A Letter to My Husband on His Birthday

14,235.

I know how you feel about numbers. That’s how many days you’ve had so far. Impressive yes? I think so. 39 looks pretty darn good on you.

Family - Jeff is 39

But you know what looks most amazing? How you look as a dad.

JeffKids

Do you know that I remember the exact moment that I realized, even before we were married, that you were going to be an incredible father? I know how you love it when I’m right, so for your birthday, my little extra gift to you? I nailed this one.

Jeff, on this birthday, I want you to know what a gift you are to Delaney and Cooper. You aren’t simply their Dad. You are their friend, their mentor, their teacher, their coach. I watch how they look up to you, how they seek your approval, how they light up when you enter a room and how the sun dims just a touch when you are away.

Jeff Coach

You are living your dream right now as a guy who gets to spend as much time as possible with his kids. In fact, you just might be a great big kid yourself. I don’t know another dad who lives to PLAY with his kids as much as you do. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter….it doesn’t matter the season, it doesn’t matter the game, you just want to be WITH them, you want to be teaching them, you want to be making them laugh.

I see so much of them in you. Delaney shares your sense of humor, your silly faces, your desire to be strong on the outside and soft on the inside. The ‘no hugs policy’? She gets that from you. Cooper’s love of baseball (and really all sports), his math-whiz mind, his go-go-go and inability to sit still, his playful nature – it is all you.

Smith Funny

I don’t know anyone who makes their family the priority you always have.

As you enter your final year in your 30′s, know this – you are doing it right. You have two small people who, quite literally believe you can do anything.

And they are right.

You are their hero. Continue to find joy in every moment with them. Never forget all of the crazy-special-amazing we see in you.

For this year, I wish you nothing but the wisdom and peace that comes with approaching 40 (welcome!).

Big love,

Danielle

Is Heaven For Real? 5 Ways to Talk to Kids About Life and Loss

Just more than two years ago, my husband’s uncle passed away. He was a full presence in my children’s world, a bigger-than-life man who we visited for every major holiday and who was never short on a quick hair tousle or a good-natured tease. They didn’t see him every weekend, but they SAW him, they felt him. They knew him. His passing was a surprise and it left a void. That void still exists.

This was the first loss our family had experienced. As their mother, I felt ill-equipped to help them navigate what was sure to be a rocky road.

How was I to answer the questions, the whys, I still struggle with as an adult?

Why did this happen?

Is Heaven for Real?

This week my small people and I had a conversation about this very topic. Together we watched a movie with a similar title, Heaven Is For Real, just before it was released on DVD. (It is now out and one I recommend you see.) With the opportunity to see it as a preview, we snuggled on the couch and watched the true story of four-year old Colton Burpo who claims to have visited Heaven during a near-death experience. Colton’s shares his amazing journey first with his father Todd, a Pastor – recounting details of things that happened before his birth – things he couldn’t possibly have known. The story challenges not only this family, but their community, to think deeply about what they know of life and death.

Heaven is for Real The Movie

As I sat, arms wrapped around my children, eight and ten years old, I couldn’t help but think of what little they know of life and death….and how important it is that I, as a parent, am delicate with them in how I talk to them about it.  It took me back two years, to our loss.

What did I do right? And what could I have done better?

As children sometimes do, they initially seemed perfectly fine, unmoved by the circumstances, even. We attended a Memorial Service for Uncle Denny. They shed no tears. They played with their cousins. They looked at pictures. They asked no questions there or on the way home.

But it all changed when we arrived home. As I walked in to their rooms individually to check on their PJ progress, I found them each on their floor in tears.

Why?

Is he in heaven?

I miss him.

I sat and held them. I know this was the right thing to do, but I know now there is more. And part of what I know came from talking to THEM after watching Heaven is for Real. Here are 5 ways you can talk to your kids about life and loss.

Share your vulnerability: I didn’t have the answers then and I don’t have them now. Why do we lose the people we love? Why do some people recover and others don’t? I can’t tell you. I truly believe it is ok to let your children know you wish you knew why things happened as they do, but you don’t. There is comfort in being ‘together’ in the unknown sometimes.

