Party Planning 101

Party_Plannin101

The school year is winding down, and my brain is already sliding into summer mode. So I thought I’d dip into a lighter subject. For the next few days, we’ll be in a party frame of mind with ideas and systems to keep it all together and plan a great party.

When my third child was turning three I asked him what kind of birthday party he wanted. His older sister, who was six at the time, suggested a princess theme, but he rejected that idea. Then she proposed a dragon party, hoping for a back door into the princess concept. He didn’t bite on that one either. 

 “I think I want a yellow party,” he said. Yellow was his favorite color, so we ran with it. Everyone came to the party dressed in yellow. The cake was a big yellow smiley face. All the favors and decorations were yellow. Even the food and games revolved around yellow — potato chips, bananas, bell peppers, a yellow pinata and yellow t-ball game, to name a few.

With six kids in our house, we’ve had some great parties, and over the years, I’ve figured out that there is an easy-to-follow formula that can make every idea a success.

I know that the world is going digital. Call me old fashioned, but I still gravitate toward the old pen and paper. Before I plan any party, I grab a small note book for planning. I’ve found that it’s best to keep everything in one place. That way, I can check my invite list as RSVPs come in and keep a running shopping list as I plan decorations, food and activities. I like to attach a small binder clip to the front of the notebook, so that I can print off cool ideas as I research and plan.

All the magic starts with a theme. So check back tomorrow, and we’ll go deeper into choosing the right theme. I’ll have some suggestions to help get your juices flowing and think outside the box!

In the meantime, leave us a comment and tell us about the best party you ever hosted!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Get a Leg Up on Life This Summer

Sam making apple butter

Over the past few days, we’ve been talking about investing rather than spending your kids’ summer. We covered using the summer to boost academics and to pursue passion. Today, we’re wrapping up this short series with a look at ways to invest your child’s summer by building life skills.

Clearly all of this is going to take some planning. If you wait for summer to come and then just sort of let each day happen to you, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll accomplish much. So, take a Saturday, and make some plans. Be deliberate. Parent On Purpose!

The summer is a great time to teach your kids important life skills, such as how to change a tire and the car’s oil, how to do research on the Internet (it dawned on me one year, when I was working on project with my 8-year-old, that kids aren’t born knowing how to Google), how to make travel arrangements, how to sew, can vegetables, do laundry…you get the idea.

But what if you don’t know how to do these things? Honestly, I don’t even know how to turn on a sewing machine. It’s pathetic, I know, especially for a homeschool mom. But the truth is, I didn’t grow up in a very domestic family. We were plenty cultured. Having grown up right outside of Manhattan, I spent my childhood at museums and art galleries, seeing Broadway shows and ballets and symphonies. My grandmother took me to Lincoln Center to see La Boheme, and we spent many weekends at art festivals.

Living in the Hudson Valley of New York also meant that I got to do some cool outdoorsy things. I went skiing in the winters, hiked mountains, went parasailing and camping, but there was also a lot that we didn’t do.

I never really learned how to garden or sew or bake. My mom was a master knitter and crocheter, but she never taught me, and I suppose I never asked. Those were just things she did. Actually, I do knit now, but it was my daughter who taught me!

I don’t want my kids to grow up without these important life skills, so I’m learning along side them. YouTube makes just about any skill accessible!

The summer is a great time for kids to start a business. They can baby sit, mow lawns, walk dogs, or make and sell things. Two years ago, my daughter funded a trip by earning $300 knitting and selling the cutest owls you’ve ever seen. Now she does henna tattoos to make money.

Want to give them solid business skills, check out MicroBusiness for Teens.

Teach your kids about investing this summer. Show them how to look up stocks. Then have a little family contest. Have everyone pick a stock and see who’s does best.

Start a garden. Find out what grows well in the summer in your hardiness zone, and then have your kids layout and plant a garden. They’ll love eating the food they’ve grown.

