Treasure these moments

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My mind has been a whirlwind of thoughts lately. Spending 80 hours driving in a car with three small ones probably didn’t help matters. But recently life seems to have been going in fast forward. I would just like to hit the pause button just for a minute. Just to take a moment to soak in these moments of my three little ones.

Now, here’s the thing. I get really irked when people tell me to treasure these moments before their gone. Wait, let me elaborate. I don’t dislike the advice, except it seems to be spouted to me at the worst times. No one says it to me when my kids are giggling and squealing as they tickle each other, or wrap their little arms around me to give me hugs and kisses. It is always at those difficult moments. I once had King Toot in full melt down mode punch Urpling in the head so that she started wailing…while I was in the check out line trying to pay for food and grab bags of stuff to put back in the cart. I gave an exasperated sigh and the little old lady waiting in line behind me told me to treasure these moments as they fly by. I promptly assured her that I did treasure moments with my kids…just not these moments. I stand by that. I’m no expert and my kids aren’t grown so I cannot say definitively, but I’m willing to go out on a limb with this and say certain moments will not be missed. Never peeing alone, trying to take a prison shower before Chernobyl erupts in the living room over a bent up card from a game we no longer have, cooking every night only to watch three little beings poke at it for an hour claiming to not be hungry even though just ten minutes earlier was pleading for gold fish or cookies because they were SOOOOOOOOOO hungry…these moments are not something I will cherish. I’m fairly certain that the passing of these moments, never to return, are the silver lining to help ease the pain of your children slowly growing more and more independent and needing us less and less (that and grand babies. I’m pretty sure grand babies are a good salve on the wound of our children leaving us. They are the rewards for putting our time in with our kids. Little ones to love and dote on, spoil and pamper, and then pass back to mom and dad at the end of the day. I do plan on cherishing those moments!)

These ponderings were prompted by my preparations for the coming school year. Our family has a fairly strict routine we follow. Why? Because the elaborate schedule gives me peace. Everything I need to get done in a week has a place. Since it has a place, I can let go of it and stop stressing over it the rest of the week. I digress. As I was reworking our schedule I had to adjust several things. For example, last year Sasquatch only went to half day kindergarten. So she was gone for the morning, but I got to keep her the rest of the time. But now she will be gone all day. Which really hit me when I realized that she wouldn’t need to help pick up each day…because she wouldn’t be there to make a mess. *insert a few tears and a small and delicate sniffle for dramatic effect.* No more elaborate forts. No more “decorations” to make the house pretty that consisted of whatever random toys she found coating every surface of every shelf and door knob and bed and chair. No more elaborate Calvin and Hobbes books that she drew for me. Okay, I know, she still will have the weekends and evenings to do these things but it’s a really big jump in my life. For 6 years it’s been just Sir Smiley, Me, and the kids. We occasionally made excursions into the real world but usually it was our own little world. We’ve slowly been losing that and this feels like the big moment, the end of an era. Sasquatch will be in children’s choir at church, and be with the big kids (at least they’re big in my mind), she’ll be eating multiple meals a week without me, and will be having all these experiences that have nothing to do with me.

A sudden desperation to squeeze in as much time with her as possible has seized me. She is, of course, excited to finally eat lunch at school with her friends. I’m, of course. worried that she won’t have friends, or someone will be mean to her and I won’t be there to talk her through it. I am not a worrier by nature. I don’t often cry. But this one really hit me. Kindergarten didn’t…but first grade has.

I have about two weeks to go treasure these moments…and I intend to do just that.

An Honest Mother’s Day

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It’s Mother’s Day. That day that honors mothers and the work we do. I love the idea. Motherhood is the most talked about calling. I can find hundreds of blogs, memes, internet threads, articles, trending hashtags, and any other media bit about motherhood. Yet it is also the most controversial.

I was pondering this today. I’ve read blog posts comforting mothers. Telling us it’s okay that we don’t have it all together. I’ve read posts commending mothers who haven’t caved to consumerism and instead stick to old fashioned ideals. I’ve even seen posts stating they refuse to celebrate Mother’s Day because mothers should be celebrated every day. Everyone looking to cleverly offer a new perspective on motherhood.