Listen: Is your child sad? Mad? Scared? Let them tell you how they feel. Don’t assume that they are experiencing one emotion over the other – or that they have entered a certain stage of grief. They need to trust that you will listen to how they feel and respond. It was important that I listened to my children at the Memorial Service – at that time, they didn’t want to talk (or feel) about the loss. They needed to be with their cousins and act like kids. I can remember asking them repeatedly if they were ok…almost forcing the issue. They weren’t ready. I needed to listen. They were telling me they weren’t ready to talk.

Ask questions - This applies to both parent and child. Let them ask the questions they need to ask: is their loved one coming back? Is he in Heaven? Will I see him again? Is he hurting? And you do the same: How are you feeling? Do you want to talk? Are you sad? How can I help? More than anything, I want my kids to know I am there if they need me when they are hurting in any way.

Let them Cry: My heart shattered in to a million tiny pieces when I walked in to their rooms and found them curled up on their floors, crying. But I didn’t try to stop them. Even now, two years later, my small dude will occasionally break down, crying for the Uncle he misses. While I don’t know what triggers it, I don’t have to know. I do know I want him to feel safe enough around me to feel sad.

Watch movies or read books: I could feel my son relaxing next to me as we watched Heaven is for Real. He was nervous, worried the movie would make him sad, but it portrays young Colton’s experience in Heaven as a beautiful, peaceful one and I know that Cooper (my son) found that calming. Being able to think of Heaven as a welcoming place for the people we love is good for not only children, but for adults as well. Having a movie or book that can help to soften the experience can be invaluable.

What has been your experience in talking to children about life and loss? Do you have any additional tips to share?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by SheKnows and Sony as we were able to preview Heaven is for Real before it was available in stores.

 

How to Keep Your Makeup Melt Free

Now that we’re in the heat of Summer, one of my major concerns is keeping my makeup fresh. There is nothing worse than devoting a solid ten minutes to applying makeup to only to sweat it all off in moments, right? So here are my top five tips for keeping melt free in the heat!

summer makeup tips

1. Go light!

My biggest tip is probably the most common sense. The reality is: sweat is inevitable. Keep your makeup light and don’t worry about sweating off layers. Try a BB Cream, tinted moisturizer, or DIY your own tinted moisturizer by mixing lotion with SPF and a pump of your regular liquid foundation to lighten up.

2. Try waterproof!

There are so many waterproof options out there: mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow are the most commonly found options, but Tarte has recently released a line of Amazonian clay waterproof makeup including concealer, blush and bronzer. I’ve tried out the blush and can attest that it holds up in the heat.

3. Don’t forget to prime!

Applying primer before your foundation is a great way to give your makeup extra staying power. My favorites include Smashbox’s Photo Finish Light Primer and Urban Decay’s Primer Potion.

4. Switch to stains.

Sticky glosses or cream blushes can feel like they slide right of your face in the heat and humidity. Try out a lip stain or stain blush for long-lasting color without the stickiness or goop.

5. Setting powder

Don’t forget to set your makeup with a light finishing or setting powder to “seal” your finished look. It will prevent touch-ups throughout the day and soak up any excess oil. My favorites? Mary Kay’s Translucent Loose Powder or inexpensive option,  Coastal Scent’s Silica Powder Spheres!

How do you prevent your makeup from melting?

Clearing our Voices: Watching The Voice on Tour

I am an excellent singer.

No, not in front of you. But completely alone…in my shower…in my car….I’m good. Christina Aguilera good. I swear. I can’t prove it to you because a) it only happens when I’m alone and b) it’s top secret….but pinky swear.

My small girl and her friends…well, they are a different story all together. They sing out loud, all the time, to every single song they know. And they truly are very good. That’s why it was beyond fun to have a date with my small girl and take her friends and their moms along to The Voice Tour Concert sponsored by Clear here in St. Louis this past weekend.

The Voice Mom Delaney

The Voice Tour - Girls

We have all been addicted to the show since its very first season. It could be the raw talent, the singer’s stories, the emotion they pour in to each and every performance, or the comedic timing of the judges.

