March 11, 2017

Book Review: Bucket of Awesome

Can I start by saying how much I love reading books from Familius publishing? Every book I've read and reviewed for their company has been fantastic, and I love their motto of "Helping Families Be Happy." Therefore, I'm excited to introduce another fantastic book from Familius - Bucket of Awesome. Written by Kathryn Thompson, the author of Drops of Awesome, this new book hopes to inspire autobiographies with more heart and flare.

Explained by Thompson, "Bucket of Awesome is a processing and writing guidebook to help put your life into joyful and hopeful focus. Working through its pages, you will learn and remember all the things that have made your life so remarkable and you will come to tell your story from a place of joy and optimism."

In my counseling practice, I often teach the skill of re-framing, which means I help clients look at other perspectives of a story. Re-telling a story from a new perspective, whether that be a more compassionate tone or a warrior persona, can break the bonds of depression and fear. Bucket of Awesome encourages the writer to record stories with that positive eye.

Your life is amazing - You are amazing - You have amazing stories to tell!

In the past, when I've studied my genealogy, I've gotten sooo excited just seeing an ancestor's handwriting. Reading their written letters (even when it's about a water well being dug on the property) is super cool. Just knowing their occupation brings joy to my heart. Imagine how your grandchildren will feel someday reading your life story. Due to technology, your descendants will have more than a simple occupation: they'll have stories, pictures, and social media posts. You can leave them all kinds of stories, helped along by Bucket of Awesome.

As I answered the question prompts throughout the book, I learned that I love cheesecake (probably too much for my own health!) and that it was always important to me to feel at home. Whether I was working in another state or away at college, I made my apartment a home. Home means more than four walls; home is a place where love dwells. As my children get older, home-making has become even more fun. Decorating for holidays spread cheer. Singing songs in the car sound better. Coloring pictures has more purpose. And yes, I find myself becoming more and more like my amazing mother. As I write down the moments that made me feel loved as a child, I am reminded to provide similar moments for my own kiddos. For example, I was sooo excited the night that my mom let me stay up late to watch "Bonanza" with her on the television. It was a secret from my brother, and I felt so special. Now, I am reminded to spend special one-on-one snuggles with my kids too.

My life may be simple 90% of the time, but it can be awesomely simple. Daily moments of joy make my world brighter. Remembering little things about my first job and my first car inspire more gratitude for the blessings I enjoy today. Remembering the smells of holidays motivates me to "bring the holidays home" for my kiddos. Bucket of Awesome makes it simple to record memories that would be otherwise stored away on the dusty shelf; instead, those memories tie into a grand story. I'm so grateful that this book encourages (or forces!) me to journal. Remembering the good, and re-framing the frustrations into learning experiences, helps me see how awesome life truly can be.

Find Drops of Awesome on Familius Publishing's website. Click the link to learn more! I was lucky enough to review this book with my own free copy, but this review is my own opinion and was not influenced in any way by the author or publisher.


Kathryn Thompson
“Kathryn Thompson is a freelance writer and blogger living outside Seattle with her computer genius husband and three frequently delightful children. She believes that the world would be a drastically better place if everyone understood how Awesome they were.” -Familius Publishing

March 6, 2017

Giveaway with Usborne Books (Pt 4)

My fourth and final post about incredible Usborne Books: If you've been following along, you've learned how Usborne books can the enrich the lives of your babies, your toddlers, your creative kiddos, your science loving kiddos, and your hands-on adventurers. I mean, how much cooler can you get than a book that actually includes a race-track fora  wind-up car? Or a books that makes fractions look fun?

A few months ago I met Ruth, a Usborne book representative. Simon was playing with her book display at a fundraiser extravaganza and fell in love with a dinosaur sticker book. (Obviously, that book came home with us.) And now, I'm happy to announce that Ruth is sponsoring my next giveaway!! Woo-hoo!
Ruth is also contributing on the blog, and over the next four posts, she'll describe all the fun ways that Usborne books can enrich your family. These amazing books are not only educational and fun, but they are quality-made inexpensive items. Durable books that don't cost a fortune? A parent's dream come true, right?

Keep reading Ruth's helpful tips below and enter the Rafflecopter to win free books!


