Mario time

Last weekend, Maria and Alana went to Grandma Patty’s house, which left Jon and I alone with our boy. We had such a fabulous weekend hanging out with him. It’s nice to  only have one of your children for a day or two because it allows you to give your full concentration to that child and not be pulled in different directions. When the both of them are together you don’t get that intimate conversation that you do with just one. Not as though Mario was too intimate with Jon and I about his every day activities but we were able to get some information out of him. For example, I learned that he really likes a girl in his class because she’s “super cool and funny and always nice to him.” I also learned that he always talks in front of classes during his leadership session because his co-leader is too nervous to do so. That’s my boy.

On Saturday morning, I went on my run. I promised Mario I’d be back within two hours so he and I could take Rocco to the woods. He left with Jon and they did their car ride together where they get Starbucks and breakfast. Mario was ready to go when I got home. We bundled up and got Rocco ready. We ran to the woods, and Mario decided to look for Pokémon. He spotted one but it was through the trees across the tracks and over a busy road. We decided to go for it. I kept Rocco on the leash and we traveled through the trees, across the tracks, through more trees, and over to the main strip. It was exhilarating! Mario thought it was super cool to go the Illegal” way (yes, a bit disturbing). By the time we reached the strip, the Pokémon disappeared. We both just laughed about it because the thrill was in in the journey. As we headed back to the woods, we saw a train – yet another cool moment for Mario. Rack two up for mom.

When we got home, Jon was ready to take Mario to the archery/fishing store on the south side of Columbus. I was ready to clean the house and relax a bit. But Mario wanted all of us to go to the store together. After a bit of cajoling, I agreed to head down with the boys. I am so glad I did. What an experience to watch Mario in his element. He was so excited to show me how he shot his bow. The guys at the shop were mighty impressed with his archery skills. We went back-and-forth three times to adjust the tension level on his bow – I think he just wanted to adjust it each time so that it would give him another time to practice his shot in the store. I would typically be antsy but I loved to see him having such a great time. I would’ve stayed in the store all day with him just to see the joy on that face of his as he pointed out different things. He absolutely had a blast.


When we got home, we made sandwiches and hung out until I decided to get a 15 minute neck massage at Yi’s . Mario agreed I could leave for that time. But he made me promise when I got home we’d see the new Kong movie. 

Holy crap movie prices have skyrocketed! Granted, the boys only wanted to see Kong in IMAX 3-D, so the ticket prices were a bit higher because of that. It cost nearly $50 for the three of us to go see a movie and then another $25 just for a large popcorn and drinks. Insanity! I’m just going to ask for a movie gift cards for Christmas next year. But being together and watching that movie was worth it. Mario was so excited to have us by his side. At every scary scene, he would tell me that I could hold his hand and squeeze it if I got scared. Precious. And after the movie, we went home and chilled out together: watching a few YouTube videos, drawing a little, and watching some TV before bed. All things that make Mario very happy.


Leave it to the boys in my life to get me to relax a bit and enjoy the simple pleasures of life – ya know, like shooting a bow, looking at fishing gear, watching a Kong movie, and eating buttery popcorn. Loved this day with all my heart.

Sunday Woods Day

Ri and Mario held me hostage Sunday morning. They would not let me go to yoga or run Rocco. They forced me to make a plate full of chocolate chip pancakes while they both cooked me some delicious over easy and sunny side up eggs.

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Being held hostage ended up being a delight. Eggs and pancakes and hilarity out of the hostage-takers’ mouths. Mario cracked me up when he got out the crossword puzzle to work on while eating his breakfast. “Grandma Ionno does the crossword everyday so I will, too,” he told me.

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After breakfast, Ri did my hair while I tried to tickle Mario as he rolled all over me (one of his favorite games with me). Rocco started to get wild by this time and began jumping on me and the couch and Mario and anything else he could as a way to tell us he wanted to go outside. I informed the hostage-takers that they needed to take Rocco on a walk to the woods with me before he tore up the couch or broke a bone in one of us by all his mad hopping. With a little pushing from dad, they agreed. We bundled up and headed off to the woods, which turned out to be a delightful hour of exploring and creating.
There is nothing better than watching your children use their imaginations while in nature. They found a few makeshift tents made with sticks and fallen branches. Mario thought the trolls had made them. Maria winked at me while she agreed with him. Maria found a stick with a rock tied to to it. She proceeded to tell me that it had to have been made years ago. She let Mario use it to cut wood (when asked why he was cutting wood, he had no purpose – just the sheer thrill of cutting into something). They found a half-enclosed area with a log in it and decided they wanted to work on fixing it up. Ri and I rolled a second log down the path so they’d have two to rest on as they worked on their fire pit. I was complaining about how heavy the log was to roll and Ri chirped “you’re getting a workout in, be happy!”