I am not that clever. Unlike Matt Walsh’s mom, I did take my kids to Disneyland. I do let my kids watch movies. I’m not perfect. I also wish I had clever words of comfort on this day of all days for all us hardworking mommas. For those of us who feel like we fail each day to be that perfect mommy we see plastered on our Facebook walls. But I have none.

All I have is a life lesson. I used to get my hopes up when Mother’s Day would approach. This day is MY day. It will be a day I get to do what I want and relax for a change. Each year would leave me disappointed. My husband didn’t do enough. My kids were naughty. Angels didn’t follow me singing a chorus of alleluia behind me. But I eventually learned that Mother’s Day works much better if I approach it the way I have learned to approach life. Prepare for (and then promptly discard) the disasters and enjoy the successes. Don’t know what I mean? Let me give you some examples:
I woke up at 5:45 am to get the grocery shopping done since our bare essentials were now non existent and I would have to resort to eating hamburger helper…without hamburger…and juice with a suspicious expiration date. Not exactly pampering. So I discard that…and remember that I also woke up to several notes taped all over the house:

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I also got to walk out to the car and get into it without negotiating three peace treaties and a cease fire…and I drove to the store without listening to Let it Go, the most ironically named song I’ve heard. Definitely something to enjoy.

Of course King Toot proceeded to smack me on the face when he was angry today…twice. The kids spent at least 90% of the morning shrieking, yelling, and tattling. I cried. Also, several preschool workers were unable to do nursery this morning so I spent much of the morning scrambling to get the nursery classes covered. I’ve discarded those moments…in favor of the moments where several people stepped up to help. I even got to attend service instead of working in the nursery myself.

My husband had to work on Mother’s Day so I have spent most of the day without him. But I choose to instead enjoy the fact that my sister, who has lived half a country away from me for several years, moved back to my city this week and we spent the afternoon together. Our kids played well together and it was a fun and (mostly) relaxing afternoon of conversation with my life-long best friend.

So yes, parts of the day sucked. There were some tears. There were moments where I felt I had failed. But there were beautiful moments filled with family and friends and selfless love. So I guess today is a pretty good representation of motherhood in general. There are moments of beauty. There are moments where you soar and you finally feel like maybe you’ve got it figured out. But there are also moments of failure and compromise. Those moments where you just hope to make it to the end of the day in one piece. We just need to choose where to focus. It’s Mother’s Day so I will focus on the positive…today and everyday.

Now excuse me, I must go feed my children cold cereal from a box while watching a movie because…Mother’s Day.

Some selfies with those little people who made me “Mom”

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Sasquatch…now six years old!

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My four year old Urpling

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The youngest little trouble maker…the two year old King Toot…

Dinner with a Strong willed child

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Dare I say it? My child is….strong willed. Well, that’s putting it mildly. Any time I ask him to do ANYTHING, it is an epic battle of wills that feels like it may to the death….most likely his. He once was so angry that he wasn’t allowed to crawl under the pew and grab the feet of the people behind us in church that even though he was dragged out into an empty classroom with the door closed, my hubby could still hear him. My hubby was on stage with worship band playing the keyboard at the time…with an ear piece in his ear. Let’s just say I didn’t feel close to God that Sunday.
So here we are at dinner. Everyone is doing fine and I cooked. I made chicken and potatoes and veggies and everything. I sit the girls down and tell them the potatoes are French fries and we’re ready to roll. Then I grab King Toot and, of course, he is unhappy. Of course, because I asked him to do something. Never mind that he’s been begging for food for an hour. I dared to tell him we were going to sit at the table and eat. That’s when he started his high pitched shriek. It could break glass….it does break ear drums. Now, these are a few things we have learned through trial and a massive amount of error. If I ever give in, even once, and just let him scream and ignore it….it eggs him on. He will only escalate more, and more, and more, and more. He has followed me around and pushed on the back of my knees to make me fall. He has thrown things at me, hit me, etc. If I immediately address it right then, he’ll stop. The best punishment for him is isolation. We stick him in his crib and call it “a break” and tell him we’ll check on him in a few minutes to see if he’s ready to come out. If he stands up and says sorry, he has admitted defeat and we’re good to go. He has to say sorry…not just a cease in crying is enough. Trust me, I’ve tried. I mean, I’ve TRIED! But he MUST admit defeat or this battle is not done. It’s like the white surrender flag that he waves to admit that he lost this round.
It’s exhausting. Dinner tonight I spent taking a bite, trying to have a conversation with my (at that moment) sweet girls, and then jumping up to offer him a choice between saying sorry and joining us or staying in his crib. He would just stare at me and scream louder! He was not distressed….he was pissed! I had to do this no less than 10 times. He finally said sorry, I told him what I always do…that I forgive him and I love him no matter what but that it’s not an excuse to act that way. Then he proceeded to lick the ketchup up and eat nothing else and then say “done.”. By that point I was too tired to care and let him down.

