Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

All the Cries

Friday, August 29, 2014
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Babies cry. Everyone knows this. Baby cries have never bothered me. Not on an airplane, not at the grocery store, not in a restaurant. I hardly notice a baby crying unless it’s in a very silent place (like church). When I do notice, it doesn’t annoy or upset me; I feel more for the parent trying to console his or her baby than anything else.

So I’d say I was significantly unprepared for how much I would be affected by my own baby crying. Her cries break my heart. I can hear her from anywhere in the house. If I’m sleeping, and she so much as makes a little coo, I wake up. And can’t go back to sleep, even if I’ve just fed her and it’s dad’s turn to soothe her. My mind races: Does she need me? What’s wrong? What does she need? I guess it’s that motherly instinct kicking in. One whimper and my senses shoot to attention, ready to meet her every need (if I can figure it out).

The baby books say you’ll be able to decipher your baby’s cries and respond based on what they need. Only in the last couple days have I started to notice different patterns of crying and sometimes been able to soothe her by meeting the need of her cry.

A single ‘wah’ is a cry not to be taken seriously; it comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. I try not to let this cry bother me.

‘Ack, ack, ack’ is her tired cry. When she starts crying like this, I’ve learned it’s best to just hold her in my arms and be quiet and still. Eventually, she’ll doze off.

‘WaUH, waUH, waUH’ is her hungry cry; feed immediately or face the consequences.

‘Grunt wah, grunt wah’ means it’s time for a diaper change. But don’t change immediately; the grunts tend to come back after five minutes of silence.

‘Sob sob, whimper whimper.’ That’s her…oh wait, that’s ME crying. Hormones, exhaustion, hunger, not being able to figure out what your baby needs…there are many reasons new moms cry.

‘WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH AHHHHHH WAHHHHHHHH’ is the worst cry of all, impossible to interpret and inconsolable. It’s this cry that makes me shed my own tears and hurts my heart the most. This cry comes at any time and lasts for a long time. Earlier this week, it lasted for three hours. I’ve tried everything I know to console her, and nothing works. I dread this cry. When she cries this way, my emotions range from sad to frustrated to desperate to sad again.

At her two-week checkup this week, the doctor said AJ has the symptoms of acid reflux. This may be why she has the terrible cries. I had acid reflux while I was pregnant, and it made me want to scream for hours on end too. I’m following various instructions to try to soothe her reflux. I also was given the go ahead to give her a pacifier, which has worked wonders.

Soothing her reflux may help, but the fact of the matter is, babies cry. Sometimes they cry for what seems like no reason. I won’t always know why she’s crying or be able to soothe her. I know this, like everything, is a phase, and we will get through it together. Holding her and comforting her is the best thing I can do, even if it doesn’t stop her crying. As I’m sure any mom knows, hearing your own child cry is worlds different than hearing a stranger’s baby cry.

And on that note, I better wrap this up…I think I hear a hunger cry starting.

As Time Goes By

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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I have friends who swear their  bodies are the clearest indicator of the passage of time.

I disagree.birthday cake

Granted, every time I bend my knees, they crack and creak. Every day when I look in the mirror, I see another wrinkle on my face. And every effort to read small type has become an exercise in futility.

But my aging body isn’t what really makes me feel the passage of time.

That comes with watching my children grow up.

Last Friday, my youngest turned 13. The night before Kendall’s birthday, I walked into the family room as she and her father were looking at her baby book. She was laughing at the funny stories I had documented in the  pages and was looking at photos taken on her fourth birthday. In one picture, she was smiling at the camera while her friend Joey had his arm slung around her shoulder as he gazed at her.

“Oh yes, Joey,” I said looking over Kendall’s shoulder at the book. “He told us he was going to marry you.”

Kendall rolled her eyes and continued to flip through the pages of her baby book while her father and I looked at each other.

That photo had been taken nine years earlier, but Giles and I felt as though we had been joking about Joey’s intentions only yesterday. To Kendall, Joey is a distant, if non-existent, memory. My perspective of time appears to be out of whack.

