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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I See What You're Saying



As promised, you can find the Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe here.

There were other things I learned... like only add one chipotle pepper at a time to your homemade barbeque sauce to give it the right amount of heat so that your eyes don't pop out of your head when you try it... and it is virtually impossible to have Christmas with a 7 year old girl and a 3 year old boy that does not entirely consist of Barbies and vehicles.

And as an added bonus, I am also providing the video that I promised oh so long ago here.




I am sorry I'm so late with this. I had some very serious and very frustrating and disturbing technical difficulties. I'd really rather not talk about it right now. It's much too painful.

See more "I See What You're Saying" posts at 2nd Cup of Coffee... and heck, join us in the fun.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Way More Homemade Christmas Greeting

Here it is once again. Christmas.

I decided this year to not send out a letter in our Christmas cards... you know, the ones that I am still not finished making even as I write this on December 23rd.

Yeah, I'm a little behind.

So, instead, you all are getting the treat of my Christmas greeting ramblings and annual update on the Way More Homemade family here on the ol' blog.

If you're new here, take a look around. Visit the tabs listed across the top. A good place to start is the "About" tab, then feel free to move on to "Favorites." All of that might just give you an idea of what this here blog is all about.

Now, back to my decision to not send out a letter with those Christmas cards... there is a reason behind that decision; and I'll bet you are just dying to know what that reason is.

Well maybe not, but you're getting it anyways.

Mainly, it's just because this year has been more of the same for us. Not a whole lot has changed. We're still living in the same house, working at the same jobs, going to the same schools, participating in many of the same activities... there was just a lot of same-ness for us this year.

I thought, "I don't have a single thing to really update you all on from this year. Other than to say, 'Things are about the same.'"

Then it struck me that it's really been nice this year with things remaining the same. While change is good at times, and upheaval is necessary at times, sometimes it is comforting to remain... to stay the same.

But as much as we would love for things to always remain the same, things always change, don't they? The world always changes. We're about to have a huge change in our nation as a new President will take office in a little less than a month. Our economic and financial landscape has changed drastically in the last couple of months and will never be the same again.

The truth is that when I step back for a moment, I see that many things have changed. But that ONE has not.

I don't know about you, but in this time of what may seem like upheaval at times, it comforts me to know that our God does not, has not, will not EVER change. He will ALWAYS remain the same. His love for us is so deep, profound, and unchanging that He sent His Son, so that we might be changed.

The verse I included on our Christmas cards this year jumped off the page at me, and now I know why.

"She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." ~Matthew 1:21

This is why He came... to change us so that we would not remain the same. Because you and I remaining the same, it means death. Eternal death and separation from God.

There are many times that I would prefer to not change. I would prefer for things to remain the same. But not on this.

On a lighter side, one thing that will likely always remain the same is my love for the Christmas carol, "Away in a Manger." It is so sweet, especially when sung by children. And doubly especially when sung by my children.

My first attempts to get Nathan to sing "Away in a Manger" for you were met with some resistance... obviously at least three times.




I did, however finally convince him with a sucker.




I'm always glad that the little Lord Jesus is asleep on his head.

Sarah playing "Away in a Manger" on the piano.




May you have a 2009 that is full of change. We hope for the same thing.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Much love and blessings from your friends here at Way More Homemade!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just Sharing...

A new favorite song of mine from Travis Cottrell's new Christmas album "Ring the Bells."

Listen and worship...



Amen.

NORAD Tracks Santa

Sorry. I deleted this gadget because it seems that my page is loading slowly. We'll see if deleting this helps any.

You can visit NORAD Tracks Santa here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Q & A

This is a combination of questions taken from both this post at the LPM Blog and from a Thursday 13 Christmas Q&A post by Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee


1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper if I have time. I not only love the look of a beautifully wrapped gift, I also love ripping into the paper.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial. I haven't had a real tree in my home since I was diagnosed with BIG TIME allergies when I was 2 years old. Maybe this is Christmas blasphemy, but I don't even like the smell of them.