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My adorable little monster at dinner.

It’s in these moments I always truly doubt myself. I see all these articles my friends post that all basically say the same thing. They have lovely titles, like peaceful parenting, or enjoy motherhood, or loving your kids. They all recommend something along the lines of: ‘there’s no need for conflict! Let them express their frustration, offer them choices, redirect, get on their level, and as long as you talk it out respectfully to them they will respect you.’ I feel a failure because my house is so often riddled with conflict.

But then I remind myself. I taught for several years. I did those things. I know them well in fact. I use them with my daughters with great success. But they made things worse with my son. So, so, so, so much worse. This is the first big meltdown in two days (plenty of small ones, but those only required going in once or twice). It used to be seven epic meltdowns a day…minimum. He is getting better and I am calmer in dealing with him. It comes down to this: parenting is an art…not a science. There is no magic formula that will magically transform every child. For some, if they were to use the tactics I just mentioned they would have a very different response. Parenting is an art because the materials you have been given differ. Some kids are like soft clay (like Urpling) which require gentle molding…anything harsher will crush them beyond repair. Some are like my son…titanium…and must be melted at a million trillion degrees before they will bend even a little. So I just take a deep breath, dress for battle, and remind my son at the end of each day how much I love him no matter what. Because at the end of the day, I know he will grow up to be a strong leader so I just need to give him the foundation to be a good one.

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At the end of the day, how could I not love this little guy!

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One of those days…

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It has been one of those days. Well, not day…afternoon. I took my kid to running club and brought the other two with to cheer her on. Then went to get supplies for the signs our school needed for their event tomorrow with two of my kids in tow, then picked up the third kid from school, went to Costco for food and stuff, came home and fed my kids, got Sir Smiley off to work, and the other to settled down in front of a movie. I had also spent all yesterday cleaning and decorating for a party we had here last night. So needless to say, I was a bit tired. I then spent the next hour or two making several signs for the aforementioned school event. They turned out pretty good, considering my extreme lack of artistic talent. I then settled in to have a semi-relaxing afternoon.
And this is where it went downhill. First, I meandered into the kitchen only to discover the Urpling had found a marker and “helped” decorate one of the posters. Thankfully she hadn’t scribbled on it, so it’s still usable. But now my pretty bubble letters have some very amateur black tracing throughout the middle of them. I really need to work on her penmanship.
Then I heard King Toot babbling. I went to investigate as it was time for him to be up anyway. Bad idea. Ignorance definitely would have been bliss. First the smell hits me. I turned on the lights, but it was one of the energy saving dealies that takes an hour to light up. As it was still dark I reach down to pick him up and bring him to the changing table. But instead of his waist all I feel is mush. Mushy mush. Horrifying mush. Mush that sent me wailing and shrieking like a little girl to the bathroom as I puked in my mouth and scrubbed my hands a million times. Then I had to carefully peel off his soiled clothing, wipe the excess off with wipes, and then hose him down in the shower. On the plus side I won’t need to bathe him tonight before bed. Then I have to go and collect all the blankets, sheets, and clothes and wash them, and scrub down the crib. Yeah, I’m ordering a pizza and we’re watching movies tonight because I’m done with life. 😉

