Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Traditions

Whatever your faith or beliefs may be, the end of the year can be a great time for focusing in on family traditions. Whether the tradition is generations old or created today it can be a unifying source for the family. It doesn't need to be traditional. One family I know eschews the turkey, stuffing, and cranberries for burgers on the grill every Thanksgiving. The important thing is that it can be anticipated and enjoyed year after year. A few years ago when we got married, we decided that one family tradition would be to buy a Christmas book every year and open and read it on Christmas Eve. This year, with the birth of our son, we tweaked the idea a bit and decided to wrap up our collection and open one to read on each day leading up to Christmas Day. The newest book will be opened on Christmas Eve. Of course, at some point we will run out of days in December and will have to start a rotation, but that is years away. The fun will be rediscovering the stories year after year. What are your oldest and newest family traditions? They do not need to be holiday related; let's hear your great ideas!

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Saturday, October 3, 2009


Dear readers,

Please excuse my three month hiatus from this blog. My excuse?

It is now Autumn, my dear son is nearly four months old, and I am bursting with ideas for this blog. To start, a potpourri of linky love for kids yoga, early childhood ideas, and green parenting! Enjoy~

Kids Yoga
ABC Yoga for Kids A delightful book introducing yoga in the form of an alphabet book

Children's Literature
Planet Esme

Early Childhood
Preschool Playbook blog by an experienced preschool teacher
No Time for Flashcards blog
Momtessori blog by a former Montessori teacher/current SAHM

Green Parenting


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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Spanglish Baby Usborne Book Giveaway!

Check out this great Usborne book giveway over at Spanglish Baby! Good til tonight at midnight! Andale!

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Itsy Bitsy Yoga

My son Owen Nathaniel was born 20 days ago on June 12, 2009 at 8:15 A.M.

We have been blissfully enjoying his presence and our new life with him.

This morning I started practicing yoga with him, using the Itsy Bitsy Yoga book by Helen Garabedian.
I will also be using Yoga Baby by DeAnsin Goodson Parker.

Itsy Bitsy Yoga is divided into sections by baby's age and development, and also offers 7 Magic poses that can calm fussy babies within one minute. Today Owen and I tried the Good Morning Newborn Series of four poses including the Scoop n' Hug pose which was his favorite. Check out the book today!

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Yoga for kids linkies

From 2001 to 2005 I had a children's yoga business in South Florida. As a classroom teacher, I observed first hand the differences in children who had some breathwork and training to help regulate their energy levels during a busy day. Outside the classroom, I taught yoga at a local studio, in private home sessions, at community centers and to Girl Scout groups. I had one regular private group of 2-4 girls for over a year, and in that time we really developed the idea of self-reliance and management of stress, two issues which I believe kids today need desperately.

At the local studio, I taught one afterschool group of 5 first grade boys with LOTS of energy (3 of whom happened to be in my first grade class at the time) With them, we always started the class with some laughter and "log-rolling" to help get some excess energy out and set boundaries for the class. Since moving to the west coast in 2005, I no longer have the business, but I am still able to incorporate some breathing and stretching into my kindergarten classes.

Below are some fun kids yoga linkies (so many more than when I first started researching kids' yoga in 2000!) Enjoy!

Global Family Yoga Blog
Yoga 4 Kids
Radiant Child Yoga Program
Next Generation Yoga (where I did my training in July 2002)
Jodi Komitor from NGY preschool yoga video clips at Activity TV

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kiss the Chef!

There are so many wonderful titles available that focus on multicultural foods and food traditions around the world. Some of them focus on one particular ethnic treat while others concentrate on finding the commonalities between popular ethnic foods.

Comparing food between cultures has always intrigued me. For example, that most cultures have some type of portable meal wrapped in bread; Hungarian pierogies, burritos from Mexico, pork buns or egg rolls from China, wraps or sandwiches in the United States, empanadas, stromboli or calzone, the list is virtually endless. Even regional dishes such as New Orleans Po'Boy sandwiches or hot weiners from Rhode Island make the list. Below are some children's titles to spark your interest in exploring new foods with your young ones. Seek out recipes and pair a book with a new meal. Even picky eaters might be interested when they have seen the food in another context or played with it in a non-threatening dramatic play setting.

Some scenarios:

Dim-sum lunch
Read Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger
or Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin

Have fun using the Good Fortune Chinese Food Play Set by Small World Toys or make your own with wooden chopsticks and clay!

Try a simple recipe for one or two items or find them frozen at the market. Pork buns and dumplings are easy to find.

