Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Towels and Grunting

It's still hot and southernly humid here in New York. Our window AC units can't really keep up. The humidity in our home makes the wood floor tacky, soft and extra creaky. I was surprised when last week I noticed more color on the road as we were driving home after a rain storm. Yellow leaves were sprinkled about collecting in the gutters of the road and the gutters of my windshield. Even though the trees are still mostly green the first leaves have started to turn color and drift to the ground. Just like that fall is nearly upon us.

So soon? I'm not fully ready to embrace fall just yet. It's my favorite season but I'm still wanting to squeeze the last drops out of aimless summer days. Nevertheless, nature pushes forward in that gradual way she has. The dreary cloud cover over the past few days didn't leave me much choice but to face the changing seasons. It's time to leave lemonade and iced tea behind in favor of spiced apple cider and hot chocolate. So, we fall-ified the house over the weekend. Yep, seasonal dish towels, some winking felt owls from the Target dollar bins and a Yankee Harvest brand candle in "Autumn Harvest" made their way to our home. Plans for apple picking and a s'mores party are taking place. Mailers with fun Halloween events at the zoo and botanical gardens are dangling from magnets on the front of our refrigerator. I even was able to resurrect the wreath Ada and I made last year.

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Ada picked all the components including the owl and the first letter of our last name. Other than the owls pupils being blown out and him looking kind of high it's not too bad.

I made alphabet vegetable soup

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We quietly played some games. I highly recommend Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine. Ada got it for her birthday and it's awesome!

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There has been a terrible cold making the boys in the house feel miserable. Ingram had an ear infection, our first ever and I sincerely hope our last.

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Ingram was so sick that he was hardly willing to give up full-body contact with me with the exception of a couple very special people. Ada cared for him like a good big sister.

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And his dad did too

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Our family has a new form of communication that basically boils down to nothing but grunting. We're like a bunch of cavemen. Granted, this is about as communicative as Ingram can manage now and he is pretty good at getting his message across. We'll still push for using our words and that kind of stuff. I love Ada at the end of this movie!

MVI 7313 from monica shepherd on Vimeo.

Thankfully, this cold seems to have skipped right over Ada and me too. She's stayed happy and in great need of entertainment. This hasn't been easy with a sick, clingy, nap-needing baby but we've managed. She's a good sport.

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Macadamia nuts are her new favorite.

In fact, she's crossed over into some new territory like knowing the passcode on my iPhone. This is how I find her watching some video in hiding. As if I don't know where she is...

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Ada starts school again on Monday. I read so many parents who have bittersweet feelings about this. Not me. Nope, I know her school is perfect for her and I'm so excited to hear her stories and watch her learn and grow in this truly amazing environment. She's in class with all new kids and while she's fine with it I find that I'm pretty disappointed! She was a little thrown off by the idea that she'll have a new teacher I think she's warmed up to that too. More to come next week after her first day of school.

Oh, and let's not forget the biggest news around here. We finally got new towels! It's actually exciting.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

The Edge

This is a post linking up with Medical Mondays, a community for medical folk and spouses of medical folk to connect. I am an animal doctor, my husband is a human doctor.

A couple of weeks ago I sat at the kitchen counter in my friends home. She was describing this recent "ships passing in the night" thing that was going on between her and her husband. It's brand new to them. She's not sure what to do about it but knows that she doesn't like it and doesn't want it to continue. I was practicing my very best active listening skills and sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. That's when she sprung it on me: "How do you guys avoid this? What do you do?"

I paused for a long moment, letting the silence fill up the space behind that series of questions. The ships in the night thing is well within the continuum of normal for us. We met when we were each working on a PhD so we've always given each other a wide berth for work. This includes months in separate locations to accommodate special training, externships and distal rotations. I remember with vivid clarity those long stretches during internship and residency when my husband was on night float. One morning I was on my way to work and he was on his way home. We stopped our cars, which were headed in opposite directions, to lock eyes for a few minutes. It was the only time I saw him awake and in person during that entire month-long rotation.

