Wednesday, December 31, 2008


After a quick run to Publix to pick up some black-eyed peas and other munchies for tomorrow....I started to look back on 2008. It occurred to me that I am looking forward to the new year more than usual this year. 2008 hasn't been a great year. It hasn't been terrible...Tim still has his job, we are all healthy, etc. But it hasn't been's definitely been a struggle at times. The best things about '08 are that we have all been healthy, and meeting our new friends - Famille Thomas from France. That was certainly a highlight and we feel blessed to have become friends with them. We look forward to many more years of exchanges wih our children and our families. Paige's dancing really progressed a lot this year, so that is a good thing as well. Both kids are good, polite, sweet kids...even with our challenges with Clay! Clay will say that getting his braces off in '08 was a highlight! All in all, we are lucky. So....onward to 2009. Tim and I will celebrate our 19th anniversary in February and Clay will start high school (yikes!!) in the fall. Hopefully it will be a good year. We wish all of our friends and family a happy, healthy and prosperous year!,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Today has been a busy day....first of all, I am (finally) writing this on MY laptop - which has been out of commission for a while due to a virus. I knew I had a virus, but just didn't have the time or the money to deal with just wasn't using it. Finally had our computer guru out to fix it today. If any of you are also dealing with viruses...apparently the new one going around for the past couple of months hitchhikes in on java updates - and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Today was Paige's appointment with the scoliosis specialist at Nemours. The bad news is that her curvature is a bit worse than we originally thought - about 25 degrees, and she will have to wear a brace. The good news is that (for now) she will only need to wear it at night. She will need to go in and have x-rays every 4-6 months to follow the progression. The hope is that the brace will help prevent any further curvature while she is still growing (probably another 1 1/2 to 2 years). Also, she can still do ballet - which was a huge concern to her! So now we wait to hear about an appointment to have her fitted for the brace, then we wait for it to be made...she will probably be wearing it in another couple of months.

So those were the big things today - my laptop and the doctor visit. Tim left for work this morning and will be back late on the I will have the Hoppin' John waiting for him! He is terribly superstitious about what he calls my "southern voodoo"!! We fnished our Lord of the Rings marathon last night and now I feel bereft! I am already missing my LOTR fix! I am defnitely gonna have to get those books back out and re-read them.....

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Two Towers was fabulous - can't wait to see the final part of the trilogy tonight. Legolas is still my favorite character....I can't believe I've never seen these before!

So yesterday I swept up the pine needles, vacuumed...and then went and read a book! I'm so bad! But really, what's the point while my kids are still home from school? I figure I'll get everything spic and span's not like the mess is going anywhere....

My whole bookworm family has been lying around reading since Christmas - hard to resist a good book when everyone else is reading too! I think I may go back and re-read The Lord of the Rings (AGAIN!!).........

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yesterday was spent packing some of the Christmas stuff away - Tim has to go to work in a couple of days so we need to get it done. The house always looks so large and empty when everything is packed away! Naturally, there are now pine needles and dust everywhere so today I am planning on getting some cleaning done.

Last night we watched The Fellowship of the Ring. Although I have read the books several times...somehow, I never saw the movies. Tonight we will watch the second one, and tomorrow night, the third. What fun! I'm glad I didn't see them when they came out...and then had to wait a year for the next one. This is much more satisfying...and, can I just say...I love Legolas! Definitely my favorite character.

Tomorrow, Paige has another rehearsal for her Grand Prix variation and after I drop her off I am planning on heading out to Sephora to use my gift card, then some grocery shopping, and more cleaning! Tuesday is Paige's appointment with the scoliolis doctor at Nemours - I am anxious to hear what he has to say.

Well, enough procrastinating! I'm off to vaccum, dust, sweep, mop and do a bit more packing!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Clay and Paige Speak Again.....

PAIGE: Christmas was awesome! I got a Vera Bradley backpack-y thing, and a bunch of Vera Bradley notebooks and stuff, and a really cool calendar. And a bunch of other really cool stuff. Like new pointe shoes with expedited shipping! Ha ha. But now I have a cold....and I don't feel good. Poor Paigie. I got a bunch of books for Christmas too and they are really I am going to go get back in bed and read them!

