The First Month of Motherhood

I’m a mom. A mother. Of a child. A real child. It’s still mind blowing, 4 weeks in. Every day I remember that baby E is mine. Ours. I’m not sure when it will stop feeling surreal.

The first month of being a mom has been so many things. Inspiring, terrifying, overwhelming, exciting, and too many other “ing” adjectives to list.

It has been amazing to walk with Jackson as we begin to try and navigate this whole parenting thing. I have loved watching him step into his role as a father. What a lucky little girl to get to call him daddy. The last month my love and appreciation for him has expanded and grown in so many ways.

Not that we haven’t had our moments, because oh man have we had some of those. From whisper yelling at 3 am while trying to swaddle a kicking baby (we quickly said “screw this” and got Velcro swaddles because the old school swaddling was not good for our marriage) to the time Jackson was yelling at (yes, at) our mattress in a half-awake stupor for creaking to loudly and waking up the baby. We’ve had so many “moments” (usually around 3 in the morning) and there have been some genuinely tough conversations as we try to figure out how to care for each other and baby E well through sleepless nights and colic-y days.

Let’s talk about the first time E started peeing while Jackson changed her diaper. He just stood there, in awe watching while I yelled at him to go get a towel. He looked at me so genuinely and said, “Oh my gosh, it’s like a little fountain!! I didn’t even know girls could do that!”. We both lost it. Jackson is now a diaper changing pro, however, and has even coined the nickname “diaper dad”. Isn’t he lucky?

Or how about when E cried and tears came out for the first time. If you didn’t already know, babies don’t have tears at first. They just have sad little tearless cries. Well, the first time I looked down and saw tears fall I LOST it. Something about seeing tears made her cry even more sad than it already is and I could not handle it. Jackson looked at me so confused and asked, “wait, why are YOU crying?” and all I could say was, “because she has real tears and it’s so sad”. He tried his best to give me an “I love you and I swear I don’t think you’re crazy” look, God love him for trying, and left to change her diaper.

Overall, this month has been incredible. I could have never imagined that becoming a mom would feel so right. So natural. I was so anxious before with so many questions. Would I know how to get her to stop crying? Would I wake up at night when she’s upset? Would breastfeeding go ok (still working on this one, RIP to my old nipples)? Turns out, it’s just like it all clicked. I mean, don’t get me wrong I have SO much to learn and surely SO many mistakes ahead, but the whole being a mom thing feels so great and right that (most) of my fears about figuring it out have subsided. I’m sure each stage of motherhood will come with its own fears, questions and worries but for now I’m just soaking up this season with our new baby girl.

 

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A Babymoon in Paris

Since Jackson and I were moving home from Germany in February, we realized all of the places we wanted to see while living in Europe were going to have to go on the backburner for a while. Granted, getting a baby in return is totally worth the trade, but we were bummed that we didn’t get to see as many places as anticipated.

We decided that we could at least explore one fun city and then head back to Texas directly from there, and it was an easy decision that the city would be Paris. I’ve been before but Jackson hadn’t and we were excited to explore a new city together. And babymoons are a thing now, so why not call this ours?

Babymoon in Paris

We took a 4 hour train from Frankfurt to Paris. You should know that our luggage broke a few days before, so everywhere that we are lugging our 50 pound bags, Jackson is dragging the suitcase that has a broken wheel. It was a disaster, but we managed to make it to the train station in Frankfurt with help from some friends. Getting from the train station in Paris to our Airbnb was a different story. We had two 50 pound bags, my camera backpack and a backpacking backpack that weighed 25 pounds. Also, it’s worth noting that we only encountered ONE escalator in the Paris subways, so poor Jackson is carrying these bags up and down SO many flights of stairs and saying all KINDS of stuff under his breath. Meanwhile, I was doing everything I could not to let him see me laughing because I had no desire to encounter the wrath of a sweaty and tired and hungry Jackson, who is saying words I have never heard come out of his mouth.

We finally made it to the Airbnb and it was the cutest little studio apartment. I’m such an Airbnb fan. It’s so much cheaper than hotels and you get a kitchen and more space and we’ve just always had great experiences.

