Sunday, February 28, 2010

more baby stories to share

Well, that last post seemed to touch a lot of people. I got more comments that I think I ever have, except for the day the adoption fell through (that was a big one.) I like to think that blogs give us a place to be ourselves, and let it hang out, but I am still somewhat careful at times of what I write, like I have to apologize for what I am feeling at the moment. I shouldn't have to be so careful, but I don't want to offend anyone, and who really wants nasty comments?

After reading the comments, here is what I think about all of us lovely women: sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don't. We're not perfect all the time, and that is completely okay. I don't expect that of myself and certainly not of you. And that saying goes for our friends as well; they don't get it right all the time either.

Now, I'm not excusing any purposefully bad behavior on someone's part, and I know we've all had moments where someone has hurt us. It happens. People are selfish and unthinking. But let's face it, IF is nothing if not emotional. The hormones, the drugs, the charting, the appointments and waiting rooms filled with pregnant women, the sex on demand. It all toys with our emotions, and it makes us a tad more sensitive than we would naturally be when someone announces their pregnancy. I'm sure that plays into a lot of our reactions. It did mine.

(Side funny: Once at the OBGYN, I looked around and had the sudden urge to ask them all if anyone was planning to give up their baby for adoption!!! Didn't do it, of course.)

What I know is that I command my tongue and that I need to have my heart in the right place. My day will come. And if it doesn't, then I pray God comforts me at that time.

Yesterday, I did what many would say is crazy for an IFer. I threw a baby shower for my dear friend Laura. It was so much fun. We had a ball. Her family lives many states away and shipped all her gifts to me, so we kept pulling out present after present after present. It was such a wonderful afternoon filled with love. I know she had fun and it took two cars to pack up all her gifts! Then after the shower, my husband and I went up to the hospital to meet new baby Eli, the son of our friends Brandon and Mandy.

Isn't this outfit totally cute? Laura was so blessed by all the gifts.

I know that these would be difficult tasks for many of you, and I will admit that I had one little twinge of envy and then it was gone. Again, I credit that to our Lord, who continues to bloom in me a spirit of joy. He has given me the heart to be able to celebrate with others while I wait. He whispers that it will be okay. He gives me a song to sing.

The pic is blurry, Charlie was in charge of the camera at this point. Eli, on the other hand, is adorable.

But, I love hearing your thoughts and your experiences. I only have my couple of real IF friends to talk to about this, and they already have children at this point. Your successes add to my joy and your struggles go on my prayer list. Plus, we all have such a different story, and IF doesn't touch us all exactly the same. Keep sharing with me the happy and the sad, I can take it.

And, I dare you, share it with God as well. He can take it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

from my perspective

Well, the third baby boy was born early this morning! My friend Mandy gave birth to her first son, Elijah Glenn, at 4:41am. Charlie and I are so excited for our friends. It's a blessing for them, and they had trouble getting pregnant as well, so it's all good.

I don't know how you react to babies being around you. I'm normally okay with it. There used to be blogs that I read that were full of this cold bitterness directed towards pregnant women. Women who would get mad, angry and furious if someone shared that they were pregnant. It was like "how dare she?" get pregnant when I can't.

I don't have that view.

I don't see it like that.

What I know is that creating a family is easy for some and hard for others. What I know is that it's the luck of the draw. It's random.

I can't control my ovaries any more than the next girl. I mean, seriously, why should I be offended because a friend had a baby? Other people have just as much right to have babies as I do, and they shouldn't wait or hold off because my feelings might get hurt. My husband needs to be careful of my feelings, but I don't expect a casual friend at church to worry about it, or a coworker. The world doesn't stop because I am infertile.

Here's what I expect:
  • If you know me well, and love me, then take care letting me know about your pregnancy. Take me aside and tell me privately, or send me an email or tell me over the phone. Don't let me find out in some big crowd.
Um, that's it. I fully understand that pregnant women have a right to be happy about their pregnancies, their nurseries, their registries, their new carseats, diaper bags, bottles and baby showers. It's what we do in this country. We celebrate babies. Why should anyone have to hold in their joy? I do not want people to have to tiptoe around me. Sheesh.

