Hindsight is 2015

Whenever I think about resolutions, there are the standard goals of exercising more and eating better, reading more books and eating out less, waking up earlier and writing more, but my greatest desires for improvement always lie in relationships.

Back in August, Reilly and I gave talks at church about the complementarity of gender roles. We had moved to a new area of town at the beginning of June, and this was a way for us to bear our testimonies and for our fellow ward members to get to know us better.

(This reminds me that we forgot to tell people we’d moved, so we’ve received a lot of Christmas cards this week with yellow stickers reminding us to tell people our new address. Sorry, guys. If you still need our address, let me know.)

When the day came to give our talks, we’d already been in the ward two months, and that gave me a chance to observe the members and relate my thoughts on gender roles to our ward, which consists of a large number of nontraditional family situations. We were specifically instructed only to use the scriptures and General Conference talks in our remarks. This makes sense because I’ve heard people say some truly outrageous things from the pulpit. I referred to this talk by Sister Chieko N. Okazaki and emphasized this quote:

Here are two quilts. Both are handmade, beautiful, and delightful to snuggle down in or wrap around a grandchild. Now look at this quilt. It’s a Hawaiian quilt with a strong, predictable pattern. We can look at half of the quilt and predict what the other half looks like. Sometimes our lives seem patterned, predictable in happy ways, in order.

Now look at this second quilt. This style is called a crazy quilt. Some pieces are the same color, but no two pieces are the same size. They’re odd shapes. They come together at odd angles. This is an unpredictable quilt. Sometimes our lives are unpredictable, unpatterned, not neat or well-ordered.

Well, there’s not one right way to be a quilt as long as the pieces are stitched together firmly. Both of these quilts will keep us warm and cozy. Both are beautiful and made with love. There’s not just one right way to be a Mormon woman, either, as long as we are firmly grounded in faith in the Savior, make and keep covenants, live the commandments, and work together in charity.

The ideas in this analogy include and not exclude, and I want to apply them not only to my family but to every interaction I will face.

I described ways in which Reilly and I are compatible. We love books, music, good television and movies. We’re both short. But is compatibility the same as complementarity? Being a complement takes effort, it requires work to observe and a desire to understand; deep and meaningful relationships go beyond what we have in common. Commonalities are a good place to start, though.

At the beginning of November, we attended a friend’s wedding reception. We didn’t stay long because Z was struggling with the big unfamiliar crowd. It was wonderful seeing the beautiful couple so happy, so fresh. I’d seen pictures that hinted at a fun courtship; I’d seen participation in a well-meaning but poorly executed web reality show. The culmination of their experiences together ended perfectly in a new beginning.

Reilly and I reminisce about our courtship and wedding all the time. This discussion has expanded to reflections on our continued dating and pregnancy and major milestones with Z. The past makes me hopeful for the future and grateful for the now. This process of thinking and remembering makes time seem not as relentless and life much more enjoyable.

The end of November presented me with attending a friend’s father’s funeral. He taught at the same middle school Reilly attended, though Reilly was not in any of his classes. I made it to the last hour of the funeral, where family members told stories that demonstrated the remarkable life of a good man. The chapel was packed, and it was obvious that he was loved and that he left the world a better place, at least for those who knew him.

As tears streamed down my face as I listened to these stories, I realized again just how beautiful and uplifting funerals can be. Mount Timpanogos backdropped the quiet and sprawling cemetery where I had a chance to see my friend and give her a big hug. She lives in New York, and it had been a few years since I’d seen her. While I’m grateful to connect to friends through social media, I’m especially grateful a huge part of the legacy a man left for this earth manifests itself in his phenomenal children.

There is still so much to learn in this life, and I only took a few experiences out of the past year to discuss. I look at my husband and daughter and wonder how my attitude and philosophy and convictions will influence them. I wonder about my friends and other family. I wonder how I will become better in areas where I am inadequate. I want to be more thoughtful, a better listener, to solve more problems. My imprint on this world needs to mean something.