 

Paris Babymoon

We got our bags to the Airbnb and then decided to head into the city. We jumped on a subway and got off right in the heart of the city, grabbed a Nutella crepe and hot chocolate and roamed around for the rest of the evening. Paris is great because so many of the “have to see” sights are all so close to each other. We knew that traveling in Europe in February was going to be cold but that first was so SO cold and rainy. The number of hot chocolates that we consumed was ridiculous. Also, naturally we took ALL the selfies. 

 

 

That night, we grabbed a crepe for dinner, bought some oreos and milk and headed back to the apartment at 8 pm. Non-pregnant me would have never been down for such an early night (and SUCH an American snack) in a city like Paris, but pregnant me couldn’t think of a better way to spend the evening.

The next day we did a hop-on-hop-off tour bus, which was surprisingly great. I’m not usually a fan of these, I like to see the city the “local” way, but nothing sounded better to pregnant me than seeing sights without having to walk on my achy feet. Because of the rain, there was hardly anyone else that wanted to be on a half-uncovered 2 story bus so we had the entire thing to ourselves.  My feet were so happy with me.

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We spent the last two days leisurely seeing the city, taking lots of breaks at cool coffee shops and creperies. We took so many breaks and Jackson was so patient through all of our coffee shop stops. The ridiculous amount of yummy pastries we consumed at each one definitely aided in his patience, I think.

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We also went to Louvre to see Mona, and got to use our German residence permits to get in free and save 12 euro. We were pretty proud of that.


Babymoon in Paris

We definitely didn’t go as hard as we would have in the past, but it was perfect. We went to bed before 10 every night and woke up without alarms. We ate tons of pastries and drank a lot of hot chocolate. We roamed around smaller, lesser known areas of the city and got addressed in French enough times that we felt pretty good about ourselves and our ability to be mistaken for Europeans. Maybe all that time in Germany paid off. 

It was a sweet time for us to explore one last European city before we are a family of 3! We also made our first purchase for sweet baby bailey at a cute little baby store and that made things feel so real. Overall, it was the perfect end to a crazy and sweet season.

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14 weeks Pregnant

We found out that I was pregnant the first week of November. In fact, the day before we found out, we finally got our German bank account set up and we were so excited to officially be DONE with everything on our list we needed to do in order to “get settled” in Germany. Little did we know that we were about to get the surprise of our lives.

I took the test early one morning and once I saw the results, panicked thinking I was reading the results wrong since the instructions were in German. I convinced myself that maybe a big pink plus sign meant something different to Germans…ridiculous, I know. After sitting on the bathroom floor, sweating and searching online for 30 minutes trying to find the instructions in English, I realized I was reading the results correctly and I was, in fact, pregnant. I sat on the floor another 30 minutes, with my head spinning, trying to think of a fun way to tell Jackson. I ended up not being able to hold it in, ran to our bedroom, jumped on the bed, woke him up and told him just like that. It was a sweet moment. Well, it was sweet after he stopped groggily shouting that the lights were too bright and that I was “being too crazy this early in the morning”.

He was in shock, of course, and it took me a solid 5 minutes to convince him that I wasn’t joking or lying and this was actually happening. We spent the rest of the day trying to wrap our heads around this very unexpected but very sweet gift we had just been given.

Also, to make the day we found out even crazier, we found out on the day of the election. I stayed up all night in Germany (we’re 7 hours ahead) watching the election coverage and googling everything there is to google about being pregnant. At least we weren’t alone in dealing with a major surprise that day.

That first day was so crazy. We looked at each other every 5 minutes and laughed because how on earth were we going to be parents so soon? I had no idea where to start. What am I not supposed to eat? What even are prenatal vitamins and how do I find them in Germany? How are we going to tell our families? What exactly is folic acid and how do I get enough of it? Then came the horror stories you start reading. I got into a black hole of EVERTYHING that could possible go wrong in pregnancy, and Jackson sweetly but sternly pulled me out and made me stop.

Since we found out, life has been crazy. We’re officially moving back to the States for a number of reasons. While we are so so so excited for this baby, there has definitely been some grieving over our having to leave. We felt like we were finally settled and able to fully devote all of our time to the organization we were a part of starting and to the ministry. We loved our apartment and our team and we loved spending our days caring for refugees and telling them about Jesus. We will miss it so much, but we are so excited for what this next season will look like for us.

