Category Archives: faith

One step forward, two steps back

The past few weeks have been rough as baby fell sick for the first time (which was inevitable) but had a rollercoaster recovery (which challenged us in unique ways as adoptive working parents). Plus, we are not so young anymore in our mid-late 40s!

We had started him at infant care just before CNY break, but he caught a cold a few days later either from his new friends at pre-school or some of the visitors and family at home. Having gone through baby colds before with big bro, I just rolled with it at first, using essential oils and OTC meds, adjusting his diet and naps, as needed. In my mind I thought — that worked fine with #1, who hardly got sick in his first 6 years, it should too for #2!

But unlike his big bro, baby didn’t recover within the week, and his runny nose got progressively worse with prolonged diarrhoea, fever, phlegmy cough, wheezing lungs… He lost his appetite completely, would vomit out his milk and what little he ate, and would wake every 2-4 hours overnight crying, struggling to breathe and arching his back in pain / hunger. It was tough to see him suffer like this — far from his cheerful, robust self 😭 (who had been eating like a champ and sleeping 11-12 hours through the night till this). The doctor confirmed that his little lungs were indeed infected, the pulse oximeter measured low blood oxygen levels, and the sputum test revealed mild mycoplasma pneumonia, essentially a nasty chest cold that could also be a sign of future childhood asthma. She mentioned hospitalisation, but we didn’t want that, so we committed to a 24/7 round the clock schedule of 4-hourly nebulisers, nasal sprays/suction and stronger meds including antibiotics (which will need to be followed by a month’s worth of probiotics to help restore the healthy bacteria in his gut).

Baby’s lungs finally cleared this weekend, leaving just a stubborn cough to deal with. After this tsunami of emotions (worry, guilt, tiredness) and stress (juggling a hyper 9-year old boy and sick 9 month old boy, household matters, keeping up with work), I am able to rest a bit and recover, yet also reflect on some new questions that I’m wrestling with: Should I have sourced breast milk for him, which maybe could provide natural immunity like #1 had? What is #2’s actual medical history? Does it even matter, or is it linked to eczema like some friends have shared? Should he take the flu vaccine to help future infections (but that would take another month)? Do we stop or pause infant care if so? How do I make adjustments to my work schedule to accommodate this? Unlike my time with #1, we both work in jobs that don’t easily lend themselves to part/flexi time, and unfortunately my elderly parents are no longer in the prime of health to mind a very active baby all day.

All of this is happening during Lent, a season often associated with new beginnings. And so I am also reminded to take captive my anxieties, conflicts and distractions, to create space in the midst of life’s responsibilities, to appreciate God’s presence with and intimate knowledge of each one of us. God alone knows if baby J does have a chronic respiratory or health condition, but as adoptive parents, we have embraced him fully into our lives, and all we can do is love and trust and wait, running with endurance the race ahead by “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

PS – A good outcome from the doc visit is that we got to track his height and weight again. Thankfully chubby baby had built up good reserves (haha) so despite being sick for several weeks, he measured a solid 73.5 cm and 10.2 kg at 8.5 months. Other developmental milestones are also on track. He turns 1 year in June, and will be walking and talking soon!

PPS – Big bro was left to fend for himself during his first term exams (CA1) and March school break. Having little bro around has forced him to be more independent, more accountable (not an easy thing for mama to let him “bear the consequences”) and also more nurturing. I was worried that #1 would feel neglected or jealous, but instead, he truly adores #2 and is more willing to help with the baby than with household chores or homework 😂 — in feeding, diaper changing, soothing, entertaining, even picking up the toys all over the house to be washed out every evening. So grateful to see this side of him emerge! ❤️

Anticipating the moment (part 2)

Since we said yes, we have been very blessed with getting fortnightly calls from the social worker — a very unusual yet welcome update as the adoptive parents. So far, we learnt more about the family’s background and situation, and are encouraged adoption is still the best course for all. The latest ultrasound results also show that birth mom and baby are doing well, health and weight are tracking normally. Knowing their situation, we also offered to pay for the birth mom’s hospital expenses plus confinement food. It wasn’t required of course, but just something more we wanted to do to thank her, and ensure she takes care of herself post-delivery. But the biggest news we received today was … it’s a boy!