The last song in Patty Griffin’s most recent album, Servant of Love, is called “Shine a Different Way.” Some of my favorite lines read:

In more ways than one
Shine a different way tomorrow

Tomorrow is a new year–2016: Olympics, election, other significant stuff. But more importantly, it’s tomorrow, a new beginning, a fresh start, a way to contemplate and become a better person. There’s no one right way.

Let’s be better together, bask in inevitable cognitive dissonance, lift each other up. Let’s solve and re-solve and resolve with civility and love and kindness and find all the different ways we can shine.

Happy New Year.

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j,,,,mzz . Social Navigation

[The first part of the title is Z’s. I stepped away from the computer for two seconds, and she decided she wants to blog.]

The Saturday before Halloween our ward had a chili cook-off and Halloween carnival. Earlier in the day I had put Z’s costume on her to see if it fit and so she could get used to it. I’d taken it off so that she wouldn’t get too hot. When it was time to get ready for the party, I struggled with Z to put the costume on, but she finally relented.

She was cranky. She didn’t have much of a nap that day, and when I tried to paint her with a lion face–super simple, a short black upside-down triangle covering the bottom of her nose, a white snout, and black whiskers–she wouldn’t stay still. She looked like she’d eaten powdered donuts mixed with soot.

It’s two blocks to our church building, but we decided to go on a little drive to to fit in a little nap for Z. We drove around for about 10 minutes before pulling up to the church. Z was sleeping. We found a place to sit. Reilly held our dozing child while I stood in line to get us food.

rawr.

We made it through most of our meal before Z woke up. The moment she opened her eyes, she began to cry. She saw all the people and heard all the noise. I would have been overwhelmed as well.

We tried feeding Z, but she was too upset. Reilly took her into the foyer for a little while, and when they came back, Z was no longer wearing her costume. But she was still crying.

Time to go. The instant we stepped outside into the cool air and fuzzy ambiance of dusk, our little toddler calmed down. We went home and she played until bedtime.

The following Friday I decided to get our money’s worth out of Z’s costume, so I put it on her, and we went to the library. She likes climbing the stairs to the juvenile section.

On the prowl...
On the prowl…

Z especially loves to play in the courtyard between wings. It was chilly outside, but the costume seemed to keep her warm enough.

Bounding down the hill...
Bounding down the hill…

We then went to Provo Towne Centre Mall, where she could play in the kids’ area and walk around. She fell asleep in the car on the way, but I brought her to the kids’ area and lay her down to let her sleep. When she woke up, she didn’t move but watched the other kids playing for a while.

Just watching...
Just watching…

After walking and playing, we went back home to walk and play some more.

Lion slide
Lion slide

We checked the mail, and Z likes to see if we received any packages.

Where's our mail?
Where’s our mail?

Then came Halloween day. We were up until 1am the night before watching scary movies with Reilly’s brothers (Z was in bed), so Reilly and I were quite tired. But we wanted to do something for Halloween. We decided to accept an invitation to a party. We all got in our costumes.

Off to see the Wizard...
Off to see the Wizard…

We thought Z might have another tantrum, but she was actually very good. We were early to the party, so we left to get eat some pie and came back. But the person who invited us wasn’t there yet, and it was getting late (8:30!), so we just came back home and put Z to bed. I invited friends over, and we watched another scary movie and stayed up past midnight.

The following Tuesday we went to a wedding reception in Riverton. We stood in the reception line no longer than two minutes. When we got to talk to the beautiful bride and groom, Z began to cry. We wrapped up our conversation and found a seat and I got up to get some refreshments–s’mores. Perfect for a crisp evening. I thought Z might like the chocolate and graham crackers. Z ate quietly for a few minutes, but maybe it was the crowd of strangers and unfamiliar chatter and not being able to run around like she usually does before she started crying.

Again, once we stepped outside, she stopped crying.

She did really well her first time in nursery, but she’s had a rougher time the past few Sundays.

