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September 11th, 2015 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

It has been almost five months since I posted last. What a whirlwind these last months have been! I almost haven’t had time to think, let alone write about everything. House hunting, keeping a house spotless (mostly) for showings, packing up to move, vacation in Washington, DC, and surrounding areas (fantastic!), closing on our house, moving, unpacking, two family reunions, and five birthday celebrations, all before mid-July.

I have been so happy with our new home and excited to share pictures, especially with those of you who live far away, but there has always been a reason why I wasn’t ready to post them. There were boxes everywhere at first, and when we unpacked, we still hadn’t hung art or painted. Then, we finally did paint, but there was a lot of clutter remaining from the painting process until we were all the way finished. Last weekend, Jonathon finished painting the living room and painted all of the office (go Jonathon!), and I have spent the week getting everything clean and pretty. I finally whipped out my handy dandy phone and took some pictures today.

I still am not ready to post pictures of bedrooms, but I am really excited about the potential in our master bedroom. I can’t wait to furnish, decorate, and paint in there! At least we bought curtains. 🙂

So, without further ado, here’s the house! First up, the front room, which I am using as my piano studio.

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I will hang some art above the piano, but otherwise, it’s pretty much done. I love having all my piano music and teaching supplies close at hand and a room that is separate from our living space so I don’t have to banish my kids from their usual play places when I teach.

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I’m pretty pleased with the $80 green couch I found on KSL and the throw pillows I got for $20 that almost perfectly match it but also make it look more updated.

Next up, the kitchen!

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First up, the amazing island with TWELVE drawers. Can you imagine what you would do with twelve drawers in your kitchen? And yes, there’s something in each one. 😀

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Another view of the kitchen. Are you a fan of the diagonal handles? Opinions seem pretty split among people who have seen them in person, so far. I like them, personally, but I don’t care that much. The backsplash is a small glass tile.

Now the living room, which is right next to the kitchen, with the dining area just behind the red couch. I didn’t take pictures of the dining area because it’s not really done yet, but use your imagination. 🙂

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Okay, there’s a lot that is new here. The living room is actually a super long room with the blue curtain window at the back of the house and the love seat on the right of this picture dividing the room. Behind the love seat is the play room. Before moving in, I had been worried about how to divide the room to use it for two purposes (living room and toy room). I had considered some sort of an IKEA shelving unit, but it probably would have taken two of them to do what was needed, and I wasn’t totally sold on the idea.

The night before we moved, a tan microfiber love seat was left on someone’s front lawn just half a block away from our new house, and it had a “free” sign. We ran over with the van and brought it straight into our new house, and while it is a bit dirty (I’ve cleaned it, so it’s much better than it was then), it’s in good condition, and it works perfectly to divide the room.

I bought a set of five matching bookshelves on KSL for $105 (they were $125, but I guess the sellers felt bad because we couldn’t fit all five of them in our van at once and had to make two trips, so they gave Jonathon $20 back). They are not SUPER high quality, but they are the more expensive kind you can get at Target, which is good enough for us right now, and they look good with our other dark wood furniture.

I found the curtains for $20 on KSL (regular $70 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond). I love the branch pattern at the bottom.

But changing the curtains to blue meant the sage green and gold and brown and orange in our throw pillows didn’t work anymore, so I reupholstered them, found another couple of pillows at two different yard sales, and brought a few blue and red accessories in.

At that point, the room looked so good that the old entertainment center was sticking out like a sore thumb, so I used all the earnings from our yard sale in August to buy a new one—again, on KSL. Sensing a pattern? I don’t feel like the room is completely done, but I am very happy with how it looks.

 

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No, I don’t actually keep the flowers and stick thingy on the end table all the time. Ten seconds after I took the picture, Robo carried both off and left them on the floor. Back up on the bookshelf they go!

Here is the play room. You can see the back of the love seat on the left and the front room on the right.

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It’s usually a total mess, but I do have to say that we’re doing better keeping toys put away now that they’re right in the center of our living area. We have a wood stove in the corner that we don’t really want and don’t know what to do with. I guess we’ll just leave it for now, and if the world ends, we can use it for cooking and heat, right?

