Saturday, March 19, 2011

we're moving

Is it weird that I get a giggle out of our friends and family reading the title of this blog and going, "What the crap? Didn't they just move?!" Yes, we did. This time, we're just moving the 'ole family blog. There's a lot less boxing up of stuff this way.

Here's the deal. I began this blog in my pregnancy with Jude for basically two people - my Mom and Shawn's Mom. Our siblings, Aunts, Uncles, and a few friends started reading. I loved being able to show home videos, pictures, and stories of my pregnancy. I was able to document Jude's infant hood and this blog turned into a memory book of sorts. Somehow people from Pinedale found this blog, which I also loved because most people who read it loved the heck out of Jude and enjoy reading about his goings ons. Then strangers started reading (through a certain person who shall remain nameless....but not linkless). Truthfully, I again didn't mind at all. In fact, those people I don't personally know often leave really encouraging and helpful comments, and I'm all about getting to know and sharing information with as many people as possible.

But what began as a blog for our Moms with loads of personal information on it has spread. I'm not saying that tons of people read this blog (because they don't), just more people than I expected. Personally, I blame Jude's cheeks and know that's the real reason you come back. I know, I know - they're delicious.

And because I watch way more Law and Order: SVU than any normal person should, it makes me a bit uncomfortable that our names and location are spread all over this blog. Specifically in that I have no way to change the URL of his blog to something different than "maurerfamilyblog." Not that any of you would ever even have a hurtful thought towards my family, I just feel like if the readership (very fancy, huh?) of this blog continues to grow, I should probably take some steps to protect my kids. I don't know that I'm comfortable with their first and last names, photos, city, church, and school information being readily available for everyone to see.

So the Maurer Family Blog is moving! I will still continue to share photos, videos, and potentially embarrassing stories with you, and I don't plan on changing the voice of my writing anytime soon. I just won't be publicizing our family's last name and exact location. I plan on referring to Jude as, "Bug," and Cohen as, "Bear," and if he'll let me I'll refer to Shawn as, "Preacher Man." Who am I kidding? There's no way he'll let me.

And yet...I will.

I mean really, how cool is that?! My kids get code names because they're soooooooo popular (I know you can't see me as I'm typing, but I hope you know I'm rolling my eyes). Personally, I'd prefer to refer to them as Jude and Cohen (and may do so in the future), but I'd rather take giant steps in protecting them and realize I can loosen up a bit later, as opposed to not doing enough now and having to edit every blog post written to change or delete information.

Thank you for indulging what I know is probably paranoia, but what also makes me feel like I'm doing what I can to protect my sweet kids. Not everyone in the world is as sweet and kindhearted as I know you all are. I hope you continue to join our journey through parenthood, ministry, marriage, and everything in between.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

inappropriate

The other day Jude ran up to me in the kitchen and started saying with much passion, "rape! rape! rape!" I tried to keep calm as I asked Jude how he knew that word and what he thought it meant. Somewhere in the midst of my mind running through the worst case scenario, I realized he was pointing to the refrigerator. And that by "rape," he meant "grape." Of course.

Jude has a fascination with crackers, and was on a vehement graham cracker kick for several months. The problem was that he couldn't quite pronounce the word, "cracker." There were many days in Target that a toddler was heard several aisles away yelling, "Moe crack! Moe crack!" I blame the parents.

Our dare devil of a son has a propensity to climb on top of or into things without giving thought to how he'll get down or out of said things. His response when he realizes that he's unable to get himself to safe ground is to yell at Shawn or I, "I stuck!" Except he leaves out the "t."

When I've had a particularly rough day dealing with a toddler hyped up on grapes and crack, I'm tempted to say, "Yes...yes, dear son. Sometimes you do."

And then I see this face, and I remember how privileged I am that God called him to love, teach, and steward this little life -


- no matter how embarrassed I get when he accidentally yells inappropriate things in large crowds of people.

Monday, March 14, 2011

snow!

It didn't actually snow in Texas this week, although word on the street is some of our northern family did in fact wake up to several inches of white fluff. Us? It's been in the 70's this week and may get into the 80's by this weekend. Yesterday was one of the most beautiful days I've seen, and we did our best to spend quite a bit of time outside. Yep, Texas livin' is tough.

However, I did find these photos from a month or so ago of the snow we did get in Dallas. We snobby northerners know that if you can see the grass after it snows, it qualifies as a mere dusting. Texas did not get that memo. Oprah was preempted so that this "snow storm" could be discussed for hours on end.



I'm not complaining, though. It was a beautiful dusting storm to watch, and it meant Shawn got to hang around the house a little longer that morning. As I look outside this morning, the thought of snow is the furthest thing from my mind. The flowers are a-bloomin' and the birds are a-chirpin'. Welcome to Texas, dear Spring. It sure is nice to ya!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

peace cometh after a run

I know that Biblically, peace comes in the morning (with God's always unfailing new mercies), but a lot of the time for me - peace comes after a good run. Our doctor told us to put Cohen on formula Thursday morning, and I set out for a run of 4.5 miles on Friday morning. I do a lot of thinking when I run and for whatever reason, seem to have more clarity than any other time I have.

In the first mile of my run, I found myself trying to figure out a way to keep nursing Cohen. After pumping while Cohen gets his bottles, I know that he just wasn't getting enough milk. I want to wait to talk to the doctor this week to make a final conclusion, but I think the problem is a milk supply issue not a calorie issue. I tried to think of everything I could do to increase my milk supply, but then realized that I was already doing all of them. I drink a ridiculous amount of water, eat oatmeal almost every morning, drink milk boosting tea, upped my calories with healthy fats, and have been taking Fenugreek four times a day since I went through that stretch of sickness a couple of months ago.

I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that the supply I have right now is my boosted supply. If I weren't doing all those things, I would have even less milk.

Somewhere around the second mile of my run, I began to get angry at myself. I wondered if it's my fault for trying to lose weight and exercise. I wondered if the stress of moving took a hit out of my supply from which I couldn't recover, or if being sick for so long caused my supply to just slowly diminish. I struggled with thoughts of feeling like I'm giving up and that if breast feeding were really important to me that I would hook myself up to my pump every hour and a half and pump until my supply was adequate again. Or maybe there's just something wrong with me that I'm just not capable of breast feeding past six months.

