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Pockets and Swimming In it

2 Dec

Sometimes it’s hard to even breathe with all the disastrous efforts attacking the  substance of our very own existence. You get so angry and enraged that you can’t even form sentences without profanity.

But sometimes there are moments of zen that give you an opening for happiness during the dark times in our country. Small moments that happen in your family, community, or city that make you breathe easier. I cling to these pockets of happiness. They give me hope that even though on a national scale my country is plummeting into the depths of disgrace and lining the pockets of big business and the rich, there are moments that can still bring positivism and light.

I’m a big fan of The Arts, most writers by nature are, but sometimes it becomes difficult to expose your kids to the world of art and all its dynamics. With budget constraints schools become a limited resource for artistic mediums. Most of the time you have to do it on your own, go to museums, or sign up for classes, or become a poor imitation of the amazing Bob Ross.



He was awesome.

I make it a point to instill the exploration of science and the creativity of the Arts on weekends with my kids. I feel I’ve got to take a proactive approach in their learning development. And they seem to get a kick out of all the side projects. They’re confident, outgoing and bold with their ideas and opinions. So it surprised me when my youngest was a little hesitant to enter her work in the National Reflections Campaign organized by the PTA at school. I had my own reservations … you know how I feel about the PTA Mommy-and-Me Mafia. But art is art and I introduced her to this opportunity. My daughter wasn’t fond of the idea of people judging her work. I can totally relate to that.

What if I come last? She asked.

That was her biggest fear.

I said I didn’t care whether she came in last, what mattered was whether she enjoyed the process, whether she tried her best and enjoyed creating. I explained to her that a little courage goes a long way. She just needed to take a small step. That’s it. Not everyone is strong enough to take a chance on themselves, to believe in themselves, to submit something. Not everyone has the opportunity, so if you’re given one … take it!

Just a little bit courage goes a long way.

My son needed an extra push too, but nothing major. He seemed on board after I told him he could create a Lego Movie under the Film Production category. Lego and Movie. That’s all it took for him to find his bravery.  My daughter chose the Visual Arts category, and submitted her painting. She said she had a good time and that the use of glitter was a “awesome”.

They both used this year’s theme, “Within Reach”, differently as my son explained through his piece that Justice is Always Within Reach … whenever Batman is around. While my daughter explored Kindness is Within Reach through a dinosaur painting that sparkled with just the right amount of glitter.

Fast forward like four weeks and I get an email, two emails, informing me that both of my kids won first place in their respective categories for the entire school. Now they’re both off to the District Level judging.

Pocket of happiness. Right there. Swimming in it.

I was happy for them, really happy. But even happier because my daughter found her strength. She was brave enough to take a chance on herself, and believe. She learned that trusting herself and being courageous is a good thing.

That’s a happy mom moment right there. A huge pocket of happiness … The kind that gets me through rough days in this world. I was so grateful for courage that day.

Buen Camino my friends!




The Night Before Six …

13 Jul

It didn’t occur to me that the Birthday Eves were important to kids too. I just thought only adults took stock and thought about the night before turning 40. I realized it’s a moment to pause for kids too. I wished I would have thought about it sooner, so I could have done this earlier for my kids and for my son, so that I could look back and remember all the times that slip into forgotten memories unless you have a picture of it. But I was grateful to have remembered and started today.

So I wrote her a letter …


You didn’t even need me to catch you this time.

You found the courage to jump off the edge and perform your best cannonball yet. And it was only your second attempt. You smiled. You finally went on the blue slide … six times you raced me. Six times I won but you didn’t care, because that wasn’t the point of the blue slide.

We were there three-and-a-half hours.

You ate a strawberry-orange-fruity Popsicle and it claimed your front tooth, the one that wiggled all morning long, the one you wouldn’t let me touch. The pool-side Popsicle made the arrival of the tooth fairy possible.

You won a book, a dinosaur book, on the last day of the summer reading book club over at the library, and you high-fived me.

The hotel that lost your soft, plush brown stuffed-dog that you’ve had since you were one-year-old, the hotel that claimed it had no idea how it disappeared from your bed, sent a FedEx package to our door. Brownie appeared and was back in bed with you tonight.

