Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

A New Mom’s List of Thanks

Friday, November 21, 2014
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Next week I will celebrate my first Thanksgiving as a mom. I have many things to be thankful for that don’t involve motherhood, but I thought I would share some of the things for which I am thankful as a mom (list is not comprehensive – I could list pages and pages but I’ll stick to the basics).

This year, I am thankful for:

Epidurals. Ms. “I want to have a natural birth” got the epidural and I have never made a better decision. I think my husband would agree; it was a lifesaver.

Nurses who help their patients with things I cannot even imagine helping someone with. The nurses who took care of me in the hospital were compassionate, caring and generally amazing.

My doctors and AJ’s pediatrician. What can I say about the people who made sure my little one made it into the world safely, made sure I was healthy and now make sure AJ stays healthy? I respect and rely on our doctors more than I can say and I know they truly care about our well-being.

Sleep. Glorious, uninterrupted sleep. This is one of those “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” kind of things. Oh how I miss sleeping in on Saturdays. I’m thankful I once got to sleep so soundly.

Only waking up once a night to feed AJ. After waking up every two hours for weeks on end, once a night is nothing. I remember thinking the day would never come. It did, and I was so grateful.

Velcro swaddle blankets. This wonderful invention helped us reach those amazing once-a-night feedings.

Our family and our friends. I am beyond thankful that we have loving, supportive family members and friends that care about and love AJ and us. We were overwhelmed with the good wishes, help and love we received when AJ was born. Chris and I are truly lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

Baby Zantac. If you have had a baby with acid reflux, you know this stuff is like gold.

Coffee. Oh how I missed it while pregnant, and although I still closely monitor my caffeine intake, I’m back to enjoying my morning cup.

The “speak to a nurse” option at my pediatrician’s office – a great resource for when you want to know if your baby’s poop is a normal color.

Daycare. AJ seems to really enjoy going to daycare and they take such good care of her. They also love to feed my mom ego by saying things like, “She is just such a beautiful baby!”

My coworkers. Going back to work was made much easier by the warm welcomes I received.

My husband who gets up at night to change diapers, takes out the dog at 6 a.m. and who tells me I have a beautiful voice when I sing lullabies off-key (which is always).

My mom friends. I’m so glad I have good friends who I can spend hours talking to about stroller brands and baby fingernails and the best way to get a baby to take a nap without them wanting to poke their eyes out (or if they do, they hide it well).

Google. HOW did moms survive without Google??

Smart phones. Again, HOW?

Mommy blogs. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than to read the honest and wonderful stories moms around the world are sharing. It’s so helpful to know you are not alone.

And of course, I am most thankful for my healthy, happy, wonderful baby girl. She has changed my life in a million ways and I’m thankful for every one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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Years ago, in what seems another life, I used to work with adolescents. During that time, when I had no significant parenting experience, I considered myself a champion of youth. I thought young people should have seats on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and that adults  needed to really listen to what they had to say.

I like to believe that still hold those values. I also know that I’m not the champion I once was – and that’s not because the focus of my job is no longer youth.

It’s because I live with two teenagers.motherhood

Since my children are quick to point out how I, a professional woman with a Master’s Degree, am generally clueless about anything of importance, one might assume I am in awe of how much they know in comparison.

I’m not. At the same time, I know I don’t often give them the credit they deserve.

When my son mumbles at me under his breath, I often forget about  his ability to make a whole room laugh with a facial expression or wry comment.

When my daughter snaps at me for asking her a question, I tend to ignore the fact that she’s often lost in a book or absorbed in learning.

And when I get anxious about the mistakes I make as a mom, I definitely don’t give my kids enough credit for setting me straight.

Thankfully, they do it anyway.

Last Sunday night after a very busy weekend, I found myself already ramping up for an even busier work week. In other words, I was starting to stress myself out. And when I stress myself out, I tend to stress  out everyone around me out as well. Or, in the eyes of my  children, I can be incessant and annoying.

So it was for my daughter, for whom I made several suggestions about things she should be doing. Nothing I said was necessary or even important. In reality, I was putting some of my own issues onto her shoulders, and she knew it.

“Mom,” she said. “I’m the one living my life. Let me do that.”

