Friday, May 30, 2008

Kleenex! I need more Kleenex!

So, guess what? I happen to work with lots of medical professionals and someone got a fancy new ultrasound machine yesterday and she came and knocked on my door (Come and knock on our dooooor! We’ve been waiting for yoooou!) and she said, “So, we have this great new machine that we want to test out and you’re pregnant and hey, do you want to see your baby?”

And after .2 seconds of deliberation I jumped up and followed her downstairs, panting excitedly like a DC dog in August. Heck, I probably would have let Tom Cruise perform an ultrasound on me if he’d offered, and here was a bona fide professional!

My boy was very squirmy throughout the procedure, so it was hard to get clear shots. Can they test for hyperactivity in utero? I am really starting to wonder how he can possibly gain weight when he’s burning calories as fast as I can eat them. This morning it felt like he was practicing back flips. Which, okay, but could you just practice a softer landing? I haven’t wet my pants since I was in diapers and I don’t intend to start up again in my 30’s.

The tech just happened to place the wand right on the baby’s bits, and yes, it is definitely a boy.

We got some good profile shots. They’re similar to the ones I showed you from our last ultrasound, but his cheeks look a bit fuller now at 28 weeks.

I told them about the calcification on his liver, just so they’d know that I was already aware of it. At first they couldn’t find it, which was a relief, because at least it hadn’t spread into some completely obvious, monstrous growth. Eventually they did locate it and they took some close-up shots that I can take in to my next midwife appointment. It is actually a small cluster of three of four tiny spots, but neither professional seemed very concerned.

And then they switched to 3D mode, which was completely unexpected, and… wow. I have cried during every ultrasound- I can’t help it. But seeing his face in such detail nearly brought on Niagra Falls.

Again, he was moving a lot and also kept putting his hands over his face, so this was the best we could capture. It’s a bit distorted and his hand is covering the right side of his face… but even so, wow.



I taped it to my computer monitor at work, which means that I have been accomplishing very little ever since.

In other news, Mike and I attended our first childbirth class. I really like the instructor, and everyone in the class is a patient at my midwife collaborative. This means that no one thinks you’re a freak when you say you’re seeing midwives, have hired a doula and are planning to have a natural childbirth if all proceeds as hoped.

(for some reason, most people hear “midwife” and assume that I’m planning to give birth in a field of wildflowers while my husband beats a drum and chants at the moon)

(are you kidding? with MY allergies?)

For anyone who’s interested, my midwife group only delivers in one particular small-ish area hospital, and they are the primary caregivers during the labor and delivery. Physicians are also a part of the collaborative practice, but they’re usually not too involved unless there’s a medical need. There is always one physician and one midwife from my practice on duty at the hospital at all times.

They are very supportive of natural childbirth and doulas and letting the partners help catch the babies (if they want to) and all that. I still feel that for me, a birthing center or even a home birth would have been closer to my ideal and comfort zone, but this is a good compromise for my husband and me.

If you’re in the DC area and are interested in learning more about the practice, email me and I’ll send you their website.

Meanwhile, I’ll be staring at my son’s marvelous chin.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chincoteague Island

Our B&B, The Watson House. Highly recommended if you're planning to visit Chincoteague and you like the B&B experience. Bob and Carole Mabin are wonderful hosts.


The wrap-around porch. An important feature on my dream house.
We ate breakfast out here most mornings, around the corner.




Our room, with a wonderfully creaky wooden floor.

The reading/sun room, a little nook off the bedroom.

You know I totally played Laura Ingalls Visits a
Civilized Town
as soon as Mike left the room, right?


The wee Chincoteague library. If we moved to Chincoteague, I'd just have
to evilly pray for the librarian's untimely death if I wanted to get a job.
I'll bet her office has a view of the water!

