The Chair

The Chair arrived before either of you did. I remember the day we picked it out, the day we went to do the Baby Shopping – the same day we had our 20 week scan with you, Rian, and found out to our immense relief that you were growing perfectly. We left the hospital clutching the miraculous scan picture of you, something we never thought we’d ever be able to hold at one time, and arrived at the baby shop almost giddy with disbelief that the seemingly  un-achievable,  impossible dream of parenthood was actually happening for us. Little did we know it would actually happen twice for us. Our frozen twins.

I sat in The Chair, at first just to get a bit of a rest while we waited for a shop assistant to become available. It’s tiring work growing a baby. Of course, the minute I sat in it, I was able to imagine hours of gently rocking you to sleep, and feeding you in it when the rest of the world was fast alseep.

‘We’ll take it.’

As soon as it arrived it became a little spot of peace and calm in the corner of your room. I used to sit there, with you in Bump form, and wonder what you might look like and who you might be. Would  you have hair and would you look like me? A boy or a girl? Tall like your Daddy? Wondering of what adventures lay ahead.

I sat in The Chair as I watched your Dad put together your cot. Laying out all the pieces on one side and the toolbox on the other. I read from the instructions with what bit goes where, with one hand on The Bump and felt you kick in agreement when we figured it out.

And one after the other, you both arrived. From the start, The Chair was where we sat, you and I, you and your Dad. Gently rocking away the sobs and cries from colic. Gently rocking, persuading sleepy little eyes to close and nod off. And gently rocking while we stared at your miraculous, perfect little faces and wondered, what do babies dream about? Breathing in the beautiful soft, sleepy, milky baby smell and wondering, how did you get here? Just how on earth did we get so lucky, twice?

How many nights have we sat in that chair together? Sometimes it felt like endless hours. Please go to sleep…please don’t cry…. please, please just sleep, even just for a little while! Some nights felt never ending, some weeks felt like decades. Sitting rocking in that chair, trying to figure you out. Wishing the teeth would hurry up and come, rocking, shushing, patting your back gently. Wondering would we ever see sleep again?  Feeling like surely  you were the only person awake in the whole world at that time, willing sleep to come.

Thinking about the early baby days and hours rocking in The Chair, and how they changed into less and less hours there. I imagine it like a video collage in time-lapse mode in my mind of us all moving in super fast motion in and out of the room, up and down from The Chair, the time whizzing by yet slowly passing at the same time. The video in my mind shows each of you starting off tiny, slowly growing bigger. Sitting in that chair at the start, resting on my shoulder with your head nestled into my neck and your tiny little legs only long enough to reach my chest. Whizz on a bit and your legs stretch all the way to my lap. Whizz on some more and your face still nuzzles into my neck, your little arms wrapped around me, but you’re almost sitting sideways now as there is nowhere else for your legs to go. You’ve grown so quickly.

I wonder now, the sleepless nights long enough ago now,  exactly why did I wish away those endless nights? All those beautiful baby snuggles, rocking together in the chair as I stared at your eyelashes and wondered at how they were so long. The two perfect little button noses, and those drooly little mouths twisting in various ways depending on what little dream you were having and what amount of wind you had in your pudgy little bellies after a feed. I could close my eyes right now and draw each little face perfectly, I have memorised them so well, all those hours of sitting and rocking in The Chair.

And only in the last week, for the first time in almost 4 years,  a change arrived. The Chair was made redundant, nobody needing to be rocked gently in order to fall asleep for the night. I sat on the other side of the room and looked at The Chair, and realised: I’ll never need to sit there again. I remember reading something a couple of  years ago about not realising when the last time you do something, is the last time you’ll do it. I didn’t know that my last time rocking a baby to sleep in The Chair would be the last time I did it. What would I have done differently?

I probably would have stayed there all night.

I’m that mother who feels a bit emotional packing away the baby clothes that don’t fit anymore, holding them up and wondering how either of you ever fit into them in the first place. Were you really that small? But there’s something different about saying goodbye to The Chair. It’s more of a permanent goodbye. It’s saying goodbye to an era, not just to a small section of time where you used to fit into a particular babygrow. It’s saying goodbye to a section of my life, a section that was longed for so hard. A section of our lives that we wondered if we’d ever get to experience, and we did. And it just whizzed by so fast.

