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Monday, October 26, 2015

Six Last Saturday


Saturday was six months. Six months since we came home to an unmade bed. Six months since we brought the Hello Kitty stuffie home with nobody to love on it. On Saturday it was six months since being a family of five.

A lot has changed in these few months. I've sought God a lot, wondering what His plans for our family are. A year ago I thought we'd be in our forever home by now,  filling it with our family and I'd be back to work at least part time. But we are here, in our temporary home, waiting for the county to do yet another expensive land study that we have to pay for in order to hopefully apply for building permits. I am back to work, but just a bit here and a bit there, spending time with kids jumped way up on the priority list. We aren't living as a family of five, we're thinking about what God might be leading us to though. We have finished all the paperwork, physicals, and four days of trainings to apply for our foster care homestudy. We are excited to see who God brings into our home and for how long.

To say I'm not grieved and disappointed about the revision of these dreams would be a lie. But I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the new dreams and desires God has placed in our hearts. I would love to be in our new house by now, but we are all completely content in this one and believe that God has a great reason for keeping us here.

Capper will have his last playtime with his grief counselor this week. Although this special time will be over he will always have the memory book that he and the counselor worked on together. A lot of us were worried about how Capper would cope with the loss of Anellah, they were very close, closer than many siblings. He has done so well, he still talks about her every day but he doesn't talk about her coming back. He seems to understand that she is gone forever and he had a great time with her and he will get to have a great time with her when he goes to heaven too. He doesn't ask to go to heaven and doesn't ask much about where she is now but definitely talks about their past experiences together and things she liked. I know, most people would say these concepts are too big for a three year old but however he is processing it, he seems to understand to the extent that he needs to.

We want to continue to honor Anellah and the way she contributed to who the four of us are today. We spread her ashes on Saturday, at our property where we plan to build so that she will forever be a part of that home although she will never get to live there. Daniel and I also started reading some of the memories we asked friends to write down at her memorial service. They were so beautiful and we will cherish them. It is incredible how quickly the memories fade but these written notes keep the memories fresh.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Waiting on the Call


Yesterday was mundane. I went to work, Daniel went to work. I messed up planning dinner and nobody liked it. I had to run to the store right before bedtime because we were out of milk. I didn't really get much done. But it was good mundane. I remember missing mundane when I was with Anellah day after day in the hospital. I just wanted our normal back. So here we are.

I did not intend to imply in the last post that we are currently waiting for a foster child to be placed with us. We have not even taken definitive steps to become certified in Washington yet. But we are thinking, and praying. God's plans always end up being so much bigger and better than mine. I just have this feeling that He's got something great up his sleeve and we are on standby, actively waiting to see what he throws at us. Living the mundane and being just fine with that. With only two kids we are able to do more. We are excited that our entire family can volunteer together to provide childcare for our church's special needs ministry every other month. I am able to go see some friends who recently became new Moms and (hopefully) encourage them that the first few months can be really hard and they'll survive! I am able to use my nursing skills to help family and friends here and there. We are able to host a fellowship group with four other families...

So we are thinking about becoming foster care certified, or possibly finding some foster families who need respite, or maybe something else entirely that hasn't even occurred to us yet. And that is where you come in. Will you pray for us that God will provide opportunity and direction? I'll keep you posted on how He answers!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Next Steps


Brushing my teeth tonight I looked at the framed photo. I remember the day...over three years ago...August 6, 2012...the day Anellah legally became our daughter. 100% Royal. I remember I was (as usual) running late, we needed to get moving in order to get into the city in time to make it to the courthouse and through security. My phone was receiving texts and I had a 7 month old who needed to nurse before we left. I remember glancing at myself in the mirror and thinking, "Well, why change? This is as good as it's gonna get" and then realizing there would be a photo or two so I better at least put on a clean shirt. I imagined our friends who were going to meet us at the courthouse in support of this decision, I imagined that Nicole was already ready with adorable perfect kids and waiting in the car for Marco while he did a bit of what I was doing...scrambling.
Nicole the Amazing
Daniel was ready so I put him in charge of Anellah, she was always the easy one. He could handle getting her into the car. I changed and did a quick once-over. Running out the door I went through my mental checklist, "phone, keys, contacts or glasses (yes I forget them sometimes), glucometer, glucose, glucagon, diapers" anything else we could "make do" without. And we were off.

