{7Quick Takes} Weekly mishmash Vol. 7

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Just trying to keep the summer from getting away from me…

I’m having a tough time with Summer.  I always tend to start out the summer vacation with great gusto (“Let’s paint!  And go to the library!”), but end up in a puddle of motivation loss by about day 3.  I think the kids seem to sense that they are treading on emotionally-fragile Mommy ground (with their mother one ridiculous kid-bickering-argument away from GOING INSANE) and it only serves to ramp up their noncompliance with the rules and their inability to help with housework.  Gaaaaaah!  Anyhow, here’s what’s been going on at Crazy Town:

ONE.

Massive Monster Meltdown on Monday (how’s that for alliteration?).  We got to town for Bellie’s t-ball game and she suddenly gasps and announces, “I forgot my shoes!”  To be fair, I had reminded her to grab her mitt and water bottle, but, silly me…forgot to remind her about bringing shoes.  (And six-year-olds have a lot on their minds so I should never assume shoes are a given)  Now, I know a parent with a more “tough love” approach would have just said, “sad” and made her play the game in her stocking feet, but we had a little bit of time to kill so I ran to Walmart and grabbed some cheaply made slip-on Frozen sneakers off the shelf.100_9233

Shoes?  We don’t need no stinkin’ shoes!

Trying to get out of there instantaneously, I was pushing that shopping cart like a bat out of hell and making my way to the register without pausing for anything.  The 3-year-old, Spike, had other plans.  For some reason every single Paw Patrol-themed item Walmart had for sale was on an end-cap at the exact height of my preschooler.  And, being a preschooler, he wanted every single item.  So, I arrived at the check-out with said preschooler under my arm while he proceeded to kick and scream “I WANT IT ALL!!!”

After paying (which is not the easiest feat while wrestling a 35-pound tornado and a baby who is trying to press the buttons on the credit card machine) and congratulating myself for getting the purchased shoes and kids to the car, I attempted to buckle Spike into his booster.  He wasn’t having it.  He wasn’t having it so much that I am pretty sure I almost popped a blood vessel from yelling at him (not my proudest moment).  Bellie had about 5 minutes to get back to her game, and I finally was able to wedge Spike into his seat and buckle him.  Victory.

Not so fast, momma.  We begin to exit the Walmart parking lot and Spike has unbuckled himself and proceeds to thrash around and scream, “I don’t want to be strapped!  I don’t want to!”  So I come to an abrupt halt on the side of the road (I am pretty sure the drivers behind me were shooting me CMD looks – “Crazy mini-van driver”) and, my patience wearing very thin, I swatted Spike’s behind, threw him back in his booster and strapped him again.

Two seconds down the road later, the little monster is unbuckled again.  We repeat the previous paragraph.  Except this time I am screaming, “YOU NEED TO STAY BUCKLED IN YOUR SEAT OR YOU. WILL. DIE!!!!!!  IF WE GET IN AN ACCIDENT YOU WILL FLY THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD AND YOU WILL DIE!!!!!!  HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU DON’T STAY STRAPPED AND YOU.WILL. DIE!!!!!”  I have gone completely off the rails this time and we are in a residential neighborhood and I am pretty sure people are on their phones calling Child Protection or the Behavioral Health Center and telling them a mom in a minivan is losing her mind and could you send somebody quick, perhaps with tranquilizers?

Well, this scares Spike into a stupor (although I don’t think he has much of a concept of life or death or flying through the windshield but I think the kid is terrified that he has made his mommy absolutely unhinged) and we proceed to the game in silence.  The other kids are also maintaining a shocked quietude but probably thinking, “I’m glad I’m not the one who ticked Mom off.”

I hope Bellie learned her lesson about not forgetting her shoes next time.

TWO.