I know my view is probably different than other IF women, and I respect what you may feel. They are your feelings. But God gave me a gift when he gave me this viewpoint: freedom. I am free to be happy about these births and babies and showers and all the trappings that come with it. He unwrapped this gift in my heart and has let it stay there. Yes, I still long for a child of my own, but until then I will cuddle up on these babies and shower them with attention.

It might be that you are sitting there reading this and wondering what I am smoking, and I get that. But ask yourself if being bitter is getting you anywhere. Do you feel better when people shy away from you or don't talk to you because they are afraid of your reaction? I don't. That makes me feel more nervous because I don't want to be avoided. Being open allows me to take part in the fun, and don't you want be included in the fun?

This might be too much to ask some of you, maybe those of you who have experienced a baby loss or miscarriage. I haven't ever been there, and so my perspective might be different from yours if that is the case. It may be more painful for you than I can realize, and if so, please know I don't mean to be disrespectful of that loss. I just know that I asked God to work in my heart and I think that anyone can ask the same.

Back to those blogs I read, the bitter ones. I gave some comments, encouraging the women to let some of the anger go, but eventually I stopped reading. My time out in blogland needs to be spent with women that are hopeful, like me. Yes, we all struggle. I do. If you look back a couple of posts, you'll see me struggling with the WHEN, and the COSTS. Adoption is overwhelming at times and we've all been there. But I don't want to introduce anymore anger into the situation, so I back off those blogs that are all anger all the time. Those blogs are a place for women to vent, but I don't need to take it in.

And, if I offended you, I'm sorry.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

chick lit meets adoption

I think many of you know I am a elementary and middle school librarian, and my middle school girls really love this author: Sarah Dessen. She writes very realistic high school fiction, and I have fallen in love with the way she writes her characters and the amount of heart in her words. The situations are real, things you can imagine happening to girls today, things you know are being kept from parents and teachers. But Dessen, deals with them in a way that girls can handle and understand. But like I said, mostly for high school girls.

This is the problem, really, because I don't teach high school. I have middle school students that want to be high school students so badly. While I want to expose my students to great, contemporary literature, I have to be careful. I ordered a couple of books, thinking I could preview them and slip them to the 8th grade teacher for her classroom bookshelf, and I knew I would have to read them first.

This book was especially poignant. The whole plot of the book deals with two best friends, one of whom becomes pregnant. The mom wants the girl to give the baby up for adoption, since she is only 16, but the girl wants to keep the baby. The mothers of both girls caution that life won't be the same when dealing with a baby, and they seem to get it, but the character is determined to keep the baby.

Now, I don't have an opinion about whether she should or shouldn't give up the baby. That's every woman's choice. And I understand why a mother might want her 16 year old to have a shot at a normal college experience.

I understand that angst. Our side of the coin is just as confusing and hurtful and filled with pros and cons. To adopt or not. What races to consider? How much to budget? It's all filled with questions that we won't have answers to right away.

The book is a great read, and would certainly spark conversations between a mother and daughter if read together, about where to draw boundaries, who to love and how to be there for your friends. This author is such a rare talent, and if you have daughters, buy her books now and save them for her teenage years.

Okay, library time is over, for now.

Monday, February 22, 2010

boys, boys, boys, all over the place!

This is Fleecie. She was given to me for Easter a long time ago, and I love her. And you have to say her name with a lisp or it doesn't count. Fleecshy. It's only proper.

Fleecie is here to tell you about all the babies in the last couple of days. I told you about the twin boys born to my friend Ashley. They are doing well and were both over 6 pounds, I believe, which is a great size for twins, as I'm sure you know.

But the other babies I heard about today were both surprise adoptions. One bloggy friend, Jeny, at A Forever Family in the Making, went through a failed placement like we did, only theirs was back in the fall. They traveled all the way to Texas only to have the birthmother change her mind while she was in labor or shortly after the baby was born. Then they had a friend step forward to be a surrogate only to have their doctor tell them they were a good candidate for IVF. She started the meds and then got a call from the birthmother, asking if they still wanted the baby. Yes! They went and picked him up yesterday!!!!! Read her story HERE.

The other is another internet friend of mine who had left one adoption agency for another to have the original one call them up and ask if they still wanted their profile shown to a birthmother who matched their profile. They had it shown, but she chose another family, who, after the birth of the baby boy, backed out. Agency called them you want the baby? YES! They will get him soon.