Thankful for friends who reached out to pass on newborn essentials like a cot, stroller, bath tub, swaddles, towels, newborn onesies, mitts and socks. With this adoption case, we had less than a month to prepare, and still face uncertainty about the final outcome. So we will only determine what else is needed to borrow, buy and/or change around at home in the actual first few weeks. It’s hard to contain the excitement but we are trying to be pragmatic (as advised) since adoption cases aren’t 100% confirmed until everything is legally signed. This can take up to a year due to court paperwork and sometimes, the birth family changes their minds…. And also in our case, the baby is not yet born.

I started exploring infant care centers near to home, office and #1’s primary school. This will also help inform my thinking about the transition ahead. Back then, I had only sent #1 for nursery the year he turned 3, but our home situation is a bit different now. I did have doubts, but feel slightly more assured after reading up more and speaking to moms that have done this before. Good infant care can support our little ones and are a Godsend for working moms in sandwiched generation families like ours. Praying for opportunities to visit and meet the staff in person, and that there will be the right place at the right time for #2.

Last but not least, we have also landed on a name for this yet-to-be-son. Hubby and #1 had plenty of wacky ideas, but we all agreed on the one that truly speaks to the little one’s circumstances and is grounded biblically as well. Despite being rejected in the womb, the baby will be received by us (his adoptive parents) straight from the hospital to a loving home, God willing! “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1-2).

Jesus is referencing his coming death, resurrection and eternal life in that passage, yet somehow these words seem relevant to our situation too as we prepare our hearts and home amidst the unique circumstances and uncertainties of this adoption process. Dear baby boy, do not worry, you are precious to God — who holds you close in His hands and has prepared a home for you, both in this world and in the life to come. We look forward to see you soon! Love, Mom.

Anticipating the moment (part 1)

How do you anticipate the birth of a baby that you’re not carrying, but who would eventually be yours?   I’ve decided to journal down my thoughts, prayers and decisions leading up to the moment, when God willing, this baby joins our family.

The moment I heard the news from the case worker, my heart leapt. For hubby and I, the decision was clear. We had been prepared for delays in the adoption process due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and social distancing. But God did the unexpected for us, and in a way that said: “My child, I know you. I see you. I remember you. I hear you.” (Exodus 2:23-25).

So within 24 hours after we received the call, we made the decision to adopt this particular unborn baby. Though so many questions lie ahead, the most important thing to do at this time is pray. With a few who have journeyed with us since the process started, we are covering the health of the baby and birth mom in prayer, for God to guard the hearts of all the individuals involved, for wisdom as we begin to share this news to others, and discernment on the way forward, step by step. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).

I also started looking up what my leave entitlement was at work, and thinking through the eventual communication and timing of any transitions with colleagues and my team at work. I used a friend’s pregnancy books to guide my thoughts as it is quite a different experience to anticipate the birth without actually being pregnant yourself physically — What to Expect when You’re Expecting, Praying for Your Unborn Child, and The Miraculous World of Your Unborn Baby.

Children are born with earthly parents, and this special child will be blessed with a birth mom and a forever mom. It’s hard to wrap our heads around this — no matter how many books, workshops and chats I’ve had! There are so many what-ifs but I claim the peace and purpose knowing that this is a child of God. As I read months ago from a mom speaking to their adopted child, “I may not have given you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you.” Dear baby-to-come, we are waiting for you! Love, Mom.

Take courage

This Mother’s Day, I want to encourage all caregivers that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Behind those happy moments we post on social media, are the hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears, the tiredness, guilt, disappointment, anxiety, bitterness and hurt. But let’s take courage, and know that we are not alone.  Take the time (not just today, but it’s a start!) to anchor our faith deep in God. The Holy Spirit will fuel us up — let’s not run on fumes!

Slow down, take time
Breathe in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep Your promise to me
That I will rise in Your victory!

Lyrics from Take Courage. Published by Bethel Music, written by Kristen DiMarco, Jeremy Riddle and Joel Taylor.