3. When do you put up the tree?
The weekend after Thanksgiving. I know our schedule in December is always beyond crazy, so if it doesn't happen then, it's probably not going to happen at all.

4. Favorite gift received as a child?
I was a tomboy... I got a Big Loader one year. But also my black lab puppy one year. I named him Harvey. Don't ask me why, because I'm not really sure.

5. Hardest person to buy for?
My husband. I'm not sure why... but I always have a difficult time buying for him.

6. Easiest person to buy for?
Me: Shoes, kitchen toys, scrapbook toys, clothes, the list is endless of what I can buy for myself... er... I mean what others can buy for me.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. I have 2 complete nativity scenes. One is for the kids to play with and one is my pretty one that is way up high out of childrens' reach. I really love it as there are scriptures imprinted on each piece that relate to that particular character in the Christmas story.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
That's difficult to say as I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Oh, here's one that's also a bit funny. I had gone to the jewelry store that my husband has almost always used and picked out a cross pendant that I like and wanted. (I find things go easier for both of us if I spell it out for him exactly what I want.) He apparently did not act quickly enough because the one I got in that beautiful little black box was not anywhere NEAR the same. I tried to muster up an, "Oh thank you... it's beautiful." But he could tell I was a little under-whelmed.

9. Favorite Christmas Movie?
"A Christmas Story," hands down. But I love most of them, especially old ones like, "Holiday Inn," and "White Christmas." That Bing Crosby has got him some pipes, does he not? But I will also confess this... I think I am the only person on earth who has yet to see "Elf." I know, I know... I want to watch it, but just haven't sat down to do so.

10. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
CANDY! It doesn't really matter what kind as long as it's loaded with sugar!

11. Lights on the tree?
White on mine. Multi-colored on the kids' tree.

12. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen.... and Rudolph, of course.

13. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Angels. My entire living room is covered with them heralding the coming of The King!

14. Favorite ornament?
It's not a tree ornament, but the little choir boys that used to be my Nana P's are definitely my favorite Christmas decoration.

15. Favorite Christmas song?
"Away in a Manger" (especially sung by children), "O Holy Night", and "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"




16. Favorite tradition?
There are so many, but one is new pajamas. We always got new pajamas from my Nana P on Christmas Eve. We looked forward to it and knew that there would always be a gift under her tree with our name and "PJ's" written on it. Until we got married... the pajamas quit coming after that. Hmmm....

17. Favorite gift ever received?
The smiles of my children on Christmas morning. I can think of nothing better.

18. Favorite Christmas meal?
In recent years my dad decided to do things a little less traditionally. We love to have brisket and ribs. And then, later in the evening, we'd eat leftover ribs as we played Monopoly.

19. Favorite Christmas cookie?
I don't have a lot of specific Christmas cookies in mind... so the one I would say would be specific to this time of year is Gingerbread. There's NOTHIN' like a good gingerbread cookie, muffin, cake, anything.

20. Favorite place to be?
Home. With my kids. Sitting around the fire.

21. Favorite memory?
Going to Nana P's house every Christmas Eve. Depending on the year, extended family of cousins might be there. We'd have dinner and open gifts around her tree. Then, as it got late and time to leave, the adults would send us kids outside to look for Santa and Rudolph. We'd see them every year, in the exact same spot, Rudolph's red nose just a blinkin' away (aka the antenna tower close to their house).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Conversations with a 3 year old

This is an actual conversation that took place in my car on Thursday evening on our way to my aerobics class.


Son: I want my sandwich.


Mom: What sandwich?


Son: I want my sandwich that I didn't finish.


Mom: You didn't have a sandwich.


Son: Yes I did. It's in the car.


Mom pauses to think for a moment.


Mom: Oh, you mean the sandwich from last week? I threw that away.


Son (sobbing uncontrollably): But, I waaaaant iiiiitttt! I want my saaaaandwiiiiich!


Mom (to Dad on the phone): You are NEVER going to believe the conversation I just had.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Field Trip Reflections

Sarah's thoughts on their trip to the King Tut exhibit last Thursday...

Would you agree?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Christmas tour of my home

Welcome to my home. Let me get you a cup of coffee or hot cocoa and give you a little tour.