The Chair was there for it all, from before we even met you both. It rocked us through the rocky parts of becoming new parents, and rocked us calmly through the most peaceful parts too.

I know when it’s not sitting in the corner anymore, that space will remind me that I no longer have two little babies, but will remind me of you both, our two amazing little boys.

 

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Before I Ever Met You

When I discovered I was going to be a mother, I sat and wondered about lots of things. Practical things like what things do we need to buy? What should we name you? HOW WILL I GET YOU OUT?!

But more than just the practical things. What would you be like? What kind of person would you be? Who would you look like?

What can I teach you?

But I never expected for it to work the other way around. What would I be like?

What do you teach me?

Before I ever met you, there was so much I didn’t know, things I didn’t know existed. Like the pure strength of the love I have for both of you. Imagine how it’s possible that you can love someone before you even meet them? You can sense and feel their life begin, and with it this amazing bond begins, with someone you’ve never even set eyes on. And then you both arrived bringing this amazing, new type of love, so strong it almost scares you in case someone takes it away. And when you both arrived, I evolved into something else.

Someone else.

Someone, who before they ever met you, never knew they could actually survive on so little sleep. Night after night, sitting up, cuddling you, rocking you back to sleep. Getting up again, battling away imaginary monsters from your curtains, soothing pains in tummies, sore gums….. kissing away the things that wake you from your sleep. But I did.

Someone, who before they ever met you, used to think I’d never be able to do lots of things. I could never manage to get out of the house with one baby in tow… two babies in tow. I could never feed a baby in one hand and make a hasty sandwich for myself with the other. I could never keep one baby entertained, whilst soothing the other off to sleep for a much needed nap. And the ultimate goal, I could never achieve the all time achievement – dual naps. A thing of sheer beauty! But I did.

Someone, who before they ever met you, never really knew too well the pure sense of pride. The feeling may have come now and then at different points in time, if I achieved certain things in life; when I got my first paycheck.. when I took a great photograph. When I married your Dad. And eventually you both arrived. We fought hard to get you, now you’re both here, all I need to do is think of you. I just think of you, and feel overwhelming feelings of pride, as if my heart could burst with it. When it happens, I turn to whoever happens to be near me, and tell them of you. Something you did, something you said. A look you gave, an example of your amazing little personalities. I tell the stories of you, and feel immense pride. I just think of you, and it’s there. I never knew I could do anything so amazing to feel all this pride. But I did.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew fear. Fear of all the things I immediately knew I had to protect you from, and of all the things I know I’ll never be able to shield you from. The hurts and disappointments that are bound to eventually find you. The absolute fear at the thought of you not being my babies anymore and having to send you out into the big scary world – it seems a world away from us at the moment but I’m learning at a rapid pace just how quick this journey is going to fly past. I can still call you my babies now – always – but one day you’ll be brave enough to do things without having to hold my hand. I just hope I can teach you to be strong enough and wise enough for each step of the way. I never knew fear could be this strong at the sheer thought of something. It makes me feel stronger, to know I will do whatever it may take to protect you from as much as I can. I never thought I could take that fear and use it to strengthen my love for you. But I did.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew patience. Ok, honestly, I’m not going to be winning any awards for my levels of patience any time soon. But you have both taught me how to be more patient than I ever knew I could be. You keep us up all night, night after night. You throw tantrums for the most random, ridiculous reasons. You make us try and figure new things out every single day.  You change the rules constantly and consistently, lulling us into a false sense of security feeling like we finally might know what the hell we’re doing, before changing things all over again. You make us watch the same film a million times, or listen to the same song on repeat every hour and somehow we manage to keep our sanity. You bring us right to the edge of that sanity, and yet somehow, at the end of it all, you make us love you even more. I never knew I could display such levels of patience. But I do.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew what hard work was. Hard in the physical sense sometimes, but absolutely hard in the mental sense of the word. Holding it all together, keeping everything going. Working together as a team, learning new things every day and learning new ways to figure things out every single day. I never knew I could work this hard without ever having a day or even an hour off duty. And what’s more, I never knew I could work this hard without ever wanting a day off from it, never wanting a day away from you. But now I do.