The Roxy Theater on Main Street, a short walk from our B&B. We saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull our first night there, our first movie theater experience since Christmas. Actually, my experience consisted of sleeping through most of it, waking up here and there to see a skull that looked suspiciously like it was stuffed with Saran Wrap.
Lots of beautiful birds inhabit these marshes. The endangered squirrels hang out in the woods. We managed to avoid getting pulled over for speeding this time.


This baby was adorable. Over 300 wild ponies live along Assateague Island, which is a short drive or bike ride from Chincoteague. As we left this particular spot, a horse enthusiast said, "Good luck with your own foal!", pointing to my stomach.

On our first day there I was struck with an insuppressible urge to fly a kite. We bought a cheap one at a local store and took it to the beach. It was great fun until my kite decided to commit suicide and broke free, soaring wildly and then plunging into the ocean, beyond the breakers. Neither Mike nor I were willing to go in after it, so we just waved goodbye, feeling like no-good ocean-polluters.

Another day at the beach, bare feet planted firmly in the warm sand.
We had a little picnic lunch with some sparkling cider. Wave hello, baby!


This little dude watched us the whole time we were eating, screeching indignantly any time another bird tried to approach. He started out between us, then planted himself firmly in front of me. Just like Alex. What, do I have a tattoo on my forehead that says I'M A SUCKER FOR SAD ANIMAL EYES?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Breakfast

As promised but a bit belated, here are the recipes for the dishes I made for our Mother's Day brunch.

I wasn't much of a breakfast eater before I got pregnant. It wasn't deliberate; I've just never had much of a morning appetite. A travel mug of skim milk and some fruit was usually about it, and I would usually consume it in my car while I made my way through the traffic. In the winter I liked to prepare a bowl of oatmeal, milk, and frozen strawberries and blueberries, which I would heat and eat as I checked my email at work.

On Mother's Day it was a pleasure to eat heartily from every dish I prepared, as breakfast was the most difficult meal to manage during the first half of my pregnancy. Pregnancy-related nausea is notorious for rearing its ugly head upon the first hint of an empty stomach, and trying to choke something down in the morning when you already feel sick is no easy feat. For a while, racing to get something in my stomach before the dry heaves kicked in was my morning routine. "It's coming, baby!" I would plead, ripping open a box of cereal and stuffing a dry handful into my mouth.

I cycled through cereals for a while. The first one that sounded good to me was Kashi Go Lean, since it has lots of protein. I'd eat it with ground flaxseed and chopped walnuts.

Then suddenly: ew.

Oatmeal with frozen berries, walnuts, and flaxseed rescued me and lasted for quite a while.

Next it was Life cereal. Mike ran out and bought two huge boxes of this, but quickly learned not to stock up on any particular item. After just a few days, I abandoned Life cereal and gave the second jumbo box to my co-worker.

Back to Kashi for a while. And then suddenly, bizarrely, a sweet cereal was the only thing I could handle. I am embarrassed to admit that I fed my fetus Lucky Charms for two solid weeks. Sugar and artificial flavors and coloring! Eat up, little man! (I'd usually have an OJ chaser to cut the guilt)

Anyhow, you get the picture.

We're heading to Chincoteague tomorrow morning, where we'll be staying in an old Victorian B&B and undoubtedly eating huge breakfasts every morning (I'll think fondly on the smoked salmon and eggs that we ate at every B&B in Ireland). I'm getting a prenatal massage while we're there- that should help burn off some of the extra calories, right?

Heh heh.

Try some of these while I'm gone and let me know what you think.

Breakfast Burritos (makes 6-7 burritos)
from the May 2005 Vegetarian Times
(must be made one day ahead. Time-saver for the day of the party! Awesome!)

Ingredients:

2 t. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 10-oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach (I used fresh spinach, cooked it until wilted, and then squeezed it out and chopped it)
2 T. fresh dill
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
Dash hot pepper sauce (optional)
1 3/4 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 8-inch flour tortillas (I squeezed seven burritos out of this recipe)
4 large eggs, beaten
2 c. skim milk
1 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. mustard powder

Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and pepper for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic, and cook two minutes more. Stir in spinach, dill, salt, and pepper; cover and cook about 5 minutes or until spinach is thawed (if using frozen. If using fresh, less cooking time is required). Season with pepper sauce and stir in 3/4 cup cheese.