At about mile three, I found myself letting go of and mourning my breast feeding experience. I came to the realization that the only supply boosting efforts I hadn't tried were to get a prescription to boost my supply (which I did do when we went through this same thing with Jude. Because of that, I know that the prescription actually doesn't help nearly as much as Fenugreek - hence why I was already taking quite a bit of Fenugreek), or to pump every hour or two (which is just not realistic with a toddler, a small business, and a house to take care of). And to be honest, I don't know that I can ever go back to not being able to measure how much milk Cohen is getting. I have no doubt that it would stress me out and worry me to no end to not be able to control the ounces he's receiving. After realizing that breast feeding is over for us, I allowed myself to fondly remember nursing Cohen. I remembered nursing him moments after he'd been born and marveling at how beautiful he was. I remembered nursing him with Jude cuddling up next to me on the couch and feeling like my heart would burst with happiness. I remembered our middle of the night nursings where it seemed like he and I were the only ones who existed in the world as I sang and prayed over him. I remembered our last nursing session right before we left for the doctor on Thursday, and all the fears I was feeling. I let myself feel sadness that things didn't go as I had planned and that I needed to say good-bye to breast feeding.

It took me four miles of running to remember that I had been pumping every day since Cohen was six weeks old (I said running helped me think clearly...not quickly). It suddenly dawned on me that if the issue was lack of supply and not quality of supply that I had an entire chest freezer of milk for Cohen! I don't have an accurate measure of how much I have, but I think it's enough to give him breast milk for a month or two! I realized that Cohen could get breast milk and I could eat dairy! My running pace picked up slightly as I realized how different my life would be without breast feeding.

I got pregnant with Jude in February of 2008. I nursed him until he was 9 months old. I got pregnant with Cohen in November of 2009- when Jude was 1 year old. In case math isn't your strong suite, let me spell it out for ya. I have been pregnant or nursing for four years straight (minus the three months between weaning Jude and getting pregnant). Don't get me wrong, I've loved it. But my body has been on loan for as long it takes to get a college degree. I realized that if I wasn't thirsty, I didn't have to drink water! I could eat dairy - all kinds! I could have two cups of (fully caffeinated!) coffee in the morning and then get a latte in the afternoon if I wanted! I could excercise and cut calories! Alcohol isn't my thing, but I could drink alcohol! I could just toss a bottle in the diaper bag and not give a thought to where would be a good place to breast feed! After I was able to let go of the pressure and guilt, I found myself rejoicing in what it would look like to have ownership of my body again.

If a four mile run can help me sort through all of those ridiculously mixed emotions, I have a feeling that running a marathon could help me solve world hunger and cause world peace.

I spent the last half mile of my run thinking less about breast feeding and more along the lines of, "Just make it to that tree. Just run to that house up ahead. Just keep breathing. Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running."

I know that I have done my best to give Cohen was I believe is best for him. I can already see my supply diminishing even further, but I will continue to pump as I can and add to my freezer stash until I have no milk left. I do believe though, that letting go of breast feeding - while heartbreaking - is the best thing for our family. And with that, my mind is at peace and my heart is at rest.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

a letter to cohen

Dear Cohen,

I'm refusing to believe that you are 7 months old today because that's just crazy. It seems like you are already heading entirely too quickly towards toddlerhood, and even though I love watching you grow and learning more about your personality, I'm spending my time reveling in your cuddles, first laughs, and sweet baby feet.

You've been very busy this month, sweet love! You began this month barely rolling over, but now if I lay you down and turn around, you've usually rolled over in the seconds in between. Quite the aficionado, I'd say. With that, you're much happier during tummy time now and are working on getting to toys that you see. You're not getting your knees up under you quite yet, but you're doing a heck of a lot of wiggling and scooching that is just downright adorable to watch. Cohen, you've also begun sleeping through the night this month, and I'd say not a moment too soon. Mommy and Daddy are much better Mommies and Daddies when they've gotten a full night's rest, so really - we all benefit from this new development.

Within the past few days you've been working on saying, "Mama" and perfected my name just yesterday! You seem to be directing it towards me, which leads me to believe that you're actually saying my name. Hearing that is one of the sweetest sounds I've ever heard, love. Your tiny voice is just a touch raspy and filled with all the love my heart can stand. I can't wait to hear you say more things like, "Dada," and "Jude!"

You continue to love solid food with every fiber of your 13 lb. being, and you especially love to feed yourself those little puffs. I always think you've done awesome about getting them to your mouth, but when I take you out of your highchair, I see that like ten of them are stuck to your legs. You're a tricky one, son. You also got two teeth this month! They're cute front teeth on your bottom row. If ever there were two adorable teeth, I'd say you've got them, Cohen!

Perhaps one of the more significant changes in your life is that you've been getting bottles of formula as opposed to being breast fed. You were not a fan of your first bottle and looked at me with a scrunched up face as if to say, "What the heck are you feeding me?!" I've heard that breast milk is super sweet, so I'm certain the different taste was a shock. We kept at it though, and you now take the bottles just great, even holding it yourself sometimes! As you've been taking your bottles, I've been pumping and have quickly realized that I just haven't had enough milk to fully nourish you. Most likely, you've only been getting about 18 oz. a day, which is much less than you need to grow and develop. Cohen, I'm so sorry. I had no idea you weren't getting enough milk, and I'm so, so sorry to have ever left you hungry. I don't know that I can express how much it breaks my heart to know that you haven't been nourished as you should, and I promise that it won't happen again. I feel blessed that I do have a large supply of frozen milk that we'll be breaking into as soon as we get the doctor's OK, so you should be receiving breast milk until you are 8 or 9 months old.

Your smile and laugh are only growing - both in size and in infectiousness- as you grow older. You like to squeal to get Daddy's attention and then spaz in joy when he smiles back. Our family spent some time walking around Grapevine yesterday, and it was a little windy outside. I kept trying to shield your face from the wind, but quickly realized that you actually enjoyed the gusts. Each time a strong gust swept across your face, you sucked in air and then squealed with absolute delight! It was so loud people around us turned around to see who the ridiculously adorable happy baby was.

Cohen, we love you. As incredible as it seems, we love you more each day that we know you. Your sweet life is such a blessing to our family, and we count ourselves so privileged with the responsibility to steward your life. Our prayer is that you would know, love, and serve God and that we do whatever we can to show you His love through our parenting. Happy 7 months, Cohen. We love you so much more than you know.