Teach them how to cook. Take them to a kitchen store and show them a bunch of different cooking tools. Build a foundation of basics like how to make a roux and the five mother sauces: béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise and tomato sauces. Teach them how to wash and cut fruits and veggies, how to blanch, parboil, saute, carmelize, braise and poach.

Make a plan for kids to learn important technology skills like how to type, use PowerPoint and Excel, build a website, do some basic graphic design and use social media for networking and marketing.

 

Let’s all make a pact that we won’t just let our summer days happen to us — we’ll take hold of them, one by one, making everyday count toward a brighter future for our kids.

Leave us comment and let us know what you plan to do to invest your kids’ summer this year.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Pursuing Passion This Summer

Pursuing Passion

Want to know how to motivate your kids? Find out what they’re passionate about.

A lot of parents already know what their kids are passionate about. By the way, let’s just agree to take video games off the list. Unless your kid is uber techy and wants to learn animation and video game software programming, let’s consider gaming time to be a means of unwinding — something they do occasionally, but not their passion. Is that okay? If your kid is on a path to be the next Minecraft creator, stay with us — we’ll have some ideas later in the post on how to use the summer to get her closer to that goal.

For those parents who aren’t yet sure what their kids are passionate about, plan to invest part of this summer in helping your kids figure that out.

Experience is king when it comes to discovering passion, and the summer is ripe for offering a boat load of different experiences to help kids figure out what makes them tick.

Here are some ideas to do just that without breaking the bank.

  • Call local museums, zoos and aquariums, and find out if they have special deals or even free days during the summer.
  • Have kids take pictures and then log onto to an editing site, such as befunky.com, to add cool effects.
  • Upload pictures of a summer trip, barbecue, or a party to Shutterfly or Snapfish, and have the kids layout a small photo book to remember the event.
  • Check out letterboxing and geocaching. These are great family hobbies that offer exercise, fresh air, creativity, brainstorming, critical thinking and lots of fun.
  • Invest in a few field guides, and go for family walks. Figure out what plants, trees and wildlife live in your area. Bring along a magnifying glass, binoculars, camera, collection jars and sketch pads and pencils, and take time to study and appreciate the magnificent world we live in.
  • Cook together. Have your kids pick recipes, plan menus and create shopping lists, work within a budget, and then prepare and serve meals. You could also have them research and plan themed nights, such as an international dinner, a luau, a mystery dinner, a 50’s sock hop.
  • Got tech savvy kids? Have them learn how to program a website, animate a cartoon, film and edit a movie, learn graphic design or take an online photography class. With YouTube, you can learn just about anything under the sun…for free!
  • For about $25/month, you can subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and have access to full suite of Adobe software, including PhotoShop and software for film making, audio processing, animation software and video game creation. And to help kids learn how to use all this software, subscribe to Lynda.com for full video courses on almost any software you can think of!
  • The library is a free resource for learning about almost any subject. Challenge your kids to pick a subject and become a mini expert on it this summer.
  • Pick up some cool science experiment books. Check out The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science and it’s companion, The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science. Stock up on a few basic supplies. Home Science Tools has inexpensive science supplies.
  • Got a kid who is interested in weapons or the military? Watch documentaries on the Military Channel, and pick up a copy of Backyard Ballistics.

Summer Camps

If you’ve got a bigger budget, specialized camps are a great way to develop a kid’s interest. Check out your county department of parks and recreation to find local options.

Got a kid who loves animals? Check your local zoo or aquarium for summer opportunities.

The possibilities are vast! There are music camps, survival camps, dance, theater, worldview, sports, political camps…the list goes on and on.

 

This summer can mark a turning point in your child’s life — it can be the summer that she finds her passion or takes her talents and interests to a whole new level.

 

This is part of a series on Investing Your Summer Rather Than Spending it. Catch up on yesterday’s post about Boosting Academics This Summer.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Boosting Academics in the Summer

Great Reads

Researchers estimate that the average students loses about a full month of learning during summer break. The numbers are significantly higher for lower income families. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Summer reading contests are a great way to keep young minds engaged. They give kids tangible goals and rewards for their hard work. Check out Barnes & Noble,Scholastic, Pizza Hut, and your local library. Keep tracking sheets all together in a folder, and show your kids how to track their reading for each contest.

