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The Family Patch Midwinter Solstice Activities

Celebrating the Midwinter Solstice with Kids

21st December marks the Midwinter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the shortest day of the year, and falls right in the crazy run up to other major holidays such as Christmas and Hannukah. As such, it is understandable that it gets overlooked and forgotten about!

But if we can take a moment to mark this point in the Wheel of the Year, we will be reminded that life continues in cycles as the seasons pass and that nothing lasts forever. During the cold and dreary months of Winter, it can be truly uplifting to realise that the hardest point (the longest night) has now passed and we are on our way to brighter, warmer days once more.

So whilst I know you’re probably super busy right now (I know I am!) I do hope that you’ll find some time to stop and reflect on the Midwinter Solstice this year.

5 Easy ways to celebrate the Midwinter Solstice with Kids

The absolutely wonderful thing about the Midwinter Solstice is that a lot of the things we traditionally do at this time of year to celebrate Christmas work just as well for Solstice Celebrations too. So you really don’t have to go out of your way to mark this occasion, nor do you need to worry about it interfering in any way with the “reason for the season”, whatever that may be for you.

Each one of the suggestions below would easily fit in with your festive plans, so I do hope you try at least one of them!

1. decorate the house

Okay, so you’ve probably already done this anyway, right? But how many of your decorations were bought in a shop and how many have you foraged for or made yourself? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with store bought decorations, they add so much colour and joy to our homes during this otherwise very dark month. But there is something very special about bringing a little bit of the outdoors inside, or using fruit and grains to make orange slices and gingerbread cookies that fill your house with such festive fragrances.

If you go for a walk, see if you can spot some holly or other greenery to bring indoors (remembering to ask permission if you need to cut it). Bringing nature indoors is such a time-honoured tradition, that connects us to nature at a time when we are usually so busy huddled up inside our houses that we rarely stop to just focus on the world around us.

And if you fancy baking cookies, why not see if you can source some locally ground flour or use a traditional recipe from your local area (ask your neighbours, church groups, schools, bakeries, and local library if they have any recipes to share). Using local ingredients or recipes passed down through the generations will help ground what you do, connecting you to the memories of all of those who have gone before you, as well as the promise of those who will come after you. You really do become a link in the chain that connects us to one another in all directions.

2. light a candle

This is an obvious one, I’m sure, but I often find the obvious things are the ones we tend to overlook, so it’s worth mentioning this activity here.

Lighting a candle is perhaps the single most symbolic way you can celebrate the light in the darkness, which is so important to us all. It is why we light candles in the Advent wreath, and it is why we string fairy lights on our tree and around our homes at this time of year.

We all like to be reminded of just how much of a difference that comforting glow makes to an otherwise dreary and miserable month, when the skies are grey and the nights so long. But why not make it extra special but choosing a specific candle (think about the colour and fragrance especially) to represent the hope and joy you wish to connect with on the Solstice. You could even say a wish or prayer, and imagine the candle flame burning brightly with the intent to make your wish come true!

3. make a manifestation collage

This is an excellent way of celebrating the hope and joy that the Winter Solstice brings with it. We have come through the increasingly darker days of Autumn and are now heading into the bitter Winter months feeling frazzled and worn. But we know we can make it, because from this point onwards the days will grow longer as the sun shines both warmer and\ brighter upon us. And that’s the perfect time to let go of the past and embrace the future.

I love making manifestation collages at this time of year, and enjoy cutting up images and words from various magazines to then stick on a large piece of card. I’ll then place it somewhere prominent so I can reflect on it throughout the coming year. It reminds me of all my hopes and dreams, and keeps me going when the going gets tough (as it inevitably does from time to time).

This is a great exercise for you to do yourself, but it’s also super easy and fun for your kids to do too (who doesn’t like cutting and sticking pictures of what they want in life?!) It also offers you a great chance to get to know what is on your children’s hearts right now, what they are hoping for in the coming year, and how you could help support them in that.

4. give food/shelter to others

We all love to celebrate with a bit of abundance at this time of year, right? But there’s no denying that it’s often a real struggle to make ends meet for so many of us, and for others it is impossible to even provide the essentials needed to survive these cold, Winter months.

As much as we’d like to think that we are no longer at the whim of the elements as our ancestors were, when a good harvest could make the difference between life and death for many, we still struggle with poverty and homelessness. The use of Food Banks is constantly on the rise, and the number of families living below the poverty line is shocking. Add to that the increasing number of people recently described as “JAMS” (just about managing), who are just one paycheck away from losing their home or having no food on the table, and we begin to see just how stark the reality is.

So, at a time when we are all splashing out on good food and drink and celebrations of friendship and family, it only takes a little bit extra to make a real difference to someone else. Donate to a Food Bank or shelter, send toys to the local children’s ward, of buy that homeless guy you pass every day a hot drink and some lunch, to help him get through another day. It’s so easy for our kids to be completely oblivious to the struggle that so many face, and yet my experience is that kids can be the most generous and loving of us all. So let them make a difference too – it is the season for giving, after all.

5. go for a moonlit walk

What better way to focus on the darkest night of the year than to go for a moonlit walk. Even if it’s cloudy and you can’t see the moon or stars, take your kids for a walk in the dark anyway. There’s something really magical about doing that as a child, as it’s something you rarely get to do when you’re young. It feels much later in the day than it is, they get to see the Christmas lights along the streets, and then you get to come home for a nice hot drink before bed. Ahhh, bliss!

want to know more about the winter solstice?

I haven’t written a huge deal about the history and traditions surrounding the Midwinter Solstice, or the modern Pagan celebration of Yule. This is because I know December is such a busy month for many of us and I wanted to keep this post super simple. However if you’d like to find out more, you may find the following sites helpful:

The White Goddess has a wonderful page explaining the origins of Yule. It also includes a recipe for Yule Wassail, and a ritual for celebrating this Sabbat.

The Goddess and the Green Man also have a great page dedicated to Yule. There is so much information on this page that it is hard to provide an overview – just check it out!

Exploring the Nativity Story with your Kids

Most of us know the Nativity Story, right? Even if you’ve not been raised in a Christian family, chances are you know the basic storyline, thanks to Nativity plays at school, Christmas carols on the radio, and cultural references to it in both literature and on tv. The same will be true for our children; even if we don’t actively seek to introduce them to the Nativity Story at home, they will come across it in other ways.