Love,

Mommy and Daddy

Thursday, March 10, 2011

failure to thrive

I was changing Cohen's diaper when I noticed it. Since he was born, Cohen has had the most delicious fat rolls in his thighs. Fat rolls that I may or may not pinch on occasion. But as I was changing his diaper, I noticed that the fat rolls had almost completely disappeared. When I looked up at his armpits, I noticed that the rolls of fat had been transformed to mostly loose skin there, too. Having gone through infant weight loss with Jude, I knew this was not a good sign. My heart further sank when I put a medium cloth diaper on him that was huge, and my fears were only confirmed when I pulled out a size 3 months onesie that fit him just fine (Cohen is almost 7 months).

I called my BFF and Shawn to talk through my fears and make sure I wasn't just overreacting, and then called to move Cohen's weight check up a few weeks. I watched as the nurse laid my sweet son on the doctor's scale, and saw that he weighed 13 lbs even. He had lost weight.

Our usually light hearted pediatrician came into the room, and with a very serious tone said, "We need to take some serious measures to find out why your little guy isn't gaining weight." After talking through our typical routine and asking me some questions, he deduced that Cohen's weight issues are being caused by one of three things: 1. Cohen has a metabolic disorder 2. Cohen's reflux is worse than we thought and he's spitting up more than we realize, or 3. My breastmilk has significantly fewer calories per ounce than is normal. Dr. Scott felt like the issue was most likely a breastmilk calorie issue and requested that we feed Cohen formula for a week to see how his weight changes. I mentioned that I have a freezer full of milk, but the doctor felt that he wanted to put Cohen on a "known carbohydrate source" to see how he does. If the issue is not enough calories in my breast milk, giving him more of my breast milk won't really solve the problem. We'll do a weight check in a week to see what further actions need to be taken.

Surprisingly, I was very calm and logical up until this point. I went into the appointment telling myself to put my personal pride and feelings aside and to be willing to do whatever I needed to do to take care of Cohen. I was busying my mind with calculating how many ounces he'd need to take a week and how many bottles we needed to try and give him and wasn't allowing thoughts of self deprecation to even take root.

Until I watched as the doctor scrawled, "Failure to Thrive" under Cohen's diagnosis.

Unfortunately, this is a diagnosis that I know all to well. Even though this is something we've been through before, the words still twisted my heart up in a knot. Perhaps even more so, because the constant in both situations is me. My breast milk and my ability to nourish.

To know that my breast feeding relationship with Cohen is likely coming to a close is both devastating and exhilarating. To wallow in self pity and blame myself isn't doing anyone any good though, especially not Cohen. The bottom line is that it's my job to help Cohen thrive. Whatever it takes. And so, that's just what I'll do.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

randoms

1. Jude and Shawn were given tickets to see Sesame Street Live with his friends Eden, London, Ledger, and their Dads. We thought Jude would be really excited since he's in an Elmo and Cookie Monster phase right now (naturally, he doesn't actually like the cookies. just the monster who enjoys a good cookie binge every now and again). Shawn said he remained true to his nickname of Jude the Unimpressed and just watched quietly. Shawn also said that Jude was too small to keep his seat from folding him up inside, so Shawn had to keep his knee on the end of the seat or else he'd look over and see Jude halfway swallowed up.

2. Jude and I were playing with his bath crayons during bath time the other night, and I told him I was going to write his name on the side of the tub. "J..." I said as I wrote a lovely J.

"U..." Jude responded.

"That's right bud," I said. "What's next?"

"D.....E.....L....."

So first of all - does my 2 year old really know how to spell his name?! Secondly, does he really think his name is Judel? 'Cause we should probably work on that.

3. I ran for four miles the other day. I probably could've run for 4.5, but I saw a sign that read "Coyote sighted nearby" that caused me to turn the other direction and pick up my pace significantly thereby wearing myself out for any future mileage.

4. Shawn and I got the chance to see Hillsong United in concert (sort of. i always think it's weird to talk about a worship experience as a concert) last night. That's right, Shawn got to see Elmo AND Hillsong United in one day. There's no topping that.

5. Cohen officially has two little sharp teeth on the bottom front of his mouth. Oh yeah, and he's officially adorable:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

i don't really like newborns

Subtitled: When are you going to have another baby?

In a recent study conducted by Maurer and Associates, it has been unequivocally proven with very technical and important sounding scientific data that the subject (one Jennifer S. Maurer) enjoys the newborn baby process exactly 92.7% less than when the baby is approximately six months and older. Our data was collected over a 2.5 year period using two minor subjects (Jude C. and Cohen B.). The study took into account the accumulating affects of lack of sleep, the labor recovery process, the wonky hormones, the breastfeeding pain, and the singular constant use of only one hand at a time because the newborn is always in the other arm (we observed many mornings of our test subject attempting to make coffee, do dishes, and fold laundry with one hand and determined it to be quite ridiculous looking). We likewise took into account the newborn baby smell, the way a newborn collapses on the subject's chest, and the tiny newborn baby cries. In sum, while the subject does enjoy a good newborn snuggle it would appear that she enjoys motherhood 92.7% more after six months.

I mean really, you can't argue with statistics like that, can you? So something happened right about the time Cohen started nearing his six month birthday. Even though PPD hasn't been the struggle it was last time, it was as if a fog started to lift off of my world. It's not like I was getting any more sleep or that much else had changed. I think (for me, at least) it just takes six months for the "newborn baby fog" to lift. Don't misunderstand - I really do love newborns. And of course, I love my children regardless of how they old are, how helpless they are, how much they cry, or how little they sleep. I do love many things about how tiny and sweet newborn babies are - I just don't really like them all that much.

When I see a mother with a newborn baby, I do not melt into a puddle of "I want annnnnoooother one. Can I just smell him? Please, Shawn, do you think we could have more?" Maybe this means I'm not fit for motherhood, but my thoughts are more along the lines of, "Oh that poor woman. She must be exhausted. Hang in there sweet lady, you'll sleep again one day, I promise." Something in me changed when both Jude and Cohen hit six months, and I happen to like it.

Do you think there's any chance I could talk to God about giving birth to a six month old who sleeps through the night next time around? 'Cause that may just make me reconsider my current "two is enough" policy.