Tamale or Jalapeno bagel breakfast (with or without actual jalapenos!)

Read Jalapeno Bagels by Natasha Wing (for preschool or school-age kids) and then make some!

Read ¡Hola! Jalapeno by Amy Wilson Sanger and pair it up with the Hispanic play food set by Learning Resources which includes a tamale or make real ones!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It takes a village

As we get closer and closer to baby's "birthday", I think about how realistic our plan to raise baby with two languages may or may not be in our community. In my last community in South Florida, I had at least one friend and colleague speaking exclusively Spanish with her young daughter. Here in our current town, I think it's time to find other bilingual families (especially Spanish and English speaking ones) to help model "mommy" language for me and to spend time with in order to foster more language practice and interaction. What are your experiences with building a community of bilingual families in your local communities?

Though I am bilingual, Spanish is my second language, learned while living with a Bolivian family in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia in 1991 and 1992 as a high school exchange student. I am certified as a bilingual teacher but most of my Spanish is now related to education and early childhood vocabulary instead of parenting. Also, my husband is monolingual but has some Spanish and German language background. I plan to use Spanish 100% of the time when interacting with my son, other than some English songs and reading. I plan to also sing traditional spanish lullabies and children's songs and read to him in Spanish.
Has this worked for anyone? I am eager to hear about your experiences! Please leave your comment.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Laptop lunch winner

Even though I only had two readers enter my first giveaway (thanks for the fun rainbow eating ideas!) I used a random number integer generator at and Happy Birdycake is the winner of the Laptop Lunchbox! I am going to offer a choice between the Laptop Lunchbox pictured below or this kid-friendly Bento Box! Just leave a comment with which prize you prefer and it'll be on it's way to you soon! Congratulations!

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Eat the Rainbow!/Laptop Lunch Box Giveaway

For a fun Spring shift in your normal eating routine, why not try eating the rainbow today? Challenge your kids to create a meal using plant products in all the colors of the rainbow! You could design it first and then eat, or eat as your find each color and keep track on a separate page. Green is probably the easiest, (though it might be fun to try something new like kiwi) so here are some ideas for the other colors:

red- peppers, tomatoes, berries, apples,cherries, (kidney beans-protein), watermelon
orange-carrots, peppers, sweet potato,papaya,pumpkin
yellow-peppers, tomatoes, banana, pineapple,tangerine, (garbanzo beans-protein), spaghetti squash or other yellow squash
green-kiwi, avocado, broccoli, honeydew, kale,lettuce, spinach
blue- berries, cauliflower, blue potatoes, blue corn
indigo-boysenberries, plums, prunes, (black beans)
violet-red grapes, blackberries, eggplant, purple cabbage

Leave a comment with a list of your rainbow foods today and be entered to win a Laptop Lunch Box, pictured below*
Can't wait to see your creative ideas! Winner will be chosen at random; contest ends at midnight Pacific coast time on Friday, May 8, 2009.

*Food not included!
Laptop Lunch boxes are phthalate, bisphenol A (BPA), and lead free. Photo courtesy of

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

On the Verge

I am sitting here on the verge of parenthood. In just a few short weeks (more or less) a never before seen human will appear and all of a sudden (I am told) life as I know it will be forever altered. This is big. I know, I am not nearly the first or only person to experience this. But it is the first time I have experienced it. The swelling belly, the tiny movements that belong to someone else within my skin, the "hosting" of a separate being. I have spent hours and hours with children of many ages, but this is something different. I have a host of knowledge about many child-centered topics, yet question marks seem to dot my every thought like buzzing bees in my head. I think what I am saying here is: I know nothing and will only begin to learn through the eyes of my child. So, ideas about bilingual children, organic gardening, or meditation mondays aside for the moment, the journey and the adventure are just beginning.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Meditation Monday- Kerry Lee Maclean

Here is a linky to an author and family meditation teacher with some interactive kids' meditation activities and other resources:

Family Meditation Website

Enjoy and have a great week!

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jose Luis Orozco contest

Jose Luis Orozco is a musician and writer who has published books and cd's relating to traditional Latin songs and games. I have been using his CD De Colores and the accompanying picture book with illustrations by Elisa Kleven since 1996 when I taught pre-k and kinder in a bilingual preschool in Coral Gables, Florida. You can learn more about him here.

