Steppin’ Out With Mah Girls

Me: all Gap Outlet.  really.  head to toe.

Eddie: shirt-carters; pants- osh kosh

Today was needed.

Today I was restored as a girl.  As a friend.  As an individual.

And the ironic thing?  I so didn’t want to go.

This ridiculous depression that has taken over my brain had convinced me that I would not have fun, that it was going to suck away family time, that I would be miserable.

I am so SOO glad I did not give in to that.

This morning I got up on time (after a lovely Ambien-induced GOOD night’s sleep), showered, got dressed in something other than yoga pants and a hoodie, and headed out to meet my friend, Whitney.

Together, she and I traveled to Lansing to meet our other four girl friends with whom we went to college.

The six of us shared lettuce wraps and kid stories at PF Changs.

We laughed and reminisced about tattoos and living arrangements over manicures and pedicures.

We shared stories from the front lines of pregnancy and parenting while sipping coffees and munching cookies.

We realized that this summer will be the wrap up of two “rounds” of us each hosting an annual get together for us and our spouses/families. That means this is the TWELFTH year we have had a “reunion”.

We absorbed the fact that counting the two buns in the oven Erin and Tara are baking?  We will have 12 kids total between us making the kid to adult ratio equal this summer.

Today was lovely.

I laughed genuinely.

I shared freely.

I put away my misgivings (which proved to be futile and false).

I did become incredibly tired, but I was able to push through it instead of cripple under it.

Today I listened to my friends…instead of being too inside my own head.

And even though I am totally spent tonight?

I am happy.  I feel like a good friend.

And I have cute nails.

This post is part of Harper’s Happenings’ Steppin’ Out Saturday.

Thank you to Whitney, Tara, Erin, Kimmy, and Kristin for a wonderful, needed day.  This day came exactly when I needed it.  Your friendship is appreciated more than you can possibly know.

Secret Mommyhood Confession

Ok…it’s not Saturday, but I am giving you my confession anyway…

This is not how I expected life as a family to be.

I know, lame confession, right?  I mean…who DOES expect what they get (ok, some of you probably have exactly what you thought was coming. I am not that prophetic).

Anyway…what is going on around me?  Not what I pictured.

Not in a whiney way…but not in a totally super way either.

It’s just…different.

Growing up, I had a mom who was supermom.  She won’t admit that, but now that I am a mom?  I know she was.

As a kid, I figured that was what being a mom would be.

She stayed home for the first part of our childhood.  She was (um…IS) an excellent cook–a homemade meal was on the table 5 days a week.

Our house was ALWAYS clean.  I don’t ever remember toy messes lasting long.  When we were done with one thing, I got picked up and put away.  At the time we were done.  Not minutes before bed.  And certainly NEVER EVER left out over night.

She did a full house clean every Saturday.  FULL HOUSE CLEAN.  dusting, vacuuming, floor scrubbing (on hands and knees), bathroom cleaning, sheet changes on every bed every other Saturday, and windows in nice weather.

She did laundry EVERY DAY.

Then she went back to school and back to work.

And nothing changed at home.  At least to me?  As a kid?  Nothing changed.

As I got older, I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I knew I would be a working mom.

I assumed my husband would also be working.

But somehow?  I figured the house would get cleaned and picked up and a good family meal would be served each night.

I did not expect…

My kid to see that I had no idea what I was doing…and distrust me for it.

To be so tired after work that I would rather eat McDonald’s that put for the effort to put a meal on the table.

My husband to be laid off from work…and then be out of work for over a year (thanks, stupid economy).

My husband to be back in school.

To be the main bread winner for the family.

To be battling depression and anxiety.

To have such a cute, lovable little boy that sometimes it makes me cry.

To be so damn unsure of myself in every. single. area of my life.

This:

the destruction that is our living room

the danger zone that is my kitchen floor

The mess that is my island

Every. Single. Surface has been hit by hurricane Ed

...Or Hurricane Life

I didn’t expect this either:

the working mom Suzy Homemaker

after a long day of work, I throw on my apron (thanks, Tonya!!) and mix up some corn muffins to go with the meal that has been plupping away in the crock pot.

I didn’t expect to rely on my husband so much to get household chores done and to get the groceries and to be the primary caretaker.

This was not what I imagined.