Is there a favorite story from your childhood days?

Little Women and Anne of Green Gables were mine. I could lose myself in their stories. Their struggles, their hopes and their dreams also became my own. What about your children? Do they have stories to inspire them? C.S. Lewis once said, “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Storytelling is an effective way to help children develop character and courage. Watch this video to learn more about Stories for the Soul that develop character.

Have you struggled to find stories to help your children be brave? To not be grumpy or greedy? To be who they are? Usborne Books & More strives to provide stories that will empower children towards kindness and greatness. The following video highlights books that empower children to develop positive social skills.

Do you have an emergent reader? Maybe a child struggling with dyslexia? We have some great books for you! Fun stories with great characters who are striving do good things with their lives…whether they are a kid or an animal! This video show you more chapter books your elementary school aged readers will love.

Finally, as children grow up into chapter books, stories can really begin to stretch their minds by helping them experience people and challenges other than their own. Some parents struggle to find well written books with clean content, but Usborne Books & More is committed to giving you those books! Here are some great youth fiction series for your teenage readers.

There are so many books to choose from - what titles stand out to you?
Can't wait for the results of the giveaway? Books can be purchased via the following link:

Good luck!

March 2, 2017

Giveaway with Usborne Books (Pt 3)

There are so many great categories of books that Usborne Publishing has to offer. Look backwards on the blog to learn about their hands-on books (like wind-up books and sticker books) and non-fiction books for all hobbies and childhood interests (like dinosaurs and the human body).

Even your itty-bitty kiddos can learn to love reading! In today's post, Ruth will introduce you to books for babies and toddlers.

A few months ago I met Ruth, a Usborne book representative. Simon was playing with her book display at a fundraiser extravaganza and fell in love with a dinosaur sticker book. (Obviously, that book came home with us.) And now, I'm happy to announce that Ruth is sponsoring my next giveaway!! Woo-hoo!
Ruth is also contributing on the blog, and over the next four posts, she'll describe all the fun ways that Usborne books can enrich your family. These amazing books are not only educational and fun, but they are quality-made inexpensive items. Durable books that don't cost a fortune? A parent's dream come true, right?
Keep reading Ruth's helpful tips below and enter the Rafflecopter to win free books!


Good reading habits start from the very beginning your child's life, and that's the best place to start in those very first moments with your child when they are itty-bitty. Did you know that reading as an infant has a huge impact on their vocabulary, all the way into the toddler years? Along with building a vocabulary, reading with your infants and toddlers creates an association of warm and cuddly feelings with books. 

What about a busy little one? Let them play with their cars, dolls, blocks, etc, and read to them while they play. It is amazing how much they absorb, even when we don’t think they are listening! At this age, board books are strong enough to handle a toddlers rough play or a babies bite. Features of great board books include: vocabulary words, touchy-feely textures that stimulate sensory awareness, and sturdy pages. Our most popular series of board books is the “That’s Not My. . ." books. These board books are fun, colorful and full of sensory opportunities to help your little ones grow!

Toddlers can also benefit from Wipe-Clean books, Muddle and Match books, and Paper creating books. Does your child want enjoy farm animals sounds? How about cooking lesson books? A quiet puzzle book? Or a realxing coloring books? Usborne Books has something for every age and hobby in their online catalog.

Check out these great baby and toddler books and comment below with which one stood out to you most! You can also earn an extra entry by commenting on this video - you'll learn about even more amazing books to help your babies and toddlers learn.

Can't wait for the results of the giveaway? Books can be purchased via the following link:

February 25, 2017

Giveaway with Usborne Books (Pt 2)

If you followed my last post, you know that we"ll be talking about Usborne's amazing books in a four part series. Follow along with each post to earn more entries into the book giveaway! Your kids will love everything in their online catalog - good luck!

The older my kids get, the more they want to touch and hold and handle everything.
Toddlers always say, "No mommy, I do it myself!"
My first introduction to Usborne books were their detailed sticker books. A couple years ago I ordered a Princess Sticker book and a Nativity scene sticker book as Christmas gifts. I was excited to see how detailed the stickers were, since they matched the page designs exactly. The little activities like dressing the characters and building the castle made the sticker books turn into activity books. Super fun for kids (and mommies.)