And we adopted Anellah. And it was perfect. And Marco snapped my favorite family photo of the 4 of us, just in the courtroom hallway. Next to someone yelling on their phone because their experience hadn't quite been like ours. And I forgot that I'd almost neglected to put on a clean shirt. And that's how God works with us. We're a mess, but he can make beauty out of the mess.

So here we are again. When we chose to foster Anellah it was because we had an open room, we had a whole house and just two people to fill it! We've downsized now, less square footage but there's still more room for more. And we're still a mess (at least I am!) but there's still room for God's beautiful. So please pray for us as we consider the journey of becoming foster parents all over again...or if not foster parents some way to give, to love, to share this home with more littles.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

366

Written September 2, posted today.
A couple days before leaving Oakland, everyone in their Oakland garb!
One year. 365 days since we arrived in Fall City, our new home. 366 days since we left Oakland, the place we'd grown from a young couple to a family of five. Days. Each day, getting up in the morning, learning that my life is a lot less about me than I could have ever imagined. Each night, the dreaded task of "bedtime" the dreaded task that I have finally learned to cherish. That I'd always told myself was the most important part of the kid's day but that I've finally learned to slow down and enjoy. The back rubbing. Promising Anellah I'd come back and give her another kiss after she fell asleep. And I always making good on the promise.

Last week eight hundred pages of paper went in our recycling bin. Eight hundred pieces of paperwork that Anellah doesn't need anymore. Adoption paperwork, school assessments and plans, medical paperwork...and this was after I had purged it before we moved a year ago. It's amazing how something so important can quickly become obsolete. It was another step in the process, part of moving on but also part of remembering and being thankful for what she doesn't have to deal with anymore.

Last night Capper prayed for her again. Prayed that God wouldn't let her get sick again. We've explained He won't, she can't get sick again. I think it's his way of telling God how much he misses her. He asked God last week to make sure she got the message that he'd made a birdhouse for her. A home for the birds in her honor.

You ask us how we are doing and we are doing well. Yes, we miss her. Yes we think about her every day and sometimes it is sad. But we aren't afraid to talk about her and think about all the GOOD memories. There has also been a whole lot of GOOD this past year both before and after Anellah's death. So many fun memories with Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins! Capper has grown from a little boy to what seems like a big boy to us! Evelyn has grown from a newborn to almost a toddler! We are enjoying those two, I'm struck by how sweet they are and how fun they are. We're looking forward to another year in this home, the home we were only going to rent for 12-15 months while building our house. Thanks to politics, our house isn't built yet but that's ok. We are cozy here and it's a beautiful location.
At the river in Fall City last week

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Berry Sticky Day

It's 5:40 in the morning and I'm looking at two and a half GALLONS of juiced blackberries gazing back at me with ferment...err contempt after being picked last night. They need to be used within the next eight hours or we will have blackberry wine on our hands instead of blackberry jam...but we don't have pectin...and the baby is already awake...and the three year old has VBS today...30 minutes away.

So I do what any ridiculous person would do, rather than throw away the free blackberries (granted they had already incurred quite a steep bill for labor between picking and juicing time) I put a plan into action. By 9:15am I have dropped Capper off at VBS and am purchasing $38 worth of pectin at the store, who knows, I might decide to do this project again someday...when I forget how much work it is. The baby naps on the way home and wakes as I drive into the driveway foiling my plans to accomplish anything while Capper is gone. I manage to wash and sterilize all my pint size and smaller jars along with enough lids and rims. And I do math! My middle school teachers could have created an entire lesson out of all the math I do...the recipe called for 4.5 cups of blackberry juice, but that included a cup of water, but then boiled for 5 minutes...so maybe I'll say it is 3.75 cups of pure blackberry juice. So I have to add .75 cups of water for every 3.75 cups of juice...but how many cups are in a gallon?? In the end I decide to add 4.5 cups of water, 6 boxes of pectin, and...well you don't want to know how much sugar. Let's just say I was glad I bought a bag of it at Costco on Saturday! Good thing I chose the "lower sugar" pectin or even my Costco bag would not have been enough!