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These are the other three of the five bookshelves I bought together. They are against the staircase and kind of in the play room, off to the right of the previous picture. The stairs actually stare you in the face when you come in the front door, which isn’t my favorite, but seems like a silly thing to worry about in a house I love.

Go up the stairs and you see our office. We also keep the Lego table up here in the hopes that we can keep Robo out of it because he thinks Legos and crayons are the two tastiest objects in the house. I am really looking forward to him not putting things in his mouth anymore. As I said before, Jonathon painted the office on Saturday in a burst of crazy ambition, when he finished painting the living room earlier than he had expected. It looks much better now than the rather bright green it was before. We had wanted to paint the office blue, but we had 1.5 cans of paint left of the tan and no use for them, so we just went ahead and used that. The Sherwin Williams guy thought we’d need three cans just to do the kitchen and living room, but he assumed we’d need multiple coats, and we didn’t.

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So that’s the main living areas of the house. One of my favorite things about this house is the yard. It’s not huge (0.18 acres), but it is packed with goodies, like this grapevine, which produces delicious seedless grapes in abundance:

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And scads of raspberry plants. That small black fence you see in the background of this picture?

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It’s about 3 feet tall. So that gives you an idea of how many raspberries we’re getting every day. It’s a little overwhelming.

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We have tons of raspberry plants cropping up in the garden area, which right now is growing nothing but those, weeds, volunteer tomato plants I’m trying to take care of, and asparagus plants that I will hopefully not kill by lack of know-how. Next year I will plant a real garden, but we moved too late for that this year, and the summer was too busy anyway.

Behind the grape vine, not pictured, is a covered patio where we put a picnic table and a sand box (Robo’s birthday present). Someday we’ll get a real, grown-up grill.

The front yard has an apple tree with yummy apples we’re already enjoying, even though they’re not fully ripe yet (we just eat the ones that fall and cut off any not-ideal parts).

There’s a three-car garage with ample storage and a flower bed that I planted a bunch of perennials in which are doing varying degrees of okay. Anyone know why daisies might get really bushy and healthy but not bloom?

Anyway, it’s a really, really good house for us, and it is only now, three months later, starting to feel like maybe it’s real and not a dream.

Juggling

April 21st, 2015 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

I’m having a hard time managing life and all it throws at me right now. There are five big things going on that are all big enough all by themselves, some good, some bad.

1. Robo’s allergies. He is confirmed to be allergic to wheat, dairy, peanuts, eggs, almonds, and some other tree nuts. Because I am breastfeeding him, that means I don’t eat these things either. And that means my diet is very, very restricted, and meal planning is a nightmare. You know all those easy foods you reach for when you want breakfast, or a snack, or a quick dinner? Yeah, I can’t have any of those anymore. And dessert? It’s a pleasant memory.

2. My health issues. I haven’t talked about this much with anyone, but I have been having pretty serious digestive issues every few days since January. They go away while I am taking antibiotics, but they return soon after finishing the prescription. I still don’t know what is causing it, but it makes at least one day a week a complete waste, where I can’t really do anything but sit on the couch. I am losing weight at kind of a scary pace, and when people tell me I look great I wince inside. My goal weight post-pregnancy was 10 pounds over where I am now. I am finally starting to get taken seriously by doctors lately, though, and some more testing is being done. I had a priesthood blessing last night, so I really hope we get this figured out and kicked to the curb ASAP.

3. We are buying a house, which means we need to look at listings often because things are moving FAST, and our dream house could sell in a day or two if we don’t notice it and go see it quickly enough. We have seen 7 homes so far in the last two weeks, and we’re going to see two more tonight. And not one of them made me feel anything better than “meh.”

