How to Choose Baby Books on a Budget

I've been reading to my baby ever since he's in my womb and I continue to do so to this day. I love reading and I want my son to love reading too. I know he will learn a lot from reading hence I try to expose him to books as much as I can. So far, now that he's  almost 14 months, I can see that he likes to scan his books and sometimes when he's up for it, we read several books together. As you can see we have a small collection of books but I know it will eventually grow as our baby grows as well. Lately, I also noticed whenever I stay in one corner of his play area to read my own book, he will get his and join me. 

We rotate books, so this is not actually his entire collection.

Buying books for babies can be overwhelming especially if you are a new Mom and you are on a budget. As I've mentioned before, we are currently living in one pay check so it is really important to stay on our budget. I really don't have any idea at first how to choose baby books on a budget. 

In my world, only my best friend cousin and I are really keen to give our babies variety of books. So I always ask her for recommendations and she's been a great help. I know that there are some mommies out there who really need help on what to consider in buying baby books. I know because some of my friends who are also new moms often ask me where I get Jarvis' books and ask me for recommendations.

So I figured that maybe, my friends and I are not the only clueless first time mothers who need tips on how to choose baby books on a budget. So I put together some of the things I do and consider in buying books for babies based on my experience.

You may also like to read: 
How to Save Money While Having a Baby Part 1
How to Save Money While Having a Baby Part 2

1. Research on the age appropriate books for your baby-  It is sometimes tempting to buy books that your baby can use in the future but if you are on a budget like we do, it is essential to buy books that your baby can already use at their current age. For infants and young toddlers, it is best to get board books as they are sturdy, tear proof and drool proof.

I accidentally bought paperbacks online when Jarvis was only 5 months. I read to him the books but I cannot let him touch the book. Babies love to explore and one way to do so is by investigating, meaning look, touch or taste, anything we present to them. Thus it's essential to give them sturdy books. You may also want to buy books that have textures for sensorial activities for your baby. 

2. Make a list of books that you want to buy and prioritize- This is very important also especially if you are on a budget and you cannot go spending spree on all the books you want after your intensive research. Also, I doubt that you can find all the books you need in one place. So even if you have unlimited funds for baby books, keeping a list can still be helpful just to keep you on track. You may put specific titles of books on your list or you can put just the categories. Categories may include, story books, books about animals, potty train books etc. 

3. Buy second-hand books- I found several online book stores that sell brand new and 2nd hand baby books. Since I am on a budget (what else is new) I opted for second-hand books. But I will buy brand new books if I really need one and if I cannot find a counterpart from second-hand book shops. In the Philippines, brand-new books range from Php 300.00 to Php 800.00 (probably more) depending on the book. With second-hand books, you may find good ones from Php 50.00 to Php 250.00 board books.

4. Find books that educate and use realistic images or as close to reality as possible- We are practicing Montessori at home and Montessori recommends books that have realistic plots and illustrations. Although I tend to deviate on that department as we have books that have talking animals in them (Jarvis seems to really like them), I do away from mainstream fantasy books like fairy tales and cartoons. Although I love fairy tales and mickey mouse, I am with Montessori that babies are learning about their world and it will be very helpful to give them books that will show them the reality

Unfortunately, there are not many realistic baby books available in popular book stores in the Philippines. I scanned the book aisle for babies/children in one of the most popular book store in the Philippines and I saw mostly fantasy books and cartoons. I didn't even find one book that is realistic. So I frequent 2nd hand book shop because they have a wide variety of books plus they are way cheaper. In fact, I found some of our best books in Book for Less.

Love these books so much for story telling!

5. Follow your child's interest- It is great to have a handful of books of different kinds. However, if you are on a budget and you can't afford to buy just any book at the moment and you want your baby to enjoy the books right away, it's a great idea to observe and know what's your baby's interest. My son loves animals and for a time he was obsessed with dogs. I bought him a book that has photos of dogs and babies and he likes that book up to this day.

6.  Read the book before you buy them. -  This is probably the best tip I could give on how to choose baby books on a budget. If you are buying books in a book store it is best to read them first. Children's books are often short and you can easily read or scan them. Take that extra time to read the books before buying them. We need to make sure we really like what's written in the book and we want our children to read that book. 