But in most ways?  I wouldn’t change it either.

This is how we are.  It’s how we are getting through life.

And if that means Cort is changing poopy pantses and I am making corn muffins in a skirt and boots?

Well, then that is how it is for Sluiter Nation right now.

Tune in Tuesday for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday:  The Top Ten favorite blog posts…of my own!  I encourage you to participate and link up…it is like giving a little tour of your blog to people..and I am excited to read what your favorite posts are of your own.

Also?  There is a SWEET GIVEAWAY going on at my book blog, Katie’s Bookcase!  It’s a book to help keep the little ones busy…which is a MUST HAVE this time of year!  Please join in!

My Mother’s Hands

I seem to spend a lot of time looking at my hands.

I see them out of my peripheral vision as they fly across the computer keys, but I really see them when I need to pause and think about my next words.

I rest them flatly on the keyboard when I am thinking.

And I look at my hands.

And I think about her hands.

My mother’s hands.

Her hands are not tiny and delicate.  She does not have neatly manicured nails.

My moms hands are rough.  Soft, but rough with work.

They have spent countless hours in bleach and lysol and and dishwater.

They have pruned up while scrubbing baby fingers and toes.

She has cut and packaged steaks and burger and roasts that were destined for someone else’s dinner plate.

She has folded countless loads of laundry and smoothed many sheets across beds.

They are the hands of someone who knows hard work.

Though our family is not full of hugs, she has never been stingy with loving touches.  Her fingers would glide over my arm in church; her hand across my baby brother’s tiny toddler back while he watched TV; her palms would cup my younger brother’s small hand while she read him a story.

Those hands held the books that incited my love affair with words.  They pulled and brushed my straight, blond hair into pony tails. They picked up fuzzies and hairs off my shirts to keep me looking just right.

Her blunt fingers strung needles and bobbins that made clothes for my dolls and the blankie I slept with each night.

She has wrinkley, thin hands.

They are not pretty.

They are beautiful.

My own hands rest on my computer keys.

The nails are short because longer nails click funny on my keyboard.

My knuckles are wrinkled and the veins are visible on the palms and tops of my hands, and small lines are beginning to etch themselves permanent homes everywhere.

Like my mom, there is a permanent indention where I wear my wedding band.  The difference is that hers is so much deeper, much more…there.  Mine is still a beginning.

They have washed dishes for other people.

They have handled hot parts off a paint line.

They have smoothed paper and photographs into countless albums.

They have flipped through countless essays and tests and quizzes and journal entries.

And there on my right middle finger is the large callous made by many years of pen to paper.

Now those hands aren’t wielding highlighters or pens or pencils.  Not as often.

More frequently they run across computer keys.

But they also bathe baby limbs…

and scrub floors…

and put toys back in their temporary put away position…

and wipe and wipe and wipe and wipe and wipe…

and trace the outline of a little boy’s face while he sleeps.

They are not pretty…

but they are my mother’s hands.
I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

A Letter at 18

Dear Eddie,

As I write this you are playing near me.  You are throwing your giant, red bouncy ball aggressively at your small, orange bouncy ball watching with delight (and much chirping) as they bounce amok off of each other.  And just like that you have lost interest and are now chucking a small soccer ball against the island as hard as you can.

This is our life with an 18 month old.

I could have never dreamed that this is what my life would be like or what you would be like when you were kicking away in my tummy.

You are one of the happiest boys ever.  You make everyone you meet smile–even the grumpiest of old ladies gives you a flirty grin when she sees your scrunchy little smile.

You are becoming such a little man.  You can run and jump better than most 18 month-olds, but you still don’t say any words to us.  While you understand everything…and I mean EVERYTHING…we tell you or ask of you, you still respond with chirps, pointing, and some sign language.  And you are totally content with it.

You love to point out anything that has the “ooo” sound:  moon, balloon, cows (they are “moo’s” to you).  You are starting to point at letters and numbers as well and make the “uuunn” sound like you’re counting “one…”.  Stacking blocks, playing with puzzles, and pushing any sort of button that results in noise are your favorite things.

You also love, LOVE, LOVE music.  You could dance and play to music all day long.  You always responded to music when you were “on the inside”, but I could never have imagined how much joy it would bring you on the outside.  This is such a blessing for your daddy and I because we love music too!  When we play Pearl Jam concerts you even clap along with the audience!

