Family Vacations

I’d hoped we were nothing like Cousin Eddie and his crew from Kansas when we landed in Boston and drove to Augusta, Maine to meet my sister-in-law’s family and attend the college graduation of our only niece. And while my daughter kept us rolling with strange, silly questions (Why didn’t we need a passport if we were in New England?) and words she thinks she is pronouncing correctly (carvessing = caressing, fratchapino = frappacino), I think we passed the sniff test for our extended family.

We haven’t had a big family vacation since 2009 when we took the kids to Disneyworld. In the past year or two we took the kids to Kansas City to visit family and while there we went to Worlds of Fun amusement park which affirmed three things…

1. Outdoor activities in Kansas in the summer suck.

2. My kids are not thrill seekers.

3. Kansas summers are hellish. Yes, this is a repeat but necessary because the heat bites big toe.

But we got to see family and we have an experience we can call our own and really, that’s what it boils down to. I still remember with vivid detail the two summers my family took to Colorado, one trip to the Rocky Mountains and the second to the more southerly Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak region. Recalling both trips aloud has made me wet my pants on three separate occasions. You KNOW it’s a good trip when people pee their pants.

This trip was amazing. Not only did we get to spend time with my sweet SIL and niece, but we got to meet her people and put faces with the names of the people she has spoken about to us. Some background on my SIL, she found us on Facebook four years ago. My FIL didn’t realize he had another child from his days in the military. She found us and the rest is history.

Maine is beautiful. Seriously gorgeous. It reminds me of Colorado with these rolling hills and lush green trees, but without the nausea I get from altitude sickness. The temperature (which is important to me, if you can’t tell), is perfect. We slept with our window open every night with the cool, crisp air blowing over us as we slept. We can’t usually do that because our allergies are too bad. But Maine had no allergens for us! It could be heaven on earth. We saw the ocean, green and blue. We saw sea life crawling from beneath stones in the breakwater. We saw signs warning us of moose, but we never did see any. Most of all we just relaxed, let our hair down and had a lot of laughs.

We came away from this vacation with fun stories and memories that I hope, one day, my kids will pee their pants when they recall our antics to others.

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A New Outlook

My health is important. My physical health, in my opinion, is also a reflection of spiritual health. If I believe that my body is my temple for the Holy Spirit (and I do), then I should take care of it. I should take care of it for my family too. I don’t want to die young and miss memories with my kids. I don’t want to be too sick/tired/uncomfortable to do things with them and there are things I just can’t do because I’m not fit enough. I want to be fit for myself because I want to be healthy and feel good.

I’m getting close to 40. That daunting birthday, combined with health scares from several of my friends and family and my own “high risk” blood work from my yearly physical with my doctor have made me say, “Enough”. One of my turning points was reading a wonderful book called, “Made to Crave” by Lysa TerKuerst. In the book she talks about how we often try to fill the God-shaped void in our hearts with food, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. and how we can stop. In scripture God tells the Israelites, “Stop and turn north. You have circled this mountain long enough.” And I have circled this mountain long enough.

In turning north I’ve experienced some new sensations. First, I discovered that I really love Zumba. In the Zumba class I can get in a great workout and learn new dance moves. This is probably not good for the rest of the world, but I don’t care. I get to bust a move and I like it. I’ve also learned to push myself past what I think I can do. There was a time when going 15 minutes on the Precor Open Stride machine was intense. Last night I actually had to make an effort to increase my heart rate because it wasn’t up as far as I wanted it to be and I went for 35 minutes! I have been more self-desciplined as well. I have made an effort to work out at least 4-5 times per week for two months now. I’ve also been limiting my calories by reducing my portion sizes and making healthier choices. I’ve starting limiting my diet soda consumption to just one per day with the goal of getting off the chemical cocktail all together. My new water bottle has kept me well hydrated as I keep sipping throughout the day. I’m feeling thinner, if that makes any sense. I’m feeling stronger too. I find myself looking forward to my work outs, thinking of new adventures (I’d love to go hiking) and let’s face it, my pants fit better.