Even now that he's "out", a word that, when used in this context, makes him sound more like an ex-convict than a high-achieving professional, we still have weeks when we just don't see each other in any meaningful way. I can't tell you how often it happens that some decision or another is hanging in the balance but I need to discuss it with him first. I dread the call, "Well, haven't you talked to Tim yet? It's been three days!" because then I have to try to explain something that really isn't easy to convince most people of:

DAYS can pass before I have a face-to-face conversation with my husband because of his work schedule



Unthinkable, right? Well, I look at it this way:
For one thing, this is the life we chose. Long hours, working holidays, being's not like somebody all of a sudden sprung it on us. We knew what we were in for. It sucks slightly more in reality to be alone on a holiday than it does when it's only conceptual but we still can't really complain.
For another thing, like any other modern couple, we've pushed the envelope. We've discovered our personal edge when it comes to apartness. It's shifted a bit over time as our circumstances have changed but our edge is pretty constant.

For a long time I held the attitude that when one partner is working their ass off then maybe it is better if both parties are so engrossed in their own work lives that the absence of the other isn't so glaring. You probably have a higher tolerance for apartness when you're really into your own thing.  Now that we have kids the tune has changed a bit such that our crazy-making threshold is lower. Tim considered a couple other interesting specialties but made his choice so that he would know his kids and they would know him. My career has slowed down because for our family it really feels right to have at least one of us at home more than they are at work to captain the ship on a daily basis cause those little people can't do it themselves. 

In that long moment when I was constructing a response to my friend I realized that I needed to be careful to not diminish her concerns. It's not a who-has-it-worst contest. Rather our conversation helped me remember something important: Everyone has a limit. On that day in that kitchen my friend had found hers. Tim and I are familiar with ours. We take great care to make adjustments so as to not get too close again.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Enjoy This

A sweet song for you since Playlist went kaput: Bitter Heart by Zee Avi

There's a little sign hanging in Ingram's room that simply reads, "Enjoy This".  I found it in a tiny shop in Santa Barbara and knew immediately that it was meant to be mine. It has moved from place to place, its' homes including above my desk, in the kitchen and near the front door. Now, every time I leave Ingrams room, which Tim remarked today "smells like a hamster lives in there", I see it. Suddenly, changing Ingrams diaper for the 8th time that morning seems not altogether awful. Seriously. I never knew a baby who poops more than mine does.

A phrase as neutral as "enjoy this" could be interpreted so many different ways and I, queen of the neutral statement, really like that. Every time I see those two little words I feel inspired to connect with the moment I'm in. The state of being 'in the moment', also known as "mindfulness" in buddhist speak, seems so simple and so attainable. I've dabbled in buddhism mostly because buddhists all seem so peaceful and I crave some of that quietness for myself. Nevertheless, mindfulness mocks me with her elusive nature and that just pisses me off. Ultimately I wind up skirting the edges of buddhism once again because I don't want face how crappy I am at living in the moment. This little sign, "Enjoy This", helps a lot. I'm spontaneously snapped into the moment each time it even so much as grazes the edge of my peripheral vision. I need the practice and apparently I need very gentle, very anonymous encouragement to be mindful.

With our first New York anniversary under our belt I can truly say that I feel a major sea change. I'm a more focused, calmer person and, as a natural extension of that, a better mother. Twice today, different people remarked at how "calm" I seem about the children.  I take this as a compliment only because the kids were really well behaved in both instances! (had they been running amok I'd think it was a passive-aggressive comment) I've been working hard at positive discipline and I think I'm getting a little closer to being the mother I want to be: patient, kind but firm, loving and adventurous. Yeah, sometimes I lose my cool but that happens less often now. When it does happen I make it a point to apologize to Ada and follow it up with lots of reassurance that I love her no matter what and she's one of my all-time favorite people in the whole world! Telling her that last part makes her skip all around the room from happiness!

Feeling better about my parenting also makes it easier to "Enjoy This", whatever 'this' is. Lately it's a lot of time with my kids, which is just fine by me. As long as I'm not feeling like I'm completely screwing the whole thing up. In the great spirit of enjoyment we are gulping down the last juicy bits of summer.

We're enjoying:

Back to school shopping. All of sudden NOTHING fits her. She is a tall one, my girl is. She sat ont he floor at HandM and refused to take these pink sparkly high tops off.

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Full moon over Manhattan the night before my birthday.