After that disastrous day, I took Junior and Bellie to the circus that was in town.  (As in, a professional circus.  Not the circus that is my home.) I hadn’t been to a circus since I was a kid myself and it was fun.  The kids really enjoyed it.  They perform it outside at a racecourse in town, and the most hilarious thing happened during one of the acts.  There was an animal trick show with a camel, two horses, and two miniature ponies.  All was going well until the ponies decided, “Heck, we’re tired of this performing-for-treats stuff.  We want to fulfill our dreams of being racehorses.” And they broke free from their ring and started hoofing it down the track.  They made it almost all the way around before a couple of handlers thwarted their thoroughbred dreams and wrangled them back to where they belonged.  But it was very entertaining.

THREE.

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Yay!  We spotted some more animal feces!

The whole family went for a hike last weekend.  It was nice, but at the beginning Bellie and Spike were complaining about being tired and not wanting to walk.  The incentive I came up with?  Poop.  I told them to keep an eye out for horse or elk poop on the trail.  I am proud to report that this was the motivation that kept them going.

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It’s always a good idea to stop, kick off your shoes, and take a break half-way through a grueling 10-minute hike.

FOUR.

Potty-training is stupid.  This is what the 3-year-old says and I am inclined to agree with him.

FIVE.

Brexit.  I am intrigued by this.  I don’t know if it is good or bad, but if the pound stays down I am kinda wishing I was going to England this year.  Needless to say, being a nerdy historian, seeing echoes of the isolationism that happened prior to WWI.  Just curious to see where this all leads…

SIX.

I am pretty sure that if I could find someone to grocery shop and cook for me I would probably be in a state of bliss most of the time.

SEVEN.

Someone in here is poopy so I should probably go figure that out.

 

Have a great week!100_9260

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A Perfect Marriage

 

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Hubby showing me his moves on the dance floor.  (And he is doing a bent-leg shimmy here…he is short but not THAT short!)  It’s always a good thing when you can laugh at with your spouse.

I’ve been musing about marriage lately,  and it just so happens today is my Twelfth wedding anniversary!  That seems crazy to me that we’ve been married a dozen years.  It has gone by very quickly, but there are alternately those times where it feels like it has been forev-ah.

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Marriage means stickin’ it out through thick and thin…and sometimes making do with chicken wire instead of those fancy backdrop thingees.

 

Which leads me to wonder how many marriages, particularly those of my generation,  will end only with the death of a spouse instead of divorce. How many couples will choose “til death do us part” instead of dissolution and lawyers and custody battles and alimony. Because it’s hard. It’s hard to stay in a marriage when you are having problems. It’s hard to “work on it” when your spouse seems indifferent, when you feel neglected or unappreciated or just too dang overwhelmed and frazzled with LIFE to really be willing to focus energy on a marriage you secretly wonder may have been a “mistake”.  Especially when all of your friends and others you respect seem to have their love lives all together…

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You don’t just marry your spouse…you marry their whole family.

Back in the day, when Hubby and I were doing marriage prep classes, I felt like I was mooning around in a hazy rose-colored fog of smugness.  He and I were so “compatible” (the little test they gave at one of the sessions said, apparently, that Hubby and I were an emotionally mature couple who had no unrealistic expectations of marriage.  Which, at the time was entirely true. ) We were both ready to be married and loved and respected each other.  Stupidly, at that time, I also thought (for that reason) we were much better matched and ready for a lifetime of conjugal bliss than the majority of the population.  That we would Never. Have. Problems.  (Well, at least not more concerning than someone leaving clothes on the floor or the toilet seat up.) That simply being “made for each other” as the trite little saying goes, would make us utterly and completely immune to the forces of the world that would try to tear us apart.  That we would be one of those marriages that people looked at, years from now, when we were little old people puttering around in Assisted Living, as “such a Perfect Marriage.”

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If it isn’t work, you are not doing it right!