In many ways you are so much like your daddy.  You are thoughtful and curious.  You would rather investigate a toy fully before you play with it, even if it means destroying it.  You love to know what makes things work.  You also like to rough house and play outside.  Your favorite toys are the things you see daddy or i use every day.  Outside you love to have daddy’s golf club and ball; inside you love to empty out my baking utensils.

You are also very much like me. You love books and cuddling up to watch TV or read.  You love to be the center of attention and make everyone laugh.  In fact, you are quite a little ham.

However our similarities can be problematic sometimes.  You and I are both quickly frustrated when something (anything) doesn’t go our way.  And that includes people doing (or not doing) what we expect of them.  This causes you and I to butt heads frequently.  I am doing my best to teach you how a loving adult deals with frustrated feelings, but often I fall short.  I hope you can learn how to be cool-headed from your daddy.  He is much better at it than I am.

However, no matter how many ringers you and I go through, we always end the day together, in the rocker in your room, peacefully rocking.

You are so very cuddley.  When you are sad, hurt, tired, or just in need of a hug, I am the one you come to first.  Rocking you and having you hold me tight with one arm and your lamby with the other makes my heart swell with happiness and peace.

Eddie, my arms will always be open for you.  I need you to know that.  No matter how hurt, tired, or scared you are, you need to know that you always have someone you can turn to.  I will always, ALWAYS love you.  I will always, ALWAYS have a hug for you.

You will always be my miracle.  You were the “third time’s the charm” baby.  You were the one who decided to stick with me and my shoddy mom body.

Even though I needed supplements to keep things nice for you in there;

even though you decided to be sunny-side up;

even though I grew you to a whopping 9.5 lbs;

even though your head is massive;

even though you had to be taken C-section;

even though you had mad colic;

even though I had mad PPD/A;

even through all the tough times, you stuck.  And i stuck.  And daddy stuck.

We are a family.

And you are 18 months old today.

I love you more today than yesterday or the day before.  In fact, I love you to the “moooooo” and back, my Edward Bear.

And just so we never forget the joy of your smile or the love in your laugh…

“We worry what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” ~Stacia Tauscher

we have friends…

we have friends…

whom we have known for about 20 years…

that we went to middle school, high school, and college with…

who were with us at our first concerts…

who searched high and low for the rare concert “bootleg” cd in all the record stores…

who now live all over the country from west to east to north to south…

who have seen us cry…

who have been in our wedding…

whom we can be silly with…

who have held and loved our child…

who have held and loved us…

whom we have visited…

who come to visit us…

thanks for covering up my new mom boobs.

whom we only see once or twice a year instead of every single day like in the good old days…

who we miss before we even leave them…

damn, i love these girls.

i am so lucky we were able to be together this Thanksgiving.

And So…

you know that dream where you are chased, but your legs feel thick and won’t move?

or how about the one where you need to scream because either you or someone else is in danger, but nothing but some forced air comes out?

what about the one where you forgot something, lost something, need something and it is nowhere…impossible to grasp?

I have these dreams all the time.

But worse?  I feel like this during my days.  During my waking moments.

I didn’t know how to talk about this.  I just didn’t know what to say.

But it’s been on my heart.   So I wanted to write about it.

It has been “right behind my eyes” as my friend, Adrienne, would say.  So I HAD to write about it.

But I have been struggling.  Then I read this by my wonderful friend, Nichole.  She describes this feeling as “trying to hold tightly to water.”  YES.

And I read this, by Tiffany.  She describes the overwhelming anxiety of what “could” happen as time passes.  YES.

These posts that these women have written are the tip of the iceberg for me.

I toss and turn at night with feelings and images of me not keeping up.

During the day I grasp at time.  I try to halt it.

Where is the time going?  It’s such a cliche question, but it is one that plagues me.

Time takes things and people away.

I am told that time heals all wounds, but I don’t believe it.

I have wounds that are far from healed.

Time?  Is a thief.  Time steals people from me.

Time took my father-in-law.  It took my grandmother.  It is taking my grandpa.

Time is taking my baby and all his cuddles and giggles.

It will take my parents and my husband some day.

Time is taking my friends.  While I struggle to keep all things around me in orbit, my friends have slowly moved away.  They are still with each other, but apart from me.