The Voice Tour STL2

Or quite simply, it could be that the show is simply about one Clear thing: The Voice.

The Voice Tour STL1

I found myself mentally capturing moment after moment, almost smiling between tears as I watched the girls grab each other in excitement over each song, open their mouths with complete abandon to sing along, wave their hands in the air, and still find time to smile at me.

The Voice Tour STL Girls Sing

I’m keenly aware that there will come a time when my presence will feel out of place, when my small girl won’t pose for a picture for me, won’t grab my hand as we are walking to the car, won’t beg for just a taste of soda at dinner like her friends, won’t thank me over and over again for the ‘very best time’, she might even wish for me to be elsewhere. But for now, I’m grateful for glimpse after glimpse of the joy I was lucky enough to witness.

The only thing missing from this Voice Tour? Our favorite friend Chris Mann. Though I did see him tweet he’ll be joining the San Diego Voice Tour stop next Sunday, July 27th. For other tour stops….check out The Voice Tour concert page.

ChrisMann Danielle Blissdom 2012

Many, many, MANY thanks to Clear for not only sponsoring the tour, (you can follow the hashtag at #ClearVoice) but for the true gift of our concert experience. This was a night four girls and three moms won’t soon forget. You can find Clear on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram.

Disclosure: The tickets to The Voice Tour were a gift from Clear, though all thoughts and opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

 

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint With Only Two Ingredients

HI everyone! It’s Kasey from All Things Mamma here.  I’m here this month to share a fun, easy and cheap project to do with your kids while they’re home enjoying the summer!

With the mild temperatures here in the Midwest lately, it’s been great to spend so much time outside with the kiddos! We’re riding bicycles, swinging on the swing set and doing lots of art projects outside. All of my kids – no matter the age – love to use sidewalk chalk but only until it gets down to about 1/4 of the normal size. So, we have lots of little pieces of chalk in our chalk bucket. It seems like such a waste, until we decided to turn all those little pieces into paint!

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

Mixing up your own batch of sidewalk chalk paint doesn’t require lot of ingredients or time and it’s super simple to make! Here’s how!

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

Take all of your broken sidewalk chalk pieces and divide them up into like colors. Once divided, take one color and place the chalk pieces into a ziploc bag and crush up really fine with a hammer. This is a perfect job for the kids!

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

Once the chalk has turned into dust, place it in a cup or container.

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

Add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until the chalk dust resembles a thicker paint. Depending on how much chalk dust you have in each container will depend on how much water to add. Don’t add too much or it will be really watery. But, if you do – just crush up some more chalk and add it in. No worries!

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

That’s it! It’s really that easy and doesn’t require a trip to the store for special ingredients! Now you’re ready to give your little ones a paint brush and let them go to town!

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

 

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

What’s great is that this paint won’t stain your clothes or skin. It washes right off with water and hoses off your concrete with ease! I love that this sidewalk chalk paint dries nice and bright and vivid AND it doesn’t some off on your shoes or feet when you walk over it once it’s dried, so I let the kids use it right out front on our sidewalks and driveway.

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint with Only Two Ingredients

This simple DIY sidewalk chalk paint with only two ingredients is sure to keep the kids busy and having fun all summer long!

Enjoy!!

Coffee Shopping

I don’t drink coffee.

I now know what’s it’s like to be a true foreigner.  I now know how scary it is when everyone else is speaking an indiscernible language.  A few words would be spoken.  Laughter would erupt.  Satisfaction would creep across all of their faces.  I had no clue what was going on.

For the first time in my life, I entered…

A Coffee Shop.

Yesterday morning, I was trying to be nice, pick up a couple of beverages for two of my colleagues.

Coffee

My wife, Danielle? Even she drinks coffee….

I approached a pleasant young woman playing the dual role of order taker/cashier and I asked “May I have 2 coffees, to go please?”

Then.  Came.  The questions.