A few months ago I met Ruth, a Usborne book representative. Simon was playing with her book display at a fundraiser extravaganza and fell in love with a dinosaur sticker book. (Obviously, that book came home with us.) And now, I'm happy to announce that Ruth is sponsoring my next giveaway!! Woo-hoo!
Ruth is also contributing on the blog, and over the next four posts, she'll describe all the fun ways that Usborne books can enrich your family. These amazing books are not only educational and fun, but they are quality-made inexpensive items. Durable books that don't cost a fortune? A parent's dream come true, right?

Keep reading Ruth's helpful tips below and enter the Rafflecopter to win free books!


Do you have a hands-on learner? How about one that loves stickers? Sometimes those stickers can just drive mom crazy, but did you know that they are educational and GOOD for your kids? What?!?
Sticker books help kids develop fine motor skills, sorting skills, visual discrimination, counting skills, one-to-one correspondence, and language development. All that in a sticker book! Who loves sticker books?

Perfect for school age kids and their emerging hobbies!

My kids played with the "Under the Sea" sticker book for months. It was perfect for quiet time while the baby napped.

Usborne Books & More also carries a unique series of books called Wind-up and Pull-Back books! These are unique, fun and great for learning! Did you know winding up a toy strengthens your pincer muscles in your hand? These muscles are vital for developing strong fine motor skills required for writing and scissor skills. These books are also chock full of directional vocabulary such as “along,” “around,” and “besides.” If you would like to see these fun books in action, check out this short video. Plus, there is actually action. These books have moving parts - in the video you'll see a pirate ship actually sailing the ocean (in a book!) Amazing right?

Do you have a child that likes to draw? Create? Needs assistance with developing fine motor skills while learning their ABCs and 123s? Have you ever struggled to keep your kids busy on a plane, in the car, or while you are waiting for an appointment, lessons or at a restaurant? Usborne Books & More will entertain your child, electronics free! Watch this video to learn more about all Usborne has to offer your busy little ones, and earn an entry into the giveaway. Let me know which book you think they'd like the best.

Cab't wait for the giveaway to end? Found a book your kids would love to play with? Books can be purchased via the following link:

Have you fallen in love yet? Are there more books on your wish-list than your budget will allow? My hostesses earn free books as their hostess rewards! I even throw in extra freebies. Would you like to have a fun evening by hosting a Facebook Party and getting FREE books? Comment below with your e-mail address for an additional 10 points!

February 21, 2017

Giveaway with Usborne Books & More!

Now that my oldest kiddo is in Kindergarten, we are reading lots and lots of books!
His little brain seems to be booming with new knowledge, and I love seeing him soak up new words like a sponge. Luckily, we have a growing book collection to keep him interested in reading. We inherited books from cousins, and we add to our kid collection frequently. Books for Christmas! Books for birthdays! Books for holidays! Books just because they were on sale! I am so happy that Simon loves to read, and his little sisters follow his example. They all love books.

A few months ago I met Ruth, a Usborne book representative. Simon was playing with her book display at a fundraiser extravaganza and fell in love with a dinosaur sticker book. (Obviously, that book came home with us.) And now, I'm happy to announce that Ruth is sponsoring my next giveaway!! Woo-hoo!

Ruth is also contributing on the blog, and over the next four posts, she'll describe all the fun ways that Usborne books can enrich your family. These amazing books are not only educational and fun, but they are quality-made inexpensive items. Durable books that don't cost a fortune? A parent's dream come true, right?
Keep reading Ruth's helpful tips below and enter the Rafflecopter to win free books!


Without a doubt, Usborne Publishing is best known for Books for the Brain! So much time and research goes into ensuring that our books are engaging and informative and help kids love to learn.
Tip: If you have a reluctant reader, try giving them non-fiction. It can change his or her whole attitude towards reading, improve their reading abilities, and fuel their curiosity. I was amazed to see how they affected my daughter. At 6 years old, she started reading Usborne's Beginners series and loved them so much she declared that they were better than fairy tales! What did I do? I bought her more, and she devoured all of them!