Alarm going off! Forget the sugar it's time for the hour drive there and back to get Capper from VBS! Again, Evie takes a short nap in the car, ruining her second sleep of the day. But Capper is thrilled to have had another fun morning at sports camp so we get home and he eats, and I eat, and Evelyn eats again even though I've been feeding her all morning to keep her occupied.

OK I MUST get this jelly made or it will ferment. It's already starting to smell a bit like beer (forget that detail if you ever get any of it as a gift). I decide to let the kids tear apart the house and pull out just about every toy imaginable so I can boil water and jelly on the front porch because it's far too hot to be doing this job inside and heat the house. But of course I don't make it long before I have to intervene with the kids and rescue a crazy climbing one year old or help a three year old set up his Legos on the table so they don't be destroyed by the monster baby. Back to my boiling jam, I have to stir constantly for the next 10 minutes so I strategically set them up with toys I think will keep them occupied...but in the end the baby is crying because she is tired and Capper is crying because he tried to help her but tripped and slammed his ear into the corner of the picnic table and I can't stop what I'm doing because I'm trying to guard the area surrounding the open flame of an outdoor stove. And my shoulder is aching from stirring with a normal spoon in a 6 gallon pot without a stepstool.

10 minutes are done, I pay Capper his two nickels I promised when I asked him to go inside and get me a wet washcloth to wipe the sticky blackberry mess off my hands before touching the baby. The reward helps him start to feel better, Evelyn gets her blankie and gets put back in bed because clearly she needs a nap. Nope, evidently it's hard to go to sleep when you create the biggest load in your diaper. Maybe I should limit her plum intake. Time to change the sheets! 

Well, the nap never happened but I've gotten a couple batches done, some of it while the kids play inside, some of it while they play outside. Boil empty jars, fill jars, wipe rims, boil filled jars. Burn myself with hot water plenty during the process.

Oops! The grief counselor is here to play with Capper, is it really 3:30 already??

I've canned before. Every time I think, "That wasn't so hard? Why are people so intimidated by canning?" I get it now. Those people must try to do it with kids helping.

The day is done, I have one last batch to boil. Capper wants to go on a walk and I agree because he's hasn't had much of my attention today. It's going well and I've prepped him with the fact that we need to turn back when my alarm goes off. The alarm. We turn around. He crashes. He cries. He insists on WALKING his bike the rest of the way home. 

Too long, one jar exploded in the water. Oh well, glad my piece of glass is in the bottom of the canner now and not earlier. Glad my water is filthy now and not earlier.

And then I hear it...CLICK! The satisfying pop of sealing lids. And it seems worthwhile. Those jars full of crimson delight. I can't wait until morning when I toast a piece of bread and slather fresh blackberry jam on top! If only we had bread...maybe I should bake some!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Evelyn Turns One

This gorgeous creature turned one year old yesterday! What a year it has been!
From this
To this
We celebrated by inviting family for carnitas, blackberry lemonade, and white cake with blackberry filling. I can't take credit for much of the cooking or cleaning, and I had to try the frosting recipe twice since the first batch came out looking like ricotta cheese but all in all I'd say it was a perfect first birthday party.  Happy Birthday Evelyn!








Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Job

The smell of my fresh latte. The cloud-like foam and deep richness of espresso. Between going back to work and a teething baby, it feels like a long time since I enjoyed my coffee alone, just the sunrise and I. Just quiet. Reflecting. Reflecting on conversations from yesterday, conversations with my patients. Thinking about the look when I tell them I won't be back tomorrow, but the way it changes when I tell them I only work part time so I can be home with my little ones. The depth of their "thank you" for a day well served. For a day of passing medications, and changing sheets, and cleaning messes, but more than that, from a day of just listening. 

The openness of a patient with a nurse, because there's something about being a nurse that makes people trust you. Yesterday I walked into the hospital talking to God, reminding myself that this is worship, this work is worship, this life is worship. I walked out with such a richness, such an affirmation that this is the job for me right now. Yes, patient, I hear what you are saying, tears well in my eyes as you grieve over missing your grandchild's wedding because you are stuck in a hospital bed. I may not have been sick myself but I know what the disappointment feels like, missing something because you are stuck in the hospital. Yes, patient, I hear you when you tell me about the loss of your husband when your three children were only teenagers. The pain you felt on your children's behalf as they grieved the loss of a loved one. My story is not exactly the same as yours but I know what you mean when you tell me your faith has brought you through. I see how your faith has given you a reason to have joy in the midst of sorrow. 