There was a time when I went shopping for books and Jarvis was with me. I was carrying him so It was really hard for me to read the book plus we were in a hurry because he's a little grumpy at that time so I scanned a book, saw a lot of pictures of animals, so I thought it's a good book. But when I read it at home, I decided I don't like it.

The book talks about the sounds of the animals but it's not the sound that we are familiar with. You know how the sound of the animals differ in every country and continent? Say for example the sound of dogs, in the Philippines, it's usually "aw aw" in the US it's "woof woof" or "bow wow". I just want to introduce Jarvis to the sound of animals he will most likely to encounter. Thus I removed that book from Jarvis' basket because it might just confuse him.

I hope you find these tips helpful. I hope you'll find great books for your little human on your next trip bookstore. Thanks for being here!

Two Ways to Cold Laminate

I like using flash cards to introduce new things to my 13 months son. I like to display a flash card on his shelf as a point of interest to him in our Montessori space.  As expected my son will definitely notice them, hold them, crumple them if he can and taste them of course. So I need to make sure that our flash cards will not tear apart easily.

I've been contemplating whether to buy a laminating machine or stick to my first cold laminating solution. Eventually, I decided to look around for affordable laminating machine until I landed to another cold laminate product that has the quality of warm laminate. It sounds promising so I gave it a try.

Today I will share with you two items that you can use to cold laminate almost any type of paper. One way to cold laminate is by using a self-adhesive decorative vinyl. This vinyl is normally used as a decorative plastic sticker for glass window or shower glass. I bought mine at ACE Hardware for about Php 100 plus.

This is actually what I use to cover my books and it works perfectly well. I always have it at home because I used to buy a lot of books. So when I started using flash cards I tried to use it to laminate them. It does the job of protecting the flash cards from tearing but it has a matte finish which makes the photo somewhat unclear but still looks okay. 

Another way to laminate any type of paper or flash cards is by using Penrote Cold Laminating Film which I bought from Shopee. I much prefer to use this one to laminate our flash cards because it's clear, hard and has a glossy finish. It really has the quality of soft warm laminate. It also doesn't cost that much. It's only Php 250 + shipping for 10 meters of plastic. 

It took me two flash cards to perfect my cold laminating skills. It's a little tricky at first but I get the hang of it eventually. Overall, I really like this one better than the self-adhesive decorative vinyl.

The best thing about this two options is that you don't need to spend money on laminating machine which costs 1,500 up to 8,000 at least that's what I saw when I was looking up for it. Besides, I read that some moms who also use flash cards that they tend to get lazy hooking up their laminating machine in the long run. As a result, their laminating machine just accumulates dust. I don't want that to happen to us because that's going to be a waste of money and that's something we cannot afford right now. So cold lamination seems a good way to go for now.

What do you think of these cold laminating solutions?

Thanks for being here. 

One-Year-Old Birthday Celebration: Party Ideas and Decor

When a baby turns one year old it's actually a big deal among family members. Naturally, a lot of parents will think of grand celebration for the first year of their little one. For awhile I also contemplated whether to have a simple or big celebration. In the end, we decided on a simple celebration at home with family and very close friends. There were a couple of good reasons why we came up with that decision. I think they are important realizations that I want to share.

First reason, I know that my son will not enjoy a grand celebration in a place he's not familiar with. He will not appreciate loud music or noisy children games. He's not into that yet and I don't want to force him into it.

Also, he is very used to his daily routine and I don't want to disrupt that drastically even for just a day. Like I said, in my post about how we celebrate the actual day of his birthday, I want him to enjoy his birthday more than any day of the year. I want him to be comfortable and happy on his special day hence we opted to a quiet celebration that we know he will enjoy.

The second reason is that we do not want to spend a lot of money on his birthday (because honestly, we don't have a lot of that. Hehe...And even if we do, we will still choose the quiet celebration). We'd rather spend our money on meaningful things like our Montessori at home project (yes, that's all I can think of right now). There are so many things we want to do in our house to make Jarvis feel comfortable and safe. We want him to have as many child-size furnitures / things as we can possibly provide him around the house to promote his independence. (see his little Montessori space here)

With that said, we came up with a decision to do Jarvis' one-year celebration at my sister's house. It's like our third home so Javis is comfortable there. Our second home is my parents'. Our house is too small for the celebration that's why we chose my Ate's house.