My daughter's next obsession were our flap books! Flap books involve children in the reading experience and encourage participation.  Lifting flaps also develops fine motor skills, prediction, and encourages the use of language. Watch this short video to determine which flap books are best your kiddos.

Books for all age groups! These three books would fascinate my 2yr old, my 4yr old, and my 5 yr old.

Shine-A-Light books are some of Usborne Books & More’s best sellers. No wonder! Use a flashlight to reveal hidden pictures, and your kiddos are hooked!  Would you like to see how these gems work? Check out this short video to learn more.

We love our Shine-A-Light book about airplanes!

There are so many other amazing book categories to help your children love reading and learning.
Animal lovers. . .
Future astronauts. . . 
Little chefs. . .
For a great over view of the other types of non-fiction books that Usborne Books & More carries, checkout this video. Which of these books would rock your kiddos’ world?


Can't wait for the results of the giveaway to enrich your family with amazing books?
Books can be purchased via the following link:

Keep following along, as this is Part One of a four part series. Ruth will teach us more about the benefits of reading in each post. Did you enter the giveaway? Good luck. and tell your friends!

February 15, 2017

Easy Valentine's Day Decorations

Our kids were so excited to celebrate Valentine's Day. They weren't old enough to expect candy and cards, but they knew it was a day about love. They were excited to spread kindness and love to their friends and family! A few weeks ago, we bought felt envelopes at Hobby Lobby to get into the valentines mood. After each kid decorated an envelope with felt hearts, they drew pictures for each other. Every now and then, they would add another drawing inside someone's envelope, so little love surprises would be found. Cute, right?

Once it was finally February, I added a few more decor items around the house. The red heart was only $1, and I painted on the "Hello" and flowers. My original plan was to hang the heart outside, so we sealed it to protect it from rain, but then I changed my mind and placed it on the mantle.

My outside porch wall wasn't draped in mounds of red or pink, but I still liked it bright cheery message. A friend made the chalkboard sign for me last year, and I thought its cheery, yellow presence would brighten up our cloudy post-winter weather. The flowers for the wreath were wrapped in a couple strands of fishing wire to keep the wind from destroying their look. I wanted our outside porch wall to be reayd for Spring, without having to change too much after February 14th.

For the big V-Day itself, we cut out paper hearts and taped them around the family room. Easy-peasy and perfect for our Little Kid Valentine's Day party. The afternoon of February 14th was enjoyed by 20ish kids (ages 0-4) and their awesome mommas. One Dad came to join the fun too! With a houseful of little ones, I figured paper hearts would be the most kid-friendly way to color up the room. Grace drew a bunch of snowmen on her hearts, and Ruby scribbled. The paper hearts did their job and lovied-up the room.

Can you tell we're remodeling? There's always a project happening in this house!

A simple "love" sing on the chalkboard and some roses completed my decorating.

For Valentine's Day morning, I arranged all their felt envelopes around their chairs, filled with chocolate goodies. I added the yellow roses, but my amazing husband added the pink roses as a surprise for our daughters. The story goes like this: 
Yesterday in the car, Grace told me she wanted flowers from Daddy. Then, before bedtime I casually mentioned it to Johnny, mostly to describe how much she loved her dad. When I came into the kitchen the next morning to start a special Valentine's Day breakfast, Johnny was arranging roses in vases for all his girls.
He woke up an hour early and drove through the rain to honor Grace's request.
I'm so grateful to have a husband who loves us all so much.

You can see his pink roses on the table in our breakfast picture. I'm pretty sure chocolate was 95% of their breakfast intake. Lunch was a spattering of cookies and brownies and party candy. Dinner was heart-shaped pizza and salad, but the kids didn't eat too much since they pounded suckers before Dad came home from work.
The whole day was a rush of treats and friends and flowers and hugs and "I love yous." Valentine's Day with four kids might not be super romantic or glitzy, especially on a Tuesday, but I definitely felt loved. So life is good!

February 4, 2017

Baby Laughs are the Best!

I promise this will be the best 30 seconds of your day.
There's nothing cuter than baby laughs!

I was folding laundry in the bedroom when I heard baby Mary cracking up. When I peeked in the kitchen I saw her siblings all fawning over her with giggles. I sneakily got the camera to catch the action. Although they saw me with the camera, everyone kept on acting goofy. I love these funny moments. This little baby is definitely loved by her older siblings.
And never mind my messy kitchen - I blame home remodeling projects and lunchtime shenanigans.