And my friend Mandy is set to deliver another boy any day now!

Uh-mazing. Completely amazing. I was so happy all day for these four ladies, only two that I know in person! Isn't is wonderful what God can do, even after we think a door is closed?

Fleecie just wanted to spread the good news!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

it's all painful

I don't really have the shoes all sitting out like this, but I was given all these cute shoes last year and loved how adorable they were, so I lined them all up and took a picture. Now they are all in a box and waiting for little feet.

We had dinner last night with some friends from church who have adopted boys. I didn't know their story well, but I knew their children were adopted. They wanted to reach out to us since they knew we were having a hard time waiting, and we had a great time sharing with them.

Angela and I were sitting on the couch while the guys were playing with the boys, and she was telling me how they came to adoption. She had trouble getting pregnant and then finally got pregnant with twins who were born at something like 21 weeks (the boy) and 23 weeks (the girl.) Baby boy lived 5 days and baby girl lived nine weeks.

I told her that my story of a failed match in no way compared to losing two babies that way. She was saying that it all hurts and it's hard to compare someone's pain to another persons pain. It all hurts us, it's all painful and we all have to get through it.

Thinking about it that way was very interesting. People sometimes compare a failed adoption to a miscarriage, but I still think it's different. It's not physical. I didn't feel a baby kicking in my womb, or experience morning sickness. Unlike Angela, I never held my bab(ies) and watched them sleep. I can't imagine that kind of loss. Well, maybe I can. I've experienced loss in the death of my father and that was deeply sad, but when it's a child, your child. Hmmm, I have a feeling that it is profoundly different.

I know that many of us have stories that are uniquely painful. IF in itself is painful. When you want to conceive and then you can't, it's a loss. And we do tend to compare ourselves. But when it comes to pain, hurt shouldn't we just call it a tie? We've all been through something, but they thing that unites us all is a loving God who sees our tears and hold us up. At times I want him to clue me in on his plan, but knowing it is enough to trust that he is there. And I know he brought me through the death of my father, praising him the whole way. He can bring us through this, to his glory.

In this season of lent, I pray that we all can experience the freedom of the Lord and leave the pain of all this behind us. I pray that we will feel his comforting hand and the peace that passes all understanding. I pray we will feel whole and healed, even in our trials. And Secret Prayer Buddy, will you pray that I will sleep soundly and rest in Him? Thanks.

On a lighter note, my friend Ashley gave birth to twin boys this morning! Welcome to the world, Keegan and David! (this part isn't painful...I am so excited for Ashley and her husband Phillip...they had a hard time TTC and used Clomid.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

all that baby stuff...

This post is really about giving you new readers a little peek into last year. Next month is March. At the end of March 2009, I got the phone call that made me jump up and down: we were matched with a birth mom, Vanessa. Baby girl was to be born in early May, and to say we were thrilled in an understatement. Totally.

Very quickly we started gathering up baby stuff. It came pouring in from various friends, near and far. Our church was so excited and I received tubs and tubs of little girl clothes in all sorts of sizes. We spent hours in BabiesRUs, looking at things and making decisions. I took a friend Kenda (hi, Kenda) with me when I went to register and she walked me through all the little things that we would need. Yes, I did leave the husband at home for that one, but he got to come with me when we registered at Target.

I scoured Craigslist for several things. We had already purchased and refinished a crib before the match, but we were looking for a travel system. ***Yes, I know, many baby books advise against people buying carseats secondhand. We inspected this seat and were happy with the condition, almost like new.*** This one seemed like we would be able to use it for a boy later on should we adopt again. I washed the cover and wiped everything down with Clorox wipes to make it brand new. Then I began using my Snoopy stuffed animal to practice with the straps and buckles. It isn't easy to get little arms and legs into those straps.

Yes, we practiced. I made Charlie practice too, and the closer we got to the due date, the more the baby things sat out where we could see them. We made that fateful trip to Walmart I posted about the other day, and bought diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and basics. We had a small amount of formula, but I really wanted to wait and buy the kind the interim care people were using so it would not be a change for the baby. We packed the diaper bag and had it by the door, ready to go should we need it quickly, although we would in reality have an appointment to go pick up the baby.

