Tra La La

A week or two ago a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to one of my favorite late-Beatles songs, Across The Universe, which I quoted in my last post. Since my friend posted that, the song has been rolling around in my head, with me “jai”-ing Guru Dev in my head over and over, despite the fact that I have no particular affinity for the Guru or the Maharishi. Interesting only because I coincidentally began reading a book that talks about brain structure and spends a chapter talking about how a meditative mindfulness practice can have a vastly positive impact on anxiety, depression and stress, on being aware of negative feelings, but regarding them with curiosity rather than allowing them to overwhelm you.

Which is why I’ve been annoying the crap out of H lately, jokingly telling him to take the negative emotions and “put them in a bubble”, loudly saying “OM, SHANTI, OM” when he gets irritated with another driver on the road, etc. I think I’m mostly joking, but in truth, there have been some interesting discussions at our house lately. I make no secret of the fact that I am not religious, but I don’t know that H is necessarily in agreement with me. Which is fine. I don’t deny him the feelings he has about spirituality, I just don’t feel them myself. And he recently brought up to me that he feels like part of his unhappiness might be due to the fact that he feels this spiritual void. And I can understand that. Life can feel hard to handle without a cosmic “parent” to rely on, to have no one to blame but yourself and the beautiful randomness of our world. It’s hard to feel like there’s no one to appeal to for some relief when life gets crappy. But to me, it fundamentally doesn’t make sense.

But anyhow, the point of my lengthy tangent is that I think H could benefit from the ideas found in mindfulness meditating, and I think I could, too. He makes fun of me, because I declare myself to be so separate from religion, but find myself mindlessly repeating mantras, and ribbing him to “give peace a chance” when he calls the other driver a dick.

So yes. I keep finding myself lately in a place of feeling very tra-la-la about the world. H is ridiculously late coming home from work again? Tra-la-la. I haven’t had a decent, uninterrupted night of sleep in well over a year? Tra-la-la. The adorable, hand-dyed green onesie just bled all over the rest of the laundry, including the one new, non-maternity article of clothing I’ve bought myself in the last year? Tra-la-la.

There’s something to be said for seeing the bad stuff, tasting it, feeling it, and just letting it wash on down the drain. Bye-bye! You’ll be back, but you’re just temporary, anyway!

Ahem.

In other news, we are broke. Broke like ridiculously broke. We’ve been here before, and I know how to resolve it, but basic needs are being met, no one’s going hungry, so really, it’s not that bad (tra-la-la!). I have a bunch of stuff to be sent various places (ahem. Like to Rachel.), but I just can’t seem to budget well enough to afford to spend the money on postage, which is kinda sad. Thus, I was APPALLED today when I received two matching Christmas one-piece things that my mom had spent nearly $30 EACH on, and had then spent $26 to overnight them to me, so that we’d have them to wear on our plane trip home next week. I mean, they’re cute (a puppy in a Christmas box with a train around the base), but they’ll wear them once or twice, and then be… what? Sold? I don’t know. I just looked at it and thought how nice it would have been to have had that $86+ dollars to spend otherwise. I mean, I wouldn’t even have had to try hard to have bought a TON of really nice stuff for them for that amount. I’m glad I have a mother who wants to spoil her grandkids, and I love that she thinks of them and finds such cute stuff, but eesh. It’s hard when you’re skimming by to see that sort of thing.

I can’t help but notice that since the Great Blog Outing Debacle of this past summer, I’ve been noticeably less willing to write about many things in my life. Part of that is good– I hate looking back at my posts and seeing so much negativity regarding people in my life–, but part of that kind of sucks, because there’s not much to talk about here that isn’t directly related to me or the boys, which makes for a boring read for my not-yet or non- parent readers. But, I will take this opportunity to just brush the edge of a topic here and ask: How do you politely decline a nice gift? My mother would like to take me shopping while I’m home for Christmas, would like to make a day of it, have H or my dad or other family watch the boys while she takes me out to have a nice day. And I really get the intention, and I really appreciate someone thinking of me and wanting to give me some time to myself, some time to focus on me, etc.