CLAY: Christmas was good. I got a stereo and lots of good books. I can't wait for my French friend's package to arrive. My sister is getting sick. My dad got my mom an ipod, and Paige and I got her an i-tunes gift certificate. I also got a "clocky" which is an alarm clock with wheels. You can hit snooze one time and then the clock rolls all around beeping until you get up and turn it off. Oh joy. We have had lots of friends visit and it was fun to see everyone. Oh yeah, my braces are off now. My teeth feel slimy! For Christmas, my uncle and his fiancee came over for Christmas dinner. We ate a lot, but still have a lot left over. My mother is an awesome cook!

I'll write again NEXT YEAR!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Old friends and good times!

I want to start this post by thanking everyone who came to see Paige in Nutcracker - it really meant a lot to her (and us)! I hope you enjoyed it.....

Monday we all slept late and then ran around doing some last minute Christmas shopping. Yesterday was more of the same, with a bit of grocery shopping and a run downtown for (what else!) ballet thrown into the mix. Yesterday afternoon our good friends from North Carolina came over. They are in town for the holidays to visit family and carved out a little "Van Kuiken" time....and we are so glad they did! We had a wonderful, festive, pre-holiday Chinese dinner (Love Ming Moon!) and then went outside and made s'mores around the fire pit....and talked and laughed and laughed and was a lot of fun. I think the kids were all a bit awkward around each other at first - it has been three years since they have seen each other, and that is a LONG time in the life of a child! But, they quickly remembered each other and got along great. The two Tims are both quite funny - I'm not sure if they bring out the best in each other or the worst...maybe a bit of both. Suzette and I have always gotten along since we met years ago in a bible study group....she is a voracious reader like me and a ton of fun to be around. She brought me a big bag of Trader Joe's stuff...yum, yum! We miss them, but it was great fun to get together!

Today I have absolutely nothing planned until this afternoon. I plan to sit around and be lazy! OK, OK, I might bake some cookies with the kids....and get a head start on prepping stuff for the Christmas dinner tomorrow...and the kids are acolyting at church this afternoon....but other than that! Then we will have our traditional Christmas Eve pizza dinner....I hope you all have a wonderful and peaceful day and a joyful Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


The stage at the Florida Theater..............

The final performance of Nutcracker was this afternoon. I am so proud of Paige - she really did a great job, and the "acting" was hilarious! Since most of the cast are either members of the Florida Ballet, or students at the training center - it is fun to watch the kids a year or two older than Paige and envision her dancing those roles in another year or two. Hard to believe she will be that good...but other parents I have spoken to assure me that from this point (age 12) on the progression happens rapidly. I can't wait! This was a big year because she finally made the jump to Act I and to dancing en pointe. Of course I am completely biased, but in my opinion, Paige was one of the best dancers out there (surprise, surprise!) Unfortunately, we are not able to take photos during the performance so I do not have photos to share with you. We feel a bit bittersweet about the final performance....happy that Nutcracker is finally over and sad as well!

So, you are probably thinking that Paige (and me!) will finally get to relax a bit, right? Wrong. Now she starts training in earnest for the next big event, which is the Youth America Grand Prix in Spartanburg, SC at the end of January. Her first rehearsal for that is Tuesday. Ah, least tomorrow is free!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A big news day!

Another beautiful sunrise.........
Playing soccer with Kieran
That's right - no more "tin grin" for Clay!

So, it finally here....opening night for Nutcracker. I am so excited to see Paige in it. Tonight, Clay is going to be my "date", and Dad will have an evening to himself. Tomorrow night I am going to see it with a friend and her daughter, who is Paige's oldest friend - and definitely a BFF!! Sunday is when we will go as a family to see it. Paige is very, very tired....but excited also!

Yesterday was a big day - the last day of school (and exams for Clay) for my children, and..ta da! Clay got his braces off, and our good friends from Washington state (we haven't seen them in about 8 years!) came for a quickie, almost 24 hour visit. It was wonderful to see them and the kids all got along great. Hopefully, we'll see them again soon - maybe spring break? hint, hint....