I have a drawer full of bottles and stuff in my kitchen and every once in awhile I accidentally open the drawer, and am surprised. It seems like so long ago that we were preparing for her homecoming and surprising our moms for mother's day by revealing the name to them. The year seems to have gone by so slowly, and fast at the same time. We really did think we were going to have another match by now, and it just hasn't happened yet.

Charlie (light of my life, husband of husbands) said something really profound the other day: faith is believing that God can send one baby from all the babies in the world to the tiny, Christian adoption agency that we felt called to use. He's so right, isn't he? There are many times when I have trouble believing that it will happen, and he's such a solid rock. He reminds me that God hasn't forgotten us.

So, for now, I have all sorts of baby stuff just waiting to be used. It'll get used someday.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I want to know

I am glad you all liked the nursery! I really was happy with how it turned out and thought it would be a lovely place to bring our baby home to, but now it just sits there, waiting. I know it will get used someday, but right now, it's empty.

Well, it isn't really empty. It's stuffed with things that people gave us: bags of clothes, a stroller and car seat, a play mat thing, a soother chair bouncer thing, and other various baby things.

If you gave us something and I never wrote you a thank you note, I'm sorry. And thank you.

I have favorites of course, of things that I have. And mostly, I have little girl things. If we have a boy, I think I'll just store the girl things, but for now the drawers are filled with pink and purple and pastel colors. And little tiny shoes and hair bows and socks.

I have two friends that are going to go into labor anytime now. One is having twin boys (used Clomid) and the other is having a boy (used Clomid.) Yesterday at church, the friend having twins was having contractions and left to go to the hospital, but they ended up sending her home since she was not really dialated. The other friend was having contractions last week, but nothing yet either.

And another friend just told me she was pregnant, but she loves me and told me in an email. Good friend. It gave me the time to process a little bit and be excited for her when I saw her. And this friend had a miscarriage last year and had a hard time getting pregnant again. So, it was hard not be excited, cause she knows how I felt and we have talked lots about it.

That's what's going on in my neck of the woods. How about you? How do you like people to tell you they are pregnant, or do you not mind at all? I'm curious. Let's talk about it!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

have i ever shown you?

I don't think I have posted many pictures of what I decorated the nursery to look like when we were expecting the baby. I'm still not happy with the wall treatment over the crib and will most likely tweak it at some point. This, of course, was decorated for a girl, but the walls are turquoise and the furniture is white and the rocking chair/recliner is blue-green. We have boy bedding as well, with safari animals and such.

My husband hooked up the iPod to a pair of flower shaped speakers, so that we could have lullabies and such when we were rocking her. The recliner is actually my dad's from my parents' house. When he passed away, I asked for it and planned even then to make it the rocker in our future nursery.

The dresser is actually an adult size dresser that we found at Sofa Express. I am not a huge fan of child sized furniture, so we chose this. It is stocked right now with little girl clothes. mostly donated, but very cute nonetheless.

Charlie and I picked out all the frames and things together, knowing that I would be taking tons of pictures. I am very excited to see what I might be able to fill them with one day.

I just thought that you would like to see a little tour of the nursery. Some days I don't mind walking past it and looking in the doorway. Other days, I have the door closed and I ignore the room.

Any ideas, let me know.

Also, did you notice that Blogger added multiple pages? I added two pages on the sidebar to add backstories to our adoption process should someone want to read the complete story. If a birth mom should stumble across this blog, I want the stories and pictures just a click away. Check 'em out if you want to see more pics of the husband and I, plus read our story. They are right under our picture.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

more tears

I had a moment this week where life seemed very heavy. Incidentally enough, it was during the Bachelor, but the point isn't really that I watch reality television, but that sometimes, we are like reality television. As much as we don't want to admit it.

So, this week, one of the four remaining contestants was told by her job she needed to come home or be fired. She didn't want to leave. She liked Jake. But in this economy, a job is important, so she left. And before she left, she CRIED a lot.

I started crying at the whole thing, because I am in job limbo as well. Nothing as dramatic as the whole Bachelor thing, but there might not be enough money to fund my job next year as the school's full time librarian. I was told back in September, so I've known about it and have been looking for something else, too. But the fact that the adoption is in limbo too, since who knows when anything will actually happen, is stressing me out.