I am angry at them.  But really it’s my own fault.  But I am tired of everything being “my own fault”.

My overworked self.  My fault.

Not spending enough time with Eddie.  My fault.

Not being the wife I could be in SO many areas.  My fault.

Not having time to respond to emails or comments or people I love.  My fault.

Everything is from choices I made.

I am struggling to hold water.  Water that I chose to try to grasp.

Everything is slipping away from me because you can’t hold water unless you have a vessel.  And I am not sure if I ever had a vessel.

Sounds like the ramblings of a crazy woman?  Yeah, I think so too.

But here is the catch.  I understand that everyone goes through this.  I have a logically sound mind that gets all that.  But I can’t help not FEELING the logic.

I know the logic.  I can’t feel the logic.

This is where I feel my therapy sometimes fails me.  I can nod along and understand that I need to say no to things, I need to realize everyone goes through this, and I need to not worry about things I can’t control.  I get it and feel ok about it while I am sitting there in that chair.

But the very next day?  The fear and terror and dreamlike feelings come flooding back.

The feeling that everything is on the precipice of falling apart.

The want to hold my little boy tightly in this minute–suspended forever in time.

The closeness of being young and healthy with my husband–never changing.

Because of this overwhelming anxiety, I am in a constant state of annoyed.  I isolate myself from everything.  It’s not fair to my colleagues or my students.  It’s not fair to my friends.  It’s not fair to my family.  It’s not fair to me.

I KNOW THIS.

So how do I overcome it?  What do I do?

The anxiety was there before the postpartum depression, but it has gotten worse.

I don’t just worry about deadlines and failing students anymore.

I worry about death.  I worry about the time slipping away.  I worry about something happening to someone I love.

Because as I get older?  All that stuff becomes much more plausible and real.

I have lost people.  It happens.  And as we get older it happens more.

I don’t want it to, though.  I don’t feel like I can handle it.

And so I am anxious.

And so I get depressed.

And so…

Do I hit publish on this?  If you are reading this, I guess I did.

Please don’t forget about all the discounts that are available on my Top Ten post from this week. Since I am hitting publish on this train wreck of a post, I may as well remind you that the ladies who are offering the discounts are super awesome and are a great source for holiday shopping!  And the discounts?  Won’t last forever!  They expire next week!  So go support handmade goods!

Is This Thing On?