For middle and high schoolers, check out the College Board’s 101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers. For this age group, I also highly recommend the book Do Hard Things, by teen twins Alex and Brett Harris.

Do a summer unit study. What topics are really fascinating to your kid? Take a trip to the library, and check out a stack of books on the subject. Find hands-on activities they can do related to the topic (just Google “activities for [your topic]” “[your topic] unit study”), and contact an expert in the field to arrange an interview. When it’s all done, have your child put together a PowerPoint or create a small book about what they’ve learned, and share it with the family.

To encourage writing, have your kids pick out a journal that appeals to their sense of style (or they can make one with a composition book, fabric or decorative paper, and some craft supplies). Ask them to do Sensory Writing in their journal for 10 minutes everyday. For this exercise, your child would find a new place each day (outside, a particular room in the house, maybe an interesting place on vacation) and pay attention to all of their senses. Then for 10 minutes, they would write everything their senses experience — what they see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.

With the wide use of email, texting, and Facebook, the art of good, old-fashioned letter writing is all but lost. It’s sad because who doesn’t LOVE to get a letter? Encourage your kids to write to someone once a week. They might even find some fun replies in their own mailbox.

Middle and high schoolers can start a blog about their favorite topic, comment on blogs that interest them, or write an article for a local newspaper or magazine. They could even spend the summer interviewing family members and writing a family memoir.

Get ahead in math this summer. Maybe your kids could master their times tables. Head over to Barnes & Noble and find some good math workbooks. Middle and high schoolers can check out Mr. D Math. He offer online courses that could help kids either catch up or jump ahead.

Visit us tomorrow. We’re going to talk about investing the summer months in our kids interests and talents.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Spend or Invest This Summer?

Lexi Tubing

Is it me or does it feel like the school year just started? How could we possibly be so close to summer break? 

In America, summer fun has become a sort of national birthright. But the big question for parents is how to maximize the time without sacrificing the joy. The summer is a 12-week investment opportunity. We are all given the same amount of time, but the question is will we spend it or invest it?

So let’s start with the end result in mind and decide what we want to get out of the summer. Lasting memories? New skills? A new hobby? A small business? If we plan ahead and do some research, the summer can launch our kids into a powerful new year come fall.

Then, let’s turn off the TV, iPods, computers and video games, and encourage our kids to set some goals.

Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about summer activities that will boost academics.

We’ll be off on Sunday, but come back Monday evening for ideas on finding and pursuing passion this summer.

And on Tuesday evening, we’ll finish off this little series with ideas for building life skills during the summer months.

In the meantime, what are your kids doing this summer?

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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POP Parenting

Matt and Sam Fly a Kite

POP Parenting is our new catch phrase. It stands for Parenting on Purpose, and it covers the three basic jobs of every parent — loving, training and then releasing our kids.

Just about everything that we talk about here on the blog and on our weekly radio show and in the various articles and we write and the talks we give, is covered in these three words: Loving, Training, Releasing.

We are on mission to empower and equip parenting on purpose with an emphasis on strong family relationships (loving), raising teachable kids (training), and pointing kids toward their passion and purpose (releasing).

Loving

When it comes to parenting, everything is built on relationship. The family is a child’s first experience with intimate connections and will determine a lot about how they view God and other people later in life. We’ve got to make this our top priority.

POP Parenting resources include tools for developing:

  • Healthy  communication

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Strong parent-child relationships

  • Strong sibling relationships

  • Family culture

Training

Our ultimate goal is not to produce outwardly obediently kids who may or not be rebellious on the inside. Our goal is to train our kids at a heart level so that ultimately, we raise teachable individuals who want to make right choices and strive for excellence.

