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You are Appreciated

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teacher appreciation

Today wraps up teacher appreciation week and I thought it would be appropriate to have my kids write their teacher a letter telling them how much they appreciate her…I mean me.  Just kidding.  I didn’t do that.

Seriously though, I have been thinking about the impact that teachers can have on a child’s life.  And I say can because there are many teachers that will not impact you.  You will move on and probably have nothing bad, nor great, to say about the year you spent in their class.  A few weeks (or months?  I don’t know) I watched a 60 minutes episode with Oprah Winfrey on treating childhood trauma.  Maybe find it on youtube or the 60 minutes app or something and watch it.  It just stuck me how important positive role models are in a child’s life.  The are actually healing and can make the difference between success and living a life hindered by circumstances.  I am so grateful that during the traumatic years of my childhood, which pale in comparison to many kids, I had so much support in my family (Aunt Michelle, you were the best aunt in those years!) and at school.  Being that it is teacher appreciation week, I wanted to just say thank you to my teachers.  All these years later, I want you to know how grateful I am.  Really truly grateful that in fact I have tears in my eyes right now!

I went to a Catholic elementary school that felt very much like a tight community.  I have such positive memories of my years there.  I can’t say what it was exactly, but it was good.  My mom brought my dog in for Show and Tell and tried to bring my cat too, but she escaped out of the car and we lost her for awhile.  My dad donated some paint stir sticks and my whole class make pom-poms out of newspaper and paint stir sticks.  Also, I got my first trophy in first grade in the lip sync contest, just killing it to the song, Paint a Rainbow from Rainbow Brite.  I had a great outfit too.  In fact, I still have it.  Mrs. Severin, you were my favorite teacher!  Thirty years ago, I was in your class, and I still remember so much about it.  My school picture is of me with a funky toothless smile and I love that about my very own 2nd grader right now.  I remember losing my pencil and I couldn’t find it anywhere!  And then the boy sitting behind me pointed out that it was in my hair!  I remember listening and loving the song, “This is the story about Sammy” and guess what?  I was so excited to find that record at a thrift store a few months ago and my middle and little also loves it!  I got to ride in your car on a field trip, which was AMAZING!!! to my 8 year old self.  And it was in your classroom that I showed up to school after my first earthquake in Oct. 1987 and you were so nice and comforting as we talked and wrote about it.  Thank you for your positive influence in my life!

During my early elementary years, Mrs. Layton was my PE teacher and I thought her daughter, Laurie, was SOOOOO pretty!  She was 2 years older than me, and you can just imagine my excitement in the beginning of 4th grade when we were going to be assigned (or pick I guess?) our friendship partners.  Being “Tamara’s little sister”, one recess a bunch of 6th graders ran up to me and said, “You get to pick your friendship partner today, pick me! Pick me!”  Wow!  I never felt so popular!  One of those girls was Laurie Layton (has a nice ring doesn’t it?) and I picked her because, like I said, I thought she was so pretty and nice and I couldn’t wait to get to know her more.  Mrs. Layton, you had the best job I feel like.  You got to be the nice teacher who didn’t have to be strict (at least in my memory).  You let me play with your elbow because I thought it felt cool (I’m so embarrassed, sorry for being a weird kid!)  You took us trick-or-treating and let me swim in your pool.  You picked me up for school on picture day so that I didn’t have to walk with my dress clothes on.  You looked out for me and for that I am truly grateful.

In 6th grade I transitioned to middle school and expected public schools to have sub-par education.  Well, I was wrong!  My first year, I had Mr. Tully for my 3 core classes: Reading, Language Arts, and Social Studies.  He was an amazing teacher who really had a love for teaching and made my 11 year old self have faith in the public school system as funny as that may sound.  Also memorable that year, a student in my class gave me and Mr. Tully the chicken pox!  So, he was super nice to me about not having my work turned in because he had no clue what I was supposed to do either!