But before you went to sleep we talked about it being your last day as a five-year old and how that felt, what you expected six would be like, what your best memories of being five were … you were grateful for that day. You cried a little, though, you were worried about being six. Your brother told you that being six was gonna be great and that you’d probably be tall enough to ride some roller-coasters now, play on the big playground at school, and read some good books.

Being six would be easy for you.

We had a family hug for a couple of minutes and that seemed to do the trick. You were still worried but you found your courage.

As you lay in my arms I remembered this was the year you tried out for softball and you liked playing first and third base the most. Your favorite part was batting. It was your first year of kindergarten and you met your buddy Emma. Your favorite shows were PAW Patrol, PJ Masks, Doc McStuffins, Sesame Street, and America Ninja Warrior. Your favorite animals were elephants, hippos and dinosaurs. You really liked reading Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems, The Fred and Ted Series by P.D. Eastman, The Skippyjon Jones Series … all of them, Dr. Seuss, The Hungry Caterpillar, and Good Night, Goodnight Construction Site. Your favorite movies were The Ice Age Series, Despicable Me and Moana. You didn’t like getting out of bed, you were the give-me-five-more-minutes-mom kind of morning person, but you did enjoy you feel-good songs to wake you up. You enjoyed Footloose, Our House In The Middle of the Street, Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Starting Something, and U2’s Songs of Innocence — the entire CD.

You liked art and drawing, you liked playing Legos and America Ninja Warrior with your brother, you like me chasing you, giving you piggy back rides, splashing in the kiddie pool, watching you ride your bike, and you really like doing The Wave at baseball games.


It was a great day to be five-years old. The last day you would be five and it had many Jar of Awesome Moments. You have a Pippi-Longstocking-Amelia-Bedelia-Goonies-Moana adventurous spirit. I’m hoping to remember it all.

I’ll especially remember me making your birthday cupcakes. You requested chocolate cupcakes instead of a cake this year, chocolate with chocolate with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles.

I tried a new recipe and it was an epic fail. Disaster all over the kitchen and cupcakes tasted and looked nothing like cupcakes at 11:23 p.m. They were just gross. I have no idea what happened, but I imagine it had something to do with my math and my ounces/grams to cups/tablespoon conversion.

So, what could I do but laugh and start again. Finished the cupcakes after midnight and then started on the frosting … Birthday cupcakes will be great tomorrow.

Last day of being five definitely rocked it.



Uncovering Great Stories …

24 Apr

Celebrating words and their magical effect on our lives under the California sun created a moment for the Jar of Awesome.

Every year, we find our way through the mazes of people and books to create our own weekend adventure. Sometimes the moments are simple, other times they’re exciting fireworks style encounters, either way we always look forward to this book lover’s tradition.

We look forward to what this festival will uncover. Sometimes it’s all about meeting a special author, other times it’s about discovering a new story, or running into my kid’s favorite super hero, sometimes it’s about exploring the science stations, or cooking demonstrations, and sometimes it’s about witnessing a great performance on stage. This weekend we were lucky enough to experience it all, although the Caped Crusader was missing … probably solving a crime though.

It was our yearly outing to the Festival of Books and the fact that we didn’t have a meltdown definitely ranked as a Top-10 Outing.

But the one special surprise that snuck its way into our hearts was discovering The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Now if you know anything about kids, you know that rock, paper, scissors is a major tie-breaker decision maker around here. So when we uncovered the origins of this very funny story, mom scored some points. If you have kids I strongly encourage you to read this one. The fact that we met the author and got it signed? Mom got a high-five for that one. The fact that we got four of our books signed? Yup. It was chocolate time.

So as I sat there on the grass, under a tree, listening to the band on the nearby stage, unloading our reading treasures and eating the goods from our homemade picnic, I thought … definitely a moment to be captured on film. Definitely a moment to be grateful for … definitely a moment for the Jar of Awesome.



The Adventure begins …


Checking out some authors …



Hitting the stage to rock some children’s music …


I loved checking out this wall … can you find ours?



My kids thought this would be a great book for me …



I decided to pick that up plus a couple of freebies 🙂


We stopped by to spread some kindness during our book loving tour …


Before departing we left our mark on the wall of books …


Our awesome loot at the end of the day …

Yup … it was a 10 out of 10. High five mom.