POP Parenting resources include tools for:

  • Behavior management

  • Character training

  • Conflict stewardship

  • Establishing routines

  • Teaching kids organization skills

  • Teaching time management skills

  • Instilling a sense of excellence

  • Spiritual training

  • Grooming leadership skills

  • Developing creativity

  • Cultivating entrepreneurship

  • Coaching kids through friendships

  • Making education choices

  • Homeschooling and Unschooling

  • Teaching Christian worldview

Releasing

One of our greatest roles as parents is to help our kids find their own lane and run in it with excellence. It’s our job to parent with the end result in mind and prepare our kids for a powerful adulthood.

POP Parenting resources include tools for helping kids:

  • Find their passion

  • Discover their calling

  • Gain critical life skills

  • Adopt a debt free mindset

  • Develop mature interpersonal skills

  • Find their role in the church

  • Cultivate a sense of civic responsibility

  • Understand our government and economy and their role in it

  • Prepare for their future role as a spouse and parent

Now that we’ve got some focus to what we’re doing here, look for changes to the blog in the coming weeks, and invite your friends to come over and check us out.

By the way, if you are not signed up to receive blog updates right to your email inbox, look at the top right corner of this post, and sign up today!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Moms…Dads…Are You Listening? Are You REALLY Listening?

Listen

Does anyone else have the kid who likes to tell long, complicated stories about imaginary worlds? I’ve a got a few, and if I can be really transparent here for a minute, it’s a labor for me to listen intently and be truly invested.

Listening to the kids can be challenging for me at different times, like when I’m on the computer.

My kids have coined the term “robot voicing” for the monotone, robotic responses that they sometimes get when they ask me questions while I’m on the computer.

“Mom, can we bake cupcakes now?”

“Uh huh”

“Mom? Are you robot voicing? Are you sure you heard the question? We want to bake cupcakes. Are you okay with us doing that right now?”

They’ve invented this term because in the past they’ve asked permission to do something, thought they got the permission and were totally blindsided by my frustration.

“What are you doing?”

“We’re making cupcakes.”

“I’ve got company coming in 15 minutes, and the kitchen’s a mess!”

“But we asked you, and you said we could.”

“Oh….” Hence, the invention of the term “robot voicing.”

Obviously we can’t always give our kids our 100% focus, but whenever possible, we need to try. Because if we don’t make the effort to truly and fully listen to them when they’re young, they may not make the effort to truly and fully listen to us when they’re older.

Listening is a critical part of building relationship. Our kids deserve our full attention. They deserve our focus, which means we have to be willing to really understand what they’re trying to say, even if it seems illogical or naive or even flat out wrong.

Kids’ thinking skills need time and effort to develop, and in the meantime, it can be tempting to become annoyed or frustrated when they say things that seem foolish, but when we are visibly irritated by their thoughts, they will learn to stop sharing them with us. Kids don’t want to be judged or criticized anymore than we do, and when we ignore them or show signs of irritation (or worse – contempt) it can poke a hole in their delicate little souls.

But when we listen carefully to them and we try with all our might to understand them and then we offer gentle suggestions or redirection as needed, they feel valued, and their communication skills grow.

I can’t promise I’ll never robot voice, but I do try as often as possible to stop what I’m doing and give them my full attention.

How about you? When is listening a challenge for you?

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Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Mommy, Please Don’t Be Harsh

Crying Baby

We love our kids with all of our heart, don’t we? But when we’re caught in the heat of anger, we can forget how delicate they are. It’s as if a strange veil comes over our eyes, and we can’t see their pain; we can only see our own anger.

But our momentary feelings of rage can cause a soul wound in our kids that lasts a lifetime. We will probably forget our own scowl (if we’re even aware of it) moments after our anger dissipates, but the image of that scowl can be burned on their memories for years.

There’s a line between being firm and being harsh. Our kids want us to be firm; it makes them feel safe to know that we have placed secure boundaries on their lives. We have to be clear in our expectations and consistent with correction, but the great challenge for us is to stay calm and gentle, even when we’re angry.

If  you feel anger begin to rise, pause. Go in another room and ask yourself which of the five causes of anger you’re dealing with in this situation. Just taking a few minutes to unpack the anger can help minimize it.