Oh, I realized that marriage was bound to be work.  But I didn’t realize to what magnitude that work would be.  No one really goes into the nitty gritty of how hard life as a spouse gets when you have to face things together you hoped you’d never have to deal with.  Job loss, serious illness, sick children, fights over how to best care for elderly parents.  I didn’t think seriously about what it was going to be like with four young children in the house screaming all day and then the violent, irrational Resentment I would feel when he got home from work and wanted to “relax”.  How it creeps up on you; you start looking at your spouse as that man who “did this to you”, instead of as this wonderful human being who God placed in your path to fulfill your vocation as wife and mother.  How you begin to blame each other for life’s annoyances.  How you begin to question, “would I be happier, really, if I could just leave?”  And, “Do I deserve better?”

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For better or for worse.  But never for perfection.

Thank God that marriage is a sacrament.  Thank God for the vows that I exchanged with my Hubby, who really is a good, Godly, honorable man who loves me deeply.  But I honestly don’t believe love alone would have saved our marriage during its dark times.  I meant, very seriously, those words I said twelve years ago.

I promise to love you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

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“You want to do what?  Homestead in a barren wasteland?  Yes, please, I’ll follow you anywhere!”  Now that’s love.

The vows I made have gotten me through the tough times.  And the knowledge that Hubby and I am not in this marriage alone.  (God’s definitely got His work cut out for Him.)

Do you like all these wedding/couple pictures?  As I was putting this post together I was thinking how each one of these married couples, my antecedents, made a commitment for the long haul.  They did make it to “til death do us part.”  Did they have perfect marriages?  Did they have blissfully romantic unions chock full of whimsical serendipity and only marred by small inconveniences?  Hell no.  They knew hardship.  They knew loss.  They may have spent more time thinking about how unhappy they were in their marriages than anything else, I don’t know.  They may not have even liked each other very much.  Who knows, some of them (those I have known personally excluded of course) might have been miserable human beings who really weren’t balls of fun to be around.  But they stayed together.  Of course divorce wasn’t as viable an option back then, but maybe they too had some sense that marriage was a fundamental building block of society, that remaining married proved economically smarter, and children retained untold benefits from their parents being and remaining married.

 

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This photo was taken right before they realized they’d left my little brother at the gas station.

 

One day, in the midst of one of our nastier arguments, I made some snide comment to Hubby about something I felt he had done wrong.  I will never forget the look on his face when he said, very quietly, “I never said I was a perfect person.”  That statement gave me pause and I recognized that I had been expecting him to be.  Why is that?

Years ago, I read the novel Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty.  It was a great book that captured the way I think many of my generation think about marriage: as a fairy tale romance for those lucky souls who meet and marry their “soul mate”.  It comes down to the idea that if you find the “right one” marriage should be a breeze.  Oh, and you should always feel blissfully “in love” most of the time.  If that isn’t the case, you should probably get divorced so you can find someone else who might, this time, satisfy your every emotional need and desire.

In Prunty’s novel, the reader follows the protagonist, Tressa, who is newly married and carries an idealistic view of how marriage works, due, mainly, to her perception of her grandparents’ “perfect” marriage.  When her own marriage isn’t as great as she thinks it ought to be, Tressa wants out.  Little does she know, her grandparents’ marriage was not the magical union she thinks it was.  Tressa learns, as she reads her grandmother’s diary, that her grandfather was a “consolation prize” for her heartbroken grandmother, who refused to show affection for the husband she felt almost forced to marry.  In fact, it wasn’t until years later that love finally began to take root, nurtured by shared experiences and affection.  But even on his deathbed, Tressa’s grandmother struggled to tell her husband she loved him.  Even though she did.  Very much.  Not your typical “romantic” marriage, but it worked.  It was imperfect, but happy.

Why do we want to have that “perfect” union? Our heads are filled with visions of Hollywood romance, usually focusing on the wedding, but also filled with spouses who listen always, criticize never, and always, always know what we want (love means being a mind-reader).  We think we should perpetually feel a deep, sensual and exciting love for our spouse.  We constantly want to feel as though we are “in love”, like we did when we first met.  We don’t want to ever fight.  People who love each other shouldn’t disagree, right?  We also want someone who respects our individuality while remaining completely selfless when it comes to our desires.  Someone to have and to hold who never has a bad day and takes it out on us.  Someone who will uncomplainingly do all the household chores (most particularly the ones we don’t enjoy), go to work, and still have time and energy for long, intimate talks and walks on the beach.

