Feeding Fish: A Photo Essay

The problem with blogging once a month is that life doesn’t slow down for you to blog it later. So now I’ve got loads of pictures from Malaysia and Sri Lanka…and little desire to write about them. I guess I’d rather not be a travel blogger?

Although, on second thoughts, we loved the short time we spent in Malacca. It was a beautiful city and probably one of the nicest things we saw in Malaysia. So maybe I’ll write about that one of these days. No promises, though!

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Anyways, this set of pictures from the butterfly garden in Kuala Lumpur was too cute not to share. JQ loved feeding the fish and had the best time watching them bubble to the surface when he threw the fish food in. Plus, what’s cuter than hearing a baby say “Fizzshie!”?

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The instructions
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The food
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The grab
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The help
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The look
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The throw

Last Week in Titles: A Saga of Sickness

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Unrelated flower picture because you don’t want a picture of the actual happenings!

One week ago, I had high hopes. We had just returned from touring Sri Lanka for a week, everyone was glad to be home, and there were All The Things to do (namely, laundry, grocery shopping, and other elements necessary for survival). And did I mention everyone was glad to be home? Surely I could crank out some blog posts as well.

But then disaster struck. On Saturday evening, Jared began to feel unwell, and on Sunday morning we were awakened by him vomiting loudly and forcefully all over the bathroom. This day was titled “Thank Goodness it’s Probably Food Poisoning,” because, like the good wife I am, I’d rather stay healthy and take care of everyone than get sick myself.

On Monday, things were a bit more back to normal, though Jared was still feeling a bit green and not eating much. JQ, however, had decided it was his duty to scatter as many of his toys over the house as he could, resulting in blocks and legos covering approximately 3/5 of the living room floor. Any attempts to pick up said blocks and legos were met with protests and immediate rescattering, leading me to wonder, “Why Are Toddlers People Too???”

On Tuesday, there was a premonition of disaster when I got JQ up from his nap to take him to his babysitter’s and he vomited all over me when I put him on my back. I, of course, wrote it off as just one of those random things babies do as he was happy otherwise and not a grouch, but should have known I was “Living in Denial.”

By Wednesday, things were feeling decidedly blue and may have culminated in a few bouts of crying as I wondered if I would always be “Living in Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old,” which, in case you’re wondering, really is that much worse than living in solitary confinement by yourself.  But really, Singapore, why do you have to be so far away from everyone (and so hot)? And why does the rest of the world sleep so much during the day?

On Thursday, things were fine as I woke up and ate breakfast, until, at 10:00 a.m., I felt a twinge of “things aren’t quite right”. Jared immediately told me I was not allowed to get sick, then went to the store and got some traditional Chinese medicine as he’d been reading about all the values of traditional cultures and how much they know about everything. The stuff tasted awful, like dirt mixed with Swedish Bitters (which Jared apparently was never forced to take as a child), and had millions of little round balls which would not dissolve in water and had to just be swallowed. Oh, and it tasted terrible coming back up. A word to the wise: “Never Take Chinese Medicine When You’re Coming Down With the Stomach Flu,” or maybe, “Don’t Trust the Old Ladies at the Herb Store.” Once I categorically refused to even SMELL any more of the stuff, the day got a lot better, though it was perhaps marred by throwing up in the middle of a class.

By Friday, I had the energy of a sloth that’s been hit by a train and was just glad I only had to teach 5 classes instead of my usual 8 as I’d had the foresight to close any open slots the day before. You could call this day, “Lounging Is Too Much Work.”

On Saturday and Sunday, I was feeling better enough to pick up all the blocks and legos that had been scattered around the floor for the whole week (while JQ was in the other room, of course!). Then I figured my work was done and mostly rested, other than going to church since no one was actually throwing up anymore at this point.  “What Are Weekends for, Anyway?”

And now it’s Monday morning, the dishes are exploding out of the sink, the floor hasn’t been mopped in who knows how long, and we’re back at Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old. But at least there aren’t blocks all over the floor (for now)!

Seven Ways to Achieve Bliss: or, How to travel with your baby and still have some sanity when you’re finished

Since John Quincy was born, we’ve traveled to around 8 different countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia). I think he may have spent a quarter of his life traveling so far. Perhaps it’s not quite 1000 hours, but I’m starting to think we’re getting pretty proficient at this traveling thing. Here’s what we do:

1.

Baby wear. Babywearing is the best thing for traveling anywhere, at any time. It keeps the baby contained if he’s mobile, is easily portable, and keeps your hands free. Cons of babywearing are that the baby gets heavy after wearing him all day, and if you wear him on your back, it’s tough to sit down, but I find it much less difficult than trying to hold a baby along with all my other stuff.              Travel photos iPhone

2.