I love to decorate for Christmas. It seems like such a hassle when you pull all that stuff out of the attic, but once it has all been put in its place, it is such a joy to look at during this season of the year.

As you come in my front door you see what is actually the back side of my fireplace (which, by the way, is one reason we bought this house).



Included in these decorations are these three cute little choir boys. They were hand-painted by my Nana P many years ago. When she passed away in 2007, all the grandchildren got one of her hand-painted Christmas decorations. These cute little singers have been a part of Christmas for me for as long as I can remember and have become one of my very favorite decorations.



As you come around the corner and step into my living room, you see the front of my fireplace. The mantle wraps all the way around and I have placed figurines all the way around mixed in with the myriad of family pictures.




Here you begin to see somewhat of a theme in my living room. Angels. I love angels at Christmas time. I love that they are the creatures that God created and assigned the task of announcing His blessed Son's arrival to planet Earth.

You can see them here on the mantle and on the stockings.



Strategically placed on our hearth are a myriad of child-friendly decorations that cannot be broken. Children love Christmas and are very curious, are they not? I have always had the opinion that I will give them something that they CAN play with so that they don't want to play with my breakable things.

And what better thing for them to have to play with other than a Nativity. This one is made of wood. My kids absolutely adore it.



And here is my fancy Nativity... far out of childrens' reach.

Plus more angels on the shelf below.


As you step back into my kitchen and eating area, this is my living room. (And more angels on top of the piano.)





I feel like I owe a bit of explanation about what you see next. Step over here into our eating area.

No, you're not seeing double. We have two Christmas trees. We bought a new one last year after Christmas (obviously we use artificial). And, rather than just throwing the old one away, we made it be especially for the kids to decorate however they want with their own ornaments.

Oh and I LOVE that we decided to put it in here with our table where we eat our meals together. It is a wonderful touch of Christmas as we gather around our table.



And we added our wooden Polar Express train set that the kids got last year for Christmas.




The two tree concept also allows me to satisfy my type-A personality tendencies by having a tree of my own to decorate how I want. It's full of angels and red and gold balls and a pretty shiny red ribbon running through and around it.



So there you have it. That's the tour of my home. This tour has been a part of and was prompted by BooMama's 2008 Christmas Tour of Homes. Go click on the button to read about it and go visit her at BooMama.net to see more homes and Christmas decorations.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Way More Homemade Holidays - Christmas Baking Edition

Way More Homemade

Like it or not, it's true. Christmas brings out the inner-baker in many of us.

I found this to be so well illustrated this week.

It was a crazy week for us and it seemed to just get crazier as the days passed. Mike was out of town on business, Sarah and I had dress rehearsals for our church production of "A Christmas Carol The Musical," Nathan had his preschool Christmas program, and I was juggling an odd work schedule so that I could go on a field trip with Sarah's class on Thursday, and we were trying to close on a refinance of our mortgage. That's how the week was planned.

Well, of course nothing seemed to go to plan. Sarah had a headache and threw up in the parking lot of a local business on our way home before rehearsal on Tuesday evening. So, no dress rehearsal on Tuesday. And no school on Wednesday.

I also got a call on Tuesday to remind me of a urologist appointment for Nathan on Friday morning. As if I didn't have enough I was juggling.

Then Nathan started acting like he didn't feel well on Wednesday after BSF, so I finally decided to have Mike (who was back in town at this point), take them both to the doctor on Wednesday afternoon. Strep. For both of them. So, no dress rehearsal on Wednesday evening for Sarah. And no school on Thursday for Nathan... which meant that either Mike or I would have to stay home from the field trip we've been planning to go on with Sarah's class since the beginning of school to see the King Tut exhibit at the DMA.

And then my throat began hurting so I took myself to the quack shack (Care Now clinic) just to see if they had shared the love. My test was negative, but I started a course of antibiotics just in case. Because, you know, the odds were kind of stacked against me.

All that to say, it's been a bit of a strange week.

But that doesn't actually say anything about baking does it? Well, here's that part of the story.