Praying over Psalm 139 as our new journey begins

It’s been almost four years since my last entry, but I’m blogging (a little) again because today, hubby and I committed our intent to adopt a baby!  “For this child, I have prayed and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart.” (1 Samuel 1:27)

We certainly didn’t know it but God has prepared us for this child — through the years of losses, us maturing as parents, and the unique circumstances which led to this adoption opportunity. When we received the call from the social worker, we knew that there was no answer but “YES” even though we are agreeing to accept this child before s/he is actually born, without knowing what the gender is or what state the baby will be in. We walk by faith, and not by sight!

LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

You made all the delicate, inner parts of the baby’s body and knit him together in his mother’s womb. Thank you for making him so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it. You watched him as he was being formed in utter seclusion, as he was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw him before he was born. Every day of his life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Search us and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts. Point out anything in us that offends you, and lead us along the path of everlasting life.”

Adapted from Psalms‬ ‭139:1-6, 13-16, 23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Even loss is a new beginning

And so concludes our journey of Trying To Conceive for #2. There was so much I’d hoped to share and dared to dream for the past eight years.  Alas, another natural birth was just not meant to be.

2018 ended with three consecutive failed Frozen Embryo Transfers.  No more two week wait, rounds of egg collections and blood tests, four times daily self-injections on the go, letters from the doctor explaining to airport immigration why this cooler bag I’m carrying around is full of medicine and needles…

Momentos from my IVF days

2016 started with my third (confirmed) miscarriage. The last time, I didn’t tell a soul at the first positive test.  After confirming positive every week for three weeks over the holidays, the dreaded spotting came.  We never made it to the end of the first trimester.

I didn’t expect to feel so anguished at all these losses given my history of secondary infertility.  I thought I was mentally prepared but while my body once again reset, readjusted and stopped sending out “phantom” symptoms, my emotions were in a state of turmoil:

Frustration that this keeps happening to me despite loving kids, wanting a bigger family, and being ready and able to support them.

Guilt that I wanted more after having our (first) son, and the added attention needed with him after he was diagnosed with mild ADHD.

Anger at the specialist for not looking further into why I’ve had recurring pregnancy loss when we approached him years ago.

Resentment that time is not on my side….

After the grief dulled, and I could even broach the subject of babies again with the hubby, we decided to stop trying for our own.  Thankfully life was full between work and caregiving for the older folk as well as being more intentional with our rather hyper kiddo.

For years, we focused on adding a child to our family but from 2018 on, we had a series of divine encounters with adoptive friends and their stories. I hadn’t even known that several pastors in our church had also adopted children as well! After discussing, reading, praying and reflecting on whether fostering and adoption is for us, we completed the mandatory MSF interviews and workshops, and received a favourable Home Study Report in late 2019.

God renewed our hearts and minds throughout this process.  It dawned on us — with all that we have been blessed with, “why not provide a child with a family instead?” So we are now embarking on a new journey.

Create in me a clean, clean heart

Create in me a work of art

Create in me a miracle

Something real, something beautiful

You’re not finished with me yet

You’re not finished with me yet

By Your power I can change, I can change

‘Cause You’re not finished with me yet

– Psalm 103 (adapted) 

Conversations at four

Four years old.  These precious moments with B remind me how he’s growing up. Though mama has less time for him, he finds every opportunity to catch up together, to the point of “moving in” at night and talking a LOT about his “day” (which could mix a few days up) when he didn’t use to before 🙂

B got off his chair and ran over when he saw me return from work:
B: Mama! Hug 20 times! (We totally did). Missed you, mama
M: I missed you too, B.  Mama’s not feeling too well unfortunately….
B: Wait, I get you something (Runs off, returns with the thermometer). Here, let’s check
M: Thanks B, so thoughtful. Pray that mama recovers over the weekend, OK?
B: OK. I pray that the germs go away. Mama gets well soon and we can play.