Then last night Reilly and I brought Z to a ward missionary meeting in someone’s home. She did fine playing on their carpeted stairs. She jabbered and checked in on us every few minutes. Someone else’s toddler was there. Once when he stood in Z’s way she looked at him and did something that looked like frustrated jazz hands before walking around him.

From these experiences I’ve observed:

  • Z likes small groups, especially with family. (Just like Reilly and I.)
  • Z likes being able to run around and explore.
  • Z doesn’t like a lot of noise or strangers.
  • Z isn’t sure what to think about other toddlers.

From these observations, maybe:

  • Z could adjust to being around people her age more often. (Just like Reilly and I.)
  • Reilly and I could have more creative solutions whenever Z doesn’t feel like being very social with us.

Times like these I wish I knew what I was doing, but we’re okay. We’re learning. And she’s only 19 months old, so there’s that.

Now that Summer Is Over

Here are some photos of Zinger’s activities after her birthday and throughout the summer.

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Watching shadows at Rock Canyon Park
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Beginnings of climbing adventures
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Leisurely baths (pronounced “bahths”)
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Disagreeing with Mama and Dadda
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Getting sick occasionally
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Dancing at the Provo Pioneer Park splash pad
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Practicing looking cute for money for when Dadda plays guitar on the street
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Reuniting with some of Mama’s very smart high school friends
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Going to a Jazz summer league game and Z trying to ignore the man with the gold-colored drink while she drinks water
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Growing out curly hair
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Being fierce at the Scera Pools splash pad
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More recreation at Bartholomew Pond in Springville
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Humoring the carousel for Mama and Dadda at the nickelcade
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Practicing brushing teeth at the front entryway
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Supporting Dadda at his graduation
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Promoting change at the mall
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Fitting in necessary naps
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Classifying rocks in the courtyard at the Orem Library
Enjoying the Payson Onion Days Parade on Labor Day
Enjoying the Payson Onion Days Parade on Labor Day

We hope you enjoyed your summer. Happy anticipation of autumn!

Nine Months

01

Dear Zinger,

It’s a pretty chilly morning, and I’m thinking about how you’ve been in the world for as long as I carried you in my tummy.

That totally blows my mind.

05

06

Christmas was especially generous to you. Both sets of grandparents and Santa showered you with gifts and love and attention. You got to travel to Florida and you behaved so well on the plane there and back. (Sleeping and peekaboo were your preferred activities.) You met a few of my friends and met your Uncle Frank for the first time. He adores you, and now that he’s held you and played with you he misses you so much more.

[Click here to see more Christmas photos.]

Look how smiley you are!

You have begun walking. And it’s not like we’ve pushed you. This mode of mobility has always interested you, even in your wee months as a baby. You’d always straighten your legs, seeming to prefer standing to sitting. You’ve been patient, waiting until you were strong enough to balance yourself and try your first steps. What a champ. You’re still a bit wobbly, so for now crawling is still faster for you. But I can tell how much you like the view from two and a half feet up.

On Tuesday you had your nine-month checkup. You’re a healthy 19 pounds. And you measured 29 inches long, which is in the 93rd percentile of girls your age. Did you know that I am 58 inches tall? That makes you exactly half my height, which is impossible.

You need to slow down.

04

07

08

I really enjoy being your mother, spending time with you, watching you grow and learn and discover the world around you. Traditionally moms are the nurturers in the family, while dads are the providers. And Dadda works hard to give us everything we need. He’s also torturing himself with grad school so that he can be a better provider. He only has thesis hours left and at least 100 pages to write. We will all cheer when he’s done!

But there are lots of families where both parents work, or where the dad stays home, or where there’s only one parent who doesn’t have a choice but to be both nurturer and provider. Many of these parents struggle with these roles; some don’t.

I do.

10

For the past six months I have been working two days a week so that I could spend the rest of the week with you. It seemed a good enough compromise. And in the past month, I’ve been planning to take education and career to the next level. I’m in my last year of grad school and have scheduled time to volunteer at a hospital library and do a practicum at a university health sciences library this semester. Instead of adding to the days I’ve been working, I replaced them with volunteering and the practicum, so that I still get to spend five full days with you.