I’m currently 14 weeks pregnant and am bloated enough to look 6 months pregnant in the evenings. This bloat is NO JOKE, people. I’m mostly past nausea, other than the occasional bought here and there. My heartburn is out of control and my burps would win a middle school boy burping contest. They are next level. I’m patiently (not so patiently) waiting for the energy boost everyone says comes in the second trimester. I LOVE maternity pants and don’t know how I will ever go back to non-elastic waste bands. They are a gift from the good Lord.

So, if you were surprised to hear that I’m pregnant, that makes 2 of us (3 if you count Jackson). But, I’ve always loved surprises and Jackson and I haven’t done much that’s been planned or expected, so it seems fitting that this is how we’d have our first kid. This is the best surprise ever and we are so excited/anxious/stoked to have this baby.

Getting Married Is An Accomplishment In My Book

I’m not usually one to post a response to an article that I don’t see eye to eye with. I typically just tell Jackson all about it and then let it go. I’m not posting this so much to disagree with the author of the original article, but more to create a little perspective.

 

I recently read an article circulating called, “Getting Married Isn’t An Accomplishment”. If you didn’t read it, here’s a basic summary of the article: the author of the article has noticed that engagements and weddings and marriages are often celebrated by friends and family in a more exuberant way than things like graduating college, getting a job offer, getting a Master’s degree or getting a promotion at work. She goes on to write about how this feeling was only solidified when she got engaged, herself, and saw how much more celebrated her engagement was than other big accomplishments in her life. She writes, “You don’t have to have a brain, drive or special skill set to get married. You just have to have a willing partner. However, getting into X school, graduating with Y degree, and landing Z job does require actual hard work”.

While I can completely understand the author’s point, there are a few things that I want to discuss.

First of all, I absolutely agree with her that we can all do better. We can do better to celebrate the hard work that other women put into education, jobs and life. Getting any level of degree takes hard work and it should be celebrated and recognized. Getting a promotion takes perseverance and hard work and lots of hours, and we should celebrate and acknowledge when other women attain such an accomplishment.

However (you just knew there was a “however” coming didn’t you) I don’t agree with the author in thinking that we should recognize and celebrate all of those things while considering getting married a lesser accomplishment. I guess I don’t know why we have to choose what an accomplishment is for another woman, and how it ranks on the “accomplishment scale”. Getting married to someone takes an awful lot of work. It’s just a different kind of work. It takes sacrificing and selflessness and compromise and forgiveness. It takes hours and hours of talking through disagreements and working through unmet expectations. It takes making hard decisions and figuring out how to wake up and choose someone every single day.

Another thing I think we should consider is this: maybe our friends and family celebrate marriage more than other accomplishments simply because they can relate to the joy of marriage over other things that may have never experienced. Marriage has had an impact on most people in their lives at some point. Either our own marriage, or the marriage of someone close to us has changed many of our lives. Not everyone knows what it’s like to spend hours and hours studying and reading and writing. Not every woman has had to work the long hours it often takes to get a promotion. I know that this article was meant to empower and encourage women to think “beyond marriage” but I don’t think it was very forgiving. Maybe we struggle to celebrate other women’s accomplishments because we just don’t always understand or relate to the work that was put into to attaining them. I’m not saying that’s how it should be, I’m only suggesting that it could be a factor.

When I celebrate a friend’s marriage, I’m celebrating the life-long covenant that they’re stepping into. A life-long commitment of joy and of staying up until 2 am working through a disagreement and having a best friend to journey through life with. I’m celebrating the reflection of Christ and the church through our messy marriages. I’m not intending to say to my friends and family “I’m celebrating your marriage because it’s the only accomplishment in your life worth celebrating”. I’m intending to say, “I’m celebrating your marriage because I know the joy and life that my marriage has brought to me and I’m so excited for you to experience that”. 

All that to say this: we should absolutely do a better job of celebrating alongside other women as they accomplish all kinds of things, other than marriage. When you see your friend has gotten a promotion, send her a card! When you see your friend graduating from law school, send that chick a present. When another friend gets her doctorate throw a dang party. Call your friends and tell them your proud and excited for their future and for their accomplishments. Ask them about how school or work is going. Invest in their dreams.