After dinner, we make time for music (violin, sometimes piano), read (alternating between Chinese and English), then wind down for bed. Just when I’m snuggling down in my room, B comes inside, bearing another book, his pillow, blankie, soft toys…
B: Mama, see I brought all my things over. I’m sleeping with you tonight!
M: You know, B, you’ve been sleeping on your own since you were one. Don’t you like your own room?  Where’s daddy going to sleep?
B: I like my room but I want to sleep together mama. Maybe until I’m 20 years old (!) (Heads out to find daddy).
B: Daddy, you sleep in my room, ok?  I’ll leave the door open for you

At the end, he talks about “his day” while we lie in bed in the dark:
B: The other day at school, N and I came early. We ate something and then biked around. N told me I was going the wrong way. But I was right, he was wrong, and we banged each other.
M: Oh no! Did any of you get hurt?
B: No. Wait, maybe. N fell off a bit and cried.
M: Was he OK? Did you say sorry?
B: Maybe.
M: Maybe?
B: Well, I said sorry when we banged. And then he stopped crying and asked me to say sorry again, but I didn’t because I alrady said sorry. Then we played some more.
M: Hmm… It’s good you apologized. Please be careful the next time! (Note to self: Check with N’s mom and teachers). How was lunch?
B: Good. We had pasta. With chicken rice.
M: Pasta and chicken rice? Are you sure?
B: Errm we had pasta, peas, carrots, corn.  I like corn. Also, some chicken. I ate all my food.
M: That’s good! Did you eat fast like we’ve been talking about?
B: I ate faster than J! I said “Hurry up, eat faster!” But J doesn’t like corn. So he ate slowly.
M: Besides J, who ate with you?
B: (Tells me who sat exactly where and in which table)
…..
B: Mama, mama! I’m still talking. Are you listening?
M: I’m listening, but I’m quite tired too.  Talk more tomorrow, B? Love you, good night.
B: Love you. Good night, mama.  (Starts humming while I fall asleep)

Joy. Peace. Hope. Love.

My annual leave starts this week. I look forward to disconnect (as much as I can!) from the day-to-day hecticness, and reconnect with who and what matters the most to me.

“LOVE makes our friends a little dearer, 
JOY makes our hearts a little lighter, 
FAITH makes our path a little clearer, 
HOPE makes our lives a little brighter, 
PEACE brings us all a little nearer.”  

JOY: While passing through US airport immigration last week, I flashed a smile to the duty officer, relieved to be done with my 15+ hour flight. I was taken aback when he aggressively challenged me “Why did I smile? Was I not taking him seriously? I can decide to let you in this country, or not!” How do we remain joyful in a world filled with suspicion, superficiality and self-centredness?  B may be little, but he is one of my biggest sources of joy as he reminds me to keep a cheerful disposition, and don’t let negative moments or thoughts ruin your day.  Christmas is a time to make spirits bright, to laugh and sing, just like this song says!

PEACE: As I spend more time than ever with my parents in their golden years, I’ve been reflecting on the peace of mind that only family and community can offer, and also the inner peace that comes when you care for and center yourself.  It could be as simple as sneaking in some self-reflection, reading a devotional like this or this, expressing gratitude and praying each day.  For busy bees like myself,  Christmas is a time to place the important ahead of the urgent for a change.  Let’s look in, up and outwards – and gain perspective and a measure of peace as we do that.

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A family that holidays together, stays together

Developing peace of mind by staying mentally and physically fit

HOPE: Harsh words, unexpected news, broken promises, lack of trust from others or self-confidence are difficult issues to deal with. In those moments, I’m encouraged by how my siblings stand by each other through life’s ups and downs.  Two weeks back, I placed a tearful call to my sis after a particularly rough day, and she gave me exactly what I needed – a listening ear and affirmation.  We pay her a visit when things come up, and don’t let her be overwhelmed alone.  I also look forward to catch up with my brother and his family everytime I’m in the US for work. For me, Christmas is a time to cultivate those relationships and build a faith that give us assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.

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Bonding over design and engineering 🙂

Aunty and her pumpkin 🙂

LOVE: I’ve been tugged in many directions by my various commitments this year, and often felt that I’m running on empty with no reserves left to give. As we prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas, I’m thankful for the man who walks beside me in this journey of love. It’s not been easy, as we are both so imperfect. I appreciate his support to let me refuel on me-time and the things I’m passionate about – causes, family, good friends and new discoveries.

Christmas playdate
Christmas playdate

No, mama isn't kissing Santa Claus
Sorry Santa, mama ain’t kissing you

Wherever you are this season, here’s wishing you a blessed Christmas filled with joy, peace, hope and love. Do share with us how you’re celebrating this season and holidays too as we continue this blog train on:

PrayerFull Mum

Next up is Valerie:

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At Mums In Faith, she shares her passion for books with other mums through a convenient book-lending service and reviews on good Christian resources. She also writes articles giving an encouraging Christian perspective on issues pertinent to modern-day mums. Together with her co-founder Danessa, she hopes to build a vibrant community of Christian mums who will love and pray for each other, providing the support we all need as fellow warriors in faith.