So...just a quick update, and now I am off to apply stage makeup to my sweet, talented daughter's face and then she is off to opening night....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Hi. This is Paige. Clay is studying for exams. I am glad that 6th graders don't have to do exams! That would stink. There's 9 days until Christmas! Yay! There's 3 days until Nutcracker!! Yay?! My new pointe shoes are awesome. They are the same thing as my old pair, just a whole lot prettier! I'm actually nervous, because the bon bons are really bad this year. They don't know what they are doing - still! They keep standing in the middle of the stage when it is my turn to dance. Aarrggh! Hopefully they will move out of the way on the actual stage. Other than that, Nutcracker is going tres bien! I think it will be a good show.

I want a bunny for Christmas, but mom says no. :( OR anything Vera Bradley. Not to sound like a spoiled brat or anything, but I really like the patterns. I am also hoping for a scented eraser. Clothes. Any good books, and Taylor Swift's Fearless CD. OK, Mom says all I am getting is those new pointe shoes (with expedited shipping). Hmmpph!

I don't think it is fair that Clay got a pet when he turned 11 and I am 12 1/4, but I don't have a pet. Of my own. Mom says maybe this summer. If I could get a bunny I would want one that is trained to go on a leash! That's so cool!!!!

That's all from me until after Nutcracker.
Yay! Tim is home. Somehow he managed to get displaced off another he is home for a few extra days. Thank goodness. A big thank you to whomever chose his trip for their IOE!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just to balance everything out.....

This morning I walked into Clay's room to gather dirty clothes and get a load of laundry going and let me tell you - it was a disaster! Seriously, the bed is not made, clothes EVERYWHERE, his bathroom was a huge mess....just totally disgusting. I was going to take a picture to post on here in case anyone doubts just how bad his room is...but I am too embarrassed! I mean, it is really gross. The thing is, it was pretty clean when I was in there yesterday - so this apocolypse happened in 24 hours!!! I looked in his soccer bag for the inevitable dirty socks, etc. which he never remembers to put in his dirty clothes hamper and found canteloupe slices - uneaten - from two weeks ago!! I kid you not! So, yeah, he did a wonderful, helpful thing in getting dinner and setting the table, etc. But you see what I deal with most of the time? By the way, I did not gather dirty clothes (basically, they were everywhere) I just walked out and shut the door. There is a limit to what a girl can deal with, ya know?

Today is a crazy day (and obviously, I am procrastinating about getting started by being on the computer). I found a recipe for a Chilean cookie which I plan to make this afternoon, need to run to the post office, and I made an executive decision that Paige is going to miss ballet today. For several reasons - first, Clay has a tutoring session this afternoon to help him prepare for his English mid-term and well, I just cannot physically be in two places at once...something's gotta go, and today it is ballet. Secondly, I think Paige could use a day off before we hit this there you go - no ballet. Thankfully, Tim gets home tonight so that will make life a bit easier as far as getting both kids where they need to go. Clay's English exam is tomorrow morning and he still has to write his essay for the exam and type it up. Which means I need to look it over and "edit" for him. And let's not forget - he needs to clean that room!!!!!

P.S. OK, I confess. I am totally cheating on Paige's Chilean food that she needs to bring in. I found a recipe for alfajores which is a homemade sugar/butter cookie with homemade caramel ...yeah, um, too much work for for me this time of year! SO...I am using some break-n-bake sugar cookies and a jar of caramel sauce. Sshhh....don't tell.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What an awesome kid!

OK, so Tim and I have had our issues with Clay - getting him to focus on studying, cleaning his room, being nice to his sister, etc. But I have to say, we must have done something right - he is just so thoughtful and sweet. Last night I called him on the way home from picking Paige up from rehearsal and asked him to throw a frozen pizza in the oven. We came home to Christmas music playing, the table set (albeit with paper plates) - and pizza prepared a la francais - with an egg in the middle. I know, it sounds strange - but it is really good. Clay learned this when he was in France last summer. Tonight when we walked in - again, he had set the table and made a salad, water pitcher (with lemon slices, no less) on the table, Christmas music playing, french bread sliced....And, by the way - this was a true dinner salad - he added a can of tuna fish (protein) and a can of asparagus (vegetable) so the salad had everything! Clay rocks!

Honestly, I get mad at him for something and then I always feel guilty because he really is such a good kid.