Spoon about 1/3 cup of spinach/veggie mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll tortilla tightly; place seam-side down in baking dish.

Whisk together eggs, milk, flour, and mustard powder, and pour over tortillas. Cover dish with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Remove foil and bake burritos 45 minutes, or until eggs are set. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese and bake 5 minutes more, or until cheese has melted and begins to brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving with salsa and sour cream.


Yogurt & Herb Bread
(This is a quick bread- no yeast. I've had this recipe forever and can't remember where I got it. I made this the morning of the brunch so it would be nice and warm, but you could do it a day ahead.)

Ingredients:

1 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1 cup firm plain yogurt
5 T. melted butter
2 eggs
1/3 c. honey
2 T. minced fresh dill
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried basil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lightly grease a medium-sized loaf pan.

Sift together the flours, baking powder & soda, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center.

In a separate bowl, beat together the yogurt, melted butter, eggs, and honey. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients along with the herbs. Mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended.

Spread into pan and bake 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted all the way into the center comes out clean.

Let sit 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack for 20 minutes before slicing.


Roasted Asparagus
(I always try to include asparagus when I cook for my mother-in-law, since they're her favorite)

So easy, and so delicious. I made these in my little toaster/convection oven, since the big oven was occupied (oh, double oven, on and on I dream of thee!). Preheat oven to 400F. Just get yourself a bunch of asparagus, choosing firm, bright stalks with tight tips (they're in season right now! But not for long! Hurry!), wash thoroughly and trim any tough ends, and place on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, usually about 15 minutes. You can serve these at room temperature if you want; no need to screech at your guests to QUICK! COME EAT THESE!


Fruit Salad

I used sliced mango, raspberries, and blackberries.


Little Apple Turnovers (makes 9)
(Very simple, if you don't mind the mess of rolling out pre-made pastry. Do these the day of. I made them right before everyone arrived, then put them in the oven while we started on the rest of the food)

Ingredients:

3 cups chopped, peeled apples (I like Granny Smith or any kind of tart apple)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 sheet prepared puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm makes it- check the frozen foods section of your grocery store)
Confectioners' sugar

In a saucepan, stir together apples, lemon juice, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes (or until softened). Cool.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Thaw pastry according to package directions (or make your own! Go you!). Roll out to a 12-inch square (I LOVE this for rolling out small amounts of pastry. Mine is wooden, though). Cut into 9 squares.

Place 1 1/2 T. filling in the center of each square. Brush edges of pastry with water and fold over into a triangle shape. Press the edges lightly to seal. Prick the top of each with a fork (for ventilation).

Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and serve.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

They're all wrong! "The Secret" is the lasagna you made four days ago.

It’s funny how I lose track of how far along I am now. In the beginning I counted down day by day, and now I can’t even manage to calculate how many months I am. The other day Mike said, “She has three more months!” and I argued, “No, it’s more than that!” But really, it’s not. Somehow it’s been sneaking up on me. So now when people ask how far along I am, I just tell them my due date.

I continue to get surprised looks from people when I say August 26th. A couple of nights ago I was at an event attended by many acquaintances who haven’t seen me in a few months. One woman actually let her mouth hang open for an extended period of time upon hearing my due date.

“What?” I finally asked, trying to hide my sudden flair of irritation. “Does that seem too early, or too late?”

“You’re just so tiny!” she said.

So on the way home I had to call my mother and confirm that I am not crazy and my body is working just fine and the baby is an average size, as many medical professionals have already told me.

Ignoring people definitely seems to be the key to sanity.

Yesterday, a friend who is also a nurse stopped by to ask how I’ve been feeling.

