Sunday, February 19, 2012

To think that in such a place, I led such a life.

Those words, by Winston Churchill recalling his days as a student, are inscribed on a sculpture at the Hub of Miami University.  I spent five years there in Oxford, earning my undergrad and graduate degrees in accounting.  I learned even more outside of the classroom, meeting friends that have already lasted me over a decade.  While my days there lived up to the idea of such a life, my days since have been even more cherished. 

I never spent my days dreaming of children like some women do.  I wasn't into babysitting and baby dolls and baby anything.  I spent my days dreaming about my success as an accountant.  Even though I assumed children would be part of my life, part of my family (with the standard husband, kids, house, dog and white picket fence) I also assumed I'd be a working mom, dropping off at daycare each morning on the way to my wildly successful corporate career. 

I started off on the way to my dream, moving to Boston, settling into my career as a CPA, meeting an amazing man and buying a cute little house.  We even added two dogs to complete the American Dream.  Then the kids arrived and threw me for a loop.  The logistics of my career require long hours, which daycare doesn't cover.  The logistics of Ryan's career require months out to sea, which daycare also doesn't cover.  I couldn't quite get the hang of finishing my work by the time I had to leave to pick up Pete from daycare and I couldn't quite figure out how we would ever have time together as a family. I was working a tax season while Ryan was in port and then I had time off in the summer while he was out to sea.  So I quit to stay home with my first baby when he was about nine months old.  I assumed this would be a break for three to four years until he entered pre-school and I could get my "life" back.

After getting over the bored to death feeling, and learning to cook and bake from scratch- it's easier on the budget of a single income family, I decided that if I were going to be a stay-at-home-mom, I was going to REALLY be a stay-at-home-mom.  So we had two more boys, all three of them in under four years.  And now, I can honestly say I'm having fun.  Of course there are many challenges like frustrating days and sleepless nights, but I can actually say the satisfaction I get when Chester pees in the potty is equal to the joy I used to feel when I tied out a FAS 109 footnote.  I really never thought I would feel this way, but I do, and if I can enjoy motherhood, I'm pretty sure anyone can.   

Recently I considered ordering a hand-crafted sign common in military families- "Home is where the Coast Guard sends us" followed by a listing of all the places Ryan has been stationed.  But now that I think about it, I'd rather have a sign that says "To think that in such a place, I led such a life". 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Commence potty training

Last week Chester turned two and this week I decided to give the potty a try.  It is admitedly on the early side, as WebMD tells me that boys start potty training between 22 and 30 months, and are fully potty trained on average by 38 months.  Pete tried at 24 months, but didn't really succeed until 30 months, so he was fully average.  Chester has been asking to sit on the potty for months, but has no concept of the feeling or timing of holding or peeing, so I thought it would be a good time to try the three-day potty training method.  With only three days invested,if there's no progress we can quit and revisit the situation again in a few months. 

The concept is that your pump your child full of fluids because more peeing equals more opportunities to pee on the potty and give positive reinforcement.  Then they run around in undies only, so that they notice the pee and associate it with a wet yucky feeling in their underpants.  You watch very carefully and the minute they start peeing you whisk them away to the potty to finish peeing.  Any amount of pee ends up in the potty and they get rewarded with very excited clapping and dancing, and in our family, CANDY!  Then you put on clean undies, clean up the puddle and drink more to repeat the cycle.  At no time do you put a diaper or pull up back on, this is do or die for three days straight. 

The original instructions don't mention it, but I think it's extremely helpful for you to be drinking too.  And not juice.  Be sure to stock up on your favorite alcoholic beverage because you won't be leaving the house for several days.  Unfortunately for my sanity, I'm trying to lose a few pounds to fit in a dress for a semi-formal event in two weeks, so beer is off my list of stress relief options.   

A wise mother once told me to skip the potty chair and the potty seat and go straight to the real potty facing backwards.  Then you can use any potty, anywhere, which can be a big stumbling block for toddlers leaving the house.  It also helps when they are learning to poop on the potty.  Besides those two obvious benefits, those little potty chairs don't sufficiently block little boys from peeing straight out into the middle of the room.  Sitting backwards ensures all they hit is the toilet lid.  There are even times (and this is more than I ever wanted to know about raising boys) that the pee will go straight up.  Pete learned this the hard way, leaning over to see if he was peeing yet, only to get squirted straight in his face.  Oh my!