No, you say? I guess I'll just have to settle for snuggling and sniffing other people's newborns, and being more than happy to hand the baby right back to the very exhausted happy parents.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

cute words

Jude is just a-talkin' up a storm lately, and I really want to make sure I document the adorable way he says things (and sees the world) lately. I wish I could capture them all on video, but his inner disdain of the paparazzi seems to come out anytime I try.

-Jude has recently discovered a fondness for his nickname, "Judeabug." In fact, when friends say, "Hi Jude!" to him, he matter of factly replies, "No." Then he points to his stomach and informs, "Zoo-Bug."

-Shawn once referred to one of Jude's race cars as a cool car, and now every. single. car. in the house is a "coo car!"

-Jude usually refers to Cohen as "Baby," or occasionally, "Co Co." If we press him on it, he tries really hard to say Cohen's name, though it comes out as, "Ca-nah."

-I sing a song to Jude that includes the lyrics, "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do, for you," and then we name people we love that God can do anything for. Jude has learned to name Mommy, Daddy, Zoo-Bug, Baby, his friends Edy (Eden), Lon-non (London), and Lezz-eh (Ledger). When I ask, "Who else, Jude?" he very often answers, "A pillow! Plane! A beeeg truck!" Yes, it's true. There's nothing that God cannot do for that pillow.

-As the weather warms up down here, I put flip-flops on Jude the other day and told him that he would be wearing flip-flops just like his Daddy. Jude excitedly exclaimed, "A fwop! A Daddy! A fwop!" Later on, when he grew tired of his flip-flops, he told me, "No fwop."

-Last week Jude, Cohen, and I were playing in the backyard. Jude looooves himself some rocks, so he was happily digging for rocks while I pushed Cohen in his swing. All of a sudden, I heard Jude's panicked cry, and when I rushed to him realized that his hands were covered in about fifteen little ants. I quickly brushed them off, getting a couple on myself in the process. Turns out these ants bite (they weren't fire ants, though), and they did in fact hurt. Jude quickly grew little white spots on his hands where the ants had bitten him, and even now he has several little dots that are healing still. When we went back out the next day, I told Jude to make sure he was careful about not touching the ants. Jude walked up to about two feet away from the spot where the offending ants had bitten him, very seriously pointed to the spot, and said, "NO ants! A-ants HUWT! No huwt ants!"

He sure told them.



Saturday, February 19, 2011

weighty issues

Cohen had his six month check up yesterday, and we found out that he's thirteen lbs and some change. The good news is that he's in the fifth percentile for height AND weight, so it's probable that he's just small. The bad news is that he hasn't gained much weight since his last appointment at four months, so we need to take precautions to make sure he doesn't drop off the curve. After the doctor asked me how many times Cohen was eating a day (5-6 times), he asked me about my diet. I told him that I was cutting calories and exercising to try and lose baby weight, but that I was also trying to make sure I was taking in enough calories so my milk supply stayed strong (on days I don't work out, I eat about 1800 calories a day). Our doctor believes that my milk may just not be fatty (or calorically dense) enough. He advised that I try to take in more calories.

I asked if I should go back to feeding Cohen at night, and he seemed to think that Cohen needed to sleep through the night and should be able to get more than enough milk during the day.

Given everything that we went through with Jude, my heart sank when I saw that he weighed a mere 13 lbs at six months old. I wondered if there's something wrong with my body that just won't allow me to nourish a child past six months.

And then, because I strive to be pretty transparent, I have to admit that I've given serious thought to just ending breastfeeding. I had just started having success in losing weight when I'm told I need to add calories and apparently either stop losing weight or lose it significantly more slowly. My body has not been my own for almost four years now, and I miss feeling comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I'm not giving an accurate representation of who I am, and I want to wear a sign that says, "I promise. I'm actually a very disciplined and health-conscious person. This is not who I am." On a practical level, none of my clothes (except for my maternity clothes) fit. I have a closet full of clothes that I love and carefully chose and cannot wear. I also have a feeling that the boys and I will spending lots of time poolside and at water parks this summer, and I'd really rather enjoy it than to spend my moments painfully self-conscious. Selfish and vain, I'm aware.

I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet though, so I'm asking around and researching ways that I can boost my calories, fatten up my baby, and still lose baby weight. If you happen to have experience with this or advice to share, I'd love to hear it. Weight Watchers isn't really an option for me because 1)I don't want to spend money, and 2)I don't want to learn the points system. I do know they have a specialized program for breastfeeding though, so maybe I shouldn't write if off. And if your advice includes anything similar to, "I don't know, I lost thirty pounds in three weeks with breastfeeding and just couldn't keep the weight on," just know that I may punch you. Just sayin'.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

exciting stuff in the life of the maurers

Of course by "exciting," I mean not terribly interesting stuff. I'm working really hard at getting over forty diapers sewn and stocked, so finding time to sew is kind of consuming my days right now.

After being in Texas for about ten weeks, I think we're finally feeling like we've settled in. I ventured out with both boys on my own yesterday to find a Joann Fabrics. Naturally, I got terribly lost, but I made it there by myself nonetheless. We're pretty close to a relatively complicated highway system and it makes me want to pee my pants. I really only know the stores that exist between our home and the church, so exploring outside of that (especially in an exploration that ended up with me accidentally getting on said scary highway system) is a big deal. I made it there AND back in time for Cohen's next feeding. Pretty impressive stuff.

I think part of the reason we're starting to feel more settled is because our house is due to close tomorrow. I haven't mentioned it here on the blog because Shawn and I were a little afraid to get our hopes up in case something didn't go through. I think it's still a little surreal to both of us, but it's looking like everything is actually going smoothly. The house was actually only on the market for six weeks (which included Christmas and New Year's) before we were able to put it under contract! Six weeks! Ashley Lay is one incredible realtor, and seeing God taking care of one thing after the other only confirms to us that this is His will.

I made calls on Monday to turn off the electricity and water tomorrow, and felt a sense of finality in doing so. Getting the house sold is the last major stressor of moving on our shoulders. Being able to wash our hands of it makes me feel like I can take a deep breath and just be here. There's no doubt that there are so many ties we still have to Winston-Salem, but it's a nice feeling to know that those ties are people and relationships instead of stress.

