Tips to Get Organized for School!

Many families have trouble staying organized in today’s busy lifestyle. When parents work and multiple people are in charge of running a house, it is essential to be HIGHLY organized. An organized family helps children concentrate and spend time on school rather than where they left the other shoe.

1. Prepare for changes. When families are in a laid back schedule from summer it is hard to one day just wake up and be ready for the first day of school. Instead, try waking up on the new schedule 1-2 weeks prior to school starting to get into the new routine.

2. Clean out your closets. When school starts it is hard to find time to do much. So before school starts clean out your closets of any outgrown or worn out clothes. This will make it easier for your kids to pick out their own outfits for the next day.   3. Create a calendar with space for each family member to list appointments, activities, homework assignments and reminders. Keep it in an open area like the kitchen.

4. Preparing what your kids will need for the next day is crucial. Lay out clothes, pack lunches, and have backpacks packed the night before.

5. Color Coordinate so each child has a specific color for all binders, backpacks and supplies.

6. Keep a dry erase board so all family members can write down items needed from the grocery store, dry cleaners, or school supply store and then one person can get everything in one trip.

7. Designate a study space. It is best to have a study location that is neat, has all the necessary supplies, and will allow children to concentrate on homework.

8. Keep important phone numbers in a binder. If you have numbers for doctor’s, workers, teachers, etc. in one place, everyone can find what they need quickly.

9. Open communication. Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them and what needs to get done each day. If you have a last minute request, have a place where you know everyone will look. Leave them a note and they will be able to complete the task.   If you use even a few of these tips to stay organized your family will have more time to play and have fun together. More fun means less stress.

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First Class Care is honored to WIN Chicago Magazine’s BEST Nanny Agent Award


August 2015 Chicago Magazine’s Best of Chicago Issue
The Professional Sports Wives Association says that this nine-year-old company is the best place to turn for highly vetted nannies. Only 3 percent of recruits make it through the interview process, an acceptance rate that’s more competitive than Harvard’s. They’ll do it all: grocery shopping, your kids’ laundry, and, of course, the basics of feeding and bathing. Placement fees start at $1,500 for a full-timer.


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The After-School Childcare Dilemma

For millions of families across the country the after school childcare dilemma is something parents dread on a daily basis. What are the kids going to do after school until we can get home from work? Do we find an after school program? A babysitter? A nanny? A neighbor?  Why is this such a constant area of stress?

Owners Erin and Steve Krex of First Class Care, a domestic placement agency and After School Sitters, an online resource have figured out 3 great options that could suit any family’s needs!

What are the options of childcare for older kids?

Option 1: Full Time Nanny Manager
A full time Nanny Manager duties include childcare, light housekeeping, organizing, laundry, errands, grocery shopping, schedule appointments, light cooking, manage any household vendors, driving kids to activities and help with homework.  This option offers parents full flexibility of having full time help  when the kids are sick or off of school.

Option 2: Full Time Housekeeper / Nanny:
A full time Housekeeper Nanny duties include full cleaning, childcare for school age kids, organizing, laundry, errands, light cooking, and driving kids. This option offers parents the same full flexibility so when the kids are sick or have a day off of school you have someone to care for them as well as have full cleaning of your home completed while the kids are in school.

Option 3: After School Sitter:
Hiring an after school sitter is a great option if you truly only want to  hire someone part time for the hours you need. Typically the type of candidate this will be is a collage or high school student who has after noons free. Professional nannies usually do not want just afternoon hours so finding someone with a flexible schedule like a student is key. The duties of an after school sitter are usually pick up the kids form school, driving to activities, homework help and possible meal prep.

How do I find the option I am looking for?
For option 1 and 2:
If you try to hire someone directly, it’s very time consuming and tough to find the right fit. You must go through the process of checking each candidate’s references, experience, performing background checks, etc. It is an arduous task to sort through all the applicants. By going through a professional agency like First Class Care, a parent knows that each applicant has already been carefully screened, interviewed and reference-checked. First Class Care accepts less than 3% of applicants. They send only the best matches for your job. First Class Care takes care of the interview scheduling as well as provide ongoing support during and after the placement.

