Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Go ahead, join a startup April 3, 2018

Filed under: Careers,Uncategorized — Stephanie @ 8:43 pm
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The other day, Desirae tweeted about an article she came across about whether or not you should join a startup company right after college.  The general gist of the article was that you shouldn’t join a startup right away, because even if the salary/benefits seem good, if/when the company goes belly up, it’s like you never worked there.

Um, what?

He says that after the company goes bankrupt, you’ll have nothing to put on your resume because no one will have heard of the company or be able to look it up.  Which is an odd thing to say on multiple fronts because you WILL have things to list on your resume (all of your experiences at the company) and even if the company doesn’t exist anymore, you still have fellow coworkers/bosses who can be contacted as references with other emails/phone numbers.

He also complains that all the work you’ll be doing is “grunt work” and therefore you wont have any “relevant experience” to show on your resume.  On the one hand I know that if you are entry-level person at ANY job, there’s going to be some starting work that’s not super exciting or stimulating. But you need to learn things, you can’t expect to be thrown onto a super important project your first day on the job.  You work your way up, regardless of the size/age of a company!

Of course, I’m basing my response to this article on my own experiences.  I worked at a startup for 2 years straight out of college.  And then I got laid off.  But my resume had plenty on there from all my useful experiences there, and a few months later I was able to get a new job.

And even at my new job, I started with the less glamorous work, but I’ve learned so much these past 10 years and worked my way up to gain more responsibilities.

What do you think of the article?  Is joining a startup a waste of time right out of college?  Or a worthwhile experience?  Did you join or start a startup?

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The childcare decision revisited March 9, 2018

When we had our first child, it was pretty obvious that we’d both keep working.  I took the full 12 weeks of maternity leave allowed through FMLA, then headed back to work.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I came back to work part-time, with a flexible schedule that allowed me to work however much I could each week as long as I worked a minimum number of hours.  This definitely helped with my transition back to work, especially when I was still breastfeeding/pumping, and even now when trying to juggle the life of a working mom along with sharing the daycare pickup/dropoff responsibilities with my husband (especially when he has a business trip and I have to do both dropoff and pickup!)

We found our daycare with help from my Employee Assistance Program, who helped narrow down choices to nearby options that had openings.  The daycare center is very conveniently located relative to both our jobs, and we’re really happy with the care and education she’s gotten so far.  And she’s happy, too!

Of course, the one thing we’re less happy about?  The cost.  Daycare is EXPENSIVE.  And I know this cost often weighs on people when making the decision:  should a parent stay home?

As I mentioned in my last post, we’re expecting again (due late May/early June) and so the discussion came up again.  Should one of us stay home?  Or should we keep paying for childcare, now for two kids?

I have plenty of friends who have chosen to be stay at home parents, for both financial and personal reasons.  They’re awesome people, and I think they made the right choice for their family.

But for us, for now, we will follow the theory that childcare is an investment.  A quick calculation shows that childcare for two at our current daycare is about 25% of our combined full-time salaries (gross pay).  Of course, after taxes and healthcare, and acknowledging that I’m only currently working around 75% of full time (so I only get paid around 75% of my salary) the percentage of take-home pay (net pay) creeps much higher.  And of course, this year, with me going on maternity leave (which is not all paid, and when paid, is not at 100% pay), and probably dropping my hours back down a bit to accommodate my pumping schedule, we will probably be spending quite a lot of our income on childcare.

But we both see good futures in our jobs, and know that leaving the workforce entirely, even for a few years, could have significant impacts on our careers.  Being away from our careers for an extended amount of time will make it harder to “get back in”, if we haven’t been in the industry for a few years.  And once the kids are in school, we’d want to be back at work, anyway.  And as this great article points out, there’s more than just the lost wages when leaving a job for a few years.  You miss out on 401k contributions (yours and your employer’s, and any of the growth from those contributions), some of your potential social security benefits, and all the raises you would have gotten.  And, with our other big expense (mortgage) it also makes more sense to have two salaries, even if one (mine) is less for a little while from maternity leave and reduced hours (as mentioned above).