I was a work on Wednesday afternoon this week, which is different for me. I am normally off on Wednesdays, but worked Wednesday afternoon this week so that I could be off on Thursday morning to go on the field trip... that I didn't end up going on. On any other Wednesday, I would have totally missed this.

The dentist office across the street decided to have a Christmas dessert contest and asked our office to judge. Thinking that it would just be a couple of items, one of the guys said, "Sure." Well, we had samples of 19 different desserts (mostly cookies) to taste and judge.

Oh I don't have to tell you that we enjoyed ourselves. The cookie that won first prize was an almost brownie type chocolate cookie, topped with a creamy peanut butter, then topped with a chocolate fudge frosting. Heaven comes to mind now as I think of the greatness that was that cookie.

I can only imagine that some of the people from that office that submitted their creations would not consider themselves "bakers" by any stretch of the imagination. But something about Christmas brought it out in them.

I think it has that kind of effect on many of us. And that's what today (and this weekend) is about. Open up to your inner baker and share with us what you like to bake at Christmas-time.

Post your recipe on your blog. Put your name and recipe name in the first blank, then the link to your specific post in the second blank. Feel free to post more than one if you like.

I really want some new ideas. So, link away my friends. And if you don't have a blog, please still play along and leave a recipe in the comments. This will be up all weekend and possibly into next week. We'll see.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We pause a moment for some Mama Braggin'

I may have been the proudest mama alive for a few seconds on Sunday evening...

(Please forgive the videography. We're not professionals.)

My little shepherd is on the far left (hopefully that doesn't say anything political about him). He wouldn't stay on stage without mama there....



He did not get the performer/spot-light junkie gene that the rest of us got. He's my little un-performer.



But he stayed up there and didn't melt down in the midst of what must have been terribly intimidating circumstances in front of a Worship Center FULL of people. I was so proud.

Sarah had a solo and it was just the most natural thing in the world for her to sing about Jesus. It was so precious I cried.




Then, toward the end, someone came out portraying Jesus in a sort of "Easter" scene. Nathan stood up and shouted in the way that only a 3 yeard old can, "IT'S JESUS!" And then a second later said, "It's GOD!"

Yes, son. It's GOD!

I can't tell you how proud I was of both of them.

Thank you for indulging my Mama Braggin'.

Anyone else want to brag on their kids? Tell me... brag away, friends.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I got a WORD last week

I love Twitter. Can I just say that? I L-O-V-E Twitter.

Not only have I met, but I’ve been able to get to know several Internet people. It’s amazing how much you can get to know about someone in 140 characters or less.

I have also been encouraged by and had the Lord speak to me through some of them.

For instance, I follow an author named Tricia Goyer (@triciagoyer). I am always encouraged by her Bible quotes and thoughts from her quiet times with God. One day recently she tweeted about how she was going to deliver meals to families who have to work on Thanksgiving. That made me stop and think and I replied to her about what a great idea that was.

A seed was planted.

Then, over the next couple of days, I worked on my BSF lesson in preparation for class on Wednesday. We are still in Exodus and were looking at chapters 25-31 which covers much of the instructions that God gave Moses with regard to the offerings to be brought for and construction of the Tabernacle.

Finally, I came to the last question of the week. With regard to Bezalel and Oholiab (chapter 31) and God gifting them to serve in the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, the question asked, “What are you doing in your church to use the gifts God has given you?”

I was able to answer the question easily as I am very active and involved at my church. I serve in the Worship and Creative Arts ministry and sing in the choir, thus using my creative and performing arts gifts and passions that the Lord has given me. I serve as a coordinator for our Vacation Bible School, thus using my organizational and detail oriented gifts the Lord has bestowed upon me.

But after I finished answering the question I had something nagging at me. Was there some gift that I have not fully given Him? Was there something that have not been using for His glory?

The answer simply was yes.

I love to cook. I think that’s been made clear around here. And I have been using that ability and passion to bless my family and friends. But I have not given it to the Lord.

And a little water was added.

I attended class on Wednesday with a sense of expectation because I could just tell I needed a WORD. I, however, had no idea what it would be.