Don’t sleep train. There’s nothing wrong with sleep training if you’re a homebody. But if your child can’t sleep anywhere other than their own bed, traveling for several days on end is not for you. You’ll always be worrying about whether you’re ruining a sleep schedule (and you probably will be). Instead, train your kid to sleep anywhere, like on your lap in the train–

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or on the airport floor.

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So far, JQ has slept in trains, planes, taxis, and boats, not to mention napping in his carrier. My motto is “A sleeping baby is a good baby.” Much better than a baby that’s trying to run down the airplane aisles or steal everyone’s earbuds. And much much better than a baby that’s crying because he doesn’t have his own bed to sleep in.

3.

Don’t schedule feedings. I know this might sound like heresy to a lot of you, but seriously, when you’re traveling, would you rather stick like glue to your schedule even though your baby is screaming his head off because he’s hungry, or would you rather suck it up and distract that grumpy baby? I go with distraction and comfort every time. I’d far rather be a human pacifier for my baby than have a grumpy baby who will inevitably make me grumpy.  Like a sleeping baby is a good baby, an eating baby is also a good baby. And the best part is, eating will often make that baby become a sleeping baby.

4.

Pack light: the more you pack, the more you have to carry. That means leave your 30 just-in-case books behind and maybe get a Kindle or something if you fear you’ll be bored. And remember, you’ll be wearing that baby for at least part of the time. And when you’re not wearing him, you’ll probably have to chase him everywhere and won’t have a break to sit down and read anyways. Travel photos iPhone

Or you might only get to sit and read TO the baby. Which is good too.

5.

Don’t be afraid to go slow. Don’t try to see everything all in one day. Of course, I follow this motto even without a baby because sight-seeing can get exhausting and I can’t stand just going to museums all day.

So take a break while you’re at the Louvre looking at the Mona Lisa and let your baby enjoy his version of museum seeing–crawling under benches and crawling out again.Travel photos iPhone

Made his day. And I didn’t mind the chance to sit down for a minute either.

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6.

Find kid-friendly places to stay.

This one’s kind of obvious, but it always helps to stay at places where they don’t mind if your baby has pulled all of their pans out of the cupboard for the 574th time that day and then proceeded to be very loud with said pots and pans. Untitled

Cuteness won’t steal everyone’s  hearts, especially not those who have never had babies and had to try to compensate for their messes.

The most difficult place to stay was in Germany, where we stayed with two college girls who kept their “pantry” in boxes on the floor. JQ was in heaven pulling out boxes of beans and crackers to shake and scatter all over the floor, and I couldn’t keep him away all the time as he hated being shut in our room! We tried our best, but I think they felt we were ruining their tidy house (they were German, after all!).

Now, we mostly try to stay in places where we can have an entire apartment to ourselves. It’s much less stressful than trying to keep someone’s entire house out of the reach of a thoroughly destructive baby.

7.

Walk. A lot.

Not only is walking the best way to see things (in most places–we have visited some VERY unwalkable places recently) but it also helps keep your child occupied. All that movement will often lull him to sleep or at least keep him happy. And it keeps you out of small spaces with a screaming child. What could be better?

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Jared with JQ outside Notre Dame de Paris.  Somehow I failed to get the cathedral in the background, so you can imagine with the below picture:

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7.

Be flexible.

I know that’s easy for me to say–I’m the kind of person who goes with the flow. As long as we’re not totally bored or lost forever, it’s fine with me.

BUT–personality types aside–babies have needs. Sometimes they just need some downtime or need to stop and eat. So sometimes we need to give up whatever plans we have for that day and take the time to help that baby be happy. Because when you’re traveling, a happy baby means everyone else can be happy. Edinburgh

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Go forth and travel!

Linking up at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Quick Takes!

Why I’m Glad I Don’t Have a Dryer

I just realized today that I’ve never told you  about our laundry situation in all the various countries we’ve lived in. Have you ever been missing out!

For the past three years, we haven’t had a dryer. And for the most part it’s been ok. It was a little hard in London when we only had a teeny tiny flat and it took clothes two days to dry because cold and damp weather is not the greatest for laundry drying (and also a significant reason we didn’t cloth diaper exclusively!), but really, in a family this size, it’s pretty easy to go without a dryer. Of course, when I was growing up we hung laundry on the line and I felt like it took all day. Probably because with 12 people in a house, there’s always more laundry to hang. But here, I actually kind of like it. Here’s why.

