No one can rain on my parade

A couple of times a week I throw myself a parade in my own head, seriously. It’s not that I don’t get praise from my husband or other friends and family, but life is so challenging that sometimes I feel like I’ve earned it — that little brain parade.

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Being a working mom is not easy. I’m blessed beyond measure that I have a supportive husband who will pick up nearly any of the traditional “mom” pieces that are dropped in the wake of my insane overscheduled life. But even with that, it can be rough.

So when I’m able to work a nine-hour day, come home, nurse my son and get a meal — from scratch mind you — on the table for my family of four before 6:30 p.m., I think I’ve earned a parade!

I know, I know — it’s not very realistic for me to expect the marching band to be on standby for when I pull one of those stellar, magical, all the pieces fell into place nights off. Instead of expecting tractors, waving fair queens and a steady drum beat in my living room, I envision them in my head. I see the flags spinning in the air, the tinsel hanging from the float dragging on the concrete and the candy flying through the air.

“Momma, what’s wrong?” Miles asks as we are sitting at the dinner table, and I’m zoned out for my brief parade bliss.

“Oh, nothing honey,” I say while helping Owen grasp another handful of the avocado he’s eating, or more realistically smearing all over every surface within reach. “I’m just thinking about something.”

I smile as the horses trot by (the unofficial end to every parade, because, well you know why.)

Another recent parade happened when I took both boys to church — by MYSELF — last week. I have this mom of two thing down pat when I’m in my own territory — I’m a pro on my own turf. But every time I go anywhere, even just the grocery store, with both of them by myself, I feel like I’ve earned a parade. Running into the gas station to grab a Diet Coke with both in tow — that’s just a little mini parade, probably just a few kids on bikes.

Going into the grocery store to get milk and eggs, that parade is a little bigger because I probably had to wrestle away a loaf of bread from the baby at least a few times and keep Miles from dropping the eggs as he “helped me” put the items on the conveyor belt. The store to get chicken feed, that’s a little more challenging because we are now balancing the baby, a 50-plus pound bag of food and a little boy who wants nothing more than to touch ALL of the baby chicks in the store. I do have the added bonus of the popcorn bribery there, though.

Because, cute kids

But taking both boys to church, alone, that’s right up there with the Rose Bowl Parade, it’s not quite Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; but it’s still quite the feat — at least it is in my head.

At church you have to employ a whole new set of mom skills because quiet is of the essence. And quiet for an energetic nearly 4-year-old and almost 8-month-old is not always the easiest of tasks. Most Sundays we have a man-on-man defense approach, but sometimes the assigned player (one of our children) changes. So this two-on-one stuff was tricky. You know what though, I did it. There were zero outbursts, just a few non-whispering moments, some redecorating of the pew and a few little excited baby shouts. I didn’t get any cross looks from the pastor or fellow congregants. So on my drive home from church — yep, you guessed it — I was envisioning a big old parade, thrown just in my honor.

I’m sure many of you are reading this thinking, “Hurmph, parade for taking two kids to church? I’ve brought my quintuplets and pet lion to the pope’s inauguration. And that was just another Tuesday!”

My response, “You are amazing!” But you know what, I also think you are amazing if you are a mom of one and you take your kid to church and he screams his fool head off. Because I’ve been there (not at church, thankfully, but at plenty of grocery stores!)
Being a mom (and dad!) is hard work. Being a parent while working, staying at home or as an astronaut — all of it is a great accomplishment.

So I say we all deserve parades. If we are doing our best to keep our kids healthy, happy and safe, we should be dusting off the baton and whistle and should start leading some parades.

