important to stay on top of potential complications that may lead to uterine rupture. The risk of uterine rupture is the primary complication with the TAC, but with close monitoring, the overall risk is actually quite minimal. And for someone like me whose cervix will not stay closed even with a cerclage, it's a risk worth taking.

Another milestone this week is the beginning of my 17P Hydroxyprogesterone injections. Progesterone injections are routinely given to women who have a short cervix or a history of cervical incompetence. They're also part of routine care in more than 60% of women with the TAC.

According to medical studies, 17P injections significantly reduce the rate of preterm delivery at less than 37 weeks' gestation, and since both children I've birthed were born before then, I'm a candidate on that basis alone. I also have a naturally short cervix, a history of cervical incompetence, and a TAC in place, and with all of that, there's no avoiding the shots.

The medication is compounded and then overnighted to me once a month. I store it and a home health care nurse comes once weekly to administer the injections. The nurse and I connected by phone today, and after talking for a bit, we both realized she's the nurse who gave me the injections for six weeks of my pregnancy with Zachary. It was so hard to hear her voice on the phone today and to schedule her for Thursdays, the same day she always gave me the shots before. So much of this current pregnancy mimics my pregnancy with Zachary, and that's just one more thing on the pile of pregnancy stress. When I hung up with the nurse, I called James to cry.

I know this pregnancy is not Zachary's pregnancy, and I know that even with some similarities, they're not necessarily destined to end the same way. I'm still struggling to determine if this current course of events is a happy coincidence or not. No matter what, it's quite hard. Obviously, I'm in the season where I'd normally begin to think about the last days before my loss. In just a few days, we'd remember the anniversary of moving into this house -- the house we bought because we were having a baby. We'd remember hearing, "It's a girl -- No wait, it's a boy!" We'd remember painting rooms and hanging baby clothes. We'd remember Easter and that dreaded, dreaded cough. In April, we'd remember going Galveston for one last getaway. We'd remember an appointment that was supposed to be uneventful and some really bad news. We'd remember attempts at salvation that didn't work out, and we'd remember that Zachary lived and then died.

Instead of having time to dwell on all those things, I'm busy being pregnant once again. I'm sleeping and eating and hunting for a heartbeat. I'm going to doctor's appointments and scheduling sibling classes and talking about baby showers with dear, dear friends. I'm growing bigger and more uncomfortable and feeling movement from time to time, and even if I somehow go all the way to my due date with this little baby, I'll face Zachary's birthday and dying day with newly-filled arms. I certainly couldn't be happier about that.

cross-posted on About the Baby

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Poppa John and the Great Train Expo

Poppa John loves model trains. He collects all things Lionel and would convert a large part of his home to make room for track space if it wouldn't negatively affect future resale value. Part of the reason he picked this weekend for a visit was so that he could take the kids to The Great Train Expo at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

At the show, there were a number of model train displays in varying sizes that had been built and assembled by train clubs in the area. Poppa John and Bub were both partial to the HO size as a collectible, but Bub and Gracie really enjoyed watching the large models on the rails. The details on the trains, the tracks, and all the little parts with which to accessorize were unbelievable, and as a detail-oriented kid, Bub really enjoyed examining all the pieces. He'd love to build a track, and I have a feeling with a little more exposure, we'll have to consider a home conversion as well.

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