100th Day of School T-Shirt Ideas

The 100th Day of School!!!!
We made it this far, and we're so much closer to summertime!
Our Simon has been counting the days this week until the 100th day of kindergarten, and I was excited to help him make his very first 100th Day of School t-shirt. I remember gluing pennies onto a shirt when I was in elementary school - which I loved, except for the heavy weight of the shirt afterwards. So, Simon and I came up with another idea that used weightless permanent fabric markers.

We dubbed it the "Dot Rod" shirt since we used 100 dots to trace a Hot Rod. (Car loving genes run thick in this family!) Our first step was to print out a hot rod picture with a sideways profile. Then we taped the car cut-out to his shirt.

 I really wanted to let him do the dots on his own, but he kept meandering away from the car. . . so I held the fabric marker with him while he colored the dots. I was so proud of him! He counted all the way to 100 with only a couple mistakes. My smart, little Kindergartner!


After the outline was traced, Dad helped him trace the wheels. Then Simon drew on the flames and racing stripes. Instead of writing "Hot Wheels" onto the shirt, I added "School" to better match the 100th Day of School theme. Finally, Dad added the checkered flag and his name to make it an official racing "dot rod."

T-Shirt success!

In honor of this wonderful school celebration, I'll include some of my favorite t-shirt ideas from across the web. If you have another favorite idea for 100th Day of School T-shirts, leave me a comment and tell me all about it! Enjoy!

My son sang this Pete the Cat song for days! What a super cute idea from Pinterest.

Kids could easily make this tally shirt from Really Quite Lucky

Use Puff Paint to make this cute Pin from Pinterest.

skittle tie
I love the tie idea, which could use Skittles, Poms, or beads. From South Short Mamas

Use stickers to display your kiddo's favorite sport! Easy idea (plus more!) from Live Craft Love.

More ideas? Let me know in the comments.

January 26, 2017

Truly Effective Self-Care

Earlier this month I gave a presentation on self-care for the ladies at church. Before I left the house that night, my husband asked what topic I would discuss. When I answered self -care, he asked, "What in the world does that mean?" I laughed and tried to explain that self-care is like me-time, but not the selfish me-time, the effective-at-helping-you-feel-better-me-time. I think he was still a bit confused when I left the house. At church, my 15 minute presentation turned into a 40 minute presentation due to all the wonderful input from my audience. (I'm glad I have such wise friends!)

When you think of the word self-care, you probably think about the adjectives rejuvenating, refreshing, and confidence-building. Done correctly, self-care becomes a wonderful addition to your weekly routine: Frazzled mom turns into calm mom, stressed out spouse turns into collected spouse, etc. You get the picture. But in order for self-care to actually be refreshing, you first need to determine the reason why you need to care for yourself.

Think about this example:
Sally is crazy upset at her friend Joanna. Because Sally is upset, she finds she is more snarky with her family and is stomping around the house. She recalls hearing about the benefits of taking a nice, long bath. So after the kids go to bed, Sally takes a nice, long bath where she keeps stewing over why Joanna is a horrible friend. After her bath she still feels tense and angry - but why? The relaxing bath didn't help Sally feel better because she tried to self-care without self-understanding.

Caring for yourself = Knowing yourself

Truly effective self-care can only restore you to your "happy place" if you take the time to understand yourself. Honestly and genuinely reflect on yourself. Discover what you are feeling deep down. That's why self-care lists can be difficult - everybody needs a personalized self-care regimen. Self-care can include taking a long bath, calling a friend, or getting a pedicure, but remember that effective self-care restores you to your happy place. If that pedicure doesn't help you move towards joy, it's not really self-care, it's just something fun.

Self-care has one purpose - to care for your body: your physical body, your spirit, your nutrition, and/or your social life. Emotions are one powerful way to gain insight into your self-care needs. If you find that you have migrated outside your happy place, then recognizing which emotion(s) pulled you away helps you discover the road back. You don't need to build a house on Frustration Avenue - analyze yourself and then drive back to your happy home.