For option 3:
Using a website like www.afterschoolsitters is a great resource as the site is very specific to your needs. Although the candidates are not fully screened, the site gives you all the tools to be successful or you can use First Class Care’s a la carte services help you out.

Tip for Parents:
If you want to go through a search try to allow at least 2 – 4 weeks for the process. Hundreds of great candidates are available, but you need to have the time to interview, which for working parents is usually only in the evening or weekends. To prepare yourself for your search make a list of expectations, duties and schedule. Use the tools provided to you to help with interview questions, contracts and reviews. Communication is the key to any domestic relationship!


By: Erin Krex
President of First Class Care, Inc.

President of After School Sitters

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Managing Food Allergies at Camp

Food allergies can be life-threatening. In any camp setting: day camps, residential camps, sports camps, or travel camps the risk of accidental exposure to a food allergen is present.

Camp staff, physicians, parents, and campers themselves must work together to minimize the risk. There must also be medications and procedures in place to deal with accidental ingestion or contact.

Family Responsibility

Choose an appropriate camp for the child. Find out the following:

  • Who is the primary healthcare person and what are their credentials? Who is responsible for their duties in this person’s absence?
  • How does camp communicate and monitor food allergy information? Is this sufficient for your child?
  • How far is the camp from a medical treatment center?
  • What trips might the camper take that change the response time?
  • Do travel personnel have sufficient medication to provide a margin of safety?
  • What limits a camp’s ability to care for your child?

Notify the camp of the camper’s allergies or suspected allergies.

  • Use the camp application and/or health form to fully describe the allergy. Use the FARE Food Allergy Action Plan. List foods to which the camper is allergic, and the specific symptoms of the child’s typical allergic reaction.
  • Inform the camp director of the allergy early in the process so that appropriate personnel can be hired or instructed on proper approach to the camper with food allergy.

Make personal contact with the director, counselor, or the division supervisor before the camper’s arrival at the facility.

  • Make certain that the camp director notifies all affected personnel. Life guards, transportation drivers, dining hall/cafeteria workers, camp nurses, counselors, specialty area workers, and anyone else who may offer food or plan parties or events all need to be informed of the allergy. Additionally, camps may use volunteers who may only come to camp one or two days during the week. These individuals will also need to understand the camp’s food allergy policy.

Provide the camp with a recent photo of the child, attached to written instructions, medical documentation, and medications as prescribed by the physician for managing an allergic reaction.

  • Do not simply transfer school documentation; camp is different from school.
  • The specific camp personnel need to be authorized and instructed on how to proceed.
  • The camp may have an Allergy Action Plan, OR use the FARE Food Allergy Action Plan.

Check the expiration date of all medications.

  • Be prepared to replace any expired or unsealed, previously used medication. Review with camp director and nurse the location and storage of medications. Given the remote location of many camps, provide an adequate supply of epinephrine, if prescribed.

Educate the camper and review often the self-management of his or her food allergy. The camper should know:

  • Safe and unsafe foods;
  • Strategies for avoiding exposure to unsafe foods;
  • Symptoms of allergic reactions;
  • How and when to tell an adult about a possible allergic response;
  • How to read a food label (e.g. at the camp candy store), if age appropriate. For young campers, plan with camp how to handle this.
  • How to use epinephrine.

Camper Responsibility

Camper should:

  • NEVER trade food with other campers.
  • Not eat anything with unknown ingredients.
  • Read every label and check with a counselor (if age appropriate).
  • Be proactive in the management of mild reactions, such as seeking help if a reaction is suspected.
  • Tell an adult if a reaction seems to be starting, even if there is no visible appearance of allergic response.
  • NOT go off alone if symptoms are beginning.

Camp Responsibility

Be informed of the availability of emergency care.