Tati at Wanna Jugar with Migo? had the opportunity to interview him recently and is now sponsoring a contest to win one of his CD's. Visit her blog for details!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meditation Monday: Creating a spot at home

So you've decided that incorporating a meditation practice in your family is a good idea but aren't sure what to do next?
Younger children will learn the most by watching what you model; don't worry about trying to get children younger than 6 or 7 to "sit" and meditate. Some may join in on their own, but all are absorbing some level of your activity. In his book, "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Parenthood" Deepak Chopra suggests that after the age of 7 or 8 children are more ready to practice along with you.

A serene spot can be carved out in even the smallest of living spaces. First, sit down and consider what part of your home makes you feel the most calm, relaxed and clear. Is it inside or out? Away from phones and electronics? Now look at the list of elements below and pick a few that seem inspiring to you:

*add a plant
*create a small altar (This could be as simple as a windowsill or small box)
*Where will you sit? In a chair? on a cushion?

Since I switch between eyes open and eyes closed during my own practice, I prefer to sit on a throw pillow in front of a window or sliding glass door. Instant zen. Of course, practicing at home may be difficult with the din of daily life (and kids!) around, so perhaps walking to a nearby park or grove will provide the "innerspace" for a few minutes of quiet reflection. If leaving the house proves impossible, try to communicate the importance of this quiet time to the rest of the family. Start by hanging a small signal (such as a bright ribbon) near wear you sit to remind kids of what you are doing and keeping the time short (5 minutes to start) so they can adjust. You may even be surprised to see that they begin to sit near you and emulate your practice after a while. Meditation can seem daunting if you bite off big chunks- "How can I sit still for 20 minutes doing NOTHING when there is so much I need to do?" but if you start with five minutes on a throw pillow every time you think of it, the practice will grow on its own!

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Scavenger Hunt

Following a trail of clues to a Springy surprise is sure to delight kids of all ages!

Hide numbered clues around your house, setting your own boundaries for safety or convenience. For example, you can say "All the clues are inside." or "There are no clues beyond the garage door." Clues could be indoors and out, if the weather has turned nice.

For younger pre-readers, use picture clues showing where the next clue can be found.

For emergent readers, use a combination of writing and picture symbols or create a rebus puzzle to communicate the clue.

As children become more experienced readers, use written clues or riddles for them to find each successive clue.

The surprise at the end could be a spring picnic, a basket of flowers, or another fun activity to do together!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Raising bilingual kids? Ideas for keeping it fun!

Check out Mama Blogueras week over at Spanglish Baby for fun links to other mom bloggers who are raising bilingual kids! There you will find great ideas for connecting with cultures and fun games to keep language learning fun! Here are two more ideas to add to the list:

*If you want your child to be biliterate as well, consider posting a selection of Spanish household vocabulary around the house for an early elementary learner. Posting on things like light switches, cupboards and even candles can widen oral vocabulary as well as help learners begin to connect with the language visually! Change out 10-12 words every few months.

*Pick a Spanish speaking country and learn one or two children's games popular there to spice up a playdate or rainy afternoon. Resources like Mama Lisa's World or Streetplay can help get you started!

Here is one example of a game popular in Bolivia, where I learned Spanish.

Tirar Frijoles (pronounced TEE-rahr FREE-holes), meaninf “throw the beans.”
Bolivian children play the game with dried beans. If no beans are available, use marbles instead. There
are many ways to play tirar frijoles. Here’s one way to play it.

1.Find a partner.

2. Each player of a pair stands about 5 feet from the line and attempts to
flick a bean toward the line. The player whose bean lands closest
to the line becomes the standing player. The other player becomes the
kneeling player, who stands across the line from his/her partner facing
him or her.

3. The standing player stands by the line with heels together, toes apart,
and a bean in his or her hand.

4. The other player kneels across the line from his/her partner about
five feet from the line, and attempts to flick a bean between the standing
player’s feet.

5. The kneeling player gets three attempts to land a bean.

6. If the kneeling player does not land a bean, the standing player keeps
the unlanded beans, and takes a turn at being the kneeling player.

7. If the kneeling player lands a bean, the standing player drops one of
the beans he or she is holding.

8. The kneeling player tries to hit the opponent’s bean. If it’s hit, the bean
belongs to the kneeling player. If not, the standing player keeps the bean
as well as the bean used for the hit.

The game ends when one player owns all the beans or marbles.

From: Sidewalk Games Around The World, Arlene Erlbach, Published by
Millbrook Press

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fresh Spring idea: Plant a Pizza Garden!

Since tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and parsley all need lots of sun, rich soil and regular watering, consider plotting out an area for a pizza garden this Spring! How much fun to plant, tend and harvest your own ingredients for a delicious summer pizza!
If you have the space, you could plant the vegetables in pie shaped pieces of a large circle. If you are short on space, consider using containers instead. Herbs such as basil, thyme and parsley could share a large pot, as could onions and peppers. Your ingredients should be ready in just a few months! Celebrate Spring by planting something edible to enjoy soon!