Which is why I think it’s a really lovely idea to actually sit down once in a while and explore it all in more detail. Doing so often helps us to gain new insight and a whole new perspective on things, and can be really beneficial in helping us figure out what it is we actually believe and how that impacts on our lives. Obviously how we do this will depend on our individual age and background, but I hope the following will help you begin your own journey of exploration of the Nativity Story.

Explore The Nativity Story with Kids The Family Patch

Understanding the nativity story

What would you say if someone asked you to tell them the Nativity Story? I’m guessing it would be something similar to this…

Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem and, because there was no room in the inn, Jesus was born in a stable. Angels appeared on the hill-tops and proclaimed the birth to the Shepherds. And three Wise Men travelled from afar, following a bright new shining star. 

It’s no surprise that our retelling of the Nativity follows this same pattern of events, as that is what we hear about every single Christmas. But did you know that no single Gospel account of the birth of Christ includes all of the above aspects?

The vast majority of it comes from Luke, whose account of Jesus’ birth is by far the longest and most detailed. His account includes the census, the stable, and the shepherds and the angels. However it has no mention of Wise Men, who only appear in Matthew’s Gospel. However Matthew’s version of events is much shorter and less detailed, appearing to race through the birth in comparison. There is also a marked difference in who the Angel appears to during the pregnancy – in Luke’s version the Angel appears to Mary, but in Matthew’s the Angel appears to Joseph, encouraging him to support Mary.

Then, of course, there are the two other Gospel accounts of Mark and John. Neither of these even mention the Nativity! Mark’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of Christ, and John’s is entirely different, with far more spiritual leanings as he writes about “The Word made flesh”.

So what does this all mean in terms of how we understand the Nativity Story and the truth we find within it? Does it mean that the typical story we hear year after year, bringing the two accounts of Luke and Matthew together as if they are one single narrative, is false? No, I don’t think it means that at all!

We must remember that each of the Gospel writers were telling their version of events in a very specific time and culture, which means they were also writing it for a very specific audience. Just because they adapted it to express a deep truth in a way that those who read it would understand, doesn’t make it wrong. Just think about how often we ourselves adapt what we say depending on who we are talking to – you wouldn’t expect a young child to understand with the same level of experience as that of an adult, would you?

I am reminded here of the Bible Study I went to this week in which we discussed this very thing, and I wish to share two quotations from it with you…

“This is always the task of Christians and the Christian church: to find ways to speak into our particular situations. We are not called to proclaim the gospel again, but to proclaim it afresh – wherever we find ourselves.”

— Living in the Light (York Courses)

“As has been said:

’Many will never read the gospel according to Matthews, Mark, Luke, or John, but they will read the gospel according to you!’”

— found in Living in the Light (York Courses)

I found these quotations so refreshing, as they reminded me that it’s not only okay to reinterpret the Bible in a way that means something to you, you are actually encouraged to do so. And how you do that will depend entirely on your individual and family culture.

activity ideas

Obviously, such deep theological ideas are not the easiest of topics for young children to grasp (hey, I struggle with them myself!!) Which is why it is probably far more useful for you and your family to explore the Nativity Story in some other way. Here are some ideas that you could adapt to suit you and your family:

Re-enact scenes from the Nativity

Role playing is a great way to step into someone else’s shoes. Why not ask your kids how they think the various people felt, or why they think some events happened as they did. Questions could include:

  • Do you think Mary felt happy or scared?
  • What do you think Joseph thought about it all?
  • Would you like to meet an Angel?
  • Why do you think the inn-keeper offered room in the stable?
  • What gifts would you have brought if you were one of the Wise Men?

Make your own Nativity Scene

Get creative and find ways to make your very own Nativity Scene, so that it reflects your own ideas about it. How you do this will depend on whether you have a particular interest in a certain craft, and the age of your kids. Younger kids may enjoy simply drawing it on some paper, or colouring in cut-out figures. Older kids may enjoy learning a new skill such as knitting or embroidery. Make it your own and then treasure it for years to come.

Write your own Nativity Story

Older kids may enjoy looking at the various different versions there are available and then thinking about how they would retell the story to someone who didn’t know it. Would they write it like a fairytale, starting with “Once Upon a Time”, or would they want to embed it in history like those Gospel accounts that start with the ancestral lineage of Jesus? And what style would they use – prose, poetry, music? Have fun with this one and have a go yourself, it may be fun to compare stories with each other!

Resources

There are so many resources available to help you explore the Nativity Story, in whichever way you wish. A quick Google will get you started, although it may also be a bit overwhelming too! With this in mind I have collected a few of my favourite resources together over on Pinterest. You can find it at bit.ly/SKNNativity

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. Please do let us know by leaving a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

telling-ouronly-child-we-wont-have-another-baby

Telling Our Only Child We Won’t Have Another Baby

So, this blog post is quite a tough one for me to write. But it’s also one I knew I would probably have to write at some point. Little Man is an Only Child, which is something I’ve written about a fair bit in the past. But we’ve never really had to talk about it with him before. I mean, he’s only just turned 5, it’s not a conversation that naturally occurs with a young child. Until today. Today we had to tell him we won’t ever have another baby. And that was unbelievably hard.

telling-ouronly-child-we-wont-have-another-baby

It all started because we were watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (of all things). A character in the episode was giving birth and Little Man showed interest in what was happening. So TJ explained to him that babies grow in their mummy’s tummy and then mummy has to push them out. We’ve mentioned this in the past when talking about friends who were expecting, and we’ve even told him he grew in my tummy, but he never really questioned it before. So we didn’t really expect him to do so this time.

But just after the baby was born, he started telling us how cute the baby was. Again, this is nothing new – he often tells us how cute babies are whenever he sees one. (He does the same with kittens, but that’s another story!) But this time he seemed to fall into thoughtful silence. So I asked him, “do you think you’d like to be a daddy one day and have a baby?” And that’s when things got interesting.