But honestly, I don’t want to shop for clothes for myself right now. I’m still sitting about 10 lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight, and I imagine I will be until I stop nursing, which I hope will not be for a while. I’m not entirely happy with my body right now, and I know that (hopefully) by this time next year, I won’t still be so lumpy, so it makes very little sense to buy nice clothes. Especially since I don’t wear nice clothes. I don’t go anywhere that requires more than jeans, and I don’t imagine that I will any time soon (see above re. broke, etc.).

Additionally, I don’t know how to repeat myself (again) without sounding like a broken record or a harping, bossy, know-it-all, but I can’t be away from the boys that long, because I’m still nursing. (And seriously, WHAT IS IT??? Do I just seem like… I don’t know, someone who desperately needs to be told that it’s okay to stop nursing? I don’t want to stop! I must really look like it, because everyone seems to be surprised that I’m still nursing and feels the need to follow that comment up with how I don’t need to feel bad if I can’t make it a year. Really? I’m not breast feeding them out of some sort of guilt trip. It’s easier for me, it’s better for them, and -gasp- I kind of like it.) And I can’t seem to appropriately convey the physics of nursing to anyone, because, even though it would be lovely to have a day to myself, it just doesn’t work like that, not now, at least.

Anyhow, how do I politely decline the gift without repeating (again…) that I can’t be away from the boys that long, because they need to eat and I need to feed them, AND that I don’t want to buy clothing for myself right now, that I have plenty of clothes, that I just don’t have the occasion to wear much other than jeans and tees (which I already have), and that it almost nauseates me to waste money on clothes that I will wear maaaybe once (to church on xmas, or the like) especially when we have such financial need in other places right now? Honestly, were it not for the nursing issue, I’d probably just politely accept and silently cringe while thinking about how much of our winter power bill could be paid with the amount we’re spending on clothes. But, with the added factor of negotiating an eating-every-three-or-four-hours schedule (oh, AND boys who get seriously fussy and won’t nap without Mama), I just don’t know that this is possible.

Oh, and I’d suggest that I just bring the boys with me, but I know, I can just tell, that it annoys the crap out of my mom to have to take so much time out of our schedule when they’re with us to handle their needs. Their crying exhausts her– it exhausts me, too, but I can tune it out long enough to get us to an appropriate stopping point to address whatever need they have. And hassling with the stroller irritates her (and she can’t handle them in a sling or carrier because she has bad knees). And ultimately, I know that she just wants to do something nice and special for me, but instead, I’m worrying about how to deal with it all. Sigh.

Any advice?

Lastly, I’ve finally finished making quilts for the boys for their Christmas gifts. Initially, I thought I’d make two cut chenille quilts (tutorials found here: Made and here: Aesthetic Nest), but after making one of them, while I like it, the result didn’t really seem worth the effort. Besides, different boys, different likes, different quilts, right?

So, here is Henry’s quilt. Henry’s my blanket baby. He likes to bury himself in something and he likes to rub soft stuff on his face. He’ll love the flannel cut chenille:
Henry's Blanket

Blanket Detail

I used a grey corduroy for the backing (super soft) and three layers of recycled flannel receiving blankets for the front.

Here are the basics, if you don’t want to dig through either tutorial:
1) sew several layers of cotton fabric onto a layer of backing in half-inch lines on the diagonal
2) cut between the lines
3) put edging of some kind around edges
4) wash and dry to fray the cut fabric

My notes/issues with this project:
1) it is seriously time consuming. It takes for-frickin’-ever to sew and cut all those lines. On the upside, I’m really good at quickly winding a bobbin and rethreading my machine now. In the future, were I to do another quilt like this, I’d probably start the project by winding ten or so bobbins so I could just pop in a new one when the old one ran out, rather than stopping to wind a new one each time. And if I made a bigger one (see #2 below…), I would LOVE to have a chenille cutter to do the cutting. It wasn’t terrible with scissors, but it would have been way, way faster with a chenille cutter.
2) while I’m all for recycling, it should be noted that if you think flannel receiving blankets are too small, if you use them whole for the front of the quilt, it, too, will feel too small (duh. duh, duh, duh). It really just is a little bit too small. It will work for a lovey, or a play mat, but it won’t do much to cover him for much longer.
3) the flannel hasn’t softened up as much as I thought it would, but I’m hoping it will with use.
4) neither tutorial mentions this, but on the Olfa website (quilting product maker…), their cut-chenille tutorial notes that one should sew lines in opposing directions to avoid some of the wrinkling that can occur with the natural drifting of the layers of fabric. Made suggests using spray adhesive between the layers before sewing, but still ends up with quite a bit of crinkling. I’m a terrible sew-er, and I had not one bit of wrinkling, and I think this is because I sewed the rows in opposing directions.