And then there’s high school *sigh* Mrs. Franzen what would I have done without you?  As you can tell, I have a problem with casting judgement (as I did about public schools prior to ever experiencing them).  Well, Tamara had Mrs. Franzen and one day I remember pointing her out to me and saying, “That’s my teacher, she’s a feminist.”  HA!  That is so funny to me now.  I was NOT happy when I found out I had her for Sophomore English, because I was pretty sure that I wasn’t a feminist, and I didn’t like the sound of it.  Mrs. Franzen, with your long curly locks and cute printing on the whiteboard, your 20-something year old self taught me so much that year.  So much, so that I took classes from you the next two years!  You gave me confidence and showed me that I had more potential.  You somehow fostered a love for public speaking, which doesn’t seem that weird to me now, but to my 15/16 year old self, it sure did.  I won first place at a speech competition at USC and thought the school was so beautiful and you told me that I could go there.  You made me believe that I had possibilities.  It was you who marched me into the college and career center at Los Al, and told the lady that she needed to help me find out about all the scholarships available to me and help me fill out my college applications.  I was going to all kinds of luncheons for scholarships my Senior year thanks to you!  And more importantly, I was going to college!  Thank you for believing in me and being the confidante I needed during those years.  And P.S. I love that you met Mrs. Layton at a soccer game one time because you are both so dear to me ❤

Even though I choose to homeschool, I do not ever discredit the work teachers do in the classroom.  I’ve been there, and I’m married to a teacher.  It can be incredibly difficult and totally amazing and sometimes both on the same day.  So thank you and know that your work in my life did not go unnoticed.  Love to you all!

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Be Present

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My oldest turned 11 last week.  Do you know what that means?  In this part of the country, on this side of town, she is at the age where “everyone” has a cell phone.  Luckily, if you know Piper, then you would know that she is an old soul.  She isn’t taking my cell phone and she never touches the iPad.  I do have to tell her to take her headphones off because she will listen to books on CD for hours though. ;). See what I mean old soul and old school.  Tatum, on the other hand, is saving her money for a mini iPad that is only $39.  It’s actually not an iPad, but Alexa and she saw a commercial and wants to buy one now.

I am not afraid of technology, I don’t want to be Amish or anything.  It comes in very handy no doubt.  But I will tell you that last month, Brian and I got a text saying we were running out of data.  Neither of us feel like we are on our phones a lot, and plus, I am home most of the day which means I don’t use data, but wifi.  But anyway, the message came and we are probably both on our phones more than we like, plus just by having apps and whatnot it uses data apparently.  We didn’t turn data off (because I think on the iPhone it prevents texts from coming through), but what we did do was turn off data for all of our apps; maps, facebook, messenger, etc.  And you know what?  No mindless screen time!  All of the apps work at home, but when I am out and about, I am not on my phone.  I am present.  In fact, I even bought some stickers.fullsizeoutput_209b.jpeg

Be Present.  Get it?  I bought a lot of these and I will give you one.  Seriously.  I think this is so important and I want to be around people who are present and I want my kids to have friends who hang out and are not all staring at their phones.

It gets weird with an 11 year old.  Even slightly awkward.  I let Piper go to her friend’s house and I talk to Piper and the friend and the mom all together and say, “I don’t want them playing on the phone and I don’t want them in a room with the phone without an adult.”  Sorry!  And thank you friends for being my friend and letting me be awkward.  I only get one chance at raising my kids.  I don’t want her cyberbullied and I can’t take back any pornography that she is exposed to.  Ever.  I had a friend and we found an X- rated video when we were babysitting and put it in.  Twenty-five years later I. have. not. forgotten. what. I. saw.  I am not blaming anyone.  We knew what we were doing, thought it would be funny.  Not funny.