The auditorium is completely dark.
The audience sits in anticipation.
There is shuffling of feet.  A cough.  A few sniffles.
Everyone waits, unsure as to why they are even here in the first place.
And then?  A single spotlight shines on the stage illuminating what appears to be a soapbox.
From off stage, I walk slowly and climb up carefully onto the soapbox.
I tape the microphone that is set up for me…
Um.  Hi.  Is this thing on?
Um, like I said.  Hi.
I don’t usually use this platform for soapbox speeches, but I feel compelled today, so I thank you all for being here.
I need to talk about teen pregnancy today.
There is a lot of the pregnant going on in the teen world.  And I am not Ok with it.
In fact, I am all kinds of upset about it.  Remember, I am a teacher.  I am witnessing 14 year olds becoming parents.
FOURTEEN YEAR OLD CHILDREN HAVING CHILDREN.
Sorry, I had to yell that because that is what I am dealing with.  How do I respond to these students?  Huh? What do i say?
I’m sorry?
Bummer, dude?
Congratulations?
Holy ham sandwiches?
So I just give them a shocked look.  Although I don’t think that helps anyone.
And then of course they ask me tons of questions because they know I have a toddler.  I don’t mind sharing (you all know that), but really?  Why are they not asking their MOMS?
I try to let these girls know how sad it is to have to give up your childhood at 14.  I didn’t give mine up until 31 (some would say I am still holding it close).  My most crazy and fun time was my 20’s!  they won’t have that!  they will have have high schooler before they are thirty.
How did this happen?  I thought I had it figured out.  I thought it was just the girls who came from homes where no one was educating them or talking to them or monitoring what they were doing.
But then I heard of other pregnancies.  Of ones from kids whose parents I KNOW talk to them and expect college and academic success from.  Who have high standards, but not impossibly high standards.
So what is it?  Why did I not end up a teen mom, but these girls are?
I tried to think about how my parents talked to me…um, they didn’t.  I don’t remember one solitary conversation about respecting my body or to not do anything that could get me pregnant.
I vaguely remember a trip to the library when my youngest brother was “in the oven” about how babies get in and out of mommies’ tummies.
I remember my parents being skeptical of boys.
I remember purity crap they tried to feed us in school and church because they weren’t allowed to talk about any other prevention.  I also remember girls getting pregnant with that purity promise on their finger.
Why? What is the difference between the success stories and the teen moms?
Luck?
I can tell you my not getting pregnant was not luck.  I somehow had it ingrained in me that I was better than that.  That I was worth more than that.  I didn’t have a ton of self-confidence or self-esteem.  I was mocked relentlessly in middle school for acne problems, but even when the boys started noticing me in high school?  I never gave in.  I dated, but I didn’t make babies.
Why?
I don’t have an answer to that.
But I wish I did. I wish I knew what to say to those girls I teach to make them know they have so many options other than that guy.
I want to be able to teach Eddie NOT to pressure girls or to BE pressured by girls (let’s face it, they are as much to blame as the dudes.  Girls are not just innocent victims here).
I want him to respect all people’s bodies including his own.  Look but don’t touch.
How do I do this?
And then back to my current problem…how do I show these girls support without condoning what has been done?
If I help them out and get all their work together and ask them how they are feeling, I get accused of supporting what has happened to them.
If I show any sort of hint of disapproval, I am accused of being all judgey and cold.
I feel sorry for these girls.  I want better for them.  But I feel sorry for those babies too.  Is this going to be a cycle?  Are they going to grow up lacking some sort of self-awareness or self-esteem too?
Or maybe that is not even it.  I know girls who got pregnant in high school and they love their life and everything is great.  And they wouldn’t change it.
But…
I still see teen pregnancy as a problem. I do.
Does this make me bad and judgey?
But I want to help those who get pregnant succeed.
Does this make me condone teen shenanigans?
Help!
I want to fix this problem.
Because, yes.  it is a problem.  Teen pregnancy is a HUGE FLIPPING PROBLEM! And so is not knowing how to handle it!
And you know what?  I am going to flip it off for my Friday Flip-offs.
Whew.  There.
Thank you for listening to this rant.  I needed to get that out.
I nod one last time at the audience and then cautiously climb off the soapbox.
I turn one final time unsure of which way to exit.
I smile sheepishly and trot quickly off stage.
The spotlight is cut.
There is a pause.  And then?
Applause.

Kludgy Mom is the brainchild behind the flip-offs and Momma Kiss has been hosting the link up.  Go forth and read the vents.

A Tale of Two Weddings

I think it’s pretty easy to get sort of jaded by the sheer number of weddings we go to at this point in our lives.

I mean, I have been a bridesmaid seven times now.  I’ve been the personal attendant a handful of times, and the mistress of ceremonies once.  I’ve been a matron of honor and a flower girl.

Most of my friends are now all married.

Lots of my family members are married.

Before my own wedding, going to other people’s weddings was a time to take notes.  I was too busy focusing on flowers and colors and bridemaid dresses and favors to really get into what weddings actually mean.

But in the past three months, two of my cousins got married.  And both weddings caused me to pause and think.

In July, my cousin, Jeff married Cris.  Jeff is older than most grooms.  Cris already has teenagers from a previous marriage.  This wedding touched my heart for a number of reasons.

Jeff used to babysit me.  I can still remember him coming over to our house as a teenager.  He was so cool with his pretty girlfriends and his rock music.

And then he just kept on not getting married.  We all love Jeff very much and wanted to see him happy.  I kept insisting that if not getting married was making him happy, then so be it.

But then there was Cris.  She came into his life, they live together, and they are married now.

Jeff is a husband and a stepdad.  And it is awesome.

So we got excited about it!  The wedding was beautiful, but the reception?  Was a celebration!

My family really knows how to come together and celebrate!  We do NOT hold back!

And this past weekend, we had another cousin get married.

My cousin Kelli is just a youngster.  She and Joe have the same story many of us have.  Meet, fall in love, have a romantic proposal, a year-or so-long engagement, and a gorgeous traditional wedding.