Ha.  This person doesn’t exist. (Well, maybe on someone’s match.com profile) Because this kind of perfection is not attainable by human beings.  So, what do we do?  Give up on marriage as an institution because we can’t make it what we want, because we can’t expect it (and our spouses) to be our end-all, be-all?

No.  We need to realize that God adds that element to our marriages.  Our marriage can be “perfection” but only through God.  I will never be able to be the perfect wife.  Hubby will never be able to be the perfect husband.  But Christ is the Perfect Spouse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  This includes a loving marriage.

With His help, our marriages can be Holy.  Our marriages can be purposeful.  Our marriages can be Perfect.

40

When did suicide become the “attractive” option?

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS.  There has been a lot of press regarding the new film, Me Before You, which was released in theaters yesterday.  I have not seen the film, but I did read JoJo Moyes’s novel by the same name.  And I thought it was sad.  I thought it was a tragic story being passed off as a romantically-packaged tale championing the Right to Die.

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The story centers around an adventurous, vibrant, sexy young man, Will,  in the prime of his life who suffers an accident and, as a result, becomes a quadriplegic.   This complete and total humbling of his body and subsequent utter reliance on others is morally repugnant for him.  He becomes deeply depressed, focusing his thoughts on how much his life has lost and how he can never again be “whole”.  So he chooses to die, planning a trip to a Swiss clinic to be given a pill that will end his life.

His parents, however, are against his plan and hire Lou, a girl who is desperate for employment.  Initially repulsed by Will’s unpleasant manner, Lou eventually comes to see Will as a funny, interesting – lovable – man who has much to offer the world despite his crippled body.  When she learns of his plan to die, she is horrified, and, with the assistance of Will’s parents, devises a plan to make Will realize that life is still worth living.

At this point, the story could pan out to be a fantastic tale of triumph over adversity, the acceptance of things we cannot change, and a powerful message about the sanctity of human life.  While I was reading, I really, really, wanted this outcome.  I hoped that Lou and Will would fall in love, he would realize he loved her too much to willingly leave her, they would both find renewed purpose in life, and would live happily ever after.  Or something like that.

Let me break it to you, though.  That is not how the story ends.

I read this book for a book club I belonged to, and the overwhelming feeling was one of sadness.  I will say that we were all reading the book from a Christian viewpoint, but most people were unnerved with Will’s total belief that death was the answer.  He had no faith that God (or any higher power) had a plan for him.  If I can’t live my life the way I want to, I might as well die.  Also troubling was the belief that if our lives don’t resemble our “ideal” they (and we) are not worth living.

Blessedly, I am not physically disabled, so I don’t know the mental struggle that goes on day after day, or the bodily pains or daily indignities that characterize those lives.  But I do consider myself well-versed in how it feels to question the worthiness of my life.  (Come on, is there anyone out there who has not?)  What if you suffer from depression?  Anxiety?  PTSD?  Eating disorders?  Cancer?  Anyone who has suffered from any chronic illness, mental or physical, has probably at one time or another felt that they were burdening others, they weren’t happy or making others happy, and maybe?  Maybe it would be better for all involved if I could just disappear.  Happiness, freedom from pain, and the ability to make your own decisions makes life worth living, right?  Oh and the ability to not be a burden.

That’s why I find Me Before You so troubling.  Because it touts the assisted suicide route as a compassionate choice.  Will’s decision is, for the most part, selfish.  He is only thinking of his pain, his loss of mobility, his dashed hopes and dreams.  The feelings of those who love him are not considered, or if they are, it is an afterthought.  Critics argue that every human should be able to make the choice when and how to end their own lives.  Because that is dignity.  That is compassionate.  That is the most selfless route.  But the problem with this thinking is that it persuades society that suicide is attractive.