4. We are showing the house we are living in because our landlords are selling it. This means we need to keep it in 30-minutes-from-clean-enough-to-show condition at all times. I told the selling agent that I teach piano, so we absolutely cannot show the house during lessons. I told him when those were. But yesterday two of my students weren’t able to come, so we rescheduled for today, since I don’t usually teach on Tuesdays. Well, I got the call at 3:15 today that someone wanted to see the house between 4:30 and 5:30. Usually that would have been plenty of time to do the dishes, make the beds, tidy up a bit, sweep the floor, etc., but I was teaching from 3:30 to 4:30. And I had a van full of groceries I had to put away, which took 15 minutes. Luckily, the potential buyers showed up at 4:45, so I did have 15 minutes to do minimal tidying, and I paid Lego $3 to load the dishwasher all by himself. But I didn’t even go upstairs before they came, and the pots weren’t washed, and the beds weren’t made, and there were toys out. And I had to just drive away and let them walk through my lived-in house and hope they didn’t think less of me for it.

5. El Guapo is potty training and having a little bit of a rough time of it. He does pretty well with pee, but pretty terrible with poop. We actually just put him back in pull-ups after getting fed up with it. I worry, though, that this will just set him back even more if he thinks he can just go in the pull-up with no consequences.

6. We just found out that Lego needs to do about half the requirements for get his Wolf badge in cub scouts. I should have been keeping better track of things, I guess, but I didn’t know anything about cub scouting, and I didn’t. So he’s trying to do a few requirements each night before the next pack meeting, after which it will be too late.

7. Because of Robo’s allergies, I am supposed to put his ointments and lotions on twice a day, bathe him at least once a day, sometimes with bleach, and keep all potential allergens away from him. The last one is the hardest because he has three big brothers who eat cookies and leave crumbs on the kitchen floor, where he finds them, or leave their Easter baskets where he can find them and eat their Butterfingers. The rest is just time consuming, and time seems to be the one thing I never have anywhere near enough of. Despite my best efforts, he’s got bad eczema 98% of the time, which causes him to be irritable and to sleep poorly.

So. Life is crazy, hard, exciting, frustrating, confusing, and exhausting lately. What else is new?

It sounds nice: going from diapers to underwear, clean and dry, in less than a week. Nobody likes to clean up after accidents, and weeks or even months on end of it sounds like torture. While real potty training needn’t involve tons of accidents, there are going to be some from time to time, and for a lot longer than you think.

The thing is, potty training takes place in stages. There are several different skills that your child will develop along the way, and there is no possible way to develop all of the skills at the same time. Some are dependent on mastering others, for instance. Some are developed before your child can truly be called potty trained.

Skill 1: Desire

Okay, so desire may not be a skill exactly, but it certainly is a prerequisite for potty training. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that your child will not master potty training until they want to. So if your two-year-old still doesn’t like wearing underwear, or if your three-year-old is scared to sit on the big potty, don’t fight it. For the two-year-old, the time will come when they want to grow up and be like bigger people. When that happens, you’ll find that things go MUCH more smoothly. It might only be a month down the road, or it might be a year. Don’t panic yet.

For the three-year-old, don’t make them use a big potty. Make the process as safe and comfortable as possible, and your child may warm to it.

And for some kids, like one of mine, bribes might just be what you need to get the desire going.

Skill 2: Release

This skill involves letting go and allowing the urine or stool to exit the body. For some kids, this is almost effortless. They don’t like going in their diaper, or they notice no big difference between going in the diaper or on the potty. Some kids develop this skill as early as 12 months. I have heard some new parents get excited because their one-year-old peed or pooped on the potty, thinking they were going to get lucky and leave diapers behind forever much earlier than expected. But this is only a step on the way. Now, for some kids, release is a very hard skill to get down, and by the time they figure it out, they may have also developed the next skill as well and may actually be ready after all.

Skill 3: Recognition

Sometime along the way, your child must learn what it feels like to need to go pee or poop. This is a different knowledge than identifying when they are going. It’s a really good sign when your child says, “I’m peeing!” while wearing their diaper, but it isn’t the same. You need to teach this one, usually. Explain the place where the bladder feels full, and explain that it feels heavy or full, like it’s wanting to push the pee out. Explain that needing to go poop feels like gas is about to come out, except it’s a little easier to hold it. It may feel awkward having these conversations with your child, but if you don’t, they may take much longer to figure these things out themselves.