We went for a black, white and gold theme. I got the color palette from Jarvis' favorite book (the Owl Babies) then when I looked up Pinterest for inspiration. I got convinced that it's the perfect theme for Jarvis' birthday.

We sent out virtual invitations which I also got from Pinterest. There was a section in our invitation where we expressed that we would appreciate monetary gifts that will go to Jarvis' Montessori at home funds. The reason I did so is that I want to minimize receiving toys that Jarvis might not use. My husband was against it at first, he's a bit shy. But our guests like I said, were family and friends, I'm sure they won't mind. True enough, almost every body was generous enough to contribute to Jarvis' Montessori at home funds. Now I already used half of it as down payment for Montessori inspired materials I ordered online.

As for the decorations. We didn't overdo it. We just printed out banners I got from Pinterest and cut out buntings. For buntings, we used Carolina, gold foil and print out a black, white and gold pattern I found on Google.

We also displayed Jarvis' zero to 12 months photos in black and white. I absolutely loved what we came up with and you wouldn't believe what we used to make them all stick on the wall without ruining the wall paint? Clay! Yes! You read it right. Clay. As in playdough clay. It's my sister's little hack she learned from work. It works almost perfectly.

We prepared a simple dessert table to accentuate the theme and of course to give our guests some delicious sweet treats.

I baked cupcakes, which also served as our party favors, and brownies. We added marshmallow which we put on black and white and gold paper straw for added decorations. We also served some oreo cookies. We displayed some print out words I put on a frame which I got from Google and edited using Adobe Fireworks. And that's pretty much it for the decor. Nothing too fancy but I seriously loved them.

For food, my mom did the cooking thru the help of some cousins and friends. My mom offered to cook and she's an awesome one!

The celebration turned out the way we want to. It was simple, quiet and fun. Jarvis was calm and happy during the celebration which was the most important for us. We get to be with people we love. We truly appreciate the overflowing love of our family and friends to Jarvis. He's such a blessed boy. We love him so much.

Thanks for being here.

DIY Indoor Photoshoot for One-Year-Old

I love DIYs. If I want something for myself, my husband and my son I will check first if I can make a DIY version before buying or paying for anything. So on my son's one year birthday, we decided to DIY his baby milestone photoshoot. There were several reasons.

First, I have a husband who considers photography as a hobby and he also attended a short photography and editing training. So it's going to be a shame if we don't put that to good use. Second, we have the basic photography equipment. Third, I can definitely DIY our props because I only have a simple concept for the shots that I like. Besides, Pinterest is just a few clicks away for inspiration. Fourth, we can easily convert his play area as a simple studio for the photoshoot. And finally, baby milestone, I look up online, is very expensive. So instead of spending for a professional photoshoot might as well save the money and spend it on more meaningful things, like preparing our home for him, the Montessori way.

Today, I just a want to share how we prepared for the shoot, what happened during the photoshoot, what to expect and show you the outcome of our simple indoor photoshoot with our very active one-year-old. Kind of behind the scene, in case you want to do it yourself in the future.

We planned for an outdoor photoshoot but on the day that we scheduled it, Jarvis and two other kids (his cousins) who supposed to come with us, got sick, so we had to cancel. Then the weekend that followed became very busy so we didn't get a chance. We still plan to pursue the outdoor photoshoot because we really want to bring Jarvis in a nearby park to explore and play anyway. But we settled for an indoor photoshoot for the time being.

If you are going to DIY your baby's one-year-old photoshoot, It'll be helpful to have a theme or at least color palette for the photoshoot. For Jarvis' birthday, we opted for black, white and gold color theme. So I patterned the photoshoot to that. We came up with two almost similar set-ups.

On the first set-up, I printed out banners spelled as O-N-E. I just saw the free printable on Pinterest. It has that black board and chalk effect that goes with the theme, so it's perfect! Here's the link in case you want to use it.

On the second set-up, I cut out buntings that will serve as background. I bought gold foil, black and white Carolina and I searched Google for the black, white and gold pattern, printed them out and cut them, bunting style.

I also used our chevron throw as background because it goes with the theme. Then I added the crate with books for good measures.  Of course, this photoshoot will not be complete without the cake shot. We buy and photograph Jarvis with a cake every month since he turned one month. Therefore, it is a must to have cake shot for his one year birthday.  We used our good old white cake stand and put a white blanket on our tiled floor to complete the set-up.