She was right.

There are times when parents have to interfere in their children’s lives, but that wasn’t such an occasion.

She wasn’t making a decision that affected her health or her future success. She had a perspective that I didn’t, which is exactly the reason I used to be such an advocate for young people.

They might not always be right, but adults aren’t always right either. Adults might have more experience, but sometimes that experience keeps us bogged down in all the reasons something won’t work instead of getting excited about testing the possibilities.

Most importantly, the potential of our young people is only limited by the opportunities adults provide them to grow and learn.

And those opportunities often mean that we moms have to let go of our strong desire to steer the direction our children take in life. Instead, we have to trust that even though our kids may not always know where they want to go, the responsibility of finding their path lies on their, not our, shoulders.

My kids have taught me that being a good mom sometimes means I need to stop providing advice and instead need to listen to them. When I do that, I can hear them say  they need a mom who allows them to fall, make mistakes, struggle and discover that sometimes the best path in life is the one that isn’t mapped out years in advance but is one that is blazed by experiences.

My daughter may only be 13, but I have no doubt that’s exactly what she meant when she told me that she, not me, is the one living her life.

Hopefully, I can follow those words of wisdom.

The daycare dilemma

Friday, November 14, 2014
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We started daycare this week – that is, AJ started daycare.

I was a wreck on Sunday. The weepy kind of sad. Yes, I had been back to work for four days. Going back to work wasn’t as hard as I imagined. But there was just something about her starting daycare that really got to me.

Maybe it was the fact that for the first time in a long time I felt old. Whenever we hit a milestone in our lives, even a joyous one, it can cause the melancholy feeling of time passing too quickly. When I found out I was pregnant I felt young instead of old. Even when I had AJ and became a mom, I never felt like I was getting older. But taking her to daycare for some reason made me feel ancient.

Maybe it was that I was worried about entrusting my child to people who don’t love her. Sure, they will like her, but they don’t LOVE her like I do. They don’t physically hurt when she cries. They don’t know how to get her to sleep when she’s fighting it. They have other babies they need to pay attention to.

Or maybe it was that I was more worried that her caretakers WOULD love her. They will learn how to get her to sleep. They will shower her with affection. She will get to know them. They will tell me what she likes rather than the other way around.

Chris and I both went to drop her off on her first day. As I pulled out my list of instructions, one of the caretakers started asking me questions. Before I knew it, she had covered everything on my instruction list. These people know what they are doing. They are the experts (and by the way, they are great!). I am the one who is new to this, not them.

AJ looked around in awe as we unpacked her diapers, extra clothes, and other items. As I handed her over, the tears started flowing. I couldn’t hold them in. I kept apologizing, “I’m sorry, I’m being so silly,” but really I shouldn’t have apologized. There is no need to apologize for being sad to leave your child.

In the parking lot, I hugged my husband and more tears came. Although I am confident of our decision and know it is what is best for our family, it was still a hard day. This was a milestone in our lives, and the feeling of time passing too quickly overwhelmed me. Our baby is only three months old, but I felt like she was already growing up. Her newborn days, the days I swore I would not miss while I was going through them, have passed, and I do miss them. Every day I look forward to watching her grow and at the same time mourn another day gone of her being so small. Every day I wonder how I am going to “do it all” and yet I do “do it all.”

And now, I have something new to look forward to every day – picking her up after work and seeing her smile.

Being Present

Friday, November 7, 2014
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I went back to work this week.

My last day at home with AJ was Monday, and we had such a special day.

We did the same things as we did in previous weeks, but this day was different.

I made the conscious decision to be as present as I could be – to not worry about anything and simply enjoy spending time with my baby. For someone whose hobbies include making lists and organizing anything, this was a quite a challenge. I didn’t plan an agenda, I didn’t have a list of chores, I didn’t even worry about what was for dinner. And, maybe more importantly, I didn’t pick up my phone (except to snap a few photos) and I didn’t get on social media. It was wonderful.

I spent the day savoring little moments and observations – the curiosity in AJ’s eyes when looking at my hands, how her smile is already verging on flirtatious, her determination when trying to roll over. We played, cuddled, “talked,” and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Her little personality shines through more each day, and I watched her figure out the world. Unlike many days of my maternity leave, I didn’t worry about things like crying or naps or what time we needed to be home for her to eat.