    1. I’m lazy and if I had a dryer clothes would sit in it for days and then they’re all wrinkly and gross. So much better to just get it over with all at once.
    2. It eliminates the step of putting your clothes in the dryer, taking them out, and then folding them. I do exactly none of those steps.
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Don’t your towels have feet?
  • When you hang up your clothes as soon as the washing machine is done, all you have to do when they’re actually dry is move the hangers to your closet. That’s it. No extra hanging, no folding, no wrinkly messes that sit in the dryer for a week.DSC_0474
    • Even matching socks is easier. Of course, that could be because only one person in this house currently wears socks. The rest of us (me, and by extension JQ) can’t stand having sweaty feet on top of (underneath?) sweaty everything else and so we either go barefoot or put on sandals when the looks of disapproval and the questions become too much. But still–no dryer to eat your socks? It’s a win.
    • If you can dry your clothes outside, they will smell like you’ve dried them outside, which, in my opinion, is a nice smell for clothes to have. I’ve never been able to stand the reek of fabric softener and fake smells. If, on the other hand, you live in a small flat in London and only have a bathroom to dry them in….well, they will probably smell like mildew and you’ll go around wondering who’s bringing that weird smell with them. Don’t worry–it’s just you.

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    • It keeps you on top of your laundry. There’s nothing quick about hanging your clothes to dry, so if you know you’re almost out of clean towels or shirts or socks, you have to do laundry that very minute so it can be dry in 24 hours when you actually need it. I start getting complacent when I have a dryer around, because it only takes 4 hours or so for the clothes to be ready to wear again. But it’s really a lot better for my sanity (and Jared’s) to get the clothes washed a day or two in advance of when I REALLY need them so that we actually have clean laundry.
    • On the other hand, it’s kind of annoying, when you only have one blanket for your bed, to have to wash it first thing in the morning so it can be MOSTLY dry by the evening. I suppose I could overcome my cheapskate tendencies and, you know, actually buy another blanket, but SPENDING MONEY ON NONESSENTIAL ITEMS (i.e. not food)!

    And that’s why, in spite of having lived without a dryer for the better part of the last three years, I’m actually kind of happy that I have. Sure, a dryer is awfully convenient, but it’s better for me as a person to actually plan and act on things I know I have to do. Sometimes convenience can be sneaky and look like a friend, but often it’s actually the enemy.

Head on over to This Ain’t the Lyceum to see more posts!

Living in Virtual Solitude: Or, I Have no Wifi

Singapore.

DSC_0262 It’s the land of much heat, beautiful buildings (mostly), almost no mosquitoes (they wiped them all out when Zika showed up), some slightly scary wildlife (which we haven’t seen any of yet), and many interesting foods. It’s also the place where getting wireless internet is more bureaucratic than renting an apartment. Which is why we’ve had a house for almost two weeks now, but still have no wifi. DSC_0246

Of course, living a life free from the distractions of Facebook videos, Netflix, Instagram, and all other web browsing (although we do still have data on our phones) has some obvious benefits, such as spending more time with people (consisting right now of exactly two people, Jared and JQ, since I’m not exactly flush with friends here), spending more time reading books during JQ’s naptime (I’m at around a book a day, so far), spending time playing violin, and spending time cleaning the house when I’m not being a slave to JQ’s every whim. I would even say I’ve been spending time cooking, but I’m still adjusting to grocery shopping here, which is always a hard part about moving. Not only do you have to figure out what’s affordable in stores (pro tip: don’t expect lots of dairy products in Singapore), but you have to figure out how to cook with each country’s kitchen equipment (yes, we’re back to the toaster oven here). For now, it looks like we’ll be eating a lot of rice, green leafies, and tropical fruits.

However, in spite of all the benefits, I’m still a millennial. I miss having wifi. I’m kind of getting anxious about getting back to work (this house ain’t gonna pay for itself), and all day interaction with a small human who has just started bleating “Maamaa” in the most piteous way, while fulfilling, is not exactly restful. At least he naps for about three hours a day?

We should be getting wifi any time now since Jared finally has his official Student Pass. I’m sure it will be nice to get back to working a few hours a day and not feeling quite so disconnected from the rest of humanity (the humans that I know, that is. There’s loads around here that I don’t know). I know the benefits of living a more connected life will be there, but I hope I can remember the benefits of being minimally connected as well. And of course I’ll still be teaching my small bleating wobbly human.

Let It Go

One week from today, we leave.

This small flat where we eagerly expected the birth of our first child, the place he came home to from the hospital. Family and friends have visited. Life has happened. We’ve filled it with memories in less than a year.