Maybe a minute or two later he started pushing down on his belly towards his bottom and grimacing. I automatically asked him if his stomach hurt (as it was less than 24 hours since he had vomited with an upset stomach). But he said, “no mummy, I’m trying to push!” For a moment or two I had no idea what he meant, and then it suddenly dawned on me. “Are you trying to push a baby out of your belly?” The answer was a firm yes.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, it was one of those moments! My heart practically exploded at the adorable nature of his innocent misunderstanding of what we had told him. I explained that only ladies could grow babies in their tummies and so even when he was grown up he wouldn’t have a baby himself. But he could still be a daddy one day if he wanted to be. And I hoped that might end his confusion. Except I don’t think it was mere confusion, he really did seem to want a baby.

He started trying to pull my top undone to get to my belly, so he could push on that. So I had to explain to him that mummy doesn’t have a baby in her tummy. At which point I think my heart broke in two. As hard as it was for TJ and myself to decide never to have another baby, I always knew there might come a day when Little Man would show an interest in a brother or sister. And I knew it would be difficult to explain why we’d chosen that, not because it was the wrong choice but rather because it was a choice I desperately wish we’d never had to make.

I’d have loved nothing more than to be able to tell Little Man that mummy doesn’t have a baby in her tummy right now but one day she might. But I couldn’t. I had to explain to him that we won’t ever have another baby growing in mummy’s tummy. Only he got to grow in there when he was a baby. He turned to TJ and asked if he had a baby in his tummy, making us explain once again only ladies get to do that. She he turned back to me and said, “maybe there’s a tiny baby!” I told him I was sorry, but no there wasn’t even a tiny baby in there. “Maybe, as tiny as an ant!” he replied. Oh, my poor, broken heart!

There are many, many times when I wish things could have been different. When I see how much Little Man adores playing with other kids at the park or seeing his cousins. When he tells me how cute babies are, or says, “I hear a baby” and looks around for them when we’re out and about. And also when he takes such wonderful care of the numerous teddies and soft toys he takes to bed with him. He hates being alone, in fact his standard response when he can’t sleep or wakes in the night is “I’m lonely”. I wish, more than anything else, we could have expanded our family as I’m sure he’d have loved it.

But we can’t. It’s just not an option for us. It never was. But even in those early days I clung on to the idea that maybe one day we could still foster. I thought if Little Man showed an interest and seemed able to cope with the demands fostering puts on a family, maybe we could do it. But the reality is that I’m too sick to do that. It really is just going to be our little family of three.

And in many ways that’s alright. I love the dynamic we have and the fact that Little Man can have as much attention as he craves. Although, actually, he craves a LOT of attention – because he doesn’t like being alone, remember – so I’m not sure he’d agree he gets as much as he wants! But the point is, he has us all to himself. We’re busy parents, working and balancing our many health issues, and so we don’t have a lot of time and energy to spare. What we do have is all his. And that works for us.

So, yes, my heart feels fragile tonight. This whole thing has reminded me just how much my health has robbed from us, both in terms of not being able to have another baby and in terms of not even being able to think about fostering. But there’s nothing I can do about that. So I’m choosing to see the beauty in Little Man’s hope and interest in us having a baby as something we can cherish, even if we can’t make it come true for him. Because, if nothing else, it shows he is growing into a very loving little boy.

The Family Patch History of Halloween

The History of Halloween

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Halloween is thoroughly embedded into our modern day calendar as an exciting time for kids to dress up, have fun, and enjoy a bit of trick-or-treating! When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, it wasn’t as common for kids to celebrate Halloween here in the UK, but I remember always wishing we could celebrate it and so Tim and I have made it a big celebration every year since we met. We’ve never missed a year of decorating the house, playing games, and handing out sweets to those who knock on our – we even dressed up when WB was just a few weeks old!

The Family Patch Happy Halloween

But as much as we love the modern day secular celebration of Halloween, we also love to celebrate the spiritual side of its history too. And its history is really rather interesting, to say the least. It amuses me slightly when I hear people saying that they don’t like or agree with Halloween because of its origins, because it has changed and developed so much through the years that it’s neither one thing nor the other now. By all means dislike Halloween because you don’t like kids knocking on your doors or the commercialisation of it, but don’t dismiss its very colourful and complex history as the reason for not liking today’s Halloween celebrations.

Because it is constantly evolving! In recent years I have seen more and more churches offering “Light Parties” as an alternative to dressing up as ghosts and ghouls to go trick-or-treating. Whilst I personally don’t feel the need to do that (I have never seen Halloween as “dark” or “menacing” in any way – death is not something to be feared, but rather a part of the cycle of life) I love the fact that people are allowing the celebration to evolve to better reflect their own personal and/or religious ideas. Surely that is what it has always been about!

So what is the History of Halloween?

Well, most sources of information talk about the origins of Halloween lying in the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sow-een). This day marked the end of one year and the beginning of the next, and was also considered to be a day in which the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was particularly thin. It was a time of passing between two worlds, the old and the new, not just about connecting the living and the dead. And so it was a time of reflection on the past, the present, and the future in all areas of our lives.

As Samhain fell at the end of the harvest and before the long Winter months, death and scarcity were clearly things to consider. Not only would more people be susceptible to death during those bitterly cold months ahead, but the world itself seemed to die away as the trees lay bare and the fields barren of most crops. The bounty and joy of the summer months had passed, remaining purely as a memory, just as those loved ones who had passed before us did. At this turning point in the Wheel of the Year it’s no wonder there was an emphasis placed on those no longer with us.

And yet, as I mentioned before, death was not something to be feared but rather accepted as a natural part of life. The beauty of The Wheel of The Year is that it reminds us of the cycle of life, that brings us from birth, through life, to death and right back to birth again through renewal as the wheel turns once more. We may well fear the dark mystery of death now that we are so far removed from it in our day-to-day lives, but when we accept it as part of the cycle we can look back and honour our ancestors and those who have gone before us, especially at a time like Halloween as the year draws to its end.

The Christian church later carried on this tradition in its own way, with the introduction of All Saints Day or All Hallows, which also remembered those who had passed into the next world. It focused on those who had given their lives to spreading the love of Jesus to the world, which (as far as I understand it) is the focus of the Light Parties thrown by many churches. Whilst this may not have had quite the same emphasis on a thinning of the veil between the two worlds, there still remains a time for reflection on life and death., particularly on the promises of ever-lasting life offered to those who follow Christ. That light in the dark, and eternal life, are only a stone’s throw away from the reflections made by the ancient Celts at Samhain.