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Mario worked on his firepit and positioned the sticks along the border of the shelter while Ri gathered more materials. I made sure Rocco didn’t destroy their creation. He can’t stay away from a good stick.
I had to drag the kids out of the woods at 11:30 so Mario could make his b-ball game. I told them to remember how much fun they just had so that next time I asked them to come with me, they wouldn’t whine about going out in the cold. They rolled their eyes at me and I yanked them both close to me for a hug. Rocco was up at the end of the trail gnawing on a huge branch he found. I looked up at the blue sky and knew the day was gonna be great.

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Another Fall weekend

Another gorgeous Fall weekend. I can’t keep myself indoors – the pup is well-exercised these days.
Saturday was a bit rainy in the afternoon but I had errands to run anyway. I dropped Ri off at her birthday party way out in Canal Winchester (anywhere not within five miles of the house is far away to me). Ri took a very excited Alana to the party, too. Lots of gymnastics and lots of snacks.

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I bought a huge flower pot while I waited on the girls to plant my elephant ear plant in this winter. I think I got one that is way too big because it is drooping big time and looks close to death after only one day. I couldn’t get a green thumb if some planted it in green dye. I am pathetic when it comes to tending to plants.
I picked up Ri and Alana and took them to Alana’s house to spend another night with Grandma Ionno. Thank god for that woman – gave me and Jon a bit of alone time this weekend. We treated ourselves to lobster and crab dip at the Fish Market. It’s been a while and we needed it. Don’t we look relaxed and happy?!
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I went and saw the Judge starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. That movie could have been the dumbest movie on Earth and it still would have been worthwhile to see because of Robert Downy, Jr. Lordy, Lordy. But it ended up being a pretty good movie, absent him. And I cried my eyes out through the ending credits, on my way home and for 20 minutes at home. That’s what movies about family and perseverance and loss do to me. But Milk Duds and popcorn made it better.
My Sunday could not have been more joyous. I woke up to a four mile run while listening to NPR and then came home to take Rocco on a six mile run through the woods and around some of the Columbus Marathon route. The woods were magical with the multi-colored leaves strewn everywhere and the light streaming in through the branches of the trees. Hallelujah.
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I arrived home to my man trimming the bushes and I grabbed my rake to help in the yard. Strangely, I love doing yard work together.
The kids arrived home at 11 in time for Patty to hit church. I bundled them up and we headed up to First Avenue to watch the Marathon. The music blared and the runners sweated it out. I loved the vibe. The kids loved the face painting and ballon maker. Mario got his sword, of course. The rest of them got crazy hats. And they all got face paint – Ri went with an OSU theme and Mario went with a tiger. Alana got a cheetah and Gio got a scary skeleton.
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After 45 minutes playing around at those stations, we finally arrived at Stauf’s for a much-needed coffee. Mario had a dollar on him and asked me how much a chocolate chip scone cost. I knew what he wanted to do – treat me to a scone. He knows how much I love them. I told him I thought they were $1 and then motioned to the cashier that I’d pay for the rest. He ordered a scone. She bagged it up and gave it to him. He tapped me as I made my coffee and handed me the bag.
“I got this for you, mom.”
I loved all over him and told him what a sweet son he was and he ate all my words up. He loves being generous as long as the person acknowledges his generosity fully…!
We sat down at a table and played chess. He wanted to teach me all he has learned from his chess club at school. The girls played War and Gio played Dominoes.
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Patty met us at Stauf’s and we all walked home while cheering on the last of the runners (Mario’s take on the last runners: “they need to work harder so they aren’t last.”). Patty resolved to doing the Marathon next year so I’m doing the same (if I will ever let my leg heal).
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We went to Ri’s soccer game and I was loud and cheering her on as usual. I get so excited and can’t keep quiet. I was born to coach, I think.
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After the game, we finished up the yard and sat down to a family meal of chicken and twice baked potatoes (Patty is the queen of those babies!).
We ended the night with an epic jump in the leaf pile created throughout the day. Sophie and Pax joined in the fun.
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One more walk for Rocco, a bed time story about Danny the Diamondback, and a Klondlike bar, and the night was over. Goodnight.
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Finally! A no travel weekend

We had no plans to travel this weekend. I don’t believe that has happened for three months. Ms. Elena has a lot to do with that predicament. Ri and I can barely go a week without heading to the farm to see her.