On top of all the financial reasons, it’s also a personal reason.  If I’m being honest, I don’t think staying home with my kid(s) is the best choice for any of us (parents or kids).  I’ve seen how exhausted I can get from just a single day taking care of my daughter (on a day she’s sick, or daycare is closed, or my husband is gone for a weekend day for work) and I can’t imagine being able to do this every single day, especially now with an infant set to enter our lives in less than 3 months.  And my daughter benefits greatly from being among her peers, and learning every day from people who are actually trained educators.  She gets variety every day in fun (and educational) indoor and outdoor activities.  I don’t think I could offer that level of education and fun every single day!

Yes, my husband could be the one to stay home instead, as he somehow manages to survive the day better than me when he’s home alone with our daughter all day, but as mentioned above, we see other benefits to having our children attend daycare.

And of course, we could seek out a less expensive option.  Either a nanny or finding a cheaper daycare center.  But most centers around here are around the same price, but less convenient to get to which means it would still mean less time one of us could spend at work to take care of pickup/dropoff on time (which at least for me, means less pay, so that defeats the purpose of finding a slightly cheaper location).

I know everyone’s situation is different, and I wouldn’t dare judge people on whatever decision they made for childcare.  I just wanted to share how we came to the decision to continue with daycare.

I’d love to hear from you on your childcare/work situation, and how you came to that decision!

 

 

 

 

I’m still here February 21, 2018

Filed under: baby,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 8:03 pm

Cue Elaine Stritch.  I’m still here.

I know my blogging has been pretty sparse, which I could blame on chasing around a toddler, but I’ve been pretty bad at maintaining this blog for years.  I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet, as I’ve got a lot of personal finance stuff still to think and talk about.  I just need to get back into the habit.

I have a pretty long/epic blog post in the works where I want to talk about how having a bunch of life changes all at once (we had a baby AND bought a house all in one year) can really throw money (and life) into chaos.  And to top it all of, we’re expecting again (yay!) which means that’s a whole new level of money (and life) chaos to consider.

So, I’m still here.  I’m usually tweeting rather than blogging, so that’s the better way to know what’s going on in my life.  But I really do want to get back into all these money (and life) discussions!

So, don’t worry. I’m still alive.

 

Taking advantage of workplace benefits: Employee Assistance Programs January 6, 2018

Filed under: baby,Careers — Stephanie @ 11:34 am
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[Note:  This is not a sponsored post.  I just wanted to share my experiences and make people aware of a program they may not realize they have available through their job!]

I had never really heard about Employee Assistance Programs before I started my current job.  EAPs tend to be offered by bigger companies, and my previous job at a startup was a bit more lean when it came to benefits.  It’s one of the many ways employers can help out with that ever elusive “work life balance”.

It turns out, there are a lot of potential resources from these types of programs.  I myself was able to take advantage of quite a few of their offerings when it came to having our baby.  My employer offered a Lactation Consultant program, and sent me a “Life Events Kit” for Baby Care, with books for pregnancy and the first few years, and other goodies to help me out.  They also ran a search for me for local daycare centers that had spots available for our daughter around the time she’d be starting daycare.  This was such a time saver, since they found out what places were available and how much they would cost, without me having to do a bunch of searches and phone calls.  We still had to make calls and visits to the few places that we liked from the search results, but it was still such a help!

Another great benefit they offered was one geared towards mental health.  You can get up to 8 visits with a mental health professional (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, etc.) at no cost.  This is such a valuable benefit, since, with most insurance plans, you’re likely spending a lot out-of-pocket before you even hit the deductible, which might deter you from seeking the help you need.  I went through a few rough patches emotionally these past few years, and getting these sessions for free made me willing to go and deal with things rather than keeping my issues bottled up inside!

There are plenty of other resources available for other life events and issues.  There are other “life event kits” for when your kids first head to school, for when your kids are teens, and one when you’re dealing with elder care issues.

My EAP also has advice lines for financial and legal questions/issues.  There’s also assistance for navigating special needs and other parenting situations.