Our lease for our house here in Texas is a year long lease that would end next December, so we're not in a rush to start looking to jump into home ownership right away. We love owning a home of course, but after doing so much work to get our house ready for the market, it's nice to take a break from home repair and maintenance. What's that? There's a storm brewing that might cause huge branches to fall down and crush the roof? As long as none of my kids or husband are underneath said branch, I don't have a care in the world. It's nice to not have to remember when the air filters were last changed or find time to take care of the yard work.

Beyond that, the Maurers are all doing well. I ran 3.2 miles the other day (at a painfully slow pace, so please don't be impressed) and will soon sign up for a Dallas 5K in April. I've also lost 10lbs, so I now only have 30 more to go (said with sarcasm, because 30lbs is still daunting). Cohen is still not sleeping through the night, but continues to charm me with that smile. Jude is getting smarter by the day (his teachers were really impressed by how far ahead of the learning curve he is), and seems to only be growing in affection towards Cohen. Shawn is working hard and is excited about good things going on in the ministry here at Compass. The time away at the conference was really a great chance for him to sit with his fellow ministers and talk about vision and plans. Vision in ministry is something that just sets Shawn's heart on fire, so he's looking forward to seeing God's hand in their plans.

I hate to end this abruptly, but sewing calls! I pray your day is a blessed one!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

a letter to cohen

Dear Cohen,

Sweetness, you turned six months old yesterday! You're such a precious kiddo, and I'm so blessed that God's allowed us to cuddle you, kiss you, and steward your young life. Quite frankly Cohen, you're adorable and joy to be around!






So let's talk a little bit about what you've been up to lately, shall we? You get your official weigh in on Friday, but our home scale says that you weigh between 15-16 lbs, which is just about perfect. You've been nursing great, and you've also been getting 2 oz. of food at dinner time. Just yesterday, I started giving you 2 oz at lunch time as well. You really love to eat solid food, although you kind of sabotage my efforts at feeding you by trying to put your fist in your mouth after each bite, thereby squishing out much of your food. You crack me up when you watch Daddy and I eat. Cohen, you stare longingly at the food on our plates and watch with mouth open (sometimes even drooling) as we take each bite. I keep trying to tell you that you're not quite ready for Daddy's pizza yet, but you apparently don't care.




I've noticed recently how distinctly interactive you are. You really like to study faces and are imitating more than most kids your age. You squeal with delight when I bring my face close to yours, and you love putting your hands on my face and drawing me to you. I know this intuitive desire to interact is a character trait that God has given you, and I can't wait to see how He uses it in your life. My current favorite activity is to smother your neck and cheek with kisses, I love it! Sometimes you giggle and squeal, but most of the time you just smile with contentment.





Daddy says that I've been claiming you're on the verge of teething for months, but I figure I'll be right at some point. Nonetheless, I have noticed two little white spots where your bottom front teeth will soon be. I check every day to see if they've broken through, but for now they're just remaining two spots.



I had about a two week run that you sort of looked like you might have some of me in you, but you are 100% your Daddy's kid now. You have long fingers and toes like Daddy and you even have lots of lines on your hands like Daddy. Your skin tone has hints of olive color, and you even make many of the same facial expressions. Your Dad is the most handsome man I've ever met, so I believe these similarities to be the highest compliment.



You seem bent on outdoing your brother's sleeping through the night record and are still waking up a few times. I can tell you that it's now official. You have indeed taken longer to sleep through the night than your brother did. You may now proceed to sleep, resting in the fact that you've outdone him.



Speaking of Jude, you two are just crazy about each other. You like to reach out and rest your hand on his shoulder. He's not a big fan of when you try to pick his nose or rip out his eyeball, but I trust you'll soon figure out that's not really acceptable. Jude cracks you up when he gets to the "we all fall down" part of Ring Around the Rosie, and you're just fascinated by pretty much everything he does. Cohen, I want you to know that Jude loves you so much. He very much wants you to be proud of him, and his face lights up when he realizes that he's made you happy.






In general, you're such an easy going, happy kiddo, and I'm honored to be your Mom! I love you more than I ever thought possible, and that love seems to amazingly grow with each day. You've been such a delicious delight to love for six months now, and sweet love, it's our honor and joy to continue loving you with every fiber of our beings for as long as God allows. Cohen, you are loved and adored so much more than you know.


Love,
MommyDaddy



*Photos are taken by the amazing Jenn Lewis of Photographic Memories

Thursday, February 10, 2011

a boring post

You and I both know that you only come here for pictures and stories of the cutest boys south of the Mason Dixon line. I'm sorry to disappoint this time, but I've been kind of a photo taking slacker lately. Instead, I just thought I'd share random bits of Maurer news and thoughts with you.

1. Blogging about Cohen sleeping through the night did indeed jinx me. He's doing better than he was before Baby Boot Camp, but he's still waking up two or three times at night. As I'm holding him in my arms to rock him, I've learned that I can't make eye contact with him. If I do, the little stinker starts cooing, smiling, and talking to me. Before I know it, I'm having to hold myself back from giving him tickle-y kisses at 4:00 in the morning.

2. Shawn is home safe and sound. He really enjoyed the conference and brought me back some scarves. That boy knows me well.

3. Now that Shawn's home again, I can resume running, and I'm really excited by that. I had been doing a Latin Dance DVD to get in my exercise everyday, but it was just embarrassing to all parties involved. This white girl can handle line dancing, and that's just about it. The funny thing is, I thought I was doing really well with the dance moves. Until I did them in the mirror. I look like the drunk cousin at the wedding who thinks what she's doing is sexy and is therefore dancing her little heart out. Nobody needs to see that.

4. Nursing Cohen is still going really well. It'll be six months of being exclusively breast fed soon, and I couldn't be more proud. I was already supplementing at this point with Jude, so I'm relieved that despite being sick for so long, I've been able to keep my milk supply steady (with the help of Fenugreek and a lot of lactation cookies). I'm counting down the months until I can wean him, but I'm planning on either nursing him until he's a year old or pumping enough that I can wean him early. Every fiber of my being misses cheese.

5. Jude had his first little Valentine's Day party at school today. I let him pick out what valentines he wanted to give his classmates, and he chose the Toy Story valentines which included a temporary tattoo. Personally, I liked the monkey valentines with the banana silly bands, but since Jude was screaming at the top of his lungs for the previous fifteen minutes that we'd spent in Target and people were looking at me like I should put duct tape over his mouth, I wasn't able to try and fight that battle. We had a lot of fun opening the valentines from his friends and he's spent quite a bit of time playing with the mylar heart balloon he received from his teacher.