All these things you have taught me about myself, all these things I didn’t know I already knew.

Before I ever met you, I never knew I could be this person, so proud of you both, I will carry you always, learn from you always, love you ‘more than all the twinkly stars’…. always.

Who will I be, who have I become?

A Mama.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of us!

In particular, to my sister Katie and my sister in law Joanne, who both celebrate their first Mother’s Day tomorrow after Joanne gave birth to my gorgeous niece Emma on the 15th of July 2017, and my little sister Katie gave birth to my beautiful nephew Liam on 26th February 2018. Welcome to the world Emma & Liam! I can’t wait to learn new things from each of you too as an Auntie. No doubt your cousins Rian & Alex will be on hand to teach you both the tricks of the trade in torturing… I mean teaching…your parents of all the adventures waiting for them.

 

 

Beautiful Boy
John Lennon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Distinguish Between Your Toddler and a Drunk Person

{This post also features on MummyPages Ireland & MummyPages UK}

Here is a simple guide in how to spot the difference between a 1 year old and a drunk person.  Why, you may wonder? Because they are not all that different, that’s why! Follow these steps and learn how to differentiate between whether that object moving around the room is in fact your toddler, or just a random drunk person. Let us examine the evidence.

Alex

  1. Movement

It’s not so much movement in itself, more so HOW they are moving. Are they walking as if they’ve just gloriously filled a nappy, or look as if they’re about to? Are they staggering in bits and pieces? Both types of people will do this. Approach the subject. Can you smell something that isn’t alcohol? Yes? It’s probably your toddler. Assume position; change nappy. Release child back into the wilderness of your house. Repeat inspection in an hour or two.

  1. Coordination

Closely connected to movement, but still not the same thing. Are they lifting objects or pieces of food towards their mouths but hitting their eyeballs instead? Yes. Are they trying to grab your nose but punching you in your eyeball instead? Yes. Closer inspection required. Approach subject. Are said objects squishy or squeaky rather than vessels for various beverages? It’s probably your toddler. Resume normal activity.

  1. Speech

Both suspects will display slurred speech. Also, both will babble a lot, maybe cry a bit. Both intend telling very important and long winded stories except it’s as if they have their own language. Both may drool while telling said stories. Nod along with them knowingly, and approach. If subject appears smaller and gummier on closer inspection, it’s probably your toddler.

  1. Logic

Neither suspect has any notion of impending danger. Both will happily place themselves on the edges of things they can fall off, or sometimes deliberately try and fling themselves off of various things thinking they will be able to fly Buzz Lightyear style. But as Woody gracefully puts it, it’s just falling with style. Regardless of whether this is your toddler or a drunk person, it’s probably worth saving them from themselves anyway.

  1. Embarrassing behaviour

Both types may enjoy playing silly games. Peekaboo, ‘I’m going to steal your nose’ type of things. Random outbursts of emotion can be common, going from ecstatically happy to devastated over the colour of their bottle and crying uncontrollably. Neither are afraid to display a range of emotions in public places, and the more you try and calm them down, generally the worse they get. Approach subject. Are they easily distracted by puddles, sticks, things in the sky, or something like their soother? It’s probably your toddler. Drunk people care not for sticks and puddles I find.

  1. Puke

Yes, unfortunately, puke and plenty of it is part of the package with both types of people. At least, though when your toddler does it, they look at you with their little faces and do something cute, smile and cuddle into you, making you melt, and tricking your brain into thinking that in actual fact, you really don’t mind being covered in random bodily fluids! Puke from a drunk person definitely doesn’t have this effect. Are you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside when said object gazes up at you? It’s probably your toddler.

  1. Random Sleep

Both subjects may be partial to randomly falling asleep in weird places. On the floor, in their high chair, hanging upside down in the middle of a game of swings for example. Approach sleeping subject. Are they drooling? More definition needed. Is one particularly cute and angelic looking while they sleep – again tricking your brain into thinking this is how life always is with said subject – ? If so, it’s more than likely your toddler. Drunk sleeping people tend to look like they’ve just done a few rounds with Conor McGregor. Approach- but for the love of God, whatever you do –  DON’T WAKE THEM UP!