But what about Trick-or-Treating? Where did that come from?

Again we have to look back at the ancient celebration of Samhain and the idea of this thinning of the veil. Traditions related to this included placing food on the doorstep to feed the ghosts that roamed the earth during the night, as well as wearing masks so that the living would be recognised and accepted as fellow ghosts when leaving their homes. It’s easy to see how these traditions have developed into the modern day Trick-or-Treating fun of dressing up and knocking on doors asking for sweets, isn’t it?

I found it really interesting to learn that the family friendly traditions we know and love today may actually only have really begun in the 1950s in America, as this video from The History Channel explains. It seems that there have been many different variations over the years and even those we think of as really entrenched into our society are actually relatively modern additions!

So what does Halloween mean today?

Well, it can mean anything you want it to mean really.

If you want to take from all of this that Halloween has simply become a secular event with no real relation to the ancient traditions from which it came, then feel free to celebrate it (or not) as that.

And if you feel like it is too “dark” with it’s connotations about appeasing and tricking the dead with food and masks, then maybe a Light Party is what you need.

You might even be like us, choosing to celebrate the fun of the secular Halloween excitement whilst also holding a little personal ceremony to honour the loved ones who have passed before us whilst looking forward to the year ahead.

Whatever you decide, know that it is perfectly okay to make it work for you and your family – that’s what raising spiritual kids in the modern world is all about, making spirituality mean something to you personally. There’s no point in following a tradition that means nothing to you, just because you feel you should. Embrace it, relate to it, and celebrate it!

I’d love to know what you think about Halloween and how you celebrate it (or if you don’t). Please do leave me a comment to share your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

The Family Patch autumn Equinox Activities for Kids

Celebrating The Autumn Equinox With Kids

22nd September marks the Autumn Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere, a moment in time when day and night are of equal length, and it is a great moment to reflect on all that has been achieved throughout the long summer months. Soon the shorter days and longer nights of Winter will draw in upon us, and it will seem as if the Earth herself has fallen asleep, but before then she will shower us with beautiful gifts as the world around us shines in golden hues and we reap the rewards of the fruit harvest.

It is a time of joy and, thanks to our modern school calendar, a time of new beginnings for many of us as our children return to school and focus on a new year of learning. This ties in quite beautifully with the forthcoming Samhain, known as the Pagan New Year, at the end of October and reminds us of the cycle of life that brings new beginnings even when we think everything is ending. But it’s often hard to keep that in mind as the days grow shorter, the trees more bare, and the temperature cools. Which is why celebrating each turn of The Wheel of The Year can be so glorious, as it keeps our minds and hearts focused on the continuing cycle.

celebrating the autumn equinox with kids

What is The Autumn Equinox?

The Autumn Equinox is one of the 8 Sabbats celebrated in the modern Pagan calendar, known at The Wheel of the Year. Within this calendar, the year is split into 8 equal parts, to help mark the passage of time through the seasons. Traditionally it begins at Samhain (or Halloween), which marks the third and final harvest at a point when we begin to draw within in order to survive the darkness of Winter. This means that the Autumn Equinox is the 7th Sabbat in the Wheel, close to the end point in the year.

However the world is far from bleak right now. We are reaping huge rewards from the seeds we planted so many months ago, in the form of fruits and vegetables. It is no coincidence that Harvest Festivals are celebrated at this time of year in the Christian calendar too – we really are filled with abundance right now. And it is a time to be thankful to the Earth for that bounty.

However, there must always be caution, a balancing of the splendour with that of preparing for the coming months, for if we do not save enough now we may not survive the Winter. This balancing act is so beautifully expressed within the Autumn Equinox itself, as it marks the moment when the day and night are of equal length – perfect balance! If we can live out that same balance in our lives, everything will be so much easier.

So in giving thanks to the Earth for her bounty, we can also remember that it is by working together that we have received these gifts. It takes a whole community to put food on our table – from the farmers who plant the seeds and nurture the crops, through the drivers who take the food from farm to shop, and even the work we do in society in order to earn the money to pay for the food we eat. And it is important to remember that if any single part of that community falls, we will all suffer.

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate The Autumn Equinox With Your Kids

1. Buy seasonal produce from a farmer’s market or local farm shop (and make something special).

Right now there is an abundance of fruit and veg that is in season – not only will it be more cost effective to buy seasonal produce grown locally, it will also be much tastier. Why not make the most of all the fruit and make a delicious apple pie, plum cake, or if you prefer savoury to sweet, get out the slow cooker and make a delicious root vegetable stew!

2. Go for a walk in the woods and collect conkers and fallen leaves.

Once you’re home, you can display them on your altar or nature table, or use them to make an Autumn collage, leaf mobile, or even suncatchers.

3. Make a gratitude collage (or share what you’re thankful for with each other)

If you fancy getting crafty, why not get a great big piece of card and write, draw, or glue pictures of all the things you feel thankful for right now. If you’re not feeling quite so crafty, you could take time out to sit together with your kids and take it in turns to share what you’re grateful for.

4. Donate to a Food Bank (or the collection at your local church or school).

With Harvest Festival coming up, many schools and churches will be collecting food items to pass on to their local Food Bank or Community Larder. Share your blessings and abundance with others who are less fortunate, by finding out what they need and then donating what you can. This teaches our kids to be thankful for what they have and that giving can be just as wonderful (if not more wonderful) than receiving.

5. Create your own Autumn Equinox Ceremony

There is nothing more special at each of the 8 Sabbats than creating a ceremony that reflects who you are and what you believe. Ceremony draws the family closer together, brings out the best in us in terms of creativity and giving thanks, and gives us all a reason to celebrate.

Ceremony doesn’t have to be grand and ornate, it doesn’t have to follow any specific creed or structure, and it certainly doesn’t have to be created by someone “in the know”. These are all things I used to think about ceremony, and I was so wrong! Ceremony can be as simple as sitting down together with the intention to honour the earth. You could light a candle, write some words, say a prayer, or sing a song. It doesn’t matter… all that matters is that it means something to you.