Two huge portions of my life are at the end of a yo-yo.


I try so hard to deal with it well. God grants me grace every morning to smile at babies and love the pregnant people around me. He makes it easy. It's a gift from Him, just to me.

But the stress of all of it together is making me tired. TIRED. We just had three days off due to snow, and I don't feel rested. I was crossing my fingers that it would snow again so I could have another day off. Nope. It all went about three hours north and we got rain.

So Monday night I cried some when I was going to bed. Tuesday morning I cried some when a coworker asked me how I was doing. Then I cried when I typed an email to my husband telling him about all the times I cried. He sent me the sweetest email, and then I cried some more.

He bought me tiramisu. All is better now.

Do you ever have those moments where it just seems that it's all too much? If I didn't want to be a mom so bad, I would just give the whole thing up, but the nursery is ready and so are we.

What do you do when you want to give up?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

adoption laws are different

I wish I had something to report. That's the hard thing with adoption blogs, I think. I want to keep up with it and give you something to read, but until we are matched again, there isn't too much to say. I could continue whining about the wait or the costs, but you all know all that, because you've dealt with it.

I wish adoption agencies had to publish their costs/fees on their websites. It seems to me I would know right away if I could use them or talk to them if I knew what they charged. It took us a long time to find our adoption agency, and now trying to explore our options, I wish more of them publicized what their fees were. It would save them wasting the time talking to me or emailing me if they had them listed. I emailed another place today that had a list of situations, but could not find the fees listed.

And you know that different states have different adoption laws. I wish they were the same. Why aren't they the same? In NC, the mothers sign their TPR but then have 7 days in which to legally revoke the TPR. They have to do it with a notarized letter, but they have 7 days. Other states have 10 days. Some have 72 hours. Seems to me it should all be the same.

Some states allow the birth parents to ask for financial help. Other do not. This can really increase the cost of the adoption and can be up to $12,000.

It would be nice if things were more standardized. It would make it easier to adopt across state lines if the laws were the same. Plus the ICPC increases the amount of time you stay in another state, which means you are a hotel family for a while.

What are the laws like in your state?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

your perspectives were interesting

I thought your opinions on the whole bipolar thing were interesting (if you're curious, see the previous post below.) Most of you said that it would not matter to you, but that it was a personal decision. My friend Tonya, especially, know that anything can happen once you bring a child home, even one that's your biological child.

My own personal experience is from school. We have a set of boy/girl twins here and the girl is bipolar. In k, 1st and 2nd grade she was almost impossible to handle. The school finally stepped in and now the student has a full time aide with her. All day. Helping correct her behavior and helping her make the right choices. It's not an easy job. This is what I think of when I think of bipolar. That made me pause.

But, that all being said, the fees were just too high for us, so I never indicated any more interest to the facilitator than the first email, trusting God that she would contact me if she thought we could be right for them. After checking the adoptlink grid today, I see that two sets of parents have applied to have their profiles shown. Maybe God just wanted me to pray for them. I may never know.

Thanks for your perspectives, though. It was interesting to see what people said about the situation. I felt much better about the possibility of raising them, and intervening early if need be. Hopefully one of these other two couples will get chosen and love these babies to pieces. If not, the facilitator knows where I am, I guess.

I also signed up for a adoption network board, but I don't expect much to come from it. I don't know that I would be able to really believe a girl on there who was looking for adoptive parents. I guess if someone did contact me, I would refer them to our agency to have them checked out. Again, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these forums.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

give me your opinion, please!

So I asked you a couple of days ago if you knew anything about adoptlink facilitator services. Well, no one really knew anything or had used their services, but I wanted to update you on what I found out recently. What you should know is that adoptlink is an adoption facilitator out in California and she has a very well organized chart of adoption situations from all over the place. She charges $4800 for her services plus posts the amount that the adoption agency will be charging for the adoption. KT mentioned that there wasn't a ton of information posted on their chart, just the basics like sex of the baby, race, the due date and the date the case was presented to the facilitator. You can see the chart here.