 

Circumstance vs Choice

* This post was also featured on HerFamily.ie!*

We’ve often heard someone say something along the lines of how boring life would be if everyone was the same – and it’s true. I’ve never really been the sort of person who is afraid or shy about voicing their opinion. When I was younger of course it used to matter to me a lot more about what people thought of me, or what they thought of what I did or didn’t do. But I think around the time I left my 20s I just stopped caring about it, and the freedom that brings is great.However it is still human nature to judge people…it’s just what we do whether we admit it or even know it. I like to think I can keep an open mind and not generalise people or make assumptions about them but of course I do to some degree despite my best intentions. But I’ve never come across such open judgement like the type I’ve experienced since entering baby world – and what’s worse is that it’s women judging women. Mother vs Mother.

 

When I was pregnant and still blissfully ignorant of what was ahead of me, I had all sorts of grand plans about the type of mother I would be. For example, I would certainly be breastfeeding – this was top of my list (even if at first the only reason was because it is said to help you lose a load of weight!), but it was important to me that I would breastfeed because I personally believe that’s what is best. I did my own research and reading on it and this was my personal decision. I would install sleeping and eating routines as early as possible, I would do all these brilliant and perfect parenting things to ensure I was doing my best.

 

But what I didn’t bank on was that once the baby arrived, I was given very little choice in most of these things. Almost everything I had planned, the opposite happened. I ended up having an emergency section, so that affected the skin to skin time that I had planned for after the birth. He ended up having to go up to the care unit the morning after he was born, and that affected our breastfeeding plans. He had colic, and that affected almost all our plans! At first I took it upon myself to feel guilty about all these things – most especially the breastfeeding. But the fact of the matter was that no matter how I tried to breastfeed, he had been put on a bottle with formula while he was in the care unit because of course they had to ensure he was getting what he needed, and my milk had not fully come in yet. He refused to latch on. So I expressed for the first 7 weeks or so, and he was combination fed during that time. But I found it too hard to sustain – the routine of expressing, feeding, sterilising, making up formula almost every hour coupled with the pure exhaustion of those first few weeks and the fact his colic was pretty bad meant that I eventually settled on just formula feeding him. Even writing this now to some extent I feel like I am explaining myself. Why is that? And who am I explaining myself to? Me? I felt like I was failing him.

 

I did feel guilty. Self-imposed guilt I feel it’s important to say – not one other person ever put me under any pressure to do anything a certain way. During those night time feeds while waiting for bottles to heat up or cool down or soothing the baby and rocking him to sleep I’d often take out my phone and have a look at some online groups on Facebook. I just wanted someone to tell me that it was ok to do things the way I had to do them so I could reassure myself that I was doing it all the right way. Some groups were for breastfeeding, some were general Mum type groups, there are some great groups out there for whatever section of parenting you are looking for information on. But some of them made me feel worse. The judgement coming from them was shocking! I had thought we were all on the same team, but it turns out that for some, we’re not. There are breastfeeders vs formula feeders. Co-sleepers vs Separate Room Sleepers. Soothe to Sleep vs Cry-It-Out. And I also should point out that it was the same amount of judgement going in both directions of each argument. One of the most contentious and judgey groups was one for sleep training. One poor mother obviously desperately exhausted had posted that she felt her only option was to let the baby cry for a while. She was vilified by some of the members – it’s nothing short of bullying. Once I saw the reaction she got I left a lot of the groups. Who needs that on top of everything else?

 

Somewhere in the midst of this self-imposed guilt I came across a piece online written by a new mother. She pointed out that some people do things by choice and some by circumstance. It struck a chord with me and I remember thinking – Nail.On.Head! Reading that made me realise that I should be proud of how I was coping because in fact they were not my decisions. They were not my choice – they were my circumstances.

 

Why do we feel it’s ok to make assumptions on how other mothers choose to do things? For that matter, why do we even assume that it’s their choice in the first place? Why did one woman look at me one day in a coffee shop while she was breastfeeding her child and I was making up a formula for mine – did I imagine that look of pity or disgust she just gave me? Perhaps the look was a result of my own paranoia born from my own guilt. Or perhaps it was real. Do I make that judgement of other women? I certainly hope not.