I Just Joined A New Club, But Wasn’t Aware of It

17 Mar

I could be your worst Book Club nightmare.

Just strolling on in to eat the snacks and talk about scenes in the book that only come out in the movie. It’s taken me a year to read two books. Just two. And I’m not even finished yet. It’s not to say that the books are bad, they’re not. They’re actually pretty good. Really good.

It’s something else holding me back, interrupting the nooks and crannies of quiet time and peace, making my eyes heavy, so heavy that I knock out with having only read a page. It’s the culprit that keeps your bookmark on the same page for weeks, it’s the thing that keeps you renewing different copies of the same book from the library for over and over again. It comes to a point where you should really purchase it by now.

It’s parenthood.

Yup, that pesky responsibility keeps getting in the way of a good book … well parenthood and my love of Netflix. I usually keep this shame and embarrassment to myself. I mean what kind of writer am I if I’m not reading other people’s work? I mean I even have an autographed copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book hanging out in bag, next to the Chapstick, still marked on Chapter 4.


Chapter 2.

The embarrassment even compels me to lie where my bookmark falls. I’m so used to keeping it to myself, I try to downplay it in public. But every so often when my buddy posts something, I am reminded of this failure even more and there’s downplaying it to her. I confess. Automatically. And after our little conversation I think I should really be banned from any book club entirely.

You see my blogging buddy, Jackie Cangro is an avid reader and posts these amazing reading lists on novels that appeal to every kind of book lover. And every time I see it, I jot down at least one or two books and let her know how amazing they sound and how ready I am to walk on over to Barnes and Noble and head over to to buy it.

But that never happens.

I end up being the bad Book Club member of a club I was never invited to be a part of, sad I know. The kind you don’t want to invite back because they never finish the book, or they have yet to get started.

But then I realized something … I HAVE been part of a book club and finishing books every month sometimes three, four, five books. I just wasn’t realizing it because it was the Parenthood Book Club. I’ve been hanging out with Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, Victoria Kann, Herman Parish, Ted Arnold, Roald Dahl, Henry Winkler, Beverly Cleary, Jack Chabert, Jeffrey Brown, Tom Angleberger, Wendelin Van Draanen, and many others.

So I stand corrected.

Parenthood hasn’t  made me a terrible book club member, I just joined a new club and wasn’t aware of it. Adventures come in all kinds of genres.

Here are our top picks:


For adventure and young Jedis.



My kids enjoy the laughs Scaredy Squirrel brings.



The Here’s Hank series is one of the funniest and engaging stories involving a young boy and his adventures with family, friends, or school.



This series always cracks up my kindergartner. Easy to read and fun.



Who doesn’t love Dr.Seuss right?



We love Amelia Bedelia’s smart, strong, funny, and independent mind. Her adventures always keep my kindergartner engaged.


Shredderman Books

Standing up to bullies, solving mysteries, and doing the right thing are all part of this amazing series for young kids.



My son loves this nonfiction series! It talks about the lives of important historical figures in a way that’s interesting for young readers.



I loved Beverly Clearly growing up and was so happy that my son enjoyed the adventurous story of Ralph and his motorcycle.



This classic had my son looking for Willy Wonka Gobbstoppers and Everlasting Chewing Gum. It was an imaginative ride that proved to be one of his favorites.



Fly Guy! His stories make a kindergartner and 3rd grader laugh. Fly Guy explores both fiction and nonfiction genres. His adventures in fiction explore school, museums, restaurants, fly swatters, Frankenstein and other fun stories that revolve around friendship. The nonfiction series helps kids learn about science, animals, and environments.


Feel free to check some of these out with your young book lovers. There are so many authors and books that we’ve come across that I couldn’t mention, but if you know of any feel free to share!

Have a great weekend!

Moving to Phase II

27 Feb



I have to admit I did have my first-time-mom moments.

You do.

It’s your first time and you freak out. You get all sanitizer-Baby-Einstein crazy.

It happens.

I could have been the mom in this commercial easily. But luckily I became the second-kid mom, before I had my second kid. And I was grateful not to have gone through so many crazy-neurotic-mom moments.