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Offering nectar to the lorikeets and messin' around in general at the aquarium

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How bountiful our garden is and the fact that I am still not tired of tomato sandwiches:

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This guy is fascinated by doors and gates. He could sit for hours opening and closing, opening and closing...

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Living on the fog line in San Francisco we were only successful at growing lettuce. Our virgin harves this year is INSANE. Truly, we don't know what we're doing. In fact, I can't wait for next year just so that we can use all we've learned and do things a little differently. Still, it's awesome to be gardening. I hope something of it sticks for our kids.

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How much this kid loves corn on the cob. Want to see a really pissed off one year old? Yeah. YOU try to take away his corn cob. I dare you.

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Tim likes to joke that Ingram must be fathered by someone else since he doesn't look a thing like Tim. At least not yet. I have two arguments against that: one, all his height is in his torso and his legs are relatively short. For one-piece things he's easily into 24 months (at 13 months old). Likewise, his shirts are 24m size but for his pants he's only just now out of 12m pants. Oh, and two, he raises his eyebrows when he takes a bite of food JUST LIKE his father. Now I have photographic evidence.

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She is growing up so fast. I can't believe it. My arms and hands got all pins-and-needles tonight as I watched her riding her bike with her skinny legs pushing the pedals as hard as she could and her little dress flapping in the breeze behi. She wants to do it all herself and she is quite capable.

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IMG 1352 from monica shepherd on Vimeo.

Ingram is walking like it's his job.

IMG 1308-1 from monica shepherd on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Welcome Back

Where we were a year ago today is still a vivid, living memory for me. I wish I could say I grabbed the bull by the horns and rode that beast all the way to New York. A little distance is wonderful for cultivating perspective and I can now say with humility, "That's not exactly how it all went down."

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The past year has been a mixed bag of stimulating, frustrating, engaging, overwhelming, funny, desperate and downright wonderful. We have a whole new area of the country to explore and THE greatest city on earth just a 30 minute train ride away. I was resistant to moving here at first but now I can hardly remember why. Rather, I am constantly trying to convince Tim that we could absolutely manage living in Manhattan! All our cats would have to be on prozac to keep them from peeing on everything in sight because our living space would be small but it could be done.

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We Facetime with grandma Judy almost every day.

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A community is gathering around us and that has been the highlight of the year. A dear, old friend moved to NYC from SF a few months after we did. Another dear, old friend is just around the corner. And the new friends? Wow! For me, meeting new people and forging connections doesn't come easily. I am delighted to report that I had nothing to worry about after all. The new friends have been one of the best parts of the whole relocation thing. I got me a girl posse and I dig those ladies a whole lot.

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This family has welcomed us with open arms. They deserve a boatload of credit for why our family is in a good place now. This is how our kids play together and it is endless. 

We're settled in now. I'm learning the back roads of this place. I've memorized the squeaky floorboards in our house. I haven't felt this content in a geographic location for many, many years. Frankly, if we lived in New York forever more I'd be perfectly happy with that outcome.

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Fishing off one of the docks somewhere on the west side of Manhattan last weekend.

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A playground in Hell's Kitchen last weekend.

Ada spent some time at camp grandma recently. It was just me and my little buddy all day every day during that time. It gave me ample opportunity to take care of myself - to read, meditate, cook, do yoga, go for walks and just think. Only by engaging in some self-care was I able to recognize just how much I've ignored it over the past year. I've been so busy making a home, adjusting a toddler to a new place, being a cheerleader for my young professor husband, building a community, learning my way around and adjusting to having two kids that I fell into the classic pitfall of motherhood: I let everyone else's needs trump my own leaving the holy trilogy of my body, mind and spirit in a sorry state of deferred maintenance. That's changing cause you know what they say - if mama ain't happy? That's right. Ain't nobody happy.

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Governor's Island.