I guess my point is, that I don’t think that we have to choose. I don’t think it’s even fair to deem what is an accomplishment for other woman. I don’t think we have to focus so much  on celebrating marriage less, but I’m down to be a part of celebrating other accomplishments more.

Oktoberfest

When Josh, a friend of ours, asked if we wanted to go with him to Oktoberfest it was an easy “yes” for us.

We actually headed down to Oberammergau, Germany first (check out that post here and here) and then headed north to Munich for Oktoberfest. We got into Munich around 2:00 Sunday afternoon. We stayed in an Airbnb instead of a hotel. I’m a huge fan of Airbnb and prefer to use the site over hotels in most cases. In my experience, it’s almost always a cheaper option than a hotel and you’re getting a ton more space for your money.

After we got to the apartment we debated about whether we should even try to get into Oktoberfest so late in the day on the weekend, since we read about having to get there early in the morning to have any chance at getting a seat in a tent. We decided to try and headed towards the festival.

We heard that this year was the first year that the festival grounds were fenced off. This is to deter any trouble with being targeted by any kind of attack. The line to get in wasn’t bad at all and once they checked our bags, they let us in. In case you’re planning on going to Oktoberfest this year, be aware that they were only letting in very small bags and no backpacks at all. Although, its worth noting that I had a small backpack on and was denied entry at first. I put my backpack under my arm, like a purse, and they let me in the second time.

We wondered around and took everything in for a little while. I didn’t realize that there was such a huge carnival going on during Oktoberfest! We decided to pick a random tent and try to get seats, expecting it to take over an hour.

We went into a tent and stood for only a couple of minutes, when a waiter told us to follow him to some available seats. We were shocked! He lead us to a few seats on the middle of the room. We met some really friendly Germans and stayed in those seats for the rest of the night. They told us that this Oktoberfest was the “mildest” they had every experienced. They said more people stayed home than usual, because of some fear of the festival being a target.

If you’ve never been able to experience all that is Oktoberfest, I’ve got to say it was something I’ll never forget! First of all, after 2 months of being in Germany, I haven’t been acknowledged or spoken to as many time in 2 months as I was in one night! Everyone is everyone’s friend. We were given some German pastries by one lady at our table and offered food by another. The best way that I can explain Oktoberfest, is to imagine a MASSIVE rockin’ karaoke bar full of friends who are all wearing the same clothes. Different bands played all night, and by the time we left there were very few people not standing on the bench singing (ok, screaming) along. It was hilarious and so much fun.

Also, if you’re ever planning on going, buying the traditional lederhosen and dirndl really is a must. We didn’t and we stuck out. You may think you’ll feel weird, but I promise we felt more weird by not having them.

Overall, it was a blast and I’m so glad we went.

If you have any good tips for Oktoberfest, let me know!

 

-R

Oberammergau, Germany–Climbing The Kofel Mountain

Last week, Jackson and I and a friend of ours, Josh, headed south to Bavaria to visit Oberammergau and then head up to Oktoberfest. You can read more about that here and here.

Our top priority while in Bavaria, was to find a good trail to hike. After doing some research, I found a little bit of information about the Kofel trail and we decided to go for it.

 

The trail starts near the öttenbühl parking lot, near the Oberammergau Cemetery. We stayed at an apartment about 5 minutes from the town center and we just walked to the trail head. There are signs around town pointing you to the mountain, just follow the “kofel”signs.

oberammergau mountains

The day that we went was rainy and wet and a little chilly. We were a bit nervous about hiking the trail in the rain, but it ended up being ok! The rain cleared up when we got to the top, which was great for us. Had it been raining while we were at the top, it could have complicated getting back down.

 

Before the actual trail starts you walk through an incredible meadow. It was beautiful and a great photo opportunity. The majority of this trail consists of switchbacks up the side of the mountain. Most of the trail is under a canopy of trees, and it was beautiful. During this portion of the trail, it’s a fairly simple climb. A little steep, but not too bad. Once you’re around two-thirds of the way up, roughly 3,000 feet, the trees begin to open a bit and you get an incredible view of surrounding mountains.