That being said, if you’re struggling for ideas why not consider some of the following to get you started:

  • Buy a large pillar candle that you can light every day throughout the long nights ahead (you could specify you’ll do this until the Spring Equinox when the sun begins to dominate the sky once again) and say a little prayer or blessing over it to set the intention that it will remind you that even in the darkest night a light can be found.
  • Put together a gift box for someone in need (warm clothes, food supplies, etc) and together, as a family, imagine all your love flowing through your hands and into the box so that the recipient may feel that love and share in your abundance
  • Change your bedding, putting away the summer duvet and getting out the winter blankets, preparing your home for the cold months ahead. As you do so, you could light some incense or play some music, to help recognise the shift in energy.

There really is no limit to what you can turn into a ceremony, so please have fun with this.

Want to know more about The Autumn Equinox?

There are some fantastic guides available online for those interested in learning more about the Pagan Wheel of the Year, and here are some of our favourites:

The Goddess and the Green Man have written a fantastic page all about The Autumn Equinox (and it’s more modern name of Mabon)

The Paganism/Wicca Expert on About.com has created a page explaining the 8 Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, including The Autumn Equinox.

The Family Patch Lammas Activities for Families

Celebrating Lammas with Kids

1st August marks Lammas in the Northern Hemisphere, which is a time of celebrating the bounty of the first harvest and beginning preparations for the coming months. It is a lovely time to stop and reflect on how much we are blessed by the earth, and focus on what we can do in return. But it can also be challenging to know how to share this with your children, can’t it?

I know I have found it difficult knowing how to celebrate the Wheel of the Year with my own child, having grown up in a family and society that barely mentions this beautiful tradition. Which is why I’ve created this post with information and activity ideas for celebrating Lammas with Kids. I hope you find it useful, and if you’d like to share your own experiences and ideas with us, please do so in the comments at the end of the post. Happy Lammas!

Celebrating Lammas with Kids

What is Lammas?

Lammas is one of the 8 Sabbats celebrated in the modern Pagan calendar, called the Wheel of the Year. This Wheel of the Year marks the turning of time, and celebrates the cycle of life from birth, through growth, to death, and right on back to rebirth.

It is symbolic of the life-long journeys we are all on, and is played out within our lives each and every year through the seasonal changes we see all around us. The Wheel of the Year traditionally begins at Samhain (or Halloween), when the crops have all been harvested, the leaves are falling from the trees, and the earth is returning to a state of slumber for the dark Winter days ahead.

As the Wheel turns we move through the depths of Winter into the hope of Spring, when the seeds that were planted and lay dormant over the previous months begin to burst into life. We continue on our journey as the Summer months bring abundance of life, and Lammas marks the first of the harvests.

There are generally 3 harvests celebrated within the Pagan Wheel of the Year – Lammas, or the grain harvest, Mabon (Autumn Equinox) as the fruit harvest, and Samhain as the final harvest of nuts and berries. As such, Lammas is a time of gathering sustenance from the earth, thanking her for her (hopefully) bountiful harvest, and beginning preparations for the year ahead. It is not just about reaping the rewards, we must also help the cycle continue by ensuring we leave enough seeds and nutrients in the earth for the next year’s harvest to grow.

This is what I love so much about the Wheel of the Year, the focus on the continuity of life and the dual focus on celebrating the moment whilst also remembering that what we do now will affect our future (and that of our children and grandchildren), just as what we are experiencing now has been affected by the actions of those who have gone before us. And that is the focus of our family celebrations throughout the year.

5 Easy Lammas Activities to Enjoy with Your Kids

1. Bake some bread

Lammas is traditionally a time when the first of the wheat harvest was brought in, so making bread with this wheat is a fantastic way of honouring the way that the earth sustains us throughout our lives.

If you have a local mill where you can take your kids to learn about how flour is made, even better! I remember doing this as a child and it is a great way to introduce kids to the many stages of food growth and production.

2. Go for a Walk in Nature

What better way to be present in this moment of abundance and beauty than to get out in nature and see all that the earth is providing. Here in the UK we have had quite a miserable Summer this year, with many cold, wet days and not much sun at all. So we need more reminders than ever that the Wheel is still turning and that life is still continuing.

You don’t have to go far, your nearest park will do, but for maximum joy why not find a local walk which takes you by some fields? There’s nothing more beautiful than walking beside a field of gold when the sun shines upon the grains gently waving in the wind.

Kids adore getting out and about and it is a fantastic way to let them burn off all that excess energy they seem to have over these Summer months (I suspect not being at school means they are less exhausted!) But instead of simply going for a walk, make it an intentional choice of where you go and what you do – it’s all in the intention!

3. Make a Nature Table or Altar

While you’re out and about, why not grab a few bits to take home with you to remind you of this stage of life on a daily basis? Pick flowers or herbs from the garden, collect loose stones from the ground (symbolic of the stones needed to ground grains into flour), and take photos of the crops you see growing in a field. Place these in the home, in your own Sacred Space, and remember to say thanks to the earth for all she provides.

You might also like to create a nature collage for your kids’ rooms, or let them try out other nature crafts such as making dye out of herbs and flowers, trying your hand at making corn dollies, or even making bird feeders ready for the cold, Winter months ahead.

4. Collect Seeds (and make them into Gifts) or Plant New Seeds

If you have flowers in your garden that have gone to seed, why not collect them and keep them safe ready to give as gifts to family and friends at one of the other Sabbats or Christmas? Homemade gifts are always a real treat to receive, but how much more wonderful would it be if your seeds turned into flowers in someone else’s garden? What a beautiful symbol of the continuation of life!

If you don’t have any seeds you can harvest, why not buy some that are ready to be sown in August and plant those instead? That way you are still playing a crucial part in the cycle of life, and can look back on this moment when the seeds begin to grow and bloom further down the line.

Kids absolutely love getting their hands dirty, and gardening is such a great tactile experience for them which helps them to ground themselves and connect with Mother Earth. Talk to them about how we need to tend and nurture the earth so that she can continue to provide us with such beautiful gifts. Remind them that we give, just as we receive.

5. Create your own Lammas Ceremony

This last idea is one that I really love, because you can really make it your own! For a very long time I was really hesitant about creating ceremony, because I felt like a fraud. But once I started creating my own ceremonies, reflecting on the things that were most important to me and my family, I started to truly fall in love with it.