Not every day goes this way, there are plenty of times when patients are angry or feel like their call light is never answered, or I when I want to hear their story but four other patients need their morning medications. There are plenty of moments when I feel pulled too many directions, frazzled, and rushed. But even on those days, there is such an affirmation, a feeling that this is the right job, the right one for me, for right now. Working one to two days a week, still plenty of time at home, and just enough time at work to really appreciate the opportunity. 

Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men...It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer

You ask what we've been up to this summer....well how about I tell you with a few pictures.

Meat-face masking

Car swing swinging

Exhausted, napping

Mischief making

Great-Grandma Visiting

Horse Feeding

Smoothie in a squish-tube sucking

Parade Watching

Truck-stuck Helping

Box stuck escaping

Make that two

Fireworks in a jar exploding

Cousin loving

Sister smooching

Arrow shooting

Plum Eating
We've had just a little bit of fun.

Seasons

This has been a year of internalizing the concept of seasons. It started just over a year ago; we didn't know yet that we would be moving and I told a friend, "I feel like this is such a season of ease, a season of peace. It feels like a time to sink my roots in deep and savor the goodness of life. I know it won't last forever so I want to savor this time." And then, in the blink of an eye, we had a baby and we were moving before she was 6 weeks old. We started settling into this new life and then, on December 26th, we woke up to the moment we'd known might come but had hoped never would. Anellah had her first bleeding esophageal varice. As we lived through that hospitalization we knew it was the end of a season. It was the end of the "watchful waiting" season and we knew we would need to pursue further treatment for her liver. We did not know, as we do now, that it was the beginning of the end of her life, but we knew it was big.

I drove back from the hospital in Spokane in tears, I grieved the loss of the season. I told my mother in law how much I was hurting and she wisely advised me to sit with my grief. To really feel it and process it rather than push past it.

The months from January until April, when Anellah passed, never really regained the vibrance they had had before that moment in December. Of course, you may say, I see that now, but even in the on Easter my Mom mentioned, "Anellah really never recovered did she?" Something just wasn't right. She just didn't feel well and we all felt it as a family whether we wanted to admit it or not.

I have had the joy of being able to have a garden this year. I almost failed as I spent the crucial month of April with Anellah in the hospital. A month when I should have been planting and applying compost and weeding. But after I got home, the garden moved higher on my priority list than it had ever been. It is my time to think about life, my time to think about Anellah, my time to process the season. It has been hot this summer, and the days are much longer here than in California or Texas this time of year. I have enjoyed spending the evenings in the cool air when it is too hot to be inside after the kids are in bed. Daniel works on his truck, I work on the garden. It is a rhythm we've created.

This season has brought much joy along with the grief. We have a lot of freedom now. It feels odd having a family of 4 again. It feels small. But it means we can do more! I can go take a friend's kids for a day so that she can unpack after a move. We can go places at the drop of a hat as a family and not have to worry about missing appointments or medication refills or forgetting to pack something medically crucial. I don't feel utterly exhausted at the end of the day so I can garden! I have also had the opportunity to go back to work. I am so happy with my new job, it is just perfect for the season we are in right now. I will work one to two days per week and I will work with people who are at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital because they want to be, because they LIKE working there!

I think about the fall, the time when we will pick apples. I think about the winter when the days are shorter and I will do more indoor activities. And then it will be spring again. And a year will have passed since Anellah passed. And I will be thankful. Thankful that I have learned to savor the season. To live in the moment that I am in.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Light Shines Through


It keeps coming back, this sense of being "bright" this year. This word that we chose as a family to help define us and our lives in 2015. How ironic that the year would hold such grief. Yet the light shines through.