We started Chester's potty adventure Thursday after nap, with white grape juice, apple juice, cranberry juice, chocolate milk and Valentines Day candy from the clearance shelf.  It worked pretty much immediately, and we had quite a few puddles.  Thank God for hardwood floors!  The encouraging part was seeing his face as he felt and recognized the pee,which is something Pete didn't have the first time I tried the three day method with him.  By bedtime, we had actual progress, with several intentional pees on the potty. 

I do use diapers at night because I feel there's no point in torturing them, or me, with waking up every hour until they've demonstrated the ablity to take a nap without wetting the bed.  After dinner, he took one last potty trip, put on a diaper and jammies and headed to bed.  That's when disaster struck.  Drinking juice and milk all afternoon did a number on his digestive tract and he had a liquid poosplosion sometime in the middle of the night.  I smiled a little while Ryan had to deal with the cleanup, as I was in the middle of feeding Marek.

This morning was much more successful.  We had a few full-on accidents, but mostly Chester would get his undies a little wet and run himself to the potty to finish peeing.  A few times he even sat on the potty at my request, and peed on demand.  I think we're doing great but I also don't want to think about another day like this, with the rug rolled up, watching Veggie Tales and playing cars on the bare wood floor, chugging heavily diluted juice and licking ice cubes all in the name of learning to pee in the potty.  I pray for patience (for me) for enlightenment (for Chester) and for the strength to see this through so we can have just one baby in diapers.  If we can get Chester fully potty trained, we'll actually be gaining two sets of diapers, because with one in diapers, I'll go back to our cloth diaper stash.  I've been slightly overwhelmed just trying to live life with three boys under four and I haven't gone back to our cloth diapers since Marek's birth.  

If there was any doubt that God has a sense of humor, late last night after Chester's poosplosion, Marek gave a very loud poosplosion as well.  After he filled up his diaper, I turned on the light, and started changing him.  For convenience, I keep a diaper changing kit with wipes, diaper and changing mat (actually it's just an old prefold diaper) on my bedside table so I can change his diaper without even moving from my warm and cozy bed.  I was about halfway through changing him when he gave another loud poosplosion and it shot across the changing mat, splattering all over me.  I'm pretty sure I heard Ryan chuckle in his sleep as I swore and started to clean up.  Now today I have to finish cleaning the house during naptime for another showing, and the bed sheets, my jammies and the newly soiled twenty pairs of undies in the bathroom laundry will be a struggle to finish before 2:15pm!  Guess I better stop blogging and head for the basement. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

They say there's never any pictures of the second kid.

Well, I took lots of pictures of the second kid, but I neglected to blog about his second birthday last week.  Yeah, Mother of the year, I tell you! 
Oh my, that was one fat little baby!  Chester weighed in at 10lb 6oz at birth, and just in case you've read the latest study on IV fluids during labor, I didn't have any.  So that means all 10lb 6oz of him was really all him.

Chester has been a spitfire from day one.  After his dramatic entry into the world, he learned to crawl at five months, crawled up stairs at seven months, and climbed out of his crib at thirteen months.  He's been my Mama's little boy, Daddy's little buddy, and Pete's best friend. 

Learning to crawl on the 4th of July.  Naked.  Because that's how he rolls.

Crawling up the stairs in Virginia Beach over Labor Day weekend 2010.

First birthday pictures!  Still so sweet and innocent, but a few days later.... out of the crib and running around at 1am.

Chester has a unique combination of a laid back attitude, combined with an adventuresome desire to explore and push physical boundaries.  It's only fitting that his two year pictures document the bruises, scrapes and scars on his adorable little face.  We threw a little party during the Superbowl, served typical tailgating appetizers and baked him a dinosaur cake.   

Many thanks to Jenny and Meghan for their help on the cake.  And the wine. 

And at the end of the day, he was so exhausted he passed out on his pillow.

Here is the original post from Chester's birth:

Baby Repete arrived at 12:38am this morning (2/5/10), with Daddy on the speakerphone.