6. I give you my word that I'll try to take more photos. I gots myself some cute kids, and it seems cruel to deprive the world of said cuteness. Hopefully there will be more photo laden posts coming your way soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

on the homefront

Shawn: Shawn is in California for a conference at the moment. I hope the irony of the fact that the Steelers made the Superbowl in Dallas and Shawn flew out mere hours before the game is not lost on you. He had planned on going straight to the hotel to watch the game, but the guys ended up getting stuck on the tarmack for two hours. That's right. Poor guy missed the entire thing.

On a more fun note, Shawn got to be in the audience for a taping of The Price Is Right. I was really hoping he'd come home with a new washer and dryer or a lifetime supply of beef jerky or something, but none of the guys ended up getting called on stage. My prayer is that God will use the time away from family and work to renew and refresh Shawn. We miss him, but I'm excited to hear how God speaks to him this week.

Jen: Despite the fact that I have a rough cold (that's six straight weeks of being sick withsomething, in case you're keeping track), I'm actually doing really well. My time as a "single parent" has gone wonderfully smoothly, and I'm enjoying the extra time with my boys. I'm staying busy with Serwa Chic, but the nice thing about Shawn being gone is I can spend my evenings (after the boys go down) busting out some sewing, filing, emailing, and networking. It's nice to feel a little more caught up. My latest run was a 28 minute run that involved a lot of dodging patches of ice. I've only lost five pounds so far, but am trying to remember that as long as I'm nursing, I need to take weight loss slowly.

Jude: Our usually light eater suddenly turned into a (tiny) little piggie lately, so I think he hit a growth spurt. His pants are starting to actually fit - even without a cloth diaper - and he's now able to reach things he previously couldn't. Jude's continued exploding in his language lately, and I'm loving this new level of communication. We're hearing a lot of the word "No," lately (or actually, he says, "Mope."), so I'm praying for wisdom in handling these mini tantrums. There's no doubt he has some strong opinions, and I'm certain I have no idea where he'd get that from.

Cohen: Cohen has his six month appointment in about a week, but our scale this morning said that he weighed just under 16lbs! Given all the weight issues we had with Jude at his point, I was relieved to see that he seems to be gaining weight well. While Shawn is gone, I decided that it's time for Baby Boot Camp. Cohen has still been waking up four or five times a night, and I think that's just crazy. So during nap times Sunday and night time Sunday night, I let Cohen cry for fifteen minutes before soothing him. I expected it to take about three nights to see improvements (about how long it tended to take for Jude), but was shocked when Cohen slept from 9:30pm-7:00am last night!

I'm fully aware that because I blogged about it the next several nights will be torturous, by the way.

Cohen is also really close to sitting up by himself and continues to flash his charming smile to anyone who will make eye contact with him. He definitely knows who Jude is and he loves to reach out to him. After I pick Jude up from preschool, his first order of business is to crouch down to say "hello" to Cohen in his car seat. Jude practically climbs into the car seat with him, almost fully laying his body on top of Cohen, and tells Cohen about his day. "Baby, Baby. I paint? I paint, Baby." Cohen is always sufficiently impressed and excited to see his big brother.

If you're from the North, then I hope you're staying indoors with some hot chocolate or tea. If you're from North Carolina, then I hope you're enjoying your break from the snow and getting some time outside. If you're from Dallas, then I hope you stocked up on bread and water in preparation for our next round of snow tomorrow! Regardless of where you're from, I hope you're having a fantastic week and are staying warm!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

the playdate crashers

Is it silly that it makes me feel important that I was asked to be a guest on a Mommy podcast? Even if the podcasters are friends from college? Well, silly or not - I was flattered to be asked by Jaime and Krista to guest interview on their Playdate Crashers Podcast. I started listening to their podcast because I thought it'd be fun to see what my friends were up to, but have been excited that it's genuinely well done, witty, and insightful. I love that it feels like I'm just chatting with friends over coffee while our kids play (hence, the Playdate Crashers name), and I'm almost always jotting down some website or other resource they share.

They're doing a really great series right now about working Moms, and asked me to share about my experiences as a WAHM. Of course, I feel entirely unqualified to be giving tips about how to balance everything. After debating though, I realized that my kids are still alive, so I must be doing something right. Right? Hmmmm.

So if you just so happen to miss my smooth, sultry (cold-ridden) voice or have just wondered what all this WAHM business is about, please give it a listen. Then listen to all the podcasts before, because I promise you're missing out if you don't. CLICK HERE for my guest interview with the Playdate Crashers!

And then because I was still feeling particularly chatty, I wrote a blog post to further explain my keeping-children-alive-while-running-a-business techniques. CLICK HERE to read the blog post.

And finally, Serwa Chic is giving away a super cute Long Sleeve Bib through The Playdate Crashers! Entering is really easy, and there are up to five different ways to enter. Our Long Sleeve Bibs are perfect for babies and toddlers, and make excellent gifts, too! Enter today to win!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

not-so-old school sunday

I certainly would've posted these sooner, but you know...moving to Texas and all. These are photos taken by the amazing photographer Jenn Lewis of Cohen's baby shower. If you're wondering if looking through these photos makes me miss people, you don't know the half of it.


Angie and Paige, listening to my apparently fascinating story telling:

Erica, one of my "Girls' Night" girls:

Patrice. Who may or may not have cried. Of course, I wouldn't embarrass her by publicly outing that fact.

Patrice and Lindsey. If I could reach through a computer and give a huge hug, I would.

...and ditto:
Sweet Beth and Jill:

Opening presents!

Little did we know this simple sock money would soon be Jude's best Mee-Hee:




Have you ever seen sweeter or more beautiful people? That night was such a fun evening for me. Beyond the fact that I got presents (always a bonus to any gathering), I felt like I was being blessed to just hang out with some of my closest friends. It was incredible to watch my friends rejoicing in that pregnancy right alongside with me, and to know that they loved Cohen before he was even born. That's quite the baby shower, isn't it?