I really think AJ could sense my mood and it wore off on her. She didn’t cry at all and was all smiles all day.

It was an ordinary day, but it was one of the best days of my life. This might sound like an exaggeration but I promise you it is not. I will cherish the memories of that day forever.

Not every weekend or day off will be like my last day at home. Bills won’t pay themselves and the dishes and laundry will pile up. Errands will need to be run and chores will need to be done. Responsibilities must be met.

But I learned a valuable lesson Monday – sometimes we need a “pause” day. A day where we pause our busy lives and make the effort to be completely present, physically and mentally. A day where we put all our worries aside, turn off our phones, and enjoy what we love most in life. These days will without a doubt end up as the best days.

Spending Time

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
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Like many Americans, I looked forward to an extra hour of sleep last Sunday morning.

That’s not to say I like the practice of changing clocks twice a year.steve jobs

The extra hour of sleep wasn’t actually an extra hour in my life. It was simply a debt that had to be repaid for the hour taken from me this past spring. And I resent that lost hour, especially since I’m never been able to find enough hours in the day,

I think I inherited that trait from my mother.

We both feel better about ourselves when we are being productive. Because of that, we often put too much on our plates.

We just load those plates with very different items.

When I was very young, my family lived in a tiny house on an Indian Reservation near other families with fathers who also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. My mom, who has always taken great pride in ensuring that no speck of dirt survives more than a week in her house, was burdened with two small children who thought life should be messy and did their best to live up to their beliefs. Mom would spend the day busy cleaning, cooking and doing chores. When my father would arrive home, she would ask him how other women got their chores completed early enough to play cards and socialize while she never seemed to get ahead.

Dad never had the nerve to say that my mom could play cards and socialize if she  really wanted to do so. She was choosing to use her time in a different way.

I can’t imagine spending so  much time doing housework.  Just as my mother didn’t have time to play cards with the neighbors, I don’t have time to clean my house. I tend to spend too many hours at the office and doing volunteer work and writing and walking my dog (which I try to pretend is a chore.) The reality is, like my mother, even though I complain about never having as much time to relax as other people, I’m actually quite happy being busy.

But I still need to ensure I’m not so busy that I’m wasting time.

Time, like any other precious resource, has to be budgeted.

When I was  in graduate school and working full time, I thought I didn’t have any time. I couldn’t let go of my need to ensure every paper I wrote was perfect and that I aced every test. I couldn’t understand how some of my classmates, who were also working full time but also had children, were only concerned about getting by. I never wanted to “just get by.” I wanted to be perfect.

My last year of graduate school, I got pregnant with my son, gave birth in April and graduated in May. When I graduated, I had as much pride in putting the letters MOM behind my name as I had in putting the letters MSW there.

Nine months of pregnancy during the most demanding time of my life taught me that no one can do everything perfectly. The more thinly we spread ourselves, the fewer things were are capable of doing well.

No one has unlimited time, and how we spend it speaks as much or more to our character as how we spend our paychecks.

I was thinking a great deal about how I spend my time this past weekend – not just because of the “extra” hour but because senior night was celebrated during the last home football game at my son’s high school. As parents proudly escorted the senior football players and band members onto the field while the announcer talked about each student, my eyes welled with tears.

Next year, I’ll be escorting my son onto the field, and I’m already wondering how the time went by so quickly. I’m wishing I had more and worrying whether I spent the time I had as his parent wisely.

But for the moment, all I can do is treasure every moment and remember that time, unlike money, can’t be saved. It can, however, be wasted or spent wisely.

I simply hope that years from now I’ll look back at this time and pride myself in making some very good investments.

The Truths We Never Talk About

Friday, October 31, 2014
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Becoming a mother is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I’ve mentioned some of the ways in which it is hard here and here. But recently, some of my mom friends and I were discussing how difficult becoming a new mom can be and why no one seems to talk about it. So I’m going to talk about it.