The situation I was interested in was with the birth mother Arthene, who is due to have a set of boy/girl twins in March. They are a Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic mix and the fees are somewhere in the neighborhood of $35,000 plus the travel/lodging and finalizing the adoption here in NC. Not too bad I guess for twins. The case originally had a notation that said WEST COAST adoptive parents only. Fine. That eliminates us. The chart also lists the names (in code) of various parents that have applied to have their profiles shown to the birth parents, but this case has no names listed. I kept thinking that was strange since the adoption costs for the twins is not much more than some of the other adoptions for single births they have listed. But recently the notation was changed from WEST COAST to USA ONLY. Now I could realistically ask something.

I kept coming back to this situation. I don't know why. Something about it intrigued me, I guess. There are so many people around me who have twins (my SIL, my friend Emily, my friend Tara and my friend Ashley) so I'm not really afraid to adopt twins. Plus, even though the expense would be great, it would be one adoption and our family would be complete. I wouldn't have to go through this waiting and adoption process again. Those are practical reasons, but something keeps pulling me back to look at this chart, even knowing the cost is not realistic for us.

So I finally emailed the facilitator Lil about the situation, asking for more information and if the fees were flexible at all. She responded with a basic email informing me of the specific costs involved and sent me more specific information on the birth parents. I think the reason that people may not have applied to adopt these children is the mother's health. She states that she is bi-polar although Lil notes on the form that this has not been documented and she does not take medication for it. Immediately, I remember thinking that bi-polar is hereditary and I read a little bit about it on Wikipedia and they say the most researchers believe that our genes play a major role in being diagnosed bi-polar.

Would that scare you? I can admit that it gave me pause.

Ultimately, the cost is what stopped me from emailing back and asking if she could show our profile. Knowing what we have budgeted for our adoption and knowing that this would cost $40K plus just puts it outside what we can afford. Way outside what we can afford without major help.

And yet I keep going back to the chart and the information Lil sent me. Other than the bi-polar thing, the health of the parents is excellent (Lil sent me their health forms written in their own handwriting, both mother and father with identifying information blocked out.) Overall the situation would be perfect timing with the babies due in March. I talk about these babies to friends of mine, thinking that maybe I could pass on the situation to someone who could afford it.

Last night I just prayed: Lord, if these babies are supposed to be mine, you'll make it happen. If I'm thinking about these babies for some reason, I can at least pray for them. If you know that Charlie and I are supposed to parent these babies, then you'll take care of the cost, the travel, the time away from work, and everything else. I will trust that you know who my children will be. If these babies are on my mind because they need prayer, I can pray that the right parents come across this site.

Maybe their parents are someone reading my blog. Maybe their parents are someone that you know, waiting for a perfect situation. Who knows?

Maybe these babies are supposed to come to NC. If so, then God will handle it.

But, let me ask you, would the bi-polar thing scare you? All you adoptive parents out there...would that stop you from going forward. Be honest, please. Especially those of you who have already adopted children, what would you think about this situation? God can handle that, too, I know.

Monday, February 1, 2010

ups and downs

This weekend we were blessed with about seven inches of snow and a snow day today. I was so glad that school was closed this morning, allowing me some extra rest and a day to myself, since Charlie had to do into work.

I was sharing yesterday with a friend that the past couple of weeks have been hard. My job situation is in flux, since they told me back in October my position may not be available next year. The school is collapsing a couple of positions and wants to combine my librarian position with the technology position. But then last week they told me they aren't sure how exactly it will happen, since they really haven't found any good candidates for the job. Now they are thinking they might replace the technology position and keep me half time.

It's hard for me to think about finding a new job, and sit here and wait for a baby. It's two huge things on my mind. I find it hard to relax and just let the worries go. We didn't have church yesterday because of the snow, and I probably could have really used some worship time. But today offers me some quiet time to rest and veg and just be.

I was talking to my assistant principal the other day and she was sharing that they still didn't know what they wanted to do with the position. I was telling her that it would be nice to keep my job, since the health insurance is so awesome. It really is awesome. And working part time for my school might be a great solution if we had a baby at home. And, still being staff there, I would automatically get a place for our child when they enter kindergarten if I work there that long. It's a great school. But again, my mind has been set on having to find another job, and now there might be a chance that I could keep the job. It's like a big YoYo. As is adoption. It's a huge rollercoaster that we're on right now.

Ups and downs. It's all about ups and downs.