You can also visit Kids Gardening for other great ideas!
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes

Awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2005, this gorgeous picture book is a new classic. Kevin Henkes is known for his many picture books about sassy mice like Lilly, Owen, and my personal favorite, Chrysanthemum. Kitten's First Full Moon is a touching tale about a kitten seeing (what else?) a bowl of milk when he gazes at the moon. He is persistent and adorable, and the black and white illustrations are crisp and luminous. The book's underlying message is that we can achieve what we believe, and the young protaganist draws the reader into his innocent despair as he tries to reach his goal. The book itself feels so large and square and so unlike Henkes' rectangular, colorful mouse books, delightful as they are in their own right. Dive in!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What the Brain knows: Music and Movement

Why is the Alphabet song the gold standard when we first start to think about kids and reading? According to brain researchers, music opens pathways in the brain and helps develop equilibrium between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. One side is focused on the words of the song while the other is more concerned with the music itself. Music also acts as a stress reliever, calming the mind and setting up ideal conditions for active processing by creating a sense of relaxed alertness, recognized by researchers as crucial for learning. The natural companion to music is movement, which is known to oxygenate the brain and cause it to produce endorphins, also creating an optimal environment for new learning. So, the natural combination of music and movement is a great way to prepare the brain for new learning! Cross-lateral movement specifically stimulates the brain which is why crawling is such an important milestone for babies. Any movements that cross the mid-line such as windmills, or games like "Pat-a-cake" or "Hot Cross Buns" are also effective as they strengthen the nerve-cell paths that link the two sides of the brain. So crank up the stereo (or the wireless ipod) and have some fun! For more info, try these links:

Children's Music Web-a non-profit resource with web-based kids public radio
Articles on music's effects on the brain divided by age group
Brain Rules, by John Medina-for adults too! check out the 12 rules

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ten on Tuesday-Tidbits and Tips for green living with kids

1. Try packing kids' lunches in reusable containers and use real cutlery instead of plastic baggies and throwaway silverware.
Bento boxes make for fun lunches! Try cutting cheese with cookie cutters or decorating hard-boiled eggs with food markers to create fun characters. Check out the fun at Maisie Eats Bento. For more info about creating bento lunches, see Cooking Cute

2. Need some time for household chores? Check out Birdycake's great recipe for eco-playdough!

3.Keep those extra canvas and cloth grocery sacks right in the car so they're there when you get to the store! Grab them when you head into other stores too like Target or the drugstore. Most cashiers are used to seeing them now, and the easier they are for you to see in the car, the more likely you are to remember them!

4. Good: Pick seasonal produce.
Better: Pick locally grown produce in your grocery store that is appropriate to the season. As an added bonus, It will taste fresher and be more economical as well. Produce shipped across borders has the added environmental cost of transportation.
Best: Shop local farmers' markets or farm cooperatives.

5. Have little ones who put everything in their mouths? Try replacing one or two brand name household cleaners with non-toxic or natural alternatives such as vinegar, baking soda or plain hot water! Baking soda deodorizes and scours, while white vinegar cuts grease and removes mildew. Try adding 5-10 drops of essential oils such as lemon, orange or peppermint if you desire a scent.

6. Remember Punky Brewster? Well, she's all grown up with two daughters of her own (Poet and Jagger) and co-owns The Little Seed, an organic children's store in Los Angeles. So if you're in a shopping mood, check out the store and blog for fun green products! Buy green!

7. Plan an Earth Hour event or party in your home or neighborhood. On March 28, 2009 at 8:30 P.M. millions of homes and businesses will switch off the lights for one hour. If you plan ahead, it's an opportunity for a fun night for family and friends. Tell stories, play guitar, just talk! Reconnect in the dark and Vote for Earth!

8. The Lorax is a popular Dr. Seuss tome first published in 1971. It describes the plight of The Lorax, who desperately attempts to defend the trees when the Once-ler comes to town and starts a Thneed factory, soon decimating the lush landscape of Truffula Trees and leaving a smoggy, gray, barren place instead. Now you can visit The Lorax Project and take the pledge! There are activities, games, and information too. Most appropriate for elementary-aged children, though some preschoolers will enjoy the games and pictures.