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We’ve also had Cincy pool parties, Big Mario’s pig roast, farm family reunions, vacation. You name it, we did it this Summer. So it was heavenly to stay put this weekend.
Maria had a Strings picnic on Saturday afternoon. I thought it was just a gathering outside the middle school to play on the swings and jungle gym and get to know fellow String players. I had Joanne pick up Ri so I could finish cleaning and told Ri I’d meet up with her at 1 (the picnic was 12-2). Mario and I walked up at 1. I should say that Mario started out in the stroller but then walked as soon as we spotted his football coach. He had not wanted the stroller to begin with but we were in a hurry and he wanted to eat lunch so he couldn’t bike. He even told me as he hopped in “I can’t let anyone see me in this because it’s embarrassing.” So when we spotted Coach Jim and his family a block ahead of us, he leaped out of his seat and walked ahead of me. What a trip.
We arrived at Edison to find no one outside. We learned the picnic was inside and all the kids, including Ri, were sitting in rows with their instruments. I guess this is a musician’s idea of a picnic… The 4th graders plucked away as they tried to follow the notes on the page. The 5-7 graders played with their bows. They actually sounded pretty good. Ri and her two girlfriends looked a bit overwhelmed but they hung in with the rest of them.
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Afterwards, I asked Ri what she thought. She confirmed she was overwhelmed and that her fingers were sore from plucking. I began to feel the “I want to give up” cloud moving in and promptly blew it away. “You are just starting. You will only get better. You need to hang in there.” She nodded and continued walking.
When we got home, she immediately placed her violin case on the table and took it out. She began to pluck after she wrote down a line of D’s, A’s and G’s. She did this off and on all weekend, and loved playing a “concert” for Jon and Mario and me. Hopefully, this enthusiasm will remain.
Mario enjoyed hanging with his boy, Quinn over the weekend and swimming with his friends Zachary and Owen. He always wants to be with his friends or on his iPad so when we say no to iPad, we know he will ask to play with a friend. Quinn is always first on the list. But Saturday, Quinn was busy so Mario met Zachary and Owen to swim and play at Zachary’s house. Dressing up and drinking lots of juice was involved.
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Ri and Sophie and I took Rocco for a walk to Grandview Ave. around dinner time. Why is it that we always and up with Jeni’s ice cream for dinner when we do that?!
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Mario and I played Yahtzee when we got home while Ri played violin. He and I had an epic battle – two competitive souls fighting for a Yahtzee. Neither of us got one but he made it up top so he beat me by 35 points. He loved that.
On Sunday, Jon and I were treated to an anniversary breakfast in bed by M&M. Mario kept running into our room to see if we were sleeping until finally he pleaded for us to get up at 8 am (yea, they were up before 7). He brought us two coffees and me a Powerade. He knows his mama. Ri brought up two plates holding two over easy eggs and a waffle. They made us eat all the food as they watched us (the eggs may have needed cooked a bit longer). We told them that the best things to came from our marriage were them munchballs.

After breakfast, we cleaned Ri’s room – I swear we had two garbage bags of stuff to either throw away or give away and yet her room was still cluttered as can be. Mario would not allow his room to be clawed over for old toys and trash. He neatly piled all his junk in his drawers or bins and called it a day.
I did get the kids to take Rocco to the woods with me. Rocco has finally come to terms with the kids climbing up the tree. He used to bark and jump up on the tree to get them.
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Mario got his wish come true the rest of Sunday. He got to play with Quinn all day. Ri got to play with Sophie, too. It’s been such a long time since we had an entire day to spend just relaxing with friends. Jon and I spent the day gazing into each others’ eyes still mesmerized by each other 12 years after we said our vows to one another. Actually I got a massage and he got palettes for Ri’s broken bed frame but we did swipe smiles at one another as we walked out the door. >

All in a Sunday morning

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7 am.
Ten years ago it would have floated by without notice or care. My pillow under me, Jon by my side, maybe a dream wrapping up in my rested head. Today, the house is bustling with kids’ footsteps up and down the steps, laptops chiming hello, and a pup barreling onto the bed for morning kisses.
Jon rescued me Sunday morning and escorted Rocco downstairs with the kids. That lasted ten minutes before we heard the charge of Rocco through the hall, up the stairs, and to our room. I lazily climbed out of bed, got dressed and lumbered down the steps with Rocco pushing his nose into my leg right behind me. The kids were on the couch playing Animal Jam on the computers. I gave them the “I am not happy you are on a computer and not taking care of a Rocco” look and they both closed the computer tops and pronounced “we want to take a walk with you!”
Ri got her scooter. I got the stroller for Mario in case he got tired of walking (the BOB is still our tried-and-true even though Mario is almost seven years old). We got Rocco and headed to the woods. We walked into a chirping, vibrant forest and I was elated to have my babies with me to experience such early morning goodness. They immediately dashed to the climbing tree and Rocco immediately whined and cried as they climbed the tree. He gets whacked out every time they scale it and watches them intensely until they are back on ground.