For example, at church on Sunday I was talking to a woman whose daughter just started high school – at least in my mind she had just started high school.  But when I asked how she was doing, her mother reminded me that she is a senior in college. I couldn’t believe that many years had passed, and I thought about how college is just around the corner for my son, a high school junior.

Even though Giles and I have been making payments on Shepherd’s pre-paid college plan since he was born, I’m having a difficult time realizing that the time to make use of that fund is almost here.

I was holding a newborn in my arms the day we bought the plan. At that time,  my son’s college education was only a vague concept for the distant future when I would be a worn-out  middle-aged woman.

I like to think the years were too short for me to be that old and worn out. They did, after all, go much more quickly than when I was a child and summers went on forever and Christmas seemed as though it would never arrive.

I’ve come to recognize the days will continue to grow shorter and the years will continue to fly by. I’ve also come to recognize that even though there is nothing I can do to slow time down, there is a great deal I can do to ensure I treasure every minute of it.

Poop, Spit Up and Tears – Baby’s First Week

Friday, August 22, 2014
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Taking a cue from news anchor Savannah Guthrie and sharing my no-makeup hospital photo

Taking a cue from news anchor Savannah Guthrie and sharing my no-makeup hospital photo

“Come watch how funny this is!” I said to my brother as little AJ grimaced. Squirt. Time for a diaper change. I took her over to the beautifully set changing table and began to take off her diaper. As I went to make the switch between dirty diaper and clean, SQUIRTTTT, out came another round. All over her new, white Pottery Barn changing pad, diaper caddy and changing table runner. All over her diaper pail. All over the carpet. All over me (brother was thankfully spared). We could barely contain our laughter. Looks like the joke was on me.

And so goes many similar moments in the first days of AJ’s life. My husband Chris and I have laughed often, slept little and loved more than words. Both AJ and I have shed tears. I’ve only been projected pooped on once twice.

My labor and delivery was quick and relatively routine. The nurses and staff at CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital are amazing and I owe them and my doctors a huge thank you. I would never have made it through without their caring and generosity.

I got the epidural I swore I would not get. I only realized after it was all over that I had a notion in the back of my mind that getting an epidural would be “taking the easy way out.” Trust me – there is NO easy way to birth a baby. After everything was said and done, I felt like a superhero at the end of a movie – beat up, barely alive, but I had just saved the world.

The first night at the hospital was by far the hardest. AJ cried almost all night and the only way to soothe her was to nurse, which neither of us knew how to do yet. She would only come close to sleeping while in my or Chris’s arms (still the case some nights). Come Wednesday morning, we were more than ready to get out of the hospital, go home and start our new life.

Nursing was difficult and frustrating to start. I could not have done it without the help of the lactation specialist at Women and Children’s. It’s still a heavy responsibility to bear, being the only one that can feed your child, but it gets significantly easier with each feed.

I wouldn’t dare say we’ve formed a schedule yet, but we have started to get into a semi-routine of feeding, cuddling, napping and trying to take care of ourselves. She feeds every two to three hours throughout the day and night, some days more regular than others. Diaper changes are almost constant, and we’ve learned that diapers need changed with speed similar to a NASCAR pit stop to avoid a mess on the changing table or ourselves. Sometimes she sleeps soundly in her bassinet, other times we stay up holding her in her rocking chair. Spit up has become my clothing’s constant accessory.

Although we’ve learned more about parenting in the last week and half than I could imagine, this is only the beginning. When she cries, we don’t always know how to soothe her. We don’t know if we are doing things the “right” way. But we are trying our hardest, and we love her more than we thought possible. Chris goes back to work on Monday, and I don’t know what I will do without him. I’ll face an entire new set of challenges taking care of her alone during the day. I do know I will cherish the first two weeks of AJ’s life for as long as I live; a time when the three of us had no obligations other than each other, when we began to learn to be a family.

She has arrived!

Friday, August 15, 2014
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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s preliminary data, 3,957,577 babies were born in the United States in 2013.

Using that statistic, we can estimate that around 10,800 babies are born every day in the U.S alone, more or less. Having a baby is a common thing.