It is no secret that children do better in school when they aren’t allowed to have a screen (TV, computer or phone) in their room.  This is no surprise to you right?  Do you know on average how many hours kids spend on a device?  For 8-12 year olds it is 1/4 of their entire day!  And it is more for teenagers.  However, if you want to be the major influence in your child’s life, it takes being there the majority of the time.  It requires conversation and interaction.  It means being the voice she hears more than the voices she is hearing on snapchat and whatever else the latest app is.  Not rocket science.  The research is there if you don’t believe me, but really I don’t think you need research.  All you have to do is go to a restaurant and see people “alone together” (that’s the title of a book on the subject if you’re interested).  I am not judging.  Truly, I was reading this post on a homeschool page I am on and this mother is struggling with device addiction with her 9 year old.  Staying up all night, steeling it from her room.  Her husband is deployed.  I can’t imagine being a single mom trying to homeschool.  I couldn’t do it.  I probably wouldn’t do it.  I can’t imagine being in her shoes and am not judging her.  But it is a slippery slope and so so hard to go back.  And here she is crying out for help because he is so far down this slope.  Piper will get a phone sooner rather than later.  She won’t be driving without a phone.  But there will be a contract and guidelines. Tatum is the one that I am going to have to struggle with and pretty much this is what I tell her.  “I will know that you are ready for a phone when you can use my phone for a given purpose and put it down when you are done.”  When kids play with an iPad and don’t give it up until you have nagged and asked them 20 times, yeah, not ready.  When kids sneak your phone when you aren’t looking, not ready.

There is a great children’s book called The Wretched Stone by the same person who wrote The Polar Express.. It is about a crew of sailors who finds this “glowing box” and are mesmerized by it.  They are so intrigued and fascinated that they start neglecting their duties and the ship begins to deteriorate.  Kids don’t have to be told what the glowing box is.  They see it everywhere, people mesmerized by the glowing box or screen.  I haven’t seen the movie Quiz Show, but it has a similar theme.  The movie is from 1994, so the culprit is the television.  “I thought we were gonna get television…but the truth is, television is going to get us.”

The hardest part about reading this is that it isn’t our kids, it is us.  We have to change.  WE have to be the example for them.  So many of them see us looking at the screen more than them that it must be tantalizing.  They want it too.  If you would like a be present sticker I would LOVE to give you one, even mail you one.  Put it on the back of your phone and set your phone down and be reminded to be present during dinner, during family game night (have a family game night if you don’t!), at night after the kids go to bed.  Be present.

Instruction manual please.

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I’ve had this blog post floating in my head for about a month now.  I was going to title it The Hardest Job in the World.  Do you know what I find to be the most difficult job?  Being the Tooth Fairy!  I can handle Santa.  He comes once a year and it is always on the same day.  Bam!  Got that one down.  Easter Bunny is a bit trickier because the date changes, but once I find the date out, we are usually good.  We don’t forget to leave a little gift for the kids, because we are all waking up and celebrating Easter.  Not that hard.  Then there’s the Candy Fairy.  Did you know there was a Candy Fairy?  Well, my super healthy friend has her kid put Halloween candy out and she exchanges it for money in the morning.  I can’t take on another role, so that’s a no go here.  In fact, I seriously told my kids last week that  they better eat all their candy because if it was still there tomorrow I was throwing it away.  Halloween was so 2 holidays ago.  They looked at me shocked and said, “But you said we should only have 1 or 2 pieces a day???”  Well, moms change their minds.  Now I am saying eat it or toss it.  Okay, but really, let’s get back to the Tooth Fairy.  Give me a break!  Who even came up with that?  It doesn’t even benefit the retail business!  The worst part, it can fall on an unassuming Monday, or a busy Saturday.  It can happen first thing in the morning, and you are supposed to still remember after they fall asleep.  Or it can happen right before bed, and you are supposed to have cash on hand.  I never have cash, which always poses a problem.  And can we all agree that teeth are gross.  I am definitely not sentimental about their teeth and have no interest in saving them.

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So when this one lost her front tooth, it was a letter from her tooth fairy, Peter Pot.  (He’s related to Peter Pan.  She assumed all tooth fairies were girls, so I made hers a boy. 😉 ) and some spare change.  When she woke up she wasn’t exactly disappointed, but she did tell me that her friends get “slips” of money, not coins.