  • Know: How to contact EMT/ambulance;
  • How much time is needed for an emergency crew to arrive;
  • How far it is to the nearest hospital;
  • If the hospital has an M.D. present at all times.
  • Camps located in non-urban settings must understand that rural ambulance and emergency crews may be volunteers. Therefore, additional plans and additional medications may be required.
  • On trips away from the campsite, a communication device (i.e., cell phone, 2-way radio) should be carried.

Review the health records submitted by parents and physicians.

Establish prevention protocols for your camp.

  • Make plans so that the camper with food allergies may be safely included in all activities.
  • Be certain that all food service or kitchen personnel are aware of, and can identify the child with food allergies.
  • Discuss meal plans with parents/camper and alternative plans if necessary.
  • Plan how a camper with food allergies will participate in meals. For example, a camper with food allergies might go first in a buffet line and at other food-related events to avoid cross-contact, or might need a place to sit apart in a special allergen-free space.

Assure that all who will be in contact with camper know of the allergy, can recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and know what action to take if a reaction occurs.

Maintain an appropriate sense of confidentiality and respect for individual privacy.

Identify the camp core emergency response team. This should include, but not be limited to appropriate staff.

  • Arrange to have this team meet with parents and camper prior to the opening activity, on or before the first day of camper’s participation.
  • Assure that the nurse has the required authorizations and appropriate medications to use in the event of unintentional contact.

Assure that appropriate personnel are familiar with the use of epinephrine, where medication is located, and the protocol.

  • Arrange a training session before the start of camp. Allow participants to become familiar with the usage of epinephrine auto-injectors.
  • Be in compliance with local and state regulations regarding the administration of medication.

If there are planned field trips or out of camp activities:

  • Be certain any emergency medications and authorizations accompany the camper and the counselor.
  • Be certain there is a way to contact emergency assistance.

Medications must be stored at the correct temperature range. Be certain that travel personnel understand the importance of this. Some medications become ineffective if exposed to temperature extremes (heat or cold). Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper storage.

Food Allergy Research & Education can be contacted at: 800-929-4040 or

These guidelines were developed with input from the following:

Helen Rebull, R.N., Congressional Schools of Virginia Association of Camp Nurses Food Allergy Research & Education



Here are a few products to help keep your kids safe at camp with food allergies!


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National Nanny Training Day Chicago! April 18th

First Class Care, Inc. is excited to be a Chicago sponsor of National Nanny Training Day! We are having a full day of training featuring several amazing speakers in a variety of categories to help you increase your skills.

Along with all 6 great training sessions, we will have raffle prizes, goodie bags and an amazing lunch provided by First Class Care and our sponsors. You will go home with a certificate indicating your participation in National Nanny Training Day 2015.

All Chicago nannies, Wisconsin Nannies, Indiana Nannies and other childcare providers are welcome!


8:30am – Check in
9:00am – Newborn-Age 2, A Journey Through Milestones and Red Flags
10:00am – Helping Kids Listen/Listening So You Can Help the Kids
11:00am – Babywearing

Noon – Buffet Lunch provided by First Class Care and our Sponsors

1:00pm – The Nanny’s Role as an Educator – Part 1
2:00pm – The Nanny’s Role as an Educator – Part 2
3:00pm – Helping to Strengthen the Parent Child Bond


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IRS Announces 2015 Standard Mileage Rates

It will cost you less at the pump to fill your car next year. The U.S. Department of Energy has issued its predictions for the price of gasoline for 2015 and the numbers are the lowest full-year average since 2009. Gas prices are expected to drop 35 cents to $2.60 a gallon.

The news is even better for the holidays: according to AAA, the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline could bottom out at $2.50 by Christmas. Average costs across the country are dropping from week to week: as of today, they are just $2.67 per gallon, the least expensive since February 23, 2010.

Despite those tumbles, the standard mileage rate for federal income taxes is going up for business miles. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued the 2015 optional standard mileage rates and beginning on January 1, 2015, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be:

  • 57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven (up from 56 cents in 2014)
  • 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (down half a cent from 2014)
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (fixed by Congress, never adjusted for inflation)

If you’re wondering about the difference in the rates for business and medical or moving purposes, there’s a reason: the standard mileage rate for business is calculated using an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, including depreciation, insurance, repairs, tires, maintenance, gas and oil while the rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs, such as gas and oil. That also explains why the rate for medical or moving purposes has dipped while the rate for business has gone up. Inflation is edging costs – other than gas – up a tiny bit.

