Friday, December 19, 2014

Cullen - 9 Months!

Cullen had his 9 month checkup at the beginning of the week and the doctor confirmed what I already knew: This child is growing like a WEED. Honestly, I swear I see him growing in front of my eyes most days. Literally. He's growing right now.
His 9 month stats: 
22.7 pounds (90th percentile)  
29.5 inches (90th percentile) 
He's almost exactly the same height as Avery was at 9 months, but 2 pounds heavier.

At 9 Months, Cullen...
Anything Avery is doing/playing with

Opening & closing doors
Climbing everything, especially the stairs

Being put down in his crib on his side
Eating (sweet potatoes and cheerios/puffs are his favorite)
Digging in plants
Drinking from cups and straws
Ripping -and eating- magazines 
Pushing walking toys
Music and Dancing
'Driving' cars and truck, sound effects included
Talking "Bah Bah, Dada & Mama"
Mimicking sounds (especially funny ones that Avery makes)

Diaper changes
Getting Dressed/Undressed (imagine trying to wrangle a very strong octopus)
Being alone 
Not being allowed to eat dog food
Not being allowed to eat Play Doh

Not being allowed to eat paper 
Not being allowed to eat [insert any non-edible item he gets his little scavenger hands on]
In the early morning hours of December 4, Cullen woke up in the night with a scary barking cough and labored breathing. I spent the rest of the night lying vigil next to his crib listening to his raspy breathing pattern and jumping up every time he got quiet. It was torture. A doctor's appointment the next day confirmed my Google diagnosis: Croup. 

He was given an oral steroid that helped relieve some of the swelling so he could breathe easier. Although the steroid did its job, it also made him WIRED so we spent the next 2 nights sitting up with a baby who only wanted to crawl in circles and bang on the wall. By day 3, this mama had about lost her mind due to worry and lack of sleep and Cullen could barely keep his eyes open so we discontinued the steroid and all finally got some rest. Cullen has now finally made it to the other side of this sickness and with some souvenirs: THREE new teeth to balance out his lone snaggle-tooth on top. (because apparently being uncomfortable with the croup wasn't quite enough, he had to be cutting new teeth too... poor guy.) It was pretty much miserable to see my happy-go-lucky boy so lethargic and sad. Thankfully he's finally back to his sweet self and seems happier than ever.
Cullen has mastered his 'rascal' face: the little pursed-lip smirk he gives when he knows he's doing something naughty (plant digging, playing in Bella's water bowl, etc.) 
Don't tell him, but it's my favorite of his faces ;) 

While nursing Cullen to sleep, he will sometimes pull off and grunt up at me to see if I'm awake. If I keep my eyes closed and pretend I'm sleeping, he will go back to nursing and fall asleep :) If I'm nursing him when Avery is around, they play a game where Cullen pulls off and cranes his neck around to get a kiss from Avery ("Hi Cullen! Kiss? Okay!") then turns back around while they both giggle (this cycle then continues for 5 minutes) 

My baby boy is creeping ever closer to his first birthday and it makes me so sad thinking about how fast time is going BUT I'm doing everything in my power to take full advantage of these baby days. I am soaking up every squeeze, snuggle and giggle and I don't get too worked up about him reaching any of his milestones too early. Some of the happiest moments in my days are spent watching Cullen laugh and play with his big brother. Those two have just been best buddies from the start and I can see that bond growing every single day. Is there anything better than that?!

I took this photo ------------> at the beginning of the month and I feel like he's aged so much more than 30 days since. With all the moving he's been doing this month, he's already losing this round baby face and it's amazing how those top teeth change his entire look! (but so far, his adorable little head of hair is still as red as can be!)

There's something so wonderful about a baby's first Christmas and Cullen is at the perfect age to take in every little thing with such amazement. This boy, his sweet big brother and his amazing daddy sure make me thankful for everything I've been given in this life.

I hope your Christmas is filled with wonder and magic. Cheers to another great year in 2015! 