Anyway, THAT is what I thought the hardest job in the world was until a few days ago…

Brian came home from work with an Elf on the Shelf box.  There’s one thing you should know about us.  We don’t do “tradition”.  I am definitely not anti holiday cheer and festivities.  I love all of that kind of stuff.  I just don’t like to have to do something because it’s “tradition”.  That is just setting me up for a big ol’ cry fest when my kids move out and I spend my first holiday without them.  So, when he came in I said, “We should really give that to someone who would love that.”  We already have an elf on our shelf.  Piper made it in kindergarten out of a piece of 2×4 and I am perfectly happy with our nameless elf.  He doesn’t make a mess of the baking supplies in my kitchen.  He doesn’t mess up my toilet paper.  He is the perfect little elf who sits on a shelf.  We’ve made it this long without an “official” Elf on the Shelf and now we have to start?  A caution to all parents before buying this “Christmas Tradition”.  Do the math first.  Twenty-five consecutive days of being on the ball!  How old is your kid?  Three let’s say?  25×10, Can you come up with 250 cool tricks for your elf?  I can’t, and I don’t have time to consult Pinterest.  And who decided it has to start Dec. 1?  A few days before Christmas would suffice.

Well, somehow I was outnumbered, and we read the book that night, named him Radish and went to bed.  Clover really want the name Carrot, but we went with Radish because he is red.  And lo and behold the kids woke up and there was Radish still at the dining room table where we left him.  He got “sneaky” and moved at some point during the day.  It just hasn’t happened at night yet.

If I could write an instruction manual to parents it would include things like

Tooth Fairy:  Arrives when your child loses his/her first tooth only.  The other 19 or 23 or however many are in their first set are not that big of a deal.

Candy Fairy:  Yep, I bet you didn’t know it existed.  It’s better that way.  Just pretend he/she/it doesn’t

Santa:  He can come and bring gifts, but please, don’t have him bring too many because kids talk to each other, and well, we all aren’t doing that.

Easter Bunny: read above.  Same rules apply as for Santa.  Keep it simple.

Elf on a Shelf:  The elf has permission to find a cozy spot and stay there.  Feel free to move him occasionally.  But not too much, because remember kids talk to each other.IMG_3305

Radish had taken an interest in our paper chain this afternoon, and possible tomorrow too.  We’ll see.  For those of you who decided to skip the fairies, and Santa, and the Easter bunny.  I am sure you have been thought of as kind of “scroogy” but I’m starting to think you’re on to something.  We don’t know what we are doing over here.  It’s like an all or nothing gig, and I’ve been attempting somewhere in the middle which I can’t say has worked for us.

Just Call Me Dramatic

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I’v been being a bit dramatic lately.  I am blaming hormones.  No, I’m not pregnant, and I think I am too young for menopause, but whatever it is, it is making me feel like an out of control middle schooler.  Take that and mix it with the normal parenting of 3 kids and it seems like everyday we have the perfect storm.  More times than I want to admit I have said “I hate my life” this past month.  Don’t get all worried about me, I am okay.  I am dramatic.  I don’t really mean I hate my life.  I just mean I hate aspects of my life.  What do I mean?  Well, I hate that kids bicker and I nag.  I HATE nagging.  I don’t want to nag and I don’t want my kids to bicker, but it happens.  I hate that my 3 year old knows perfectly well how to annoy her 7 year old sister.  I hate that the 7 year old reacts like WW3 just broke out and I hate that my 10 year old babies her 3 year old sister as if she is an innocent angel which sends the 7 year old to her room crying because she feels that nobody likes her every. single. time.

That’s what I mean.

But do you know what I love?  I love that I have friends that I can be real with.  Friends who know that I love being a mother and I wouldn’t change staying home with them for the world.  Even so, that doesn’t change that some days are HARD.  And do you know what else I love?  I love that these moments don’t last forever.  I love that yesterday and today the kids have made a plan to be super good students going so far as practicing their Spanish together on their own.  They did 4 pages of math in the car and even got Clover to play PlayMobil while they worked.  They felt that if they were good students I would let them make lipstick and it worked.  Today they pulled out the PlayMobil and played together and I just cherished the moment because my 10 year old rarely plays with toys anymore, and even more rare is for them to all play together.  There is something to be said for having your kids close in age.  My mom had the 3 of us in 3 years 3 months, and while I am sure that there were years of chaos and crazy, we played together. A lot.