During the ceremony, I glanced down at both of my brothers.  They are both very much in love.  One happily married and the other happily almost married with a little boy.  Between my little cousin who I used to babysit getting married, and both of my brothers all happy in love, my heart was about bursting.

We again were celebrating.  This young couple at the very start of their life together.  It was beautiful and fun.

I absolutely love my family more than I even know how to say.  I love that we all support and love each other this much.  My cousins are like my siblings.  My siblings are like…well…even closer siblings.  We all grew up together, have countless stories and memories together, and are now becoming adults together.

When more love comes into the family through marriage and children?  We are always there for each other.

And this hit me like a ton of bricks right out on the dance floor Saturday night.

I love LOVE.

I. Me.  The super jaded girl has turned all mooshy.  I used to be sure love was just “settling down with someone for the rest of your life.”

But looking at both of these couples?  I realize how great it is to have someone by your side.  Not just through the fun celebrations (like the wedding), but through the hard stuff.

I watched Kelli and Joe goof around and enjoy their night.  Cort and I remembered fondly about our night.

And in my head I thought, “what I didn’t know then…”

But I didn’t finish the thought.

Because it wouldn’t have mattered.  I needed Cort.  And I still do.

And I am so happy that Jeff and Cris, and Kelli and Joe have each other to lean on to keep from falling…

both from laughter and from weakness and from tears and from exhaustion.

It’s good to need someone.

And it’s good to be needed.

And loved.

Fourteen Months

My Eddie Bear is now fourteen months old.  We just realized that we now can say, “at this time last year you were…” because he has been around for longer than a year!

As i was getting him dressed the other day I chuckled about the fact that at this time last year?  I almost NEVER put pants on him.  Just a onsie and socks.

Now we are lucky to GET clothes on this guy!  He tends to wiggle away and RUN when he is nude!  After a bath?  He makes a break for it!  Because playing with toys is fun, but playing with toys in the nude? Way better.

He is also getting pretty darn creative about WHERE he plays.  In fact, he can usually get himself into these spots, but has developed a most annoying WHINE when he cannot get himself out.

He is also VERY helpful.  If one of us is trying to do something, Eddie will be right there trying to help us out.  In this case, Cort was trying to fix the igniter on the gas stove.  Don’t worry, no one was blown up.

Eddie is getting unbelievably smart.  This could just be my mommy brag talking here, but what other kid would grab the muffin pan, and then promptly put each of his little peoples and their animals in each holder.  And then find a couple other toys when he realizes there are still vacancies in the muffin pan? 

Seriously though, he is all inquisitive and likes to put things where they belong (the gate by the steps is supposed to be closed.  All doors are closed.  Pillows get set on the couch. Etc). or where they will fit (anything that is small enough DOES go into the ball popper, for instance.).  He likes to figure out things like his shape sorter and his duplo blocks.

And he is still quite the eater.  He eats ONLY table food now.  Very rarely do we prepare something different for him.  (Here he is eating chicken nuggets, melon, and avocado with milk in his sippy.)  He knows when he is full and let’s us know by either threatening to toss his plate to the floor, or, if we are not paying attention, actually throwing the plate on the floor.  And then whining.

Have I mentioned the whining?  Yes, it is a new, not fun thing about 14 months.  He throws tantrums (throwing things and hitting) when he is displeased.  We are handling it pretty well trying to teach discipline by giving time outs and taking him away from certain situations.  He is strong-willed, that is for sure, but little does he know…we are MORE strong-willed.  Bwhahahaha!

Oh yes, and those curls?  Are coming in nicely, as you can see.  I think I hear Cort tell Eddie every day, “I’m sorry son.” or “someday?  You will have two choices for haircuts.  Short or Long.”  As cute and soft and lovely as they are now?  They will be Cort’s hair someday if history tells us anything.  But I am ok with that because I think it’s cute.

It’s hard not to love those chubby cheeks and that curly hair.  I probably cuddle up to that face a million times a day.  And he is giving more and more “kisses” lately too.  And he is getting some verbal communication.  He has words for Mama and Dada.  But he knows “all done” and “night night” and “nom noms” (for food).  He recognizes them when we use them and is starting to imitate them back to us.

Yes, this little guy sure is different at 14 months than he was at 2 months!  But I am getting more hugs and kisses and cuddles and chattiness, so I will take it!

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