A busy week ahead....

This is shaping up to be a BUSY week - Clay has midterms all week, which is pretty stressful for him (AND US!) and Paige has her regular ballet classes- plus Thursday night is dress rehearsal, Friday am is the technical rehearsal and the opening night is Friday - then performances all weekend. Clay is getting his braces off Thursday afternoon and we have company coming Thursday (all the way from Gig Harbor, Washington). We are so excited to see them. Kieran was Clay's best friend when we lived there and those two boys were inseperable. It will be interesting to see how they connect after 9 years!

In addition to all that, Paige's big project on the pyramids is due Monday and Tuesday she has to bring in a food item eaten in Chile (for Spanish class). Which means Mom (moi) gets to find a recipe online and cook on Monday! Paige will also have to check in with all her teachers to make up any work she will miss on Friday since she will be at the tech rehearsal. BUT, the good news is that after this week things should quiet down. Thank goodness. I am worn out.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New Pointe Shoes

The old pair - with banana "juice" and ink stains - very worn out!
After sewing the ribbons and elastic on, you have to "crack" the shoes...basically, break them! This is so that your foot can move and pointe, and so that your leg will go over the box when on pointe....
Paige's new pointe shoes, after she has sewn the elastics and ribbons on. Next step - burning the ends of the ribbon and elastic so it does not fray......

So, Paige's new shoes obviously arrived and she has been busy sewing. If you are wondering why I don't sew for her....I used to, but the last pair of shoes Mrs. Byrd told Paige to take out what I had done and do it herself! She said that Paige needs to know how to do it in case she has a loose ribbon before a performance, etc. Also, that it is her responsibility as they are her shoes. Have I mentioned that I love Mrs. Byrd?!?!!!! I know I have mentioned how specific the fitting of the shoes must be, but even after the shoes are fitted there is a routine to be followed. First, you have to burn the ends of the ribbons and elastics to keep them from fraying. Then you have to "crack" the shoes - bend them in half until they crack. This makes the shoes easier to dance on, and you almost CAN'T dance in them unless they are cracked because you can't get over the "box". The box is where the toes go and it supports the dancer's body when en pointe. Finally, Paige will have to break the shoes in a bit before the performances next weekend. Very painful and blister forming - but part of the process.

On another note - the soccer games. OK, still no wins for the boys, BUT they have scored! Thursday night's game was awful. I won't mention the school we played, but it was a "Christian" school - and those boys were very violent. For some reason, the refs haven't been calling fouls - even when they are obvious! One of our players, a 6th grader, was tripped by another player and fell. When he was on the ground the other player stomped on his arm. Clay (and the rest of the team) said he did it on purpose, but I didn't see it. Anyway, not only did the ref not call a foul on the other player - he yellow carded one of our players who said "Ref, it was number 10". So yesterday, we found out that the 6th grader who had his arm stomped on is in a cast. Yep, the other player broke his arm. Unbelievable. He said that the other player said, "Sorry - not really". Last night was a JV game. Again, unbelievable. The other team's players were throwing their elbows in our player's faces, etc. No fouls were called. I think maybe our team needs to get a bit of the "Zidame" attitude, and give it right back. No more Mr. Nice Guy!

Tim left for work this morning, we're off to Nutcracker rehearsal in a little while (again), and Clay is studying (I hope) for mid-terms.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Well, the middle school team has a perfect record...of defeat! Poor kids - they are now 0-5. The thing is that there are some really talented players, but they are just not playing as a team. Plus, there are only 3 8th graders (including Clay), and 4-5 7th graders...the rest are 6th graders, so relatively inexperienced. It's tough, and very frustrating for Clay! On the plus side, their warm up suits finally arrived (now that it is no longer cold!) so Clay has been wearing his "oh so cool" jacket to school.

I drove all the way out to Arlington to the dance store this morning to get Paige's new pointe shoes...and they didn't have her size in stock. Called around to every other dance store in Jacksonville, and no one had her size. Yikes! Finally, I found a place online that carried Bloch Heritage AND had her size...had to pay to have them overnighted, but they should be here by Friday. That child really needs to take better care of her stuff!! Apparantly, this particular kind is hard to find (no kidding!) and then they are sized to a particular kind of foot....i.e. narrow, high arch, toe size, etc. so...very specific. I was a bit surprised because we have never had this problem before - but then again, this is the 4th TYPE of pointe shoe she has been in because her foot has changed so much since she began on pointe. Hopefully, she has learned her lesson - that pointe shoes and bananas do not mix!