This mom business is hard.  And while my FaceBook posts might not always portray that, it’s true.  My fb moments are true too, but just remember that we are all just posting moments.  They are only snapshots.  The bickering, that’s just another snapshot.  Just not one that makes the fb cut.

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Holy Kiwi!

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Sometimes I find myself thinking of what it will be like growing old with this hubby of mine who is sitting next to me.  It usually hits me when he is doing something like hanging the Christmas lights on the second story or doing some sort of heavy lifting.  In a house full of females, I think it will definitely be noticeable when he is not our “go to” guy, when his sons-in-law start saying things like, “Oh Brian, I’ll get that.”  But for now, he is Mr. Manly and that wasn’t more evident than this weekend.

Holy Kiwi!  I am usually up for an adventure, and I come up with plenty on my own, but then Brian does the same which can make things quite full on.  One of the things we wanted to do while here in New Zealand was to hike and stay and a full stocked hut in the forest.  Brian thought it would be perfect to do this when my mom was here because she loves hiking and walking.  He contacted the Department of Conservation and found that this certain hut was about a 5k walk, about 2-2 1/2 hours, from where you park your car and it was very family friendly. The path was about 2 people wide and when he asked if we could take the stroller, the man couldn’t exactly answer that.

Well, I will answer that now that we have taken the stroller and the answer is no.  The family friendly hut is perfect for families with walking children.  While it was difficult getting there with the stroller and our 6 sleeping bags that weren’t the tiny kind that real hikers use…thatwasn’t our hut.  That “family friendly” hut was a shared hut, and in planning for this outing, we thought, let’s go 30 min. further and have our own hut. What’s 30 more minutes when you have already walked 2 hours?   Thirty minutes turned into 1 hour 30 minutes.  The terrain was now very narrow climbing over fallen trees, up steps of tree roots, through thick muddy patches and across streams.  Much of the time there was a near cliff on one side.  On 2 occasions, Clover is heading down the side but thanks to Mr. Manly, he never let go.  All the while, Clover is saying, “It’s fine.  He’s fine.”  Though Mr. Manly has the hardest job of all with the stroller and hiking backpack on his back, who do you think is his assistant?  Me.  I am doing pretty good because I have to.  The kids are being amazing and I tell my mom, “We can’t complain because they have been walking for 3 hours and they aren’t complaining.”  And so we keep on trekking, because there is nothing else to do.  We are approaching night.  Finally Brian asks if I’m okay, and maybe I was being a bit dramatic, but I said, “No!  I’m dying here!”  Physically, I felt like it was perhaps the hardest workout I’ve ever had, but really, I was just freaking out inside every time Brian fell or the stroller skidded scarily down the side of the near-cliff.  And so I decided to carry Clover and let her walk when she could.  That way at least my mind was at ease that Clover was safe, or safer at least.  The signage kept us going, 30 more minutes.  And then 30 minutes later, 20 more minutes.  Twenty minutes later, 15 more minutes.  It was like a cruel joke.  Piper said, “When we get there I’m going to get in my sleeping bag and read!”  And then Tatum said, “I’m going to watch TV!”  Sorry sweets, no TV, no electricity even.

We finally arrived, and we had fun playing cards, and eating a yummy dinner.  Tatum said she liked how quiet it was.  We went out looking for kiwi after dinner, and hit the hay, because now we knew what was in store the following morning.  We had to get back to our car!

From the time we left our car to the time we got back, we were gone 24 hours.  In that time we hiked 11 1/2 miles.  Seven hours!  Carrying our gear and stroller, crossed multiple streams, ate dinner, slept and played a few games of cards. On Saturday night when we got home we all slept like babes.