Stay at Home Moms vs Working Moms

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Hmmm…a blog like this could be one of two things…insightful or inciteful (or maybe both). I was one of those moms who read the blog post by Matt Walsh about stay at home moms. He’s a bit harsher than I would be, but I found nothing all that heinous in his post. But many of the commenters did. It seemed some felt he was personally insulting working moms and also dads. The whole war waging in the comments section got me thinking about this mommy war. My thoughts have been all over the map so it’s been difficult to pull them together in something even remotely followable (which is unfortunately quite normal for me…just ask my husband).
Introductions for these kinds of touchy subjects set the tone for how someone will read the rest of your blog so this is what I want to lead with (of course I’m already a paragraph in, but I actually haven’t said much of anything yet, so apparently I’m good at wasting time. This oughta be good.) Question: Do you love your kids? Another question: Do they know you love them? If you answered yes to both of these, you’re a good parent. Enough said. I don’t need to know anything else…whether you cosleep, cry it out, nurse, formula feed, eat McDonald’s drive through every night, or feed your children food you grew or slaughtered yourself. YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT!!! Have I drilled it in yet? Do we sufficiently grasp the concept? Well, either way I’m moving on.
My first thought in all of this was on mommy wars themselves. I have rarely been insulted about my parenting choices to my face. I may get a condescending look on occasion. But they are relatively easy to ignore (I just rant about them on my blog later). But no one comes up to me and tells me that I mutilated my son because we circumcised him, or that my bean pole kids will be obese because I gave them formula. No, that only happens online. Where the other person doesn’t have to see the face of the person they’re talking too. They don’t even have to humanize the other person at all so they can vent out all their frustrations at their choices freely without any hindrance of common respect and courtesy. This is what fuels the mommy wars in general, the SAHM (stay at home mom) vs working mom war is no exception.
Another problem is how different the two experiences are. Working versus staying home are very different. They both have their own rewards and challenges. SAHMs have more time. We get the whole day to complete basic chores, and still have time for helping in lots of other ways. We have flexible schedules (barring kids school and extra-curricular activities). I never miss the big moments in my kid’s lives (well…rarely. We won’t talk about how King Toot decided to take his first steps at the airport for everyone else while I was retrieving luggage. Even though I spend all day, every day with him!) Having more energy and time for my kids, more energy and time for my hubby, and time to pursue my own hobbies also top the list for me. But working moms get actual bathroom breaks. They need not fear that if they go into that bathroom, one coworker will hit the other coworker with a bat while a third one comes in to watch you and keep you company. My daughter yesterday brought in all her stuffed animals one by one while I was pooping to keep me company. She lined them up against the wall to all stare at me. That wasn’t creepy or anything. I sometimes would give my left arm to shower or poop or pee without fear that the house will be on fire when I finish. Also, working moms have more validation. Not because people think less of me for staying home, but because at work…out in the real world… you interact with other adults. People see when you do your job well. When I taught, I had parents requesting me, gifts from students, and PTA members gushing over me. Then I stayed home. I have three little ones who can barely say thank you, and then my husband (my hubby is great, but he’s just one guy and he kind of has to be nice. I cook his food.). My first valentines day I got nothing from my hubby. I had always gotten nothing but hadn’t noticed before because my students had always brought things in and basically covered his butt. Since the they are like two different worlds with different challenges and rewards, to try and say one is more important than the other is impossible. Mathmatically. I’m sure Sheldon from Big Bang Theory would agree with me.
My other thought was about how we view what makes someone important. In our culture, you or only important if you’re “busy”. Not busy doing small things either….it’s the busy that’s always running around, always doing something, never stopping. If you aren’t busy, you aren’t important. This is where the crux of the difficulty between SAHM and working moms comes to play. Often, in an attempt to prove their importance, SAHM put forth a martyr complex. They work very hard to portray how busy they are. How slammed with chores and errands and volunteering they are and this is what makes them important. It can often come across as a woe is me attitude. Bahumbug I say. Don’t ever feel sorry for me. I’m happy, and quite content with my choices. I have been caught in this trap of business too many times and it’s time to break this vicious cycle! Being busy doesn’t make you more important. It just makes you more tired. I chose to stay at home because I wanted to be less busy. I wanted plenty of time to spend with my kids, to maintain the home, and to maintain healthy relationships with my hubby, kids, and friends (not to mention myself) without running myself into the ground. This isn’t to say that when you stay at home that you aren’t busy. You are. But you’re busy with things you chose to do. I train 6-8 hours a week for triathlons, run the preschool area of our church, lead a bible study, teach in our church’s AWANA program, and am on the PTO board. I do stay busy, but it’s all stuff I wanted and chose to do to be helpful to my community. I LOVE it! I can do all that, and still have time to play games with my kids, read them stories, listen to them sing, go for walks and to the park, and have time for my hubby too. It’s fantastic. So no, I never want to make someone pity me for how hard I’m working in order to gain their respect. I want their respect because of the love and energy I pour into my kids to make them amazing little people. I want them to respect me because I made a choice that was best for my family. I want validation just like everyone else.
Which brings me to my next thought. Most of the moms who were insulted, were working moms. Why were they insulted? Because in his praise of moms who stay home, they felt that their choices were being invalidated. All any of us want, no matter where we fall in life, is for people to see our hard work, all our sacrifices, all our accomplishments and respect us for it. They felt that had been taken away from them. The truth is, no matter what you end up choosing, sacrifices will be made. Matt Walsh said that staying home was ideal. I agree. But before you jump down my throat with anger and vengeance, let me explain. For your kid, no one is better than you. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING!! Perhaps it is better put this way: You are so amazing, so wonderful, and so perfect for your child that no one else will ever compare. Don’t you see? No one will love your kid like you, be pierced through the heart when they cry, or melt when they hug you like you will. No one. You are their ideal. But we do not live in an ideal world. Every situation has an ideal, and sometimes you have to sacrifice one ideal in order to keep the other ideal. Like, for example, the ideal of being able to eat every day versus the ideal of staying home with your kids so they get more of you. One ideal probably trumps the other and for some that is the choice they have to make. In an ideal world, our kids would never scrape a knee, get sick, be bullied, have their heartbroken, or run away. But these things may happen. It doesn’t make us bad parents, it just means we live in a broken and unfair world where we have to choose what ideals are more important. Health insurance, getting out of the house for a few hours each week so that you don’t go insane, paying off debt, all come into play. Breast feeding is another good example. I firmly believe breast feeding is ideal for your child for at least a year if not longer. Ask me how many kids I was able to do that for? (Hint- it rhymes with zero). Other ideals came into play, and I made my choice. I still believe breast feeding is the ideal, but for the family as a whole I had to make some tough decisions between ideals. So basically, it’s one thing to say that staying home with your kid is ideal…which it is. It’s another thing to say you are a bad mom (or dad…hate to leave them out!) if you don’t.
Basically, we all make sacrifices. We all look at our choices and options and then choose based on what’s best for our families. I have many working mom friends whom I respect highly. One works opposite hours from her husband. They sacrificed time together so they could pay the bills and still be their for their kids. That’s fantastic! I have a friend who is a supervisor but is considering asking to be demoted so she’ll be able to come home earlier and be less stressed. She wants her kids to get more of her, and a higher quality her. That is true sacrifice. I have a friend who works from home two days a week. Not because it’s easier (don’t make me laugh!) but because she wants to have has much time with her little boy as she can. They are all fantastic moms and their kids are so incredibly fortunate to have them! So how about we stop trying to figure out who’s more important and instead suck it up. Embrace our choices instead of regretting or resenting them. Live purposefully. But most of all, take time to tell other moms that we see the sacrifice they make…whether at work or at home…and commend them for it.