Grande?  Si por favor (I can speak other languages).  Iced or Steamed?  Huh, I thought all coffee was hot.  Isn’t an Iced coffee called… a Popsicle?  Let’s go with steamed.  Cream and Sugar?  Sure, who doesn’t like that?  Both please.  How many honeys? Well in college, I had… Wait a minute, how many honeys in the coffee?  Heck if I know, Isn’t honey a liquid?  Do I need to define the 3 states of matter to this person?  Wouldn’t the proper question be “How much honey?”  Sir, there are honey packets.  Yah, I had packets of honeys in college… darnit, there goes that flashback again… or maybe that was a dream… anyway, 1 honey please.  I’m married.

The man behind me interrupts.  Are you almost finished?  No sir, but I visited Helsinki once.  I turn back to the Bilingual Coffee Order Taker who states, “I think he wants to know if you’re almost done ordering.”   Ooooh, I thought he was speaking “coffee.”  I turn back around to engage my newest fan and state “Same answer as before.  No sir, but I visited Helsinki once.”  Shockingly, he wasn’t amused.  Boy, someone should get him something to drink.

Back to my coffee class, okay Madame Professor, what else?  Would you like an ice cube, sir?  I thought I already said “steamed.” “Yessir, but we have a steamed option that includes an ice cube.”  This “Matters” of course because you may want to cool down said coffee or maybe you really do want to conduct a science experiment, liquid coffee plus solid iced cube plus steam equals the 3 states of … Matter of fact, miss, I will take an ice cube in each of these Grande, Steamed, Cream and Sugar Filled with 1 one honey coffees to go.  I’m on a roll… Would you like anything else with that?  She stares at me… along with the other 21 persons behind me that now seem to be a little agitated, clearly they need to drink more de-caf.  That’s my question to ask you, sir. Oh, sorry.  Go ahead, your turn.  She peers through me, would you like anything else with that?

Can I have one small cup of water, preferably cold, ice cubes are optional, go ahead and surprise me.

It’s for a good friend of mine who doesn’t drink coffee.

 

How to Travel without Leaving your City

I talk a lot about exposing your kids to other cultures, seeing the world and how great it is to expand your mind. I do believe all these things, however, I realize it isn’t possible for everyone to simply head overseas for a nice history lesson. If my husband wasn’t playing basketball overseas, we wouldn’t travel there either.

But I believe it is possible to experience other cultures without overseas travel. So I’ve come up with a few ways to do so without even leaving your home city.

How to travel without leaving your City

how to travel without leaving your city

Little Passports

If you haven’t heard of this program, it’s a pretty awesome one. It’s a subscription service that your kids can follow the characters, named Sam and Sofia, around the US or the world (depending on what edition you get). Each one comes with educational activities and you child gets to “explore” the world via Sam and Sofia. It’s so fun to see your kids run to the mail box each month to learn a little more about our world. And hopefully open their eyes to the world that awaits!

Friends

Being American we have so many cultures right at our doorsteps! And it could be a sensitive subject, but if you have friends that are willing, ask them to teach your family a little about their culture. If you are the family who is from or has relatives from another country, be willing to share! I think it’s how we learn to be more loving and accepting of other cultures around us.

Groups

When I was getting ready to come back to America this year I started researching French groups. Turns out there is one called Alliance Francais and they are all over the world, not to mention that there’s one close to me! This particular group is for every level of French, francophones or people who are just interested in the language and culture. Simply put, you never know what’s in your backyard. Pick a culture or language you’d like to check out and see if there’s anything in your area. Bring your kids along and experience a little bit of another place!

Do your Research

Now, it is great to use all the other resources I mentioned, but I think the most fun way to ‘travel’ without leaving is to bring it to you! Pick maybe one culture or country a month. Research outfits, food, cultural activities and try to integrate them into your life. Do what works for your family, a few here and there or maybe one big night full of activities from that culture. This will start to open your kids eyes to other places and how they do things, hopefully making it a fun and positive experience.

Holidays

Holidays are a perfect time to learn more about other countries. Ask friends who celebrate differently than you do, spend time online, make sure to respect the specific traditions and see what you can do about incorporating a little bit of new culture in to your home.

Land Marks

This kind of goes along with ‘do your research’ but the idea is to pick a monument that you want to study. Take the Eiffel Tower for instance. There is obviously no shortage of where you can find pictures of it. A quick Google search will provide you the information on how it was built, as well as its history. Have an “Eiffel Tower Night” and learn all you can about this cool monument as well as much about France. Next month, you can choose another monument and so on! Imagine how much we could learn!