Not sure if you have an EAP at your job?  My benefits are through Optum, and it looks like quite a few other companies offer it through there as well, so check to see if your employer is on the dropdown list here.  If your company isn’t listed there, check with your HR department to see what they offer.  And maybe you can help convince them to start something if they don’t currently offer it!

Have you taken advantage of employee benefits like these at your job?  What do you wish your company offered?

 

Fun STEM-themed clothes from Svaha USA August 8, 2017

Filed under: baby,Science — Stephanie @ 9:03 pm
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[Disclosure:  Svaha USA sent me two items for free to try in exchange for a review.  All opinions are my own!  Also, they have a referral program, where I get $15 off a future purchase and you get 20% off of $50+ purchase if you go through my referral link.  (This link is the only time I use the referral link, every other link in this post is just a regular link.)  Also you can sign up for the referral program too to earn points for yourself!  Check the bottom right corner of their website to join Svaha Rewards.]

I first heard about Svaha USA when I read an article (I think it was this one) about new clothing companies trying to break gender stereotypes, including selling fun STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) clothes for women and girls.  They were one of the new companies that grew out of a desire to provide science-related clothes for women and girls.

Anyway, after I followed them and a few of the other companies from that article on twitter, the folks at @SvahaUSA sent me a twitter message asking if I’d like to do a review. Of course I said yes!

So, here’s me modeling the Caffeine Molecule Infinity Scarf.  I like it for a bunch of reasons:  It’s science!  But it also still looks really fashionable!  It’s just the right length so that it’s not too tight or too loose.  It’s a great conversation starter.  At a friend’s house, they asked “Are those molecules?”  And I said “Yes! It’s caffeine!”.  Lots of fun!

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And, here’s my daughter modeling something from their Baby collection: the Chemistry Lab Baby Bodysuit.  This is the size 12 months, Ruffled version.  She’s just about 16 months in this photo, but she’s small for her age.  Super cute!

 

 

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I’m glad that there are companies like Svaha out there making great clothes with science-related designs, especially for women and girls (but boys can get clothes from them, too!  Plus they sell plenty of unisex shirts that men can wear, too!)

Thanks to Svaha for sending me these clothes!  Glad you make STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART!, Math) clothes for everyone!

Where do you find your STEM clothes?  Share your suggestions!

 

My Breastfeeding Journey, A Follow Up July 9, 2017

Filed under: baby,Pregnancy — Stephanie @ 8:56 pm
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(Disclosure:  I link to a product on here that is an Affiliate link. You can read more about my disclosure here)

It seems that all you have to do to get the weaning process really going is to blog about how you’re having trouble getting your toddler to wean.  After my last, VERY LONG blog post about my breastfeeding journey, we started trying a bit harder to get breastfeeding out of our daughter’s routine.  The biggest change was getting up with her when she got up (if it was a reasonable hour in the morning).  In the past, if she woke up and didn’t want to go back to sleep, but it was still slightly too early to get up, I’d just bring her into our bed and I’d nurse her to sleep (and I’d probably doze off a little bit, too).  But now, we started just getting up with her and heading downstairs to eat some “real” food.  Give her some breakfast and her sippy cup of milk.  The evenings were similar, in that we’d just make sure her cup was around, and that we were playing or keeping busy after dinner until bedtime.

We did have a few times where we slipped back into the old routine (a few weekend mornings when we were just NOT ready to get up, or an evening where she was incredibly upset).  But after June 18th she hasn’t nursed at all!  She did “ask” to nurse a few times the week after, when she was especially cranky and tired, but I distracted her away from it.  So she was fully weaned before 17 months.

It’s bittersweet (I loved the cuddling she and I did while she nursed) but she’s still giving some great hugs, and she’s really growing up (as much as a 17 month old is “grown up”).  Lots of personality, lots of babbling, a some recognizable words!