I love my dogs…I promise…

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I want to preface this by saying that while this is a rant…I really do love my dogs. But I just finished vacuuming for the millionth time and am feeling exasperated because of the hair (and stickers…but we’ll save that one for another time). Good gravy, the hair. Dog hair gets everywhere. I end up having to clean the house from floor to ceiling every week just to keep it at bay. I feel like I’m in a long drawn out war that I am steadily losing.
See, the problem is they’re old (about 11) and so they’re not really playful. While they tolerate our kid’s affections well…they aren’t going to run around with our kids until everyone is tired and quiet. Also, they shed so much that if I were God, I could collect the fur I’ve swept up and make a small litter of puppies every few days. No matter how much I clean, I’m picking dog hair out of food, off kids faces, and out of my mouth. Also, they bark. Being old, they can’t hear or see as well so they’ll bark at every slight noise they hear. You know, just in case it might actually be something. They want to make sure they’ve got all their bases covered. Of course this always seems to happen right when all the kids are finally sleeping…or at least quiet…and these ill-timed barks shatter any semblance of peace in our home. And when they stand up, they always have to shake and their collars make these loud noises that serve the same purpose as their barks…to ensure the house doesn’t remain quiet for too long. Did I mention they randomly eat things? Mainly toys and pens but they’ve also dabbled in koosh balls.
I love my dogs. We rescued them 9 years ago and they have been our faithful and adorable companions. They are sweet. They tolerate being “decorated” by Sasquatch with headbands and barrettes. They tolerate King Toot’s “hugs” and “kisses”. They are very obedient…they don’t even go on the carpet. They are affectionate and low maintenance. But some days I just want to shave them both just to save my sanity a little bit.