After my appointment, I was feeling the same few mild contractions I'd felt after the last two appointments with membrane stripping. So I called Meghan, a friend across the street, we had a glass of wine and sat down to watch Grey's Anatomy. After the show, I took a shower, to see if these contractions were real, but I still hadn't timed them or anything. No big deal. The shower slowed them down, I called Kelly to let her know we weren't having a baby tonight, told Meghan I'd see her tomorrow and started in on laundry and cleaning. Too bad these suckers came back with a vengence! At 11pm, I couldn't decide if this was for real, so I called the birth center, they asked me to come in to get checked. I called Ryan (out on the boat) to let him know I was going in to get checked. He said there's nothing he could do, but to give him a call if they admitted me. I called Meghan to take me to the birth center and called Jennie, my fabulous Doula.

We arrived at the birth center at 11:50pm. I called Kelly, she came and picked up Pete and took him back to her house. I was checked in at 6cm, monitored for 15 minutes, moaned and bitched, got in the tub, and 2 pushes later arrived my fat little baby at 12:38am without so much as a tylenol. 10 POUNDS 6 OUNCES! 21 inches long.

We'll have to wait for Ryan to return home to officially name our new baby BOY, but I'll let you know what we come up with. And if I can figure out Kelly's camera, we'll get some pictures up too.

I feel great, and Baby is doing well too. Pete is having a sleepover at Kelly's house, and Daddy comes home soon!

Thank you thank you thank you Kelly and Meghan for all your help tonight. This further proves Karma's a bitch. I mean, who needs a backup plan, after all, it's not like I'm going to go into labor so fast I barely have time to get to the hospital...


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Take pity on the ugly baked goods.

A few lessons learned from today's bake-a-thon for the Boston Coast Guard Spouses' Association Bake sale scheduled for Valentine's day this week:

1) The instructions on the back of the white chocolate box are BS.  They say to microwave the chocolate 60 seconds and then stir, then microwave another 60 seconds.  It is still rock solid after the first 60 seconds, and totally burnt after the second 60 seconds.  Tomorrow I'll buy more chocolate and try again. 

2) Don't promise your three year old he can sprinkle the chocolate covered pretzels until you're sure you're not going to ruin the chocolate for the chocolate covered pretzels.  I'm pretty sure Pete's new nickname is going to be meltdown.

3) Red velvet cake batter smooshed in your two year old's hair looks shockingly like a serious head wound.

4)  Red velvet cake batter in general is a bad idea.  From the head wound scare to the smudges on the counter to the spot on my favorite camel sweater, that batter jumps from the bowl to cause havoc and stain anything it reaches.  

5) Those super cute heart cakes aren't going to come out level on that baking sheet, so leave lots of room for frosting to fix them.  The brownies do come out level, however, which leads me to a serious dilemma: ugly baked goods.

I wasn't planning on donating the brownies to the bake sale.  The brownies were Pete's reward for being so patient and helpful.  But the brownies are the cutest of anything I baked today.  Once we slather on some frosting, and sprinkle with Valentine sprinkles, they could be sliced up and served in Valentine baggies with pink ribbon ties.  It will look like a 12 year old girl went to town decorating them with all the pink and purple and hearts all over, but it will be festive and pretty.  Except that I had planned for my family to eat them, not donate them.... 

My Red Velvet heart shaped cakes are uneven, sloping noticeably to one side.   I know that even with copious amounts of cream cheese frosting, they probably won't be adorable.  They'll taste great, but they'll be as ugly as my failed attempt at sugar cookies back in December. 

The chocolate covered pretzels might not even make it to the table if I can't figure out how to properly melt the darn chocolate. 

Do I send the ugly baked goods, and keep my brownies to eat, or do I bite the bullet and donate the pretty brownies?  At this point, I'm very close to buying some festive bags, filling them with pink and white candy and calling it a day.  It's been hours, my kitchen is trashed and my kids are angry about the sprinkles. 

So the next time you're passing a bake sale, just take pity on the ugly baked goods.  Someone tried very hard, and those ugly baked goods will taste just as yummy as the beautifully decorated cookies.  And if you find a decorative bag full of candy, you can assume some one's weekend was pretty miserable.  Either way, make a generous donation please!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The third one has to get his share somehow, right?

Clearly Pete and Chester demand my attention.  They can both physically demand my attention by doing crazy things around the house, and verbally demand my attention calling for me, "Mooooommy!".  Marek, on the other hand, just sleeps, eats, cries and poops.  Usually in that order.  If I put him in the cradle, he's still there when I return from the shower.  He may cry, but he can't actually create havoc and mayhem yet.