I also wanted to share some feedback/advice that I got from some friends after I posted my last blog post.  Some helpful hints and some insights from my friends (especially about pumping):

  • “Outsource” the cleaning of pump parts, i.e. have your spouse/partner take apart the pump parts and clean them for you.  It means one less thing you have to deal with on top of everything else!
  • Besides replacing the membranes on your pump (like I mentioned in my post), also keep an eye on your tubing as well, and trim it if it gets too worn.
  • Have extras of as many things as possible:  If you can, get a second pump that stays at work so you have one less thing you have to schlep back and forth.  Also, have more than one set of pump parts, so you can pre-pack your pump parts for the next day while the current set dries (I was almost able to fully do that, for some reason, I had almost 2 full sets but was missing one of the flanges).  This same friend also suggested having some Microwave Sterilizer Bags for a quick clean, especially at work.  And that you should make sure you get the flanges that fit properly, even if it means buying more to find the right fit.  Also, consider getting a hand pump as another pumping option.
  • A bunch of my friends were able to wean after a few days away from their child (after a business trip).  Taking yourself out of the baby’s life for a few days (if possible or necessary) is apparently enough to get them used to not needing to nurse, in some cases.
  • I had friends who did pretty much every variety of feeding their babies:  Exclusively breast feed, exclusively pump, exclusively formula feed, and a combination of any of these (supplement breast milk with formula, wean early and switch to formula).  Some stopped nursing early on, some breastfed even longer than I did!

So glad to get all this feedback and advice from my friends!  I encourage you all to comment on this or my previous post about your feeding experiences, and what advice or resources you’d like to share.

On to the next set of adventures with our little one!

 

My breastfeeding journey, so far June 3, 2017

Filed under: baby,Pregnancy — Stephanie @ 10:20 pm
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I can’t believe it!  My daughter is 16 months old already!  Time really does fly!

I thought I might share my experience with breastfeeding.  If this is something you don’t care to read about, that’s fine.  Plenty of other posts to read!

Warning.  This is a long post.  My journey has been long, and I have lots of thoughts/ideas about how this has gone.

Also, disclosure:  I link to a few products that I found really helpful during my breastfeeding journey.  Some of them link to Amazon, and they are affiliate links.  You can read more about this on my Disclosures page.

Planning ahead

Going into the pregnancy, we had plenty of ideas about what we wanted to do for our daughter.  One of these was breastfeeding.  From most of what I’d heard/read/seen, breastfeeding was highly recommended for a lot of different reasons.  So I wanted to try!  My plan was:  try it and see how it goes.

Before she was born, I tried to learn a bit about how to breastfeed, and what advice was available.  I got connected to a Lactation Consultant through the Employee Assistance Program at work.  I also went to a class that was a free added extra from the childbirth class my husband and I went to (through our hospital).

The Early Days

That being said, I don’t know how much learning you can do ahead of time.  It wasn’t until my daughter was actually born and needed to be fed that I actually got any idea of how to do it.  It was a little tricky in the beginning, because she was born pretty small (5lbs 8 oz) so it was hard to get her to latch.  Luckily, my hospital had plenty of Lactation Consultants available pretty much all the time, and the nurses were also well-educated on all things breastfeeding as well.  They weren’t afraid to get right in and help.  And since I stayed at the hospital for 4 days due to my emergency c-section, my milk started coming in before I left, so the lactation consultants could show me more ways to nurse.  That’s also when they showed me how to use the nipple shield to help get the baby to latch even better.  I’ve definitely seen this recommended to a lot of new nursing moms by our local lactation consultants.  It was very helpful for me, until my daughter got a better hang of things (she stopped needing it after a week or so).  They also helped me get my breast pump by showing me what options were available through my insurance, and showed me how to use the breast pump, which would be very important later on.

I went to a bunch of Baby Cafes (local weekly meet ups with other new moms and lactation consultants), which was very helpful both early on getting the hang of nursing, getting advice, being able to weigh my daughter before and after nursing (to see that she was, in fact, getting milk), then later when I went back to work, to get additional advice about pumping.  (I’ve heard that La Leche League also has similar events like these).  Plus it was great to get me out of the house and interacting with other adults during my maternity leave.

Pretty much my entire maternity leave was lots of nursing.  She ate pretty much around the clock, and, especially early on, NEEDED to.  The pediatrician actually told us to make sure she didn’t go more than 3 hours even at night for the first few weeks to make sure that she got enough to eat.  As time went on, it was okay to let her go a little bit longer at night, but those very first few days, I basically had to set an alarm for a few hours into the future every night all night.  EXHAUSTING.