All in all, it was a nice mindless project, but too time-consuming to do with little ones who need attention. It’s good in that you can put it down and pick it back up without requiring much concentration to remember where you were/what you were doing before, etc., but I like to get in a rhythm with these kinds of things (there’s that meditative nonsense again…), and that was difficult with the boys needs (even with Papa watching them, they still needed me for eating, etc.).

So, instead of making the same quilt for Jack, I decided that Mr. Barracuda Mouth (attack!) might like to have a quilt with ribbon tags to suck on. So here is his quilt:

Jack's Blanket

Detail on Jack's Blanket

It has the same grey corduroy backing as his brother’s quilt, but the facing is made out of a Loteria print fabric. Loteria is a Mexican game, similar to Bingo, but with pictures instead of number/letter combos. Yeah, some of the pictures are a bit morbid (La Muerte, anyone?), but the colors are so cheery. By the time he’s old enough to think it weird that his mom gave him a quilt with skulls and spiders on it, he’ll hopefully think it’s cool instead.

Basic instructions for this quilt (from my head… no tutorials here, sorry):
1) cut various lengths of various sizes and colors of ribbon and pin them into place on the right side of either the backing or the facing fabric, and then baste into place.
2) put backing/facing fabric right-sides together, and add batting. Sew around all four sides, leaving a small gap in one side to turn the quilt right side out.
3) turn the quilt right side out and stitch the gap closed (hand stitch if you’re super tidy, or just fold it and sew it with the machine if you don’t mind a small rough-ish spot on the edge of the quilt.
4) press, and then stitch again a half-inch in from the edge on the face of the quilt
5) add hand ties with a chenille needle (sew down and up through the top layer, then cut both ends two inches long and tie in a square knot, then cut down to desired length– mine were about an inch long after trimming). I used a double thickness of embroidery floss and placed about 9 ties for a quilt this size (about 31 inches square).

And that’s it! As I was doing some work on the quilt, Jack was next to me on the floor and I turned my attention elsewhere for a second and turned back and he had grabbed the quilt and was sucking on one of the ribbon tags. I knew he’d do that! Here’s to Mama knowing her baby!

Anyhow, I’m glad I did this for them. It will be something special for them to have from their first Christmas, something that they’ll hopefully have for a long time to come.

AND, for those patient enough to make it this far, here are some photos as reward:

Boys In Hats
adorable hats courtesy of Rachel.
SO CUTE. GAH.

Sweet Boys
Aww. Henry, left, Jack, right/top.

Funny Henry
Despite how much he looks like his father, this look proves he’s my kid, too.

Ja-jack
Alien pajamas courtesy of Internet Auntie Io (come back, Io! We miss you!). They cut a dashing figure on my tall, skinny Jack.

And so. Advice? Ideas? What are you doing for the holidays?

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16 Responses to Tra La La

  1. j says:

    I haven’t even started to think about certain bills yet… the physical therapy bills courtesy of Mr.-I’m-too-much-in-a-hurry-saab-driver-to-stop-and-look-out-for-pedestrians is horrifying me right now.

    And as for clothes – I’m actually kind of happy how few clothes I have to wear right now. I would like one nice dress for going to the holiday parties we’re going to, and definitely some better fitting bras (how large can one’s breasts actually get?!!!), but two skirts, two pairs of cords, and five shirts are enough right now (and various yoga hippie pants for the house).

    As for the nursing – hip hip hurrah for you! Breast feeding twins is hard work, but it’s of course recommended and best for the boys if you can do it for the entire first year. If you can keep it up, you should get some kind of mommy-medal for that. I suspect when it is finally too much and they can get most of their nutrition from other food means and all of that, you will know when the time to turn down the flow of the boob-flavored juice. I think from what I’ve known of the best and smartest mamas I have the pleasure of knowing, is that they just figure it out — they listen to their babies and themselves and no one else’s advice really quite does the trick oftentimes.