Avery @ 9 Months

Sunday, December 7, 2014


This week we spent a few days back in St. Louis spending time with family for Thanksgiving. We had the opportunity to visit a couple of St. Louis' neatest 'museums'. This one, The City Museum, blew our minds. Avery had the time of his life crawling and climbing and sliding and exploring, it was so fun to watch him being so adventurous and brave! It's a place checked off my bucket list that I didn't even know was on my bucket list. There really isn't a way that I can explain it that will do it justice; It's like one gigantic living piece of artwork that adults and kids alike can climb all over. If you ever get the chance, GO. You won't regret it. We have already talked about making this an annual trip.

This picture. 
I'm almost to the end of my first 52 weeks of this project and I feel it wouldn't be giving a fair glimpse into the life of my sweet two-year-old without documenting this face. Looking at it now it breaks my heart but in the heat of the moment during a 2 year-old meltdown it doesn't quite have that effect. 

On this particular day, Avery used his dry erase markers on some toys that were not his dry erase board and got his markers taken away for the day. To help diffuse the situation once the crying started, I grabbed my camera off the counter and started taking his picture. It distracted (and confused) him enough that he completely forgot why he was crying and the tears stopped just as quickly as they began. Score!

And to leave you on a happier note, I had to share this video because I want to remember how Avery refers to himself in the third person. It's just the cutest thing ever and now that he's starting to say 'me' and 'mine' more, I know the days are numbered.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Experiments in Color
   A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014

Now that cold days are upon us, I've been trying to set up some new and exciting activities to keep us from going crazy on long afternoons. Even if they only sometimes last 10 minutes, it gives Avery something to look forward to after naptime and it helps to break up the hours until dinner. The liquid watercolors were a hit, I can see us finding many more uses for these as the months go on.

And because I couldn't swallow the cost of buying liquid watercolors just yet, we made our own, thanks to Happy Hooligans  (and Justin thought I'd never find a use for all of those saved baby food jars ;)

"Avery, Smile!"
   A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014

This is often what I get when I ask Avery to smile, a rapid blinking of the eyes. I'm not really sure how blinking relates to smiling, but it's better than a scowl! :)

Cullen the 8-Month-Old!

It's hard for me to believe Cullen has only aged a month since my last post, this month he has been on developmental fast forward. He learned to crawl, stand, and now takes steps along furniture and behind his walking toys. (Whaaaat?!) He's also had some of his fussiest moments this month, including a little sleeping regression and a separation anxiety phase. But who can blame him, that rapid growth and pushing out new teeth is hard work!   

This month, Cullen...

•Takes a morning and afternoon nap. Some days both boys will nap for an hour or so at the same time and other days they will sleep relay-style ;)

•Will occasionally sleep through the night but usually still gets up once or twice. These wakings usually happen before I go to bed or in the early morning so I'm getting some pretty solid stretches of sleep. Yay! He always nurses to sleep and shows no sign of doing it another way which is just fine with me. One of the things about having a second baby is knowing how precious these little moments are. Once they're over, they're over. I remember how sudden (and easy) it was when Avery stopped nursing to sleep, It was much harder on me than it was on him!

•Is all over the house! He moves so quickly, going from emptying out a toy basket to climbing the stairs to diving into Bella's water bowl all in a matter of minutes. 

•Got his third tooth but instead of getting one of his top middle teeth, which would be too predictable, he's got what we call his little 'fang', the one to the left of where his top middle would be. It makes for a pretty cute smile :) 

•Eats hearty meals of 'solid' food 3 times a day. He's a great eater and has upgraded to eating most of his food in chunk form. There isn't anything he doesn't eat, but prefers his food to not be super cold. 

•Love, love, LOVES Avery. They will sit and play together and have so much fun laughing and chasing each other around, I love to just sit and watch them. Avery has mastered redirecting Cullen when he gets bored or frustrated with something and is also really good at 'gentle wrestling'- it always makes Cullen giggle.

•Some days he doesn't want me to be out of his sight. If I walk out of the room for a minute, I can pretty much bet on hearing that pitter-patter of little hands speed-crawling up behind me a minute later. 

•Gurgles, babbles, and says 'dada' and 'baba' a lot. He also does a really funny low-growl and is a master raspberry blower.

•Dressed up for Halloween as the cutest little cow ever. What's funny is that Avery wore this outfit last Halloween at 28 months, and Cullen wore it this year at 8 months and it wasn't even too crazy big. We're thinking we likely have a future linebacker on our hands...