This doesn’t mean a lot to you right now, I know.

But those mornings when I say goodbye, it breaks my heart. I go through the day and focus on work and even enjoy what I do. And then during the commute home, I have nothing but squealy anticipation to see you. I open the door and see your face, and you smile and reach for me. I pick you up and give you a big hug while you give me a big slobbery kiss. Hands down, that is the best part of my day.

You do the same thing for Dadda when he comes home. His eyes light up and you give him your biggest smile, and my heart melts into a myocardial puddle.

What I am trying to say is that within six months to a year (maybe 15 months), I hope to have a full-time job so that I can contribute to providing for our family. That means that I’ll be away from you for at least eight hours a day, five days a week. I wonder what other nurturers do when they also become providers. How do they deal with the anxiety? What kinds of compromises do they make? In what ways do they make the most of their time at home? Some different perspectives might be helpful.

With your growing so fast because you’re a baby, and babies grow so fast, when I do go back to work, I have fears of missing milestones. I fear that being gone for so long you will forget who I am, that you won’t love me anymore, or as much. I fear that our little family won’t be as close or that I will miss opportunities to teach you important things. It’s not that I worry that you won’t be well taken care of, because that was never a concern. You’ll always have family and friends who feed you and adore you and play with you and keep you safe. It’s more selfish for me: I’ll miss you growing up. I blink, and you’re walking. I spend eight hours, or 40 hours away, and you’re ready for college. But you still can’t date until you’re 27. Hopefully you’ll be sleeping through the night by then. You’re almost there now.

03

02

Yet, I don’t dare underestimate you, little one. You have this innate sense of who your parents are, and you know things about your family without our telling you, but I’m going to say this one thing anyway, because I want you to know that I know it, too.

I will always come home to you.

My tummy misses you, but these past nine months have brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined. Keep blowing our minds, baby girl.

09

Love, Mom

Eight Months

Serious

Dear Zinger,

It was about a month ago. I didn’t see the actual collision.

The four-door sedan, driver’s side crumpled, in a slow spin.

The 4X4 truck, front end smashed, bleeding oil from the grill.

The truck seemed to have spun in the same direction as the car.

I saw an airbag deploy in the face of the truck driver. His head whipped back and then his whole body slumped down.

The car rolled past where I could see.

It must have all happened in two seconds. As the scene replays in my mind, there is no sound. I want to insert sound from accidents I’ve seen in movies or television shows. Was the radio too loud? Were my windows rolled up? The lack of sound somehow makes the whole thing worse.

The light turned green, but no one wanted to go. No one could, because time had frozen.

People were running toward the scene. I was too far back in the turn lane to have helped. I wanted to help. I can’t help feeling I should have helped.

Nervous

On the TRAX blue line, at the Courthouse Station. A couple board and then sit across from me. The woman has straight hair and a small messenger bag. The man has gritty hair and hands with dirty nails and freckles. The couple might have been in their 20s.

The woman hands the man a $20 bill. I watch without watching.

They watch who boards at the Temple Square Station. The man stands and pretends to stretch. The woman smiles.

Two men sit on the other side of the train from where we sit. One of those two men walks to sit in the seats behind the man and woman. This man has bloodshot, shifty eyes.

The man with dirty nails walks to sit across from the man with the shifty eyes.

The man with the dirty nails comes back to sit by the woman with straight hair. The man hands her something small. It’s wrapped in paper or cloth and the ends are twisted so that the package looks like a teardrop.

The man has one of his own. He puts it in his mouth and worries one end with his teeth while holding the other end between two fingers, like he’s trying to open it.

The couple gets off TRAX at the Planetarium Station, and I can breathe again.

Great Grandpa

A family gets off the Frontrunner at the same station as I do. One of the parents tells the children to slow down as they run across the tracks, and the image of Dadda and me teaching you safety rules flashes in my mind. I see you holding my hand. You want to run across the street, and I tell you to keep holding on to my hand.