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By N. Renaud from Ottawa, Canada – [1], CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10411862

I suffer from depression.  Well-managed and medicated, to be sure, but always with me.  During my darkest moments I have had all those thoughts, that I wasn’t worthy of life, that it would be easier for my loved ones if I weren’t around, that it would be cheaper to not have to pay those therapist bills, or those anti-depressant prescription fees.  What if I had given in during those moments of weakness?  What if I really had convinced myself that suicide was the most attractive choice?  In that dark time, it might have been, but that was because I was depressed.  I wasn’t thinking normally.

But what if I had a doctor who was tired of treating me?  What if I told my doctor I wanted to die?  That I felt it wasn’t worth it, wasn’t fair to keep making minuscule progress in my mental illness just to fall back into depression again and again.  Isn’t this a sign that I am suffering from something incurable?  I will probably never completely be “whole”, I will have to take medication to treat this illness the rest of my life.  I may get really bad again and have to be hospitalized.  Not all suicide attempts end in death, either.  What if I attempted to die and ended up with horrible wounds that required thousands of dollars of medical treatment?   Or stay in a nursing home because I caused myself to suffer brain damage?  A doctor weighing all these options may just give me the go-ahead to take a trip next door to Oregon and end my pitiable existence.  [Well, it might give American assisted-suicide providers pause that I was suffering from depression (at least for now) but it wouldn’t probably bother them in Europe.]

Recently, I was saddened to learn of this story of a woman with a history of mental illness being helped to die in Holland.  Some might argue that she could have easily ended her own life without the help from the authorities.  And I would agree.  But the tacit acceptance from her health-care providers that her mental anguish was all-encompassing, total, and incurable is the very antithesis of mental healthcare.  A depressed person’s disordered thoughts leads them to believe their suffering is global,  complete and fatal.  I don’t argue that this Dutch patient felt all of that.  I don’t argue that the injuries inflicted upon her were not horrific and devastating.  But I do argue that there was hope.  There is always hope.  The minute you, as a mental health patient, have your (possibly exhausted and frustrated – because they are human, too) doctors start agreeing with you that you are a hopeless case, all is lost.  The march toward treatment only becomes a march toward death.  And this is becoming reality in our messed-up world.

I will always champion the idea to sufferers of depression that THERE IS HOPE.  You are not a hopeless case, a lost cause.  I bring myself to tears sometimes thinking about how much I would have missed if I had packed it all in back several years ago and decided to end it all.  My sweet daughter reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to her precious little sister at the table as I write this.  My handsome son and his handsome daddy playing football at a festive and lovely graduation party last evening.  My silly younger boy talking about how he is going to tell God he should have created us with only one foot (because putting two shoes on is such a pain, don’t cha know?).  The gorgeous setting sun as it illuminates the mountains out my back window.

LIFE IS WORTH LIVING.  Suffering happens.  There is no way to sugar-coat that.  But it is also what makes us human.  The moment we decide that our humanness is a liability is the moment we condemn our culture to assisted suicide.

{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash, Vol. 6: School’s out for the summer edition

Today is Day One of summer vacation in this house.  So far, so good….but it is only 7 am.  While I listen to the sweet silence of my children getting along for the last few minutes before all hell breaks loose for the following three months, you can read along and hear about what we’ve been up to lately.  (Stop at Kelly‘s for more cool happenin’s)

ONE

As we walked through the garden the other day and I attempted to weed, Bellie and her little brother were inspecting their plots.  Noticing that a few areas had teeny tiny sprouts growing, Bellie said, “Be careful, Spike!  Don’t touch them!”  Spike paused thoughtfully, then said, “Right.  Because we don’t want them to grow back down.”  It made me think of the Wizard-of-Oz when the Wicked Witch of the East got crushed underneath Dorothy’s house; her striped legs rolling back up under it like a party horn.  Definitely hope that doesn’t happen to our vegetables!  The kids do like to “see” with their hands.