Spiritually, I feel better too. Since I decided to get really serious about my walk with God, I feel Him helping me through every step. He’s there with me when I’m working out and just want to give up. He’s there with me when I’m faced with sweet temptation, gently reminding me that while everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial. As I read more scripture and draw closer to Him, my prayer is this, “Lord, fill up all my empty places with You, until only You are left.” My other prayer is for me to desire Him above all things. It’s working. This battle I’m in isn’t just the battle of the bulge, it’s a war for my well-being. I’m putting on my spiritual armor and facing the dragon head-on and I know that with Christ at my side, all things are possible.

How I write (I’m back! And nervous as hell)

It’s been two years since I’ve blogged. TWO YEARS. When I saw that I was shocked. Surely I haven’t gone that long without putting my thoughts down on paper or in the digital realm. But it has been. I don’t know why I stopped blogging or really writing in general. I guess it’s like exercise – if you don’t make it a habit, it can slip away. I recently lamented on Facebook that I needed to write more and my dear friend, Dani Stone, put some fire under my feet to do that in the form of a “blog hop”. The purpose of the blog hop is to delve into the brains of a variety of bloggers and have them tell us how they write and then they point you to other bloggers who can answer the same question. So if you follow them all, you’ll get to “meet” a mix of writers. I’ll introduce you to my blogger friends at the end of the post. First, I’ll answer the official blog hop questions…

 

How I Write Obviously since I’ve been off the grid since 2012, I haven’t been writing – at least not creatively. I’ve been working freelance for the Wichita Magazine and have written several articles for them. Mostly these articles have been feature stories about wonderful people in Wichita or organizations that are fighting to make a difference in our community. Those kind of people and organizations are my JAM. Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut, lawyer (prosecutor), journalist, teacher and finally, work in nonprofit PR. Do you see a theme there? It’s making a difference. In my current job, I’m working for my church. Again, doing something for a cause is something I’m passionate about. My creative writing has always been personal, like blogging and poetry. I’ve attempted some fiction, but I’m not confident in my ability to write it. Writing dialogue is tricky. I always feel like I’m writing the script for a commercial or really bad actors.

What Am I Working On? Right now, I’m not working on anything in particular. I’m trying to go from completely stagnant to flexing a little writing muscle with the relaunch of my blog.

How Does My Writing Differ from Others of Its Genre? I tend to write the way I speak or tell a story. My friend Dani calls it “raw and real” which is a nice way of saying I tend to give Too Much Information. Want to know about my recent bout with intestinal flu? No? Oh sorry! I’ve already told you the details. Are you interested in knowing about the time I lamented to my mother-in-law that I hated a particular pair of underwear and decided (with her help) to trash them and the awe-inspiring sense of FREEDOM I had after that? No. Well, sorry, I just told you. See? “Raw and real”.

Why Do I Write What I Do? Writing has always been cathartic to me. Since I was a little girl I’ve had these stories buzzing around in my brain and I only feel better when I put them on paper. As I’ve aged (like fine wine and cheese, thank you very much), I write for the same reason, but my stories are more personal and less flights-of-fancy now. I would love to get my creativity rolling again for a good story.

How Does My Writing Process Work? Since my hiatus from my blog, my process has been less grand-inspiration and more on deadline which means I am researching, interviewing and then trying to weave it all together nicely. But I always start off the same, the stories or articles I write, much like my blog posts, are about people and causes I’m passionate about. I never thought I’d do well trying to write about widgets and gizmos because I don’t care about those kinds of things. This is also the reason I’d be the worst advertising copywriter ever.

Now you have the skinny on me, I’d like to introduce you to two bloggers (and dear friends) you can hop over to.

I first met Kim Jury at our mom’s group at church several years ago. A natural introvert I was sure she would hate me and my overly gregarious (read, obnoxious) personality. But she is dark and twisty like me with a dry wit and sarcastic sense of humor so after getting to know one another we declared ourselves fit to be sister wives, and that’s high praise, y’all! Kim is a wonderful writer who blogs about her life, her kids and her faith.

My friend Sherry Alexander is another friend from my church family. A recent addition to the blogosphere, she is open about her struggles and her feelings about life in general. She’s unabashedly in love with Jesus and I love that. She’s also a breast cancer survivor, mom of three grown children, a grandma and a runner. I want to be her when I grow up.