I also got over my shyness about nursing in front of people pretty quickly.  The first month or so, if I had people visiting, or I was out and about, I used a nursing cover or blanket.  But once I started worrying less about what other people thought, I started not bothering, as it was yet another thing to juggle when trying to get her to nurse.  I also like to think it helped that I did the “double shirt” technique to reduce exposed flesh:  I wore a tank top under a regular shirt, so that I could pull up the top shirt and pull down the tank top to provide nursing access.  Meant less of my chest and belly would be showing!

Back to work, the pumping routine

As I mentioned in my post about maternity leave, I found a few books to be extra helpful for transitioning back to work and getting the pumping thing figured out.  I highly recommend reading the book Work. Pump. Repeat. for figuring out the whole going back to work, pumping at work thing.  What you need to bring, how to navigate the potential awkwardness of dealing with bosses and coworkers when you have to go pump.  One tip I found very useful:  let your boss know ahead of time that you plan on pumping, and word it in the least boob-related way possible, i.e “I will be taking multiple breaks throughout the day so that I can provide food for my baby.”  I was very appreciative of my boss and coworkers being very understanding of what I was doing.  I also made sure to block of time in my work calendar so no one would try to schedule a meeting during my pumping sessions.

Ahead of going back to work, I did start pumping a bit, both to build up a freezer stash as well as to just have milk to get others to feed her with.  I did run into trouble with trying to get her to actually drink from a bottle.  I think I may have started too late with trying a bottle, and it actually was only a few days before I went back to work that she actually started taking the bottle.  I was so anxious that she wouldn’t be able to take a bottle at daycare!  The first time she actually took the bottle was when I sneaked it into her mouth while she was half asleep!  Then she started accepting the bottle while awake.  I had tried so many different bottle/nipple options (and tried leaving the room when my husband and others tried to feed her), and then it turned out that the very simple/cheap slow flow nipples sold by the company that made my pump/bottles worked for her.  This made things way easier, since I could pump directly into the bottles, and send in the matching nipple top.

Things that made my pumping easier (both the actual pumping and the hassles associated with transport/cleaning/etc):

A nice pump bag.  I know it’s not a necessity, but having a nice bag that doesn’t look too strange and can transport all your various equipment (the pump, tubing, flanges, bottles, bags, etc) made things a lot easier.  My first few weeks with just an old bookbag and a huge cooler just made me feel awkward and sad.  So my mother got me a breast pump bag (and wet-dry bag) from Sarah Wells for my first Mother’s Day!  There was a spot to put the pump, and an insulated area to store the pumped milk (with a few reusable cold packs), and plenty of pockets to store everything. And I used the wet-dry bag to store the flanges etc. between pumping sessions so that I didn’t have to wash them after every time.  (I’d read that as long as you wash them once a day, and just store the parts in the fridge between pumping, you should be okay!).  Plus Sarah Wells is often a sponsor at Kelly Mom (an amazing website and great parenting resource, especially for nursing moms), and when she’s a sponsor, she usually has a coupon code!  So we got it at a discount.

Cleaning supplies specifically for your pump stuff and bottles.  You’ll want to have an area at home (or, if necessary, at work) where you can wash and dry your items.  If you’re dealing with a preemie, or a baby that otherwise is more vulnerable to infection, you might also want to buy a sterilizer.  Or, if you’re like me, and a general germophobe, you might want one. I’ve heard some people say that soap and hot water is all you need (and they’re probably right), but I liked knowing things were “extra” clean.  So I washed in soap and water and then used a microwave sterilizer.  Then I dried everything on a drying rack separate from my regular drying.

As time went on, pumping changed for me. In the beginning, I was pumping way more than my daughter drank, but over time, my supply regulated, and she started taking bigger bottles at each feeding. At some point, my supply dropped even more, so I had to try pumping more often to make sure I had enough milk to send in, or try “nursing vacations” (nursing A LOT on the weekends).  This supply change started around 6 months in, which was also around the time we started introducing solids. (Another thing that helped me get my pumping output back up was to replace the membranes on the pump every month) We got into a basic routine during work days: nurse when she wakes up, then I pump while I eat breakfast. Pump once right before lunch at work, then once in the afternoon at work. At home, more nursing, then I pump once more right before I go to bed.  Weekends there was still a lot of nursing, even as she got more and more “real food”.