That doesn’t make it any less extraordinary when you have or adopt one of your own.

It’s amazing how something so normal is so special when it happens to you. Having a baby is nothing short of a miracle, even though it happens to thousands of people every day. Every story is unique, every baby special.

My heart is overflowing with joy as I type this – our own special miracle was born Tuesday, August 12 at 8:10 in the morning. Our little AJ is finally here, and we are captivated by her perfection.

Please forgive me for the short post this week, it’s been a busy one for us. I have so many thoughts running through my head, and yet I’m speechless. I can’t wait to share more about her birth, lessons learned in our first days at home and adjusting to life as a mom. Right now, we’ve been home for less than 24 hours, and I’m still taking in everything that has happened in the last couple days.

I reached the end of a journey on Tuesday – pregnancy – only to begin one incomparably wonderful and challenging – motherhood.

Beneath the Surface

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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I have a friend who grew up with an unhealthy fear of thunderstorms.

Her fear was unhealthy not because she hid at the first sign of a storm or trembled at the sound of thunder. It was unhealthy because it was based on a lie.

Her fear was built on a belief that her cousin had been killed when struck by lightning.

Only after years and a well-cultivated phobia of lightning did her parents reveal that her cousin had actually committed suicide.

I was thinking of this Monday night when both of my children wanted to talk about Robin William’s suicide. My daughter asked how he could asphyxiate himself. My son just wanted to express his shock. Since I was also in shock, I had very little to add to the conversation even though I knew I should. I don’t want my children to be afraid of thunderstorms any more than I want them to think suicide is about a person’s final act.

Instead, suicide is about everything other people don’t act upon.

I first realized this when the brother of one my daughter Kendall’s classmate’s killed himself. The boy was in middle school at the time, and my daughter relayed the same story that the media did: the boy had been bullied. That revelation was followed by the typical outcry to address bullying by calling out people whose words and behavior are hurtful.

What I didn’t hear was an outcry to simply to pay attention to each other despite labels or diagnoses or cliques or fame.

Some people might say that Robin Williams, one of the funniest men in the world, and an overweight middle school student had nothing in common, but they are wrong.

They had a great deal in common.

They were both people. They both had feelings. They both struggled to meet the expectations of others. They both wanted to belong to a world that often doesn’t make sense. They both fought internal battles that others couldn’t or didn’t see. Because of this, they both hurt inside. And they both committed suicide.

Like millions of others, I feel the loss of Robin Williams, but I can’t claim I knew him any more than I knew the brother of Kendall’s classmate.

I never had the opportunity to share a smile, listen to, interact with or show my compassion for either of them, and I never will.

But I do have the opportunity to do all those with a neglected child, a homeless adult, a rebellious teenager, a lonely senior, a rude customer or client and an overly-talkative neighbor. Not only do I have the opportunity, I have the obligation. All of them are my fellow human beings who have feelings, struggle to meet the expectations of others and have a simple desire to belong to a world.

And they, like me, generally show only a small piece of themselves to the rest of the world. We keep what lies just below the surface hidden in hopes that we don’t reveal our vulnerabilities to a society that is quick to exploit them.

I can’t imagine Robin Williams ever approved of such a world. Instead, I choose to believe that he wanted all of us to recognize that imperfect people make the world interesting and meaningful. I believe he knew we should all look beyond the superficial to where imperfection and insecurities lie. And he  would want us to dive into whatever depth we are capable of reaching with others so we can work together to save all those who are drowning.

I also believe he would encourage all of us not to fear the thunderstorm and instead to dance in the rain that comes with it.

Late nights (part 1)

Friday, August 8, 2014
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I look over at the clock – 1:30 a.m. I slowly finagle my way out of bed and head to the bathroom. I’m not remotely close to tired and hunger pains have set in, so after washing my hands I go downstairs for a glass of milk and a few graham crackers. I then head to the nursery, sit back in the recliner, and open a novel. It’s going to be another sleepless night.