This little blog space has been part of that neglect, I'm sad to say. Sorry, friends. In time of trouble some people use their blog to pour their hearts out. Looks like I'm not one of those. Not this time anyway. I was just too depleted to get my shiz together enough to hit 'publish post'. It kept happening over and over again that I would have thoughts and sit to write them but the words just wouldn't come. They came in fits and starts but nothing flowed or made sense. I don't want to be too hard on myself about this because it's just representative of my state of mind at the time, which also worked in distracted fits and starts with little ability to finish what I started. I'm sad that so many memories of the past few months aren't set in stone here but I'll find another way to preserve them for my kids. Anyway, maybe some of those moments should be allowed to just weave into the fabric of the recent past with no particular attention paid to them.

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What I'm really here to say is that we're here. We are really HERE. My kids are THRIVING. I am happy. Tim is working like a workaholic does and loving it. I'm so pleased that I can make these statements now because last year I knew that in a year I wanted to be able to say those things and mean them. There were so many times over the past 16 months that I wanted so badly to fast forward to right now that I physically ached over it. Of course, it doesn't work that way. Instead you just have to move through it and let the overarching lessons tucked within the experience sink in deep. The work of creating a new life in a new place? Check. Goal accomplished.

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This little beauty turned 4 years old.

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Ingram turne one. My microgram is now a milligram.

So what comes next? I don't know. I've been a habitual goal-setter for so damn long that I'm not very good at sitting back and enjoying the reward (a classic perfectionist pitfall). I've had some time to think it over though and I've come to the conclusion that it's alright to just DO THIS for right now. It's alright to keep my home and raise my kids and take a little time each day to check in with myself.

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While the ball will continue rolling somewhere deep inside because there is a master plan, I think I'm going to exercise my "being in the moment" muscles a little bit. 

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The future will come along in it's own time so I needn't try to rush it along. Nothing good ever came from doing that anyway. 

It's good to be back. In oh so many ways do I mean that!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cabin Fever

Before anything else, I want to point out that Playlist is working again. Oh, praise Jesus! The first five songs over to the right there? I can't get enough. If you're interested in some good new tunes that aren't owned by Clear Channel then check it out. For real. I haven't listened to 'real' radio in ages and am all the happier for it. Another good place to get good music is They didn't pay me to say that. I just really love them a whole lot.


OK, back to business:

I find myself searching everywhere for signs of spring, craving the change in the air that invites an open window and imploring the tree tops to show their veil of light green buds.

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We had a couple of warm days last week that teased me mercilessly. A cold front pushed it's way through and now day after day I hear "It's 24 degrees in White Plains today. With the windchill it feels like 14." Again? Well, that's just awesome.

I had forgotten about this particular stage of winter, which seems to drag on and on and on... Weeks ago the snowplows left behind little mountains that have since been covered over with a dirty black shell of ice. Now they rest on the roadside nice and safe thanks to the persistently cold temperatures to preserve them. I feel openly mocked by an inanimate object. It's all good though. I do remember how much greener the first buds look and how much cleaner the air smells when you've waited for them.

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Daily I mutter under my breath, "We've gotta get out of here." I am, of course, referring to our perfectly cozy house. We spend a lot of time at the library. We have lots of play dates. I go to the gym simply so Ada can run around with other kids, an arrangement that has lost me 6 unwanted pounds in the last month. Nevertheless my toes aches to have freshly turned dirt under them and I long to see the straight little tufts of hair on the crown of Ingram's head and the long curls that cascade down Ada's back blown by a gentle warm breeze.

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Here is where I find the challenge of being home with them: finding a way to make the mundane tasks of daily life a little more interesting. How to turn Trader Joe's into a "field trip"? Oh, the very words get her excited enough to jump up and down! Lots of 'treasure hunting" (lists with pictures) and "projects" created out of nothing. Today we made easter cards out of some random crap I got from the dollar bins at Target. Watch out family, you've been warned, they make no sense at all. Please just play along, OK? And if you could send her something in the mail that I can sneak into her mailbox, that would be great. A post-it note with a smiley face is sufficient as it doesn't take a whole lot of attention to make her feel super special.

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The time will pass quickly enough. We have visitors coming, a dear friend moving to the east coast and a weekend trip in the works all before Easter. Meanwhile, all this concentrated time together has led to catching moments like this one

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I get choked up just looking at the picture of it, nevermind how incredible and sweet the actual moment was. She's a great big sister and they both know it. He loves her so much that he won't sleep if he knows she's around. I have to ask her to play in the next room when I put him down for a nap. No matter how quiet she is, and God knows she tries her 3 year old best, he is straining to sit up to smile at her and play. I hope they stay close for all their lives.