I kept up this basic pumping schedule for about a year (though I sometimes skipped the morning pumping session). Then at a year, we were able to introduce whole cows milk (which she luckily readily accepted with little coaxing). A little after that, she was transitioned from the infant room to the toddler room at daycare. Unfortunately, due to health regulations, the teachers were not able to give her as many bottles of breast milk as in the toddler room (they have to sit down with her to feed it to her, but there are more kids to watch in the toddler room, and they can’t risk other toddlers grabbing it). They only could really offer up the one bottle if it was right after nap time, when most of the kids are still asleep. So this change pretty quickly meant that I had to stop pumping so much.  I started dropping pumping sessions until it was just one mid-day.  So, just a few days before she turned 13 months, I stopped pumping all together.  I had been tracking my pumping output the whole time, and so at the end, I added it all up.  Over that time, I’d pumped over 18 gallons of breast milk!

How things are going now

My daughter still nurses.  At this point, I think it’s mostly for comfort.  She nurses every morning, and most evenings after work (though, if my husband is home and/or we’re able to distract her, we can get away with skipping the evening nursing).  And sometimes on weekends she’ll be very demanding and want to nurse throughout the day.  I’ve tried to wean her, but she is very persistent about nursing.  I think it helps if we’re out and about, or if other people are around.  Usually when she tries to nurse, I’ll try to offer her regular milk, or a snack, or try to distract her with a toy.  Sometimes it works.  I’ll admit, on days when I’m exhausted and/or she’s upset, it’s just easier to nurse her.  I’ve tried the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” advice for trying to wean, but so far, she’s still demanding it.  My guess is if I we can get her focused on other things often enough, we can get there.

Final Thoughts

I lucked out in a lot of ways when it comes to breastfeeding.  Hearing from others who dealt with mastitis, tongue/lip ties, lack of lactation consultants early on, low milk supply, a poor latch, etc makes me feel pretty lucky.  I also had a pretty supportive network of family and friends, who never made me feel like I was doing the wrong thing.

Being your child’s main (and sometimes only) source of food and comfort can be very stressful.  And it was a bit hard on my husband in the beginning, because she had such a strong preference towards me.  But as she got older, and became less dependent on me for food, she opened up to him more.  Now they have a great relationship!

Breastfeeding took a lot out of me, emotionally and physically.  In fact, the physical impact was quite profound.  I was basically ALWAYS HUNGRY, and would eat huge meals all the time.  Luckily (?) it meant I was able to lose all of my baby weight in less than 6 months, and then the weight still kept dropping (which was a bit scary at times).  Breastfeeding just burns A LOT of calories.   Now that I’m nursing less, I’m not as famished all the time, and my weight has come back up a little bit to a more normal weight.  But my pre-pregnancy clothes are still a bit loose on me.

The whole “breastfeeding is free” mentality annoyed me.  Because I was working a flexible schedule (so grateful for this option), it meant I was basically being paid hourly (rather than working full-time and getting a full salary).  So, pumping twice a day for about a half hour each session basically “cost” me an hour’s salary every day, since I wasn’t really able to put in much longer hours due to daycare schedules and my overall tiredness every day.  Still, I’m glad I was able to do it.

I didn’t think I’d still be breastfeeding at 16 months.  I figured I’d nurse until she was about a year old (based on recommendations from health organizations)  then we’d wean and that would be that.  But as I mentioned above, my daughter is still demanding nursing at times, and I’ve had a hard time refusing.  Hopefully as time goes on, she’ll realize she doesn’t need to nurse to be comforted, and can just snuggle with us.

Thanks for reading through this incredibly long post.  I think this post was more for me than you guys!  If you have any thoughts, questions, or advice, please let me know!

p.s. for a follow up post after I weaned, plus a few extra bits of advice, head over to this post!

 

 
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