Instead, Marek has resorted to other methods of monopolizing my attention, and at first I fought it, but now I've just decided to accept 2am for what it really is.  Our very special quiet bonding time.  Marek gives me a relatively good stretch of sleep at night, from about 8pm to 1am or maybe 2am.  He eats and gets a new diaper when he wakes up.  Then he wants to play.  He's not crying (unless I put him back down) and he's done eating.  He just wants to hang out, typically for about two hours.  At just over a month old, he's alert and strong enough to hold up his head while he coos and giggles.  He makes googley eyes and waves his arms and legs around.  Eventually he tires and begins to yawn and that's my cue to swaddle him and rock him back to sleep.

He's the littlest brother, and he'll always have to fight Pete and Chester for his share of the ice cream, the legos and the 4-wheeler.  But we'll always have 2am. 

Just don't shower. It's not worth it.

I should be doing laundry, but this is too funny not to share.  The boys are curled up in "nests" that we made out of blankets and pillows,  and the baby is napping so I have a few minutes. 

I took a gamble and showered this morning.  It had been too long and I had the baby napping soundly, and the other two boys trapped in the living room, seemingly entertained by Diego Dinosaur.  I figured they would do something devious while I showered, but I had scanned the living room and playroom for any serious danger, and decided a shower was worth the risk.  Besides, the bathroom is no more than 20 feet from the farthest point in the living room, so I figured I would hear if they started getting into trouble.   

After I emerged and dressed, I was ready to celebrate my success.  The couch cushions were all over the room, but that's simple enough to fix.  They had stacked all the cushions on one chair, telling me it's a princess chair.  We learned the word "throne" and Pete told me I'm a princess and a queen and that's my princess chair.  I certainly felt like a princess, having actually gotten clean and dressed by 9am.  Even better, I had moved from the size 12 jeans down to the size 10 jeans today, just over one month post partum!  The day was really shaping up after yesterday's disaster.

Then I started to put back the cushions and I noticed some red splotches on one.  I made a mental note to wipe them down when I had a minute and went back to picking up the cushions and folding the blankets.  That's when I noticed little red splotches on the floor and it finally dawned on me that the splotches on the cushion were BLOOD. 

Before you call DCFS, I want to tell you that it was a teeny tiny injury under Chester's toe.  I checked his face first, as most of his injuries have been busting his face or mouth, but his head was fine.  I found a small cut under his toe, and followed his little bloody tracks over the couch, up on the window sill and across the stone hearth.  I could not find anything sharp or anywhere he possibly cut his foot.  I cleaned the toe, bandaged it and put a sock on him to keep him from playing with it.  Now that I think about it, if he were wearing socks to begin with, he probably wouldn't have cut the toe....

The couch is all clean and dried, and I think I found and cleaned all the little bloody footprints.  Now I'm hoping that they'll pass out in these little nests we've made while they watch a dinosaur movie and I do a little laundry.  After all, I'm still working on their blankets from last night...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

There's only one beer left? *sob*

So I just took the last beer out of the fridge and burst into tears.  I only had one, and I thought there was at least another six pack in there, but I guess not.  It's been that kind of day.

Allow me to tell you about this day in reverse.  I have time to blog because my children are watching TV right now.  At 8pm.  Because their sheets are in the washer.  Not even the dryer.  The washer.  That gives me approximately 60 more minutes before they'll be in bed.  At least the baby is sleeping.  Oh, wait, he is, but that means my 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep have already started, and as noted, I have at least another hour before my older boys are in bed, leaving me with possibly 3 hours of sleep tonight.

I had to and leave him to scream while I put the boys in their pajamas.  That was his fussy time of the night and I was left alone to do jammies and bedtime.

At least they ate dinner at the birthday party today, which means I didn't have to cook!  Happy Birthday T & M, we loved Build a Bear!  I hope my dark under eye circles and unwashed hair didn't scare any of the other mothers.  Yes, they all have kids, but based on how cute and perky everyone else looked, their kids are a little older and sleep through the night.  Or they're on speed.  Which I am now seriously considering picking up as a habit too.