As we started to look "normal" straight in the eyes, Daniel and I started to feel like now might be a good time for me to go back to work. As I thought about it I started to get overwhelmed and wanted to "hurry up and find a job" but every time I felt the anxiety creeping in I stopped and took a deep breath. God will provide. God always provides. God's timing is perfect. I updated my resume and began applying...and much more quickly than expected I had an interview! Here is what is amazing, after the interview the director of nursing emailed me. She referred to me as a "bright light." What an unusual thing to say after an interview. It felt like direct affirmation that God is continuing to use our lives to shine.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Milestones

On the day when many of my friends celebrated their child's last day of kindergarten...on the day when she would have smiled proudly at everyone during kindergarten graduation...on this day of milestones, I too celebrated one last time. I celebrated one last trip to Seattle Children's Hospital. One last appointment for Medical Record number 984839 (Oakland) or 1136875 (Seattle). Yes I have them memorized, yes we spent a lot of time in hospitals and a lot of time on the phone when I needed those numbers. This day of milestones, this day when I sat down and reviewed the autopsy results with her doctor...confirming what we had hypothesized and affirming that we made the right decision.

I know a lot of Moms out there feel ambivalent today: happy their son or daughter completed such an instrumental year in school but sad to see him or her grow up so quickly. I feel ambivalent too. I am happy knowing it's unlikely I will frequent children's hospitals again. Happy that my daughter was a fighter but when she and her body decided it was tired, the process happened quickly. Happy that my daughter is celebrating in heaven. And of course I am sad, I am sad that we didn't get to celebrate her kindergarten graduation together and sad that there are a MILLION things we never got to do that I'd envisioned. I am even a bit sad to know I won't be going to Children's hospitals anymore because there can be such camaraderie there.

So when I got home and the blood mobile was still parked in the center of town I walked in. And I gave blood, joyfully. Thankful that my pint of blood will be able to make a difference in someone's life when they need it most. Every time Anellah received a transfusion I thought of the people whose very body it had come from. And I silently thanked them. Today I hope my contribution will be as instrumental as the many units that we received over the years.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#RoyalSummerList2015

I guess "Summer Break" is kind of arbitrary now. We don't have a school year to adhere to right now, but nonetheless, I get excited about summer. I get excited about a change of pace. I get excited about our annual summer bucket list. Here's what's on it this year:

Assemble a Puzzle
Attend Swimming Lessons
Bake Bread
Bake Cookies
Barbeque
Boat at Lake Marcel
Bug for a Day
Camp at the Forest Theater
Catch Bugs
Celebrate Evelyn’s Birthday
Chip Apart A Giant Ice Cube
Climb at Preston Park
Color with Sidewalk Chalk
Create an Obstacle Course
Cushion Surf
Do Dot Art
Draw in Shaving Cream
Dress up
Eat at Chik Fil A
Eat Frozen Yogurt
Eat Homegrown Strawberries
Eat Peas from the Garden
Experience Tinted Vinegar and Soda*
Explode a Water Pinata
Explode Popsicle Stick Bombs
Explore Pike’s Place Market
Explore Volunteer Park
Fill and Toss Water Balloons
Fingerpaint
Finish the Library Summer Reading Program
Fish with Grandpa A
Get Family Photos
Go Bowling
Go on a Bike Ride
Go on a Hike
Go On A Rainbow Scavenger Hunt
Go to Camp Cov
Go to Fall City Days
Go to Hawk Creek
Go to Remlinger Farm
Go to the Library
Go to the Space Needle
Grow Pumpkins
Have a Backyard Campout
Have a Dance Party
Have a Family Movie Night
Have a Mom and Kids Camping Trip
Have a Park Picnic
Have a Pillow Fight
Have Dinner After Work With Daddy
Jump on the Trampoline
Light Fireworks
Make a Cereal Necklace
Make a Fort
Make BIG BUBBLES!
Make Champion Ice Cream
Make Firestarters
Make Footprint Art
Make Fruit Roll Ups
Make Glowstick Lanterns
Make Homemade Ice Cream
Make Jam
Make Paper Airplanes
Make Pizza
Make Popsicles
Make Root Beer Floats
Master somersaults
Meet the Fremont Troll
Paint Egg Carton Caterpillars
Pick Apples
Pick Blueberries
Pick Cherries
Pick Flower for a Bouquet
Pick Peaches
Pick Plums
Pick Raspberries
Pick Strawberries
Play Ames Lake
Play at Crossroads Splash Park
Play at Enatai Beach
Play at the Seattle Center Splash Park
Play Cars Monopoly
Put Pasta in Playdoh
Rest in the Hammock
Ride a Horse
Ride the Monorail
Run Through the Sprinkler
Scatter Anellah’s Ashes
Shop at the Carnation Farmers Market
Shop at the Issaquah Farmers Market
Shop at the North Bend Farmers Market
Slip N Slide
Slushies
Splash at the River
Splash in Wallingford Wading Pool
Stay in Pajamas All Day
Stick Pipecleaners in a Colander
Swing!
Take a Ferry
Visit Discovery Park and Lighthouse
Visit Snoqualmie Falls
Visit the “Secret Beach” in W. Seattle
Visit the Gum Wall (in Honor of Anellah)
Visit West Linn, OR
Watch a $1 Movie