I’ve never gained so much wisdom in such a short amount of time. Wisdom usually takes time, long periods of it. Parenthood kicks your ass and you’re in hyper-drive-super-speed mode and the learning continues. This is where the comedy kicks in … it absolutely  has to otherwise you’ll probably suffer a nervous break down every week. So when I saw this Luvs commercial, I had to share it. I had to spread the knowledge just in case there were others out there still clinging onto phase I of parenthood and worrying whether or not they were failing.

We all fail.

No worries.

And if someone tells you they’re not. Dude. They’re lying. Straight out in your face lying. They are. Everyone fails during the parenthood journey. You’re fine. You’ve become part of the learning curve.

And if you’re still clinging to phase I, let me let you in on a little secret … those happy moms on the cover of the Babies R Us catalog are just models. Airbrushed happy models with plenty of sleep, matching socks, and daily ten-minute showers. Real parents are lucky if they get five or six hours of uninterrupted sleeps, a pair of clean socks, and a five-minute bird-bath.

We fall apart. All parents fall apart. It happens. We have our moment when it’s just too much, and we realize phase I is just for the catalog fake parents.

You want to be real?

Come to phase II, it’s less stressful. I still get gray hair, though. And I’m still neurotic, but just in  a different way.

But no worries, if you’re still in phase I. It’s something everyone goes through … everyone. And then we get wise. We move over to phase II.

So we’ll be waiting for you here … with a glass of wine and some chocolate.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

16 Sep


Always curious … always exploring … always wanting to look at what’s  inside.

Parenthood is Full of Surprises

31 May

I’ve been to a few of these, including five of my own. All with mixed emotions of hurray and what-the-hell-is-waiting-for-me-now? But I’d never been to one as a parent.

It freaks you out. You completely change into a dress-wearing person. Something that my Chapstick type of personality isn’t too comfortable with, but you go with it. And then aside from transforming your wardrobe, your attitude also begins changing. You notice certain feelings taking over you as you see the school program with your kids name on it.

You really don’t want to turn into that crazed photo mom whose big head comes out in everyone’s picture. You really don’t want to be the kind of annoying person you write about. So you restrain yourself. You check your crazy at the door. After all it’s preschool. Get a grip. Coloring, cutting on the dotted line, and Llama, Llama Red Pajama. Nevertheless I found myself calling this a milestone moment in his mini life, sort of like walking and getting potty trained. In parent world this is big.

So I struggled with my crazy. I never had to do that before, usually I let my freak flag fly. But this was no freak flag, this was annoying crazy parent flag and you need to check that quick. You don’t want to regret anything later that day. You know yourself. So I sat there with mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean I don’t know what the other Children of the Corn photo crazed parents were feeling at the time, probably no shame seeing how most of their heads with bad hair and ginormous cameras showed up in many of my shots. But all I know was that in the end I was proud to have not gone over the crazy parent cliff.

I was also surprised that I had become sappy. Not balling out soap-opera crying sappy, or the beautiful teary-eyed single drop creeping out of the corner sappy. Just the internal, pensive kind, with emotions swirling about which started when I saw him walk down the aisle in his miniature cap and gown. I thought Holy Crap! He’s going to be strolling down the aisle in another cap and gown in 2025 and then I’ll probably be a real sap. Dude it was like last week when I was cursing up a storm dropping the F-Bomb every five minutes during labor down at Catholic hospital down the street. Just last week, I thought.

But then he smiled at me and it was all good. I was still a little sappy, but I put it in perspective. I’d been mindfully present in the moments that mattered … the sand castle building, the Lego constructing, the pizza making, the stay-at-home movie night going, the family game night doing, the bike riding adventuring, the museum experiencing, the zoo exploring, the superhero pretending, and the night-time story reading. I’d been present the whole time.

Exhausted? Yes. In need of wine and chocolate during the quiet of the night. Definitely.

But also present, and not just going through the motions. There, I was there and enjoying it. So I decided to start mindfully enjoying the graduation, and stop thinking about the future, stop thinking sappy, and stop thinking about the crazy parents surrounding me.

Once I stopped, it ended up being a good day.


Walking towards the future ... and me behind him trying to catch up.

Walking towards the future … and me behind him trying to catch up.


The program that got me thinking.

The program that got me thinking all sappy.


The clear shot I tried to take of my son and his graduating class, but no luck with everyone else's camera never getting out of the shot. I didn't understand why they kept taking pictures constantly ... they were in the front row.