Mother’s Day and other disasters, by Michael Doyle

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One of the things I love most about my wife is that she is a realist.
So when Mother’s Day came along, she understood that all those grand ideas about breakfast in bed, well-behaved children and being catered to all day long just weren’t going to happen with our two kids.
See, even on his calmest days, 3-year-old Miles is what they call a “spirited” child. On other days he is, as my Southern friends say, a “hot mess.”
Sure enough, things got off to a rough start, with Miles pitching a fit about his shoes and not wanting to go to church. Five minutes after coming downstairs, I already could tell this day was going to be a wild ride.
Sparing most of the gory details, we were a solid 10 minutes late for church, breakfast in bed was more along the lines of brunch at McDonald’s and my leisurely barbecue resulted in a grease fire that made our dinner less than great.
Owen, 7 months, was pretty chill the whole day, but even the most low-maintenance baby takes a lot of effort.
At the dinner table, Miles was in rare difficult form, sass-talking, arguing every little thing either of us said and refusing to eat just to spite us.

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“He’s just like me … just like me,” Abbey would say through a mouthful of burned chicken, shaking her head with a half-smile of resignation on her face.
Nearing 7 o’clock, the one item on the agenda that she really wanted — a trip for frozen yogurt — seemed an impossible task.
But I was determined that this one thing was going to happen. I took Miles into his bedroom and gave him the longest caring-but-stern lecture of his young life about how he had hurt his mom’s feelings by misbehaving on Mother’s Day, how he was old enough to know right from wrong and how he should treat other people the way he wants to be treated.
It was my big dad moment, the kind of thing you only see on sitcoms.
Miraculously, it worked — for about 45 minutes. Fortunately, that was long enough to drive to the frozen yogurt place and eat our dessert in relative peace and calm.
It lasted until we were on our way out the door, when suddenly Miles let out every screech, howl, scream, kick and jump he had so dutifully been holding in, blazing a path of chaos out the front door and getting laughs from every single person there.
A mother and her teenage son were standing at the counter. I got the feeling she had been in our shoes a time or two.

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“I remember those days,” she said, exchanging a bemused look with Abbey. “They go by too fast. Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Happy Mother’s Day to you, too,” Abbey said as we walked out the door — reminded, I think, that those little fleeting moments make all the difficult ones worthwhile.
Maybe we’ll try that breakfast in bed thing next year.

First time in a long time

My husband and I don’t get out a lot. Well I get out a fair amount and he gets out when I plan family “to dos,” but the two of us at the same time alone — nope. It pretty much doesn’t happen.

See, we can still have fun, even without the kids!

See, we can still have fun, even without the kids!

It hasn’t happened at all since the birth of our second child (who will be 8 months old in just a few weeks) until last night.

That’s sad. Seriously, I need to try to remedy that.

And when we finally get about 2.5 hours of us time what did we do — we talked about the kids. Yep, that’s exactly what we did. What’s wrong with us.

But in reality I know nothing is wrong with us. This is probably standard parent MO. Our world (most parents’ worlds) revolve around their kids. It’s not like we’ve gotten to the point where we have nothing else to talk about (at least I hope we haven’t) but those were the important, pressing things on our mind.

That’s OK. I’m OK with it. What I’m not as OK with is the fact that it took nearly eight months for us to get away just the two of us. When I hear other parents talk about “date night” once a week I know that that idea is seriously unrealistic for us. But we can do better than once every eight months.

How do you make solo parent time a priority? How do you make it less about the kids and more about the couple?

P.S. We were out doing a restaurant review of a fancy pants (and way out of our normal dining out) budget. It was pretty good,although Michael was a little disappointed with his $38 steak, yes, $38!!!

Sick kids, it sucks!

Remember the good old days, you know the times that you spent hunched over a toilet dealing with a nasty stomach bug?

Or how about all those times you were living in bed sipping OJ and couldn’t find the remote because it was hiding under a pile of Kleenexes?

Oh wait, that doesn’t sound like good times? Then you must not have kids.

Give me the pukies, the sore throat and the stuffy nose 100 times before giving it to my poor, little guys. It is just about the worst thing ever to have a sick kid. And I am AMAZINGLY blessed that so far my guys have been remarkably healthy.

Neither of them have even been on antibiotics, EVER.