  2. Esperanza says:

    Oh my god. Those quilts are AMAZING! They are SOOOOO cool. What lucky boys to have those for the rest of their lives! Isa is obsessed with the little blankey we got her. She sleeps with it every night. It’s very cute. But she won’t ever be getting one made by her momma. That is not how I role!

    As for the advice on getting out of the shopping, I have no idea. No one listens to me about that stuff either. My mom has been asking me what I want for Xmas for AGES and I keep not telling her anything hoping she will get the hint but no, she just brings it up again and again. I don’t know what to tell her anymore. She just doesn’t listen. So sadly, I have no advice on the mom front. They can be impossible sometimes.

    The boys are too cute by the way. Seriously cute. Keep the posting pictures! We love to see them as they grow!

  3. Claire says:

    I love your blog and I am in total agreement about the gratuitous spending of money in these circumstances – ie not necessary and very irritating!
    I love that Loteria cloth!! We have the cards and love to look at them – we don’t actually play!
    Is there sthg more palatable you can do with your mom that could be short so you can get back to the boys? How about a cheap tea or coffer out somewhere? Just the two of you in a cafe and maybe ask for the rest of the money I’m gift cards for something fun that you can treat yourself to as a family – is a restaurant too difficult? Or a visa card that you can use foe whatever you really need money for?
    Love the pics of the boys! Like your idea about
    mindfulness too. If you are thinking H might like
    to go to church but not get with Jesus, have you
    thought about Unitarian Universalism? They’re
    usually cool and progressive, family oriented and a
    great way to build a community for your little family. And they won’t bat an eyelid if you say
    you don’t believe in God or Jesus! Just
    Sayin!

  4. katherine says:

    Love, love, love the tra-la-la. I’m going to steal this from you.

    And I am totally in awe of your ability to make those quilts.

    If it was me, I would just tell my mom that is an awesome and generous offer, but that I am not in the right place for that right now. And I wouldn’t bother explaining about the breastfeeding and preg weight. IMHO, new moms should never have to defend themselves. But, I would totally try to get a free manicure or massage out of the deal. Doesn’t take that long, and so very relaxing πŸ™‚ And, um, it is also entertaining for the babies to see your toes a new color!

  5. Tracy says:

    Beautiful pictures of the boys!

    My MIL sends us ridiculous clothes, too, but I figure it’s her money and she can spend it how she wants to, and besides, I’ve made a KILLING at my rummage sales. That money is then used to buy the kids things they need, or on vacations, which we all need, so yay.

    As far as the shopping excursion, are you pumping? If so, would it be feasible for you to bring your pump and handle it that way? You could leave some BM behind for H to feed the boys. And perhaps you could accept a gift in the way of a purse, new bag, shoes, or scarf? Something that isn’t subject to specific sizes? While being honest with your mom that you don’t want to get any clothes because you’re still trying to lose the last bit of weight. I’ve had to handle things that way myself.

    Those quilts are amazing, and I love the hats in the first picture. TOO cute!

  6. Rachel says:

    I am so impressed with your sewing TWO quilts while watching the international squash duo! You know my many thoughts on extended breastfeeding, so I’d say just ignore dumb advice.

    However, as for an afternoon away, I’m all for it. Might it work to bring one baby and just a cheap handpump in your purse? One baby means just a sling for you or possibly borrowing a single stroller or even just having your mom buy a $20 super-cheapo umbrella single stroller at Target. You can pop into a bathroom and use a handpump to express a bit so you’re comfortable and not worrying about your supply (and may not be all that necessary if you’re gone 4-5 hours and have a baby along). And it would be easier to leave one fussy baby behind than two. Just an idea on how to keep your mom happy/get a little break/not torture the babies.

  7. melissa says:

    oh my god oh my god oh my god. the picture of the boys with Jack’s head on Henry’s body!!! That is seriously the most adorable baby picture ever!!!

    Maybe ask your mom to just go out for a nice meal? or go get pedicures or something? I know I keep doing things with E.lizabeth right now like lunches or getting Icees from Tar.get because I know that next year I will be glued to the house for at least a year and going to Target will be a giant chore rather than a nice day out looking at stuff we don’t need.

    I loved nursing but it does mean you’re tied to your baby (ies) and your schedule and it’s frustrating when people don’t understand that! Especially when you finally get the baby to sleep at regular times and then someone wants to do something in between or whatever. Bah.