My friend Cat perfectly captures my thoughts in her blog post.

Cat Poland

It is crazy how many Christians are open bigots, loud and proud. 

When I saw this Facebook post made by a college friend, it made my heart sink and my brain buzz. Not because it’s untrue, but because its truth reflects a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in seekers finding their way to Christ. Sometimes (many times) Christians are in the way.

But here’s the thing. Christ didn’t say “follow my followers.” He said, “Follow ME.” Again, he said, “No one comes to the Father except through ME.”

I know that’s hard to rationalize, especially when we apply this theory to other major decisions in our life (and choosing Christ as your savior is a major decision). Even when we apply it to trivial decisions, it’s difficult to imagine. After all, would you trust an overweight personal trainer, an outdated hairstylist or a chain-smoking doctor? Probably not. So…

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On Being Offended

It seems like so many people I know live an offended life. What does this mean? It means that they are easily offended. They take everything personally and most devastating of all, they have trouble moving on when they have been hurt. I have to tell you, I used to be much more easily offended than I am now. It didn’t take much to hurt my feelings or let my insecurities grab onto my imagination and make me miserable. I’m not saying I never had a “right” to be offended because people have said and done some pretty crappy things to me in my life. But I had to learn to let it go.

My kids laughed when I revealed to them that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone likes me, much less loves me and wants to be my friend. And I HATE that. I want everyone to like me. I can’t stand conflict and as someone who grew up being bullied and belittled, I never want to make anyone feel that way. But it’s hard because there are people in this world that no matter what, are going to be offended.

If you want to see the largest collective group of offended people on earth, just log onto Facebook. The social media site is filled with people giving passive aggressive status updates aimed at a particular “friend”. Sometimes what one person thinks is funny others are offended by. Politics on Facebook can be downright ugly with one offended comment after another. Religion and lack thereof seem to also be cause for the easily offended to become deeply offended.

Easily offended people proclaim their feelings hurt, their anger and overall outrage at everything. They are often martyrs on behalf of themselves or whatever cause they are connected to. Now I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with righteous anger. The world needs people who see injustice, become angry and work on solutions. I’m talking about if so and so said such and such and you thought it might possibly be directed toward you. I’m not even saying that being personally offended by someone or something is wrong. It happens. I don’t agree with most of what I see online and there are conversations I’ve had, and situations I’ve been in, that I’ve personally experienced someone hurting my feelings. I’ve experienced everything from inadvertent insults to outright smack talk. Both have hurt my feelings. Both left me sad, even reeling in some cases. But here’s the deal, I have to overlook them. I acknowledge my issue and move along with the goal being to forgive.

I’ve noticed that people who are easily offended sometimes have problems with a lot of drama in their lives. It goes hand in hand, really. If you are easily offended and you react to the offense with more offense then the cycle of drama spins along, dizzying the offender and the offendee and those around them like a depraved washing machine. At the end of the cycle both parties are all wet but not clean.

Offended people can sometimes (certainly not always) be entitled people. Entitled people believe that they are owed something by a great many people. Maybe they think their parents or in-laws or children owe them. Maybe they think society owes them. But because they are entitled, they are easily offended when others have and they have not. Their lives can become a constant comparison with those around them. They compare their children, their homes, their cars, their social status, their education, their spouses, etc. until they have sucked the joy out of life. I saw something online the other day that said, “Comparison is thief of joy” and that sentiment hits the nail on the head. In this giant, crazy world there will always be someone who has more than we do. But also someone who has less. Don’t begrudge people who have and don’t judge those who have not.

In Proverbs it says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 (NIV).  When you let go of an offense you are being glorious! I don’t have many other times I can be glorious so I will take this!

Ephesians 4: 26-27, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (NIV) Many who are easily offended also have a hard time forgiving. It’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to stay angry long because Satan uses our anger to get a hold of a tiny piece of the fabric of our souls and then he pulls at it, unraveling us.

Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV) So much pain and hurt in the world would end if we all could just be compassionate and forgiving to others. We are broken people living in a broken world so it’s unrealistic that “we all just get along”. Living with compassion will help you to have empathy, which can take much of the sting out of a potential offense. Even if the offense is beyond a person’s capacity for empathy, forgiveness can still heal wounds. Forgiveness is not for the benefit of the offender. Its for the benefit of the offended. If you are hurt, you can choose to forgive and take back the power over your emotions that Satan had temporarily held onto. Forgiveness gives Jesus a chance to work on your heart, healing your wounds and preventing scars that can cause you to be even more offended, closed off or jaded.

I hope no one is offended when they read these words. This insight has been on my mind a lot lately and I’ve just now taken the time to sit down and write it out. But if anyone reads this and feels the pangs of offense, I think that would be a good time to ask if you are offended because you see yourself in what I’ve written. If you have, you have two choices.

  1. You can meditate on the Scriptures above and seriously, ask the Holy Spirit to help comfort you when you start to feel offended. Ask Jesus to heal your heart and give you the capacity to forgive and move forward or,
  2. You can choose to remain offended and mad and stay the same instead of growing and using this as a chance to be glorious in overlooking an offense.

As for me, I chose to grow. I choose to forgive and to be empathetic and compassionate even when don’t really want to and yes, that happens. We will never be perfect, but we can be happy, we just have to choose it.

Overprotective Mothering is my Superpower

I’m kind of overprotective. Joe is 11 1/2 and I, just in the past three months have started to allow him to go into a men’s public restroom by himself IF there is not a family bathroom available. This is after I open the door, take a step in and holler to see if it’s all clear and then stand impatiently at the door giving the stink-eye to anyone who enters while tracking how long it takes my son to do his business. If he takes too long (in my opinion), I will open the door and holler “ARE YOU OKAY??!!??” until he answers me which is usually as he’s washing his hands. Keep in mind I don’t think it’s ever taken him longer than one minute to pee and wash his hands, but at the time, when I’m nearly flop sweaty and worried about him, it might as well be one hour. I know people think I’m crazy, but terrible things can happen to young kids alone in a restroom, just read the news. God help me if he ever has to go #2.

We don’t let the kids play alone outside in the backyard. Both of them have to be outside playing and if one comes in, unless I’m in the kitchen where I can see them, they both must come in. I don’t want to not know where they are at all times. I understand too that my time with this kind of control of them will be ending soon. But I wonder am I strange? Surely I must be.

We have a couple of little neighbor kids, one is in Kindergarten and the other is in 2nd grade and they literally run our neighborhood from the time they get home from school to the time it gets dark. This scares the crap out of me. This morning as I stood in my driveway seeing my two kids onto the school bus I saw these neighbor kids heading to school on their bikes. On. Their. Bikes. I got panicky just looking at them and then I wondered, am I literally insane?

There was a time when kids walked and rode their bikes to school without inducing anxiety attacks in their parents. Kids used to even walk to the convenience store for pop for their parents but a little girl in our city who was kidnapped and killed when I was a teenager put the kibosh on anything like that for my own children.

While I’m overprotective in some ways, I probably get judged for other things I let my kids do. We don’t let them watch PG-13 movies unless we’ve seen them and deemed them okay. But I admit, we’ve seen all the Transformer movies and all but one of the Twilight movies even as I rally to shield the kids from most violence and sex, I’ve had my moments of lax parenting. I also let my kids watch “The Simpsons” but not “Family Guy”. Lizzy and I love “Glee” but I always pre-screen it before she can see it and there are plenty of episodes she doesn’t get to experience.Joe likes to watch “Fringe” with Kolin and I think that’s okay even though that show can be weird. I guess I think these things are okay because we are right there watching with our kids and explain anything that they don’t understand.

We don’t shy away from talking to our kids about life in general. I don’t let them play violent video games (or many video games at all, mostly because the kids don’t like them), I’m picky about the movies they can see (mostly), But when pop culture or school brings up an issue like sex or drugs or violence we don’t avoid those topics.

Much to Joe’s chagrin we’re open about things like what happens during puberty. He’s already had the “human growth and development” talk from us and gets the official school version later this week. But we’ve already discussed sex with him as well. Not in graphic detail (more clinical than Cinemax), but he knows where babies come from and how they are made. Lizzy has had her own age appropriate version of “THE talk” and we’ve answered her embarrassing questions like, “Why do you have hair THERE?” and “What’s a tampon and why do you need it?”.