No, I have not had my baby yet. But I’m already losing sleep. For several weeks it has been an endless cycle of waking up every hour, if I can get to sleep at all. I’ve never struggled with insomnia or trouble sleeping before, so this is all new to me.

Finding a comfortable position with a bump this big is next to impossible. Lying down also causes heartburn and my nose to get stuffy. Since my bladder is squished, I have to use the restroom constantly.

In addition to all the physical discomforts, my mind races every night. All I can think about is baby. I think (okay, worry) about labor and delivery, bringing her home, taking care of her, what it will be like this time next year, what I need to wrap up at work before I take off, and countless other thoughts.

Our recliner/rocker in the nursery is the most comfortable place for me to half sit/half lie right now, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in that room. Which is wonderful, except I’m trying to get my thoughts off of baby as much as I can, and sitting in her room doesn’t really help. I go almost crazy thinking about when she will arrive during the day, the last thing I need is to think about it all night too.

Many people like to joke and say, “Get your sleep in now while you can!” If only we could store sleep…we’d all be a lot more energetic and happy. But that’s not the case. I like to say the sleeplessness of the last weeks of pregnancy is your body preparing itself for when baby comes (might as well look at things positively). One big difference between now and then is now I am able take naps and relax in the evenings; I know I won’t be able to do that once the baby arrives.

Our baby girl is expected to arrive any day now. I’ll probably look back on this post and laugh at myself for thinking I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Late nights (part 2) will come once baby is born; I’ll share how they compare.

Until then, I’ve invested in several good books to keep me occupied during the sleepless spells.

An honest answer to a common question: How are you feeling?

Friday, July 25, 2014
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“How are you feeling?”

It’s the question I’ve been asked by at least one person every day since I announced my pregnancy. A simple question that shows the asker’s concern and that they care. Although it’s a logical question to ask a pregnant woman, it perplexes me every time it is directed my way.

I think there’s a few reasons why this simple, seemingly straightforward question always makes me pause before I respond.

My first thought is always, “Do you really want to know the answer?” I could talk for hours about how I’m “feeling” if someone really wants to know. So I try to gauge – does this person really want to know how I’m feeling or are they just trying to be nice? Are they really interested in my pregnancy or just making conversation? The answers to these questions can significantly affect how I answer their question, or more likely how scared the person is after I give them a 10-minute answer involving phrases like “dropped” when all they really wanted was a quick, “I feel fine!”

Next, I move to, “How am I actually feeling?” A pregnant woman feels a thousand things at once. Her mental feelings often do not match her physical feelings either. Unbeknown to the asker, their question can set off a string of thoughts that can totally change my mood. I don’t like to say “bad” or “good,” because most of the time it’s a little of both.

So for those that really want to know, this is how I’m feeling:

My hands are so swollen that my skin is burning; my head hurts; my mind is scattered and I can’t focus on one thought; I need a nap after walking from the basement to the upstairs; I kind of feel like crying but have no idea why; I could use something sweet; I have to pee; I feel like there is a ball of fire in my esophagus; the inside of my stomach is sore from a small person kicking me; I’m so excited I don’t know how to contain myself; my legs are sore for no apparent reason; and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to make it several more weeks.

As you can see, asking me this question could get you way more information than you bargained for. I guess a shortened answer would be, “I feel like I’m growing a baby.”

Asker beware: If you ask a pregnant woman how she’s feeling, make sure you’re ready to hear the honest answer!

In Defense of a Little Drama

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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I spent lat week immersed in drama.theater mask

The drama became so all-consuming  that I actually had to take a couple of days off work to deal with dysfunctional family dynamics, jealousy and romance. And I enjoyed every minute.

That’s because the drama was on stage, where drama belongs.

My daughter was in a youth summer production of Cinderella, and her involvement required parental involvement. I supervised, ushered, sold gifts, stayed up past midnight several nights in a row and made food for the cast party.

But, as my husband so eloquently said, since I’m the one who got my daughter interested in drama, I’m responsible for all that involves.

What he doesn’t realize is that, for such a generally pragmatic person, I crave drama. I grew up with a dad who performed in local theater, and I loved going to plays, especially musicals. But even at a young age, I knew there was more to theater than the story the audience sees on stage.