Tatum and Piper were amazing troopers.  Piper didn’t surprise me, but Tatum did.  Two hours into our walk back, she asks my mom to tell stories of when I was little, and she says, “This is fun!”  Yesterday, back at school she wrote about her adventure. I love her added little sound effects 🙂.  I’ll go ahead and fix the spelling, but here’s what she had to say:

Zoom!  Hop in the car.  It’s time to go.  I had to wait one hour to get to the parking lot.  It was pretty on the first part of the walk.  And then it was shady and cold.  We brought the pram.  Clover almost fell off the cliff.  *Dun dun duuun*  Every sign said something like 10 minutes but it felt longer than it was, really longer than t it really is.  Then when we got there we were exhausted.  We came home on the beach.  I loved it!

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When we thought we were halfway there, but no, not even a third of the way.

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Bridges and rivers and forests, Oh my!

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Hong Kong in a Nutshell

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In just a few short hours I get o see these two after 8 long days. I  couldn’t have imagined what their time would be like, but from the pictures that showed up on my iCloud every morning and the few conversations I had with them, it sounds like it was a wonderful week of bonding.  They journaled, painted, ate yummy food, and of course Brian did his fair share of embarrassing Piper by buying a funny hat and wearing a medical face mask. I expected it would be a time of growing closer for the two girls who see each other about every year and a half. But what I didn’t realize is that it was much needed for the dads as well.

I am grateful for the week they had to spend time with their oldest and to pour into them and pray over them. I was laughing so hard I was crying watching the “talent show” that they did on their last night together (gotta get permission before I post it 😉 ). Tatum was next to me, beaming as well, and said that she can’t wait until it is her turn.

On their last day there, they said goodbye to their friends who were catching an earlier flight and went on a boat excursion to see pink dolphins. We had gotten some books on Hong Kong and found out that there is a rare breed of pink dolphins, only 60 remaining in the world. When Piper was little she wanted to go to the Amazon to see the pink dolphins that she had learned about on Dora or Diego (gotta love what they learn on TV!). So when Brian heard there were pink dolphins in Hong Kong, he knew he had to add it to the agenda. With only 60 left in the world, they managed to see 6 or 7.  Pretty impressive!  Here are some pics from their last day together.

I think that it is so great that so many of you thought that this adventure was such a cool idea.  The best gift really is time.  It’s not too late if your kid is 14. It doesn’t need to be a week in another country.  It doesn’t matter if it is a son or daughter, or if you are a mother or a father.  It’s about quality time with your child.  It is as much for you as it is for your kids.

All about Dad this Mother’s Day

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Today is Mother’s Day, but this post is actually about how awesome Brian is.  He and Piper are headed to bed early tonight because tomorrow they are off on a 10 year old adventure.  I haven’t read the book, I don’t know all the ideas, but before we ever knew we would be living in New Zealand, before we knew we would have 3 kids, Brian was inspired to take each of his children on a 10 year old adventure.  The book is Love Does by Bob Goff, and the gist of the 10 year old adventure is doing something really special with Dad, spending one on one time and celebrating turning double digits.  Because most likely, they will be double digits the rest of their lives.

Their trip is extra special because they are actually meeting up with another super dad and daughter, Jason and Ella Fizzard who live in Vietnam.  The 4 of them are off to Hong Kong to have some fun, hang out on beaches, and for the girls to know how much they are loved.

And that’s all I got written on Mother’s Day.

Hmm, what was I saying.  Well, I love the 10 year old adventure because it was Brian’s idea and I love that the girls have a dad who is so invested and wants to spend time with them.  Now they are off, and I already miss them, but I am excited.  I know that Piper might think this is all about fun and adventure, but in another 10 years I hope she looks at the experience and sees that it was so much more than that.  She is loved and she is valued by the most important man in her life right now.  He took time from work, he saved money, and spent countless hours planning for this.  He packed their journals and watercolors, he read to her the chapter from the book Love Does about 10 year old adventures last night, and he has an art project planned that has to do with a map of Hong Kong.  The thought that went into this was a labor of love no doubt.  And I hope that Piper remembers always how much she is loved and how a man should love her when she is ready for that, even though I may never be.

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I told Piper that I needed a picture a day.  She said, “A picture a day keeps the sadness away.”  So here they are on the plane in Sydney.  The caption said, 5 + 5 = 10

And now I am waiting for tomorrow’s pic.