As for the outfit, as you can see, it's very simple. We were going for a "little stud-muffin"  look, so it's okay if he doesn't have a shirt on. We just put him on gray pants and gold-black cloth diaper. I think he pulled that off so well. He's my son, what do you expect? Of course, I'll be head over heels with him.

Preparing for the photoshoot was easy, the hardest part was getting decent shots of a very active little stud- muffin. I was so exhausted after the shoot. I was the one who kept putting him back to the spot, played with him for awhile then try to leave the frame so the dad can snap photos. 

I don't know how other photographers managed to get Pinterest-y shots of a toddler because it was really hard for us. I enjoyed the preparation so much that I was toying with the idea of starting a baby photoshoot business with my husband. But after the photoshoot with my very own baby, I wasn't so sure anymore. At least now I understand why baby milestone photoshoot is so expensive. Hehe..

In the end, we managed to get a few decent shots and a lot of out of focus, subject- not-ready-yet and funny shots.  At the end of the day, my husband and I still feel proud of ourselves for what we did. Also, our subject didn't feel pressured or pissed as well. We stopped when we know he's about to get tired. So we all finished peacefully. I hope you find some good tips on how to DIY your baby's milestone photoshoot. Maybe next time we'll get better at this! Thanks for being here.

Jarvis' One Year Birthday

Jarvis, my son, turned one year old a couple of weeks ago. We were very happy and excited when that day came because it's not every day our little muffin turns a year old. We had very simple plans for his birthday. We had a small gathering with family and very close friends to celebrate his one year. I will talk about that in my next post. There were a lot of DIY on that post so watch out for that if you are into that kind of thing. 

I thought hard for ways to make his birthday extra special. I want him to enjoy that day more than any other day. I don't want to subject him to a kind of celebration that only the adults can enjoy. He is just one year old and very much attuned to his routine and I don't want him to feel uncomfortable, especially not on his very first birthday. So far, I think we have succeeded. 

The night before his birthday, I took out his old comforter. I thought I will take a picture of him sleeping in it. When putting it in bed he recognized it and the robot print we call "Robotech" and he laughed so hard. I already forgot how much he liked the print on his comforter. So we play with it until he fell asleep on it.

While he was sleeping I hung banners above his shelves saying happy birthday. I decorated at child's level because after all, it was his birthday. If anyone should see the greetings it should be him.

We already prep him for his birthday. I try to tell him as often as I can that he's going to have his birthday soon. We sing happy birthday to him from time to time and I read to him a book that was related to birthdays and parties. 

On the actual day of his birth, we didn't go out because I know Jarvis will not really enjoy that. He likes his floor time so much. Thus we gave him a lot of that on his birthday.

When he woke up he stared at the banners for a very long time and refused to go near his shelves. Later on, he's making noises, as if he's about to cry while staring at the banners. So I took them out. Then he relaxed and started to play. I forgot that he is in the sensitive period for order and I disrupted the order in his play area when I put up the banners without him looking.

After a while, I tried to hang the banner again while he was around and he appreciated it this time. He smiled at me and wants to touch the banner. So I let him. On the day of his birthday, I vowed never to change anything in our house without him around.

Also on his special day, we prepared yet another treasure basket for Jarvis but this time it has all the things he will really enjoy.

A basket ball and basketball ring- he likes putting things inside a hole. A while back, his dad made him a DIY basketball ring and he seemed to really enjoy it. So we decided to give him a basketball ring and a miniature basketball! He likes it very much.

Rubber ducky- The first thing he was able to identify using his word is a duck. He says "duck" whenever he sees duck while watching his nursery rhymes or sees them in his books. He also likes when I sing, (although not a very good version) 5 little ducks. This should've been a surprise but the dad was so excited, he showed him as soon as we bought them. But when we got home, I hid them and just took them out again for his birthday.

Since we cannot find a miniature duck that looks like an actual duck, I just printed out picture of an actual duck. 

Duck flash card- I always display a flash card on his shelves. Sometimes things I want him to know or sometimes things he really likes. So on his birthday, I put something familiar or something that he will really enjoy.

I let him play with water longer than usual after he takes a bath. 

I cooked his favorite dish. Potato and carrots sauteed in garlic, tomato, and onion.