In reality, the audience members actually get the short end of the deal. That’s because the genuine magic of theater doesn’t happen on the stage. Sometimes, it doesn’t even happen backstage.

It happens with the voice teachers who encourage their students to take a risk and audition for a part in a musical.

It happens with artists who can envision a set and the carpenters and painters who can build it.

It happens in the pit with musicians who can pick up an instrument and learn a piece of music instantly.

And most of all, it occurs in the relationships that are built not with the intent of beating another team or winning a championship. but on making people smile, think, cry, imagine and relate to others.

When a team is focused entirely on that, they can only encourage each other and cheer each other on.

Last week, an adult (make that this adult) made a comment about an actor’s off-key performance. My daughter didn’t even let me finish the sentence.

“He’s nervous, Mom,” she said harshly. “Don’t be critical.”

Last week, I heard parents debating why some youth always get a speaking part while others don’t (yes, this parent was involved in that conversation.) My daughter told me that being part of a cast is fun no matter what the role is.

Last week, I tolerated mothers who worried over hairstyles and costumes. At the same time, I witnessed kids who are generally labeled as misfits being included, hugged and encouraged by their peers.

Last week, I saw adults bringing in large bouquets of fresh flowers to bestow upon the actresses, musicians, directors and producers. At the same time, I sold four plastic  flowers to a member of the cast who spent a great deal of time deliberating over just the right message to send to four girls in the chorus: girls who didn’t have any lines.  According to the notes the actor finally wrote, all four girls were “amazing stars.”

And he was right.

Everyone involved in the production was contributing his or her unique gifts to make the show a success. Every parent who lost sleep and hauled kids to performances and fundraisers made the show possible. And each person who bought a ticket was telling our young people that theater is important.

I never had that opportunity. For whatever reason, the theater department at my high school was defunct when I graduated. The football, basketball, baseball, track and volleyball programs were all fully supported, but I never heard one person complain that my class never put on a school play.

That saddens me as much today as it did when I was a teenager.

I know the odds of anyone becoming a Hollywood star are just as astronomical as the odds of  someone becoming a star athlete. But the odds of a person using the skills they learned in theater – confidence, positive relationships, public speaking and public relationships are extremely good.

And if we support local and youth theater – and the drama that comes with it – the odds are even better.

It’s time we play those odds.

A wonderful preview

Friday, July 18, 2014
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There are a few things I’ve learned about having a newborn from the many blog posts, articles and books I’ve read. These insightful tidbits of knowledge include:

  • I will be up all night for endless nights and basically turn into a mix between a vampire and a zombie
  • My baby will cry all the time and nothing will soothe her
  • I will not be able to take a shower except for maybe once a week
  • I will not have the time or energy to do anything – cook, clean, talk, breathe
  • Breastfeeding will be terrible and make me want to cry
  • I will not leave the house for weeks on end
  • Basically, I will go crazy

As you can see, the typical “Five Things I Wish I’d Known about Having a Newborn” articles don’t paint a pretty picture. In fact, these articles make it sound quite miserable. So when I went to visit my good friends and their newborn baby this weekend, I expected the worst. I figured I would find my friend in a zombie-like state, barely able to form words. I thought her house would look like a tornado had come through, and that she and her husband would be weak from not being able to cook dinner or grab food. I thought their baby would start screeching the minute I tried to hold her. I expected to hear a labor and delivery horror story (since it seems everyone else that shares theirs with me had a horrible experience.)

So, armed with a few grocery bags of snacks and a mental attitude of “whatever I see I will not let it scare me,” I went to meet the newest member of their family. What I found when I got there could not have been more different from my expectations, or more wonderful.

I found my friend looking the most beautiful I’ve ever seen her. I’ve heard of a pregnancy glow, but there must be a new mother glow, and it is radiant. I found the new parents energetic, talkative and relaxed. I heard a normal story of labor and delivery that lessened my own fears instead of increasing them. And I found the most beautiful, sweet little baby, contently napping in whoever’s arms were holding her at the time. I didn’t see red eyes, fights, dirty hair or tension. I saw so much love, beauty and happiness in this family that it made me cry right then and there.