Friday, January 28, 2011

we'll never be

We'll never be well. Ever again. Or at least that's what it feels like. The boys and I have been sick with very little break since New Year's Day. A bad cold that turned into a sinus infection for me, a light stomach bug, and then another cold/sinus infection. And to top everything off, it looks like we're all riddled with the flu (despite the fact that the three eldest Maurers got the flu shot and my love affair with hand sanitizer). Being sick is getting old. It means we can't go hang out with people. It means I'm worried about my milk supply. It means our boys are whining pretty much all the time. I can't blame them, though. With how we're all feeling, I'd be whining all the time if I could.

So that would be why my posting has been pretty sparse, it's been all I can do to take care of my sickies, keep the household running, and not get behind at Serwa Chic.

I do want to share with you though, that despite the inevitable chronic illness of the season, we're all doing great. Jude is doing great at school! My favorite part is when we drive home afterwards and he tells me all about his day. It's funny the things that stand out to him when I ask him what he did at school. A few of his favorite things about which he tells me: "I sit!" "Bubbles!" "Nap mat." "Choo-Choo!" "A ball?" "Outside!" Once we get home I unpack his backpack, which always has a craft that he did that day. I like to make a big production out of pulling it out of his folder and saying, "You did this? Did you do this at school today?" I can literally see Jude's little heart filling up as he realizes that I'm proud of him. He scoots next to me on the floor and tells me all about his project. I always tell him how proud I am of him, and yesterday he said, "You pwoud? Mommy, you pwoud?" He doesn't even know the half of it. Then he and I make a big production of showing the project to Cohen and putting it on the refrigerator.

Jude was already making some huge strides in counting (he can count to ten with consistency), letters (he knows them all, and we're working on the sound that each makes), colors (he knows four or five), and shapes (he knows the basic ones), so I feel like preschool is doing a great job of reinforcing those things. The biggest difference I've noticed is in how much Jude is talking. Or I should say how many new words and phrases he's willing to try. He's now very often repeating things we say or things he hears others say. Sometimes as I'm changing Jude's diaper in the mornings, I sing "Oh Happy Day," to him - The Sister Act version of course. He's started "singing" the repeated parts to me, which sounds something like this:

Me: "Oh happy day..."
Jude: "Oh hap dayyyyy!"

Me: "Oh happy day..."
Jude: "OH HAP DAYYYY!"

Me: "When Jesus washed..."
Jude: "Jeeeessss vaaaashh"

Me: "When Jesus washed..."
Jude: "JEEEEES VAAAAASH!"

Me: "Washed my sins away..."
Jude: "vash waaaaaaay"

One of my favorite things is when he's feeling particularly cantankerous and I begin to sing. He answers, "No hap day, Mommy! NO HAP DAY!"

And on that note, I certainly hope your day is a hap one!



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Upcoming Giveaway!

I had the honor of being interviewed recently for a super fun podcast. The Playdate Crashers are doing a series on Moms and working, and I was so glad to share my experiences as a WAHM (work at home mom). In conjunction with the podcast, I'll have a guest blog up in a week, AND I'll be giving away this sage Ooga Booga Long Sleeve Bib!

Keep an eye on their website for information on how to enter!

Friday, January 21, 2011

friday cuteness

Happy Friday! To kick off your weekend, I thought you might enjoy a particularly adorable video of my boys watching some trains at Christmastime.



Untitled from J Maurer on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

my girls

The night before the boys and I left Winston-Salem, I invited my small group girls over to hang out in our home one final time. Shawn had already left with all of our belongings save a suitcase, and beyond not looking forward to spending the night by myself in an empty house, I also wanted a chance to let "my girls" know how much I love and appreciate them. From the moment we told the students that we would moving, I kept telling my girls that we weren't going to dwell on the sad because it wasn't time to say goodbye yet.

Even though it was a Tuesday (i.e. a school) night, I was beyond grateful that the girls' parents allowed them to come over and even spend the night. We ordered pizza, talked, laughed, remembered, and tried to pop popcorn with our cell phones. What? You've never tried it?




I've been putting off blogging about missing my girls because that's truthfully been the hardest part of us leaving. The moment Shawn and I started to realize that God might seriously be calling us to Dallas, I pleaded (to God and to Shawn), "But what about my girls?"

I wish I had taken more photos and videos of that night, but I'm so grateful for the memory of it. I remember that Kayla brought a bean bag because she knew we didn't have any furniture, but that nobody used it because we were all just comfortable spreading out on the floor. I remember talking to Hannah and Caity about what on earth they were going to get their boyfriends for Christmas. I remember Alex doing the cookie trick for us and each of us trying the same. Of course, I remember Sara telling us that she read you can pop popcorn with a circle of cell phones. I remember talking to Alex about Jeremy and watching clips online with her. I remember the girls fighting over who got to hold Cohen, joking about giving him their food, and watching him light up at their smiles.

I remember talking about what their futures were going to look like - who was going to get married first and what their weddings would look like. I remember watching Kayla leave on Tuesday night and fighting back tears. She had walked down that sidewalk into that driveway a hundred times, and my heart broke as I realized it'd be her last. I remember Hannah waking me up at 6:00 in the morning before she headed to school. I hugged her tightly, and my 6:00am brain just couldn't put words to how much I was going to miss her. I peeked out the blinds as she left to make sure she was safe and I prayed for her protection, for God to guide her steps, and for His wisdom. I remember hugging Alex as she left and fighting back tears. I remember Brittany and Sara being the last two to leave because they didn't have to be to school until later. I remember that they lingered awhile - not wanting to say goodbye. And even though I'd held it together as I said goodbye to each girl in turn, I couldn't stop myself from sobbing. The three of us hugged, and Brittany told me that it would be okay. She told me that Texas was going to be awesome, and that Shawn would be waiting for me at the airport. She told me that he was going to kiss me, and that it'd be gross.

I want so badly to pack those girls up in a suitcase and bring them with me. We've texted, called, and Skyped, but it's not the same as a wordless hug. I know they're each going through so much right now, and it literally hurts me to not be there.

I miss them.

Friday, January 14, 2011

jude goes to preschool

Preschool has been an unequivocal success for Jude! He absolutely loves it, and the teachers continue to tell me that he obeys well and gets along with the other kiddos great. Jude was very excited about this choo-choo back pack! When I told him I wanted to take a photo of him on his first day of school, he immediately turned around so that I could get a picture of his back pack:

But what I wanted of course, was a photo of those sweet cheeks:

This is Jude's nap mat. I had some anxiety about his nap mat. I wanted to make sure it was big enough because he moves a lot during his sleep. I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to be super thin compared to the other kids', and that Jude would be comfortable on it. I wanted to get one with a little built in pillow because it made me sad to think of him not taking a nap with a pillow, and I wanted to custom make the cover myself because, well...it's my way of showing Jude that I love him even when he's away from me.