After that, I ran to Costco which was a madhouse (I guess because of Christmas) - totally crazy. On the way home I decided to go to Whole Foods which had it's grand opening today. I have been so anxious for them to come to Jacksonville...anyway, it was also a madhouse. Absolutely packed, and crazy. I felt like I was at Disney World. BUT - loved it!!!!! I only managed to see about half the store because there were so many people in there, but it is now officially my favorite store! I can't wait for the Whole Foods Mania to die down....

So, now I am exhausted, but still...being the wonderful, self-sacrificing kind of mom that I am...I will drag myself off to battle the usual traffic to take Paige downtown, wait 2 hours for her to finish, and then drive her home. Aaahhh....the things I do for my children.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

MORE Tim time!

Tim got a vacation drop for his trip this week - he doesn't go to work until Saturday, which means he will have been home with us for almost two weeks! First, UAL "bought" his trip because of training (someone wanted to go to Amsterdam for their IOE, hmmm....imagine that!) and this latest one ...basically, he traded it for vacation days next year. It has been nice having him around - especially for me, as I have a helper to help me drive Paige downtown and go to soccer games, etc. And of course, I love having him around anyway.

Yesterday was spent on Christmas cards and finishing up packages - but I did it and got everything out in the mail yesterday. Yay! No chatty notes in the cards this year, as I feel this blog is enough chatting for anyone. I hope to get some chatty notes from others though! (hint, hint)

Paige informed me on Sunday on the way to rehearsal, a banana got squished in her dance bag and smeared all over her point shoes. Oops. Her shoes have slimy stuff on them and a big ink stain from where she had written her name inside them. Since she cannot wear them on stage, it means I have to drive all the way to Arlington (about 45 minutes) to get her new ones. Aarrggh. I am a bit frustrated with her, because if she would put her shoes away properly instead of just shoving them in her bag, this wouldn't have happened. Oh well, c'est la vie! I did tell her though - OK, I will go get them....Merry Christmas! I think I will take the empty box they came in and wrap it and put it under the tree.

Clay has another soccer game tonight - keep your fingers crossed that they win!! Poor kids - they are having a terrible season! On another note, he got 102 on his History test yesterday. HOORAY, and HALLELUJAH! Maybe he has really turned over a new leaf. Let's hope he keeps up with his studying this time!

Now, I am off to the grocery store since we have very bare cupboards - with my hubby home, a teenager and a pre-teen - I can't seem to keep food in the house! I think I'll make spaghetti tonight, and maybe bake some Christmas cookies for the cookie jar......BTW, I am going to get the bare minimum at Publix today because....DA DUM!!! Whole Foods grand opening is tomorrow!! I am so excited...thanks, Santa!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Frisbee Golf, etc.

Thomas the turtle is enjoying his fresh, clean water in his tank................
It is a beautiful, crisp, cool day here in North Florida....the boys are playing frisbee golf. Poor Paige hasn't been in any pictures lately - she is always at ballet!!!!
Our family movie night didn't quite pan out....our DVD player has apparantly given up! It is a few years old, and just...froze! Fred Claus. Instead, we turned out all the lights in the den and we all just talked. We talked about school, who is "going with" whom, rumors, what the kids are looking forward to, etc. It was really fun. Maybe we should change our Saturday family movie night tradition to Saturday family talk night.

Yesterday, I dropped Paige at Nutcracker rehearsal and my mom and I went to the mall. Yes, on a Saturday two weeks before Christmas! Amazingly, it wasn't bad - which is indicative of how bad our economy really is. Usually I wouldn't be caught dead at the mall on a weekend two weeks before....Anyway, I did get a couple of things for the kids and the last box of stuffing mix at Williams Sonoma. Since we didn't do Thanksgiving here this year, and so didn't have all the fun leftovers - I told Tim I'd make a turkey and all the fixin's for Christmas. I love that stuffing mix from WS!!