Explorer

I worry, little girl.

You explore the world. You crawl, you scale the walls, the couches. You get excited about all the new things to touch and see and taste.

There is so much that is beautiful and breathtaking. But there are also darkness and tears to choke on.

Thanksgiving was this past month, and of course I’m thankful for our blessings. Lately, when I reflect on something I’m thankful for, I think about how other people are also grateful. For example, I’m thankful for food. And I imagine families in developing countries who appear to have so little. I imagine these families also being grateful for their food. Shelter. Rain. Being alive. Being around people who love them. Having something to believe in.

I want to teach you to be grateful in this way. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for what you have. I just hope you don’t give thanks that you have more than anyone else, or that you’re better than other people. That’s not true gratitude.

Am I thankful that I wasn’t hurt in that accident? Definitely. Am I thankful not to have a drug addiction? For sure. But beyond being grateful, I hope that you can reach beyond yourself. Are the families of these people okay? Will your gratitude enable you to help other people and be a good person?

Park

And so Christmas approaches. It will be your first, and your Dadda and I want it to be fun and special for you. But we also want you to feel Jesus’ love. And not be scared of Santa. We hope you like the gifts, but we also pray that you feel the spirit of this season.

Eight months, Zinger. Just today before church Dadda said he saw you try to take some steps on your own. I’ve seen your attempts. You practice so much. You work hard. Baby steps.

We’re all taking baby steps, but you’re much better at it.

Read

Happy!

Sleepy book

We’ll always do our best to catch up to you. Don’t you worry.

Merry Christmas.

Love, Mom

The Childhood Home of a Southern Gothicist

Have you read any Flannery O’Connor? You need to. She writes some seriously fantastic stuff. Reilly and I went to her childhood home in Savannah, Georgia.

Does she know where you live?

Touring the author’s home was the last thing we did in Savannah, and I have to say it might have been better than touring Hemingway’s home in Key West. Some reasons are more substantial than others.

The tour was small. The touring hours neared an end when we decided to take the tour. An older couple were the only ones there with the docent. They seemed nice enough, but neither of them had ever read any Flannery O’Connor, but the woman said that a friend of theirs likes O’Connor’s writing, so I guess that piqued some curiosity. As the docent told us various stories in different rooms of the house, the woman in particular made comments about how creative O’Connor was. She commented constantly. Like, constantly. And the broadness of her comments confirmed that she hadn’t read any of the author’s work. She also showed that she wasn’t listening by asking questions about topics the docent already covered. It was annoying, but I also felt bad for being snobbish, because we and the docent discussed how O’Connor’s childhood stories had affected her writing that the other couple had read zero of. I guess I’m glad they were there so they could learn how cool this author was. Except that when we described Flannery O’Connor’s writing to them, the woman expressed that that type of writing didn’t interest her. So maybe I felt that the tour was an overall waste for her. And that makes me a little sad. This sadness is different than the sadness I felt learning that many of Hemingway’s relatives suffered from depression and committed suicide. In Savannah, the proximity of dumb tourists gave me quite a thrill, albeit a sad one.

"Not a very good book."
“Not a very good book.”

The docent was very knowledgeable. Reilly and I stayed after the other couple left and after tour hours ended to talk some more with the docent, Toby. He answered questions about the estate, about where O’Connors moved after leaving Savannah; we discussed Flannery’s personality and how her parents managed such a precocious child. We even talked about Toby’s own writing goals and his writing process. This tour felt very personal. The conversation was very stimulating and much needed after eating ourselves into a complete stupor at Paula Deen’s restaurant.

It wasn’t as hot. The entire time we spent in the South the weather was rather pleasant. In Key West the year before, Hemingway’s house was shaded, but the doors were kept open. It felt more humid and much warmer even though Savannah is right on the coast. Also, it seemed a legion of polydactyl cats roamed the property. Because Savannah seems so magical and haunted, the town protected and preserved Flannery O’Connor’s house. I felt more comfortable there.