The optional standard mileage rates are used to easily calculate the amount of a deductible business, moving, medical or charitable expense (miles driven times the applicable rate). Taxpayers always have the option of deducting their actual costs rather than using the standard mileage rates – though admittedly, that’s a lot more work.

Be careful: these rates go into effect at the beginning of 2015 for the 2015 calendar year. That means they’ll show up on your 2015 returns (the ones you’ll file in 2016). You’ll use the 2014 rates for the return that you’ll submit in 2015.


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Top 10 Gifts for the Nanny in your Life!

Whether you have a live-in nanny, come and go nanny or share your nanny with a friend, you know how important she is to your family.  Show your appreciation for her love, hard work and dedication with the perfect gift. Think about your nanny, her likes and interests, and be sure to get the kids in on the fun too!  Although there are so many variables that affect how much you will spend, it’s generally appropriate to consider something equal to one or two week’s pay. Here are some ideas to fit a variety of price points:

Spa Day Who doesn’t love a day of pampering?  And, can you think of anyone more deserving than your hardworking nanny?  Choose a spa that’s close to her house so she can easily get there on her day off.

Plane Ticket Home Give your nanny the gift of travel with a plane ticket to see her family. Be sure to check with the airlines for special offers like the ability to transfer miles or the option for the recipient to earn bonus miles for future travel.

Extended Vacation Time Offer your nanny some much deserved paid time off.  Add a few days to a scheduled vacation or offer her some time off in the next couple of months.

Gift Cards Always a great option!  Get creative by pairing a restaurant and movie gift card, for example.  If your nanny has children of her own, choose something her whole family can enjoy.

iPad  Help your nanny stay organized and connected with an iPad or other tablet.  (You might be surprised when she loads it with apps for your kids!)

Ticket to National Nanny Training Day How about a ticket to this continuing education, all-day event? Your nanny can increase her skill set, network with other nannies and have the chance to win tons of great giveaways.

Electronics Maybe it’s a new cell phone, blu-ray player, new television or something for her kitchen.  Listen to what your nanny and her family need and surprise her with something truly special.

Memberships Consider a gift that really speaks to your nanny’s interest like a one-year membership to a museum, gym or botanic gardens.

Tickets How about a set of tickets to a sporting event or musical so your nanny can share a special day with her family and friends?  Consider adding money for a parking pass too!

Bonus By far the most popular to give (and receive!).  The average end of the year bonus is equal to one or two weeks of pay.  For newer employees, calculate one day of pay for each month of employment.


Erin Krex is a mom and the founder and owner of First Class Care, Inc., Chicago’s premiere domestic placement agency. Erin believes that outstanding childcare is fundamental for creating harmony at home. Erin is an active member of APNA (Association of Premier Nanny Agencies) and was on the INA (lnternational Nanny Association) Board of Directors for four years. Erin has been honored with StartUp Nation’s Leading Moms in Business award three years in a row and also holds the title of 2010 APNA Agency of the Year winner. As a business owner and working mother with domestic help, Erin frequently writes and speaks on subjects related to best practices for both families and employees. Erin is Bump Club Chicago’s resident childcare expert and provides classes to families about how to hire a nanny.