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Mario and Ri went to their second favorite tree that leans way over to the side. They love to climb it. Mario decided he was going to jump off of it rather than have me help him down. All I heard as I walked out of the meadow with Rocco was “MOM!” Ri was helping him up and he was holding his back. Great, he’s broken his vertebrae. But he shook it off for try no. 2. Here’s how that try went:
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Mario jumped.
Mario feigned death.
Ri laughed hysterically.
Lovely.
We picked him up and they both went up the tree for one last hurrah before leaving for Stauf’s.
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On the way out of the woods, Mario complained that his back hurt. Maria exclaimed “I’ll carry you little buddy!” He hopped on her back and the hysterics began. Rocco chewed on Mario’s shoe and Ri tumbled every other second. What cuties.
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We walked up to Giant Eagle and the kids went in while I held Rocco (who again whined like a baby when they left). I gave them my Visa (they are so independent) and they got a bag of grapes (they had to eat a handful before a donut) and two donuts. Stauf’s was trumped by GE donuts.
Next we headed to the church park. Mario freaked about Rocco climbing the jungle gym set. He worries like heck about that dog. He was nervous about him getting lost at Park of the Roses, too. He doesn’t worry about jumping from a tree but he worries about his pup. And Rocco worries just as much about him. Mario began to swing and Rocco dashed over and jumped on the swing as Mario swung up. Mario got scratched good. I yelled at Rocco and he came to his side immediately. “It’s ok, mom. He didn’t mean it.” He has his back.
We left the park and talked about zombies and softball pitching on the walk home. Ri promised Mario she’d take care of him as his nurse when we got home because he banged his knee at the park. I carried him upstairs to his bed and she brought band-aids and the computer to him. She fetched him water and listened to him talk about his animals on Animal Jam.
Meanwhile, I went down to sit on the deck with Jon and play gin rummy. He whooped on me but I enjoyed just hanging out with him in the shade of the trees.
Pretty nice Sunday, I must say. And all of this before 10:30 am!>

Ahh, woods

We found Rocco’s heaven last night. The creek at Park of the Roses. I rounded up the kids (including the Markles) and Rocco and we headed to the Park at 6 pm last night. My girlfriend thinks I’m crazy to head back out after a long workday but I find it refreshing. I need the outdoors after meetings all day. And it was darling to see Rocco splashing through the creek just as happy as could be. The kids had a blast, too because they were able to get in the creek with their clothes and shoes on. They really went nuts and dunked their heads under water, which they all found exhilarating.


I wish I could step out my back door and be in the woods. But, as Jon regularly informs me, that would mean giving up city life. I don’t know that I’m ready to give up on my walks to Stauf’s or the pizza shoppe. I guess I will have to be happy with the mini-woods, Tarpy, a quarter mile away; and Park of the Roses only 15 minutes away. There is something about nature that just makes it all good. I came home revived and enjoyed watching the kids and a Rocco appreciate the water and rocks and thrills of the woods. The Wendy’s Frosty afterwards didn’t hurt either.
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Pure exuberance