Ceremony doesn’t have to be grand and ornate, it doesn’t have to follow any specific creed or structure, and it certainly doesn’t have to be created by someone “in the know”. These are all things I used to think about ceremony, and I was so wrong! Ceremony can be as simple as sitting down together with the intention to honour the earth. You could light a candle, write some words, say a prayer, or sing a song. It doesn’t matter… all that matters is that it means something to you.

That being said, if you’re struggling for ideas why not consider some of the following to get you started:

  • Break some bread and eat it as a family, sharing your thoughts on how lucky you are to have this food on your table
  • Light a candle and say thanks to the earth for her sustenance
  • Write down a list of things that you will do over the coming year to honour the earth and support her (make these easy things for kids, such as litter picking in the park, establishing a “wild flower” section in your garden, feeding the birds etc)
  • Create a gift of food for someone in need (or donate to your local food bank), saying a prayer over it to wish the recipient love, health, and abundance in the coming year

There really is no limit to what you can turn into a ceremony, so please have fun with this.

Want to know more about Lammas?

There are some fantastic guides available online for those interested in learning more about the Pagan Wheel of the Year, and here are some of our favourites:

The Goddess and the Green Man have written a fantastic page all about Lammas and Lughnassadh (a celebration of the Sun God, Lugh).

The Paganism/Wicca Expert on About.com has created a page explaining the 8 Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, including Lammas.

Ozark Pagan Mama wrote a brilliant post about celebrating Lammas with Kids.

 

The Family Patch Meets Jaime at #cosmickidslive

Meeting Jaime at #cosmickidslive

A few weeks ago, I heard that Cosmic Kids Yoga were going to be holding a fan event called #cosmickidslive at the YouTube Space in London. I put mine and Little Man’s names forward, and was super excited to receive an email telling us we were invited to attend. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or Little Man!

If you’ve never heard of Cosmic Kids before, can I suggest that you go check them out over on YouTube? They create the most amazing yoga adventures, mindfulness videos, and disco beats that kids adore. We wrote a review about Cosmic Kids a year or so ago, and I have to say that as much as we loved them then, we love them even more now that Little Man is that bit older and more able to fully interact with what is going on.

So, as you can imagine, we were hugely excited as we headed on down to London yesterday. And as we were at YouTube, I found myself inspired to create a video about our adventure rather than simply writing about it. It’s not the most polished video ever, but I hope it gives you a good idea of just how amazing the event was (scroll down below video for further info).

Of course, we had so much more to share with you than I could edit into that video, so here are the extra photos I promised.

YouTube Space London #cosmickidslive
Arriving at the YouTube Space in London was super exciting – here we are, about to go in and meet Jaime!
Jaime at #cosmickidslive
Jaime welcomed every child individually and quickly got the party started!
High Fives at #cosmickidslive
All the kids wanted to speak to Jaime after the adventure – she was such a huge hit with them all!
Goody Bag from #cosmickidslive
All the kids got to bring home this amazing goody bag, filled with wonderful surprises.

As you can see, we had an amazing time at #cosmickidslive, and it was so wonderful to meet Jaime and Martin in person. Jaime is a real natural, full of energy and enthusiasm which the kids all love and respond to so well. We were already big Cosmic Kids fans, but after yesterday I am more excited than ever to see how they grow and develop new ways of inspiring kids all around the world!

I’ll be sharing more about our day yesterday both here on the blog and over at Spirit Kid Network over the coming days, so do keep checking back. In the meantime, let me know if you’re a Cosmic Kids fan too in the comments below, I’d love to hear which your favourite video is!

*Edited to add: I’ve now published our review of the book over on Spirit Kid Network – you can read it here.


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The Family Patch Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

I can hardly believe that the Summer Solstice is almost upon us. The summer sun has been such a long time in finding us this year, and even today the sky is grey and gloomy as showers pass overhead. It feels like the Summer will have been and gone before we know it, and what a hard Winter that will make for us, without enough time to fully soak in the power and glory of the sun.

Which is why it is more important than ever that we do embrace the Summer whilst it is here, remembering the power that lies within the sun’s rays to warm our hearts and nourish the land on which we live. The Solstice itself is such a fleeting moment, a snapshot in time when for a tiny moment the sun prevails and provides us with more warmth in a single 24 hours than it will for another 365 days! If that’s not a message to cherish the moment and trust that life ebbs and flows but always comes around again, I don’t know what is!

But how do we celebrate that with our children? How do we make it clear to them how important it is to celebrate the sun and rejoice in all that it provides us with, both now and in the future (after all, our Winter stores all come from the Harvest that is currently growing thanks to the Summer sun!) It is quite a challenge to explore all of this with young children, although older children will most likely find it interesting to look more closely at life cycles and why we celebrate what we do.

The answer, I have found, is that it doesn’t matter so much how we celebrate, only that we do. What feels right for me and my family may not feel right to you and yours, and vice versa. So with that in mind I have turned to Pinterest to collate a range of kid friendly Solstice activities that the whole family can enjoy. I’ve chosen some of my favourites to list here, but you can find more over on Pinterest.

Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

Make Dandelion Crowns

I absolutely love the idea of making floral crowns and there are many different ideas and tutorials for this over on Pinterest. But my favourite has to be this fantastic illustrated guide to making a dandelion garland by Oscar Ate My Muffin. There are dandelions everywhere at this time of year, so why not take a walk to your local park for a picnic lunch, and collect dandelions to braid into a garland or crown as your dinner goes down? If you want to take this further, you could talk about how different people may celebrate different religious holidays by wearing certain costumes, and think about who might like to wear a flower garland and what it might symbolise.

Make Dandelion Bread

Talking of picnics, how about packing some of this delicious looking Dandelion Bread by Saving 4 Six. Baking bread using items you have managed to forage yourself from your garden or local area is a fantastic way of exploring how the food we eat is made and why it is so important for us to cherish our earth and try to avoid waste. It could open up an opportunity to discuss how food may seem to be in abundance right now, and that we can rejoice in this, but that it may not always be as abundant – a great message for celebrating the Summer Solstice and all it shares with us.