I’ve watched friends and even my twin sister deal with some pretty serious and scary medical issues with their kids. I can’t even fathom how scary and devastating that is. Because you know what, just seeing my guys have a bad cold or a stomach bug nearly brings me to tears.

Pre-sickies

Pre-sickies

All Monday Owen, now 7 months, was out of sorts. My hubby said he would barely eat or nap and our normally pretty happy guy was just down right cranky. When I came home he was all smiles, so I just figured maybe he was just going through mom withdrawal after he spent the whole weekend with me.

Bedtime rolled around though and again he was super fussy, not something he normally is, especially with me. He didn’t nurse real well, and I struggled to get him to lay down in his crib. Off and on for three hours, yes, three hours, Michael and I switched off trying to get him to fall asleep and then, the clincher, stay asleep in his crib. At 11 p.m. I called it quits and just decided to bring him to bed with me. *GASP* I know, this is a hot topic for some.

Anyway, he had just fallen asleep, and I was getting there too when all of a sudden he started gagging and gasping and threw up (EVERYWHERE!) So a wardrobe change and clean up for both of us and the sheets stripped off the bed and the mattress soaked from cleaning… That bed was done for the night. We snuggled up in the overstuffed chair in the living room where, just about 15 minutes later, he got sick again.

This same scene played itself out over and over again for the next couple of hours. We both were almost out of clean cloths and towels when finally he fell asleep.

Each time, he got this pathetic, pained look on his face; I could barely hold back the tears. I’ll be the sick one! Let me spend a week with the pukies rather than my baby go through the pain for one night.

Post-sickies

Post-sickies

Hopefully tonight is a little better. The good thing about kids and sickness is that they are pretty resilient, and he’s probably already forgotten. I don’t know if I have though. :(

Lessons learned

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Moments of quiet as a mom to two little ones are few and far between. But when I get them — usually right after Miles, 3, wakes up and snuggles into me while his brother Owen, 7 months, is either snoozing in my arms or nursing — I am struck, nearly to tears, with the realization that this intense, I-can-barely-breathe love I have for my boys is the same thing my mom had for my sister and me.

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Before I was a parent I knew my mom loved me. I knew she cared for me. I knew that my sister, dad and me were pretty much her entire world. But I didn’t really KNOW it; I didn’t feel it. And although that realization has washed over me countless times, every time it gets quiet enough for it to sneak up on me I still get a gush of emotions — every single time.

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That love, the love of a mom, you can’t explain it. I am the luckiest person alive because I got that love — I still get that unconditional love — from my mom.
That’s one of the most important lessons I learned from her, the power and significance of unconditional love. I know at times, more than either she or I probably want to recall, I wasn’t the easiest girl to love. I was a stubborn toddler, child and teen (I may just be a stubborn adult, too). I was what the parenting blogs today call “spirited.” Through all that though, she loved me harder than any little girl could ever hope for.

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There are days where my spirited preschooler, who can throw a tantrum like no other, makes things a little challenging. OK, let’s be real; he makes stuff downright insufferable some days. But you know what? Like my mom, I love him unconditionally. I love him so much it takes my breath away. He, his brother and my husband are my world — just like my mom.

Waiting for fireworks with grandma and Elmo in Vincennes 2013.

Waiting for fireworks with grandma and Elmo in Vincennes 2013.

There’s plenty of other lessons I’ve taken from my mom — how to sew, a love of all things crafty, the importance of finding a good deal, seeing the good in every situation, faking it ’til I make it, choosing which hill to die on and a funky sense of style. Heck, even choosing to enter the Peace Corps was something I can credit to her and my dad as the two of them always talked about doing it and modeled a life of service, planting that seed for my sister and me.

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Features staffer Leah Ward said the lessons from her mom, Jan Berry, were endless. An important one though, was patience, especially when it came to her children
“Always listen to them and put them first,” Leah said, recalling what she’s learned from her mom.

Entertainment writer Kelly Gifford said her mom, Kathy Gifford — no not that one — had an unusual way of conveying advice.