Remember that anger is a red flag to let you know that there’s a problem. Ask yourself what the root of the issue is and what correction tool would do the best job of helping your child learn and grow to overcome the problem.

Stay calm, and remember that in these moments, you are shaping their hearts and their character. So be firm, but don’t be harsh.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Why Fairness is Wrong

Skyler and Sydney Serious

“THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

How many times have we heard that cry, parents? If you’ve got more than one kid in the house, you probably hear it (or another version of it) often.

Recently, I sat my kids down and told them that they’re wrong to expect things to be fair.

Before I dug deeper into the reasoning of it, I did little role playing. I asked one of my kids to imagine that he was being hired to work on a farm. He’d have to work all day in the hot sun, and the work would be hard. I asked him what he thought would be a fair price for the whole day’s work. He said $50 (that’s a lot to an 11 year old). Just to be sure, I asked again. “Are you absolutely sure that’s enough? It’s going to be a long day. It’ll be hot and dirty, and you’re going to have to work very hard.” He stuck to his price, and we shook on it.

Then I told the kids that in the late morning, I would be heading out to the marketplace, and while I’m there, I’m going to pick up another worker. I called one of my kids up to represent this person.

Another kid came up to represent the worker I found in the early afternoon, and a third kid represented a worker hired in the late afternoon. A fourth kid came up to illustrate the final worker of the day, who joined the team in the last hour.

When the working day was done, I lined them all up in the order that they had been hired, and I paid the last kid first – the one who had only worked for an hour. I gave him $50. As expected, I heard the outcries from my son who was hired as the first worker. “What? He gets $50? That’s not fair!” I continued to pay each person $50, including the offended son. (FYI – this was all imaginary. They hadn’t really worked, and I wasn’t doling out real money.)

When I paid him, I asked why he thought $50 wasn’t fair. It was the price he had agreed to.

He said it wasn’t fair that he was getting paid the same amount of money as the guy who’d only worked an hour. In fact, he said, he should be paid the most because he worked the longest. I reminded him again that I paid him exactly what he had asked to be paid – the price that he thought was fair for the work.

Then I told him that I wanted to be generous and give more than expected to the other workers. I asked him if he thought I had a right to do what I wanted with my own money. He stuck to the unfair argument.

“You’re right son,” I said, “it is not fair,” but you are wrong to expect fairness.

I took the object lesson from a page in the Bible. Matthew 20 tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and in it, Jesus tells the grumbling workers that their eye is evil for coveting what was given to the other workers.

You Can’t Expect Fairness, But You Can Expect Justice

Fairness is not a basic human right.

There are many families who are desperate for just one child but can not conceive. I have six children. That’s not fair.

My neighbors have three vehicles, and we have only two. That’s not fair.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates take turns being the wealthiest man in the world while a middle-aged man lives under the bridge in my town. That’s not fair.

A demand for fairness is a socialist demand — one that seeks a redistribution of wealth. We believe in the virtues of a free market system, but fairness is not a rule of that system.

Although fairness is not a basic right, justice is. Justice says that all humans have unalienable rights endowed by their creator. The Declaration of Independence said that among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In our house, the kids are not allowed to demand fairness, but they are allowed to demand justice. If one kid hurts another, the offended child can expect my husband and I to correct the offender. They can expect the offender to humbly apologize and take action steps toward restitution.

Things won’t always be equal or fair. Sometimes one kid will get more attention or more privileges or more favor. Sometimes one kid will be asked to work harder than the others. Sometimes one kid will have to make more sacrifices than the others, and there’s no guarantee that it will ever completely even out.

But they can always count on our love and devotion to them. They can always count on our willingness to hear them and respect their individuality. They can always count on us to mediate their conflicts to the best of our ability and to make choices for them out of an earnest desire for their greater good.

Our form of justice will never be perfect because we are not perfect, but it will always be our best attempt.

So the next time your kids cry out, “That’s not fair!” You can say, “You’re right. It’s not fair, but in this life we have no right to demand fairness, only justice. And although this is not fair, it’s still just.”

Your thoughts?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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