Skill 4: Control

Your child needs to learn not only to go on the potty, but to only go on the potty. That means holding it until they sit down. Failure to master this skill will mean lots and lots of accidents for you, the parent, to clean up. Some potty training methods have the parent schedule times (every half hour or so) to tell the child to use the potty. This is great in that the child probably won’t have as many accidents, but the child also will never learn how to control the urge to go.

Many parents try potty training with their children, failing after a few days, and then one day, it just takes off. The element that finally snapped into place was the development of control. Once these four skills are mastered, many parents will say their child is fully potty trained, and maybe they’re right. But there are a few more skills to develop, and accidents may still occur until this happens.

Skill 5: Delay

When you’re in a situation where using the restroom is inappropriate or impossible, you hold it. Your newly potty-trained child will eventually learn that they can hold it too, long enough to get to the store restroom or to drive home. And then they will want to test the limits of this ability. Sometimes they’ll be playing and try to hold it just because playing is more fun than using the bathroom. But they don’t know yet how long it’s possible to hold it, so they’ll do it just a little too long. Oops, an accident! You, the parent, may be surprised or angry. Your child has been dry for weeks. Why an accident now?

Realize that this is an important stage. By having that accident, your child learned where the too-long point is and will probably avoid it in the future. It may take a few more accidents to get the skill mastered, but it’s not usually too many.

If you find that a child who has been potty trained for a while is still having accidents from time to time (more than a few), you may want to look into whether they are constipated. Yes, even wetting pants can be a sign of chronic constipation, which can make it difficult to feel the urge to go.

Skill 6: Endurance

This isn’t really a skill either, but if your child doesn’t have the desire to go the distance, you may find that your child reverts back to having accidents every time over and over and over. You’ll potty train, then a few weeks later have them back in diapers, then potty train again, then back in diapers. This can be SO frustrating for parents who think the hard work is done, only to go back to square one!

What’s happening is that your child is realizing that using the toilet is a lot more work than diapers. Meanwhile, your praise and bribery is probably waning a little, as it should. It’s not like most kindergartners get stickers for using the bathroom! Maybe your child decides it’s not worth it to keep going, or maybe misses their diapers.

How do you encourage endurance? For my kids, it’s a matter of having a good conversation with them. Ask them what they like about using the bathroom, and share what you like about it. Ask them what they like about diapers, and really listen. Maybe their answer will tell you that they’re not really as ready as you think they are. Maybe you’ll learn what you need to do to get them to commit to underwear for good.

And if you do? You’re done!

 

So while teaching release may happen in a day, and teaching control might happen in three, learning delay and endurance takes much, much longer. Don’t lose hope if you have some setbacks after your three-day potty-training boot camp! It’s all part of the process, and it’s perfectly normal.

Also? If your child is a special snowflake who doesn’t develop these skills in order, or who waits a really long time on one and then rushes through the rest in a day? Yep, that happens too. It can be normal to potty train for urine but not stool, or vice versa. Kids are all different, but you and your child will find a way to potty train.

Just probably not in three days.

Pinterest recipe reviews #1

December 31st, 2014 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I love Pinterest. I know a lot of people who joke about pinning things they never intend to do or make or buy, but I mostly use it to organize things I actually plan on using. My “Food” board is full of recipes I’ve made, as well as ones I plan to make soon. When I make a Pinterest recipe, I leave a comment on the pin with my review. I have long thought I should share these reviews more publicly so that my friends and even complete strangers can have an idea of what recipes will be like before they try them themselves. But there are so many that it’s seemed like a daunting task. So I’m going to start posting five reviews per post from time to time. Here’s the first installment.

Doro Wat with Quick Injera

 

Why I tried it

I already had tried a doro wat recipe and loved it, but the idea of being able to do it in the crock pot intrigued me. Also, I was eager to try making my own injera bread, since it’s hard to come by here. I’d love to go to an Ethiopian restaurant someday, but until then, I’ll make my own at home.