•Still has the cutest little head full of red hair that has really started growing these last few weeks.

•Claps when we say "Yay!" and puts up his arms when we say "So big!"  (Avery loves playing this game with him)

•Loves attempting to eat dog food and plants. I have 2 big pots on the floor that I didn't have when Avery was this age and I thought it would be a good experiment to see how long they would last. Well, leave Cullen alone for 20 seconds and it's safe to say he's probably found his way to those plants and has a face full of dirt. Rascal ;)

•Loves bath time. And who wouldn't, with a crazy older brother like Avery to splash around with! Bath time at our house is no less than a 45 minute ordeal and both boys are equally cold and tired by the end of it - the perfect pre-bedtime activity! 

•Although he doesn't do this as much now that he moves around so much, at the beginning of the month Cullen would do this funny balancing act while he was sitting up. You would think he was going to fall over backwards but he wouldn't, he would just balance back on his tailbone with his feet off the floor. He was just working on his ab muscles ;)

•Has started getting awfully wiggly during our little weekly photo shoots. He can go from lying on his back all smiley-like to rolling the fabric into a ball and crawling away in 10 seconds flat. From here on out, the photo shoots are going to be more of a workout for this mama!

•Has SO many things around the house to keep him busy! When Avery was his age, he had PLENTY of toys but it was nothing compared to the variety that Cullen has available to him now. You want to chew on markers and long wooden sticks while waving around 4 feet of PVC pipe? Sure! Here are some Hot Wheels cars, see if you can suck the wheels of of them while you're at it. ;)  
Overall, this boy is just the sweetest child ever. He's the missing piece our little family didn't even know we were missing. I can't imagine our life without him in it. Although he's growing far too fast, I love seeing him grow and learn and interact a little more every single day. 

Here's a little video from a couple of weeks ago when Cullen first started walking behind his walker. He goes 10 times faster now, it's amazing how far he's come in just a short time. I love Avery's encouragement :) 
And I'm a softie for brothers giggling together:

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Trick or Treat Ya'll
   A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014
Halloween night in Indiana was a cold, windy, snowy one. Because of this, we spent our time indoors with friends (which was a super fun time!) but I didn't get any cute photos of Avery riding from house to house on his John Deere with his little cow sidekick. Thankfully I grabbed a few quick shots (with my phone) of him and Cullen on our way out the door and although it's blurry and poor quality, his sweet face in this one pretty much melts my heart. He was definitely the cutest little farmer I've ever seen!

Pajama Boy
   A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014
With the nights getting colder, we've gotten out all of Avery's 'warm jammies' and all he wants to wear these days are these Thomas PJs and cute footie pajamas. (seriously, if I have my way my boys will wear footie pajamas until they go to college. Cutest. Things. Ever.) Most days you can find Avery still in his pajamas when he wakes up from his nap. And he loves it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


That grin.
 A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014

Last week, the boys and I took another solo trip, this time to Scott Air force Base just outside of St. Louis where Justin's sister and her family live. Avery spent the long weekend getting lots of exercise on their trampoline, checking out some big airplanes and spending time with his aunt, cousins, grandma and grandpa! It's so so SO nice to have them all so much closer!

This weekend my brother, Josh, stayed with us which is always such a fun time. Avery is a big fan of his "uncle Gosh" and he had a blast watching tractors, doing yard work and showing off all of his toys. Josh is also one of the very few people Avery will allow to read him bedtime stories so he took full advantage of that :)

**Besides a few too-busy-having-fun-to-stop-to-use-the-potty incidents while we were in St. Louis and when uncle Josh was visiting, Avery is still rockin' the potty! :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cullen: 7 Months

This month, Cullen:
•eats even more foods and now eats twice a day
•takes two naps, times and durations vary
•gets up once, sometimes twice, during the night
•popped out his first (and almost his second!) tooth
•barrel rolls and army crawls wherever he wants to go (and he's fast!)
•started wearing cloth diapers during the day
•enjoys giggle-fests and 'wrestling' matches with his beloved big brother every day
•wears size 12month clothes (and is busting out of some of them...)
•wants to chew on (eat) everything, especially anything made of paper 
•loves to stand - he can't pull himself all the way up yet, but loves to be propped up 
•is a side sleeper 
•is ticklish and loves to be tickled