There is really nothing that can prepare a new mother for the shock of caring for a newborn. This can be a challenging time for women – besides having a fragile, small person completely dependent on us, we have to balance extreme lack of sleep, recovery from the birth, the pain and struggle of trying to breastfeed, and the Baby Blues. It’s no wonder the thought, “I can’t do this,” crosses our mind every now and again.

Here’s the truth – taking care of a newborn is not fun. There are fun moments, yes, but in those first few weeks there are, for many of us, many more un-fun moments. We look forward to the moment we get to bring home our baby for nine months, only to have our expectations shattered. In the first weeks the future looks bleak. “Will she ever stop crying? Will I ever sleep again? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” These are just some of the thousands of questions and thoughts that cross our minds. We are unsure of ourselves yet afraid to ask for help lest we should admit that we have no idea what we are doing and feel like we never will.

Why are new mothers constantly surprised by this truth? Why don’t we ever talk about this?

Mom guilt kicks in the second we start to think any thought of frustration towards our new baby. Every time I mentioned that I was struggling from lack of sleep or that AJ was crying a lot I felt extremely guilty immediately afterward. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t love my baby, and even worse, would she somehow be able to pick up on the fact that I was “talking bad” about her and hate me forever from birth? When I start to feel mom guilt now, I console myself with the fact that I know my own parents felt frustration when I was a newborn and do I blame them? Heck no! Did I turn out okay? Yes!

We also forget oh-so-quickly how hard it actually was to take care of our newborn. I’m already to the point where I can look back and think, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad. After all it was only a few weeks.” But when you are in the thick of it, it is that bad. Three weeks can feel like an eternity.

Another reason new moms are unprepared is that when mothers do share their struggles, we as pregnant women have on our pregnancy blinders and don’t believe them. I had people tell me I wouldn’t like my newborn or that it was okay if I cried. I thought, “Ha! Not me! I will LOVE being a mom.” And I do, now. Those wise women who went before me knew what they were talking about; I just didn’t want to listen. Can you blame me though? What pregnant woman wants to hear that the baby they’ve been dreaming about will terrorize their life when it arrives? As a pregnant woman, I wanted to think about all the good times ahead.

Here’s the second, and wonderful, truth – it gets so much better. Quickly. There is a light at the end of the newborn tunnel! For me, it took about six weeks for things to finally feel good, for me to finally feel like I was getting the hang of things. For some moms it takes only a few days, and for some moms it takes months. It’s all normal and it’s all okay. And once your baby is able to acknowledge you, able to smile and coo and laugh, you realize it was all worth it. Every tear, every sleepless night, every moment of hardship was worth it. There are still tough days, there will always be tough days, but before you know it the good days way outnumber the bad.

Something Really Scary

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Halloween is quickly approaching, but I don’t need a special occasion to be frightened.jack o lantern

I get a little bit scared every time I publicly share my thoughts, opinions and experiences in writing.

And yet, perhaps like people who watch scary movies and choose to visit haunted houses, there is also a part of me that must enjoy the fear because I keep putting myself out there.

Putting together a string of words can feel magical, but knowing that others might read those words can be frightening. With every sentence, I am giving a small piece of myself away.

When I write, I want my words to be informative, emotional, persuasive and possibly even entertaining. Those same words also reveal the truth about whom  I really am, and that is very, very unnerving.

Take, for example, the topic I actually considered writing about this week – my worst  trait as a mom.

I’m certainly not a helicopter parent nor do I think my children are superior beings about which I constantly brag. But I do have a have a tendency to get completely neurotic when I think either of my children will have to deal with the same issues I did as an adolescent.

My constant struggle as a teen to be true to myself without being a social misfit, which I often was, has taken a toll on my own children. I want them to have a strong sense of self and the confidence to question the status quo, which they both do. At the same time, I worry every time I see their peers going in one direction while they step in the other.

When I say worry, I’m not referring to a brief concern. I’m referring to my need to talk about the issue incessantly until I drive both of my children, and my husband, absolutely crazy. At that point, I just try harder to explain that I don’t want them to fight the same battles I fought.

Despite my efforts, no one takes my babbling seriously, which is what compels me to take to the written word. After all, there must be some other mom somewhere whose emotional turmoil of adolescence is impacting her children decades later. Or maybe not.