Review

Very good doro wat, though rather buttery. I made my own berbere powder rather than using the garam masala called for in the recipe. Did not like the injera, and it didn’t turn out well for me at all. Too thick and pancakey. Doro Wat: A. Injera: F.

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas with Creamy Salsa Verde

 

Why I tried it

We love Mexican food at my house, and I’d been looking for a creamy chicken enchilada recipe that didn’t involve cream of chicken soup.

Review

Good, but the enchilada sauce was way too much work to be worth it for me. I will just use store-bought green enchilada sauce with cream added in the future. (Oh, and I used cream instead of sour cream for personal taste reasons.) I doubled the recipe, thinking I had to in order to feed my family of five, and we ate only half. The other half is in the freezer for another day (hooray!). B.

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Why I tried it

We go through a LOT of granola bars at our house. Jonathon eats them often for snacks or as part of his lunch, and I love them too. The kids eat them less often, but still often enough that buying them gets kind of expensive. I was interested in making them myself, not just because of the cost savings but also because this way I can customize them to be just what we want.

Review

Turned out yummy, but I improvised a bit, adding peanut butter, peanuts, and puffed rice. The next day, they were really dry, so I’d need to put them in some sort of airtight bag or container if I made them again. They were easy and yummy, but I haven’t made them since. Maybe because I usually don’t have crisp rice and puffed rice on hand? I also feel the need to point out that these are NOT healthy, as the blogger claims over and over. They are essentially an oatmeal cookie without the egg and with crisp rice instead of flour. However, since I am now eating wheat and dairy and peanut free because Robo is allergic to all three (!) and I’m nursing him, it might be nice to try these again with margarine instead of butter. Most to all store-bought granola bars contain wheat ingredients, and these don’t. B.

Chile Colorado Burritos

Why I tried it

Um, that gorgeous picture? That plus the text on the blog with the recipe made my mouth water.

Review

Boring. Just tasted like plain beef with enchilada sauce. Much better Mexican recipes out there. But hey, three ingredients, so if you’re into super easy and don’t care about authentic Mexican flavor, go ahead and try it. D.

Easy Slow Cooker Recipes

Why I tried it

I teach piano until 5:00 or even sometimes 5:30 a few days a week, so the idea of crockpots is very appealing to me. But most crockpot recipes don’t appeal to my picky family, so I’m constantly on the lookout for new ones.

Review

This one is harder to review because the pin links to a list of recipes on LDS Living. I have only tried two of the recipes so far, so I’ll review those. The first is the one pictured, titled Sesame Beef in the article linked. The other is the fourth one down, Greek Chicken Pita Folds.

The Sesame Beef recipe was yummy, but I definitely wouldn’t say it tasted even vaguely like the sesame beef or even beef with broccoli you’d get at a Chinese restaurant. It was just savory and tender and delicious like pot roast, except a bit different. I have since seen beef broccoli crockpot recipes all over Pinterest. It is a cool idea, if you don’t care about it tasting like a stir fry. What I don’t get is why doing this in a crock pot is easier than taking 10 minutes to actually stir fry these ingredients. But hey, I enjoyed it, and I should probably make it again soon. B.

I would recommend the pitas if you like Greek food. I did, but my family didn’t care for the vegetable combination or the yogurt sauce. I didn’t try the yogurt sauce with mine since I don’t care for yogurt, but the chicken and veggies were flavorful without it. B.

 

 

How I canned salsa today

October 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

1. Jonathon obtained a bag of tomatoes from a family in our ward.

2. I posted on Facebook inviting women from the ward to come and can if they wanted to.

3. I arranged a day and time to can with a few women, one of whom happens to be my visiting teacher. (The other two ended up cancelling at the last minute due to circumstances beyond their control.)

4. 11:00. We started an hour later than the time arranged because that’s how life with four kids goes, for both of us. (She was cleaning up a massive honey mess involving her one-year-old. I was dealing with a baby and cleaning my kitchen to pre-canning standards.)