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Cullen is THE most mild-tempered boy of all time. I'm sure I'll regret putting this in writing when he's 16, but I'm amazed daily at how well he just goes-with-the-flow and doesn't get worked up about much at all. Of course he has his moments and is starting to develop more of an opinion about what he likes/doesn't like. Avery is finding out fast that he can't just grab toys out of his brother's hands like he has in the past and Cullen doesn't hesitate to take what he wants either. 

The last week of this month was a powerhouse one for Cullen. He popped out a tooth and started moving across the room using a series of different techniques (barrel-rolling, army crawling, scooting, push-ups and a variety of other moves that resemble yoga poses :)  all in the same week. (which also happened to be the week Avery started choosing to use the potty regularly - whew!) He took these developmental changes like a champ, the only collateral damage being a few skipped naps and a little extra cuddle time. I'll take it.

I'm sure it has everything to do with the fact that this is my second time around but caring for Cullen just seems easier. This doesn't mean my days are easy by any means (far from it), I just have so much less anxiety about having a tiny person around and I know more of what to expect that it is easier to predict what his needs will be. I have Avery to thank for teaching me so much about how to me a mama and I continue to learn new things every day. 

This 'job' challenges me mentally, physically and emotionally like no other experience I've ever had in my life. It's downright hard some days in ways I never would've imagined but it's also the more rewarding than I ever could've dreamed of. I may have more wrinkles than I had 2 years ago, but I also have these two sweet boys to call me mama. 
Total win.

Avery @ 7 months here

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Potty Break
 A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014
I can't pinpoint when it happened but at some point over the last few months my baby became a big boy. A really big boy. He loves getting dirty and picking his nose, he wrestles with everyone/everything, he runs around making blasting sounds with sticks, he eats on a big chair with us at the dinner table, and he wants privacy in the bathroom ("bye mama!" *closes the door in my face*)

Let me start off by saying that beginning this potty training adventure was 100% Avery's decision. Prior to this week, he had gone on the potty twice at random times and after a little prompting (and a fair amount of luck). I didn't get my hopes up but was glad he wasn't intimidated by the potty and knew how to use it.

On Tuesday morning, we had some friends over to play. At one point during their play, Avery's potty trained friend (who is a girl) decided she had to do her business and Avery decided he needed to watch her. A little later, Avery had finished his lunch and ran out of the room to play. About 10 minutes later, he came back into the kitchen pants-less and said, "Mama, poop! See!" Not really knowing what I was going to find, I followed him and to my utter shock found that he had indeed taken himself into the bathroom, removed his pants and diaper and pooped in his little potty - all before I even knew what he was doing!

I want to sing this from the rooftops: 
I haven't changed a dirty toddler diaper since Monday.
Avery has chosen to go #2 on the potty all week! Not only has he done this, but he has done it all by himself without much prompting (and in privacy, of course.) I'm trying not to get too excited because I know he's a long way from being considered 'potty trained' but I think something has clicked and all he needed was to watch his little friend use the potty to say, 'hey, if she can do this, so can I!' (thank you, Sara!!) He's so proud of this new big boy activity and so is his mama.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


"Big Tractor. Whoa."
 A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014

There are some weeks that I can barely pull off a quick snapshot of Avery to use as his weekly portrait and other weeks that I sit and ponder over 3 or 4 photos and I just can't decide. Week 39 was one of these weeks. While Justin was busy at work, Avery, Cullen and I took off on a 8 hour road trip to Wisconsin two weeks ago and spent 8 beautiful days soaking up the sun, the landscape and the many people that we don't get to see nearly enough. 

It was pretty epic. 

I was a bit nervous about how we would all fair being on the road for that long, but I knew the only way to find out would be to try it. I'm happy to say I underestimated what good boys I have; they always surprise me by rising up to a challenge. Avery got a cool new book for the trip and was allowed to have as many snacks and watch as many movies as he wanted. (Avery hasn't really watched many movies, so I pulled out some Disney classics for this trip that he's never seen before- he's been talking about The Fox and the Hound, Beauty and the Beast and Frozen ever since) Cullen got thrown a new toy every 30 minutes or so and napped on and off when he got bored. We only made 3 short stops and had great weather and traffic. Seriously, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. 