The clear shot I tried to take of my son and his graduating class, but no luck with everyone else’s camera in the way. I didn’t understand why they kept taking pictures constantly … they were in the front row. Front. All they needed to do was take one picture. I mean all I needed was one. No luck. I had better luck outside by the fountain.


I saw this outside while we were taking pictures and thought dude I should totally capture this. A minute later my one year old decided to explore it, and ended up breaking the fake rock. She broke it in front of a few other spectators, so all we could do was hide our holy-crap moment, pick up the pieces and walk away.

While we were enjoying the ability to take pictures without interference, I noticed this rock and thought dude I should totally capture this. What a great sign. A minute later my one year old decided to notice it too. She ended up breaking the fake rock in front of a few other spectators. So all we could do was hide our holy-crap moment, pick up the pieces of hope, and try to walk away unnoticed.


While trying to escape the scolding eyes of witnesses, my son decided he needed a cold beverage. I assured him we had plenty of juice boxes in the car and we needed to leave the cookie and punch reception before his sister got a hold of another decorative memento.

While trying to escape the scolding eyes of witnesses, my son decided he needed a cold beverage. I assured him we had plenty of juice boxes in the car and we needed to leave the cookie and punch reception before his sister got a hold of another decorative memento.

Sandbox List Adventure 10: The Tastiest Ten Minutes of the Day

25 Apr

I don’t know if every kid dreams about it, but I know they think about it. I used to think about it a lot, when I was five, six, seven … all the way to 37. Yup. To this day I think about it, and it makes me smile. However my dentist says it’s my weakness and charges me an obscene amount of money to fix my cavities. He says I may have to give it up. I say they need to work harder on inventing better toothpaste because there’s no way I’m giving it up. It’s like air. A necessity.

Milk. Cream. Sugar. Those are the basic ingredients.  I’ve had them on their own multiple times, but they are definitely best when they are churned together and frozen, sealed tight in a container … just waiting for me on aisle 7 of the supermarket. Dude. That’s the best. Ben & Jerry’s. They are geniuses … geniuses I tell you! My kids are aware of this phenomenon and always look forward to birthday parties because ice cream is usually one of the side dishes. And even though I get to have some secretly once or twice a week, it’s something that my kids may get once a month. You know, I’m trying to develop healthy eaters.

So when we were driving home from the book festival this weekend and I asked my son what he wanted for dinner I was surprised by his answer, but even more surprised by my own.

“What do you want for dinner?” I asked as a red light stopped us in front of a 31 Flavors.

“Ice cream.”

“Ice cream? You can’t have ice cream for dinner.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not good for you. It’s only supposed to be a treat once in a while, and usually after your meal.”

“I have not had ice cream in a long, long, long while and I already had my snack.”

“You haven’t had dinner.”

“Ice cream can be dinner.”

I paused, thinking about my college days.

“So can we have ice cream for dinner?”

I thought about his Sandbox List Adventures and nodded.

“Yeah, I guess you can. Just for today.”

Dude. The woo-hoo was like a SuperBowl touchdown with two seconds to go in overtime kind of woo-hoo. It was a pretty big one. So I turned the corner and drove the car into the 31 Flavors parking lot to begin our Sandbox List Adventure.


We arrived and the seatbelts couldn't be taken off fast enough.

We arrived and the seatbelts couldn’t be taken off fast enough.


There were many options to choose from and I was sure he was going to fancy it up.

There were many options to choose from and I was sure he was going to fancy it up. I know I was thinking about it.


When he saw these I thought ... dude it's on. He's most definitely going to ask for one of these.

When he saw these I thought … dude it’s on. He’s most definitely going to ask for one of these.


And while he was contemplating his cone purchase I was contemplating a cake purchase. Oreo cookies make for a great cake accessory.

And while he was contemplating his cone purchase I was contemplating a cake purchase. Oreo cookies make for a great cake accessory.


But before he decided we did a little taste testing.

But before he decided, we did a little taste testing.


With all the available choices he decided on a cup. Chocolate chip with chocolate sprinkles. Dude. He definitely takes after me.

And it was funny, with all the available choices, he decided on a cup. Chocolate chip with chocolate sprinkles. Dude. He definitely takes after me.