5. 11:30. I went to the school after getting a phone call saying that Duplo had fallen on the playground at lunch and that the nurse wasn’t there so they couldn’t send him back out to play without me giving them permission to.

6. 11:45. At school, I got the details. Duplo had been running away from a bee and tripped on a rock. He was pretty badly scraped up on his arm, shoulder, and back, and he was saying it hurt a lot to move his arm. I had him squeeze my finger, which is what my mom (a nurse) did to determine if a bone was broken. He had a good grip. I was able to take his arm out of the sleeve of his shirt to get a look at his shoulder, but I didn’t see any bruising, and his range of motion seemed okay, even if he said it hurt when I moved his arm certain ways. I held him for a while as he cried and ultimately decided to check him out for the rest of the day.

7. 12:15. Finally back home. The lady who just moved in across the street and was going to can with us today came over to share some tomatoes from her garden in exchange for some of our salsa. Noticing Duplo, she sent her husband, who is a nurse, over to take a look at his arm. Her husband said he couldn’t tell but thought he’d dislocated his shoulder, and if he wasn’t using his arm within a few hours, he’d recommend taking him in.

8. Finally got to do some canning. I peeled tomatoes for a bit before taking a lunch and nursing-the-babies break.

Please note that my lovely canning partner had been working on canning this entire time.

9. 1:00 to 3:00. I alternated between productive chopping and whatnot, and caring for a VERY fussy baby, managing a three-year-old who seemed to need me every five minutes for some crisis or another (including going swimming in our kiddie pool in 60-degree weather in all his clothes, changing clothes and getting wet again, stripping to his birthday suit outside, putting shorts back on, peeing his pants, etc.), and tending to an injured six-year-old.

10. 3:00. I picked up Lego from school. THIS went uneventfully.

11. 3:15. I finally decided that there was absolutely no way that the canning was going to be done before my 4:00 piano teaching appointment. With my canning partner’s encouragement, I also decided to take Duplo to the doctor because, while he said his arm wasn’t hurting as much as before, he wasn’t using it at all either. His left shoulder was hanging lower than his right, and his arm hung limply at his side.

12. 3:30. After rescheduling the piano lessons for tomorrow and calling the doctor, I left with Duplo, Robo (who was too fussy to leave), and El Guapo (who just really wanted to come). Lego stayed home with my canning partner and her four boys. (Are you getting seriously impressed with her yet?)

13. Around 4:00. Finally got to see the x-rays: broken clavicle (collarbone), and very noticeable. Duplo gets to wear a sling until he doesn’t want/need it anymore. The doctor said that clavicles tend to heal really well, especially in children, so that’s reassuring. I feel bad for waiting so long to take him in now.

14. 4:30. We finally got back from the doctor. Meanwhile, my canning partner had finished the chopping and had combined all the ingredients into a stock pot (with a little help from me over the phone so she could find things like sugar, vinegar, and salt). It was on its way to boiling when I returned, and she was getting to work on the second double batch (we ended up quadrupling the recipe). She had also called her husband to bring over a frozen pan of chicken enchiladas she had to feed her family and mine tonight, so he was there for a few minutes.

15. 4:30 to 6:30. We both worked pretty hard. She filled jars and processed them while I chopped green peppers. I removed jars from the canner while she finished chopping tomatoes. She processed a second group of jars while I mixed together the second pot full. We both took turns dealing with dishes. And Robo was fussy fussy fussy, so I took quite a few short breaks to try nursing him, putting him to sleep, snuggling him, etc. Even when I was working, he was on my lap or on my hip.

16. Around 6:00. My friend’s foreign exchange student from Denmark showed up to help, and mostly she took over caring for Robo, which was WONDERFUL.

17. 6:45. We finally ate dinner. After dinner, we finished processing the last few jars. (Okay, she did. I was finally managing to get Robo to sleep.)

18. 7:45. She finally finished labeling everything, then gathered up her stuff and left.

Can I hear three cheers for the best visiting teacher and canning partner ever? She deserves a medal, I swear. And I deserve some chocolate, I think, for surviving this day.