The power went out. With Grimm’s Fairy Tales on the toilet, of course. It was only a short power outage, but it was a cool effect that added to the creepiness of Flannery’s stories.

Bathroom reading, obviously.

Jerry Bruckheimer. Flannery O’Connor’s estate does not permit any film or theater adaptations of her work, but Jerry Bruckheimer’s name has quite a presence in this house. He happens to like Flannery’s writing, and he made major contributions to have the house restored and turned into a museum. Which is pretty cool. I just get a little scared when I think of what kind of movie Bruckheimer would make if the estate decided to expand Flannery’s work to other media. The work by itself powerfully engages the imagination and provides wonderful dialogue. Explosions or other ridiculous effects and bad acting would definitely detract from that. The estate has acted wisely, but maybe a play would work well sometime in the future.

He's so cute!

I really enjoy touring authors’ homes with someone who loves to read. We have fun discussions, and we make each other smarter. It doesn’t seem possible, I know. Just take my word for it.

The Effects of Butterbeer

Last month Reilly and I visited family and friends in Florida. Part of that trip included three days at Universal Studios in Orlando. Everyone who has visited Universal Studios since June 2010 has explored the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

If you’ve never been, it’s as amazing as everyone says it is. Even those who haven’t been enchanted by this ubiquitous enterprise will have a wonderful time at the park. The Hogwarts ride is inside a giant Hogwarts-looking castle. Portraits of various HP personalities adorn the heavy stone walls, and a lot of the people in the paintings move and talk to you, just like in the books/movies. Harry, Hermione, and Ron holograms come out to tell us what to expect during the ride. The effects impress, the ride thrills, and I talked to (at?) Harry during the whole ride experience. Both times.

We also rode the Dragon Challenge roller coaster twice. Two dragons go out at the same time on different tracks, and they chase each other, twist around, and pass each other at high speeds. It’s one of my favorite rides.

Harry Potter World teemed with lots of British tourists. Some may ask why British people would come to a place that simulates where they come from, but having so many of them around actually added to the authenticity of that part of the park, especially the Londony town. You can wander the town and browse various toy and souvenir shops. Ollivander’s wand shop is very popular because many children buy into the idea of a wand choosing its wizard. (We didn’t go inside the shop; the line stretched endlessly, and I wasn’t sure about the open carry laws for magic wands in Utah.)

After our first time riding the Hogwarts ride, we decided to split a butterbeer. You can find butterbeer stands scattered throughout the town, and you can choose to drink it hot or cold in a throwaway plastic cup ($3.75) or a souvenir mug ($7.50-ish). I remember from the books how delicious butterbeer seemed. It sounded so creamy and sweet, and it was one of the most popular beverages the Hogwarts students drank whenever they visited London. I got the impression that because butter was so delicious, it was also very addicting, and kids would drink it until they nearly exploded. This was my impression. Butterbeer was magical because its bubbles tickled the taste buds, and the sugar went straight to the brain.

However, I did not know about the intoxicating effects of butterbeer. Your brain does not recognize the tipsiness it causes, but apparently you can capture proof of being utterly lit on camera. Neither Reilly nor I felt drunk while we drank the butterbeer; we walked in straight lines, we didn’t pocket-dial anyone; we felt no nausea, we woke up without hangovers the next day. As much as we wish we could deny being under the influence, we know that the camera doesn’t lie. The camera has no mercy. While Reilly and I are generally a photogenic couple, the camera caught us quite out of sorts while we drank butterbeer:

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2Doesn’t it look like we were having a great time? Notice the level of the butterbeer in the cup, and you can figure out what lightweights we are. (Remember that we split that cup between us!) I mean, we did arrive at the park around 9:15 that morning, and we had been standing in line in ponchos so we wouldn’t get soaked from the rain for nearly an hour. So while I didn’t know we’d get sloshed at the time, I’m glad we treated ourselves so early in the morning.

I just don’t know why it didn’t affect any of the kids around us that way.