Which is why I decided I should write about something completely different – like Halloween. Only, when my fingers started across the keyboard, my brain went in a completely different direction and the words tumbled out anyway.

Scary, isn’t it?

Fitting in Exercise as a Mom

Friday, October 17, 2014
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I am by no means a health addict (there are some mouth-watering Red Velvet cupcakes in my kitchen as I type). But I do like to exercise. I try to get some sort of physical activity in four to five times a week. I’m not talking hard-core fitness work either – a short run or 30 minutes of weights is enough for me to break a sweat, feel energized, and not feel guilty about eating a cupcake every now and often.

One of the biggest aspects of my life that changed when I had AJ was suddenly my time was not my own. Although I expected it, it still takes some getting used to. It can be hard to find time to fit in exercising (or any “me” activities) but I really do feel better when I get a workout in.

So I thought I’d share what has worked for me so far and what I’m planning once I go back to work and AJ gets older. Please note I am by no means a fitness expert, just a mom who likes to exercise. I don’t strive for earth shattering results; I’m not trying to lose 10 pounds in two weeks or training for a marathon. I just try to get my heart rate up to help with general health and feeling good. With that said, here’s what works for me:

  • The best form of exercise I’ve gotten since AJ was born is runs or walks with my jogging stroller. She loves it; I love it. I feel good even running only a mile because I’m pushing something heavy. Having maternity leave in the fall has been great for our runs. In the spring and summer I plan to continue running with her after work and on weekends.
  • Now that it is starting to cool down and because of all the recent rain, I’ve started doing some exercise DVDs. I bought two DVDs from Amazon.com for $8 a pop. I chose ones that did not require extra equipment and included 20-minute workouts so I can realistically fit them in when I go back to work. AJ likes to watch me do the DVDs (I imagine it’s quite an amusing site) and I like being able to spend time with her and exercise at the same time. I’m thinking these will really come in handy during the cold winter months when I don’t leave the house unless I have to; plus I don’t have to worry about finding a gym with childcare.
  • When I need some extra motivation, I go to a group workout class. Like I said before, I am not a fitness expert; I can’t think up ways to tone my muscles on my own. I need someone to tell me what to do. I look for classes that are short and hard – short because I’m more likely to go and hard so I really get my money’s worth. I will most likely limit my class-going to the weekends once I return to work because after work I will want to spend as much time with my baby as possible, plus I don’t have to worry about my husband working late and not being able to watch her.
  • Pinterest might not come to mind for fitness, but there are countless (free) workout routines on the website. I use Pinterest for workouts when I am traveling or really in a hurry. A lot are a combination of pushups, squats, lunges and the like but again, I can’t come up with these routines on my own. This is also a good place to find ideas for things to do when there really isn’t time to workout, for example a five-minute squat sequence for the morning or a ten-minute cardio blast. These are hit or miss – some of the workouts I’ve tried don’t do much and with others I will work up a sweat in minutes.
  • The last thing that makes it work for me is I am not hard on myself. I’ve found that if I don’t put too much pressure on myself, I’m more likely to work harder. First of all, I just had a baby (how long can I use that excuse – one, two years?). If I only get to work out two days one week, I don’t lament over the past, I just try to do better the next week. If I only get 10 pushups in one day I tell myself, “That’s better than nothing!” and try to get a better workout in the next day.

Mine may not be the formula for getting in tip-top shape, but it is the way I squeeze in some exercise while taking care of my baby.

The Blame Game

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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I’ve been told by numerous people on numerous occasions that I apologize too much.

My first response to their words is usually “I’m sorry,” which is just proof of what I’ve always known: my mouth often engages before my brain does.

But, to be honest, I’ve never understood their concern.  Many times, I’m simply conveying sympathy – as in “I’m sorry you are having to deal john burroughs quotewith this situation.”

At other times, I’m admitting my imperfections and mistakes.

That’s how I was raised.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents never engaged in guilt parenting. They did, however, set expectations that my brother and I understood consequences and accepted responsibility for our words and actions.

I’ve held on to a memory of my mother complaining about an individual for whom she held very little respect.  “There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes,” Mom said. “Everyone makes mistakes.  But you are likely to create more problems when you don’t  take responsibility for your mistakes.”