Watch a Movie at the North Bend Cinema

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Anniversary Day

The day she came home, I didn't even know how to put a onesie on frontwards!
Five years ago today Daniel and I drove to UCSF, walked in as a boring couple, and walked out as a blended family. Until the MOMENT we walked out the nurses kept asking, "are you really going to take her!?!" they had had so many potential foster parents back out at the last minute. We didn't understand the big fuss, "Yes! Why would we show up if we weren't?" Looking back I understand now, we had never been parents before. We knew she would require more than your average baby but we had nothing to compare her to. To us she was a baby who needed a home and a bit of medical care, we could provide both. Oh how gracious God was in keeping our vision so narrow! If we had known all the factors, seen all the ways that commitment would change our lives, known we would fall in love with her, adopt her, raise her as our own, and say goodbye all within 5 short years I am doubtful we would have accepted the challenge.

Five years later I sit here thinking of the many ways she rocked my world. Thinking of how powerful a single interaction with her could be. Thinking of how God used her to open my mind to different cultures, different values, different personalities. I am thinking of how I learned more about medicine from parenting her than I did in hours of studying for nursing school exams. I am thinking of all the lasting relationships that grew from parenting her, relationships with social workers, therapists, doctors, and teachers. I am thinking about how she saved me from insanity when Capper was a fussy baby and she was the only one who could make him smile. I am thinking of how she challenged my creativity every day and challenged me to find peace amidst chaos rather than organization. I am thinking of how I admired the fact that she had more patience than plenty of adults!

Looking forward, I wonder what the next 5 years will hold. Two months ago we thought we knew what direction our lives were headed. We had finally achieved our 4 year goal of moving back to Washington, we were "done" having babies, we were moving into a season of school-age children rather than babies and preschoolers, we were at peace with knowing we'd never travel with our children far from a major city, we'd never travel without our children far from them, and we'd never live out of the country. The next 5 years might be easy, they might be hard, they might have some unexpected surprises, they might be kind of boring, but based on past experience I am sure I will be able to look back 5 years from now and say, "WOW!" God had a plan for our lives and I'm glad we went with it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Back to Reality


We had a great time in California at Anellah's second service. It was a special weekend of catching up with good friends and celebrating Anellah's life. Anellah's biological family was able to attend too. The event was so powerful and peaceful. As with her service in Washington, it was perfect.


Of course, another bounce house!
Anellah's Moms
After the service we spent Memorial Day weekend at a family camp with our former church family. It was an event we've attended every year since before Anellah came to live with us so it was such a blessing to be able to attend again! We thoroughly enjoyed being with friends and allowing the kids to play ALL DAY with their California buddies.



Last week we started to find our new groove. All services for Anellah are over and now we're settling in to our new normal. It's interesting because I feel like a "real" stay at home Mom now, just focused on our two kids and living life. No doctors appointments to coordinate and follow up, no prescriptions to refill, no insurance to deal with. So much of what I spent my time doing is no longer necessary. In some ways I feel like I have less time since Capper's playmate is no longer around but I'm trying to make sure he has time with other kids so I don't get burned out being a "playmate." Of course, we're still staying plenty busy but I think we are settling in well. The last two months have really helped us to focus on the importance of family and spending quality time together.