 

Despite the negative experience I found with many online groups, my biggest source of support was – and still is – a group which also started online. The November 2014 Babies group was founded when we all discovered we were due our babies at the same time, girls from all over the country found eachother online, and from there we eventually ended up with a group on WhatsApp where we still chat to eachother daily. And let me tell you – they are the best bunch of girls with the best support, friendship and laughs I could ever need to help me figure out how to be a mother. As a rule women need to remember that we are all on the same team: Team Mother, and we are all doing a fantastic job in our own ways based on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

 

10,000 Kisses

When Rian was born, we got loads of practical and thoughtful gifts for him. One of the gifts we got was a memory box – well actually we got two beautiful ones – and I love them.

However, there are some things you can’t put into the memory boxes or the baby books.

I’m one of those people who likes to record life as it goes along. This started at a young age with what is known as The Suitcase. It’s an old fashioned vintagey cardboard type suitcase that my parents used to own. When I was about 12 I started keeping my ‘stuff’ in it, all the important things I wanted to keep and cherish. I still have my suitcase, much to the amusement of my Dad – and it’s a long time since I looked in there but always amusing to see the things that mattered so much to my 12 year old self. But I also have cards from each of my grandmothers, letters my Dad had written to me when he was at sea… things to cherish.
So it came as no surprise that when the biggest thing to ever happen to me came along that I would want to keep a record of things. But the things I can’t put into the memory boxes or put onto my phone are perhaps the most precious of all. When I think of my time on leave with Rian I think of those things you can’t put into a box – the sweet smell of him, the feel of him snuggled into me, the sound of his baby snores when the only place I could get him to nap was on my shoulder. The first time I heard him laugh his beautiful big belly laugh. His little fists grabbing onto my finger, his little hands rubbing my cheek when I fed him his bottle.
Of course I do also remember the seemingly endless crying for hours when he had colic, the sheer exhaustion like I’ve never known it before, the explosive nappies… it’s not all sweetness and light let me tell you!
But you forget those things, at least they’re not at the forefront of my mind when I think about him. Every morning I used to go in to pick him up for the day. We’d wake up properly together and we’d look out the window and see the trees and the sky and the birds and have a grand old chat. I’d ask him for a kiss, then I’d give him one… but one day I asked for a kiss and he leaned over and planted his little face on mine and gave me one himself! It was amazing and one of the best things ever, that little moment. That memory is something I wish I could pull out of my head and turn into a tangible thing so I could put it in The Suitcase and carry it forever.

Now that I’m back at work those things seem even more precious. When I was on leave there were days that used to feel sort of never ending… I would sometimes be waiting at the window by 6pm waiting to see Gavin’s car come around the corner just so I could have half an hour to myself. And not even so that I could lie down and watch tv or read a book, it would be a precious half an hour so that I could do essential things like wash my hair! But the good days far outweighed the bad. I was very lucky to be able to take extended leave so I was two weeks short of a full year at home with him. And it was worth every penny.

The work guilts. At first it was almost fun being back – the novelty of having a lunch break! Having a coffee and getting to finish it whenever I wanted. But that novelty soon wore off. We are so lucky to have Rian with amazing childcare so that’s not a worry at all. But that fear of missing out… what if he walks and I don’t see it? What if he says a new word? What if he forgets that I’m his Mam?? Yes I know the last one seems a bit over the top but in fairness to him, he spends 12 hours a day with someone else and he’s only awake for about 14 hours a day. I question constantly is this the right thing? This precious time which I know now goes by so fast, he changes so fast. I keep telling myself that I’m doing it for him, to be able to give him our best. But it does feel like a huge price to pay.

The nice thing is how much more precious the weekends are now. Those sleepy nap times which even now at almost 15 months, he will still only take in someone’s arms. I love them. I know that some day it will be the last time he will sleep in my arms and I savour it, the snuggles and the kisses. 10,000 per nap I reckon. At least. And not one I can put in The Suitcase.

 

 

 

Don’t say the Q word…

…but it is. Peaceful. Noise-less. The Pudge is still asleep (touch wood in a frantic fashion) and all I had to do was get up at 7am and sneak like a stealth ninja down the stairs, avoiding the creaky bits of whom I am now very well accustomed. And here we are! Breakfast eaten and tea ready to be enjoyed! Happy me.