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Finally, for grandparental and uncle interest, Ingram had his 6 month check-up today (OK, he's nearly 7 months now). 
20# 3 oz (83%)
29.75 inches (99%) 

He's a big guy and the happiest baby. All you have to do is look at him and pretend giggle - it throws him into a fit of hysterical belly laughter. This boy is a light and a joy. You're welcome world.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crying Uncle

To my left sits a tall stack of books and my cup of coffee. My Kindle is loaded with things that, in brief moments of inspiration, I decided I couldn't live without. A Valentine project from last year sits on the table still only half done. There are dishes and laundry to do. We have music class in less than 90 minutes and none of us is dressed yet. 

I've heard the analogy made that life is like juggling - some balls are up in the air being expertly tossed about at just the right moment while others lie on the ground, bouncing, rolling and generally going wayward. I've definitely dropped the reading ball just as I have dropped the blogging ball. Over the past three days three family members have contacted me independent of one another to ask what the heck is going on? Why no blogging? 

Sorry, been busy with this: 

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and this:

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Eczema. We're working on it. 

I'm a stay at home mom for the moment. I'm a suburban housewife. I got my Mrs. degree, as my mother would say. In the eyes of some, I've achieved a dream. And in the eyes of myself all the way up to May 14th I was pretty convinced that this was going to be really awesome. It is awesome but I'd say my definition of that word has expanded to include more than it ever did before. 

I really thought that being a stay-at-home-mom was, oh, how to say this gently? Easy. You know, lots of free time, waking up when you wanted to, not being rushed, doing crafts and baking, taking yoga and going for a morning run every day. I thought that because you weren't leaving all things family behind for 40+ hours a week that the list of stuff to manage would be tamed somehow.

I was wrong. SO WRONG.

This is harder than I expected.

I am astonished - I mean, absolutely astonished, that I am having so much trouble to keep up with two children, a not-very-demanding husband and a modestly sized house. Me. I am addicted to my Franklin Covey planner. I am a goal-setter, a high achiever, a perfectionist and above all else, a complete control freak. Back to those balls in the air. Just when I'm victoriously throwing my hands in the air shouting "I did it!" (a phrase in my lexicon, no doubt, thanks to Dora the Explorer ) because it seems that I've managed to achieve something resembling balance there comes another ball tossed in the air and a different ball drops.


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It's not all bad. Our morning table today.

I'm learning. Slowly. It's sinking in that to embrace some of the beautiful, joyful but fleeting parts of my life I have to let some other things go. Knowing that how you approach a situation, that is, your attitude, makes all the difference in the world I have decided to pretty much try my hardest at rocking out this staying home thing. Dare I say that most of the time we are having fun.

Morning tea parties

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The boys watching the Super Bowl

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Playing orange melon smile

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She is full of questions now. "What's his name?" and "What she said?" and "Where are those cars going?" are common ones to hear. I love how she shouts ,"Zero!" whenever a timer goes off. We look for geese when we drive along the Bronx River Parkway. She comes up with hilarious little projects like rearranging our silverware so all the spoons and all the forks are together

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and she puts glass baby food jars on her baby giraffes feet because apparently you need to wear shoes to drink coffee

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He's sitting up and about to crawl any day now. He's love, love loving solids

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This hair tuft drives me crazy. I must spend at least 2 hours a day rubbing his downy head with my cheek and my hand. Oh, and he looks like he might be a ginger. I'll be helpless if he is.

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My God, how she is growing. She is so perceptive and so sensitive - much more than Tim and I realized. We are having to really watch ourselves with her now. She has lately come up with things that we are quite certain we haven't said to her, which introduces a new ball to juggle: damage control when she hears something terrible from somewhere else. 

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She is at last using the potty

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Exploration abounds

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I'll try to be better about blogging. If for no other reason than to keep up the recording of memories. I do find it so gratifying to go back on this little site and see what we were up to at some point in the past.  It's good perspective. Happy hump day. I'll see you again next month. Just kidding (I hope). We'll see what I'm able to juggle later in the week!