While this type of cultural learning is not exactly the same as seeing experiencing it first-hand, it can give your family an opportunity to bond, to create memories and to make a list of the places you would like to see together. I live in France most of the time and still can’t find time and opportunity to see all the places I want to see! But with a little conscience effort, we can explore more of the world in the comfort of our own city and even home!

I hope you’re inspired to ‘travel’ some more! Tell me, how do you and your family explore the world?

Confessions of a Work-At-Home Mom

I crawled out of bed today full of all of the optimism that a Monday usually offers. New beginnings. Fresh starts. A full to-do list.

I end Monday defeated. Tears pushing at the edge of my eyes, the odd one dragging the day’s mascara with it to my chin. Figures. The tracks are the only marks of accomplishment on a day that was supposed to be.

The notepad to my right is full of the should-have-beens. I was sure today was going to be GOOD. Sitting here now, I’m fairly certain I was wrong on all accounts.

My office is a mess.

My brain is a mess.

Danielle_Office

The Advil I took 6 hours ago did nothing to dull the migraine that threatened with every, “Mommy!” someone yelled from one corner or another in my home today. They weren’t fighting, just checking in. Sharing the latest ‘Just Dance’ moves, asking for snacks, asking for help on math work, heading outside, coming back in, wrestling, laughing, telling jokes….SIMPLY. BEING. KIDS.

And I?

Well…. I was….SIMPLY. WORKING. FROM. HOME.

My house is loud. And messy.

AND MESSY. AND LOUD. And it is my office and my home.

And yet this is just what I asked for.

I have never wanted anything BUT to work at home. And even at this very moment, with a splitting headache I still want want to work from home.

I think. 

From the outside looking in, working from home sounds delightful and fabulous, decadent event.

Make your own hours? Check. Be your own boss? Check. Carve out time for important kid and life functions because you can? Check. Work in your comfy clothes, do conference calls in yoga pants, wash your hair every five days? Check.Check.Check.

I can duck out of my day early to make basketball games, baseball and softball games and the regular soccer tournaments. I can prioritize life. I can prioritize work. I can run out to the store mid-day for a teacher’s gift, flowers for a friend, for the last-minute poster board needed for a school project. I can work until 3:30am (and have many times) when a) either I want to or b) when it is necessary.

But as with everything good,  there are many, many challenges.

See today.

See today’s migraine and tears.

See today’s utter lack of patience. 

Never mind that many people think ‘work from home’ means some version of ‘not a real job’ or ‘since you’re home, can you…..watch my kids? run this errand? hang out?’.

I actually lost patience with the word ‘Mommy’ today. Really? All I wanted was to finish writing ONE article. Just one. Every time I made it one-hundred and twenty five words deep someone needed to talk to me. And not for any type of urgent reason. JUST BECAUSE.

Can I be brutally honest?

I lost patience with their singing. And their laugh-screaming. And their FUN.

BECAUSE TODAY I WAS NOT FUN. I just needed to do a little bit of work. And not one ounce of my reasoning with my eight and ten year old small people (an age I deem reasonable) seemed to resonate. I didn’t yell. I didn’t scream. I didn’t actually lose patience with THEM. I just cried by myself because sometimes working from home feels beautiful and amazing. Sometimes it is JUST what I always wanted.

And sometimes, like today….it feels impossible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here are my caveats:

I KNOW that Summer is harder than the school year.

I know that my kids are actually easier now that they are a bit older, so having smaller children is even more of a challenge when you work from home.

I know that I could have hired help to be here with me, but the kids have been in many camps and I want them to learn some level of independence.

I know that I could have worked harder today to be more stern with them to set boundaries.

I know that so many moms who work from home experience some version of these challenges day to day and my hope was to say, ‘I get you’ and ‘you’re not alone’.

Today was hard. So hard. Working both in and out of the home is hard.

But I’ll get up and try again tomorrow. And I imagine you will too. Thanks for being here.