“Great!” I said. “Tired, but good.”

“Do you have hypertension?” she asked.

Uh…

“No,” I said.

“Your lips look a little puffy.”

“Oh, that.” I said. “I just got Restylane injections. I’m going for a Pamela Anderson look, since I’ve already got the big chest. Now I just need a tiny pair of maternity cut-offs.”

She stared at me, horrified.

“KIDDING.”

I checked myself out in the mirror the next time I went to the bathroom. My lips looked perfectly normal.

I guess I can’t win. It used to bother me when people repeatedly asked why I didn’t have any children, was I planning to, did I think I was getting any younger, didn’t I like children? Now I’m trying to produce one but my progress is not to their liking.

TOO BAD.

In other news, I forgot to tell you that we had Mike’s mom and her husband over for a Mother’s Day brunch last Sunday. I was pleased with the way the food came out, so I’ll post some recipes soon. I made baked breakfast burritos with fresh red peppers, onions, spinach, and dill, a loaf of yogurt herb bread, a fruit salad, broiled asparagus, and little apple turnovers.

That evening I also made my veggie lasagna for Mike, since it’s his favorite and he’s been doing so many nice things for me. Actually, his very favorite is these stuffed shells that I make that have roasted butternut squash and pecans and such inside, but they’re pretty time-consuming. At the end of what seemed like a 24-hour cooking marathon, I was hobbling around the kitchen like a little old lady.

We’ve been eating the lasagna for four nights running and I’m not sick of it yet. Why? Because you just cut a big slice, put it on a plate, and stick it in the microwave for three minutes.

Bliss.

Plus, you can eat an awful lot of fresh pineapple in three minutes, if you put your mind to it.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."

I've been touched by the excitement my pregnancy has generated in my family.

Happiness was expected, especially since this is the first grandchild on my side of the family and therefore something of a novelty. But it’s been really great to hear my dad talking about how he wants to take the baby to this beach and that museum and how they’re planning to buy a web cam and get Skype so they and the baby can "see" each other on a regular basis.

My brother and sister live in Brooklyn but have been talking about moving to the DC area to be closer to their nephew (and for other reasons, as well). “I’m going to be the coolest aunt ever!” my sister announced. “I want to be there so I can baby-sit for you guys!”

This makes me feel great, because my siblings and I have never been close to our relatives. My maternal grandmother is the only one who made any real effort to visit and communicate with us on a regular basis, no matter where the Air Force sent us. She wrote letters, came to every graduation, spent many Christmases with us, and went along on several family vacations.

But she was really the only one.

Growing up, I guess this didn’t seem all that strange to me. I mean, we moved a lot and were always starting over with new schools and new friends. It seemed natural to have shallow roots. It wasn’t until other kids would talk about attending family reunions and visiting their grandparents or aunts and uncles that I would think, “Huh.”

When I got married, I was absolutely shocked that my paternal grandmother came. I was even more shocked that my my mom’s brother came. I hadn’t seen my uncle for at least ten years, and I haven’t seen or talked to him since. Even so, of the 100 guests at our wedding, most of them were sitting on Mike’s side of the church.

We never knew our grandfathers. I think we would have been close to my dad’s father, if we’d had the chance. My dad loved him tremendously, and he was one of the only loving adults he had in his life. Sadly, he passed away when I was only a year old.

My mom’s father died when she was around eight months pregnant with me. He was a mean man and not a very good father. When mom found out he was dying, she lied to the airline about how far along she was so she could fly to Florida to be with him. As my mom approached his hospital bed he growled, “Have you had that baby yet?”

“Not yet, Dad,” she said. “One more month.”

“Well!” he said. “That’s damn poor production.”

And then he died.

When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I wondered was if history was doomed to repeat itself. Would it become normal for our son to never see his aunt and uncle? To wonder if his grandmother would show up for his wedding? (or commitment ceremony. We’re open.)