    That is hard too to see other people spending so much on baby things when you could put the $ to better use. Some of my IL’s would send Baby G.uess things for E and I would crap myself thinking about how much money they spent! Especially once babies try baby food and bigger kid food. That stuff stains!

    πŸ™‚ Anyway, you’re awesome. Love the pictures. I hope you guys have a great trip home!!

  8. Sue says:

    People always forget that breastfeeding keeps you on a clock. Frequent reminders seem to be par for the course. It was a REALLY long time before I was able to go get a massage.

    I agree with others who have suggested doing something more time limited, like a pedicure or a nice meal. And if it’s OK to talk to your mother about your current financial situation, maybe you could let her know that as much as you appreciate her offer, something like a gift card for groceries would be infinitely more helpful right now. My mother used to always give us gift cards to Whole Foods as a Christmas gift and I loved it. My mother still offers to take me shopping all the time, and I just decline and we go to the grocery store instead, or shop for my son. I share your lack of time for and interest in clothes shopping these days, but for many grandmothers it seems to be a recreational activity. Perhaps a tactful redirection of her shopping energies would make everyone happy.

  9. Star says:

    I think manicure/pedicure or a nice meal (both things than can be done in 2 hours or less) are great ideas … or you could say, I would love to take you up on that shopping trip this time next year. I wouldn’t get into the whole issue of not wanting to spend money on clothes, since you have a perfectly legitimate reason to decline a whole-day excursion because of nursing. Of course, I don’t know how supportive of nursing your mom is. If she didn’t realize that being away from the babies for 8+ hours is a no-go … hmmm. On a related note, sorry to hear that people are being unsupportive of your decision to nurse past six months. I’m not sure why six months is the “magic number” for some people, but it is. If you go past a year, prepare for the pressure to approximately double. Even my mom, who was reasonably supportive of nursing given that she didn’t do it herself, really ratcheted up the “so have you stopped nursing yet?” line of questioning once Reed turned a year old. My MIL, too. Everyone seemed so *relieved* when the answer to that question finally was “yes, we’re done nursing.” You know, like nursing a 15-month-old is weird or perverted. Sigh and eyeroll.

    I can totally relate on the financial issues as well (I know we’ve talked about that before, how our parents have a much higher standard of living than we do). We had some setbacks this year and budgeting is necessarily tight. For some reason it’s not that hard to see people spend their own money on ridiculous and unnecessary things, but when they give you a gift that is ridiculous and unnecessary, you can’t help but think about what else you really *needed* that money for. Sometimes it even feels like a slap in the face that they would dangle this profligacy in front of your face when you could have, like, paid a bill with that money. But they have no clue. My in-laws are like this (not just D’s parents, but his siblings as well). Spending is a big game of chicken to them, and if you have the temerity to tell them you can’t afford something, you get guilted. They have no idea at all how little disposable income we have. I’m sure your parents are the same way.

    Anyway, I hope you find a way to decline the shopping trip graciously and have a great trip home. Love the quilts, and what adorable hats!

  10. Tara says:

    You got a ton of good suggestions already. Last year we got a giftcard to Walmart. Now normally we hate shopping there but it allowed us to get a new cordless phone, 2 DVDs and then groceries. We were using that (very generous) gift card for months. This year I am getting a nice good pair of slippers. I wear them all day everyday so they break down quickly. My MIL got the boys $50 sweaters! The kicker is that the size she got is too big for this winter but, assuming the same rate of growth, they will probably outgrow them by next winter. Argh!!! I’m tempted to leave the tags on and sell them at the next MoMs sale to get some of the $$$.

    Those blankets are wonderful. I’m amazed how you found time to get them done. I haven’t even opened my new fabric yet. I think my boys will be getting Valentine’s Day quilts instead of Christmas. J&H keep getting cuter and cuter. I love that age.

    Glad my packing post(s) helped. Good Luck on your trip. Have fun. And take pictures!

  11. Louise says:

    I love the photos. So. Cute! I’m totally there with you on the broke wagon. It sucks.