The trip home was equally as awesome until we hit Chicago rush-hour traffic which added over an hour to our trip and Cullen was sick of being stuck in his car seat so he cried the rest of the way home. For 2 hours. So. Much. Crying. It was heartbreaking and I've never been so happy to see our exit in my life.  That said, with only 2 stressful hours out of 17 total, I still consider the trip a success. It's given me lots of travel confidence and I'm already planning our next solo adventure :)

The weather during our week in Wisconsin was so perfect, our last taste of summer before we had to pull out the coats and hats and head to the pumpkin patch:
My goal over the next few weeks is to get a photo of Avery without his sunglasses on. It's tricky because if we're outside (or even inside sometimes), he's got those glasses on - they've become his signature look, but I miss seeing those beautiful eyes!

(I took so many photos in Wisconsin, I'm working on sifting through them to share soon!)

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Autumn in the land of corn

 A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014
The last couple of weeks have sort of flown by and not because we've been super busy, maybe just the opposite. We've been hanging around home and spending lots of time out-and-about in the neighborhood enjoying the fall temperatures. 
I've been a little overwhelmed by the amount of photos I've taken the last couple of months and I really need to do some organizing. It's one of those daunting tasks that is just easier to put off... but the longer i put it off, the more daunting it becomes. Anyway, I dumped enough photos on my computer to find one from last week and this one :)
World's Best.
Seriously, these two. Avery is just the epitome of an awesome big brother. He gives so many hugs and smooches, and makes Cullen laugh like no other. I took quite a few photos this weekend, but for some reason the look on Avery's face in this one and the way he is so proud to have his little bro giggling on his shoulder spoke to my mama-heart :)

The boys and I are preparing for a pretty big adventure this week... I'll be back with an update!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cullen - 6 Months Old!

Cullen got a clean bill of health at his 6 month well-baby checkup on Monday, weighing in at 
21 pounds, 9 ounces
28 inches long
- in the 97th percentile for both! I know he's going to start to plateau one of these days, so I'm going to cherish those chubby cheeks and thighs before they turn into long skinny running legs like his big brother :)

Cullen's whole life thus far has been one big growth spurt and he is on the cusp of a few pretty
big developments. He's working on popping out a couple of teeth, he watches everything his big brother does very closely and will be fully mobile any day.

Cullen barrel rolls all over the place these days and can pretty much scoot his way toward whatever he sets his sights on (which is usually whatever Avery is playing with.)
He can also turn a 360 on his tummy in 10 seconds flat (I timed it ;) and although I still put him
This just in: Cullen chews on
everything. EVERYTHING.
on a blanket to play, he finds his way off it in approximately 13 seconds and is off getting into something that I swear was far enough out of his reach. (Baby-proofing is proving to be even harder the second time around with a sneaky toddler depositing rocks, acorns and 'jewels' in every corner of the house)

Now that Cullen is all up in Avery's business during playtime, Avery has been doing a really great job being patient with his little brother and including him in whatever he's doing. This doesn't mean that Avery doesn't sometimes get frustrated or territorial but he's generally a very kind and gentle boy. Even when Avery does snatch toys away, Cullen is such a calm dude he doesn't even seem to mind
(he sometimes even laughs when Avery takes his toys away (what?!) we'll see how long that lasts.) I love that they're starting to play together more, it's so fun to watch them interacting all on their own and the giggle fests fill me up with happy :)

Cullen is still smitten with his buddy, Bella and lights up whenever she comes near him.

Cullen and Avery take baths together and are so cute playing and splashing around in the water.