Not that my family is anything like the families my parents grew up with. Far from it, actually. My parents managed to break a number of dysfunctional cycles through sheer determination, and I admire them for it. But still- a distant family seems more tragic to me now that it ever did before.

That fear is irrational. There is love in my family, and I don’t doubt that they’ll be there for our son. He’ll be such a lucky kid, coming into the world with three grandfathers and three grandmothers, and a whole assortment of aunts and uncles, all of whom love him already and will be active in his life.

This is why I tear up when my sister promises to buy our son his first suit, or I find out that my dad has already put baby shampoo in their guest bathroom, or when my mom cries over ultrasound pictures.

Some things get better with time. Like my family.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

No one else had my dress, bitches

Holy cats, it feels like it’s been raining for days. Alex has been on constant alert, waiting for even the most distant rumblings of thunder. These days the giant bathtub in our bathroom is his preferred hiding place, though the good old behind-the-toilet still works in a pinch (as long as I remember to move the toilet paper holder out of the way).

I am feeling much better and am truly Not Freaking Out over the calcification on the baby’s liver. Anymore, that is. Tuesday saw full Freak Out mode running late into the evening, with a calming period on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, an all-day wait to hear back from my midwife practice + denial of my lingering anxieties + horrific Friday afternoon traffic and an aching lower back + finally arriving home to find a bouquet of Happy First Mother’s Day! flowers from Mike sent me over the edge of all hormonal reason. Mike came back from walking the dog and found me in a puddle on the sofa, clutching my damp Mother’s Day card in my hand and sobbing as though I alone were responsible for maintaining the world’s supply of tears.

(my mood has been remarkably well-balanced throughout this pregnancy until this past week, when it suddenly sputtered, coughed, and plummeted to the ground in an eye-searing explosion of orange and red flames.)

At some point the tears stopped and I found I could breathe again. I felt cleansed and clear-headed. And so I went upstairs, washed my face, applied some concealer under my puffy eyes and got dressed up. It was time to attend a four-hour marathon of heavily perfumed bumping and grinding adolescent social anxiety.

Oh, yes. Prom time.

Mike and I had agreed to be chaperones several months ago, back when I was naïve and assumed that I’d still be able to fit into most of my dresses at this point. HA! Boy, I am funny. Even the dress that I’ve never worn that I bought on mega-sale even though it was way too big for me (I planned to get it altered, er, three years ago…) could not be convinced to mold to my new body. Actually, I blame the zipper, which remained stubbornly down, exposing my nursing bra and maternity thong.

Bringing sexy back, you could say.

Luckily I discovered this in advance and had time to buy an inexpensive Little Black Maternity Dress that worked just fine. I paired that with the shortest heels I own but still ended up going barefoot most of the night. (I never thought it would happen, but my love affair with heels is temporarily over.)

Mike and I were assigned a station in the main ballroom, since we are a “young, hip couple”. Oh, my. I can only assume they were comparing us to the 60-year old chemistry teacher and his wife?

Our mission was to prevent students from sneaking through a back exit. We positioned ourselves accordingly and tried to look menacing. “Don’t have sex with him in the limo tonight,” I warned several girls. “Look what happened to me. I’m wearing a MATERNITY THONG.”

They were appropriately horrified.

An hour into the bumping and grinding, I admitted to Mike that I had not yet recognized a single song. “When are they going to play Baby Got Back?” I asked. “When is he going to put on some popular stuff?”

He looked at me. “This is the popular stuff.”

Oh. Well, the baby seemed to like it. He was jumping all around, probably doing some dance that only the cool kids know how to do.

We really enjoyed being there, listening and watching and remembering our own high school days. The part we remembered most fondly?

Getting the hell out of there.