Joe and I recently discussed the importance of surrounding himself with the right kind of friends in school after a kid brought a gun to the middle school Joe will most likely attend next year. We talked about choosing friends who make good choices about avoiding drugs and violence and how important that is to staying safe at school – any school. I didn’t want to freak him out, but just help him understand that keeping himself out of bad situations will help him in the future avoid potential tragedy.

Elizabeth sometimes sees someone on television (even Disney channel) wearing something that I wouldn’t let her wear. She always twists her face askew and says, “Mom, that outfit is inappropriate.” Yep, it is. Remember that. No toddler and tiaras for her. No “sexy” make-up and spray tans. No acrylic nails. No short skirts or plunging necklines. She’s eight and I want her to be just the age she is. No more or less. And even while she longs to be older so she can wear make up and drive a car, she knows in her gut that kids should be kids and when they’re made up to be something older, it’s just, weird.

These aren’t lectures, but discussions with our children. We really do try to protect them as much as we can without sheltering them to the point of being completely naive of the world. We surround them with love and acceptance and honesty. We freely admit our mistakes to them hoping they can learn from us without having to make the same mistakes themselves. But if they do, they know that we will love them, NO MATTER WHAT. I’ve told them that there is no mistake they could make that would ever, ever make me not love them. I could be sad or disappointed or angry, but my love would always be there.

Recently Joe told me that some moms are more protective than me which shocked the hell out of both me and my husband. “Why?” I asked him. “Well, some kids don’t get to go fishing and hunting like I do with Dad because their parents won’t let them,” he answered. So that was his rationale. Because some parents don’t let their kids fish and shoot guns (at targets in Boy Scouts), I’m permissive. Alrighty then.

Until they discover otherwise, I will keep up my overprotective ways.

What do you all think? Am I nutso?

 

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Why I am a Person of Faith

I know and love many skeptics and/or Atheists and they love me too. I think that at this time of year (Easter season), especially, they think, “She’s a reasonably intelligent person, so WHY does she believe in God and more, why does she believe in Jesus?”

So these are my personal reasons. They may or may not be official apologetics from the church, more importantly, they are just my reasons.

First, I don’t think that believing in God and the love and grace of Jesus is detrimental to me. Even if when I die, there is nothing and I’m done existing on any plane, what harm will have come from my believing and living as a person dedicated to living a life of loving God and loving people? I don’t think that striving to forgive and love and serve people are negative attributes.

Second, people are human and humans make mistakes. I take great personal comfort in knowing that despite my mistakes and the mistakes others around me make, that there is a God who loves me no matter what, and when other humans let me down that I can count on His love and grace to see me through. I feel personally connected to Jesus. As cliché as it sounds, He is a friend. I can’t explain the reason I feel this way other than once I accepted Jesus, my heart bloomed and made more room for more love than I ever thought possible.

Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of faith. I can’t see God with my eyes, but I can see the beauty and wonder of this world and the universe and I know that He created it. I still believe in science but to me, faith and science aren’t independent of one another. The earth is uber-ancient. Dinosaurs and humans didn’t exist at the same time. Evolution is a very real phenomenon. But accepting these things as truths doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God. It supports the fact for me that our God is infinitely wise and patient. He created everything to work in harmony and gives us what we need to live. I think it’s a miracle and not something I need to fear or something that could discount or disprove my faith.

I know that God is working in me when I’m challenged to let go of my selfishness and put God and others first. In my personal journey to be less selfish and self-centered, I’ve found love and peace and grace and God through Jesus.

So while I respect the thoughts and feelings of my many skeptic friends, I hope they understand where I’m coming from. I am an intelligent person and I’m a person of faith. I am a sinner who makes mistakes but thankfully, through Jesus, I am able to receive forgiveness and more importantly, to forgive others. I am striving daily against my innate selfish nature to be a light in the world. But make no mistake, any good I do isn’t from me. It’s a direct result of my personal relationship with Christ. Without Him, I’d be miserable, lonely and bitter. I’d worry mostly about myself. I’d have love for my family, of course, but I’m not sure if I would be as forgiving and I might be more resentful, in fact, I know I would be.