“In the flurry of raising five kids and running about to all of our respective sports, recitals, play dates and parties, she’d randomly exclaim something that would infuriate her and somehow we’d all heed the warning as something to avoid in our future lives.”
One example Kelly provided, a memory that vividly stands out from the rest in both its truthfulness and hilarity:

“We were driving along the winding country roads — the destination now a blur — and her cellphone started ringing. With all of us kids in the back, she had to reach for it herself, in a rush to answer fearful she forgot something at home or would miss an emergency. She answered, missing the call by seconds when she saw an oncoming car was heading our way. Being the jerk children we were, we screamed about how the car was a roller coaster and laughed at the bad situation. In that moment of pure fear and dread, my mother screamed ‘I hate talking when I’m on the phone!’ and then brought the car to a complete stop.

“Silence fell. Then she began laughing, and the car erupted. What she meant was, ‘I hate talking on the phone when I am driving.’ We all knew this, but at the time it didn’t matter what she meant. My preteen self made a mental note of that moment to not only remember the dangers associated with operating heavy machinery while under the influence of a cellphone conversation but to remember how my mother’s wisdom never fails to make us laugh as well.”

Meet my imaginary enemy, Mommy Wars

I’m in my fair share of “mommy” groups on Facebook. One is for area “crunchy” moms (AKA those ascribing to a more natural parenting style), another is a group of moms from all over the country (and a few international) who had babies with October 2014 due dates, another was started by a friend with the idea of “no censorship” and then there are a sundry of generic cloth diaper, natural parenting or attachment parenting sites I follow.

There’s a phrase and mentality that I rarely go a day without seeing it bantered, way too causally about — Mommy Wars. That statement, that concept really, is a monster, a Jabberwocky, created by US, fed by US and indulged by US!

I HATE, HATE, HATE when I see those words carelessly thrown about online. We can disagree. We can be “mommies” (but really, only my 3 year old calls me mommy, call me a mom). But why does that disagreement have to be characterized as a mommy war?Why can we not just have a disagreement, heck it can even be an argument or fight. But mommy war? Really?

We are all real quick to blame “the media” for things. Being a member of said “media” I usually swiftly defend said “media.” I do think though that blogs and more mainstream media sources have done a good job at perpetuating this concept. But us moms in these online groups, discussion boards or even in real life, we have been the real culprits flippantly referring to any debate as a Mommy War.

In a recent discussion in one of my groups where different opinions got pretty strong it wasn’t long before a woman in the group, a fellow mom, started calling the discussion a mommy war. “Guys, this doesn’t have to be another mommy war. Let’s all just calm down and get along.”

I wasn’t even one of the fired up moms; I had no dog in the fight. But that comment got my blood boiling. We all have opinions. We all judge to a certain degree (we have to use judgement otherwise we would NEVER make a decision, it is part of life.) No one was being hateful or ugly (which can at times happen). It was a pretty intelligent discussion where people had different opinions and were sharing said opinions.

There was a huge shout from the world wide interwebs a few months ago when a formula company released a viral video showing all different kinds of moms uniting to grab a stroller that had gotten away from a mom. It was this sugary sweet, over the top video where breastfeeding moms and formula moms, cloth diaper and sposie babies, baby-wearing mommas and stroller moms were all just loving life and each other. When the video was shared over and over again it came with messages like, “This should be the end to Mommy Wars” or “This parodies Mommy Wars” and even news stories with the headline “Similac wants to end Mommy Wars over breastfeeding.”

Sigh!

Every time a group of women, who happen to also be mothers, disagree on something we shouldn’t be shouting, “mommy war.” Instead, let’s learn to hear someone else’s opinion and either take it or leave it.

The end.

How pregnancy ruined me (not really, well kind of)

The tears, oh the tears today!

Like so many things, my emotions are still stuck on pregnant. I was never the type to cry over things I’d read or watch. It had to be something pretty darn emotional or something that was directly impacting me or people I loved to get tears, real live tears from me.