 

It’s a strange thing when 7am is now considered up early. Normally I’d have half my commute done by now. Life at home with a baby has made me see things a bit differently. Well I like to think of it as working from home, it’s a bit more accurate! Like at least at work you get a lunch break, and a chat with people who don’t always try and eat your hand and your nose and your hair and smear their drool all over your face.

I kind of thought I’d have a bit of an idea of what it would be like being on maternity leave. Lunch dates, nice walks whenever I wanted etc etc and I wasn’t so thick as to picture a perfectly well behaved non screaming baby. And in some ways I was right, it is like that  sometimes but there’s so much I am finding out about as we go.

At the start I knew it would be tiring. People told me so and also I had encountered a baby or two in my time. I thought sleep deprivation was like if you’re up at 6am all week and then Saturday finally arrives and your neighbour’s dog wakes you up when it’s still dark out and you can’t get back to sleep. Turns out it’s not like that at all! Who knew!

Being a new mother is terrifying and amazing all at once. And people don’t tell you stuff. I mentioned that I found being pregnant was like renting out your body, well the glamour doesn’t stop once the baby arrives. One of my favourites is that my hair is falling out. Sure why not?! Saves the Pudge grabbing at it with his pudgy drooly hands I suppose!

And the weight. Before our ivf treatment I was losing weight. I lost 70lbs altogether by dieting at first and then I got into walking. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I loved it but after a while I did enjoy it, we’re lucky to live beside a lot of beautiful walking routes. Of course I expected to gain weight over the pregnancy. I had an app on my phone giving me weekly updates of what size the baby was in comparison to fruits. At the end of the weekly video it would happily add ‘Oh by the way, you’ll probably gain 5lbs this week Mama!’

So when I toddled off to a slimming world class a couple of weeks ago I knew to expect bad news. And I was right, to the tune of 50lbs. FIFTY POUNDS. 😐

Well it was fun while it lasted at least.

So anyway the good news is that I now have to be a role model for someone. And what an amazing little someone he is too. It’s a bit surreal really the whole thing, if I think about it for too long my head starts to hurt. How is he even here! We met him when he was the size of a poppy seed. They even showed us a video from the clinic of the egg being fertilised. We saw him being conceived! And then the randomness of it. That it was that egg and that sperm and out of 7 embryos he was picked. It just blows my mind. If the embryologist had picked another embryo he wouldn’t exist…and what of the other 6? Will we get to meet them? It’s just amazing.

He looks like Gavin, so much so that I wonder if I had anything to do with him at all. I think he has my nose though. I’m claiming it anyway. He’s a proper smiler, big gummy drooly grins – although now that the tip of a tooth has broken through I like to call him Fang. It’s bloody sharp too as I discovered when he was casually gnawing on my finger.

He never stops moving and wriggling! Changing and dressing him is like trying to tame a hyper octopus. And oh DEAR GOD the nappy explosions. Poonami doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I have mastered the art of one handed living. I am right handed but my left hand doesn’t know what has hit it. It feeds me now, gets bottles ready, scrawls illegible notes, drinks tea all while my right hand tends to Fang…and it thought it was destined for a life of leisure. We wish, Left Hand.

I wouldn’t change a thing. Seeing him change every day is so rewarding but a bit sad too. Time has never before gone so fast – storing away clothes that don’t fit him anymore is so sad! (I’m a sap). The snuggles into my neck when he’s falling asleep and that beautiful drooly milky baby smell of him…it’s there to be inhaled and I wish I could bottle it and keep it forever, it’s intoxicating and so precious. Holding him in my arms and watching him looking back at me and holding onto my hand with his pudgy little fingers. I look at him and wonder who will he be? What things will he like, what will become his favourite toy or character or book or film? Will he grow up being confident to be whoever he is? Will we be able to teach him to make good choices for himself, what sort of man will he be?

And all the things that scare me, how can I protect him forever from being hurt and sad and all the horrible parts of the world? What sort of mother will I be? Wait, what sort of mother have I already become?

One that’s pretty clueless and seems to be making it up as I go along just like every other first time parent I imagine. And one who just heard a gurgle coming from a pudgy drool monster upstairs who is about to demand to be fed and so ends my Quiet time for today!