A poor naptime leads to meltdowns at CVS, and a new baby with a new prescription for Thrush means the lab tech takes forever to file all the forms.  While I wrangle all three screaming.crying.children and ignore the look of death being shot at me by the little old ladies in the waiting area.  I would have gone through the drive through, but I needed to pick up a card for the birthday party.  I meant to do that earlier this week.  Didn't get to it until 20 minutes before the party.

I'm officially turning off my phone during naptime.  The ONE hour I had available to me to nap was interrupted three times by the Real Estate Agent.  They scheduled a 2pm showing.  Then cancelled it.  Then, at 1:19pm, tried to reschedule the showing for 2pm.  What part of Three Kids under Four do they not understand?  41 minutes notice to show the house?  Oh Hell No!

We made it home from preschool with one child asleep, one child fading fast and one child screaming his brains out.  I guess getting your Hep B vaccine and then being shoved into a car seat isn't a recipe for a happy car ride home.  To add insult to injury, the Dr. office was running late, so we were late to pre-school pick up, and the main door to school was locked.  I gambled and decided to park illegally, then carried two screaming children down the stairs and around to the back door to pick up the pre-schooler. 

The one bright spot in my day?  Marek is 11 lb and 1 oz.  He's been alive 31 days and he's gained 31 oz.  This is the most successful breastfeeding relationship of the three.  The first two were miserable and had me in tears every day.  This has only hit a little hiccup with the Thrush today but is still unbelievably easy.  My LCs and other BFing friends told me for the last three years that this wasn't normal, the pain should have gone away, etc.  And finally, I believe them.  I wasn't being a wimp before, the cracked and bleeding nipples with clogged ducts and mastitis were not the norm.  THIS is the norm.  THIS is what breastfeeding is supposed to be like. 

I actually had enough by 8am so after I dropped off Pete at school, I took Chester to the gym.  He went to playcare and I sat down to feed Marek and read my book.  I felt bad because I had already been screaming at the boys by 8am.  Insane, angry mommy screaming.  The kind of screaming that leaves you with a an ache in your head and shame in your heart. 

I slept 4:30am-5:30am this morning.  And 9:30pm-1am last night.  What did I do for over three hours last night?  I fought a war with my one month old poop machine.  Though I am thrilled to death that he's so well nourished that he has lots of poop, I would prefer he either poop during the day, or learn to poop without grunting, crying and wiggling.  You see, he filled his diaper and I changed it.  He filled it again, and I retaliated with a cold wipe instead of a warmed one.  He peed on me.  I put another diaper on him which he promptly filled.  I let him sit in that one for a while, but he held it and then pooped WHILE I was changing the diaper.  I gave up.  But the damage was done and it was 4am.  We finally both passed out, just as Ryan's alarm was going off at 4:30am.

One bad night is not the end of the world, but this was the third one in a row.  I'm waving the white flag.  Actually, I'm waving the Lime flag.  The Bud Light Lime flag.  But apparently I'm only waving two of them tonight, since that's all that was left in the fridge. 

We are all just doing our best. And today my best just wasn't enough. But I will try again tomorrow.  Because I love them. 


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sleep, or lack therof.

I've written about being tired, but the topic needs to be revisited now that Marek has arrived.

Ryan and I are both so exhausted some days that hilarity ensues.  For example, last night, Ryan was reading his book while I fed the baby.  We were talking, and he just suddenly stopped responding.  He had fallen asleep, with his light on, and his head in the book.  I considered being offended, but since I can't remember what we were talking about, I guess it wasn't that important anyway.

Marek doesn't have a sleep pattern yet.  Some nights he's asleep at 7pm, some nights it's 9pm.  Some nights he's awake twice for food, some nights it's just once, and some nights he's just up once but it's for three or four hours!  Mostly I pick him up from the cradle, feed him and if he's fussy after eating, I keep him in bed with me.  The other morning I woke up in a total panic, tossing blankets everywhere, horrified that I might have fallen asleep with Marek eating and smothered him.  I couldn't find him, and the seconds ticked by as I tore apart the bed and pillows looking for him.  Then I looked in the cradle, where he was sleeping peacefully, totally oblivious to my sleep-deprived flip out. 