We bought the nap mat from a local Christian Education store (which is one of my favorite stores I've found here. The place has tons of great learning tools. It almost made me want to homeschool. Almost.). We bought the thickest one because again I was concerned about him being comfortable, and then I picked up this fabric from Ikea. I deliberated for no less than twenty minutes about which fabric to get. My favorites were dubbed "too girly" by Shawn, but I wasn't a huge fan of their childish prints. Don't worry, I bought all of the "girly" prints I love to use for Serwa Chic nursing covers.

Then I set to work making the cover. It only took me a couple of hours and was actually fun. I sewed on ribbons onto the cover with D rings so the mat can be easily carried. When I pick up Jude from school I'm trying to carry Cohen (in his carseat), the nap mat, a blanket, Jude's back pack, and Jude. I can slide Jude's blanket into the nap mat and hook it onto my finger making it more manageable.


And naturally, after all that worrying, his nap mat is heeeuge compared to the other kids'. It actually doesn't even fit in his little cubby. The teachers put his back pack and papers in the cubby and have to set his nap mat in front of the cubbies. No matter, it's pretty sweet looking. Perhaps that's just an excuse for me to make him a new one in the fall!

Jude hanging out the morning before preschool. My favorite memory of Jude getting ready for preschool is when he runs around the house with his backpack bouncing away on his back. I thought you might enjoy that memory, too:

Untitled from J Maurer on Vimeo.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a letter to cohen

Dear Cohen,

I'm certain I say this at least every other week, but I can't believe how quickly you're growing! Five months ago from today at 7:05 am, Daddy and I got to see your sweet, swollen face for the first time. Your presence in our family has been wonderful, amazing, and in a word - perfect. I love you so much more than I thought possible, sweet bear.

You've remained your smiley self and have begun perfecting your adorable little laugh. It sometimes sound like a loud gasp, and sometimes resembles your older brother's bike horn laugh. Either way, I adore it. You love to be tickled right at your rib cage, and were hilariously belly laughing at a particularly fun game of peek-a-boo with Mommy yesterday. I love watching your little shoulders scrunch up in glee when something tickles you, and I love nothing more than when that something is me.

You seem content with having perfected the art of rolling from your stomach to your back in three or four attempts, and have your heart set on crawling now. At the moment, it's a lot of grunting and digging your feet into the floor and not a whole lot of actual movement, but dang it - you're trying!

We've been giving you rice cereal for awhile now to help with the reflux, and you chow down! I'm planning on giving you your first taste of "real" food today - advacados! I'm excited to make your food for you and I'm looking forward to watching you experience different tastes and textures.

You're not really sleeping great lately, but that's been the theme for about two months now. You have spurts where you'll wake up once during the night to eat and go back to sleep well, but most of the time you're up every couple of hours. Daddy and I are taking turns taking soothing you, so we're both pretty tired right now. If you could work on that sleeping through the night thing, we'd both be super grateful.

You are officially a blonde, by the way. You still have some dark hair at the base of your neck, but everything else is purely blonde! And yes, you're still looking quite a bit like Daddy.

Some of my favorite memories of this past month are when you reach out to my face and pull it close to yours. My heart just overflows in a way I can't explain when you do that. I loved watching you take your first bite of food and the joy that comes when we feed you each night. And finally, I love bath time with you. It's my job to get you nekkid and I love your glee when I pick you up from the changing table. I hold you up by your armpits so that your face is even with mine, and you dangle and kick your legs in excitement. You smile and laugh so that the entire time I'm walking you to the bathroom, I can't take my eyes off of that sweet face.

I love you, Cohen. The more I know you, the more I love you. I cannot wait to see how you grow and what your personality looks like. Thank you, sweet boy, for being a part of our family.

Love,

Mommy & Daddy

Saturday, January 8, 2011

christmas part tres: the final chapter

I'm finally able to put up the rest of our Christmas photos and videos, I'm sorry it took so long. We had such a great Christmas, and I took an abundant amount of photos and videos because it was so important to me for you to be a part of our Christmas!

Neither of us had the time or energy to cook a fancy Christmas meal this year, so we picked our "home cooked" meal at Fresh Market. What did we eat, you ask? Something called TurDuckEn. Don't judge, it's delicious.

Welcome to Texas...
After the sun went down, the four of us drove around to look at lights. This is actually something we've done since Jude was born, but this was the first year he got really excited about it. "Moe Yites!" he kept exclaiming.








And more videos! Jude and Cohen Christmas afternoon:


Untitled from J Maurer on Vimeo.

Driving around the rich neck of the woods to look at Christmas lights:


There's a beautiful area called Southlake where Shawn took me for my birthday. If you have your volume on, you can tell that Cohen was...well...not happy.

Untitled from J Maurer on Vimeo.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

christmas: part deuce

You'll have to excuse me if you've been waiting on the edge of your seat for more Christmas photos. You may now scoot back to a more comfortable seat sitting position.

Shawn was really excited about the Flip cam from his parents. I can't believe how small and easy to use it is! It fits perfectly into my purse, and we've already taken several videos (coming soon)!

And behind Shawn, you can see our Christmas present to each other. A new fancy schmancy TV and "real people" cable.

Jude opening more train tracks:


Cohen's new sound machine:

Jude patiently and sweetly helped Cohen open his presents:


Jude enjoying daddy's stocking stuffers:


A present from Jude's new preschool. It says, "That's how I roll. Compass Christian Preschool." I can't lie, that t-shirt makes me giggle.

Also, in case you were waiting with baited breath to find out how Jude's first day of preschool went, you may now unbait your breath. His teachers said he did awesome! They told us that he lined right up when he was supposed to, took a nap on his nap mat, and was perfectly obedient. They made no mention of his pants falling down or not understanding what he wanted, so I was pleased with a great report. He asked me several times yesterday to go to school, and was excited when I told him that's where he was going this morning.

What's that you say? You want more Christmas photos? You sure you can handle it? Coming soon!