9. Read The Lorax with your kids!

10. Help kids see garbage as a potential resource. Instead of throwing all empty containers in the trash or recycling bin, consider designating an area of the garage or basement to collect empty jars, egg cartons, lids, and small boxes to use for art projects such as recycled instruments (a shoebox with a paper towel tube and some rubber bands makes a great guitar!) or giant robots. When kids are finished with the homemade toys, have them take it to playgroup or school to share with someone.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Zabbit

picture from, all rights reserved
I had the opportunity to see Jim Walkow at a conference recently. He is the creator of The Zabbit; Abbot the Rabbit who is a rabbit with zebra stripes. Abbot learns about valuing his unique talents and believing in himself. Mr. Walkow has presented
the story of The Zabbit along with a CD of songs. Check it out at The Zabbit and hear him narrating an excerpt of the story. Here is a sample of his song.
Here is an excerpt from the story.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Meditation Monday: The Relaxation Station

Let's face it; kids today are running on overload! From afterschool activities, homework, and family obligations to spending lots of free time looking at computer screens and video game monitors, kids today are overstimulated. Many do not have the ability to sit still and do "nothing". But these same kids are craving stillness! They want to experience it and understand that once they know how to access a quieter mind, it's there for them whenever they may need it.

In my Kindergarten classroom, students learn breathing and relaxation techniques and are encouraged to take a break in the Relaxation Station whenever they feel they need it. At first, they take every opportunity to visit, experimenting with the new freedom, but later they tend to only use it when they are experiencing tiredness or high emotion. The Relaxation Station can be easily created using a soft rug, a few big pillows and one or two focal points such as a simple picture of a flower on the wall or of an animal resting. Adults can model sitting quietly or laying down with a blanket breathing deeply for a few moments before returning to their regular activities. Having such a spot can empower children to identify when they need a break.

Deep breathing also empowers kids. When two children are having a conflict in the class, both are directed to take 5-10 "balloon" breaths before attempting to discuss the problem. In my experience, 9 times out of 10 they forget their problem by the time they finish the breaths, or at least are able to communicate about the problem more easily.

Balloon Breath:

1. Place your hands over your chest, where the lungs are.
2. Close your eyes and imagine a colorful balloon inside you.
3. Breathe in through your nose and imagine the breath filling the balloon. Feel the lungs filling with fresh air and oxygen.
4. Exhale through the nose and release the breath. Allow it to float away.
5. Repeat a few times. (1-3 times for younger children, a few more for older children)
6. Open your eyes and describe the color of your balloon. How do you feel?

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Raise Bilingual Children?

Here is an interesting article from Spanglish Baby concerning the choice to raise kids with more than one home language. I found it to be a nice introduction to the topic! According to the Multilingual Children's Association, there are two main home language systems to use.

In our case, the One Person, One Language system (OPOL) will fit better than the Minority Language at Home system (ML@H) since I will use the minority language exclusively. One concern I had was being able to read stories and sing songs in English with my baby. I also worry about my husband feeling excluded since he does not speak the second language (in our case, Spanish). After talking to several friends who are raising their kids with more than one language, we've decided that when we are spending time together as a family, the family language will remain English, but the child's exposure to the minority language will be mostly when he and I are one on one. I do have hopes that we will spread the use of the minority language a little more as other family members (including my husband) become more familiar with it. The grandparents have a good working knowledge of the minority language and though they will probably be most comfortable using English, they may enjoy reading, singing or including some Spanish vocabulary at times. Some people think this may confuse an early language learner, but it can be beneficial for the child to hear the minority language from more than one person. Visit the Multilingual Children's Association homepage for more twists on choosing the right home language system for your family!

It Can’t Hurt I never really questioned whether or not Vanessa would grow up bilingual. As far as I knew, we would talk to her...

Welcome to Piñata!

A piñata is bright and colorful and full of surprises! Here at Piñata you will find plenty of tidbits and links to parenting resources on the web. The focus of Piñata is to share fresh ideas about raising healthy, well-rounded kids. Topics of interests include green parenting, raising bilingual kids, trends in early childhood education, children's literature as well as development of the spiritual side of your child. I have been blogging personally since 2005 and am drawn to this medium as a professional educator and amateur writer. After teaching Kindergarten through 2nd grade since 1996, I am currently six months pregnant with my first child. I am also a certified yoga instructor and had a childrens' yoga business in South Florida from 2002-2005 before relocating to Southern California. I am bilingual; having learned Spanish as a second language while spending a year living in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia as an exchange student. My husband and I are planning to raise our son to be bilingual as well.

I can't wait to hear some of your stories and specific areas of interest as we set out to find the treasures in the piñata!

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