Of everything my mom has said, those words have probably had the greatest impact.

I’ve lived by them, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I have a difficult time understanding people who never take responsibility for their mistakes.

Sometimes, though, I do feel as though I should apologize for those feelings., especially because I’m a social worker who shouldn’t judge others.

I work for an absolutely wonderful organization with a mission to reduce poverty and advocate for people who are struggling. The stories my co-workers and I hear on a daily basis are often heart-breaking. Life is unfair, and we serve people who generally draw the short straw.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard an elderly woman apologize for even walking through our doors or listened to individuals who have nowhere to go because they have aged out of the social service system after being abandoned by parents who were abusive or addicts or simply had no interest in their children.  We see people with no support system and few resources who are doing their best to live  one day to the next and to contribute what they can.

Just last week, I was handed an envelope with a dollar bill, a few nickels and a handful of pennies. It was given to us by a gentleman who had received hygiene and cleaning supplies from our  personal care closet. He couldn’t give much, but he gave something.

Unfortunately, we also see people who take no responsibility for their situation and instead want to blame others.

Sometimes they blame their employer for firing them, Sometimes they blame a diagnosis of anger management issues for losing their temper at work and therefore losing their job. And sometimes, they blame staff at my organization for disrespecting them when we  ask about changes they might make to improve their circumstances.

My co-workers and I get frustrated with such individuals – not because they are angry with us but because, for some reason, they think admitting to mistakes is a weakness rather than a strength.

We try to change their perspective, but we often fail.  Despite that, we won’t give up on anyone who walks through our doors. Our personal support systems never gave up on us, never allowed us to sell ourselves short and, most importantly, taught us the importance of both accepting responsibility and learning from our mistakes.

I want to provide those same gifts to others, especially my own children, who I  hope will someday appreciate them.

In the meantime, I will never apologize for my belief that we can only move forward when we accept all of the missteps we’ve made and decide to take steps in a different direction instead.

Anticipating the End of Maternity Leave

Friday, October 10, 2014
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It is less than four weeks until I go back to work.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading it. Let me explain…

I am very much looking forward to getting back to doing the work I love to do. I am looking forward to seeing and interacting with my coworkers and friends again. And frankly, I’m looking forward to having a reason to dress up and put on makeup regularly again.

But there are two main reasons for why I am anxious to go back to work.

The first is the thought of leaving AJ for almost ten hours a day with someone else makes my stomach turn. She has quickly become a part of me and I have not been away from her for more than four hours. Now that she is more active, smiles, and recognizes people, I feel like we are developing a solid relationship. She looks around the room for me when she hears my voice and smiles when she sees me. I know how to interact with her and I’m learning how to teach her things.

What will happen when she is with someone else for most of the day? Will she remember me? Will she still love me? Will she feel abandoned by me? Will they comfort her at daycare when she cries? These are the crazy mom thoughts running through my head. I know, I know, it will be much harder on ME than on her when I leave her at daycare, but these are the fears I have.

The second reason I’m anxious is that I just don’t know how I am going to do it all. I’m just now getting some cherished hours of sleep back and when I think of the time I am going to have to wake up to get to work on time…well I actually don’t even want to think about it. Every mom must have the thought, “How am I going to do it all?” at some point in time (daily?), whether she chooses to stay at home, work part time, work full time or something else. I imagine it will be like other transitions in life – when I started working I laughed at myself for thinking I was busy in college, when I had AJ I laughed at myself for thinking I was busy pre-baby, and I’m sure I will laugh at myself for thinking I was busy in these first weeks of AJ’s life.

Millions of moms have made the transition back to work before me and I know both AJ and I will be okay. But, just like everything else with being a new parent, I can’t help but be in awe of the moms who have done it before and wonder if I’ll get through it myself.

I know I am very fortunate to be able to take off three months to spend with my daughter. I looked forward to my maternity leave for months and I can’t believe it will come to an end in just a few short weeks. Time has flown by and it has been a time I will cherish forever – the ups, the downs, the challenges, and the moments of pure joy all come together to make up some of the best weeks of my life.