Twitter: @FirstClassCare

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Top 10 Year-End Reminders for Household Employers

  1. To-Do List Put Tax Filing for your nanny on your to-do list for early January 2015 and set up an appointment with your accountant.
  2. W-2 Provide a W-2 to your nanny/employee by January 31, 2015.
  3. W-2 and W-3 Reporting File a copy of a W-2 and W-3 to the Social Security Administration by March 2, 2015.
  4. Schedule H Complete a Schedule H and attach it to your 1040 personal income tax return by April 15, 2015.
  5. Social Security Decide if paying Social Security (Employer and Employee portion) through estimated 1040ES payments (four times a year) or annually (with your personal income tax return).
  6. Medicare Decide if paying Medicare (Employer and Employee portion) through estimated 1040ES payments (four times a year) or annually (with your personal income tax return).
  7. Unemployment Insurance:
    • State Unemployment Insurance.Ensure quarterly State Unemployment Insurance payments are paid by April 3, 2015 (Quarter 4).
    • Federal Unemployment Insurance. Decide whether Federal Unemployment Insurance will be paid through estimated 1040ES payments (four times a year) or annually (with your personal income tax return).
  8. Income TaxesDiscuss with employee and agree whether income taxes will be withheld from an employee’s gross wages (if so you are responsible for remitting these taxes to the IRS and State) by April 15, 2015.
    • State Income Taxes. Know if state income taxes are paid to the tax agency on a Quarterly, Monthly or Annual basis.
    • Federal Income Taxes. Decide if Federal income taxes will be paid through estimated 1040ES payments (four times a year) or annually (with your personal income tax return).
  9. Annual Reconciliation Report.Find out if your state requires an annual reconciliation report to be completed and submitted each year (deadline varies by state).
  10. Help and Advice. Contact Jonita at GTM Certified Payroll and Tax at (888) 432-7972 x7224 or visit for help with any of the tax filing process.

GTM Payroll and Nanny Tax Services

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Do Nannies Need Shots?

There are many things nannies do every day to keep the kids they look after safe and healthy. Making sure they wear their bike helmets, sit down while eating to prevent choking, and wash their hands frequently. Nannies can also help by not getting the kids sick from illnesses they get or carry. Vaccinations help protect them from getting sick and keep us from accidentally passing on serious illness to the kids in our care.

There are two illnesses that are common – so, easy to get – that can make young children very sick. These are influenza “the flu” and pertussis “whooping cough”. Getting vaccinated can help keep nannies and the kids in your care, safe from these illnesses.

The Flu
Influenza is an infection caused by a virus – a tiny germ that can live for hours on hands and other surfaces. It spreads faster in damp conditions during the fall and winter, when people spend more time inside and are close together on buses, and trains.

Flu can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, fatigue and even vomiting and diarrhea. Most grownups get better in a few days. But, children under 5 years of age, and those with other medical conditions, such as asthma, are at higher risk for developing serious complications from the flu and needing to be hospitalized.

Complications can include infection of the lungs, dehydration, inflammation of the brain and even death. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 20,000 children under 5 are hospitalized due to the flu each year. Children under 6 months of age are not old enough to get vaccinated against the flu for their own protection. So, these babies are at the greatest risk for developing complications from the flu. To keep them safe, all care providers should be vaccinated, including parents, nannies, baby sitters, and grandparents. And, because the virus changes all the time, a new shot or nose spray is required every year. The new vaccine is usually available every fall.

Pertussis or “whooping cough” is a disease that has been growing over the last few years. According to the CDC, in 2012 over 48,000 cases were reported in the U.S. with 20 deaths. This is the highest number of cases in almost 60 years.

Pertussis can cause uncomfortable coughing fits for 10 weeks or more. In adults, pertussis can be a mild illness that they may not even know they have. However, in children, it can cause serious illness and sometimes death, especially in infants. About half of infants under 1 year of age who get pertussis need to be hospitalized. Although most adults in the US were vaccinated against whooping cough when they were children, we now know that protection wears off over time and adults need to be revaccinated every 10 years, which is one of the reasons more people are getting sick from pertussis.

To keep them safe, everyone who is in close contact with an infant should get the Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before visiting the baby. By getting the vaccine not only are you protecting the baby, you are also protecting yourself against the “100 day cough”!

Both the flu and pertussis vaccines are safe, effective, and will help keep you and the children you care for healthy.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season,

Sapna K. Mukherjee, MD

Premium Care Pediatrics- A house call based concierge practice

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What’s Your SNOW DAY Policy?