This next part is the trickiest part of this hike. There is a fixed metal cable that you will have to use to scale the exposed part of the mountain. It looks more intimidating than it actually is, but if you’re scared of heights, it could be tricky! There are two sections with the cable, the second section being a bit more steep and difficult, but still not terribly hard.

The second cabled section leads you to the top of the mountain and it was a great feeling to finally make it! The rain had finally stopped when we got to the top. Had it still been raining, the cables may have been trickier. The view at the top is stunning. The clouds and fog only added to the moment. Click here to view more pictures from the hike!

I read that it would take an hour and a half to make it to the top, but it ended up taking us right at 2 hours. There is one hut about two-thirds of the way up that we took a short break in. Make sure to bring plenty of water with you, we definitely did not bring enough with us!

 

Overall, the hike was exactly what we hoped for. It was challenging but not exhausting and the view at the top was 100% worth it. If you have climbed the Kofel mountain and have any tips of your own, I would love to hear them!

Oberammergau, Germany

Last week we took a weekend trip from Frankfurt down to Oberammergau. Unless you’re from Germany, you probably have no clue where that is, but you should because it is stunning. Oberammergau is a quaint little town about an hour south of Munich.

Initially, we were going to go to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a more well-known town in the Bavarian mountains. After looking for last minute Airbnb options, though, the only place I could find in our budget was in Oberammergau. After researching it some and finding a couple of blogs about it, we decided to go for it and stay in Oberammergau. We’re so happy that we did!

The town is small enough that after we got to the main train station, we were only a 10 minute walk from our Airbnb apartment. We got in late, so we headed straight for the apartment.

The next morning we got up to go hiking. Conveniently, the trail head for the Kofel trail was only a short walk from our apartment! I saw one post about the Kofel trail and after seeing the pictures, was pumped to do the hike. Click here to read more about the hike and here to see pictures from the hike.

After we finished the hike, we realized we were starving! We were only about 15 minutes from the heart of Oberammergau so we just walked to town to get lunch. The town was busy, but not packed, and absolutely adorable. Exactly what you think of when you imagine a quaint German village. There were tourists roaming around but it never felt overwhelming. We found a small café and have goulash soup and hot chocolate and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

After we ate we headed to local Lidel (a German grocery store) and got food to make dinner, since we were trying to keep our costs as low as possible. Again, we walked about 5 minutes to the Lidel and then headed for our 10 minute walk home. We stayed the weekend and never even needed a bus pass because the town was so easy to get around on foot.

Overall, it was the perfect weekend trip. The town was perfect, the hike was perfect and the Airbnb was even perfect.

 

If you ever find yourself in the area, I would absolutely suggest a visit to Oberammergau!!

I fell off my bike

 

You guys, this is not a joke. I didn’t only fall off my bike, I fell off my bike in the middle of the street and it was a total wipe out.

 

Let me start from the beginning.

 

A couple weeks ago, Jackson and I decided we should get bikes. The city of Frankfurt isn’t actually that big and we realized it would be nice to be able to just hop on and off a bike instead of always having to depend on public transportation.

 

So we mosied down to the local flea market one Saturday and left with a certifiable “flea market bike”. It was 30 euro, so you can imagine the quality of bike we’re working with here. A friend of ours is in the States right now so we decided to only buy one bike while I’m using our friends’ bike. Also, we found out after buying the bike that a lot of the flea market bikes have been stolen, so now I think of the poor guys who’s bike was stolen every time we use it.

 

Learning how to ride your bike in the city is a whole other kind of chaos. When do you ride on the street? When do you ride on the sidewalk? How much do Germans want to kill me when I ring my bell at them?

 

It’s been a learning process for sure. But anyways, back to the fateful night of the fall.

 

We were leaving a friend’s house around 10 pm and were riding our bikes back home. We were almost back to our apartment when Jackson zooms by me on his janky and absurdly loud flea market bike. Well, if you know me at all, then you know I just don’t take being zoomed by very lightly. So what do I do? Speed up of course, I love my husband but I don’t go down without a fight. I finally catch up to Yack and he pulls over to say something to me, but who does he think I am to fall for that old trick? Oh no, I am winning this race. I zoom by him, while sticking out my tongue of course, feeling on top of the world. I’m about to beat this sucker, I mean husband. I look down at the road because there are tram rails all over the streets here and it freaks me out that my tire could get stuck in the rail. As I look down, the unthinkable happens. I hit the rail at the wrong angle and my tire stops. We all learned in 5th grade that an object in motion stays in motion, right? Well that night, the object was my body and the motion was forward.