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 dusty, dusty garden patch

TWO

Bellie was making a card for her friend’s birthday party and wanted to know how to spell said-friend’s name.  “P-A-I-G-E” I said.  “What?” she said, incredulously, “I don’t think so.  Isn’t it  ‘P-I-G? [she says, trying to sound it out] ‘”  Now, she is a newly graduated kindergartner and I generally encourage her to use “kindergarten spelling” where she sounds out words and comes up with the spelling herself, but I think on this occasion I will just spell that one for her!

THREE

Little Evvie is getting to be quite the explorer.  Running off during school programs, deciding she’s had enough at church and marching down the aisle.  Making friends of other similarly-aged babies and deciding to join their families at library story time.  Also the bathroom and kitchen drawer spelunking.  I have been trying to avoid putting those annoying child locks on the drawers but I think I might just have to pretty soon.  Especially after every single one of my feminine products found their way on to the floor of the living room and Spike is joining in the fun by adhering them to my bookshelf and asking if “these things are airplanes because they have wings”.

FOUR

They just cut the alfalfa field behind our house.  Mmmmm…one of my favorite smells.  I love how everything is so green around here right now – we just got done with several weeks of unseasonable rain and it has made our normally-desert dry neck-of-the-woods a verdant paradise!  At least for a little while longer.  Since we have moved some of our trees to the opposite side of our yard and put up a bird feeder, we have seen so many more birds in our yard and I love it!  We showed the kids a robin’s nest in one of our pine trees and I always forget how brilliant blue the eggs are.  I love early summer.

 

FIVE

I am trying to come up with a system for Kid Media Time this summer.  Ugh.  I hate hate hate hate hate having to deal with this.  I would be content if our tv and computer just broke (well, not my computer, I need some sort of lifeline to the real world!) and the kids would be content to just be kicked outside and play in the dirt all day.  And I guess a Media Moratorium is a possibility for the whole summer, but I fear a mutiny and occasionally rain and 2nd-degree sunburns necessitate a day or so indoors.  Being “SOOOOOOOOOOO bored”.  My issue is that I find difficulty policing the actual time spent on media.  The computer isn’t a big deal.  Junior gets an hour/day based following completion of household chores.  It’s the TV.  Because the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines say “Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content” I am trying to only allow another hour or two for television/tablets.  My kids obviously do not like the same TV shows, being vastly different ages.  So what happens when Paw Patrol is on for Spike, but Junior is in the same room passively watching it?  Do I count this against Junior’s Media Time?  Does each kid get his/her own quota for time?  Or do I just say TV can be watched from 8-10 am and each person gets to pick a show?  What happens if we watch a movie in the evening as a family?  I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on this; particularly what worked or didn’t. 

SIX

As my shoulder saga continues, I think we may have made a discovery:  I HAVE BAD POSTURE.  After holding babies (incorrectly, I wager) for nine years and lugging around car-seats and other miscellaneous child-rearing paraphernalia akin to a pack animal, my normal posture resembles that of a hunchback.  I have to constantly remind myself to sit up straight, shoulders back.  My chiropractor recently tried using this kinesiology tape on my shoulder, mainly to remind me to keep my posture healthy and it has made a difference!  So going forward we will see if this makes a lasting impact.

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It’s a good look for summer.

 

SEVEN

Hubby and I are set to celebrate anniversary number 12 on Sunday and I am so excited for the gift I am going to present to him!  Twelve years of marriage is traditionally celebrated with linen or silk apparently but what the heck do you get a guy that’s either of those things?  I thought silk boxers but they sound somewhat impractical and hand-wash only.  So I got him this gorgeous handmade fly box for when he fly fishes.  It is customized with his favorite run and the “river” is inlaid with turquoise.  I really love it, I hope he does too!  Thanks Mike at Snake River Nets for the fabulous box!

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Ta ta for now, have a great weekend!