Because, cute kids

Because, cute kids

Not anymore! I see a cute little ant working hard to carry a giant leaf set to some inspirational power ballad and a cutesy “you can do it” quote at the end and I’m a blubbering mess.

It all started about four years ago when I was pregnant with Miles. Granted the serious surge of hormones that is standard with a pregnancy was accompanied by some pretty emotional stuff in my life — my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I moved across the country from my husband (for three months) and great friends (forever), got a new and kind of scary job and then, sadly, lost my dad all within the first seven months after marriage and first four months of pregnancy.

Me and my dad

Me and my dad

So when people would say, “Parenthood is a great show but you’ll probably tear up a little.” What I would actually do was have a near mental breakdown during every episode before my husband, for my own good, deleted the show from the DVR. I wasn’t able to revisit it until just a few months ago. Guess what folks, I almost needed an intervention then too.

Because my emotions — like my internal thermostat — are stuck on pregnant.

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There’s this video that’s going all viral of little kids blindfolded sensing their moms. All of the tears! And seriously people, it was good and tugged at your heart strings, but tears, sobs, sniffles — it shouldn’t be a thing. But it was.

And then about 20 minutes later the Internet, or the source of the Kleenex industry, spits out another tear fest. There was a story about the three things you should ask your child before bed:

  • What is something that made you smile today?
  • What is something that made you cry today?
  • What is something that you learned today?

 

 

Fourth of July parade in Vincennes 2012.

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Again, with the tears. These tears come from a place of, you guessed it, guilt. I can’t escape this five letter word. Miles, nearly 4, doesn’t get as much of my time as he deserves during the week because from the time I get home from work to the time he goes to bed I’m nursing his brother. The 20 or so minutes where that isn’t the case I’m fixing dinner or we are eating dinner. None of it is real quality, momma and Miles time. And I feel bad.

So when I read this I realized it is something I need to do. So to kick that guilt to the curb I’ve vowed to myself to incorporate this into our nightly routine. Even if I’m nursing his brother, Miles can snuggle into my other side and we can have this conversation — EVERY NIGHT

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So pregnancy, you win again. You forever altered my shoe size, my thermostat (yes, it is ALWAYS hot in here) and my whacky emotions. But I suppose my two little boys are worth it.

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Chicken-tastrophe, oh and that thing with our home’s roof too

 

Chickens, happy and peaceful in their coop before "the storm!"

Chickens, happy and peaceful in their coop before “the storm!”

The post-mortem in my house this morning can be seen as a little comical — I’d rather laugh than cry.

Me: “So I’m going to talk to Stephanie about what I should do about the coop and where the chickens can be in the meantime. That sounds like a good plan right? We have to figure out what we are going to do. My poor chickens.”

Him: “Yes, and there is also the matter of the hole in our roof to deal with. I got that.”

Me: “Oh, yes, that’s right.”

Sigh.

Back up about eight sleepless hours to our less-than-fabulous evening. I had checked on my chickens, tucked away snugly in their coop, around 10:45 p.m. There was a storm raging outside but the coop was a nice fortress and protection for the nasty winds, rain and lightning.

I finished up a bit of work, snapped my laptop shut and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. The wind was really whipping. I could hear it whistling through the windows and could almost feel the house shake.

We’d just gone through a nasty storm during the day Tuesday and unfortunately lost a huge section of our roof. It sucked! But the coop stayed strong. We spent a good 24 hours patting ourselves on the back for Michael’s stellar coop-building skills. And then we doled out several hundred dollars to fix the roof on Wednesday because now we are grownups and that’s the yucky stuff we have to do.

While brushing my teeth — I’m not one to really sit still — I wondered into the kitchen closer to Michael’s office where he was working on a story on his computer.

“Thesh sturm sheemz wurst thahn de least one,” I said through my mouthful of toothpaste and toothbrush standing on my tiptoes to see out the window to get one last check on my coop and little chickies.

It was dark and raining SO hard I couldn’t see the coop in the backyard from that window but I had a bad feeling. I moved to the dining room, peeking out the lower windows.