Get Messy with Feet Painting

There are so many craft activities out there for kids, and I’m sure you have your own favourites, but I have to say that this idea for Painting with the Feet by Home Grown Friends is hands-down (haha) one of my favourite finds yet. What better way to celebrate the warmth of the summer sun than getting outside and doing something barefoot? How many months of the year do we hide our feet away in socks and shoes – let’s free them for just a little while, hey? Feet Painting looks and sounds like so much fun, and you could make it as creative as you like. I also love the idea of using the end result as wrapping paper! For the past couple of years we have made our own Christmas wrapping paper and I’m sure that pulling out brightly coloured paper with fun memories of a hot, Summer day might just cheer up those dark, gloomy Winter nights as we race toward the Winter Solstice.

Make Beaded Bubble Wands

Every kid likes bubbles, right? And chasing bubbles on a sunny day has to be one of those wonderful memories we all enjoy, so it seems like such a lovely idea to celebrate the Summer Solstice by having a bubble party, don’t you think? Why not make it even more exciting by creating your own beaded bubble wands like The Artful Parent? I love how pretty they are, they could be personalised to each child’s individual favourite colours or colours that you all associate with the Summer. Then, as you blow the bubbles, you could imagine blowing all your worries into each bubble and watching them float away on the breeze before popping and releasing it all out to the Universe. Or you could imagine blowing love and light into each one and watch as that spreads into the world around you. Kids are so good at visualisation so the sky’s the limit with this one!

Create a Sunshine Spinner

If you’re looking for a super easy craft activity that you and your kids can enjoy, then I may have found just the thing for you. Kimbo from A Girl and a Glue Gun shared this fantastic tutorial for a DIY Paper Spinner over on Makes and Takes. Paper spinners are quick and easy to make and can be packed up and taken with you anywhere, so why not make a few and then take them out into the woods or your local park for a little Solstice Ceremony? You could focus on how the earth turns on a daily basis, creating night and day, and that it also rotates around the sun, creating the seasons. Ask your kids to spin their spinners at different speeds, holding it high and then low, and maybe spinning around themselves (have you ever noticed just how much kids love to spin until they are so dizzy they almost fall over?)

I could carry on all day, sharing my favourite Pinterest finds with you, but there really are far too many to share in a single blog post. So please do pop on over to my Pinterest Board to see more fantastic ideas for summer-based fun that you could incorporate into your Summer Solstice Celebrations. And if you have any other ideas, please do let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!

Container Gardening

How to Turn a Back Yard into a Garden on a Budget

You may remember that when we moved home last year, one of my concerns was how we could quickly and easily create an outdoor space that was as lovely as the garden we had gradually established in our old home. If I could have relocated that garden with me I would have done!

We did what we could with what we had last year, but a combination of busy schedules taking up most of our time and the need to wait until all the weeds had been killed off meant that we were limited in our choices. Aside from putting a few plants in pots, it remained very much a grey and blank concrete yard…

The garden is a blank canvas

I can’t actually describe just how much of an effect this has had on me. I grew up with a beautiful garden that my mum and dad maintained and developed throughout the years (their garden now contains a mini orchard as well as a veg plot and multiple borders and water features – it is like a little haven), so I really miss having a garden full of life the whole year through.

But, of course, we live in a rented home and as much as I’d love to develop the garden fully I do not want to invest huge amounts of time and money into something that we will likely leave again within the next 5 years. Which is why I am pleased to say that we have managed to create an almost complete transformation overnight with hardly any outlay at all, thanks to my dad’s experience and my bargain hunting at the garden centre. And I thought it might be helpful to share some of our tips with you, just in case you are feeling as overwhelmed as I was when looking at a blank back yard and wondering how to turn it into a beautiful garden space.

How to Turn a Back Yard into a Beautiful Garden on a budget

1. Ask your friends and family if they can help

I know that I am very lucky that my dad is so enthusiastic about gardening and brings over 30 years’ experience with him – not everybody has a father to supply them with enough bedding plants to fill a blank square of their garden! But the reality is that even if no-one in your family is a gardener, chances are someone you know is and they may well have spare plants they would be more than happy to give you. Last year a colleague of mine gave me a whole tray full of marigolds she had going spare, and this was someone I had only known for about a month at the time!

Alternative options may be to ask friends and family to buy you some bedding plants as a gift (housewarming, birthday, etc) instead of the usual token gifts we often receive but don’t actually need. You can pick up some lovely bedding plants at most supermarkets now, so they don’t even need to go out of their way to the garden centre to buy them, making it easy to swap that bar of chocolates for a pack of petunias!

Bedding Plants

The plants above were all grown by my dad from seed and so cost us nothing. We have sprinkled random seeds around the area too, in the hope that something may take. Some of the seeds came from our old garden, some we picked up in the bargain aisle over the years. Obviously the seeds will take much longer to appear, but having bedding plants put has completely changed the entire look of this area of our garden.

2. Scour the clearance section and budget stores

Did you know that most garden centres have a clearance section where they place plants (and other seasonal products) that are past their “best dates” or looking worse for wear? It’s just like the clearance section in a supermarket where items that are close to their expiry date or end of season get reduced drastically for a quick sale.

I love the clearance section and always head there before looking at anything else. Sometimes you have to hunt quite hard for it as it is often hidden away at the back of the store, but when you find it you’ll be happy that you looked. Over the years I have found some wonderful bargains here, from herbs that looked like there was no life left in them to trees in pots that just needed to go to a new home asap. Some of the things I have bought have not survived, but most of them have with a little bit of TLC, and it has been a great way to fill out our garden on a budget.

Clearance Section Bargain Buys Garden Plants Sweet Peas 25p

These came from the clearance section in a couple of places we visited lately – as you can see, the sweet peas were a mere 25p! I love sweet peas as they remind me of my childhood, but I have never had much luck with them in the past. How could I possibly pass up the chance to try again at that price? The most expensive of my bargain buys lately have been a marrow and garden pea plants, but both only cost £1 each, so again a total steal!

3. Think Outside The Box (which might include a box or two!)

Don’t think that just because you have a tiny back yard with no lawn and hardly any soil you cannot create a colour garden, because you can! We’ve been growing plants in pots ever since we moved into our very first flat together. In those days it was simply a trough on the windowsill, but it was still something that we had grown.

In every other move since we have grown vegetables in large boxes, because digging a vegetable patch in a rented garden is not necessarily the easiest of things to do. There are so many herbs and vegetables that will grow quite happily in containers, so long as the soil is both well watered and has good drainage. You don’t even have to go out and buy fancy pots, ours grow in old plastic storage boxes which we drilled holes into the bottom of.