Last year we had a horrible winter. Cities across the country, including those that rarely see any kind of winter weather, got slammed with snow, ice, and dangerously cold temperatures. Who knows what this year will bring weather-wise. But whatever that is, it’s essential that you have a clear snow day policy in place before it’s needed.

No Snow Days Allowed
Some nanny employers have to work regardless of the weather. This group usually includes first responders (e.g. fire fighters, police officers) and medical personnel (e.g. emergency room doctors, nurses). In these cases, there’s not an option for the nanny to stay home due to bad weather. She has to make it to work to ensure her employer can make it to work. This usually means the nanny stays over the night before the storm hits.

Who decides if the nanny needs to stay the night? Of course, the best case scenario is that it’s a mutual decision between the parents and nanny but that isn’t always the case so there needs to be one, ultimate decider. And since it’s the parent’s need driving the decision, it’s usually the parent’s choice.

When will that decision be made? It’s important to lay out how much notice the nanny will be given for a required overnight.

What will the nanny be paid? Although the nanny isn’t working during her overnight stay, she’s there because her employers need her to be there. Because they need that guarantee of availability regardless of the next day’s forecast. Since it’s a requirement rather than a choice, the nanny generally receives a stipend that covers the off hours spent at her employers’ home.

Where will the nanny sleep? A guest bedroom with private access to a bathroom is the best set-up. If that’s not available, go with whatever gives the nanny the most privacy. Crashing on the couch and showering in the kid’s bathroom isn’t fun for the parents or the nanny. Although the kids would probably love it!

Does the nanny have a child or pet that need to be considered? If she does, make sure they are part of the plan. Some employers welcome the nanny’s child or pet into their home for the night. Other employers give extra notice and dollars so the nanny has time to coordinate back-up care and pay for the back-up caregiver. And other employers simply pay an overnight stipend that reflects the added expense and inconvenience the nanny may incur.

What Does a Snow Day Policy Include?
Many employers have the option of taking off work for bad weather but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a snow day policy. In fact, because there are so many questions that come with that time off, it’s especially important to have a plan of action in place before the snow or ice hits.

How is a bad weather day defined? Some employers base their policy on school closures, local government closures, the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, or an assessment of the local road conditions. Whatever your “it’s too bad to come in” standard is, make sure the definition is clear and easily assessable. And remember, this standard answers the question ‘Should the nanny go to work?’ and also ‘Should the nanny go home early?’

If you’re relying on an assessment, who makes the final call? This can be a tough decision. It’s important for the employer because it determines if she’ll have childcare. And it’s important for the nanny because it determines if she’ll have a safe commute to and from work. Hopefully this can be a mutual decision, however the parents and nanny often have different perspectives around how bad is too bad to come in. So it’s important to decide in advance who will make the final call.

Remember that there may be outside factors that you need to consider in your assessment. If the nanny takes the train or bus to and from work, her ability to make it to work and the time she’ll arrive will be determined by how the weather affects the public transportation system. If you live in an area that rarely sees winter weather, the nanny may have a car that’s simply not safe for even mild winter driving. All these factors need to be considered when creating your snow day policy.

Will the nanny be paid for snow days? This is a pretty straightforward question. For employers that live in an area where harsh winters are the norm, it’s standard to offer 1 to 3 paid bad weather days per year. In other areas, paid snow days are a value add to the compensation package.

Does the nanny have children or pets at home? When the weather is bad, even if the roads are considered safe for travel, the nanny’s commute time can easily double or triple. If she has a child or pet relying on her to be home at a certain time, it can be impossible for her to work her typical schedule simply because she can’t afford the extra commute time. If this is the case, will her schedule be shortened on bad weather days and how will that affect her pay?

Should the nanny work if a parent is home?  Many parents feel that if their nanny can make it to work, she should come in even if the parent is taking the day off or working from home. Many nannies feel that if a parent is home, she shouldn’t have to chance unsafe roads or deal with the hassle of traveling in bad weather. It’s important to talk about how both sides feel about these issues and develop a policy that’s fair to both parents and caregivers.

By Lora Brawley
Nanny Biz Reviews

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