 

I flew off my bike, you guys. Flew. I swear I can remember my time in the air.

 

All of a sudden, my motion is met with gravity and I nailed the ground. The bike is a solid 4 feet behind me and I’m on the ground. It must have been loud, because a couple guys ran across the street to see if I was ok.

My jeans are ripped and all 10 people at the bus stop directly in front of me are staring with their mouths open.

I’m fine though. Just a little gnarly (what? I don’t think I’ve ever used that word) road rash on my knee and a few bruises in random parts of my body.

Jackson and I walked slowly and steadily home, me limping and him trying to hard not to laugh.

 

We made it to the door, and I grabbed the handle, looked at hime and said, “I win”.

Confessions of a fiance: I’m getting married in 4 weeks and sometimes I forget to brush my teeth

So here’s the deal.

I’m getting married in 32 days. I mean WE’RE getting married in 32 days.

(We’re working on referring to our lives as WE, but sometimes I forget)

Throughout the past couple of years, every time I’ve seen a “one month until our wedding day” post on social media I’ve always wondered what it must feel like. So I’ve decided to tell you exactly what it feels like for the next 4 weeks leading up to the wedding.

And right now it feels really scary. It feels exciting. It feels overwhelming and weird and funny.

Scary because marriage means someone sees all of the embarrassing and weird and awful things you do when you’re not used to someone else being around all the time to see. Exciting because I’m marrying my best friend after 5 long years of dating. Overwhelming because I can’t keep my room clean but I’m supposed to be a wife? Weird because I’ll be living with a boy. Funny because all of those things combined means I’m going to be doing embarrassing things with my boy roommate /husband/best friend who I love, while he get to witness how bad I am at cleaning and then he’ll find out that sometimes I forget to brush my teeth, whoops.

Well now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, you must be wondering how wedding planning is going. I knew you were wondering that because I probably get asked this question 5 times a week.

Well, it’s mostly done, besides the little details…who am I kidding, the little details are the most stressful part to me. I’m just not a “details” girl, ya know? Tell me to make some big picture event happen and I’m all over that, but ask me about flowers and I want to hide in my room. There are so many details regarding weddings, it’s just absurd.

Here’s a peek into my brain:

What flowers do we want: Um, the pretty ones? The pretty small ones that are our colors, I guess. The cheapest pretty ones that are my colors.

What shoes for the bridesmaids: The heck if I know, I rotate between like 4 pairs of shoes for every occasion. I’ll letcha know when we have one. I’ve pretty much put this off as long as I can I guess.

Do we want seating arrangements: Laughing while I’m typing trying to imagine me arranging people. I can hardly keep my own stuff together right now; the last thing I need to be responsible for is arranging people at my wedding. So, no thank you. We’ll skip on that one.

Wedding rings: Well, this week we realized that we haven’t put 2 thoughts towards getting them. So, I’ll keep you updated on this one. Hopefully this week we can go see some or something? I don’t know.

Speaking of this week, I’ll tell you what this week has looked like for us.

Most of our free time this week/weekend has been taken up by preparing for Jackson to move into our new little rental house. If you’re wondering about our house I can tell you with confidence that it’s definitely not lacking in character. It may be lacking in other things, like clean floors or fully sealed “window units” (that actually got placed into the walls rather than the windows??? I don’t know the logic there). And there could be a minor problem with some weird unknown bug which seems to never go away no matter how many that we kill, but the place has character and it’s ours and we love it. Here’s a cheesy picture of us in front if it:

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So that’s pretty much it, now you kind of know what it feels like to be four (!!!!!!) weeks away from the big day. If you have any friends that are nearing their wedding, give them a big ‘ol hug or maybe just some chocolate or something. In all, being engaged has been a sweet sweet time and we have enjoyed a lot of aspects of wedding planning and calling each other fiancés. After a year of engagement, though, we are excited (and probably still really unprepared) to be married folk, and we’re ready to give it a go.

-R