I answered the above question in my discussion group as we discussed it. Then we went into lecture, and um, God was doing some preaching into my soul. Just a few quotes from my notes…

* Do you ever have a burning desire to give? Are you responsive?

* He gave it (all the goods that the Israelites took out of Egypt) so that when he asked, they had it to give.

* God uses people with special talents and gifts.
* It is God who puts the skill & ability in us.
* God will always put in you what he wants to get out of you.
* The Spirit of God is in the person God uses.
* Those who have the Spirit are to do exactly what God says.

* Every person is indispensable until his work for God is done.

* We are successful and happy when we are using the skill God has given us for His glory.

And a tender little plant began to grow.

I am sensing a mandate; an order to use this passion and love of mine for His glory and to bless others. I don’t yet know what this will look like, but I know He will show me.

Because He is just faithful like that.

"... being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 1:6

Friday, December 5, 2008

Way More Homemade Holidays - Christmas Baking Edition

Ok ladies and gentlemen...

(Don't be embarrased, I know that there are a couple of guys out there who look at this here blog every now and then.)

It's back for a repeat performance.


Way More Homemade


Only this time we're going to focus on baking.

Christmas is a time that many of us tend to bake a little more than other times of the year when we may not normally bake at all.

So I thought it would be nice to share with each other our favorite recipes to bake at Christmas-time. Or if you're me... any time at all.

Because the baked goods and I have a special relationship.

I LOVE them.

And they love my hips.

So next Friday will be our time to do just that. And, to give you a little teaser, I am planning to share my newly acquired Gingerbread Loaf recipe which has been highly requested (aka 2 people have asked for it).

The button will reappear over in the side bar so that you can grab the code again if you want to spread the word.

Hope to see you all back here next Friday.

And hopefully we won't have the Mr. Linky issues we had last time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas 9-1-1... HELP!

My attic threw up Christmas all over my living room!






Every year I ask myself, "Why do I go through all this trouble?" And every year I do it all over again.

Why?

I've actually done some decorating and putting away of boxes since these pictures were taken, but it looked like this for several days.

And I'm not quite done yet. It's just that more pressing matters like work, making a costume for Sarah's role in the church Christmas play, Mike going to Chicago this week and the myriad of other things we have going on have taken precedence.

What about you? Do you decorate a lot or a little for Christmas? How are you doing on your Christmas decorating?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wordless Wednesday (kind of) - Venus, Jupiter & the Moon

Did anyone catch this Monday evening?



That's Venus in the lower center, Jupiter up and to the right, and, of course a beautiful crescent Moon. It is a phenomenon that only happens once every 44 or so years.

My Uncle James will be so proud.

Visit 5 Minutes for Mom for more Wordless Wednesday posts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Worm? Me?

When I first saw that I had been tagged with a Bookworm meme, I laughed out loud. Literally.

Me? Surely you jest.

Because you know, I just don't read very much. In fact, the last book I read was such a momentous occasion that it rated its own blog post.

But, alas, no. No jesting here. Sarah at Real Life tagged me with a Bookworm meme.

The directions on this meme are very unique directions: find the book closest to you, turn to page 56, and type in the fifth sentence plus a couple more after that.

Sarah's was The Sacrifice, by Robert Whitlow. When she tagged me, she tried to guess at what kind of book would be closest. She was right. It was a cookbook.

Courses: A Culinary Journey. My parents brought me this cookbook from their Mediterranean cruise a couple of years ago. It is signed by the Executive Chef from the ship. Page 56-57 are a full page color photo. So I had to go on to page 58. Understandably, sentences 5-7 are pretty boring and make no sense when taken out of context.



"Add the onions and saute. Add the garlic and peppers and saute 4 minutes more. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well."



Now, if you'd like to see the entire recipe, go here.

So, now I'm supposed to tag a few people with this. I am not even going to pretend to know what kind of book they'll have handy...

Play along if you'd like.