Cullen naps once in the morning and once in the afternoon (and occasionally once in the early evening depending on how his afternoon nap went.) Sometimes I'll get really lucky and both boys will overlap naptimes, but it's becoming more likely that they take turns. This doesn't give me much time for myself, but it's nice to have a little one-on-one time with each of them every day.
In the evening he goes down to sleep around 8, but sometimes wakes up 2 or 3 times before he settles into sleep for good. Once he does, he usually only gets up once or twice during the night before waking up at 7-7:30 am. AND he no longer sleeps in his swaddle! He moves around so much now that he was just feeling confined so I put him in a sleeper one night and *bam!* he slept just fine. I should've known he would be so cool with it, silly mama.

Cullen nurses to sleep and about every 3-4 hours during the day. He's a very efficient eater which is the biggest difference I notice between him and big brother. I swear I spent HOURS nursing Avery during the day, but Cullen is in-and-out in 5 minutes

flat. Even putting him down for a nap only takes 10-15 minutes, something that took WAAAAY too long with Avery.

Cullen has started to experiment with some purees. (I was REALLY excited to pull that Baby Bullet back out!) So far, he's had sweet potato, pears, peas, banana, and a little rice cereal. His favorite is bananas and his least favorite is the rice cereal (I couldn't even get him to keep 2 spoonfuls in his mouth, he spit it out! I didn't mix it with a fruit or veggie though, maybe that would help.) He wasn't super excited about eating 'solid' foods at first, but now he gets excited when dinnertime rolls around and we put him in the high chair.

Overall, Cullen is at a really fun age right now where he is just so happy-go-lucky about everything and is learning and growing way too fast. He has been having a few fussy days here and there which leads me to believe those teeth are on their way to the surface and Avery is keeping a close eye out for them ;) Stay tuned for updates of Cullen on the move (also known as Mama Get Your Running Shoes ;)

The happy boy with the last remaining evidence of his first bruise - right between his eyes
(thanks to a ill-placed lego block when Cullen took a dive for the floor one day)

Sunday, September 7, 2014


He's a pretty big deal.
 A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014

On Saturday, Justin ran the Warrior Dash and came home with all kinds of fun goodies for Avery, including this really cool 'helmet' and cape. Avery ran around the house with it billowing behind him and even decided to wear it on our evening walk tonight.
Oh, the carefree imagination of a two year old - I love it!

Sizing up each others' awesome outfits :)
Linking up here

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


New 'do!
A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014

I cut Avery's hair this week. 
Now, this is probably the fourth or fifth time I've cut it but this time I got a little scissors happy and immediately regretted it. In 20 minutes time, I turned my baby into a much older looking boy and I'd be lying if I said I didn't shed a few tears. I cut it in the morning and it took me until after naptime until I was ready to accept that it wasn't going to magically grow back. Once I came to terms with it, I took a few photos and Avery was so proud of his new 'do that he gave me some pretty cute smiles :)

Seeing so many back-to-school photos today makes me so so so grateful I have a couple more years at home with this boy. He may look like a 5-year-old lately but I'm nowhere near ready to share him with kindergarten. (obviously. I can't even cut his hair without becoming overwhelmed!)

Linking up here

Friday, August 29, 2014


Beach Bliss
A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014
Last week we spent a few blissful days vacationing on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in Michigan City, IN. We rented a little house on the beach, left our computers and cell phones at home and spent time doing nothing but being together as a family. Just the four of us. Only 2 hours from home and it felt like paradise.

The day we arrived, we unloaded the car and headed straight to the beach. Avery's reaction to our new surroundings was absolutely magical. While walking the footpath from the house to the water, he stopped every five feet to fall in the sand and roll around belly laughing like he'd never been so happy to be anywhere in his life. Once we (finally) made it to the shore, we spent twenty whole minutes watching Avery run around squealing and laughing like the happiest two-year-old that ever lived. In turn, we were the happiest parents on the planet. It was one of those moments that I know will live in my memory forever. 

Linking up here

Thursday, August 21, 2014


A portrait of my Avery, once a week, every week, in 2014
Our little family just returned from a heavenly getaway to the lake and are enjoying a bit of a 'stay-cation' here at home for the rest of the weekend. I will be posting about our trip soon, but wanted to share a few photos of the pit stop we made on our journey north at this perfect little railroad museum in Monon, Indiana. Trains, tractors, rocks and a phone (in a booth!) pretty much sum up everything Avery's dreams are made of :)

Linking up here