The coop was overturned.

Me, screaming: “My coop is upside down!”

I ran toward the door, toothbrush still in my mouth, pajamas and no shoes with Michael right on my tail.

It was raining SO hard, torrential downpour. And the wind; the wind was crazy. You couldn’t hear anything. It was kind of surreal. And I was in serious panic mode. My chickens — Mocalotive, Choo-Choo, Olive, Stella, Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little — these were my babies. They weren’t just some feathered things we were getting eggs from one of these days. I had grown attached.

And my coop, ah, my coop was so, so cute!

The completed coop

The completed coop

Me, now screaming at the top of my lungs and waving my arms like a crazy person: “We have to flip the coop over! Hurry, we have to flip it over.”

I was prepared to go all Hulk and just pick up this substantial structure and find my chickens safe and dry, chilling underneath.

We both got down on all fours in the mud and muck, rain beating down on us looking for any signs of chickens.

There were none.

Him: “We can’t just flip it over. We might crush them.”

Me, repeatedly, with more tears and even more manic: “No, we have to flip it over!”

Him, much calmer: “Let’s look for them.”

We continued to look through coop rubble and debris from trees but saw nothing.

Him: “Wait, I hear something.”

He points out one lone chicken hiding under a piece of the broken coop. I grab her, plopping her in the feed bucket nearby. But behind her is another chicken. And behind her another. Four chickens piled on top of each other. I nose my way farther into the broken up pieces of wood and find two more chickens.

All were safe!

I run them inside into the garage checking them over again, my breathing returning to a little more normal pace. I go back outside and with Herculean effort flip the coop back over assessing the completely smashed roof.

As the wind continues to try to knock Michael and me over, we decide the coop isn’t safe out there. So we walk it around the house and with the strength of sheer adrenaline I lift my end over my head so we can clear Michael’s car, getting it safely inside the garage.

I got my teenager chickens inside the house, dry them off and gave them a little snuggle before putting them to bed in the basement, in the space they once occupied as chicks.

In the meantime, my responsible, normal, non-chicken-obsessed husband is checking out the house to see if it sustained damage. And of course, it did.

Another section of roof had blown off.

Sigh.

So, here we are, less than eight hours later trying to make sense of the crazy night before.

The roof guy, the same one who replaced a section of the roof on Wednesday, is coming back Saturday to do another job. And while he has an important job in fixing our roof, I’m going to ask if maybe he can fit a reroof of my coop into his busy schedule.

It’s the important things…

Easter memories

There’s a saying in my family, if it happens more than once it is a tradition.

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Well folks, we have an Easter tradition. Michael and I had just moved into our new home just before Easter last year and had my mom, sister, brother-in-law and nephew over for a meal and an egg hunt in the back yard. We did the same thing this year.

A tradition was born.

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There’s nothing fancy or extra special about it, but maybe that is what makes it special. It was a quiet (well can anything be quiet with a 6 month old, 2 year old and 3 year old… NO) low-key day but so much fun.

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Miles, 3, and Charlie, 2, boys played and hunted eggs in the back yard while my mom snuggled Owen, 6 months. Sarah and I “hid” eggs throughout the yard as Michael grilled and Chris, Sarah’s husband, helped wrangle the kiddos.

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This year we added some chickens and a new baby to the mix but it was pretty similar to last year’s celebration.

I loved it!

And Easter Sunday we followed a tradition too. Last year we attended Aldersgate United Methodist Church with my sister and her in-laws. Michael and I and the boys started regularly attending the church a few months ago and returned again this Easter Sunday, this time feeling a little less like strangers. It was a nice service and Miles, shockingly, was able to stay quiet throughout the more than hour long service.

The church has a tradition of its own, the children "flower the cross" at the beginning of the ceremony. Miles helped.

The church has a tradition of its own, the children “flower the cross” at the beginning of the ceremony. Miles helped.

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to create and make memories and form our own traditions with my own little family and my extended family.

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Hope Easter was a great one for you too!