I hope I did an adequate job of describing how I feel about my faith and my Savior. And I hope that when anyone reads this, whether skeptic or person of faith, that they will remember not to paint people of either opinion with a broad brush. I know many kind and compassionate Atheists AND people of faith. Also know many judgmental and hateful people of faith AND Atheists. I don’t believe that this is a black and white issue with some people being horrible and others being wonderful. In the end, we are all human and thus, flawed. But my God teaches me to love and that love is a choice, so I choose love. This is my faith.

Reality television hits a new low

Earlier this morning I saw a story on MSNBC.com about the reality show “Dance Moms” on the Lifetime network. Apparently an upcoming episode of the show had the girls (yes, they are little girls) performing a “topless” fan dance. The dance instructor said that the girls weren’t really topless but just looked like they were. Lifetime decided to pull the plug on that episode. Thank. God.

But seriously, this bugs me. Why would anyone think this kind of routine would be appropriate for children? Is the dance instructor really clueless or is it something more smarmy, a ratings ploy? I think it has to be a ratings grabber and in that case, are we, as television viewers fueling this kind of exploitation of children? I think we are. Toddlers & Tiaras is another program that has been criticized (rightly so), for portraying children as sex objects with skimpy outfits and Tammy Faye Bakker-style make up. And yet, it’s a popular show. I think shows like Dance Moms and Toddlers & Tiaras are trying to shock us and the people who watch these shows are fascinated in a “it’s so horrible I can’t look away” kind of way. But is that part of the problem? I think so.

If people don’t watch these programs, the networks won’t show them. If there is no audience for exploitation, there won’t be any profit and television is all about profits. And I am pulling no punches when I say that yes, this is definitely exploitation. I feel terrible for the children on these shows who have parents naive fame-hungry enough to allow their children to be sexualized, degraded and objectified on national television.

As a society I think we have to say enough is enough with these kinds of reality shows. If a group of adults wants to go on television and be shocking, I can live with it. I don’t like it, but I just won’t watch it. But children have to be protected and if these Dance Moms and pageant moms won’t do it for their own children, we as a society have to do it and it starts by turning off those programs, writing advertisers and networks and telling them that THIS IS NOT OKAY.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Not reacting enough? Enlighten me!

 

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Long time, no blog

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been six months since my last post. Actually, I can. At first, I didn’t really have much to say, but then, I just got busy. But it’s been rather uneventful. Just busy. I’ve been writing for a site called BookEnd Babes, writing reviews and sharing my love of all things literary so that’s new.

The kiddos are doing well. Spring break is nearly over and most of what we accomplished with the steady week of rain, were school projects including a large paper mache Blue Whale. It’s nearly life size. Well, not quite, but when we put a toy car next to it, the scale will be right on.

So, dear reader (if you are still out there after my hiatus), how is your life?

Vein of Galen Malformation

Vein of what? Has this chick been hacked? What the what? I know, most of you have probably never heard of this condition but for one of my friends, Dani Stone, Vein of Galen Malformation (VOGM) very nearly took her daughter’s life. An extremely rare brain condition, VOGM left Dani and her family with no idea what to do and little information. Thankfully, after the point of diagnosis she had a parent, via a message board on an overseas VOGM website reach out to her and give her some advice and consequently, some hope.

For Dani and her family, the story has a happy ending. With cutting-edge treatments they were finally able to hear the words, “You’re done with me, Kaitlynn is cured” from Katie’s neurologist and surgeon. They knew they needed to pay it forward. Reaching out to other families in need of answers, advice, resources and hope, Dani started the VOGM Parents Alliance and launched a website for that organization today.  She is such an inspiration to me. She often says, “to those to who much has been given, much is expected” which always sounds a little like the line from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility” but I digress. But here Dani is, like the Spiderwoman of VOGM, fighting against a lack of awareness, catching parents in a web of resources and hope. Such a cheesy metaphor. Oh well, she will forgive me.

So if you have a minute, read Dani and her family’s story. Check out her website and help her get her Google search information at the front of the search results for this important, lifesaving resource for parents of VOGM babies!