Example #1:

You find out that some friends had a lunch date - without you. As you analyze your anger, sadness, and hurt at being left out, you realize the root of every feeling is loneliness. You realize that you've been so busy the last couple weeks that you've missed out on social time. At this point, it's easy to create the road map to your happy place. You schedule some play dates, invite a family over for dinner, and bam! After a few days, you are back at your happy place!

Example #2:

Things keep going wrong throughout the day, and you feel stretched in every responsibility. Nothing seems to be operating at 100%, and it's sooo frustrating. After some deep thought, you realize you are simply doing too much, and you are exhausted. You need more sleep. You decide to turn off all your techie devices after dinnertime and go to sleep by 10:00pm. After a few days, you feel confident again that you can handle whatever life throws at you. Feelings of peace return. Hello happy place!

Self-care requires some thought and some action, but the reward is worth the effort!
It's more than simple me-time; it's refreshing and restorative.

How do you deeply analyze how you are feeling?
How do you figure out which emotional roads you are traveling down?

Try working through emotions on a piece of paper.
Write down a simple sentence like, "I feel ________ because _________."
Then write another sentence like, "And that bothers me because I __________."
Keep it going. . .
"And that reminds me of _______ which hurts because _________."
Keep digging deeper until an emotion becomes the base.
"I'm not _____, I'm really just feeling ____________."

Once you have your root emotion, you know which road took you away from your happy place. Make a plan to return home, and follow through with your plan. Living life in your happy place is awesome. The more you come to understand yourself, the quicker you be able to catch yourself heading down the road of a negative emotion. The sooner you recognize that, the sooner you can return to your happy place. It takes time to develop this emotional intuition, and practicing effective self-care will strengthen your ability to truly know yourself.

Good luck with finding your personally effective self-care!
Leave me a comment with what works for you.

January 23, 2017

Why I Will Never March For Feminism

Recent marches in our nation's Capitol and around the country this weekend really got under my skin. I originally wrote a rebuke to the modern day feminist movement, but I deleted it. My words were not kind, and my censure was scathingly long. In hindsight, I compressed my original thoughts down to this theme - I cannot support modern day feminists. Historical figures have my gratitude but not the women who call themselves feminist leaders today.

The anger, the greed, the entitlement, the rage against everything - it deeply bothers me.
The berating, the swearing, the middle finger waving, the vulgarity - it offends me.
The praising of violence and destruction of property - it concerns me.
The constant comparing and offense taking over insignificant things - it annoys me.

Today's feminism is not about equality - it's about superiority.
Today's feminism is not about kindness - it's crude.
Today's feminists don't want to be on the same level as men - they want to squash men under their heels (or comfortable ballet flats.)

Instead, I support womanhood.
I would love to someday march for kindness, patience, and trust. The time for gentle strength has not passed. Women will always exert the ability to shape the world. I choose to identify with the influential religious leader who explained womanhood this way:
"Femininity is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your … capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each … possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty.”

Because I am female, it is easier for me to see the good in the world, to trust my ability to be an influence for good in the world, and to teach my children that good exists!

I echo the words of Margaret D. Nadauld, a previous leader of one of the world's largest organizations for young women. She counseled:
"The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity."

I choose finding joy in womanhood.
I will still change the world.
But I will never be a modern feminist.
I will never march down the streets, screaming profanities, and hypocritically calling for peace while inciting outrage. I will not choose to be offended at every turn. I will not throw a toddler-like temper tantrum because I don't get my way. I hope to never be a nasty woman. Instead, I will find fulfillment in womanhood, with all its beautiful gifts of intuition, kindness, patience, sensitivity, and gentle persuasion.

The world is full of humans, and so it will never be perfect. But there are better ways to feed the hungry, empower the downtrodden, and raise our spirits than to embrace the prejudiced feminist movement of victim-hood. I can teach tolerance in my home. I can share my blessings with others. I can raise my children to show love and generosity. I can seek out the lovely aspects of our world and celebrate that goodness.

To modern day feminists, I implore - don't make me ashamed to be a woman. Your rage does not define me, and your anger will not fulfill you. Let it go, and come back to the table as compassionate adults, not whiny toddlers. That's how we save the world. That's true woman power.

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