    Recently I’ve had some honest conversations with a couple friends and neighbors about gifting this year. In years past we’ve all given each other gifts. But, this year it isn’t happening. We have other priorities. So, I had conversations with each of them letting them know that we wouldn’t be exchanging gifts this year…and for them not to buy us anything. The conversations went over well… I felt bad, but I didn’t want to be in the situation where they buy us something and we have nothing for them…maybe some old Halloween candy or a re-gifted frame. Such is life, ya know?!?

    I LOVE the blankets. They are beautiful! You are so crafty!!! Love it. Take care!

  12. Erin says:

    I just had to delurk (though you already know I do that πŸ˜‰ ) and tell you that the picture of Jack with his head on Henry is one of the absolute cutest pictures of any babies I have ever seen. I don’t normally “awwwwww” at the computer, but that one is just precious!

  13. strongblonde says:

    omg. you’re so talented. i have a sewing machine that is still in the box. i wish i knew how to use it. it would seem a much better skill for me to have than being able to recite the latest gossip from people magazine! lol.

    i *hate* to spend money. really hate it. new car/mortgage/other big purchase = ulcer for me. i spend way too much time thinking about it and stressing about the money. 😦 so i totally get you with the 30 dollar kids things. i don’t even like to spend 30 bucks on stuff for me or B and those are items that require more fabric!!

    i’m not sure how to respond to your mother. you know she’s just trying to be nice…but it just doesn’t work with your schedule right now, you know? two nursing babies means that you can’t spend an entire day out shopping. (and who likes to try on that many clothes??) i hope you can find some sort of happy medium. maybe pedicures? only an hour and you feel pampered and refreshed πŸ™‚

    xx

  14. Ellen K. says:

    Wonderful pictures, and those quilts are so neat. I like the skulls, LOL. I have no crafting/sewing skills whatsoever — I flunked the sewing machine “driver’s ed exam” in junior high home ec at least 3 times — but it’s great that you’re at the point where you can say “Jack will like this” or “Henry will like this instead.” N. was a really tactile baby, although she stopped using her lovey within the past year. But when she’s sleeping she piles blankets and huge stuffed animals under her belly and then flop face down onto the mattress, whereas I. is easily soothed with just holding her lovey but refuses any blankets.

    It is extremely expensive to have two babies on on one income. Thank you for acknowledging that. I wish more people talked very frankly about it on IF blogs, because as a childless, infertile woman I didn’t really think about the expenses of multiples. Our hospital bills for an unscheduled twin C-section on a high-deductible plan were pretty astronomical. We had $18K in medical expenses (one IVF/ICSI cycle plus prenatal care plus some delivery bills) on our 2008 return and $8K in 2009. It made for impressive tax returns, but thank God the twins didn’t need NICU time, because those returns would have gone right into paying down debt. On a HDYDI post on this topic, a lot of people said they were on food stamps. We’re not there, but D.’s company has been on the brink for 2 years and it always feels as though another shoe is going to drop. My mom and dad send us hefty checks a few times each year and say they had 3 babies in 18 months and remember what it’s like. We use Luvs diapers and a lot of hand-me-downs.

    I do have one recommendation on this subject — as soon as you can, set up a little IRA account in your name or roll over a 401(k), and set up a small automatic payment. The minimum deposit is usually as low as $25/month. It’s so important for SAHMs to have some money in their own name, and I know only one other woman who does this. Consider this your (beyond meager) salary for working your ass off.

    It took most of the first year to lose the last few pounds. I didn’t feel like shopping much. I had to replace nearly all my wardrobe and lingerie, and my feet are now a half-size larger. What I did was ask for gift cards to my favorite stores and then use them when I finally felt like shopping again. Money was tight, so the no-cost shopping spree was a nice treat. I am also not above returning some unnecessary gift for the girls to the store and taking store credit for myself. : P

    I didn’t breastfeed I & N, but we were on a very rigid schedule because they were LBW, and after the first month I just stuck to that schedule. No one besides D. understood it. They all kind of rolled their eyes. More than “kind of,” actually. You just have to stick to your guns and hopefully after a couple of days in the house with two babies, your mom will see exactly how busy you are and why you can’t go out for a long outing.

  15. JJ says:

    Wow–I LOVE the quilts–what an awesome gift for the boys–something they can keep in the family for years to come.

    You and I can go into business together! We live so close πŸ™‚ We can do a cake-making-quilt-making business πŸ™‚

  16. Pingback: Just SAY It Already | Bee In The Bonnet

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