But now our flat is looking bare and new again, minus all the stuff that’s sitting around everywhere. Let’s say it looks as bare and new as a place that looks like a tornado recently went through it can look.

We’ve started getting rid of everything, moving on, letting go. Those tiny baby clothes we brought expectantly, our furniture, the evidence that we were here.

Sunset over the Thames

I don’t want to move on. I want to freeze this moment in time: this still-small baby (who is sometimes a bear), this messy apartment, these sunsets over the river. I want to hold them in the palm of my hand and never let go.

Sunset over the Thames

I don’t want to surrender a known present to an unknown future. If it were up to me,  I’d give up unknown joys and sorrows in exchange for these familiar ones. I’d freeze time, holding onto to what I know.

Sunset over the Thames

But it’s not up to me. I don’t have a choice. Life must be lived even if it’s uncertain, even if it means giving up the familiar for the unfamiliar, the known for the unknown. Unknown goods are no less good because they are unknown. Or that’s what I tell myself, anyways.

Otherwise, I’d be like my still-learning baby: endlessly grasping for something I cannot reach but not wise enough to give up and move forward to the things within my grasp.

So on we go–it’s time for the next adventure!

Updates and Anniversaries

I decided it was time for an update on what’s been going on over here while I’ve been doing everything but blogging. So here are the things that have been keeping me busy recently.

  1. The first one, of course, is JQ monstering.

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Don’t be fooled by that cute little face and angelic mop of blonde hair. This little man, who is currently eight-and-a-half months old, rarely sits still and always wants to be getting into something. Vying for the spots of top most fascinating things are computer cords, computers, cellphones, and drawers. So far he’s completely destroyed one drawer in the house and taken the contents out of many more. His motto seems to be, “What can I get into next?”

2. In June, we celebrated our third anniversary. Of course, like the bad blogger that I am, I’ve been trying to write a post about it for a month. This is me giving up and saying no post shall be written. But at least we got (a very bad) picture of us wandering around London on our anniversary.
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It’s been a great three years in three countries, Jared. I’m looking forward to the next year (and the next country!).
3. The third thing that’s been keeping me busy is. . .I got a job! It’s teaching English online to Chinese people, mostly kids. The transition was a little rough on JQ (since he obviously can’t “help” me and has to go in the other room), but I’ve taught a lot of fun students. And I’ll be able to take it with me when we move. . . which is a plus.

4. Which brings me to: we’re moving, again! We leave our current house on July 25 (sniff, sniff), and are going to travel around for a bit before heading off to Singapore in January. Not looking forward to Singapore’s weather, but kind of excited to know where we’re going next and maybe having a bigger flat there too. What I’m not excited about, though, is packing, a.k.a. getting rid of everything we own (again). I always feel like we’ve done a great job of not accumulating stuff until it’s time to pack it all up–and then it takes five times longer than it should to go through everything. But at least we won’t have much to carry when traveling!

5. But before we leave here for good, we’re doing a bit more traveling around the country. We have Scotland and Ireland booked for the end of the month, but for now, we’ve just made a last-minute trip to Gloucester and a day trip to Cardiff from there. Lots more beautiful scenery (and cute baby pictures, of course).

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We’ve been loving the gorgeous English gardens and all the greenery everywhere.

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We had a great time walking around Cardiff as well and seeing the castle and the bay. It was perfect weather too!

6. Besides going places ourselves, we’ve also had other people visit us. After my friend left, my sister came two weeks later. I haven’t persuaded either of them to write a blog post yet, but perhaps I might still. It’s amazing how much more popular living in London has made us!

7. Other than all the busyness described above, we’re just enjoying what has probably been the coolest summer I’ve ever spent. I don’t think it’s ever gotten past 80 degrees (yes, that is Fahrenheit) yet and it’s July. Feel free to be envious, those of you roasting in America. Have I mentioned we’re going to miss England?!

Well, I think that about covers our summer so far. What have you all been up to?

For more, head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum.

How to Have a Stress-Free Pregnancy

Since there are (fortuitously) seven steps to follow, I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes!

Can you believe my baby is already almost five months old? He’s getting big so fast! So in honor of being the mother of an almost five-month-year-old (how Jared says it and it’s so funny I have to include it here. Do tell if you know anyone else who says that!), let me give you some advice on how to make your pregnancy really easy and stress free.

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(Cute baby picture so you’re reminded what the end result will be).

First, start your pregnancy in a country where no one speaks your language.  Prenatal visits are that much more exciting when you have to listen to the nurses practicing how to say “gynecological” from Google translate. And you’re never quite sure if they’ve understood any questions you have. As a bonus, when you come back to English-speaking parts all your doctors will be really annoyed because your medical records are all in Chinese and they don’t teach them that in medical school.