I encountered a girl sobbing in the bathroom while her outraged girlfriends clustered around her, proclaiming Tiffany a “stupid whore.” I saw the awkward boys, some looking miserable in their tuxedos, shooting nervous, sidelong glances at their dates. The girls, constantly reaching to smooth their hair, yank up their strapless dress tops, or check to make sure their bra straps weren’t showing. Everyone pulling out their cellphones at the first sign of conversational lull, texting their friends across the room. How many strove to be so adult, yet sabotaged their adultness with all the squealing and guffaws and bravado and drama.

And I wanted to hug them all and promise them that yes, you'll still cry and feel stupid sometimes and probably still get spinach stuck in your front teeth, but life gets so much better, maternity underwear and all.

Pinky swear.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What, you thought I went on vacation?

Still alive, just tired. And very regrettably not on vacation. But I will be soon! Mike and I will be spending a few days on Chincoteague Island. Did you ever read Margeurite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague? That's it, the very same Chincoteague! Though I doubt there could be more than one, since we're not exactly talking about someplace named Oak Grove or Riverside.

Mike and I got engaged there about ten years ago and haven't been back since, so we thought it would be a good choice for a last getaway before the baby is born. This time we'll try not to get pulled over for speeding in an endangered squirrel zone.

(re-reading the story of our engagement suddenly clued me in as to why so many people find my blog by googling "the funniest joke ever told" and "the best joke ever". Er, do you think they leave disappointed?)

(probably)

(it is just like me to make ridiculous, sweeping proclamations that raise and then dash the hopes of unfunny people across the world)

(anyway!)

On Monday Mike and I had another appointment with the midwife, the first appointment since our big reveal ultrasound last month. The midwife greeted us, congratulated us on having a boy, then reviewed the ultrasound results.

And it took her a wee bit longer than I expected, as I thought the results simply said "A-OK!" and really, how long does it take to read that?

Then she said something that started with, "Did they discuss with you..." and suddenly I heard the ocean in my ears and couldn't focus on her face. Because you only "discuss" bad things, right? If it's something good, you chat or laugh or talk animatedly, but you don't discuss.

So, to cut to the chase, our baby boy has a spot of calcification on his liver. The midwife reassured us that this is usually clinically insignificant and usually resolves itself on its own. She said this several times. But they ordered some blood tests for me to see if I've had any viruses that may have harmed the baby. If the results come back negative, I'm not sure what the next step is. If the results come back positive, I still don't know what the next step is.

I didn't ask these things because as soon as I heard "usually clinically insignificant", I decided that I'd just take the needle in the arm and I would not freak out. I just decided NOT to. Easy! And I thought I was doing a pretty damn good job of Not Freaking Out, until that night, when I dreamed that a team of doctors called me into their office and screamed at me that I'd had a sinus virus and never got it treated, so I had permanently damaged my baby.

(Sinus virus. I don't think there is technically any such thing, but it kind of amuses me that gave myself that diagnosis in my dream. Allergies have been an even bigger bitch than usual this spring since I'm med-free.)

The next day at work I proceeded to further upset myself by researching fetal hepatic calcification in several medical databases. Because naturally, the eyes skim over the parts that say "fetal hepatic calcification is not a rare ultrasonic finding" and "96% of fetuses are JUST FINE" and focus on words like malformations and viral infection and spontaneous abortion.

By the time I got home I was so tired from Not Freaking Out all day that I could do little more than lie on the couch, holding my belly and weeping. Mike banished me from using the computer and finally convinced me to go to my long-anticipated aqua aerobics class, which really was quite nice. I've been dreaming of submerging myself in water for a solid month now, and I slept better last night than I have in a long time.

Everything will be fine. I'll be fine. I haven't freaked out over any of the other tests we had, but I figured it was pointless unless we knew there was something to worry about. Now there is the possibility of something, and I guess I'm just getting my first real taste of what it's like to feel completely, utterly responsible for a very tiny human being.

For now, the baby is kicking and I'm waiting for a call from the midwife. Life marches on. We now resume our regularly scheduled Not Freaking Out.

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