Advent-uring together

Where has the time gone?

As a full time working mom again, I need greater focus to go through the daytime schedule juggling work and family priorities (drop offs, pick ups, meetings). But I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling, something I didn’t quite get when I was home 24/7. When I was away for ten days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other, grateful that our transition and support planning has worked out. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!

Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays.  Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and Jesus — God’s ultimate gift of life.  As B had just turned two, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s three, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. We hadn’t consistently done that earlier because the group meets (too?) late.  B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂

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Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:

1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night.  As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.

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B’s beginners bible and a sample page from the preschooler’s devotional

2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day).  Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add his art and craft stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:

Our new Christmas star using foam and paper stickers
Making a star using foam and paper stickers

Sample page - Star
Sample page – Star

3) Advent Calendar:  Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. This calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game — I love craft that we can just repurpose.

2013 advent prayer calendar
2013 advent prayer calendar

HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too.  Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.

4) Christmas books:  This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore.  B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂

Unwrapping the gifts from  California :)
Unwrapping the gifts from California 🙂

Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!

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It takes a village to raise a child

Kids should have good role models and parents who can walk the talk while being transparent in handling failure and success.  This morning I asked B “who do you want to be when you grow up?” and to my surprise, instead of “teacher, firefighter” (his usuals), he said “I want to be like mama” (yikes!)  While that stroked my ego as I’ve been trying to be more intentional about building faith and character with B, I’m painfully aware that as a flawed individual, I always fall short!  You don’t want to be like mama at all times B, really….

Kari Kampakis’ article “10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make”  resonated with me because – I confess – I’ve made most of them. Here’s one that I agree with wholeheartedly:

Mistake #1: Underestimating CHARACTER. If there’s one thing I hope to get right in my children, it’s their CORE. Character, moral fiber, an inner compass… these things lay the foundation for a happy, healthy future. They matter more than any report card or trophy ever will…. We know that what will matter at 25, 30 and 40 is [not what they achieved but] how they treat others and what they think of themselves.

If we want them to build character, confidence, strength and resilience, we need to let them face adversity and experience the pride … when they come out stronger on the other side. It’s hard to see our children fall, but sometimes we have to. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether intervening is in their best interest. There are a million ways to love a child, but in our quest to make them happy, let us stay mindful that sometimes it takes short-term pain to earn long-term gain.

It dawned on me at a recent church camp that my parenting journey is not meant to be walked alone, isolated from community. Furthermore, the best lessons are “caught not taught.” We all can and should help to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)

it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-childIn this case, our “village” is our local church which partners with parents to set a solid faith foundation for their marriages, families and the next generation.  I’m especially blessed by those serving in kids’ ministry who are super engaging and energetic, always ready to patiently manage restless kids and answer those tricky questions. As I occasionally help with our weekly cell group, I realise how tough it is to catch the interest and hold the attention of kids, especially between preschool and primary school ages!

Doing superman while singing “Jesus, You’re My Superhero!”

With me having less time with B and hubby still away a lot for work, I’m keen to better integrate B with our “spiritual family” here.  Besides family and casual friend interactions, we are trying to be more consistent with Sunday School.  B joined our church’s Sunbeam program at 18 months and then graduated to unaccompanied classes at 30 months. We sat in with him for the first two N1 sessions. The first time we dropped him off, he cried but was okay after a few minutes.  The second time this past weekend was better, no tears, although he still wanted a big hug and clung to mama as I left. B said afterwards that he likes Sunday School, sang many songs, and even quoted (and adapted) his memory verse to “I love and obey God!” and later at home “I love mama and daddy!” 🙂 To be honest, I was kinda stunned that he paid enough attention to recall and put it to practice. Me of little faith!

Jesus is a live craft for Easter
“Jesus is alive” craft for Easter

After he turns 3 and/or can tahan till 1030p, we may bring him along to our Friday cell group for a once-a-week late night out. After all, a village isn’t a village without fun, food and fellowship, right?
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