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My cute dogs…

Help Wanted vs Mommy Guilt

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I haven’t posted in a while. I seem to be developing a trend. Yet another thing I’m failing at. I have about fifty million ideas for posts but haven’t written any of them. Mainly, I get to the end of the day and I just want to collapse into bed, play my five lives of Candy Crush, watch a little Lois and Clark, and collapse into a coma of exhaustion. I have a lot going on. I lead the preschool at my church, I lead a bible study and attend a separate one, I’m on the PTO, and I’m training for triathlons. Combine this with trying to make sure I have time with all three if my kids and my husband, it’s really not surprising I would feel tired and overwhelmed at times. But I have always been good at keeping a sense of humor about things and sometimes I think I come across as though I’ve got it all under control. This is a complete fabrication.
Because honestly, there are days where I look at myself and decide I am failure. I am already a fairly neurotic person, just ask Sir Smiley. I am a bundle of insecurities, mixed with a sprinkle of laziness, with a dash of common sense, wrapped up in a twisted sense of humor. Not to mention I’m very social, and yet an introvert which probably makes me an enigma. (one moment. King Toot has somehow found a stash of glue sticks and is finding innumerable uses for them…must intervene…) Add that to the typical guilt and constant worrying that will plague even the most mellow of parents and I am often close to the edge. Of what? Not sure…I’ll let you know when I plunge over the edge.
All this to say, if you see a mom out there that as it all together all the time…it’s a big, fat lie. We can’t do it all on our own. This is, of course, the mantra of all good Christian churches. It’s pretty much the basis of Christianity and yet it never seems to sink in. This isn’t to say that Jesus will miraculously appear in my living room and turn my water to wine to help me relax. He does tell us we can’t do it on our own and gives us permission to fail and yet loves us the same. But He also sends me people to help. Like, my husband. Daddy should probably help right? But of course in my mind I think of how stressful his job is and how I want him to be refreshed and ready to deal with all the crap he has to deal with. I give myself a guilt complex before I even ask for help. But then I wander around cranky and about to have a nervous breakdown and then feel guilty that I’m inflicting my bad mood on the rest of my family. Which then causes me to feel guilty about the fact that my insecurities are making everyone walk on egg shells. I know…neurotic is me. I have even started developing an eye twitch.
As moms we feel like we should have it all together. We should be bonded with our kids, constantly patient and loving, have all the answers, do fun and interactive crafts we find on Pinterest, feed our children only healthy and balanced meals, and just in general be the Donna Reed of the 21st century.

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This lady I will never be…

But when I look at what often drives me…it’s either fear of failure or it’s to keep up with everyone else’s expectations. But in reality none of us have all the answers, and what works for one family won’t necessarily work for another. No one has it all together all the time, and every one of us has had those moments where we lose it at our kids. We have all felt like failures. Parenting is moments of pure joy you never thought possible mixed with moments of aggravation you never thought possible. It’s a roller coaster of the emotional spectrum. My number one rule has been “Mommy’s sanity comes first”. Because no matter how “perfectly” you do it, if YOU’RE not happy than your kids won’t be. Sometimes I need to remind myself of that, and also remind myself that to ask for help is not weakness…it just means you’re humble enough to put your family’s well being above your own self-image of perfection.

Note: I wrote this while dealing with one sick and clingy kid, one hellion bent on destruction, and one kid stuck in the middle who just wanted to be left alone and never was. If the post seemed a little rambly, I’ll blame it on that.