I get why there are so many articles about the difficulties of bringing home a newborn. It’s important to portray reality so a new mom can know it’s normal to be tired, frustrated and confused. I’m sure I’ll have a few of my own posts about the unexpected difficulties I will face. But lately it seems I’ve read and heard so much of the negative and none of the positive. There is nothing in the baby books that could have prepared me for the joy I found in my friend’s home. That’s the joy I imagined I’ll have when my time comes.

Thank you friend for sharing your experience with me. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful picture to look forward to.

Fuzzy Truths, Fake Beards and Imaginary Poison Ivy

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
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I’ve come to realize that  being a parent sometimes requires creating your own version of the truth.

I should have caught on at least 45 years ago, but I can sometimes be a slow learner.poison ivy

When I was a little girl, my dad provided a running commentary about the dangers of my behavior.  He said my skin would turn green if I ate too much pea soup. If I swallowed a watermelon seed, he informed me that it might take root in my stomach and start to grow there.  He warned me of that dangers of crossing my eyes in the car because if we hit a  bump, my eyes would stay crossed forever. And, according to him, if I didn’t go to the bathroom when the urge hit, I would suffer some miserable but unnamed disease as an adult.

I listened to him with a cautious ear. I didn’t necessarily believe that everything he said was entirely true, but neither did I want to test the veracity. By the age of five, I’d  decided to err on the side of caution by avoiding anything potentially harmful. Generally, that wasn’t a bad thing, but there were times my fear interfered with my quality of life.

I feared eating any mushrooms because my dad had told me some mushrooms were poisonous. I refused to even try  jerky because Dad said if people didn’t prepare it properly, it could cause food poisoning. And I looked at all greens suspiciously because I had been warned on multiple occasions to never eat rhubarb leaves.

But nothing scared me more than a warning that came not from my father but from another man – a complete stranger who pretended he was worried about my well-being. In reality, he was worried about his store. I don’t remember the name of the store, but I do remember it was a large one in another town and that my entire family was there. For some reason, my brother Sean and I were alone when we spotted the larger the life-sized fake Santa Claus, and Sean dared me to touch its beard. I took on the challenge, reached up and ran my fingers through St Nick’s most famous feature. I was surprised that it wasn’t soft at all. Instead, it was stiff, wiry and apparently off-limits to children.

At least that’s what the store manager told me when he marched over and ordered me to take my hands off Santa’s beard. His tone of voice intimidated me, but his words were downright scary. “That beard is made out of poison ivy,”  he said. “It’s made out of poison ivy so people won’t touch it.”

I had no idea what poison ivy looked like, but I knew it made a person itch. And for months, I itched everywhere and was convinced that I had a case of poison ivy. By the time I realized that there was absolutely no way that poison ivy would ever be used as material for a fake Santa Claus beard, the incident was well in my past and I had realized that people sometimes manipulate the truth.

Sometimes, they do it to protect their children and sometimes they do it to protect family and holiday traditions like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And sometimes they do it to protect themselves.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who lie to protect themselves, but apparently I am.

I’ve always prided myself with being open about any topic with my children. But a few weeks ago, my daughter Kendall and I were having a meaningful conversation about tough issues when she asked me a question that I couldn’t honestly answer. Telling her the truth would open the door to so many more questions - how could I be such a hypocrite? How could I set different expectations for my kids than I did for myself?

And so, on the spur of the moment, I lied.

Now I wish I hadn’t, and I’ve battled with myself over the decision. During this same time, I’ve also managed to get a  real case of poison ivy because I refused to let the plant take over my rhododendron bush.

Since I will forever associate poison ivy with lies that adults tell kids, I can’t help but note the irony of the situation.

My daughter, who is oblivious of my lie or my subsequent internal turmoil, thinks I made way too big an issue over the poison ivy. According to her, I if had  just left it alone, I wouldn’t be so miserable.

She’s probably right.

But like I said, I can be a slow learner.