It was a very simple day yet memorable for us. I hope Jarvis in his simple understanding of everything enjoyed his day because that's our goal. 

I am so thankful to God for blessing us with a baby boy. I truly enjoyed spending every single day of a year with him. It was never easy, but it has given me so much joy and  I definitely learned a lot. 

In my search for a good way in raising him, I found Montessori at home and it changed our parenting game since then. It's still challenging but no longer as scary. I found a method that I am comfortable doing, trust and whole heartedly believe. I am so excited to see him grow and practice his independence. We have so many plans on how to assists him to become an independent boy.

Like I said before, it feels bittersweet to celebrate his one year. I feel sad that I cannot go back to those days when he was still so little that I can hold him in one arm. I already miss that small baby boy. I am a bit teary eyed here. At the same time, I am excited for the coming years. I am excited to witness more of his firsts. I hope you'll continue to join us for the coming years! Thanks for being here!

To Use a Walker or Not to Use a Walker to Help a Baby Walk

As a first-time mom who has seen generations of babies used a walker to help them learn to walk, it's not surprising for me to choose the former at first. I remember my excitement when Jarvis was finally ready to use the walker. I remember I even blogged that finally, I can have time to workout while he uses his walker. I thought I was giving him freedom then. I thought it's a win-win situation for both of us. I have plenty of hands-free time and he can have the time of his life on the walker and at the same time allow him to learn how to walk. But those moments were short lived.

When I discovered Montessori at home and how it will be beneficial to allow the baby to explore on his own in a prepared environment and let him develop his abilities at his own pace, I never let him use his walker on my watch again. The key word here is "on my watch" because the dad still made him use the walker "on his watch" which does not happen a lot, thank God. Jarvis cannot even stand on his own then. I guess the last time he was in his walker was 3 months ago. My husband is very protective of Jarvis that's why it took him a while to fully trusts Jarvis to move on his own. Later on, after seeing Jarvis' progress he finally trusted him and he let go of the walker completely.

This video was taken a few days after his one year birthday. He cannot fully walk yet. This probably the longest he'd walk without resting or sitting down. 

I was advised to practice Jarvis walk while putting a cloth under his arms but I decided not to follow that as well. Instead, I allowed Jarvis to discover what he's capable of on his own by just letting him move freely every day. Eventually, before he even turned one (on July 13) he learned how to stand on his own and finally experiment in walking on his own.  I love the fact that I witnessed this milestone unfold before my eyes. It was an answered prayer for me. 

But that just an icing on the cake because the most rewarding part was to see him develop better control of his movements. Because he spent so much time on the floor mastering his every move, he became very careful and confident with his movements. Which he might not learn should he used a walker for a longer period of time. Jarvis moves like a bullet in his walker. I really can't imagine that he can learn his precise balance and control in his walker.

Sorry for the messy background.. hehe.. #reallife #liveauthentic
Love that my husband was able to capture these shots when he tries to stand-up on his own without support. It's not the first time though.

Since I know he has better control of his balance, I don't worry too much that he might get hurt. I still watch him closely though, just in case he needs me and because he cannot fully walk yet but so far he's doing great on his own. 

People notice that he has great balance and seems calculating of his movements. I've seen him practice standing on his own, tried working on his first few steps, cover a short distance from our bed to his cabinet until finally he braved covering longer distance with such precision and control. As a mom, I can't help but be proud of his achievements but it's not all about that, it is more about discovering what a baby can do when they are given freedom to move in an environment prepared for them.

I know many children, learn how to walk with the walker, I've seen that on my nieces and nephews and they grew up okay but I still suggest to not to get a walker and just allow your baby to develop their abilities at their own pace. Watch them closely and help them if they need it. Just keep in mind not to rush them to do anything. 

Children have different time tables, some can walk earlier than the others and that's fine! Your job as a parent is to make sure his environment is safe for him to move around and allow him to discover his capabilities on his own. Believe me when I say that it is truly rewarding that way. Aside from the fact that Jarvis is very careful of his movements he also learned how to overcome some obstacles on his way. If a toy goes under a table or a chair he can get it without bumping his head. I admit it took him two minor bumps on the head before he learned that lesson, he even cried the first time but after that, he learned

I hope to witness and share many more milestones of our little muffin to you on this blog. If you want more you can follow us on our Facebook page and Instagram. See you there! Thanks for being here!