Today, Paige has rehearsal again (what else is new, right?) and the big plans are to clean out the turtle tank and clean the house up a bit. How is it that it can be completely clean...and two days later look like a bomb exploded in here? I just don't get it!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Clay can act! I was surprised by how good he is (although I really shouldn't have that I think about it he always has had a bit of a flair for the dramatic!). As you can see from the pictures, he didn't play a girl. Apparently, they didn't have instead of playing sisters they played brothers. Or, as Clay put it - they changed genders! Anyway, he was very funny and very good. Now we are thinking...hmmm, maybe we should let him audition at Douglas Anderson (the arts school in Jax.)

Other news...we have decided to take our house off the market for a couple of weeks - just until after the holidays. We started looking at the calendar and realized that for the next two weeks Paige will have class or rehearsal every day of the week except Tuesday (and I think Clay has soccer games both Tuesdays) so just the logistics of keeping the house ready to way! I doubt anyone will really be looking anyway, so....

Our plans for this weekend are...Nutcracker rehearsals as usual (what else?), Clay has an essay to work on and studying for mid-terms, Paige has to finish up the pyramids project, I would like to finish up Christmas shopping and shipping out packages, and the kids want to make Christmas cookies. Saturday we will have "family movie night" and watch Fred Claus...and that's about it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bye Bye Braces!

Yay!! Clay gets his braces off in 3-4 weeks! He will have to wear a "positioner" for about a month, and then he will get his retainer. Paige also had a dentist appointment, and although she will also have to wear braces (the Dr. said 100% chance, not a surprise to us!) she still needs to lose 4 baby teeth - so we get a 6 month reprieve for her! Clay is VERY happy.

Tomorrow is Clay's drama production at the school. He is excited, and relieved. One of his friends who is in the other production has been sick, and Clay was tapped to fill in for him. Clay was sweating bullets about that. Luckily, the boy was back at school today, so all is well.

Clay has midterms in two weeks and has been studying, studying, studying (about time!)...keep your fingers crossed that he does well. I am glad they are right before Christmas break, so he can just relax and enjoy the time away from school.

A boy from church passed away the day before yesterday. He was 21 years old and had Cystic Fibrosis. He had a double lung transplant a year ago and his body rejected the new lungs. It is very sad and the kids feel it keenly. When our church started up again 3 years ago Billy was the one who trained the kids to be acolytes (alter servers). He was very sweet and gentle and patient with them and was truly a beautiful spirit. The kids will acolyte at his funeral.

That's all the news from the VK household for today (both happy and sad) - I'll update everyone on how Clay does as a GIRL in his play!! I can't wait to see it!

Monday, December 1, 2008

decorating update

So, here is how the tree decorating REALLY went....I did it. No music, no hot chocolate, no help. Yep. My little helper - Paige - is at ballet. Clay is busy with homework. Tim took Paige to ballet for me, but even if he WERE here, decorating is not really his thing, ya know? No Norman Rockwell moments for the VKs. Bah Humbug (not really - I LOVE CHRISTMAS!)

So, the tree is decorated, all the rest of the Christmas stuff is out...I am going to take a hot bath and read a book - I deserve it!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.....

Tim and I have been working today on getting all the Christmas decorations down from the attic, so naturally I have been sneezing all day! I decided to take a break from the dust to post something on here. Hopefully we will get the tree up tonight and the kids can help me decorate. It is always a trip down memory lane..."Remember when I made this in boy scouts?"...."Remember when I made this one in 2nd grade?"...etc. etc. We'll put some Christmas music on, sip some hot chocolate and finish up the decorating!

The big drama yesterday (other than my "mommy dearest" meltdown!) was that Paige couldn't find her pointe shoes before rehearsal - anywhere! Total panic....anyway, long story short...she found them at the studio. Thank goodness. Those puppies are expensive - I don't want to have to buy another pair until I HAVE to! (Probably in another couple of weeks, but STILL!)

Clay has three soccer games this week, but will only be able to make one of them. Wednesday the kids have a dentist appointment after school, and Thursday is his drama production. It should be pretty...interesting...he plays a girl! Ha! I can't wait to see it!
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