Cristel

And if you guys have already done this, I'm sorry. THAT's how behind on blog reading I am. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Worth It

We really had a very good week of holiday last week. I only had to work Monday and Tuesday. Nathan and I had BSF on Wednesday morning and that was the last of our regularly scheduled program. We were off from Wednesday at noon until Monday morning (with the exception of regular church stuff on Sunday).

As we walked through all that we did over the holiday, I remember asking myself several times, “Is this really worth it?”

I cooked all afternoon on Wednesday. Apple pie, green bean casserole, purple stuff, and I went ahead and prepared a turkey breast for our own family (since my husband would shrivel up in the fetal position in the corner without leftover turkey sandwiches).

I borrowed a friend’s Pampered Chef Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer to save me some time with the apple pie. With the ease that I thought this tool would bring me, I had the wise idea that the kids could help with that step. Almost immediately I began to regret this decision. Involving them is always just so stressful for me. I wanted to take my time and enjoy the process. Adding them into the mix didn’t help my cause at all.

I knew without a doubt that the time spent cooking would be worth it. But involving the kids? Would that be worth the stress?

I am here to say that seeing their pride on Thanksgiving Day at my aunt’s house when they saw the finished product and were able to say that they helped was well worth the stress.

On Friday evening we went to the Parade of Lights in downtown. Nathan took a later nap than anticipated, so we got a little bit of a late start. Along with trying to meet up with Nanny, it was an interesting evening, logistically speaking.

As we sat amid the myriad of cars headed into downtown… without moving… sitting, I asked Mike, “Do you regret this yet?” “Not yet,” he responded.

This was Nathan’s first parade that he would recall. And the boy had himself a blast. There was one point where a fire engine (ladder truck no less) had just passed, followed by some motor cycles, followed by a band. Poor thing didn’t know what to look at. He kept just looking back and forth with the most incredible “kid full of wonder” look on his face. It was at that moment that I looked at Mike and said, “This makes the whole evening totally worth it.”



That along with the motorcycle riding Elvis troupe and the evening was complete. Because a parade isn’t a parade without a motorcycle riding Elvis troupe.




Saturday brought a trip to the zoo. It was a little chilly for our neck of the woods. We shivered. We complained. But I just have to say that a trip to the zoo with the kids is ALWAYS worth the mild discomfort and setting aside of household chores and other things I “ought” to be doing. Without fail.

This trip in particular was worth it from an animal perspective as we got to see a mama lioness with her 4 cubs pouncing and playing all over the place. It was the neatest thing to see and the kids loved seeing these animals so active. We just stood there and watched for quite a while and I decided to capture the scene on video.



Just as I ended recording this footage, the mama lioness walked right up to the edge of her area, eyes deadlocked right on me as if she was about to pounce, and barked at me (for lack of a better word). My heart jumped a little. I’m not sure what triggered such a reaction from her to be directed at me as we were not the only people standing there, but I backed slowly away from the railing for a minute. She pretty much looked as if she could have jumped over the ravine between us to get to me.

We thought she was over it, but then she did it again just a few minutes later when I was standing closer to Mike and the kids. It freaked Nathan out a bit as he was done with the big cats at that point. We later decided that it either MUST have been she didn’t like my leopard print sunglasses or that she was just in a bad mood as her male counterpart was taking a snooze while she was stuck with the four kids.

So many things this weekend. And all I think were worth it. Even watching the debacle of a football game Thursday evening between A&M & t.u. We watched as a family and made s’mores in our fireplace. SO worth it.



The only thing that may not have been worth it was me going shopping Friday morning. I didn’t get up at 3 am, so the things I specifically went looking for were sold out by the time I got to the Wal-Marts and Target after rolling out of bed at 7:30.

But that’s the way it goes when you try to drown your football woes in retail therapy.

Am I alone in my evaluation of family events? Does anyone else out there ask themselves, "Is this really worth it?"

Maybe it's just the business person in me, but I'm not going to continue to do something, be it tradition or not, that I don't feel is worth our time or effort.

However, I think we will find that more often than not, when it comes to anything where we're spending time with our kids, it's worth it. Whether or not they will remember the specific event, it's worth it to me for them to always remember having fun with their mom and dad.

And THAT, my friends, is TOTALLY worth it.