His sister didn't really have a choice, but was definitely enjoying the Cookies N' Cream.

His sister didn’t really have a choice, but was definitely enjoying the Cookies N’ Cream.


It was the fastest dinner they have ever eaten. There was no fighting. No spoon dropping. No reminders to finish eating. Just concentration and focus, in addition to a lot of smiles and spoons dancing around in creamy cool deliciousness. In fact I had to tell them to slow down. I didn’t want to deal with their first brain freeze. I told them they had to eat slowly and enjoy it. The adventure lasted about ten minutes, but it was the tastiest ten minutes they had all day.



Yeah … I Don’t Know What It Is About Easter Egg Hunts

29 Mar

As Easter weekend approaches I’m bracing myself for encounters with crazy parents and crowds of children. Just thinking about it causes anxiety and I think I’ll need to meditate twice tonight just to prepare myself for the aggravation ahead of me this weekend.

There are two egg hunts in my parenting future. One on Saturday. One on Sunday. I so wish I could just scrap the Saturday one and go to the beach with the kids, but we’re making memories, right? So I gotta just cowboy up.

But in truth it’s not so much the kids that will annoy me, it’s the parents. Have you seen these people on Easter in Easter Egg Hunts? Have you seen them leave their own kid in the dust and steamroll other three-year olds for a purple plastic egg?


I saw this and I thought of them.


Image via

Image via


I don’t know what it is about Easter Egg Hunts that brings out the crazy and the stupid in people. But it does. Wish me luck as I encounter all kinds of parents this weekend. I’ll try to remain Zen-like.


Sandbox Adventure List IX: I’m Glad I Didn’t Push The Snooze Button This Time

19 Mar

Just because I’m awake at the crack of dawn doesn’t mean I like it. I know some parents might think that waking up before 7 a.m. is awesome. But I fall under the category of snooze-button advocate.

When my son has a day off from preschool I really don’t feel the need to get up and go. I’m all for the “give me five more minutes” routine, which eventually turns into an hour of PBS Kids, The Sprout Channel, or Nickelodeon.

Don’t judge me.

But this weekend, the morning routine was a little different. And I have to say that the blame wasn’t on Curious George this time. It happened to be children’s author Laura Numeroff and her partner in crime Felicia Bond.  After reading If You Give a Pig Party and a few others from that series he decided that some of those adventures were pretty cool. I mean he always thought they were cool. We’ve read them hundreds of times, so I don’t know what it is that sparked the inspiration, but the fuse was lit.

What adventure? What specials tools or props on this one?  Pillows. This one happened to involve pillows.

Now normally I only use pillows to rest my weary head, or bury my head in an attempt for deep uninterrupted sleep. But my son thought differently. At 7:03 on Sunday morning … he thought differently.

I didn’t see it flying high above the bed, and I sure didn’t hear it, but I felt it. Smack! The red Angry Bird pillow happened to hit my face. Normally pillows are soft in nature, but when they’re thrown at you at 7:03 in the morning? Not so much. I think they’re made of hard cotton, or something. Waking me at this hour in that manner would usually get the Incredible Hulk in me all riled up. But as I looked up I saw both of them with their morning hair and sneaky smiles.

Then I heard it … PILLOW FIGHT!


My son heading for cover.

My son heading for cover.


Dude it was on.  For the next twenty minutes pillows of all sizes were flying high. As you all know I’m not the greatest morning person, but I made the exception that day. Groggy, tired, and exhausted. But I cowboy-ed up and went with the flow. Going with the flow … it’s something that I’ve been constantly reminded of during my recent meditation challenge. It was the first time I hadn’t hit the snooze button … it proved to be a good decision.


Little sister surveying the situation, trying to grab the Angry Bird pillow before her brother.

Little sister surveying the situation, trying to grab the Angry Bird pillow before her brother.


I tackled the Angry Bird pillows and flung them over. Sometimes his little Flintstone Vitamin body would withstand the blow, but other times he’d wobble and fall into the covers, only to be bombarded with more pillows and victory screams from his sister. It was one of the loudest and most fun mornings we’ve had. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t done this before, definitely a good addition to the Sandbox Adventure List. I’m glad I didn’t push the snooze button this time. I would’ve missed out.