Second, get rid of nearly everything you own and prepare to move halfway around the world when you’re about five months along. Things like couches can really weigh you down with their couch-sitting needs, so it’s better for all involved if you just get rid of them now. You’ll be thankful later when you’re so huge you can’t pry yourself off a couch with a crowbar!

Third,  leave the country you started in and spend a few months with family. You’d be amazed how packing in the visits and seeing as many people as possible in a couple months’ time makes everything easier. But don’t get your heart set on staying here with people you know–these are just quick visits!

Fourth, when you’ve traveled the entire length of the country and seen everyone, get ready to move! Thankfully this will be an easy process since you will have already done step two. It just involves packing your entire life back into the two suitcases you’re allowed and you’re off again.

Fifth, once you’ve flown for around seven hours and have a serious case of jet lag and swollen ankles, start looking for a place to live. This will involve lots and lots of googling and walking everywhere, so be sure to give yourself at least a few weeks before the baby’s supposed to come. Remember, you still have to find a doctor reasonably close to where you’ll be living as well.

Sixth, you finally find a place to live and your baby’s due in a month! Perfect timing. Now you can relax. . . except there’s no furniture. Time to go shopping so when that baby does make its appearance it doesn’t have to wear your clothes. Oh, and having somewhere comfortable to sleep is a plus too.

Seven, buy that waterproof mattress cover you know you should have just in case you’re one of the few people whose water actually breaks before you’re in labor. Then let it sit in the other room because there’s no way your water is actually going to break in the middle of the night–at least not two weeks before the baby’s expected!

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(Not-so-cute pregnancy picture so you can see what the last two weeks of pregnancy were like.)

Once you’ve done all that, you can kick back (I’ll let you have a couch again) and wait for that baby to arrive. You’ll probably have about two days before he decides it’s time. But at least you weren’t just sitting around worrying about when he was going to come.

So in brief: to have the easiest, least stressful pregnancy possible, all you have to do is get rid of all your stuff , pack some suitcases, and fly (four or more flights is best)! And for maximum stress reduction, plan on having a baby a few weeks after you arrive. It’s completely foolproof.

Homeless

I still remember the first time I visited London: 14-year-old me was awestruck at the old buildings, the British accents, the  aura of history that pervaded the place. I, a kid who had lived on a farm her whole life,  felt as though I belonged in London. London felt like home.

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Now, nine years and three moves later, I live in London. But the London of now doesn’t match up to my teenage dreams. When you live in a place, the glamour wears off quickly. It’s the difference between love at first sight and that same love ten years later–as you live with someone, you find they have rough edges and sharp corners too, but you love them even more for all that. As a child, my world was stable. I lived in the same house for the first twenty years of my life. I knew where home was. But now that I’ve lived in three different countries in as many years, “home” is more of an abstract concept. I don’t know where I belong any more. Travel is great. We’ve learned so much from living in new countries, far away from everything familiar. We’ve found out that what we’ve taken for granted all our lives–small things like ovens, big things like freedom of speech and unfettered access to the Internet–are not the same for everyone everywhere. People do things different ways, have different values, and sometimes even use “rubbish” as an adjective (as in, “This is a rubbish blog post”).

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But traveling has made me evaluate what it really means to be American, or Chinese, or British. I see how different each culture is, and yet, in many ways, how similar.

Growing up, I thought Britain was just another America across the ocean where people spoke with cool accents and had ancient castles and stuff. Now? I don’t know what Britain is–but I know it isn’t that!

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Joy

Four months ago, every night was as quiet as when the baby’s gone to bed early. Four months ago, all we had to assure us of his coming was one very round belly, a car seat, and a crib. We were full of expectations and fears—a hard birth, sleepless nights, a world that would change dramatically. And it was all true.

What we could never have anticipated is just who he is. It’s hard to believe that the person we were waiting for was this babbling squeaking little person, so full of life and opinions already. This little person who dissolves into a puddle if he doesn’t get to bed on time, and who wakes up in the morning by wiggling and kicking for an hour before he opens his eyes with a smile. What we were missing in our expectations was the joy.

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To hear him squeaking, click on the video!

Every moment since his arrival, the long newborn nights and the days full of wonder as he awakens to the world around him, has been full of joy. His loud vocalizations, the smell of his wispy hair, his round soft cheeks (just perfect for kissing) have all been so much more than I could have ever imagined. Watching this small being learning how to smile, blow bubbles, and coordinate his hands makes me smile every day. I can’t believe it’s been four months already, John Quincy! We love you so much.