Dad called me as I was unloading bottled waters and Doritos from the gas station to the kids.
“We are heading out to the farm, dad,” I confirmed after seeing his name appear on my phone.
“Great, I was hoping you’d say that! We will see you soon!”
I made sure the crew was buckled – I had pleaded for Sophie and Quinn to come since Ri and Mario wanted them to experience the farm so badly – and veered onto the highway. We drove to Exit 186 and turned off the tv. I made them look for animals. They were excited to get to the farm and see the dogs and horses and chickens. I was excited to see Ms. Elena.
We pulled up and Ri gave Peepaw a huge hug. Rocco went nuts as soon as he jumped out of the car. The boys ran down the hill to play badminton. Yes, the chaos had arrived. Little Elena better get used to the Menkedick energy.
We decided to take the dogs on a hike through the woods. Jorge placed Elena in the Ergo Baby and we were off. Dad and the girls led the way. The kids found the swinging vines and I held Rocco back to avoid him biting at them as they swung. Sar and Jorge broke off from us in the meadow – they didn’t want to overdo it since it was Elena’s first woods hike – and dad and the kids and I continued on towards the pond. The kids couldn’t resist the creek laying to our right. I should have put their boots on them before the hike but I was busy gooing over Elena. Maria, Sophie and Mario jumped right down into the creek not caring if their shoes got wet. Quinn was not so ready. He asked if I’d walk with him and help him traverse the spots without many rocks to use as landing spots. We were very clever finding ways to scale the muddy banks and avoid the water. But eventually we had to climb the thorn-filled hill to the path. Meanwhile, Sophie found a darling salamander.
We rounded up the kids after a bit so we could get to the pond before it rained. Mario was already complaining about wet feet. I scaled down to help him get the sand and pebbles off his feet and put on his soaked shoes. I can’t stand wet feet on a hike but I did not tell him that or else I would have convinced him that he had to be carried the whole way back. Rather, I got away with holding him only a few times throughout the rest of the hike.
I should have listened to dad when he questioned whether we should hit the pond before the creek. About five minutes into resuming our hike to the pond, the kids were complaining of being tired. And hungry (Ri). I yelled up to dad to teach us about some of the trees we were seeing and leaves we were brushing against. And the nature lesson began.
Dad pointed out a beech tree and it’s smooth light grey bark. Next he crushed a spice tree leaf in his hand and gestured for the kids to try the same. They “ohhed and ahhed” over the smell. He showed us a cherry tree (with its jagged puzzle piece-like bark) and a red-bud (with its heart leaves). We found a sassafras leaf and learned that it smelled like root beer. I was learning as much as the kids and just as excited. As a young child, I did not experience the woods and camping out like my younger sis and brother did with my dad. When I go on a hike with Sar, she’s able to point out an oak, a hickory, a certain wildflower, and a great deal of that knowledge was rooted from her hikes with my dad. So when dad pointed at the bark on the cherry tree and described its texture, I felt like an eight-year old absorbing all of his knowledge. And as I watched him walk ahead of me on the trail and answer Quinn’s questions, I felt fortunate to have this time together. You are never too old to learn.
We made it to the pond and Rocco was in heaven. He jumped right in the water and fetched every stick we threw to him. He refused to get out of the water each time he swam back with a stick to us; he’d just wait for another to be thrown.
The kids watched for a bit and then asked for water. Yikes. We had forgotten to bring water. Luckily it wasn’t scorching hot but I knew we were in for some whining on the way back. Again, dad saved the day.
“Let’s play 20 questions! I am thinking of an animal….”
And the questions and guessing began. Then Maria thought of one. Then Mario. Then me. And before we knew it, we were at the abandoned house. And that was super cool for the kids to see.
“Can we go in it?” asked Quinn. Dad couldn’t resist, even when Maria chided “Grandma Meg will be upset if you go in Peepaw.”
He took the kids in and made them be very careful. He talked about who may have lived in the house and held the kids speechless talking about ghosts. They were fascinated. If there’s one gift that I am incredibly grateful for receiving from my dad, it is the gift of exuberation over the simplest of things. Be it a salamander in the creek or a wildflower popping alive in the garden or an abandoned house. He brings positive energy into any place he travels and I’m so grateful to have witnessed that over and over growing up with him.
We traversed the hill back to the house and the kids – who were starving the entire trek home – were enamored with the chickens again and forgot about food. That gave time for dad to go to Dandy Don’s (true name) and get some good ol’ hot dogs and chips for lunch and it gave me time to hold Elena Rosa. Oh, what a doll baby girl.

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I have never seem an infant make so many different shapes with her mouth. I could stare at her all day.
After lunch, the kids wanted to play in the creek down by the house. They also wanted to go in the infamous waterfall but the water was rushing fast after the hard rain so I made them stay in the “wading pool.”
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They even posed “O-H-I-O” while in knee high muddy water.
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They were full of crazy energy once they got Salesville hot dogs in ’em!
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They couldn’t resist jumping in the dog pen and playing. What a hilarious shot our photographer Jorge got:
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Unfortunately, I had to be the party pooper and round everyone up for home even though I seriously wanted to put in my notice and nanny for Sarah full-time rather than head into work on Monday.
The kids begged for ice cream on the way home and I think the brief sugar high they got from McDonald’s Oreo McFlurries combined with the hiking and playing knocked them out. An hour from home and they were zonked.
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And what a way to end a beautiful day – kids in bed as soon as we got home, peanut butter-n-chip ice cream waiting for me, and the Sunday New York Times on my computer screen. Pure exuberance.
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