Clink.  Clinkety-clink.  Scuffle scuffle.  Clink.  What is that noise?  It's the sound of my nearly two year old scaring me into an early grave.  I awoke to a strange clinking sound one night last week, and in a panic, sent Ryan out to the kitchen to find the source.  Ryan found Chester, standing on the chair he had pushed over to the counter, and chopping a pear with my butcher's knife.  I used to think I'd hear anything these guys did in the night, but now I'm not so sure.  So we're back to baby-gating them out of the kitchen and living room, and in addition, we've added alarms to the exterior doors and added locks at the top of the stairs.  We used to have baby-proof door knobs for the doors, but my kids can outsmart those silly door knob covers so we've moved to more secure pre-schooler proofing. 

Speaking of Chester trying to scare me into an early grave, he tripped over his own two feet in the living room this week, and put his bottom teeth through his lip.  At this point, I've given up (see previous blogs of Chester's injuries) and after we stopped the bleeding, I determined that it wasn't worth stitches as the cut on the outside was small, and the local ER here doesn't stitch inside the mouth.  (Is that a policy across the country, or just the ER here?)  He looks fabulous with a huge fat lip and a bruise on his forehead.  I'm still taking his pictures this weekend for his second birthday.  It's nearly healed now, and even if he still had a swollen lip, I think it's important to document these things to embarrass him in front of his future girlfriends.

What does 2 + 1 = ?????

A whole lot less time than before!

I'm not sure what's been taking so much time recently.  Though the obvious answer is "that pesky newborn" I don't think that's the whole answer!  We've had family visiting pretty much non-stop since Marek was born, so even when he's sleeping, we're catching up on all the family and hometown news from the last six months.

I know you're reading this blog solely for the gratuitous pictures of the new baby, so here's one:

Notice Chester wrestling Ryan in the background?  It's like Battle Royale around here most days!
 Marek is now three weeks old and he's much more alert already.  He's such a great eater, I couldn't be happier with his nursing.  He also had his first bottle this week, and though I went back to work teaching just one night a week, he still needs to eat while I'm in class!  Marek is still learning to like his binky, but the Wubanub is helping a lot.  It doesn't keep the binky from falling out of his mouth, but it certainly makes it easier for me to find and put back in his mouth while I'm driving. 

Ryan and I also took a trip to San Diego last week.  Crazy, I know, but he was being honored by the AFCEA US Naval Institute with the Copernicus Award, and we don't get to choose the date of the awards ceremony it was now or never. 
Here we are at the awards ceremony- Marek was totally content to snuggle up in the Moby wrap and sleep through most of the trip.  I also used the wrap to sneak him into the convention center even though it was supposed to be ages 16+, you can barely see him peeking out of the wrap!   

Here's Marek's first trip to the Beach.  He's snuggled up in the Moby, but I managed to dip my toes in the ocean.  So now I'm up to the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Alaska, Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean.  I'm taking suggestions for my toes' next adventure!

 We also took a few side trips while we were in San Diego.  I'd never been to California before, and it was nice to have a little extra time to explore.  This was taken at the Mt. Soledad Vetrans' Memorial.  It's so weird to be at the beach and then up in the mountains ten minutes later!  As we drove up the steep and winding neighborhood streets, I kept thinking how crazy it must be to plow them in the winter.  Then I realized this is winter and clearly there's no snow.  If we ever get stationed in San Diego, it will be a completely different experience than New England, and even Virginia!

Speaking of totally different.  Let's compare last winter to this winter.   First is a picture from this winter, with the two inches of snow we've had.  The boys played outside the one morning that we had snow.  It melted later that day.  Second is a picture from last winter.  We had so much snow that we were running out of room to put the snow after Ryan shoveled it off the driveway!

January 2012

January 2011
 Finally, we've been taking advantage of Free Friday bowling over at Hanscom Air Force Base.  The first time we went when Marek was 5 days old and I needed some activity for the boys while Ryan enrolled Marek in DEERS.  I wasn't sure how they would do, if they would be able to hold the ball, or understand the concept, but I shouldn't have worried at all.  Both Pete and Chester now love "Rolling Balls".  
First, they find EVERY six pound ball in the entire alley.

Whoever invented this thing is genius.  We also use the bumpers and they hit pins every time!

There's Pete's strike! 
So there are the updates.  I can't promise I'll be back soon, but I'll try to keep up!