Growing Vegetables in Pots

We’ve currently got courgettes, carrots, beetroot, spring onions, lettuce, and two types of radishes planted in the blue boxes and tomatoes growing in pots along the wall. We’ve had huge successes with this kind of vegetable growing in the past, especially the year I was pregnant with Little Man when we had a real bountiful harvest and I was picking tomatoes off the plant to nibble on throughout the day.

4. Use What You Already Have

This may sound like an obvious one, but actually it’s often easy to overlook what you already have. As I’ve already mentioned, old plastic boxes can make excellent planters for your garden, as can old buckets, and even large tin cans. They may not be the most beautiful objects, they will soon be filled with greenery of all sorts, so it doesn’t really matter that much.

You will also find that, over time, you begin to collect quite a selection of plant pots of varying sizes, as you plant things in different spaces. That small, black plant pot that housed the bargain garden peas? Why not fill it with compost and plant some herbs? Herbs are one of those things that grow so well in pots and are actually much easier to maintain in a smaller garden by keeping them in pots rather than in the ground where they can expand and take over in a short amount of time.

Container Gardening

We have lots of plant pots that we have amassed over the years, from our own buys and from family and friends passing them on to us. As such we now have a lovely little selection of patio pots containing a wide range of herbs, ornamental grasses, lavender, a rose, and even some strawberries. It is so lovely to look out of my kitchen window and see this area blooming so well.

5. Small Steps Make Big Changes!

Remember that gardens are always going to be a work in progress – there is always something more that you can do, so dream big and slowly but surely you will get there! Our last garden was just getting to the place where I wanted it to be after 5 years there, so I don’t expect our current garden to be exactly what I want it to be in just our second year. But with each small step we take it becomes a much more pleasant place to sit.

Tomatoes growing in pots

My current plans include gradually adding more and more top soil to the borders and patch of land underneath the vegetable boxes. We are taking this slowly in order to remain on a budget – yes, we could go and buy a load of top soil today but actually we have a family friend who has a surplus he can give us every now and again when he is in our area, so we are not going to turn down that offer. The beauty of growing vegetables in boxes this year means that we can continue to place more and more top soil under and around the boxes so that next year we can plant straight into the ground and use those boxes for even more plants further down the garden. Slowly, but surely, we will get there.

And I hope that you get there with your garden space too. Do tell me what you have growing where you live and how you make the most of the space you have. And if you want to follow along with our journey in more detail, follow me on instagram where I often share little updates on a day to day basis.


Linking up with #sharethejoy linky, your weekly place for inspirational posts full of all the good things in life!
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I love myself too

And You Love Yourself Too…

This afternoon I was sitting with Little Man and asked him, “do you know who I love?” When he turned to look at me, waiting for my answer, I told him, “I love you, and I love daddy, and I love Thomas and Percy (our two new guinea pigs)”. And do you know what his reply was?

And you love yourself too!

This isn’t the first time he’s said this to me, but every time he does I am blown away by how deep and profound his response is. And yet, to him, it isn’t deep or profound at all, it just is. And therein lies the beauty of it – if we can love another, we must surely love ourselves.

And it makes me wonder – at what point in my life did I stop seeing things with this kind of clarity and start leaving myself off that all important list of those I love? If asked about self-love, I’d say that of course I think it’s important that we love ourselves as well as others. But thinking it is important is not the same as actually loving myself with the same level of intention and intensity as I love and value others.

Which is why Little Man’s response is so powerful to me, because it challenges me to really consider not only whether I truly love myself (and what that may mean) but also how that love manifests and why I have (until now) valued it far below the love that I have for him and others. I want to live a life with that same kind of simplicity that says, “you love yourself too, don’t forget that!”

You love yourself too, don't forget that!

But then, of course, my rational mind comes into play and I start over-analysing it all.  I begin to ask questions like “what does loving yourself actually mean?” and “what does that even look like?” I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about self-love I often come across a wall where the bricks are engraved with words such as “fear”, “ego”, “pride”, and “selfish”. I am so worried that by loving myself fully I will become unbalanced and “full of myself”, and that scares the hell out of me.

And I wonder why that is, why do I fear love so much when I know how powerful it can be? Of course, therein lies the crux – love is so powerful. I know that by loving myself everything will change, but instead of focusing on all the positive results this could bring I see only the negative possibilities. Why is that? When did I stop trusting love and start fearing it?

Love is so powerful

I’d like to be able to blame it on all the bad things that have happened in my life, all the difficulties with my health, struggles with finances, challenges in the workplace etc, but the reality is that I can’t blame any of these things. The circumstances of my life have naturally had an impact on me, but the lack of self-love goes much deeper. No matter what has happened in my life, I have continued to have a great love for so many people, that side of love (the giving side) has never been compromised. But the receiving side, that’s where I struggle. And that goes right back as far as I can remember…

This lack of self-love has manifested in so many ways – low self-esteem, lack of confidence, inability to say no, acting like a martyr, I could go on and on! In fact , over the past couple of days I have begun to realise that the only reason my dreams of making a living doing the thing I love most has never quite come true is because I do not value myself and my skills enough to expect payment for them. I feel hugely uncomfortable at the idea of charging for my services, even though I know that I do it so well. And so, the reality of this is that year after year my dream remains just that, a dream that other people get to do but I don’t, not because they are any better at it than I am but rather because I do not value myself enough to get out there and do it.

And even though I know this, I find it so hard to change. But change I will. I want to love myself, I want to follow the advice and inspiration of so many who have said time and time again that the key to living a happy and successful life lies in loving yourself enough to feel you deserve a happy and successful life. And I want be like Little Man, with the knowledge that self-love is the most natural thing in the world. And that starts today…

I love myself too

Tell me – do you love yourself too?


I’m linking this post up with the #sharethejoy linky hosted by Michelle at The Joy Chaser and Regina at You are a Daisy, because this post really was written at the start of a very incredible week for me, one which brought me a huge sense of joy! I have so much more I want to write about the amazing shift in perception that self-love can bring, and just how much that changes everything in your life, but for now I am sharing the post that started one of the most amazing weeks I’ve had in a very long time!
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