The Very Best Ideas for Summer Hostess Gifts

summer hostess

Great gifts for when you are a guest 

Your mother told you to never show up empty-handed, but I am here to tell you that you cannot bring a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine…again. Show your summer hostess your gratitude creatively with an out-of-the-ordinary and super special gift.  You do not have to spend a bundle — all these gifts are less than $45!

For the bathing beauty…

Buttercup Bath Set $11 LUSH — Every hostess deserves a little personal pampering, and no bath bombs or soaps are more luxe than those by LUSH.

For the outdoor entertainer…

Classic Mason Cup Set $13 Aladdin — Give the gift of vintage Mason jar tumblers that are actually sturdy plastic, perfect for serving drinks outside.

For the party planner…

Nostalgia Electrics Ice Cream Maker $44 HSN — Make dessert for a crowd a delicious breeze with a retro-looking ice cream maker that skips the old-fashioned crank.

For the guests-every-weekend beach house owner…

Chevron Paper Placemats $24 C. Wonder — You can help your host stylishly set her table scape with these chic chevron paper placemats. She will love how they make cleaning up a cinch.

For the celebrated chef…

Oil and Vinegar Gift Set $30 Williams-Sonoma — These elegant EVOO and balsamic vinegar bottles look too beautiful to be shut in a cabinet.

For the crowd caregiver…

Vermont Breakfast Gift Basket $30 Sidehill Farm — Boom, you brought breakfast! This assortment of jams, jellies, maple syrups and scone mix will help your hostess beef up her breakfast buffet.

For the bonfire blazer…

Michel Designworks Peacock Fireside Matches $13 Amazon — Who knew matches could be so pretty? For the host who is always gathering her crew around a firepit or hearth, these extra long fire starters will be a hit.

For the Chardonnay connoisseur…

Sparq Wine Pearls $25 Sur La Table — These silver stones keep white or rosé wines perfectly chilled.

What is YOUR favorite, thoughtful gift to bring when you are a guest? Share with us in the comments!

Soccer for the Win: Getting Kids The Fuel They Need

Soccer is the first sport I remember playing as a little girl.

Fortunately, there are pictures to prove that I at least attempted to play the sport that has both enraptured the nation (and the world – hence the WORLD CUP) and has been a dominator of my family’s sport’s time for the past six years. Both Delaney and Cooper started playing when they were in Pre-Kindergarten. Soccer is serious business in St. Louis.

delaney soccer

If you ask my small people, they will be happy to tell you I am one of the least athletic people on the planet. They’ll also tell you that swimming is my forte (this is the only sport I maintained with any success throughout my life), but they seem to love me anyway.

This is one of the only sports they will let me play with them…apparently I’m passable enough to keep the game going on a vaguely competitive family level.

My husband coaches. The kids play.

Cooper Soccer

And play.

Kids Soccer

And play.

Kids Soccer

As we play about ten months of the year, my small people will take to the front and the back yard in their free time when they are ‘out of season’.

We’ve watched easily 90% of the World Cup games.

We’ve seen the wins, the loses, the nail-biting penalty kicks, the celebrations and tears in the stands. We’ve held our breath and chanted with the best of them and then headed outside to duplicate the moves, the kicks and the scoring.

I may not be able to head the ball, or teach them Messi’s moves, but I do know I can make sure they have the energy they need to run. And I can ensure they are refueled after a tough battle. When I was a little girl, Honey Maid Graham Crackers were a snack my mom often gave me after playing. I’m grateful to be working with Honey Maid around this soccer season….knowing that my kids are always looking for some goodness before and after games and practices. Giving my small people a little taste of my childhood was simply too much fun.

KidsHoneyMaid

Even more fun than when I was a child, Honey Maid has snack options my kids love like Honey Maid Grahamfuls - the S’mores are a favorite and Teddy Grahams – in addition to having a sweetness kids love, have whole grain, calcium and iron. And the best part? They had to hide them from their dad – they guy who did everything he could to steal their snacks from them.

I know that tomorrow my family will be glued to the World Cup game – who will you be rooting for….Germany or Argentina? (And? what snacks will you be eating while you watch?)

Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with Honey Maid for this post, however, as always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.