My Breastfeeding Journey

I am passionate about breastfeeding a baby. I try to encourage as many pregnant and mommy friends to breastfeed because I truly believe that it's the best option to feed their babies. Now that my son is officially one year old, I decided to share my breastfeeding journey. I am also writing this post to reach as many women out there to do the same.

So why do I choose to breastfeed? Before I even get pregnant, I already decided that I will breastfeed my baby and that's my only option. Mainly because it's the healthiest option for my baby. Of course, I will always choose the best for my baby if I can help it. Wouldn't you?

Aside from the health benefits of breastfeeding a baby, it is also cost efficient. But even if I have all the money in the world, I will still choose to breastfeed because formula milk, no matter how expensive, will never be superior to breast milk. 

A mother's breast milk is "design" for her child. It is even gender-ready. When a mom got sick, her baby is less likely to get the illness because the mother's body will automatically produce antibodies through breast milk to protect the baby. How amazing is that? These are just a few benefits of breastfeeding. There are so much more benefits that a mother should know about breastfeeding. So if you are pregnant and cannot decide whether to breastfeed or not? Do your research and prepare to be blown away.

My breastfeeding journey was a breeze, still is, thank God. No painful, bleeding or cracked nipples. No baby who's having difficulty latching. As soon as I offered my breast to my son, he gladly latched it and the rest is history. 

The only challenging part I encountered was when I had too much milk supply. Yes, having too much milk can be a challenge. I pumped my milk too soon. It is not advisable to pump for the first 20  to 30 days because that's when your milk is regulating according to your baby's needs. I didn't know it back then. By pumping my milk too soon after giving birth, I signaled my body to produce more milk than my baby needs. As a result, my baby cannot handle my oversupplied milk and he often chokes and throw up. 

Eventually, I found a site that taught me to regulate my milk supply. I let my baby feed in one breast twice in 2 consecutive feeding sessions. That way, I gave my body a signal that I don't need that much milk. Later on, my milk regulated according to my baby's needs. I don't need to pump because I decided to quit my job and personally take care of my baby thus I can feed him directly from me. 

I've been breastfeeding for more than 1 year now and I consider it one of my greatest achievements as a mother. Breastfeeding is not easy, there were times when I have to hold my pee for several minutes because my baby is feeding. I have to wake up several times a night to breastfeed my baby. But to be honest, it easier to breastfeed a baby at night than bottle feed a baby because breastfeeding requires minimal effort. I just have to pull my shirt up and let my baby latch to his heart content then I can go back to sleep while he latches. I have to stop what I'm doing whenever my baby needs to feed. I have to breastfeed in public if I need to. It took me awhile to adjust to that, but I managed to ignore judgemental people in the end. 

As I've said Jarvis is now 1 year old. He is very healthy. A little heavy, but not overweight. He weighs 9.6 kg now. He rarely gets sick. If he does, it's only because of teething and some minor allergies. He's very active. He can almost walk. He sleeps 10 to 11 hours every night at most. He wakes up 2 to 3 times at night to feed. But like said, feeding him at night requires minimal effort. Also, with exclusively breastfeeding, a day can go by with zero bottles to wash (except when you are a working breastfeeding mom). You also don't have to carry so much stuff when you go out. I personally do not bring diaper bag when going to the mall. Just a small bag with all our essentials which not a lot. 

Of course, I would understand that we all have choices, that a mother may choose not breastfeed her baby for different reasons. However, I hope more and more mothers would realize, especially if they are really capable, that breastfeeding is a wonderful thing and it benefits not only the baby but the mother as well. It's true that it's not easy for everyone but if you are determined, nothing will prevent you from giving the best source of nutrition to your baby. 

I am grateful that my breastfeeding journey was smooth, still is. I know a lot of mothers who struggled so much just to make sure they breastfeed their babies and I admire them so much. I also admire mothers who continue to breastfeed even if they have regular jobs. Pumping milk requires so much work and dedication. It's not easy, but a lot of moms managed to do it. Like they say, breastfeeding is 10% milk supply and 90% determination. Nothing can stop a mother who really wants to breastfeed her baby.

At the end of the day, we all have choices and circumstances that influenced our decision on how to feed our babies. No matter what it is, as long as you are loving,  respecting and treating your child well, you are still admirable. Thanks for being here!